Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The ExPat Dilemma

A short while back, I told you about a book I read and loved, Cutting For Stone. You know it is a really good book when, months later, you are still thinking about it.

What I am thinking about today is how the main character writes about when he got to New York, and was homesick for Ethiopia, a country where he was born, but was always an expat. He spoke several Ethiopian dialects, he ate Ethiopian foods, he was affected by Ethiopian politics – but he was never Ethiopian. He was an Indian expat, working in Ethiopia, with Ethiopians, but always an expat.

He is in the US, and is desperately homesick for Ethiopia, and at the same time, he wryly notes that he is homesick for a country-not-his-own.

We’ve been away from Kuwait for two years now, but every now and then I am disoriented, missing Kuwait. It is hot now, for one thing, and it is so hot on some days that it feels like Kuwait. There are times my mind slips, and I am crossing the street near the Afghani shops, heading into the Mubarakiyya.

Today I am working on a new quilt, and I need a purple. I see just the right one, lurking on my purples shelf, and as I unfold it, a note falls out, from my good friend, and it says “(Intlxpatr) With love I dye this for you.”

I never cry, or hardly ever. I’m not crying now. I am in that fragile state where I COULD cry, my throat is a little thick and my eyes are a little watery, and I never saw it coming. It totally caught me by surprise.

I miss my friend. I miss Kuwait. I am home, and yet, I am homesick for a country-not-my-own, and a life I used to have.

July 25, 2011 - Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Relationships


  1. Now my eyes are a little watery…true friends know no cultural bounds.

    Comment by Ken | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  2. Lovely post.
    I can understand what you’re saying — as an expat living in Kuwait (born and raised in Kuwait, actually) I know that this is not my national home, but for sure it is a kind of home to me.
    It’s amazing how strong emotions can develop – perhaps it really is true that home is where the heart is …

    Comment by PlumPetals | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  3. Intlxpatr :

    It is true then that kuwait grows on you

    Comment by daggero | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  4. Kuwait miss you too. You are always welcome to your second home . Me too ” Now my eyes are a little watery…true friends know no cultural bounds.” I would like to take one more class ” to dye for you ” I promise I will not dirty your shoes.

    Comment by Hayfa Al Mughni | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  5. I CRYF
    but tears of joy, for having the pleasure to have met you, and for you to speak so lovingly about Kuwait.
    with love alwaysf.

    Comment by Mrm | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  6. Ken, I wish the same for you, a few good friends in Kuwait and all the good memories that go with the experiences. 🙂

    Plum Petals – I imagine it is even more so for you – educated in Kuwait? school friends in Kuwait? A lifetime of memories in Kuwait? You are more like the Verghese hero than I am!

    Daggero – It is true. Kuwait is special. It breaks my heart that memories and history pre-dating my time in Kuwait are fading. It is shocking to me that the only gathering of Kuwaiti history is in private museums, the Tarek Rajab and the Iraqi Invasion Museum. After all these years, and the National Museum is not open . . . it breaks my heart.

    Hayfa, LLLOOOOLLLLL! It wasn’t my shoes, it was my old old skirt! And you gave me a memory I will never forget and oh, how we laughed trying to clean up all that dye, LLLLOOOLLLLLLLLLLL!

    Mrm – Remember the day we were meeting up and we were waiting in two different Starbucks, LLLOOOLLLLLLL????

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  7. Even after having been firmly back in the USA for over 20 years, a sound, or smell, or hot wind in the face can trigger that same reaction for me. Takes me back instantly. Are’t we lucky to have experienced life in Kuwait?

    Comment by patzee | July 27, 2011 | Reply

  8. Oh! You are so right, a whiff can transport instantly! Yes, I think we were really blessed to experience Kuwait, and being able to see life through another lens. . . 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 27, 2011 | Reply

  9. I love where I’m living, and yet I still walk down the street and see Beirut in my mind’s eye. I’m so sorry for the sad moments – I guess for me what helps is to remember that I chose to move to the US, and I can choose to move back, for six months, a year, whatever.

    And if you really miss the Gulf, please come visit! We have 50 million khaleeji students, Arabic restaurants, etc etc. There’s a Starbucks that to me feels just like Doha, especially at night!

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | July 28, 2011 | Reply

  10. No kidding! You know I want to visit anyway, I love that part of the country, you know where Stephen King places the forces of good who counter the forces of evil in The Stand . . . . 😉 Once you have a guest room and a bed in that guest room, we will be there, that is if we can get a reservation because I know you will have a lot of inquiries about visiting . . .. 🙂 It sounds like a GREAT location.

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 28, 2011 | Reply

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