Too foreign for home, too foreign for here

I want to say that I stumbled across these wise words a few months ago, but more honestly and less poetically, a good friend sent them to me via instagram. These words captured something I had been feeling for a while, and hadn’t been able to articulate myself:

‘Diaspora Blues’ by Ijeoma Umebinyuo

here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here
never enough for both

I’ve since shared this with many of those I know who have lived and breathed another culture for long enough to know the various social graces, local lingo, best types of desserts, and superstitions. Everybody who has experienced these feelings reacts with the same wonderment that I did when I first read the poem: it’s just so true. Ijeoma speaks the truth. They marvel at how such complex feelings can be bundled up and stated so simply, so sincerely, and yet….so beautifully.

I am fortunate to be able to say that my torn heart was a result of an opportunity I actively and energetically pursued, or put another way, something I choose to inflict upon myself.

I, being a young, curious and wild 23 year old law graduate, choose to be adventurous. I wholeheartedly choose to go and live, work, and find friendship and love in an entirely different culture. I went from the safety net of New Zealand, to the very foreign, but equally beautiful, Bosnia and Herzegovina. And I was ready, or so I told myself, for the challenges that inevitably presented themselves.

After spending most of my twenties in a land that is known for its 90’s war crimes and plenitude of land mines, my move back home — in contrast to my move there — felt like an uphill battle. I am adjusting slowly. Although, as I write, I am listening to ex-Yugoslavian rock bands, remembering — with pinches of nostalgia and sadness — the many rakija-fueled evenings and my feeble/clumsy attempts to sing along.

But, you know, as much as my feelings of being split in two hurts (it’s that wobbly feeling much akin to straddling two canoes in stormy seas and trying to keep your balance) the truth is: at least I could come home.

I know that many of those who relate to the poem didn’t choose to feel split in half. They didn’t want or choose to leave home. My heart overflows with a bit of everything — empathy, love, sadness, grief and warmth — for those whose Ijeoma’s poem resonates with right now and who would like nothing else than to return to their homeland.

I, or, better yet, we as a community, can only hope the tide turns through informed voting and less hatred. In the mean time, let’s try to help everyone feel at home, wherever and whoever they are. Seriously.