I reclined against my white working chair. The rise of buildings along the stretch of the horizons perched on my window sill. The wind tried to sneak in under the door, rattling the frame on its way in. Home. Two twin IKEA beds and freshly laundered bed sheets. My papers spattered on the wooden floor. Home?
Home – is it a physical or emotional location or something else?
When I was growing up, the concept of home was as vague as the shifting clouds rolling along the white canvass. Up until I was nine, there was only one home. The gigantic house tucked in the small street across a noisy school. It got flooded once and there were strangers who came to live temporarily on the third floor. My nest was the second floor with my parents.
1 house in Hatyai
Afterwards, it became two homes – the main one that I resided was in Singapore, where I went to study with my two little sisters. My parents remained in the first one. During the holidays, I would go back to the first one, smaller this time. It was not the same feeling. It was no longer a place I permanently reside. Once the last weekend of June came, I have to pack up and leave.
Then, I moved to third third home! It was way bigger than the second and there were even two playgrounds! Woah, with lots of trees and friends from the new school! I could even sneak a glance at the cool soldiers playing basketball during sunset across those tall barbed fences. I said goodbye to my friends from my first school in Singapore and I couldn’t forget the sadness when I bade farewell to my favorite teacher.
After two years, I changed school – from primary school to secondary school. Technically, a third academic home for me. I spent over 10 hours each day there. I resided in my secondary school for four years but the residents changed with the tracking system between science and arts. My concept of home becoming more hazy – schools are also homes for me.
2 houses, 3 schools in Singapore
☒ 5 locations
It was not long before I graduated from Secondary four in Singapore and went over to the US. Within a week in Seattle, I moved twice due to issues with the landlords. From Thailand -> a house far-removed in the mountain -> to one in that I stayed for half a year. It was not long before I moved to the third abode, an apartment I shared with my friend in Seattle.
2 houses, 1 apartment, 1 school in Seattle
All these times, my family is in Thailand. They told me my home is in Thailand – and when I’m in US, I get terribly homesick – I miss my family. However, the funniest things often happen when I go back to Thailand. When I’m in Thailand, I feel like the actions in my life is at the US. So, is home where I need to be? Things got complicated in my family and the feeling home in Thailand started to disappear. When the last week of June rolled over, I had to leave for “home” for abroad. During my bachelors’ studies, I transferred to Illinois. I already moved twice – from the first floor to the third floor of the same building due to my apartment lease expiration.
2 floors, 1 school in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois
Then came my masters’ in Boston.
1 apartment, 1 school in Boston.
☒ 7 locations in US
I’m back here in Bangkok, Thailand.
1 apartment in Bangkok
☒ 2 locations in Thailand
✘ 15 locations I had lived
Seeing the number (15 locations), it made me think about the concept of home – especially, lately that I still don’t consider Bangkok as my home. I’m in Thailand – yes. But, my family is in the south of Thailand, Hatyai. I can’t live there now – and my parents don’t see me living with them either. Is that still a home or a house where my parents live? My cousins are in Bangkok and their parents are in Hatyai. Where is their home?
Where is my home?
What is home?
I don’t know. But, I do know that I’m fortunate to have lived in so many places, houses and apartments and I’m lucky to have a place to reside in.
Why am I thinking about this?
- Sometimes, I feel like I’m a stranger at “home – Thailand” having been away for so long and not learning the language.
- With my boyfriend, my concept of home also start to includes him in the picture. What does that mean when it used to be only my parents, my siblings and I?
- My friend coined the term for me, that I’m a third culture kid – not an American, not a Singaporean, not a Thai either. But, but rather another culture: a cross-cultures. According to my friend, it ain’t weird if I feel out-of-place when I’m back in my birth country. It’s like a re-culture shock.
- My family said I should not forgot my roots (where I come from) and the ground that support it. My family and the country have given me wings and now, it’s time to come back to nourish the ground. Though, I feel like I want to fly a bit longer before coming back to settle down. I feel I know so little about humans and I’m slowly losing my passion to teach. I’m in education but it feels like a dead-end system, far twisted to solve. The world is so fascinating – and I want to learn more outside of my birth ground. I think I might have a nomad blood in me from my ancestors. I do miss my family and I still miss the world unlearned.
Maybe, I’m chasing after a physical or emotional place to call home because something inside me is not at peace. As Shea Servidio from The Odyssey Online puts it, “maybe home is just where a settled heart is”. Until then, I’m still searching for the meaning of home.
Featured image by Kathrin Honesta