Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oh, America...

After living abroad for over eight years and then going back to the US, it's easy to see all the strange things there are about home. Writer Abroad would explain a few of them here, and she's writing an entire book about them now, but here's a preview told in pictures.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Repatriation: The Art of Losing

Writer Abroad couldn't help but relate to the following post, written by Jill Boyles.

I don’t know what to do with myself. After having lived in Poland for almost two years, my husband and I returned to the USA. Mind you, I’ve lived abroad before, Turkey and China, and flew home to visit family and friends with the knowledge that I was going back. This time, I don’t know if I’ll ever go overseas again and writing that halts my breath. Breathe . . 

Two days ago, I opened a memo application on my computer, and a to-do list popped up, which I had written while living in Warsaw. A reminder of who I was then:  an expat. A reminder of who I am now:  an ex-expat. I was formerly absent from my country but not anymore. I’m present to drive to the store, to fold the laundry, to take the trash to the curb. During my absence, I walked across Plac Defilad with snow falling on park benches and lampposts, illuminating a dark, winter evening made warmer from the steamy kebab stand, the meat’s pungent scent pricking my nose.

I have a travel blog I started last year but don’t know what to do with it. My husband and friends encourage me to continue. Travels in the US, they say. I give this much thought, but writing about the States feels disingenuous, like I’m pulling the wool over my readers’ eyes. In truth, I would be disingenuous to myself. I’m no longer that person writing about this; I’m now this person writing about that. Last month, I deleted a post and submitted it for publication.

After I had arrived home from China, my dad asked if I wanted to go to a baseball game. I said that I’d rather watch a Chinese man pee in a bush – a common sight in the part of China where I had lived. His face cracked like porcelain. My intention was not to hurt him, but the mention of going to yet another baseball game, well . . . been there, done that. Fresh from China, I craved exciting experiences. Something I wanted my dad to understand. Instead, I sounded like a petulant child. I can never take back that moment.

Traveling familial territory is treacherous. The terrain dips in ways you never expect.

I’m about to move to a new state at the opposite end of the country. I’ll have trouble adjusting, and this frightens me. Different accent, different behavior, different climate. I search for the fearless, adventurous woman who lived and worked in other countries, who spoke with vowel harmony, tones and seven cases. It’s different here, not fitting in with your own people. Not like over there, where not fitting in is a faded, oversized sweater worn on weekends.

The speaker in Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art” tells us “the art of losing isn’t hard to master.” A laundry list of lost items like keys, a mother’s watch, houses, and continents are met with the assurance that these losses aren’t disasters, not even losing a loved one.

Unlike Bishop, I haven’t lost a beloved although in some ways it feels like it. What I am doing is practicing the art of losing. When I want to say nie, I say no. When I want to catch the server’s attention to add ice to my drink, I put my hand down. When I correspond with overseas friends, I pause and look about me:  I am here, in this room, in this country.

Jill Boyles is a writer from Minnesota, USA. Her work has appeared in The Minnesota Women’s Press and Focus on Dalian, among other publications. Her blog is The deleted blog post mentioned in this blog post will be in the November issue of Calliope Magazine.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Writer Not-So Abroad

Less than a week ago, Writer Abroad became Writer at Home. After almost a decade in Switzerland, she has moved back to the USA and is maybe staying awhile. Maybe.

She says “maybe” because thanks to Swiss bureaucracy, she has been granted a two-year leave to take care of some family issues. She’s not sure how it will go. Or how she will like “home” after being away for so long. So far she likes the friendliness and the taffy apples but dislikes the lack of walking and the obsession with football.

Writer at Home knows "home" won’t be easy. In fact, research shows it is harder to move home than it is to move abroad. The “Repatriation Blues” are a reality. In fact, Alan Paul wrote an entire column in the Wall Street Journal about them. 

Writer at Home wonders if these blues differ when one has an open door to return? Will it make things harder as it means her return “home” might not be final? Or will it make it easier to know the option of returning abroad is there? Only time and this blog will tell.


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