I’ve been in the States for six months now. I’ve learned a lot of things along the way, ticked a few places off my travel bucket list, and gained 20lbs. After six months, certain things that once felt strange and foreign to me are now almost familiar. I don’t feel like a tourist anymore.
It’s odd, sometimes, the things that make us feel more grounded in a place. In my first month here, I could not get used to the money: a nickel is bigger than a dime but is worth less, and American money always felt more like monopoly money, the paper so thin and strange looking. But now, I open my purse and don’t even register the strangeness of the currency. When I first arrived, I could not get used to sales tax and found myself cursing the shop workers every time my bill came to more than the labels on my purchases promised it would. Now, I shop each week and have already guesstimated the total before they ring it up. I can find my way around without having to rely on satnav and know which roads to steer clear off at any given hour of the working day. I know where the good grocery stores are, and where you’re more likely to come away with only rotten apples. I now understand the turns of phrase that used to sound like they had come straight out of a John Wayne movie. People no longer ask me how long I’m vacationing here for.
Yesterday was a good day. I spent the day with a new American friend. We baked blueberry muffins, I taught her how to crochet (well, almost…), we went shopping and drank tea and I played with her energetic dog. I had fun. I laughed a lot. It was a day well spent. Anyone looking at that scene might have thought the girl with the British accent was at home in her Southern surrounds. I was. But if there’s one thing I have learned, six months in, it’s this: home for a little while is still not home.
Every day when I get to school I turn my computer on and play BBC Radio 2 over the internet. Somedays it’s the best part of my day. It still amazes me the little things you miss when you’re away from home. Like the traffic update, for instance. What do I care what the hold-ups are on the M25? More than I thought, it turns out.
Somedays I am so busy I don’t have time to feel homesick, and a few days can go by when I don’t think much about home at all. But then somedays I wake up and long for the sound of Chris Evans on the radio and have to remind myself to drive on the right side of the road. Those are the days when I curse the drivers in their big, unnecessary trucks and shake my head at the impossibly good-looking news casters who don’t report on anything that happens outside of their own state.
Today I am homesick. I miss my friends and my church and spending cozy Sunday nights watching Call the Midwife and drinking proper tea with proper milk that actually cost the price on the label. I miss the six o’clock news and people who say please and thank you and actually indicate before they cut in front of you on the road. I miss British primary schools with dinner ladies and assemblies and playtime. I miss being able to meet a friend for coffee and laugh at something we both watched on the telly.
Of course, there will be things about North Carolina that I’ll miss when I leave it behind. I will miss the weather, and the accents; the Southern hospitality and wonderful people; the beautiful lakes and parks, and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. I’ll miss my American friends – lots. I will always be glad I came, and proud that I did. Boy, do I have stories to bring back with me.
Home will always be home. Some folks find it a few thousand miles from the place they grew up in, and others, like me, find it waiting for them and watching on as they spread their wings to foreign climes, just biding time until the long flight home. But home, I’ve found, will always be home.
So it’s true: this place feels more and more familiar to me now, after six long months. It’s where I live. But it is not my home. And I think, perhaps, that is the most important lesson I have learned.