Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm afraid of going "home"

Isaac and I are taking little baby steps towards moving overseas and doing what we've always planned - for Isaac to teach (formally) and me to counsel (informally).

In a twist that is in some ways super surprising and in other ways not at all, it's possible that we'll end up on the island of Papua in Indonesia, which is where I grew up.

Dang. If I let my emotions run free I could tell you just how excited that makes me. I'll actually speak Indonesian and my husband will too, and possibly even my kids will grow up speaking it? The place that I fiercely call my home despite having so little actual right to it could actually BE home again? I could go to the mountains and beaches and smell the flowers and eat soto ayam and participate in the local church and be a part of raising up leaders in the Papuan community?

Seriously. That barely scratches the surface, because underneath are just all the emotion that I can't get into words of how much I love Papua.

But on the other hand.....

There are a lot of fears too. I know that growing up in a paradise of jungle and beaches was a dream as a kid, but it's a heck of a lot more difficult as an adult. It means shopping at little grocery stores to find a few familiar things imported from the West and making most things from scratch, which takes twice as long. It means living in tropic heat that saps your energy (though the town we would live in would be cooler than the town I grew up in, for which I am deeeeeeeply grateful). It means being far from sophisticated medical help, so what if my baby gets sick? That's a BIG what if?

It means being far from people of my own culture. This is a strange one, because I feel far from my own culture here in Dallas too. The only people that I truly think I share a culture with are other kids that grew up between cultures (tcks). Still, though, there will be more cultural isolation in the city we'll live in in Papua. There are few other Westerners there. I want it that way because I don't want to get sucked into a little Western bubble that keeps me busy and away from building relationships with my neighbors, the Papuans. Still, the process of becoming so acculturated that I can build real lasting relationships with my neighbors means years of isolation. I know from moving to Dallas that years of isolation are difficult for me - I thrive on intimacy and familiarity. How lonely will I be in Papua?

I will be far away from family, just as my family seems to be consolidating in Colorado. This is much harder now that I have a child. I know what it was like to grow up far away from extended family, and I desperately want my son to know his grandparents and uncles and aunts. To be far away will be very hard. 

It is scary to bring my husband to a place I call home. I grew up there. There are a lot of little things about the culture that are quixotic that are so contrary to a Western mindset, and it just makes me laugh. Now, though, I'd be bringing in a husband who grew up in Britain, arguably even more structured than the USA. For him, culture shock will be huge, and he will be angry and disgusted by many things as he adjusts to life there. I'll feel defensive, I'll think he's being a ridiculously picky Westerner, and I'll want him to lighten up. Isaac will want me to just listen and sympathize with how different and frustrating things are. This is all not really an "if", it's a "when"! We know this will happen.

I fear myself, too. What about when I get "home" and I don't feel at home? That will happen, too. I'm afraid of my own love for this place, afraid it will betray me and I'll be left feeling even more rootless.

So yeah, it's scary and I think it's important to identify those fears in the midst of the excitement. We're on a journey. Life is unpredictable. Who knows what will happen or where we'll end up?


Melissa said...

yes, i think about this same type of thing if i were to move back to where i grew up someday (which i think about sometimes but is not really a plan at all). it would in a sense be starting over there and learning to live there all over again, even though there would be so many familiar things too. i would feel culturally isolated too, which i think i will feel like anywhere i move. it makes it easier to just stay where i am now since 3 years later i feel much more comfortable here. but i wonder what will happen! we are all on an adventure.

Jaimie said...

What about when I get "home" and I don't feel at home? I'm afraid of my own love for this place, afraid it will betray me and I'll be left feeling even more rootless.

I love that. That's how I feel about writing my novel. I love it so much, what if something goes wrong? What if it "doesn't come through," whatever that means? But I've learned that's a sign I should press forward, not stay away. (Preaching to the choir here.)

Kacie said...

yeah. love is dangerous. But worth it.

CatharineKariana said...

Beautiful. I relate to EVERYTHING you're saying here. I'm seriously thinking about moving back to Indonesia these days and I have worried over all the same things. And I have huge issues about potential suitors because their being able to love and live in Indonesia one day is such a dealbreaker for me. Thanks for putting it all so eloquently. Helped me understand myself a bit better. :)

junglewife said...

Good thoughts. Those were all things that I wrestled with, too... and then we got reassigned from Ecuador to Papua and I didn't have to worry about it :-) Well, not entirely! There are definitely still "going back overseas" issues that I think all TCKs wrestle with, whether they go back overseas to the culture they grew up in, or a different one.

So... can I deduce from your post that if you moved back to Papua that it might be to Wamena?! That would be crazy!!!

Kacie said...

Nope, Manokwari! So... not as cool as Wamena, but slightly cooler than Sentani. :)