Joburg Expat: Once an Expat Always an Expat

March 11, 2012

Once an Expat Always an Expat

This morning I came across the tiniest evidence of our frequent wanderings around the globe: a mover's sticker on our sofa (a more fancy word is Balinese Daybed but it's still really just a sofa), proclaiming "up" to the unknown guys waiting on the other side of the world putting it back together. I would have missed it had the cushion not shifted and revealed a small white thing, which got me to bend down and check it out. 

I have no idea who put it there. Was it the movers in Kansas packing up our container for Johannesburg two years ago? Or is it from a few years earlier when we moved from Wisconsin to Kansas? Or even Raleigh to Wisconsin? That sofa is about 12 years old, so the sticker could have seen any number of moves. I wish I could ask it what it has seen in its life. And how it escaped notice for so long. That's actually an amazing feat considering that years back Noisette put in place a foolproof way to quickly disperse with these stickers (used liberally by every moving company to number and log your possessions)  found so offensive to him: he assembled the kids and announced an award of one potato chip per found and turned in sticker. From then on, every time we arrived in a new place, the kids set out with an enthusiasm only surpassed on Easter Sunday, each determined to be the one to collect the most stickers. It's is perhaps a testament to the depravity suffered by our kids in the junk food department, or maybe just shows their natural enthusiasm collecting all manner of useless stuff, but collect they did! And for weeks I'd be doling out chips for any stray stickers still trundling in. 





I always find it amusing how even years later these stickers have a way of resurfacing as wistful reminders of our nomadic wanderings. You might have nicely settled in your new life and feel perfectly at home, and then boom! - you come across a puny sticker that has the power to tell you that you really don't have a home. 

Because you don't. You might have developed the skill to feel at home everywhere, to make the world your home, but what you don't have as an expat is that ONE home that most other people have. As soon as you've lived in a different country, you will - unless you're completely stubborn and insufferable - adopt certain ways of your  host country as your own, and you will feel more at home here rather than there in those ways. "Home is where the heart is" always sounds a bit corny, doesn't it, but it's true. Upon your return, you'll forever be conflicted as to where your heart really is, and invariably your memory will become rosier with each passing year. Singapore, for me, has an almost magical quality to it when I think back to our brief life there over a decade ago, yet when I go back to my sporadic diary entries from that time (I wish I'd had a blog, then, too!) it sounds a lot more mundane than magical. 

I wonder what our kids will make of their expat lives one day, and which place they'll call home. I for sure don't know anymore.

Once an expat, you're always an expat.

Do you think I now qualify for a Pringle?

4 comments :

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

You wrote: "...but what you don't have as an expat is that ONE home that most other people have."

So true, and after many wanderings I now have no idea where I belong or where to go when we go "home."

I hope your kids are keeping diaries!

Sine said...

It's only something another expat can understand, isn't it? As for the diaries, I'm not holding my breath. That's why I'm writing the blog...

Maria said...

I wish I had a blog when I lived in Singapore too. And taken more photos, of the everyday stuff, not just the "events." isn't hindsight a wonderful thing!

Sine said...

I have a serious shortage of Singapore photos. Our oldest son was just a year when we moved there, and we were so enamored with him that we only took baby pictures. I hardly have any Singapore pictures at all, and from what I'm told it has changed so much. I think we'll all look back at our lives one day and wonder how we could ever have lived the early part without a blog:-)