After an amazing, memorable, fun and food-filled trip back to Vancouver, Canada, S and I have returned to Germany. With new treats in our suitcases, we took the red-eye flight from Vancouver and landed in Frankfurt yesterday afternoon.
Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
At this moment, the living room is quiet save for the sound of the washing machine whirring in the next room. Given all the activity in the past few weeks (meeting friends, eating home-cooked and restaurant meals, attending BBQs, travelling, sight-seeing, packing, etc), this is my first opportunity for a bit of quiet time to reflect on our trip.
During our visit, many people asked me how life is in Germany and how it compares to Canada. I struggled to answer this question because how can you accurately describe the joy, frustration, loneliness, excitement and newness that comes with living elsewhere from where you grew up?
Since I have now been living in Germany for over 1 year, I also grappled with where I now call home – Germany or Canada? Watching the boats in False Creek at sunset, riding the 99 bus along Broadway, or dishing on dim sum dumplings while taking in the incredible view of downtown, Vancouver sure felt like home. As I was holding my Canadian passport when boarding the flight to Vancouver, the flight attendant noticed and said “Welcome home!” I beamed a little inside and whispered this to S in front of me. He was holding his EU passport and therefore did not receive the same greeting.
Throughout the flight, my excitement for ‘going home’ grew and grew. There is just something about being around familiar things that can put one’s soul at ease. The yellow and white one zone bus tickets. Dollar bills with maple leaves and nickles with beavers on them. Even 8.5” x 11” paper for crying out loud! Once in Canada, these familiar sights brought a smile to my face.
While soaking in the pleasures of my native land, I had an exchange that stopped me in my tracks. I was perusing the Lululemon store on W 4th Avenue (the flagship store for the popular athletic wear brand) when an eager sales person approached me to strike up a friendly conversation.
SALES PERSON: “So, what brings you in today?”
ME: “Oh, just browsing.”
SALES PERSON (to try to keep the conversation going): “So, do you live in the area?”
ME: “No. But I used to…”
SALES PERSON: “Oh, so where do you live now?”
SALES PERSON (with shock and bewilderment): “Oh. Ohhhhh! Well, welcome back!”
I had a similar experience when checking in for my flight back to Frankfurt. S and I approached the check-in desk together with our disparate passports. The clerk asked if the luggage would be going to the same address. We said yes. She then asked for our country of residence. For a small beat, I paused, then answered Germany. (I accidentally just typed Canada then deleted it and typed Germany. Freudian slip?!)
These anecdotes might not seem like stop-you-in-your-tracks interactions, but truthfully, these questions are a bit loaded, aren’t they? Questions on where you live, where your earthly possessions should be returned to if they get misplaced, where you consider home…The answer to the first two questions would be Germany. It’s the place where I hang my hat, receive my mail, return my plastic bottles and search for cilantro. But home? Is Germany my home yet? I guess I’m not sure.
Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.
Where do you call home?