Over the last couple of weeks I have been suffering from several waves of strong homesickness. I’m living a concurrent life in my head that involves Brick Lane, South Bank, noodles, falafel, the tube, the pervasive grey of London in December, pubs and banter, ridiculous meaningless conversations, and involved discussions based on the intellectual challenges of shag-marry-pushoffacliff. Banter conversations, leaps of imaginative silliness, are very difficult here for various reasons. Mostly my Spanish skills don’t stretch that far; if I embark on a stream of ill-advised silliness, I leave only a trail of confusion. I am missing the people who know me well enough to not only follow me, but better me, stretching a parallel banter universe into other realms. I think I might be talking bollocks again.
I am lazy, and this is my current biggest problem. It is a constant exertion to live in another country, for me anyway, since I’m rather mentally flabby (although beer, cheese and meat are having a rather physical affect too). Obviously a large proportion of life is eating, sleeping, meal-planning and doing little other than breathing in and out at various moments, whether you live in the same village all your life or travel the world. It’s the small proportion of time apart from that which seems the most important. Although actually a good snooze seems pretty important right at this moment.
It’s quite hard to have silly conversations. I am not quite relaxed enough. Conversations generally start with where I am from, and why I am here. Then they move to my ideas about Mexico and Monterrey. Neither of these topics lend themselves well to alternative answers or banter. I’m concerned I am becoming boring. My life here seems so dominated by the fact I’m from elsewhere that conversations are based generally around comparison – invariably me starting with ‘In Britain…’ and ending with words which generally roll into ‘blah blah blah’. I’m falling into some kind of caricature, shying away from the direct questioning that comes easily here – where you live, how old you are, whether you are attached, how much you earn being legitimate questions, and reminiscing about tea and cold weather. How ridiculous. I’ve forgotten what I talk about at home, when being British has no cause for comment. I’m losing the ability to converse. I have it in neither language.
It scares me how comforting anonymity is – how I crave for it and for Britain, a sentiment which seems like some bizarre sort of patriotism which I would have never associated with myself previously. Perhaps I am hardly a fraction as open to living abroad as I thought I was, but then I’ve always been the type of person who revels in any opportunity to forcefully shove my head into any piles of sand that happen to be lying about. I truly did not think I would find it this hard. It was easy to imagine that I would be homesick for London while I was still there and had my big white soft bed, the radio, company and familiarity, but the reality does feel like an absence in my life. I can palpably feel that I am missing a year in London – the last year of university for so many people is passing. Does the London life I miss even exist anymore? Of course not. And I am forgetting how I craved to escape it then. But even remembering commuting on the tube, grey drizzle, London Lite, Argos adverts, the cost of living, Mile End chicken shops, fails to halt homesickness. They have acquired virtue in their familiarity – they are obviously unpleasant parts of life, but of a life I miss.
The best, if rather laboured, analogy I can think of for living abroad is that it feels like waking up in a house very familiar to you, but everything has been moved three inches to the left. At first you don’t realise it; everything looks the same but you stumble on the stairs, you reach and inexplicably miss the light switch - your assumptions and innate reactions have lost their validity. You can no longer rely on things that you have always taken for granted. Sometimes for good reason. Some things ‘we’ do are bloody ridiculous. Like refusing to ask for directions. Or the strange meandering conversations that are required to discover small pieces of information.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this is, is that I know that leaving Mexico will come all too horribly soon and I shall be unable to understand why so much time was spent thinking about a city and group of people that will still be there in July.