“I want to take off on the bikes again,” Davy said as he climbed into the car after school this afternoon. “I miss the bikes.” ((sigh))
It’s been five weeks since we arrived in Boise – about the longest period of time we’ve stayed anywhere for the past three years. Our bodies and minds are telling us it’s time to move on.
We are enjoying Boise in many ways. We’re loving swimming at the YMCA and getting involved with clubs. The boys are enjoying their math/science classes at school and will go on their first Boy Scout campout this weekend. Boise is a great place and we’re thrilled to be here.
But it’s also hard. We are still in a temporary apartment trying to buy a small house. We’re still camped on the floor and don’t have our ‘stuff’ to make it home. We’re trying to process the past three years and make sense of all the emotions and feelings and lessons learned.
Even so, I was surprised when Davy mentioned today that he wants to take off – I figured we still had a month or two before that hit.
In many ways, my sons are more like ESL (English as a Second Language) than native English speakers. When our friend, Rachel, asked Daryl to put a book in her living room, Daryl asked, “Which room is the living room?” The idea of “PE clothes” was a foreign concept and they simply couldn’t figure out what their teacher was referring to. Life in the US is confusing, but our brains are telling us it shouldn’t be – we are, after all, native Americans.
I remember talking with Ethiopians who had recently moved back to their home country after many years abroad when we lived there. While I, as a foreigner, had help finding a house and getting lights and water hooked up, they were on their own. Local people knew we had no clue how to do anything. They expected Ethiopians moving back ‘home’ to be able to do everything – they were, after all, Ethiopians.
But really – they were American or British more than Ethiopian. Sure, they spoke the local language, but that’s where the similarities ended. They didn’t know their way around Addis Ababa any better than we did. They didn’t have any better idea of how to rent a house and turn on the electricity and water than we foreigners.
They all talked about how hard it was to be Ethiopian, but not be Ethiopian.
Now, I feel like we are American, but not American. We’ve lived and traveled in other countries way more than we’ve lived in our own. We’re flexible and adaptable and willing to learn – but it’s hard when we’re expected to know our way around. And many times, we don’t even know the right questions to ask.
We’re making progress, and those incidents are becoming more rare – but we still get tripped up by them from time to time. We’ll be going about our daily life and *bang* we stumble and fall on something so simple another American wouldn’t even notice.
I wonder how long it’ll take before we’re truly feeling comfortable here? How long will it take before we no longer feel like strangers in our own country?