Often, I think of my mother who was forced to leave her home country at the age of 17. She went from Estonia to Germany to the US, and never planned a minute of this journey. She took ships, trains, and walked on her journey. Somehow, she managed to save some family photos, but little else. I have a photo of her on the train leaving Munich to the ship that would take her to Ellis Island. There, they changed her name, as they did then. Her hyphenated first name turned into two names, and she lost the umlaut on the last name.
I have now lived abroad twice, but by choice. Each time, I planned for these trips. I learned the language, packed carefully, and had a return ticket in my bag. The first time I left, I assumed I would return in a year. It was to be a year of adventure that turned into three years, and would have been longer but for economic crash that took out my bank and my savings. Now, I am here in BiH for 6 months. Just a visitor. I have a flat, and I have a position teaching but it is only temporary. No one expects me to learn the local language. I don’t have a local bank account. I have my plane ticket back, and my house, cats, husband, and job to return to in March.
It has taken me this long, these 6 -7 weeks, to feel at ease here. It has taken me this long to relax, and not worry about home. For example, when my husband emailed me that my car suddenly was sputtering, I wasn’t panicked. It is just a car. It can be fixed. I still am not used to spending hours in the cafes, and feel often that I should be *doing* something productive. But I can also relax in my flat, look at the roses and the sunlight flooding my living room and feel somewhat at home. I know which shops have the best produce, and which carry the cheapest cleaning products. I avoid the Mepas Mall, with its smokey interior and nervous energy, and instead shop in neighborhood shops. I have a route through the Old City that allows me to avoid the tourists, and when I cross the Stari Most, it is because I am going home.
I wonder how long it will take me to re-learn my American ways when I return. How will I go from 0- 60 in one day? ( I am due back at my desk the day after I land!)