Thursday, April 26, 2012
The ingredients of a home
I heard myself saying I was happy to be “home” on Tuesday when we dragged back from eight long days in Tegucigalpa.
Home. I’ve always known I have quite a fluid definition of that word, having lived in some god-awful places that somehow grew to be “home” very quickly to me nonetheless. But not every place will do.
It needs, for one thing, a good shower. I’ve been blessed to live for the last 20 years in a series of houses that had good showers – lots of pressure, plenty of hot water, no weird smell (I’m very fussy about smell). It needs to be a place where I can open the door and walk outside, and not just to stick my head out and catch a breath but with room to pull up a chair and sit in the fresh air. The hotel-room experience in Tegucigalpa was a good reminder that I would almost certainly go mad if I had to live in an apartment with no immediate access to the outdoors, which is where I prefer to spend most of my time.
I don’t need a lot of comforts, but I do need a decent bed and a good pillow. I don’t know if it’s a worrying sign that I’ve started to pack my pillow in my suitcase when we travel, but so it goes. And an Internet connection now means “home” to me, especially when I’m so far away from my family and need the instant connections of Facebook and Skype to keep all my loved ones close.
My partner and I have been together for 15 years now, and he’s “home” to me, too. If he’s with me, I feel like I’m at home.There's an Edward Sharpe and theMagnetic Zeros song about that. I think this Cuso volunteering business could be very, very lonely if you came without a partner to help transform your various travails into a grand adventure. Things go wrong all the time down here, but having someone to laugh it off with changes everything. What great fortune to have stumbled into a relationship in which two people are both up for throwing it all in and moving to Honduras.
We spent six weeks travelling in Vietnam a couple years ago and I realized that “home” also meant being able to make music, because I pined for my accordion while we were away. So bringing it was a priority for me this time, and I’m home every time I strap that flashy red girl on and start playing some tunes. Paul had to leave his guitar behind – hard to pack it into the overhead bin – but today he finally bought a very nice replacement, and I know he’s going to feel a lot more at home now, too.
“Home” is also a place where I can get away from people. I admire the Cuso volunteers who are living in group housing in isolated villages somewhere in Africa, but I would have a very tough time with that. I like people well enough, but my dad’s loner spirit courses through me. I’m not an island, but I’m a very small archipelago.
Home doesn’t necessarily mean having a pet. But I have to admit that I worked very hard to lure a skinny stray dog back to our front stoop tonight. “Venga! Venga!” I kept encouraging him as he looked expectantly up the side streets where he was used to finding food. And it worked. He stayed for a couple of hours, ate a big bowl of dog food and gulped down a lot of water before heading off on whatever rounds the street dogs have here. I’m really hoping he comes back, because there’s just something about animals that tells me I’m home as well.
We have an RV back in Canada, and I am always home when I’m in it. I used to put myself to sleep as a kid imagining that I was in a magic space ship that supplied everything I needed and could travel on land, water or air at the push of a button. The RV comes closest to that fantasy of any “home” I’ve ever had, and one day when this international travel has run its course I hope to get behind the wheel of the Fleetwood Jamboree and discover home in whatever spot we pull up to for the night.
“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself,” said Maya Angelou. I think I’m almost there.