Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Siren Song of 'Home Leave'

The expat going home for a visit doesn't typically term it a holiday or vacation, but calls it home leave. We take time off to visit family and friends, and if we're lucky we also get to relax and refresh. In order to do both the former and the latter, we need an employer that will allow appropriate time off, because you can't quite do it in a week or two. I'm lucky enough, finally, to have a boss who didn't blink an eye when I asked for 5 weeks off. And at the end of the day, I'd leave a job that wouldn't allow me time to spend with my family. But that's getting off the original topic.

Generally, expats feel a pull between two identities - that of the person he or she was in our homeland, and the person we have become in our new home. At no time is this feeling more present than in the midst of home leave. I left Australia, as a (finally) proud South Australian, and landed in Chicago wanting to raise my arms up and clap upon landing in my home town. Here in Oz, I am a wife, a homeowner, and sometimes, an outsider. In Chicago, I feel like a diva. I whip around on expressways (on the right side of the road), I stay out late and challenge the bouncers at my regular drinking establishments, I know the customs... I can shop late, request an apple martini with Absolute Mandarin without the bartender looking confused, and ultimately, just feel like I belong. To be honest, I was afraid to leave - knowing that confidence wouldn't quite follow me back to Adelaide. There are always tears in the airport, and the relinquishment of the Chicago Susan. And there is the feeling that the confidence, power, and ease that comes from being in one's own environment isn't really worth giving up. And then I get on the plane, and 30 hours later, upon landing in Adelaide, the siren song of home slowly dissipates. Within a few days, I realise that Australia really is becoming home for me. I like my house, my marriage is maturing in a wonderful way, and I love my job. The pieces are falling into place, far from where I come from, and while I may not be Chicago Susan, I'm happy with the person I am becoming.


Muddiah said...

One of these days there'll be no more tears in the airport and they'll be replaced by the feeling that you can't wait to get home where you belong!

Muddiah said...

Want to let you know that this is very well written. Perhaps some type of creative writing is in your future.

Florida Girl In Sydney said...

I love this post, the point about the two yous-- it's so trues. Well well said.

Tea Lady said...

Well written.

I'm an Aussie living in Southern California. Lived here 4 years.

When I visit Sydney I feel like I "belong". I feel confident and like my happy self. Leaving is devastating for me.

So these days I don't really visit Sydney too much - it makes it harder for me.

But there's light at the end of the tunnel. We're moving to Sydney in September 2011.