Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dueling Lives (not banjos)

"It is a bittersweet thing, knowing two cultures. Once you leave your birthplace nothing is ever the same." - Sarah Turnbull

I was never one of those people who dreamed of exotic lands and far off places. Growing up, our family vacations mainly consisted of traveling to Minnesota to my aunt and uncle's lake house for a few days (which, btw, was the vacation my brothers and I requested every year). As I got older, I thought it would be cool to travel to the likes of Mexico - you know, to one of those nice resorts I'd seen pictures of or heard about from people older and/or with more money than me.Or maybe Hawaii (still on my list); or just to someplace like San Francisco or California wine country. Even as recently as 10 years ago, I'm not sure I'd given much thought to traveling outside the U.S.  Heck, I felt pretty worldly when I went to Jamaica for my friend Amy's wedding. (I guess that counts as international travel - kind of?)  Yet, here I am - living in my third country in four years (counting the U.S.).

Which brings me back to the above quote that is the prompt for Day 16. Bittersweet? I'm not sure. I think I lean more towards the 'sweet' than the bitter. Which I feel pretty good about. This quote/prompt makes me think about the 'dual lives' thing. Living and working internationally like we do sort of feels like we are living two different lives. One of those lives is here - where we work - with our other expat teaching friends and/or others we might have met out and about experiencing life. The other is the life we had before - the one we go back to in the summer and maybe at Christmas time - that involves friends and family.

Living dual lives has definitely had its challenges. I've always been one to keep in close contact with a LOT of friends I've made over the years. I keep them in my heart the same way I keep a steady supply of Burt's Bees lip balm with me at all times. It's a necessity. Yet it has also proved difficult at times. There are lots of factors - time difference, distance, and the fact that we are no longer together doing the same things, to name a few. People naturally drift apart, but that doesn't make it an easy thing to accept. I wish all of those friendships were the same as when I left, but that would also be sad because it would mean that none of us were changing, growing, or evolving. And that is where I find comfort and am able to smile and be happy - not sad - about the changes in some of those friendships. They are still there; still in tact. They just have a different twist to them now, as they involve different phases of our lives. In many ways, it makes me appreciate the friendships even more. I can only hope those same friends are able to look at it from that perspective as well. I miss them all dearly, and at times miss that life I had with them. But in the end, we are all doing bigger and better things in one way or another. And that's pretty awesome when you think about it.

Iowa is another part of this 'dual lives' scenario. In many ways, I love Iowa more now than I ever have. I feel like I am now old enough (and wise enough?) to appreciate its gifts. Every summer, it feels like our friendship is renewed through the quiet country evenings, leisurely mornings and afternoons, and time spent with family and/or friends from around the community. There's nothing quite like going back to the farm. It opens its arms and wraps you up before you've even had a chance to unpack your bags. And I like that. I like that my parents still live in the big farm house I grew up in, and that my younger brother lives right up the road on the same property where my grandparents used to live. I like being able to walk up the gravel road and be engulfed in a hug from my niece Zoey (and maybe nephew Cole if I'm lucky). There really is nothing like home.

So you see, knowing more than one culture isn't so bad. I feel pretty lucky most days - lucky that I enjoy being an expat, living and working internationally. Yet also fortunate to look forward to the 'other life' when the time comes as well. This post makes me keep thinking back to a conversation I was having with my friend Jens a couple of years ago in Casablanca. He has been traveling around for work and pleasure for far longer than me and I had confided in him about finding some difficulties 'reintegrating' when I went back home (I think it was after year 2 in Casa.) Yet once I was home for a while, it was hard to leave friends, nieces, nephews, etc. behind to come back to life abroad. He put it in perfect perspective for me- "Jodee, you are lucky. You enjoy both of these lives you live, even though it might be tough at times. Keep in mind that there are many people who live this way and don't enjoy either one of the lives they participate in."  Yep, I'll keep what I have, thank-you-very-much!

While the above quote is true in that "...once you leave nothing is ever the same.", the change that occurs isn't necessarily negative. It's finding the good stuff in those changes that makes knowing two (or three) cultures so rewarding. So I'm gonna keep on keepin' on...

Who wouldn't want to go back and hang out with a crew of friends like this!?!?

This about sums us up!

Iowa in the Summertime...

The farm, after a summer thunderstorm
The Port-O-Jonny ,on the golf course, next to the cornfield. Aaah - Iowa!
Two of the best things to always come home to!

No comments:

Post a Comment