Expatriate, n. & v. 1. To banish; to drive or force (a person) from his own country; to make an exile of. 2. Reflexively, as to expatriate one's self: To withdraw from one's native country; to renounce the rights and liabilities of citizenship where one is born, and become a citizen of another country.
I've been stuck between two continents for several years now, needing to leave home in order to find a deep sense of home again. Thoughts of my current life in Northern California are still fresh while I transit the ocean every year, in search of the expatriate life I so desperately want. I still live in the US, but I have one foot out the door. I experience cultural familiarity and cultural alienation in both countries, simultaneously. It's as if I don't fully belong in either place at this point.
This upheaval and desire to find my place has caused me to consider: what is home, what is it about a place that makes you feel like you're home? How do you explain the pull a place can have on you? The visual memories are seared in your mind — seemingly incongruous and unconnected bits that somehow all mesh into a world that seems so familiar and desirable. I found images that now represent deep memories: endless walls of graffiti in East Oakland and San Francisco; a teepee in the middle of a baroque Czech town square discovered on 9/11; wreaths placed in the center of Amsterdam for the Liberation Day ceremony; distinctly Californian scenes of very personal iconography.
As I take steps to become an expatriate, I think about what I leave behind and what I'm going towards. I will leave my family, a house, an ex-husband in his grave and many old friends. I go towards newer acquaintances, a land of bicycles, trains & trams, 300-year-old architectural treasures and pragmatic thinking. My friends are expatriates and ex-expatriates, their life experiences fall somewhere between America and the other side of the world. We share this in common.