- Created on Monday, 27 June 2011 23:33
In 2007 I bought a condo. Many of my mono-cultural friends said, ”Uh, it's about time!” Still, I remember the angst I felt when I signed my name on the dotted line. Oh, it wasn’t the 30 years of house payments that caused fear to well up inside, though that too is a scary thing. Rather it was the thought of owning a non-moveable thing. The mere thought of staying in one place gave me a stomach ache. At the same time I longed for a place that was mine. I longed for a place where I could paint the walls the color I wanted, hang pictures with nails and open boxes that had been sealed for more years than I want to admit.
So in August of 2007, I moved into a condo I had only seen pictures of, in a town I had visited only once. I kept telling myself it didn’t matter where I lived. After all, my job is global - I just needed to live near an airport.
I recall when I got the keys and I went inside my new digs for the first time. My mixed excitement quickly turned into full blown anxiety and grief. Cindy, my friend, was with me and I tried to put on a happy face, but when she left I cried so hard I wanted to throw up. What had I done? I was trapped! (I wonder now in hindsight if what I felt is the way a first-timer feels when they move into their apartment on their first international assignment..)
After several days of hating my new place I said to myself, Libby, if you are going to die here you better make it yours! And I did. I began with stripping EVERYTHING that said someone else had ever lived there. Down came the curtains and rods. Hours were spent scraping off wallpaper borders that screamed the last tenant was at least 100 years old. It all changed: carpet, closet doors, entrance doors, light fixtures.
Now it was my time to rebuild. This was such fun! After choosing wood floors and paint color, the “me” began to emerge. I opened banana boxes filled with treasures that no one knew the value of except me. With each box there was laughter and tears as I touched my sacred objects. I brought each treasure close to my nose hoping I could still smell the air of where these objects of memory were born. What a beautiful cultural mess laid in front of me - Europe, Asia, Africa and then some.
It took months for me to find the right places in my little house to display my treasures. I would try them out in certain places; then move them again until I found the place that said “ahhhh”.
My house is now my...or one of my... homes. It is the place that enshrines my memories. When I come home from a trip or come home from a long day in a mono-cultural world, it is the place where I am comfortable, where I am known, where I have memories. And sometimes after one of those long world days, I bring home a little something to add to my collection of treasures. And like all the other memories on shelves or walls, it brings a smile to my face because it was a good day.
I live inside my scrapbook, but I don’t just keep it to myself. I love it when friends come to see my German Christmas tree or my Easter tree (pictured right). However, I also don’t stay there all the time. I have a life outside my memories. But when I am there, I treasure the memories and I constantly look forward to adding more.
Sacred objects. Treasures of memory. They are soooo very important.
I would love to hear about some of your treasures and how you build your experience abroad all around you.