Familiar and Foreign

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The last time I was in the UK was over a year ago.  I flew in from Bahrain, stayed with my parents for one night, then flew to the Netherlands for a conference.  I haven’t spent more than a single night in my “home” country for two years.  That’s rather odd.  I grew up here, went to school and university here, all my family live here, and yet in the last two years I have spent more time in the northern areas of Pakistan than I have in the land which my passport tells me I am from.

Everything here is both instantly familiar and completely foreign.  I can tune the car radio from memory because, somehow, I know the frequencies of all my favourite stations.  I can navigate around the south of England without a map.  I walk into a pub and the barman says “Alright mate, what can I get you?” and it feels entirely natural, as if I never left.

And yet it also feels foreign.  My nephews and nieces are older, bigger, and there are more of them.  Many friends from church have moved away; at least one couple are now divorced.  At church yesterday I saw a friend’s son for the first time in two years and when he was asked if he remembered me, he shook his head and ran off to play.

After five years overseas I feel as though I belong everywhere and nowhere.  If you stuck me in a random country, anywhere in the world, I could probably manage fine.  If dropped into a Pakistani valley I could find accommodation, food, and transport home without a problem.  But the ticket queue at Basingstoke train station, or the self-checkouts at Tesco, are suddenly daunting.  I’ll need to get petrol later today and I bet I’ll have to stand there scratching my head and wondering if someone fills it for you, like in Pakistan, or if you do it yourself with a pre-authorisation from the credit card, like in Canada, or whether I have my supermarket loyalty cards any more to get a handful of points from the purchase.  Probably not.  I hope I don’t create a queue.

Perhaps this is not a bad thing.  Christians have a home, and this is not it.  Thanks be to God for that.

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1 comment
  1. patrice said:

    You captured it well, Matt! The disconnect. I still feel it 5 years after ‘repatriating’. As believers, we are sojourners who should, on some level, never feel like where we are is completely home, because it isn’t.

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