Sunday, November 04, 2007

Can you go home again?

“Um, Claire, so what gives? No blogging for like 2 weeks?”

Yes, it has been a while. Yesterday afternoon I got back to Germany in one piece, even if I am still not sure what time it is.

The past two weeks will definitely be on my list of my best trips back to the U.S. Actually both trips this year were really good. As you may remember, in March we visited mom and dad-squared in Charleston, SC and this time we visited dad and mom-squared in Ypsilanti, MI. The trick to these perfect trips: don’t do both cities at once. Driving from Charleston to Ypsilanti (and it is always a round trip) just blows and takes two days. Our trip was pretty uneventful. I did not write or talk to anyone except my family during the trip. I just wanted to enjoy my time away.

We spent one gorgeous day at the Henry Ford / Greenfield Village. Normal people collect stamps or coins. Henry Ford collected houses. You know, for fun. All of the historical sights and homes that he bought are reconstructed in a “village” outside of Dearborn, MI. It is a taste of Americana which includes the Wright Brother's bike shop, Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory, and the Firestone Farm. The weather was perfect the day we visited: 68 degrees and sunny. We walked around for four hours and the German could not get over the beautiful colors of all the leaves.

Doing tourist stuff was not really high on our agenda. We spent our days walking in the park, visiting the mall, going to the movies, etc (not all in one day mind you). I drank one too many lattes and watched enough TV for a month. The German went to his first college football stadium. He watched UofM at the “Big House” battle for the Little Brown Jug. Unfortunately it rained the entire day. That evening we also went to a UofM hockey game. I am currently trying to deprogram him after his “conversion” to UofM.

We did take a small road trip down to my old stomping grounds. Although I graduated in 2005, my old university has changed a lot in 2 ½ years. They have built two new buildings and have started on extensions to the law school and engineering school. Also, they took out a major road through the university and planted a park and trees. The German has a mildly amusing video of my standing in the middle of the park, looking around and saying in a rather dumbfounded tone over and over again, “This used to be a street.” During the trip I had coffee with my old advisor. It was really nice. I often worry that I have disappointed my professors by getting out of academia. I told him that I felt like I had to choose between a career and a family and I choose the latter. He told me that I made the correct decision, which was reassuring.

Finally, we did drive to the Land o’ Cheese and visited my Grandpa (he who sometimes comments on this blog) and dad-squared’s family. As always, they are a pleasure to visit. As always, this trip was too short.

When the German and I left the U.S. on Friday, I was really sad. I could also see that my dad was sad. It was one of the first times that I have not wanted to come back to Germany. The funny thing is that I am starting to feel a bit disconnected from my life back in the states; my “old life.” There were times when I felt like I just did not fit-in any more. However, I often do not feel like I fit-in here in Germany either. These feelings are extremely difficult, and yet typical of the ex-pat experience. You have one foot in each country, which makes “home” a difficult place to define. Because of my mixed feelings about coming back, I have picked several fights with the German. I am not sure why I do it. I suppose that it is because he is the closest person to me and I cannot manage to keep my trap shut.

Life goes back to its “normalcy” tomorrow. Time to get back to work and pay the bills. Already the U.S. seems so far away.


Rositta said...

I have heard it said by some Greeks that I know, that they also have one foot in each country. It is a difficult way to live I think. My Sister in Law goes back and forth. Lucky for me I came to Canada quite young so I don't pine for Germany. When I visit I do love it and miss some stuff when I come back but it doesn't last long. Glad you had a good time...ciao:)

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

I'm not so sure. In the 3 years I've been away from the States, I've been "home" 3 times. And while the areas feel familiar and I start slipping into old habits while there, I still find a part of me saying "I don't belong here anymore"...and that makes me the saddest of all. When you become a "global" citizen do you lose your true home? And does your family ever understand?

Fabulous post.

Dixie said...

Instead of feeling as though I don't fit in either place, I choose to believe I have two homes and I fit in both. It's served me well for ten years. :)

I'm glad you had a good visit home. I got back from mine a week ago and while I miss it, it's good to get back into my routine.

J said...

"There were times when I felt like I just did not fit-in any more. However, I often do not feel like I fit-in here in Germany either. These feelings are extremely difficult, and yet typical of the ex-pat experience."

I've been away for 9 years now and have to say that I totally agree with this, Claire. Oddly enough, I didn't feel that way when I lived in Poland - I felt like it was my new home. Germany just feels like a place I'm visiting.

Michelle said...

Sometimes I don't think about the US at all for days. I'm absorbed in my life here. Then I feel guilty and sad. When I'm in the US I think maybe we should be living there but then I don't really want to live Europe. It is very conflicting for sure.

Haddock said...

The ex-pat experience of not fitting in is completely normal. The first time I left the UK was for 5 years, and I felt the same. I went back to the UK and after a year I wanted to leave again. Once you leave, going back is never the same, but thats just the way it is.
Glad you had a good trip back to the USA.

BTW - I've tagged you :)

Gardner said...

Definitely a confusing experience. What is real, what is permanent, what can we hold on to in this life?

Being an expat brings these questions to the forefront, even when you're not pregnant to boot. Working in Stockholm this week I noticed these confusing feelings of belonging surfacing (

I also noticed recently that I definitely think differently now that we live in Germany about the word "globalisation". It's a pretty common catch phrase in the news these days, but to me it's much more now.

Hang tough.