I returned to Peru on Monday after a two week visit to the States. The trip was exhausting, but great. I attended my friends’ wedding in the North Woods, crammed in dates with as many family and friends as possible, ate and drank at many of my favorite Milwaukee establishments (Distil, Lalli’s Pizza, Kopps, Harbor House, to name a few) and shopped for my list of random items. My first morning home I spent an hour in Walgreens and was giddy from all the choices I could make when buying sundries. Thank goodness my retail excitement had waned by the time I hit Target later in the trip or who knows how many hours (or dollars) I would have wasted there.
But as I suspected would occur when I set off, I returned to Peru feeling adrift. Not unhappy, just disoriented. In Milwaukee, I was in my comfort zone – I was surrounded by people who know me well, had my car, knew where I was going, spoke the language, understood the customs and enjoyed all the comforts of the U.S. But I don’t have a home there. In fact, over the course of 12 nights I stayed in 5 different places. I was a visitor, which felt odd given that I was in the city of my birth and my hometown for most of my life. Toward the end of the trip, I was looking forward to being “home” in Peru, with my routine, house, bed and, of course, Matt.
But back in Peru, I remained unsettled. I had to readjust to the dust and litter, the crumbling sidewalks, the stares on the street and the language barrier. But there was also the familiar: Matt, our house, the mountains, the route from the airport, the egg vendor who asked where I had been. We don’t plan to live in Peru forever, but we also don’t anticipate returning to the U.S. after we leave Peru. I have one foot in each place, without being committed to either. I have asked other expats where they feel their homes are or when they felt the U.S. was no longer home, and the responses varied. Some feel the U.S. is always home, others say after a few years or a few moves they felt that each new place was home.
In order to combat this discombobulated feeling, I decided to make Peru more homey, even if our time here is limited to a few years. To that end I have been on a shopping spree to finish outfitting our house with some of the miscellaneous items that we hadn’t bothered to get around to buying, such as a second guest bed (we are open for visitors!), a lamp, couch pillows and a coat tree. There are a few more items on the list but I am not going to delay due to the uncertainty as to how long Peru will be our home.
Bottom line: my heart will always be in Wisconsin, even if my home is elsewhere.