As an expat, I can honestly say that I look forward to trips home with the kind of joy I reserved for Santa as a small child. The return to the familiar is seductive as is the idea that you’re returning somewhere you feel like you fit in as opposed to where you are the square peg in the proverbial round hole.
So what happens when that romantic idea of the trip home collides with reality? When a trip home isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but full of challenges and stumbling blocks? When you find yourself longing not for your home country, but your new country?
For me, it’s been a very confusing and challenging nine days.
I hate to say it, but this trip home has been fairly full of FAIL.
Part of this is my own fault. I didn’t really think through the ramnifications of traveling home to the US at what has historically been the height of my allergy season after a year of zero exposure to those particular plants and trees. Breathing is not quite as highly overrated as I might have written it off to be a few weeks ago. Nor did my memories of the joys of pregnancy combined with all the good drugs being off limits resemble anything like reality (although yes, three years ago I lived through this equally inadequately medicated…I’m guessing I was just walking around in such a fog that I can’t remember it all that well?).
Part of it has just been a bad run of luck/health. I became ill last week, and was diagnosed with an infection. I was given the most popular antibiotic based on preliminary results as it was a Friday and everyone was closing before the full results were in. I took that antibiotic for three days…only to learn yesterday that it wasn’t the right drug for my particular strain of bacterial infection. Not harmful to the baby, just not helpful either. I was prescribed the correct medication. I learned the hard way that I am apparently allergic to sulfa drugs…you never want to hear your partner gasp and go “What’s wrong with your back?!” in the tone that Ravi used last night. I took Benadryl on doctor’s orders. I’m awaiting my doctor’s decision as to a new course of action that is pregnancy safe. I was so looking forward to American food…only to have no appetite, and the joys of tasting things more than once when I do actually eat.
While it hasn’t been all bad–there has been some very successful shopping and some visits mixed in with all the being ill and drug reactions, it hasn’t been what I was hoping for. I find myself contemplating Americans as if I’m not one as well. At several points in this medical drama, I longed for the ease of procuring an ultrasound in Singapore (my OB in SG is perfectly happy to give me an ultrasound at the drop of a hat as I’m paying for it out of pocket).
Until this trip, I would have argued that while I like Singapore well enough and am content there, I’d always love my time in the US more. That trips home were the highlights of the year. But I also wonder if this is an inevitable rite of passage for an expat…the trip home that just isn’t great. Sure, you get to load up on stuff and seeing friends is never bad…but when it just stops being so super special. I turned to Ravi on this trip and actually said “you know, maybe there should be a point when the majority of our vacation time isn’t spent in Boston?” I’m conflicted as to what, if any, significance this has.
The one thing that has remained a positive throughout, and the redeeming value of the trip home…is being near old friends. I love my friends in Singapore, but none of them can boast 5-10+ years of friendship, the way many (most?) of my friends here can with Ravi and/or I. Just being in the same time zone is awesome because I can (for once) pick up the phone and just call without calculating time differences. When calling more than once a day isn’t a big deal. Where getting together spontaneously can just happen. For all that I talk a good game about Target and Gymboree, they are my real reason for coming back home time and time again.
Fellow Expats—want to share about a trip home that wasn’t everything you’d hoped for?