So, here I am. Amy, la Chilena has been temporarily suspended and replaced by Amy, the English rose, for a period of 3 months while I start to write… THE THESIS! (*dramatic music*). But that’s another story for another time…
I have been back for about 2 weeks in the Motherland, and knowing that I am here for a decent period of time (i.e. more than a week) it stirs up a different feeling inside of me. Since September 2010, I have spent probably a total of 6 months in the UK with 4 months of that being in one chunk in the transient period between coming back from La Palma and moving to Santiago. So I have essentially been an ‘ex-pat’ for almost 3 years. As such, when people ask me the question that most astronomers dread – “where’s home?” – sometimes I stumble! Is it my Mum’s house, where I’ve not lived full-time since I was 19? Is it the apartment I share with Oscar in Santiago? Is it the house I’m currently living in back in the UK? I rang up to buy car insurance the other day, and he said “so, you’re a mature student – are you living at home or away?”, and I honestly got into a five-minute discussion with my Mum on the side while he was on the line as to how I should answer that question! (the situation was resolved in the end by a little voice in the earpiece of the phone I was waving around squeaking “it’s just for statistics, it doesn’t really matter…”).
I’ve read a couple of really good pieces about this exact issue, about the identity crisis one inevitably goes through upon returning to the Motherland after an extended period away. My favourite travel writer, Bill Bryson, has an entire book dedicated to his return to the US after living in England for many years entitled “I’m a stranger here myself”, and one of the best articles to have appeared on the “Thought Catalog” website, simply entitled “Why coming home is hard”, says it all in my opinion. No matter how hard you try, you can never truly close that gap in time and personal interaction that was created as a result of your foreign wanderings. You walk around your hometown, and it simultaneously feels amazingly familiar and horribly alien at the same time. When you’re away, you miss home and long for the routine, and when you’re home, you miss the country you have just left and pine for the adventures. And all these feelings become difficult to reconcile in your brain! But after a while, you stop looking back and start looking at your present. You start to live for the moment again, and find joy in simple things like rediscovering just *why* you loved that particular café, or you remember how hard one particular friend makes you laugh. You remember what it’s like to get a bit of spoiling off your mum when you’re sick (and when you;re not), and you drink fresh milk until it starts to come out of your nose.
Aside from my family – that’s a given – there is a lot I missed about the UK, including:
- The supermarkets (source of crumpets and bakewell tarts)
- Real ale (no nasty lager for me now)
- The NHS (you appreciate this one if you’ve been in and out of a private clinic as much as I have been in the past 18 months!)
- People with manners (especially when THEY apologise when YOU accidentally get in their way… So brilliantly British.)
- Motorists that know how to drive (yep, even woman!)
But there’s equally things that make Chile special:
- The most amazing nature (deserts, mountains, rivers, lakes… Lemme at ’em!)
- The family spirit (pop round to say hi to people you barely know ‘just for 5 minutes’. Get fed 3 empanadas and a couple glasses of vino, and leave an hour later)
- The night sky (away from the light pollution, prepare for your mind to be blown!)
- The best avocado in the world (now my staple food item)
- The Chilean asado (I can never bring myself to have our excuse for a BBQ ever again!)
Because once you have become fully reacquainted with, and re-aclimatised to, the motherland, that’s when you begin to once more look ahead into the future. You become excited about returning back to the place that whisked you away the previous year, because this time it’s not scary and unknown. This time, it’s thrilling and beautifully familiar. You have a solid group of friends there. You remember how different the sun feels compared to back home. You’re anticipating being able to eat fresh seafood on the coast. You can’t wait to give Skype a rest and be reunited with the guy you love in person.
So, the answer to the initial question at the start of this post of “where is home?” is actually quite simple – to sound horribly cliché, it’s wherever the people you love are. My heart will now forever be split between Chile and the UK, and in my opinion, that just makes me doubly lucky…
…(although that’s a bit of a complicated box to tick on an application form for car insurance).
Hasta la proxima,