I am a crier. People who know me, know this. I cry in children’s movies (Finding Nemo is a nightmare for me), I cry when I see cute old couples on the train, I cry when adorable fluffy puppies clamber up my legs, I cry at all the images on the news of war-torn countries and shell-shocked kids. I am a crier. Do not play that goddamn Sarah McLaughlin SPCA commercial around me.
I also recently found out that I cry when I’m homesick. I have never been homesick before, so this one is new to me. When I moved to Roatan, I really missed the food choices in Vancouver. I missed efficient banks and air conditioning. I missed making more than $15 a day. I missed my friends. I missed all these things, sure, but not enough to make me upset or want to move back because of it. I never cried for Canada. (Okay, maybe once when there was a blackout and it was +42C in my house with no fan. Just that once though. It was rough.)
Here in Japan, I’m starting to settle into my new life. I really like it here so far! My town is just the right size for me, I have air conditioning, I like literally all the food, the people are nice, and my apartment has everything I need. I think I will like my job, but I haven’t started quite yet because the kids are on summer break. Japan is cool and I’m diggin’ it.
But I find myself welling up every time something reminds me of Roatan. A dancehall song on my Spotify playlist. Rosquillas in the international import food store. Scuba divers on TV. When I walk onto my balcony and the wall of hot, humid air is so thick I feel like I’m swimming. My island friends posting photos on Facebook of nights out in my favorite bars. Finding goya (Japanese) / cerasee (island English) / bitter melon (North American English) in my food at English camp and thinking back to the time that one of my boat captains taught me how to use it in bush medicine. I still find myself cursing in Spanish and island English, and when I wake up to cicadas buzzing there’s been more than once that I thought I was back in the jungle house for a second or two.
It took me a while to figure out what was going on, until I realized – I’m homesick. I miss Roatan and even though I’m loving it here in Japan, I’m already scheming about how I can get back there when I’m done here. I’ve been busy Googling where to find dancehall/reggaeton/Caribbean dance clubs in Tokyo (FYI: this exists, and I AM GOING), and begging my islander friends to send me videos of their day, and voice memos of them talking so I don’t forget my island English. If you say the words “fry meat” or “gyal” to me right now, I will cry.
I mentioned this to a friend recently and was told it isn’t possible to be homesick for somewhere that’s not home. I say, if you’re homesick for it, it is home. I lived on Roatan for four years – it was my home!! I wasn’t on vacation. I lived and worked there just like everyone else. I was so frustrated and tired of Roatan by the time I left that I thought I would get to Japan, jump into my new life and forget all about that little island. As it turns out, it’s burrowed a lot deeper in my soul than I even thought. I’ve left my heart in a lot of places around the world in the short time I’ve been on it, but this has shown me that Roatan has earned her spot there.
Islanders love to say “I’m coming back” when they leave somewhere, whether they actually are coming back in five minutes or not. I feel the same way about wherever my ‘home’ is – I’m coming back sometime, I don’t know when but it makes me and everyone else feel better knowing that it will be sometime. Home really is wherever your heart is, and mine is in many places. And that’s okay.