Me and Arnoud (a.k.a "Arrie", the hubby whose pic I wasn't allowed to show until now because he's shy)
People here always ask me if I’m homesick and I usually say “not really.” I mean I haven’t lived near family in about five or six years, so I’m used to not seeing my relatives more than a couple of times a year. And, as for my closest relative, my mom, well I do wish we lived much closer together, but we’ve got Skype and that helps immensely.
Sure, I miss my family and my friends in America. How could I not? But I’m not exactly homesick per se. Still there is one thing, besides my peeps, that I really do miss. I miss the comfort and the ease of home. No, not the “convenience” of home, but the comfort, the freedom, the independence, the feeling like anything is possible.
I’ve now lived in three states in the U.S. and I can honestly say that, no matter how intimidating moving to a new American city can be, it’s nowhere near as overwhelming (periodically) as the experience of moving to a new country. I’m not complaining, really I’m not. But, at this point, even the seemingly mundane activity of driving to the grocery store can be a little frightening.
Lucky for me, I live in the country and mostly only have to drive from one small town to another, but Dutch/Belgian traffic rules are quite different from American regulations. I’ve never been one to take the act of operating a motor vehicle lightly (I mean cars a really basically death machines on wheels), so, in the beginning at least, I was pretty hyper-vigilant of my surroundings. All these crazy new rules, the strange positioning of traffic lights, and the tiny-ness of the roads had me longing for the familiarity and ease of driving in the states. Man I love those wide roads!
Driving’s okay now (at least in the vicinity of my home), but there’s still the matter of interacting with people outside the family. One has to buy groceries, right? Sure. So I do, but it’s a little uncomfortable every time because, while I understand quite a bit of Dutch, I really don’t speak it very well at all. Plus, there’s this terrible syndrome that plagues me when strangers speak to me. Somehow my brain tells me that there’s no way I can possibly understand what that stranger’s saying. Now, I’ll tell you that if my brain (or my nerves) weren’t working against me, I’d probably understand 60 or 70 percent of what that cashier just said to me.
Of course, Dutch people (I do most of my shopping over the border) don’t care that much if you don’t speak Dutch (though one unpleasant young cashier seemed to care very much), but it’s still such an uncomfortable situation. I feel stupid when I can’t answer a simple question like “Do you have your discount card.” And, it’s at times like this that I miss home. I miss not being nervous to venture out on a walk with the dogs for fear that someone will say something like “Wat een mooie hond” (“What a pretty dog”…and actually I would understand that). Normally, I’d say thanks and maybe strike up a little conversation, but I can’t really do that in Dutch (though I can say “thanks” if my brain allows me to comprehend the stranger) and I think I end up seeming either dull or rude.
I know. All I have to do is learn the language and I’ll be fine right? Well, yes that will help a lot. But, it’s still always easier to be home. After all, I know where to go to get just about anything I want in America. I know how to find a job (though it’s a little tough in the current economy). I know how to find fun training classes for the dog and I know what websites sell the best clothing or house wares.
Of course, someday I’ll know all those things about Belgium and Holland, too. Someday this will feel like home and someday this will be easy. Someday I’ll look back on all of this and think, “Man what a whiney little wimp I was back then.” And this is supposed to be an adventure, right? I should embrace the discomfort of this liminal state (to borrow a term from Victor Turner), knowing that, once I emerge from it, I’ll be transformed for the better.
I know all of this, people, I do. But I’m not used to having to ask my husband to call the vet for an appointment for the dogs. Except when I was a kid, I really can’t recall ever having been so dependent on another person. Oh well, that will pass. I know it will. And I can’t think of a better person on whom to have to depend.
I’m sorry if it seems like this post was one huge complaint and I’m sorry if it wasn’t as lighthearted as some of my previous contributions. But, please know that it wasn’t meant as a complaint. I am happy here and I am optimistic about the future. These are just some things I contemplate every now and then. I’m glad for this experience and the chance it’s given me to grow and, hopefully, to become a little more adventurous. It’s what my mom always calls a “character-strengthening event.” Thanks for the insight, Mom, I think it’s really coming in handy now. 🙂
P.S. Today I’m going to ride a horse for the first time in probably almost a year, so wish me luck. I’ve been riding off and on my whole life, but the last time I rode a horse in Holland, I ended up with a fractured L1 vertebra! Hope my luck’s a little better this time.