On Homesickness

I didn’t realise I enjoyed the smell of freshly cut grass. I didn’t even realise that I noticed it. It came to my attention once the sun started coming out here in Istanbul. In England, sunny days are something of a rarity. When the sun does decide to poke out its long lost and lamented head Brits whip the lawn mowers and the BBQ’s out of their dusty sheds and make the most out of what joy can be had. Before the sun shies away back into its cloudy den leaving behind a cider induced hangover and the inevitable insatiable longing that comes with being given a small taste of something good.

Living in Turkey means as of late we have been having sunny days galore. Sunnier than summers ever get back home. Such sun filled days awaken a previously unknown longing for the smell of cut grass and the buzzing of the lawnmower, a yearning, tormenting my mind with visions of home. Such lamentations trigger further happy memories of a childhood, my mom mowing the lawn with tunes blasting, my brother and I with our little trowels, trying earnestly yet in vain to rid the path of weeds. Of course, being in Istanbul means such sounds and smells are now a thing of the past. They barely have enough space for a decent park, nevermind houses with gardens.  This is a city where almost every square inch equates to money for the property developers. High rise heaven.

Such feelings of homesickness can be enough to knock you. To shake the foundations set in the new country, urging you to return to the mother land.

How to deal with the onset of such feelings? How to push them to the back corners of the brain that they surfaced from? For me a Skype call to my sister usually ensues after the onset of said emotions. Get the whole family update, see my nieces and nephews in their pixelated flesh.

Skype. Curing Louise’s homesickness since 2013..

When living hundreds or thousands of miles away from all you once held dear, it is of course important to have a good network of friends. Cheesy as it sounds but these friends become your family. The ones you lean on when the city is fucking you off and you want to escape, the ones who you cook dinners with and for, the ones you confide in, the ones with whom you celebrate your birthdays and your Christmas’. Without these people, the screaming silence that comes with loneliness can become unbearable.

There is no secret winning formula for curing homesickness. It is always going to be there, in the back of your mind. Lingering, niggling away and eating at your resolve when you least expect it. The lack of fresh grass smells on a sunny day, the lack of an Easter/Christmas holiday, bank holiday weekend Facebook updates, missed weddings, birthdays, christenings, new born babies……

In the end I found that this place, albeit foreign and alien to that I grew up with, has become my home. The sounds of constant construction permeating the air, construction poles taking up the pavement, unbearably humid sunny days, tea with no milk, the salty fishy sea smells of the Marmara. These have become the sounds and smells that I now associate with home.

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This experience has taught me that although my native land will always remain in my heart and mind,  wherever I manage to set my bags down and sink my feet into can become home. The ability to adapt and change is a part of who we are as a species, part of who I am. As long as I have some half decent tea to come home to at the end of the day, home is what I make it.

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