Friday, January 05, 2007

Finding my way

For expatriates the notion of home seems transitive and uncertain. I’ve seen many expats expound upon this idea of home and what it means to them – and we all seem to be torn between wanting to call our former lives home and considering our new existence to be home. I’ve referred to home generally – if I talk about visiting the U.S. I call it home, but I find it difficult to define it further.

Home can’t really be with my parents, since they live in a place where I have never lived, and while I am of course welcome there, I don’t feel like it is home except in the sense of being with my family. Is home with relatives in Maryland who have lived in the same places as long as I can remember? I certainly always felt at home there, but I never actually lived there. Is Nashville my home? It is the place where I lived for 21 years until I moved to Greece. But I don’t have any property there, only a spate of friends. I suppose the U.S. government might consider Nashville my home, since I still vote in my district there. It still feels like home, in some ways, although technically I don’t belong there anymore. Is home where I live now? I’ve lived in four different cities/villages since I’ve been in Greece, so that has made the question even more difficult. Thessaloniki is my husband’s home, filled with friends and family. I certainly like it here. Not to mention, this is where all my stuff is, and we all know how important stuff can be. My three cats definitely seem to consider it home. But in a sense I don’t feel like I own this place, that it is my city, my home. It feels more like a borrowed place. A temporary place. But it isn’t. Is Greece my home?

There are stretches of road along the Ethniki Odos (National Highway) that are ensconced by rows and rows of cornfields, which is reminiscent of the rural roads I’ve traveled often in Maryland. Heading towards Mt. Olympus, as the long road winds its way up the mountain, the air begins to change and there is greenery all around, which reminds me of being in Beersheba. Walking along the Thessaloniki harbor with the smell of the sea blanketing my senses, I experience a brief flashback of being in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. One of the main roads through Thessaloniki reminds me so vividly of Briley Parkway I sometimes expect Opryland (or rather, Opry Mills) to appear suddenly before me – a giant beacon of misdirected capitalism and stagnant consumerism. Once I come to my senses there is always a sadness of what I miss, but there is also a sense of completion – a binder that weaves my past with my present, joining all these places together in my head and my heart. And it is at that moment I realize that home is not any one thing, it has become the sum of my experiences, my memories, all the places I have lived and hold dear.

I am home.


Alice in Austria said...

awesome entry, Mel!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

Scruff said...


Next time someone asks you if you miss America, do what I say:

THEM: Su lipe Amerikh (You miss America?).

ME: Oxi, yiati pigenoume steen Plateia Amerike (athens) otan mu lipe Amerike. (NO, because I just visit America Square in Athens when I miss the states).

Most laugh when I say this...

Anonymous said...


yep home is were the heart is Mel,

But this one article of yours was beautiful.

JUST BEAUTIFUL.............!!!


Cynthia Rae said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. Well said Mel! I have always the same. My parents also live in a house that I never lived in. I was in Indy for 8 years before coming here and there is where most of my friends are now.

I always call Italy home and America is "back home".

In the end, home is where the heart is. In our cases, several places.

kuri & ping said...

Hi Mel! I came across your blog at Expat Blogs and just wanted to let you know that this post really struck a chord with me. I call both New York and Japan "home"'s hard straddling two cultures sometimes. Thanks for the thoughtprovoking post!

Tim said...

Oddly enough, I don't miss the U.S. at all - I miss certain things that happened there, but that is nostalgia, nothing more. In fact, I think I have felt more at home in Norway than I have in quite a long time. I never felt I was home in Tennessee - but then again, I never felt at home in my state of origin, Indiana. I suppose the old saying, "Home is where the heart is", rings true, and my heart - except for my family - is here.