At the weekend…. That short introductory sentence always makes me laugh. Journal writing on a Monday morning with a bunch of 5 year olds can reveal some hilarious stuff, corkers from my children’s weekend journals at a similar age include “At the weekend, we bought a pet snake called Adrian (we hadn’t)” to “At the weekend, Mummy got me a bike from outside someone’s house (well I did, but I had paid for it!)”… Anyway, I digress. “At the Weekend” can also be a precursor to something exciting, and last weekend was no exception… At the weekend we went to Munich…
I say “we”, but in this instance it was just the Small Boy and myself. He has probably struggled with the move back the most at times, which is understandable having spent over half his life in Bavaria. He currently knows more about Bayern than he does his own country for goodness sake, boasting a lot of local friends as well as the more transient Expat types. He prefers sauerkraut to mushy peas, still dishes out a constant stream of FC Bayern updates to anyone listening, and even more annoyingly, likes to correct my “Deutsche sprechen” when I try to make the effort with my new German friend at his school…
So why, at the risk of upsetting him all over again was I taking him somewhere he so desperately misses? Well, it’s that time of year again in “living abroad land”, and with it comes a huge wave of expat and local friends alike either going “home” or moving onto pastures new. This year one of his closest friends (we love his entire family too!) will soon return to Seattle. With the added bonus of a party, I wanted him to be able to go to the celebrations, but also thought it would serve as a timely reminder that Expat life is usually a transitory one (and not just for his sake, but also for mine I hasten to add)…
Not wanting to leave the Small Baby for longer than necessary (albeit in the very capable hands of his doting Big Sis and Dad), we had a single night there to bid our friends farewell (for now. I am definitely going to Seattle!) in what has to be the flyingest of flying visits known to us…
Up with the larks at 4.15am, I definitely expected a bit of a struggle to rouse the small boy out of his slumbers, but he was up, dressed, ready and waiting. Our short hop there was quick, uneventful, and gave us a good view of those all too familiar mountains coming in to land. That combined with the slightly strangulated heart feeling I got upon hearing the Small Boy announce that he was “glad to be home” made me blink back a few tears stepping down the rickety Easy Jet steps to say the least…
I have heard it said that once you have lived abroad for a certain amount of time, you no longer have one home but many, which I totally agree with. It’s just that Munich still currently feels very much like our main home, which has come as something of a shock being back in the UK, and isn’t exactly something you can really talk about openly to friends and family who haven’t lived abroad themselves, without the risk of upsetting them. You should be massively happy to be back after all. Actually I feel currently feel more like an outsider, and I know this is how the Small Boy feels too.
Our friends met us at the airport, and we headed to a favourite and familiar bier garten for a big farewell gathering. Within what seemed like seconds we had all picked up where we had left off. The Small Boy, suddenly surrounded by a gang of friends closer than any he has yet to make here, quickly disappeared to play football, whilst I enjoyed the celebrations and caught up with a lot of friends who had no idea we would be there (I hadn’t really mentioned it, as it was such a flying visit). Apologies to those we didn’t see this time, I promise we will catch up soon…
I remember going back to Copenhagen a few months after we had left and finding it all very surreal. Having to take the opposite train to the one I would catch home most days for example, automatically setting out to walk one way, when I needed to walk the other, noticing what seemed like sudden changes to the city in its constant flux of renovation and renewal, and countless other what seemed to me like bizarre scenarios. But, I didn’t find it as emotional as I did returning to Munich strangely. I guess five years is a huge amount of time to invest somewhere, and as I sat and chatted, my brain would half forget we were no longer residents and half expected the rest of my family to turn up at any given moment, then we would then make our way back to our Bavarian home where so much of our lives happened. My mind was a complete tangle of memories that afternoon thanks to familiar settings, conversations and well practised German phrases. So many scenes replayed in my head, both good, bad, and not all rose-tinted as I remembered the things I also struggled with, the language, the friends moving on, feeling like an outsider once again…
The following day we went to the Englischer Gartens, which was also somewhere we obviously spent a lot of time. My friend and I enjoyed an afternoon of gossiping, and catching up under its cool canopy of famous chestnut trees, whilst the children skated, scootered, laughed and bickered like they had never been apart. Fabulous memories made before they also embark on their own chapter of repatriation and all that comes with it.
So, although it was a bit of a gamble, I think the Small Boy was able to realise that things move on, as do people, and nothing in this life stays the same forever. I overheard clips of conversations as to “so and so, who was leaving” and about who would be left behind, and at the end of it all, as we sat on the plane on the way home (another one!), I felt like I had a much happier and more relaxed boy sitting next to me, one who was also able to appreciate that in the grand scheme of things we don’t live all that far away either, and anyway, who knows where we will end up next…
At the weekend, we put a few ghosts to rest… It was good to be home. And good to be back home again.
I bought fresh pretzels back with me. It should be a law…
Zena's Suitcase says
I would have done exactly the same as you in this situation. It sounds like some important lessons were learned and soon he will realise it’s the memories you make that make the adventures you have so special.
Thank you Zena! x
I’m glad you were able to say goodbye to your friends. In a way, I guess it was a form of closure for both you and your son? I like what you said about having many homes. I’m keen to move our family abroad in the near future and I hope that’s how they will see things too.
