On my final day visiting one of my project schools, I stopped in to see a couple of the staff to bid farewell. One man, whom I first met five years ago, asked the question that many have asked over the past week or so: ‘When are you coming back?’ I have no real answer for that question at present, and have stumbled through many answers. However, it was his answer that was more telling than anything I said at the moment, ‘You have to come back this is like your second home.’ He laughed. I smiled. We said good-bye.
That simple word – home – has taken on many meanings here for me. I have lived places, I have established residency in more than one berg and I have been invited to stay in many houses and places. However, I have rarely felt as comfortable as I have in several homes here. It is much more than being welcomed or being well cared for. It is the feeling of just being, of existing in a place where the others treated me as if I belonged there. This meant, sometimes, that I was ignored or just let be to do as I needed, to go as I pleased.
In one home, I needed to find an outlet that wouldn’t mess with my computer. Upon leaving my bedroom to go downstairs in search of an accessible plug (which is not so easy in homes here), I walked into the living area. The elder gentleman of the family sat near the door ready his paper, as the ‘little sister’ of the house sat preparing some food item. They smiled, he said ‘thank-you’ (which he always said in response to everything. He speaks English well, but his good morning, good-bye, come in to eat dinner, welcome home and etc. all come out as ‘thank-you’) and that was that. I sat, plugged in and began to work. It was a very comfortable feeling of just being.
In such a place, I sometimes eat alone. I eat like everyone else in the house. When I am ready and the food is there, I sit to eat, even if others have eaten before or are yet to eat. This has even happened in a place where I stayed for just two days.
What it has meant for me has been a feeling of comfort that I don’t often get in my residential home. It has drawn me deeply into the lives of a variety of friends and makes the question of when I will return more imperative, although it is not so much about when as will the experience feel similar? With the luxury of six months of life here, it was easy to take the time to reach out to people and build relationships. But will a three or four week trip allow enough time to capture that feeling again? I don’t know, of course, and can only imagine and hope. However, I feel a strong, what do I call it, connection? To this place now. A feeling of comfort. A feeling of being at home. It surprised me that it happened when I came here for professional reasons, but it pleases me to know that I can one day look forward to a return home.
© Daniel A. Kelin II
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