“I’m heading home.” But what does that mean? It’s a fundamental question for me right now.
Sometimes I solved it by putting air quotes around “home.” Other times I avoided it altogether by specifying: back to Canada, back to Barbados.
I thought Canada, my home, my neighbourhood, would seem strange and familiar at the same time when I first arrived last month, the way your house does when you return from a trip. But no, I switched immediately, slid into the driver’s seat of my car and stayed on the right side of the road.
I was disconcerted by the Covid protocols, however. British Columbia had just canceled the mask mandate for those fully vaccinated but despite being double jabbed I was uncomfortable around unmasked faces indoors. No one took my temperature or contact information when I went into a restaurant, and in one “health” store they weren’t even sanitizing the carts after use. I kept my mask on. (And BC reinstated their mask mandate two weeks later as Delta fuelled the fourth wave.)
An odd difference I never did adjust to in the last 4 weeks was light switches being inside the bathroom, instead of the Bajan norm of outside! And it took me a while to know which way to turn the tap on my shower.
I’ve become acclimatized to the tropics. When it was almost 30C on my arrival in Canada I was fine, but weeks of temperatures below 20 left me chilled. At first I was taken with the novelty— breathing is like drinking cold water!— but after a while I was looking for more and more layers to wear.
I’ve lived in our townhouse by Freight’s Bay longer than I was in my condo in Victoria. I have precious family and long-time friends in Canada, but in Barbados there is my love, Scott. I have not know my new friends long but our relationships have grown quickly with the intensity and frequency of our times together. My routines in a Bajan week are much stronger than those I developed during the uncertain first months of the pandemic in BC.
I remember a quote that another teacher wrote on a board at the end of the semester in an international school. The two dozen young adults I had taught were exchanging contact information, some tearfully, as many prepared to head home to Europe, to China, to South America.
You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.Miriam Adeney
I’m on the plane now, half an hour away from Barbados. I will miss my sisters and my children, and I know that some day I will live on Vancouver Island again. But today, I’m excited to be going home.