I’ve been tagged by Laura of Life With Baby Kicks in the What Home Means to Me an expat life series. It certainly is a timely question as October 9th was exactly 10 years since the day I arrived in Malta. Yes, let’s think about that for a second!
TEN YEARS since we moved to this teeny tiny island to take up what is known as expat life. We only came for two!
If you want to know how come we ended up staying so long, this should help. I can remember so much of that initial time like it was yesterday. Hubster came first to start his new venture, source accommodation and begin setting up our life here. I stayed back a few more weeks in the UK to pack up our apartment and organise our removal shipment. It had been a hard slog organising and getting everything done, handling the aftermath of cleaning etc, closing down our UK life, saying goodbye to the home that we had lived in as first time parents with our baby.
A home we’d been so happy in…
I recall before I took Hubster to the airport, I suggested he briefly pause (amidst the anxious checking of travel documents and eagerness to leave on time) and walk around the apartment a few minutes to ‘take in the place’, storing away memories before he left it forever.
It’s funny the things that get imprinted in your memory and stuck in your heart…
I’ll never forget watching the container, carrying our worldly goods, making its way towards the gates of the leafy surroundings of our Harrow on the Hill residence, the chilly October evening darkening around me as I fought back tears and swallowed the lump in my throat. [It’s October as I write this now …sitting in a Summer dress and flipflops. Expat life in a hot country…very different!] I can still see the tail lights blinking at me one last time before the back of the huge vehicle finally disappeared round the corner, carrying our life on it. I say ‘finally’ but in truth I remember how quickly it seemed to vanish…
I will always be a nomad at heart til they finally put me in my own container and ship me out one last time.
Yet I still wanted to run after that lorry and say
Hang on, there’s been a mistake…please unload it all and put it back again…we’ve been SO happy here you see…
I think the only thing stopping me was the fact that I was trying to hang onto a 14 month-old not-yet-walking Musical M as she wrestled in my arms, miserable from yet another teething cold. I stood there a good long while thinking Well that’s it. We’re really doing this. Even though this was not the first time I was moving countries (I had left my job, Hampstead lodgings and said goodbye to family, friends and London life to go and live solo in Paris thirteen years before), this felt more daunting and emotional. Parenthood does that I think. Age does that. You’re less gung ho about things (or maybe even braver because of the experiences you’ve already had?) At least this time, I had the reassurance of doing it with my life partner.
But of course this time, I was ‘taking a child away from her grandparents’…
It was definitely different from being the young, free, I-just-wanna-have-fun singleton who headed off to work at the launch of Eurodisney (as it was then called) with nothing more than a large rucksack. Way different!
Anyway, before I empty this Kleenex box reminiscing over old pictures and memories, I had better describe what home has come to mean to me (I’ve changed the title a bit to make it fit more what I was trying to say):
- Home is where I can let my kids run off to play at the end of our road or venture over rocks out of sight to go crab hunting by the sea, without me worrying they won’t ever come back home because of another human being’s wickedness #CarefreeChildhood
- Home is where I don’t drive around the supermarket carpark for fifteen minutes because 8 drivers have managed to take up 16 spaces.
- Home is where we are not surrounded by identikit high streets and built up areas but have nature on our doorstep, can swim in blue waters during the summer and go hiking during the winter.
- Home is where I don’t jump out of my skin in my own home because of cockroaches suddenly scampering out of somewhere unexpected #UnwantedGuests
- Home is where ‘weather permitting’ means “if it’s not too insanely hot” rather than “if it’s not pouring down’. #NeedTheSun
- Home is where I don’t have to say my prayers just to get a drinkable cappuccino or even get served at all #StillLooking
- Home is where an evening out can be a simple meal or an ice cream without the fear of bankruptcy.
- Home is a place that exposes my kids to a cosmopolitan life and teaches them that there is more to life than this tiny island, no matter how nice it may be.
- Home is where there is a vibrant city offering hustle and bustle but quiet residential areas by the sea.
- Home is where you can go on an actual road trip lasting more than an hour…where putting your foot on the accelerator and letting the engine rip doesn’t mean you end up in the sea.
- Home is where there are TREES….oh how I miss trees and huge luscious fields but:
- Home is where there is a beach just minutes from our house for us to stop off at after school and where I have amazing scenery where I go out exercising:
- and where this is my backdrop as I go out walking/running:
- Home is where I don’t have to wait forty minutes for the menu before just getting one myself and then waiting another thirty before anyone takes my order and the same before the order arrives etc
- Home is where my kids are happy in a nurturing school with a relaxed environment and a low/no pressure homework policy. (And where I’m happy that there is no class system, bitchy atmosphere or fashion war between mums trying to trump each other at the school gates.)
- Home is where I don’t have to find slugs and slime trails all over my kitchen in the morning and tiny bugs in food packets. #Eeewww
- Home is where we live in swimwear and flipflops half the year and it’s being able to just get in the car in a sarong and bikini in the summer because nobody bats an eye and everyone understands it just gets Too. Hot. For. Clothes. (Now you get why I used that swimsuit pic right?)
- Home is where we finally have a garden, you know, with real grass…and a pool, oh and no damp inside the house…ooh and air conditioning pretty please. #IDontAskForMuch
- Home is where I don’t risk my life every time I get in my car because of the shocking behaviour of other drivers. No point doing a hashtag for this as I would just swear.
- Home is where ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, eye contact and a smile…and just being nice are common behaviour. #SomewhereOverTheRainbow
- Home is where if you haven’t got money on you, you can just come back and pay later and not be regarded as a criminal. #ReasonToNeverLeaveMalta
- Home is where food, clothes, books, toy etc shopping doesn’t cost the earth because of import costs. #PainInMyPocket
- Home is the warm feeling I get in my tummy seeing Hubster and MDK chill on the sofa on a weekend evening – after a long week of school runs, homework etc – watching TV or reading while relaxing music plays and V&T o’clock gets close.
- Home is where it doesn’t cost a fortune just to leave the house because you can actually park for free a lot of the time and don’t have crazy travel costs. #ThankYouMalta
- Home is where my eyes and heart don’t hurt over the lack of regard for the environment on pretty much a daily basis. #HowIsThisHappeningIn2015
They say home is where the heart is. I left a part of my heart in Paris, a part in that first apartment we lived in as parents in London… There’s a piece left at the villa we lived in when we first moved to Malta (Doe-eyed D’s first home) and I’m sure, much as I complain about our present home, there’s a part here as this is Cheeky K’s first home.
Ultimately, clichéd as it may be, home is where my family is. I’m not sure I can find a place that meets all of the above anyway. But I’ll keep on looking…because like I said, I’m a nomad at heart…
I now tag:
UK bloggers Doctomum and Bewildered Dad
Aussie blogger Agent Spitback
US blogger Dads Going Home