I have 2 places I can call home. My country of birth where I once again reside, and the country I learnt to call home, where my 3 children were born and was my home for 30 years.
In the country of my birth I have been to primary school, had my first job and have a wonderful group of friends. Not to mention all the family connections. I can visit my birthplace and that of both my parents and 3 out of 4 of my siblings. I celebrate the cultural and national festivities and enjoy a wintery Christmas where hot chocolate, oliebollen and fairy lights spread their cheer everywhere you look. Public transport is a much used asset of getting from A to B - and anything more than 35-50 km away is considered a world trip. However, that traveling a certain distance does mean you may need your pasport as the borders of Germany and Belgium are easily reached. The culinary delights of smoked eel, raw herring, zuurkool met worst, stroopwafels and sate met pindasaus are a delight to my palet. My expanded food knowledge and experiences from my adopted homeland have extended my dishes here back home. Gladly some things have changed and informal visits to friends and family are no longer frowned upon or found to be awkward and uncomfortable - impromptu visits are more acceptable and a welcome change to the formal approach from yesteryear and have improved the less impulsive 'drop in anytime' mentality.
In my adopted home country I also enjoyed the fruits of education at both primary and tertiary levels. I completed a university degree and experienced a professional development which has helped form me and paved the way to a rewarding job. When visiting I can pay homage to my parents by visiting their final resting place, visit family and enjoy the memories of a time gone by. My youngest sibling's birthplace is in the 'new homeland' something that cements our family's connection to the new land. I can visit the cities where my children were born and grew up, I am able to shop at familiar stores and frequent shopping malls some refurbished and expanded but I still feel 'at home'. I have a wide circle of friends- wide also in terms of widely spread throughout the country. I do not however miss the hot Christmases but do miss the ease at which I could acces and walk barefoot along the beach. The bonds of friendships formed are that strong that when we meet up - we pick up where we left off. The scenery between A and B, no matter where one travels, is breathtaking! The changes appearing after each bend. I love the gingernuts my biggest coffee/tea accompaniment "I miss them heaps". I also miss the 'real' brown and icing sugar. The taste and result after use of these just aren't the same at home. Oh and being able to purchase a piece of pork - as large as you like without having to go to a specialised butcher......! Need I say more.
Lots of the same - lots different. I feel extremely blessed to have had the life I've lived so far. Not that it all went according to plan. My childhood dreams haven't all turned out to be how I imagined. Even though I've enjoyed huge highs and joys- the sorrows were trials to battle through and survive. Re-reading this it only underlines once again my blessings and richness of the privileges I've had. The choices, were at times, inevitable given the circumstances and while it hasn't been an easy ride, I stand by my decisions knowing I did the best I could during those moments.
Leaving one's homeland, one's safety net, one's cocoon is not something one does lightly. There are many who have no choice in this - being forced away due to war, drought, famine or persecution. I feel for those being violently uprooted and replanted in a world so alien to their customs and lifestyles. I cannot begin to fathom how lonely they must feel.