After living abroad for a few years, I returned to my home country for a short time, an experience that forced me to reconsider certain things. This reflection can interest others who go through a similar situation.
Upon returning, one of the first things that happened to me was that I saw my country differently, no better anyway: dirtier streets, demolished or ruined buildings, increased poverty, political instability, and so on. After seeing all this, one asks: Who would want to return to their country of origin? Unfortunately, answering this question seems trickier when reality provides more reasons to stay away than to go back.
I was mulling over this thought when a friend asked me, how do you find the country you left? Then, after listening to my complaints, my friend replied, let me tell you a story. And so the story goes. After many years without seeing each other, my friend run into a past lover. His first impression was shocked since the woman had not aged gracefully; her skin was wrinkled, and her belly was bulging. Nonetheless, he was in no better shape than her. After a couple of drinks, he dared to look at her for a long time and, to her surprise, he could recognise the woman he had been in love with many years ago in that battered body.
What does this story have to do with the experience of returning to the country of origin? First, my friend wanted me to understand that what we see when we return to our country is the surface and the result of rushed feelings coming from first impressions. What happens to us is complex; it takes honesty to distinguish what is in us and what truly connects us with our country of origin, despite our absence.
The passage of time, as in the lover’s body, has left traces in the old and beloved country of origin. Entire streets have been erased, and instead, shopping malls have been erected. Churches have been abandoned, old neighbours have died, and newcomers have come to occupy the vacant places. None of these events has the slightest remedy. We are beings who are destined to live without memory. Our grandparents and parents knew it, and now we know it from our own experience.
What can we do but thank that lover who pushed us to the path forward amid promises of better moments not yet experienced? A good thing our country of origin did for us was that kick which put us out on the road at dawn. Today, that rejection is received with the calm frankness that some migrants have, knowing that their country of origin does not want them or need them at all. We are in peace.
Photo: Sebastian Silva: https://a-visual-diary-for-tomorrow.tumblr.com/