“Home is not a place, it’s a feeling.”
– Ceclia Ahern
During our time in Berlin, we dreaded the question, “Where are you from?” We never knew quite what to say. We usually turned to each other and said the same answer in our rehearsed tone. “Well, he’s from…she’s from…but we lived in…and then in…now we’re…” The last night in Berlin, our waitress asked. We responded with our standard answer. She asked again, “So where is your heart then?” As I come back to what is most familiar, I must admit the good state of Texas feels like “home”. The warm, genuine welcome from friends makes it feel like home.
My first two weeks back were filled with a series of emotions – denial, excitement, sadness. In my third week, I am struggling with bouts of ambivalence but mainly am heading towards acceptance. Wisdom teaches me “everything in due time.”
We actually made a detour after leaving Berlin and spent a month in Odd’s hometown for a month. We weren’t quite sure where we were moving at that point but that is another story in itself. Anyway, the story I want to share is what I learned while trekking through the mountain valley in Norway.For months or maybe even years, Odd has been raving about visiting three cabins in Jøldalen. “We can hike from one cabin to another in three days”, he would say. However, since our time was short, we chose to go to only one and that cabin was the shortest distance from the parking lot. Ha! It was 4.5 km. We saw blistered feet from other hikers trekking 6 hours, 24 km, from the other cabins. Our hike was a piece of cake in comparison. The hike was easy and the scenery was beautiful. We were lucky because this summer has been the best summer I have ever experienced in Norway. Sun, light rain and warmer weather for Norwegian standards were a welcome change.However, once we arrived at Jøldalshytta, overlooking the lake, I felt anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I felt very much a stranger. To be honest, I had never felt so awkward in my life! And let me tell you, I pretty much always feel awkward. When we visit Odd’s family, we stay in their neighborhood and I feel very safe and loved. This time, it was everything I dreaded. The color of my skin, the slant of my eyes and my lack of confidence in using the Norwegian language, without my mother-in-law by my side, left me feeling less than.
At dinner, it was a full house with over 80 guests and four community tables. Sodd, a traditional soup from the region made with mutton, potatoes and carrots, was served family style. We had forgotten to ask for a vegetarian option. Fortunately, they served boiled potatoes on the side. I had one little potato for dinner and a lot of water. Later I learned this was my $37 potato. It was delicious!
It was quiet. Silence is good, no doubt, but it was more than that. I tried to make conversation with the ladies beside me. One girl spoke but I could tell she was not too interested in maintaining a conversation. It was a feeling that made me uneasy. Later, I was reminded that Norwegians simple don’t speak much during dinner. Besides, nothing can compare to my Filipino upbringing or the southern hospitality I’ve known these last 19 years of my life.
On a lighter note, I tried to limit my intake. I had forgotten, though, and drank a lot of water during dinner so the restroom was the first place I headed after dinner. I have done my share of camping but…this was an outhouse! Flies. Mosquitoes. Buzzzzz. It was a clean’ish outhouse (as far as outhouses go) but it was still an outhouse! That was it. It was the first time I put my foot down and said, “I want to leave.” Actually I don’t think the words came out. I merely sulked.
Hard to sulk with views like this.
As soon as we decided to leave, I skipped all the way back to the parking lot. With our luck, Odd’s phone died. That didn’t stop me. I was determined to walk home even if it took us until 6 am. We are in the land of the midnight sun after all. So once I got coverage on my phone, my heart jumped and did cartwheels for joy! I had never been soooooo happy to see Odd’s parents come get us. Yes I felt like a child. I hugged Odd’s parents extra hard that night. I’m sure I talked their ears off too, certain they didn’t understand a word I said. I vowed never to complain about anything EVER again. Now I understand, “home is where you hang your heart.”