Our new guest blogger Jessica from Adventures of the Repatriate opens her series on repatriation with some musings on how it felt to move to the US after seven years of living overseas, in Belgium, and how she gets over being “homesick” for Brussels. We also have an interview with Jessica on her (former) expat blog “Adventures of a Puertorican Girl in Brussels” in our Featured Blogs section for InterNations members.
I recently returned to living in the United States after almost seven years of living abroad. I have spent almost nine years out of my eleven post-university years in Asia and Europe. Needless to say, coming back to my own country seems like quite the adventure. I always said I wanted to live in Washington, DC if I returned to the United States. I was fortunate enough to do so. I find myself exploring my new city, wandering its streets, looking for the places to make my own, and finding new friends to cook for. In many ways, I’m still feeling like a stranger in a land which saw me grow.
I am excited for my return and to be closer to my family in Upstate NY and my roots in Puerto Rico. Although happy, I have this creeping fear of losing the European bond of my years in Belgium and Germany. The fear of losing that joie de vivre which came from spontaneous weekend trips throughout Europe, having a beer at noon (at work), or discovering a new country. Aside from the occasional overpriced, seven-hour flight to Belgium, how does one hold on to the memories created in a foreign country I called home for so many years?
I have a deep love for America. I used to stand up to my European friends in its defense, always trying to show the other side of the typical judgments against my country. My heart will always be American, but I developed a very deep love for Belgium and the countries which surround it. It was there for me when I needed a new life; it taught me new languages, and most importantly, it gave me a broad spectrum of friends. I became a local. The lady at my local patisserie anticipated my pain au chocolat order. All my friends knew to find me at Place du Châtelain on a warm Wednesday night. Questions popped in my head: How do I start all over again? Who will remember my order in the morning? Where can my friends find me on a warm summer night? Will I forget all the French I worked so hard to learn?
It now has been almost three months of living in DC and slowly getting accustomed to my new life. I’ve traded my pain au chocolat for a bagel sandwich, am still looking for a Place du Châtelain, and started to fill my dinner table with new friends. Although I can’t indulge in my pain au chocolat anymore, I try to find other ways to connect.
I recently began Dutch lessons at the Belgian Embassy. Consoling thought: I guess technically I am in Belgium every Monday night when my teacher Pat’s accent from Leuven reminds me of good times in Flanders. I am also fortunate enough that Belgian food is all the rage in my nation’s capital. I have been indulging from time to time at Brasserie Beck and love the fusion between Belgian and American at the Belga Café brunch. Who knew cornbread waffles can be so delicious! I can have Hoegaarden while watching a Wizards game at the Verizon Center. Prima!
When I arrived in Brussels, I was certain I was only going to live there for eighteen months. I ended up staying in Europe for six years. Therefore I choose not to predict the length of my stay in Washington. My house is filled with remnants of my former lives, but I’m always cautious not to have too much as I cannot predict my next move. For now, I will search for that broad spectrum of new friends here, discover my city, and find little pockets of Europe right here in Washington, DC.
(Photo credits: 1) Jessica D. 2) Scott Bauer for the US Department of Agriculture, public domain)