Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Pain That Stays: Leaving A Country You Called "Home" Never Leaves YOU!

Last week, the Brexit was still the content of 80% of the Internet or TV. Yesterday, it was the Fourth of July and my Facebook was littered with fireworks. Today is the last day of Ramadan and it will undoubtedly be everywhere. If I ever tried to forget about the years I spent in the UK, the US and Egypt, where I was "home" for a good few years of my life, it would be virtually impossible. Your actual home, in my case Germany, is the one I thought I wouldn't get rid of; coming home for summer or Christmas, I thought, would always be the case. But now I am back in the Fatherland, and I'm remembering all this time I was away. And while the current position is most likely the smartest choice, those other places don't ever leave you.

It's been 10 years since I lived in California and six since I last saw all my friends there (touché, not many left, but still!). However, Hanford was the first place I ever felt home away from home: I had more than one family taking me in because I didn't have any biological parents around and a nice life there. I felt comfortable and saw myself staying in that life for good. Over the past ten years I always planned a return, then this year I realized it would never happen again. The US became the past, with no possible future. This is when the pain kicked in. Having to realize that all these little girl dreams I had of a life with summer BBQs, front porches and Christmas enthusiasm I can share are not coming true was challenging. I held on for too long, and letting anything go after 10 years is hard, even if it is, like in this case and many others, simply the right choice.

My biggest benefit in this is time: it's passed so much I have little to no memory about living in Hanford. Last week I met up with a girl from Californian high school and we reminisced about how ridiculous and lame we were being exchange students there. I also watched a video I made back then, cringing almost the entire way through. I'm not that person anymore; I wouldn't find hanging out at church a good past time anymore; I'd want to be surrounded by super-liberal people. All these things speak the obvious language that I no longer fit in my old home as much as I did then. And still, letting go of the memory of feeling accepted, planning a future, and crushing on some boys there is still bittersweet: sweet, because those memories are wonderful, bitter, because they are a misconception.

But this doesn't apply to all "my countries": living in Egypt wasn't a long time ago and it also never made me feel any of these things. Egypt is the place that taught me that even horrible places that I have nothing in common with can be home. And it really was that: I had no time for almost all aspects of Egyptian life, earning me to be called ignorant, although it wasn't for the lack of trying. I simply didn't find oriental architecture nice, hated Egyptian music, couldn't accept most of the norms that were required as part of a patriarchy and, aside from the few people I met and the boy I loved, didn't think Egyptians "are the best people in the world, so friendly and awesome". Nothing about living in Egypt except my job and said boy I loved really do feel like a huge loss, however, knowing his life goes on there without me is, well, weird!

Egypt definitely left its mark on me. Now that I live in a society again that seems to be accepting all of my former "home" countries, but this one, it has become a job to defend Islam, Egyptian people and a repressive government on a daily basis to people that think I was being bombed every day for the past two years. Even though I also don't consider Egypt a good place and have a hard time defending it for a number of other offenses, I have become Egypt's biggest fan in public. After two incredible years, I guess I owe Egypt that. And despite my relief I don't have to deal with Egyptian life anymore, the opening scene of the new X-Men movie totally did make me tear up. While I am not desperate enough to actually forget that most of the nice memories of Egypt came with at least one or two really bad by-tastes, I will never be able to forget about those two years. Seeing the Pyramids on TV will continue to give me the feeling of "wait, what, they're not down the street anymore?". But I guess that's ok...

The hardest one, by far, is saying goodbye to the reality of living in the UK. Since the Brexit vote I realized that subconsciously I always thought I'd be back there, too. No country has ever just made me feel as happy by just giving me a ground to stand on like Scotland, and I just have to admit that I spent the best years of my life there. Other than the US, I didn't fit in right away, but learned to, and other than Egypt, I didn't mind trying to do that. To this day I obviously don't find British humor funny, don't like the climate and think a paycheck of 22k in London is unreasonable, but when your head is full of such great memories it's hard to consider the fact that it's the past, and not the future. I continue to watch Graham Norton, like British boys as much as Taylor Swift does and make myself a nice wee plate of Chilli Beef Nachos once in a while. My interpretation of the British life continues even without Britain. The impression it made is just too deep...

Not all of my chosen homes actually rocked, and still they just shaped me so much it's hard to deny their influences on my life. To know that two years out of a life were spent in a country I thoroughly felt indifferent, verging on bad, about, does little to make it less special. Those ugly fangs of Egypt got hold of my heart, and I will spent the next 80 years (for sure) as a person who once lived in the Middle East. I don't even know how that happened, but now that is me. Seeing the Thames on TV, watching National Treasure or listen to my sister's stories from the Pyramids will forever mean that I will remember walking those streets myself. At one point, that was my life just like sitting here and applying for jobs is now (and has been, God, too many times). And just like every memory it is sentimental and sad sometimes, especially if that country is no longer a part of you. But such is life, especially mine... 

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