Sunday, May 11, 2014


It’s been a long week.

A few days ago, in an email, Elise told me she wanted to go home, but that she didn’t know where home was.

Yesterday morning, as he was drinking his juice, Pete announced, “My tummy just said, ‘Korea!’”

I don’t know how many kids are in Pete’s pre-school class, but I do know most of them are Korean. Most evenings, usually during dinner, Pete will babble incoherently as most 4 year-olds are wont to do from time to time. Elise and I will look at each other. Except for with Pete, we swear he is speaking in Korean. At this point, I don’t know if he would feel more comfortable going to Seoul, back to Brazil, to Falls Church, or staying in India. I imagine this conundrum will only grow with time. He stills call parrots ‘papagaio’ and pineapple ‘abacaxi’. If you catch Clementine at the right moment, she will head bobble at you like an Indian. Elise has caught me doing it, too. 

Elise’s email got me to thinking about where home is, too. I don’t exactly know why, but when I think of being back in the States, I think of Falls Church. I liked it there. I wasn’t so crazy about our temporary, corporate housing apartment, but there were certain things about the area that made it very comfortable. I’m not exactly sure what. Maybe it was the Lagunitas IPA, the Chipotle and Starbucks, the running trail, the comic book store, tennis lessons, the farmer’s market, the ‘Lion Man’ park, Lost Dog and Toby’s ice cream, the Nats, the seasons.

I grew up in South Florida. We did not have seasons as most people know them. There was hurricane season and that was about it. Christmas was hot and only differentiated from the rest of the year by the fact that your palm trees had Christmas lights on them. In Brazil, there was a rainy season and a dry season, and in India, there is a monsoon season, but no fall. No spring.

I think, when the time comes, I definitely want to live somewhere with seasons. Northern Virginia had seasons. That’s not to say I want to live the rest of my life in NoVa. I just would like someday to be somewhere where the winters are cold and snowy. You have to wear a muffler and shovel the drive. Somewhere where the springs are green and wet. Somewhere where the summers are hot and you grill outside. Somewhere where during the fall, the air is crisp, and the leaves fall. If there is a high school or college band practicing for Friday or Saturday football that would be an added bonus.

I don’t know where this place is. It might be Seattle or Bellingham. It’s definitely not Florida. Sorry. I find myself wondering what Madison, Wisconsin is like. What Portland, Maine is like, or for that matter, what Portland, Oregon would be like, and what Portsmouth, New Hampshire is like.

Elise got me this awesome coffee table book for my birthday of one of my favorite directors, Wes Anderson. I used to be into movies. I took several classes in college, including “Film Noir” and “Hitchcock”, and two screenwriting classes. My script made it into the semi-finals of a contest held by Universal. Things may have ended up a lot differently had I won. But, as with a lot of things, such as rock-climbing and scuba-diving, that interest kind of fell by the wayside once I had a full-time job and three kids. I’m not complaining.

Anyway, in the book, Wes Anderson provides the following awesome quote about travelling and living overseas: "...I think there's something about when you're living in places where you don't really speak the language and you don't really understand the language...That's something that isolates you. You kind of wander through. You're sort of an observer. You're at a remove. But what I like is if I walk down a street in Paris that I haven't been on before, it's an adventure. Every day that you're abroad, you're discovering something new. When that becomes routine, it's a strange and interesting way to live...I really enjoy going back to a place again and actually having some friends there now, and saying, "Should we go to that place where we went before?" That to me is sometimes more fun than the first visit to a place: getting to know a place, and getting to be known in a place. It's really quite nice to be known, to know people in a place, and to have certain restaurants where you go that are your restaurants, places where, even though you don't really speak the same language as the people there, you still have your communication with them, and you're known as this foreigner, so you're different, yet you still have a place in their orbit. There's something special about all that.”

Special, indeed. I feel at home here like I did in Brazil. I’m afraid to go back to the States. When we go back to the States, we’re not foreigners anymore. I remember the reaction Elise and I got shopping for new cellphones upon our return to Brazil and having to explain to people why we were updating two year-old phones. Living overseas is something that sets us apart, that makes us special.

More than anything, though, I am deathly afraid I would get back to the States and not be able to wait to “get back out”, that I would find life there uninteresting and dull. I haven’t lived overseas all that long, but already feel this way. It’s interesting to think of this experience from my kids’ perspective. They don’t know any other way, and I take that for granted sometimes. For instance, a few months ago we went for a family vacation to Fisherman’s Cove, a beach resort an hour south of Chennai, for the weekend. As we were packing, the kids were growing increasingly anxious, until I figured out I had to tell them that we weren’t moving again, and that we were only spending the weekend there. I take for granted when I have to tell them we are going to a new house and when we aren’t.

I have been a Dave Matthews Band fan for the past twenty years. Yesterday morning, I too the opportunity to play for Peter and Sam one of my favorite songs, “The Best of What’s Around”, because in the lyrics is some of the best advice I could give to anyone:

“Turns out not where but who you're with
That really matters
And hurts not much when you're around
And if you hold on tight
To what you think is your thing
You may find you're missing all the rest”

Either this summer or winter, November or March, another season will come: bidding season, and we will find out where we will go after we move from India. The process of finding our third assignment, I am told, is challenging and stressful. I both look forward to it and dread it. It’s exciting and terrifying to imagine where we could end up. But, regardless of where that is, I have to remind myself that as long as we are all together we could be anywhere.

Hopefully, it will have seasons, too.

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