Find any expat blog where the expat has returned to their country of origin, and you’ll find the same stories over and over.
It’s weird being here.
My friends here don’t understand my experience.
This, that and the other thing here now drive me crazy.
I miss my expat home and friends there.
(So if this post is tl;dr for you, just look at those four lines and that’s basically it.)
To recap, I’m back in Canada for a few months getting ready to move to Japan in July as an assistant language teacher with the JET Programme. I’ve been here in Saskatchewan for about two weeks now, and they’ve been two loooonnnnnngggggg weeks. I’ve been spending a lot of time at my grandparents’ house getting it cleaned up and ready to sell (some of you may remember that I was back here this past January visiting my ill grandpa before he passed away) which has come with all kinds of other work to do for the family. It’s made me think hard about what I ‘need’ as possessions, and realizing how much work it is for others if you don’t keep your affairs organized and up to date (and if you fill your house to the brim with stuff). The house has sold so I should be off cleaning duty as of this weekend. Time to focus on finishing up my TESOL certificate, dust off my Japanese textbooks, and complete my oceanography course. I’m planning a small trip to Portland in the meantime too, so watch out for more on that and tell me where I should EAT!!
It’s been strange being back here for such a long stretch of time after being in Roatan so long. After a long few days of travel to get here, I immediately started noticing how my time in Roatan had affected my personality and subconscious attitudes. Here’s some of the things that stuck out:
– People here are so RUDE!! I got used to greeting everyone on Roatan, and you better say your good morning or good afternoon before asking anyone for anything in a store, bank, taxi, etc. or else you’ll get a pretty cold response. Greeting people is part of the culture in the Caribbean and I got big smiles elsewhere in the region when I started all my interactions with one. Here people just walk up to the bank teller and when she says hello they go straight to I WANT THIS MUCH OUT OF MY ACCOUNT. No hello, good morning, how are you, nothing.
– soooooooooooooo many choices for food! And good beer!!
– I am not into the music here, like, at all. I miss my dancehall and reggaeton blasting from everywhere, though I don’t miss my neighbors pumping it at 5:30am. Several of our neighbors here are having their siding redone and the workers blast country music radio all day, and I die a little inside. My Spotify is on Dancehall Hits non-stop. What if I forget how to wine?
– I still accidentally yell buenasssss! when I go into a store and can’t find anyone, or when I’m letting myself into someone’s house. I also often find myself cursing in creole – when I get angry, it’s the first thing that comes out. I keep telling everyone I’m coming back every time I leave the house (good preparation for Japan, I guess…ittekimasu!) and nobody here seems to understand what I’m saying when I call someone ‘a stress’.
– Drinking from the tap here still creeps me out a bit. (Not only do we have good water in Canada, my parents have a crazy ass whole-house filter on our water line that takes everything out….so I have nothing to fear except fear itself.)
– I keep seeing cars that look like my Roatan friends’ cars while I’m out for walks. I have waved to a lot of strangers.
– Going to the bank here is glorious. Absolutely glorious. No lines, friendly tellers who say ‘yes’ to all my requests and then actually do them, no waiting, no “the system is down”, no “the manager isn’t here today”. I love going to the bank.
– Grocery store: also fucking glorious. VEGETABLES. That is all.
– Driving is not fun here. Lots of rules, no passing slowpokes, have to watch for pedestrians and speed limit signs! I have to really concentrate when I drive here. I feel like getting a ticket is only a matter of time, and I’m pretty sure I can’t pay the police officer $22 to look the other way here.
– I have been able to wear my leggings and long sleeved shirts. Not sweating 24/7 is one of my favorite things about Canada. I work out in the house, I cook, I clean, I move furniture and boxes, I walk for over an hour each day in a park… haven’t broken a sweat yet. Fucking amazing.
– In general, everything is just so efficient here. I can’t believe some of the things people complain about (I used to do it too!!) – you really don’t realize how green your grass is till you see it from the other side.
– I’m really glad I have stuff to keep me occupied because everyone here is so BUSY. It’s a nightmare trying to make plans with my friends… everyone has everything so scheduled, nothing is spontaneous. There’s no running into your friend on the street and deciding to go for a beer. Their kids have 483 after school commitments. People really know how to fill up all their free time here.
– People are constantly pointing out rips, holes and stains on my clothes – it’s been so long since I’ve given a thought about what I’m wearing that this really catches me off-guard. On Roatan no one cares or comments on what you’re wearing. It seems to be a pretty big deal here…? I think people are trying to be polite, but I know what my clothes look like, I just don’t care! I’m not going to not wear a shirt just because of a little stain on it!
– Everything here is brown right now and so blah looking. I’m feeling really landlocked. The lack of humidity is lovely, but there’s nothing lush about Saskatchewan in spring. Thankfully I’m headed to the west coast at least once a month before I leave, so I’ll get my ocean and mountain fix there.
I miss my friends. I miss living in my own apartment. I miss morning beers. I miss sitting on a dock. I miss dancing (and guys who can dance, sorry Canadians). I miss diving. I miss boat rides. I miss walking down the road. I miss the community that was so small it drove me batshit crazy with everyone in each others business but so close-knit and supportive that any disruption sent people running in to help faster than you could blink. I woke up today to videos of a huge fire in West End, and while it was a total loss it was heartwarming to see people streaming in to help. A local friend of mine who has a good heart but is caught up in drugs was pictured being treated for smoke inhalation as he tried to help put out the fire. I miss people like that.
Yes, I am conveniently forgetting about all the less-than-stellar things about Roatan. I’m forgetting the sweltering heat, the bugs, the frustration trying to complete seemingly simple tasks, the asshole divers, the ripoffs, the language barrier and the shitty internet. I also woke up today to horrific news that a friend had been broken into, robbed and raped in her home by an unknown assailant. These are the kinds of things you forget about when you are looking back from far away.
|the dive shop i used to work at is called bananarama… sent this photo to all my coworkers with I MISS YOU GUYS plastered all over it! they made fun of my green juice, shellac manicure and new pink clutch.|
I know all this is totally normal and everyone who comes back feels the same way. I can’t help but think how grateful I am that I have this move to Japan on the horizon, and I can keep going forward towards that. I think if I would have just been coming back here to life in Canada again that I might have forgotten all the very valid reasons why I left Roatan, and hightailed it back there to my sometimes-annoying yet comfortable life in a place where everyone knew my name. For now though, it’s time to enjoy everything Canada has to offer before I leave my ‘home’ once again.