It’s that time of year when most folks who have done teacher exchanges are winding up and getting ready to go home. I have been following a few friends in this process, and remembering our last weeks in Australia. It was an emotional time. We were very settled in our life in Newcastle, and saying goodbye was hard. The kids’ school sent them off in fashion, with a red and white day (instead of uniforms) and a special assembly where they sang O Canada and Advance Australia Fair. It was incredibly moving.
Our homecoming was beautiful. My sister made sure of that. We felt so welcomed to be back. The kids were thrilled to run around the house and remember their rooms, their stuff, especially the toys. We fell back into routines with good friends. Life was returned close to what it had been.
Yet, returning home has been a strange journey. I walked into my house and realized I didn’t live here for a year and someone else did. We found traces (actually, more like big reminders) of these people as we reacquainted ourselves with our home. I had to censor myself from saying “in Australia”, or “where the kids went to school”, etc. in every other sentence as I talked with my friends and family. I dealt with this mixed emotion of being at home especially when people would say “you must be happy to be home”. It’s not that I wasn’t happy, it’s just that I was grieving the loss of leaving a place where I also had been happy. I was still adjusting. It’s hard to explain and hard to understand unless you’ve been there. I realize that I have changed some and many of my friends have, too. It’s inevitable.
We finally feel settled back into life in Vancouver. We would be lying if we didn’t say that we miss some of our life in Australia—oh, that sunny and warm weather! We think of friends often (especially you, Amanda and co!) and relish frequently in good memories which warm our hearts. Thank goodness for phones and technology to help us stay in touch.
Someone posted there are one of 4 ‘–ates’ that exchangees do when they return home: separate, procreate, renovate, or relocate. None of those have applied to me (although I have considered a small reno or two, I have to admit), so I’ve added a fifth one—contemplate. I’ve returned with a different lens. My whole family has. We contemplate life in a new way because of our experience. The exchange gave me a beautiful opportunity to reflect upon so many things. I had to dig deep to flourish, especially when my dad passed away, and so did my children. We are stronger people because of that.
Awareness comes out of contemplation. I have learned that I can feel at home in more than one place—most of it comes down to attitude and heart. For that, I feel grateful. And for the foresight my husband had to keep bringing up the exchange through his eternally optimistic view that it would all work out. Yes, honey, you were right.
Happy holidays to all my friends and family here, in Australia and so many places around the world. May 2015 be full of adventures, happy memories and hope.