“Home” my heart sings “I’m going home!”.
Why it chants so for a place I have lived for just 5 short months I do not know, but sing it does, and have been doing since I first caught sight of New York’s lights flying into Newark last night.
Now, on the bumping Greyhound bus (be glad I have to type this before you read it!) on a clear Thursday morning, remnants of snow still sparkling in the sharply slanted winter sunlight, the song grows stronger with each passing mile.
For now I try not to think about leaving – that in just 4 days I will be in airports again, this time leaving for good, for New Zealand and my next great adventure.
So what will I remember from here, what have I learned so far, which lessons did America have to teach a shy Northerner desperately grasping her courage last August and jumping in with the intention of learning to swim?
At some point Ganesh asked me that question, and my IM history shows that I told him the following:
Ganesh Ramanarayanan: 15:57:27
What lessons have you learned so far?
Terese Damhøj Andersen: 16:01:58
That it is possible that some people could find me wortwhile for me, and not just by default/for the way I look.
That when I really try I don’t come across as hostile and indifferent
That I seem stronger outward than I am on the inside
That I can live alone and enjoy it at least partly
Who the important people in my life back home are.
Things about American culture
That religion is not necessarily something to hide and not be talked about/be ashamed of…
Terese Damhøj Andersen: 16:09:06
… the list is missing one important item: I am slowly and sometimes learning to live right now, not worrying excessively about tomorrow/next week/things to be done and things to come.
Especially my first month here and this last month. Not being able to imagine where, how and around who I’ll be in a couple of weeks can give a feeling of Continuous Now.
I can not recreate it on purpose, but I am beginning to recognze it when it is in me. To fluid and fragile to capture and hold. I sometimes dare to hope I’ll eventually learn to keep it with me.
Terese Damhøj Andersen: 16:09:54
…. allthough that is a lot to ask for.
Primarily I am slowly beginning to learn that when I really try, I can do more than I think I can, that I can adapt. That when more is put on the line and only I am there to make it work I vaguely glimpse some sinuous, persevering inner strength. I remember my Grandmother saying “One gets far with stubbornness” It seems to me there is a lesson worth taking to heart somewhere in this.
I dare to imagine – not expect! – to someday learn to actively access that strength.
Firm in my memory are the people who made me feel so astoundingly welcome here. The alleged friendliness, consideration and openness of the Americans is no rumor but fact, at least in Ithaca. Warm and considerate people – some I know, some strangers – have offered help, given advice, made available their contacts to me and even invited me into their homes and families to share the holidays with them. Amazing and humbling.
I came here expecting interesting work and hopefully pleasant colleagues and acquaintances. I did no expect to also find friendship. This seems to indicate that sometimes, when I really try, some people can find me worthwhile just for me. Not surprisingly my inner self finds this unbelievable and waves away the empirical evidence as pure luck 😉
The work. Having a go at SML, playing with the intricacies of algorithmics, being wide awake and very alert in Japanese class under Nakanishi-sensei’s watchful eyes, ears and mind focused on her rapid speech. (Oh if I could be a teacher like that.) Reliving the joy of pair programming and joint problem solving. It is so good to be studying again.
The land itself. Green-in-green in summer, warm and luscious, always the sound of running water from a gorge nearby. All the hues of fire in fall, the rounded mountains set ablaze with color. The stars, so many stars in Ithaca.
New York in the snow storm, the bustling gray city gone quiet, the streets empty but for the wind, all the grayness hidden under a foot of snow.
Daylight at 4:30 in the afternoon on Winter Solstice. Cicadas when I just arrived. The moon in the backyard on my birthday. Bare feet in the first snowfall. A view over the hills of Pennsylvania from the trampoline the morning of the third day of Christmas. Rain pelting down in October, the puddle outside my door becoming a lake. Stewart park the last warm Friday afternoon in fall, reading a book at the edge of Cayuga Lake. A wind chill of -30 C on a beautiful, snowswept January morning…
This land has many faces and they are all beautiful to me.
Can a place one is leaving not to come back be home?