Thanks Tin, good luck with your prospective move. May you have many great homes too! :)
Trish @ Mum's Gone To says
Gulp! Oh that was an emotional read. But I’m so pleased it helped your boy appreciate he wasn’t the only one leaving and he was more settled on the return journey. xx
Thank you Trish. It was a very emotional trip. xx
Oh, this post…so many thoughts. First of all, so happy you and the Small Boy had a lovely visit – it does sound really magical! Secondly, I can so relate to your feelings, “I would forget we were no longer residents’ – we flew to Seoul for a wedding 16 months after moving to England, and it was incredibly intense – it felt like nothing had changed, and we could be heading straight back to our apartment like the move to the UK had never happened. The last thing is this quote, which has resonated with me ever since I first read it as a 9-year-old expat myself; I have always said I was going to write a blog post or article or essay about it because it so completely sums up the way I feel about how I have lived for most of my life, and applies more and more as I get older. It’s a quote from Judith Kerr’s “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit,” a book about a family of German Jewish refugees at the outbreak of WWII. Anna (age 9) has escaped with her family from Germany to Switzerland, then gone on to Paris, and is now moving on to England. She has this conversation with her father shortly before they leave:
“We’ll come back” said Papa. “I know,” said Anna. She remembered how she had felt when they had gone back to the Gasthof Zwirn for the holidays and added, “But it won’t be the same – we won’t belong. Do you ever think we’ll really belong anywhere?”
“I suppose not,” said Papa. “Not the way people belong who have lived in one place all their lives. But we’ll belong a little in lots of places, and I think that may be just as good.”
There is something so sweet and beautiful about belonging a little in lots of places – sad, yes, but still, so very good. How wonderful that you and SB were able to go back and belong again for the weekend. xxx
And that quote just made me cry… Thank you so much Carolyne, it’s so bittersweet isn’t it? And only really something that another Expat can truly understand. Anyway, we must try to get together soon, let’s bother Trish into meeting up as well! :) x
That is a very good quote! It makes so much sense. I also lived in Seoul and moved back to the US just last year. Going back would be amazing. I just imagine I would spend my time hopping from restaurant to restaurant and tell all of my Seoul friends to meet me there. Also, a picnic at the Han River. That would be required.
Midlife Singlemum says
The concept of ‘home’ is so complicated and one I struggle with a lot. I once read that home is not only a place, it’s also a time. This makes it impossible to go back and the only alternative is to create a new home.
That is such an interesting theory, and one that will make me think for the next few days. I hadn’t ever thought of it like that before. Thank you R. x
Ting at MTM says
Oh, I can imagine it was a good but hard trip for the both of you – and glad your boy is feeling a little better about the move. You packed quite a bit in on your visit! Those pretzels looks amazing!
We definitely packed a lot in to a short space of time! Thanks Ting! :)
I loved this post. Such a lovely read. Having not really ventured far from ‘home’ other than for our holiday and travelling. I can’t help but think what a wonderful experience that you have given your little ones, and how very special to have a home, special friends and a heart in more than one place x
Thanks so much. x
Oh dear you always do it to me, I am an emotional wreck reading some of your posts and this one more so that before! On top of that, whilst reading, I received two phone calls and had to instantly perfect my ‘cheery voice’ . It sounds like you had a lovely weekend – sunshine, friends and bratwurst – a perfect combination together with a bier or two I imagine! xx
Thanks Mum xx
Ahh Emma I can well imagine that that was bittersweet. Even moving house round the corner made me and Maddie sad, so leaving behind a whole life and the people in it must be incredibly hard. x
Thanks Helen, it’s really weird. Stranger still to be back at the moment! :D x
Daisy - Dais Like These says
It is so hard for kids sometimes isn’t it, but it looks like your visit back has helped him. The beer garden and park look lovely and it looks like you had great weather for your visit.
We were really lucky with everything… Thanks Daisy! :) x
This post made me tear up a little bit! It is so hard making a home and leaving it. I just dreamt of being back in Korea last night. Everything was strange and almost a little scary. I think I would go back someday, but plane tickets to Korea are so expensive and there are so many other places I want to see. I catch myself thinking about very specific places from my life there, and I still can’t believe I’m not there. I picture myself existing there for 7 years, and then I can’t believe I am now so far away. “…where so much of our lives happened.”
I’m glad that you got to go back, if even just for a day or two. It sounds like you’re teaching your little one some good life lessons. I appreciate your posts and seeing how a fellow repat is dealing with going “home”. Even though our experiences have been vastly different, I think they’re very similar at the same time.
Marina thank you so much. The whole reason I document these kind of posts is in the hope of helping someone else know they aren’t alone. xx
So pleased you and S had such a lovely time!!xx
Thank you. xx
Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) says
Oh, I feel sad for you! I find it hard enough here in London, where lots of people move out of the capital, or back to their home countries. It must be so difficult, with all the transience. Still, at least you have a great community of expats around the world. As you said, you can always visit – and that will be great for the kids, as they grow up.
Thanks Nell. I am sure we will end up abroad somewhere else one day too! :)
I found the hardest part of being an expat was always saying goodbye. Also figuring out where home is. xx
Me too Susanna, me too! :D xx
Carrie -Flying With A Baby says
As an ex-expat I appreciate how hard it is to return ‘home’. Now I am married, settled down with kids, but some parts of my 12 years abroad still linger. I’ve been back to Dubai since and for me, it has changed; perhaps because it is such a transient place so people rarely settle there for life. Moving with kids must be a lot harder though. My cousins live in Munich too and I’ve fond memories flying solo to visit them as a young kid! And oh yes those pretzels! ( and the Christmas markets!!)
Thanks so much Carrie, 12 years is a really long time. It’s weird going back isn’t it? x
I lived abroad for 7 years and a few months. I don’t think that part of us will ever leave us. I am sure that I will be 50 and suddenly be overcome with nostalgia for Seoul.