Suddenly out of nowhere, it hits me!
Ah hello, I’ve been waiting for you. Wondering when you’d make an appearance and rain on my homecoming parade.
And here you are, almost like clockwork, six months to the day that we landed, back, on Australian soil.
I can’t quite pinpoint the feeling. Is it a black cloud? A hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach? Whatever it is, I hope it’s fleeting, because black clouds aren’t my thing!
Experts say it’s often those who’ve adjusted most successfully overseas, who have the most difficulty returning home.
Is that us, I quietly wonder?
That night, the hotelier hits the nail on the head, when he arrives home to our “normal” household in the ‘burbs. Small Person’s watching ABC Kids and I’m cleaning up(!), after a fairly uneventful day.
He tells me he’s thinking about our next trip away. Away from normality, I think, because maybe we just don’t know how to deal with that anymore? This time last year we were clambering up the side of a mountain in Tibet, desperately trying to breathe, after all.
Despite the frequency of trips to far flung places that often come with expat life (because, hello, everything’s much cheaper) believe it or not, we have been craving that thing called ‘normality’ for a long time, but now it’s here, do we even like it?
In China, everything about life was difficult, unusual, or just plain strange. Deep breaths were the order of the day and a damn good sense of humour was non-negotiable, if you wanted to survive.
Sounds alluring, I know!
But life ran on a constant shot of adrenalin and we all know how addictive that can be.
In a foreign country, normal day to day things like, work, the school run, sports days, even shopping – is carried out with tinted glasses, probably not rose-coloured, but there’s definitely an exotic aura. Even if you don’t always enjoy it, (actually it’s highly possible you’re hating it), you’re doing something out of the ordinary and that’s oddly comforting and yes, slightly addictive.
Until now, moving back home has occupied our every being! Things like buying cars, sorting schools, different work projects and buying our very own house to nest in – fluffing it like a peacock parades his feathers – has all been part of the great repatriation reality… and novelty!
But suddenly the joy of cleaning my own castle is peaking… I need to learn how to cook again and ironing is back on the agenda. (Anyone for midday champers?) I’m wondering if I need to get a proper job and this whole reinventing yourself thing takes effort and time…..(just write that bloody book, Nicole.)
Whilst the freedom of driving is still fresh, the songs I was excited to bop along to and finally learn the lyrics of are wearing a little thin. There’s only so much Miley Cyrus “Next to yoouuu in Malibuuu” you can listen to, right? And while I’m keen to hear how “We do it, down in Puerto Rico!” I get the gist.
Sitting in front of the TV with old faithfuls like ‘A Current Affair’ and ‘Home and Away’ feels equally as jarring (read: did we ever leave?) as it is comforting, when you’ve been living with 55 channels in another language.
It’s kind of soothing to see you again Alf Stewart and I do like catching up with the local news every night, but admittedly it’s been quite nice living in denial. 😉 Yes, one might call that ‘avoiding reality!’ (There’s a lot to be said for it.)
I still forget to turn the car lights on at night; And the distinct lack of people trawling the streets, at all hours….perplexes me (probably just as well if my lights are off), as does the nation seemingly finishing the day at dusk. Straya??! And Mondays for that matter? Do we just close up shop?
And as much as I know, I complained endlessly about the squat toilets in China’s public areas (they are pretty disgusting), I think I’ve become quite partial to the ceramic ‘hole in the ground.’ It’s actually a lot easier than trying to hover over a “normal” western toilet! Who says old habits die hard!
Oh and I’ve discovered my phone phobia is real. Yes, please don’t try to call me. Living overseas, I realise it’s been allowed to fester because very rarely people would or could call me….and if they did, I’d have no idea what they were saying and have to (conveniently) hang up. Here, every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to call, for a “chat!” A chat??! Just text me.
Still….. running on adrenalin, constantly, can be exhausting, physically and mentally…which makes the ease I can live life with Down Under, a definite reason to exhale. That blue sky that stretches out forever like a luminous, glass rooftop still gets me, every single time; the fresh, crisp air and sheer ability to speak English at all times, makes just about everything effortless (despite those phone calls). The five minute school walk and the cushioning of a community is reassuring, even if it is a very different kind of community.
My old community was a bunch of expats from around the world forever contemplating their next move and weighing up the pros and cons of raising children as global citizens. Here, it’s about which high school to send them to (in five years time, I might add)! Really? So soon!
When our new Chinese tutor comes over, I can sense the excitement we all get, even the hotelier when he yells out ‘Zai Jian’ (goodbye) as she leaves and tries to get out his few Chinese words he spent years mastering. Just like old times, I giggle to myself.
And it seems it’s not only us humans that need to adjust to a new life… pets do too.
My friends have just repatriated to America, with their ‘Chinese’ Golden Retriever, Penny. Poor old Penny is having to learn how to ‘dog’ in America. Suddenly she is surrounded by space and huge fields of fresh green grass to run in. There are lots of other dogs just like her and she can even go swimming with them….
In America, it’s a dog’s life!
But for Penny, it’s daunting and overwhelming… she just can’t figure out why everyone is being so nice to her and wants to pat, play…..and chat!!
Me neither, Penny!
I’ve heard on the grapevine, returning home brings a definite fear of forgetting your overseas experience. Does returning to your old life mean the expat one never happened? I hope not.
No one said it would be easy…but it sure was nice being able to wind the car window down this morning without fear of choking on pollution!
Perhaps I just need to get my adrenalin rush in other ways.
Bungee jumping anyone?
Six months in, this is repatriation.