Sometimes I do this thing, I guess it could be called a game, where I pretend I’m a stranger here in the UK. Or maybe I’m reminding myself I’m not from here. Less of a game and more of a reality check? I step back, I put myself in that awkward foreign position, behind the net curtain, looking in but not really being there. Very present, but not very rooted. I wrote about it a couple of years ago in my dreamtime post.
I don’t know why I do it. Maybe because it’s fun to feel a place is new again–there’s more adventure and sparkle and anticipation in newness. Maybe it has nothing to do with being an expat, but being one–and reminding myself that I am one, is a convenient way to feel rootless at that moment. Sometimes I need to feel that freedom (even if only in my mind).
It’s difficult, sometimes, to separate some things from being ‘issues arising from my expat life’ and ‘issues that just arise.’ And it’s easy to knee-jerk and immediately attribute the cause to my expat condition.
This weekend I planted a wheel barrel full of bulbs: around 280 crocus and 50 allium. I know! I was planting them in land that is not my own, but voluntarily managed by my husband and myself as its appearance is important to us. It’s a little strip of land in front of our house, at the entrance to the village. We look at it everyday so it’s nice for us if it looks nice. But also as our house is at the entrance of our village I have long held the belief that it is therefore our responsibility to make sure that this entrance to the village is as attracitve as possible. And further, we have an issue with people speeding into the village–there’s a school almost opposite us and people fly past at speeds as high as 60mph on a regular basis. Sometimes even faster. We know this because the village has those speed-reader things out there from time to time and the data is collected and reported back to the village.
Our idea is that the prettier we can make the entrance, the more likely at least a few of those speeders might slow down realising it is in fact a village–or even slow to admire the pretty planting! Maybe. Anyway, I am making grand efforts to make it as interesting as possible.
Back to my game.
As I was planting the bulbs I was thinking about all of this. About my efforts, about how all this planting might look in the spring, about all this investment in my village and in my future in this village. I suddenly switched into that little game again, where I was ever so slightly removed from the place, a foreigner who just picked a place on the globe and arrived one day. It felt strange to be helping this random community somewhere in the world. Strange but but nice.
And the moment I realised how good it felt I was back again, being a part of the community. It wasn’t strange at all and I was no longer a stranger. Because contributing makes you feel like you belong, I guess.
And I realised that no matter where you’re born you can make a home where you choose. Which made me feel all warm and fuzzy and full of belonging.
(That was the cheesy moment for you–you knew this post was going to have it somewhere, right?)
But I still think I’d like to play that game from time to time just to feel that little sparkly buzz of newness!
I know other expats do these kinds of things. Don’t they? Am I the only expat who plays this game?