Much to anyone’s surprise – most of all my own – I returned to my home country this year to settle down. Home country, what am I saying; I even moved back to my home town! It is a time warp if ever there was one but yes (to answer the question that I know is on your lips), it is still home.
Often I am worried that I insult people when I do not recognize them but you have to admit that people do change in the time span of two decades. To some I can honestly say they have not changed a bit but it has happened that I just did not recognize a person and when they – not very impressed at the time – tell me their name, I honestly went “OH MY GOD..!” Probably not flattering and I do feel guilty when it happens but when I encounter someone that is no longer the pimply scrawny pale guy with the pony tail from 20 years ago, it actually can be regarded as a compliment. (Try convincing them of that though..)
I often get asked if I will be able to adjust again. I am convinced I will. I can adapt almost anywhere so I can re-adjust at home, right? (I might be so incredibly wrong in this regard, I do not know yet, I will keep you posted.) If anything, I am happy and grateful this is home, life is pretty well-arranged here if you want it to be. Yes, I need to re-discover things but at least I can do it in my own language and I can ask people I know. No learning kiswahili, no trying to meet people. The funniest thing was getting used to recycling. I recycled in every country I lived in but it just works differently in every place. In Belgium, there are different colours containers and bags and I have actually gone as far as to take a picture of some garbage, sending the picture to the whatsapp family group, asking what goes in which bin. Garbage, not the sector or level I would have expected issues to be honest.
I am also asked on a regular basis when I will be leaving again. As it stands… I will not. Not many people believe me though. I never really plan life for longer than some years ahead, this is true, my biggest and only lifelong commitment are my children, but I am not sure I am up for a longterm and life-altering move again. Ask me again in some years. I do not consider myself a rolling stone. I don’t think. But who knows.
The one thing to coming home that is really weird, and the thing fellow expats had warned me about, is that I recognize the place and the people, and they recognize me, or so it seems, but I am not the same person and it is hard to explain in what way. So it feels very double to reminisce. This feeling is amplified for me personally because I am now teaching in the school where I went myself and walking the halls in a different role is confrontational to say the least.
The one thing that is not weird at all, but which I was prepared for as well, is that I am homesick for Africa, maybe even more than I had anticipated. I guess it is like longing for your childhood: it was great while it lasted but there is no going back because it just isn’t there anymore. Africa is, of course, but my African life isn’t: all my friends moved by now. (Give or take a few.) I will go back, for sure, but as it stand now, just for a holiday: soak up that golden sun, and smell those dusty plains. I guess you can take the girl out of the wild, but you cannot take the wild out of the girl.