Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Solace for the Homeless?

This trip has been beset by homesickness. It’s funny how your mind will practice selective amnesia. When I first started to feel homesick I was full of wonder: I’ve never felt this before. Well, there was that one time in summer camp…oh and I remember once in Granada, Spain I felt so alone…oh and wasn’t it Cape Town where I just couldn’t wait to get home and spent the last day studying my watch? Oh, riiiight. I have felt homesick before. Each situation had it’s own particular reasons and nuances, but it’s not so brand-spankin-new for me to miss home severely.

One of the feelings I dislike most is the lethargy and resistance to enjoying myself. It’s like a very stubborn and grumpy version of myself that randomly decides: Today I won’t have the attention span for Spanish dialogue and I won’t have any patience for the crowded roads. It can even feel like a physical resistance, immobilization, and stiffening to the culture here: Hey, screw you Buenos Aires! I kinda hate you!

Luckily, I’ve had enough composure to work myself through these sorts of feelings. Sometimes it’s a matter of counting backwards from 100 in my bed, and sometimes it’s a matter of finding a quiet café for a coffee and a snack, and sometimes it’s a matter of sitting in a park to re-group. Recently, I even compiled a list of things that are awesome about my trip, which really helped put things in perspective.

Another tendency, probably not as healthy, has been to daydream about home. Sure, there’s still selective amnesia going on (um, didn’t it snow the other day in Seattle?) and things aren’t going to be perfect in Seattle. But, all things considered, wow, it’s fun to think about going home! It’s a sweet luxury.

Then I got to thinking: what about those people who can’t go home? I just finished reading Three Cups of Tea (not a bad read once I got into it) and there are some stories of refugees that made an impression on me. People who were forced out of their homes and can’t go back because the place they once considered theirs is owned by other people or destroyed. This happens all over the world, again and again. Of course. But, the idea really got me thinking. I felt sick thinking about what it must be like longing for a home you can no longer have and people you can no longer see.

I really started to marvel at the luxury of being able to leave home and come back to more or less the same place. Also, I marveled at the luxury of leaving home and then deciding you’d much rather return and then just doing it. So simple. I can walk around town and devise a million things to keep myself busy or return to my room and study or chat online. All the while, I can feel fairly certain that I’m going to my home sweet home soon enough; it's just a matter of filling the time until then.

Where does the solace and hope come from for displaced people with little chance of reestablishing the home they once cherished?

I guess accepting the inevitable changes of the world is part of life. And, I guess it comes down to fortitude and resilience in the face of heartbreak. And, I guess it comes down to finding a way to survive, even if that means reinventing home and reinventing yourself.

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