Transpatriated

“So what do you want to do?” asks hubby.

I sigh. It’s summer, ergo obnoxiously hot and humid and buggy, so activities involving the outdoors would result in a lot of sticky sweating and itching from mosquito and chigger bites. (A chigger, in case you don’t have them in your part of the planet, is a minuscule mite whose feeding leaves ferociously itchy welts. I am apparently an absolute chigger magnet.) “I don’t know,” I reply, thinking aloud, “I’m not really in the mood for coffee or ice cream. Actually, what sounds good is going down to the pub for a pint of ale.”

We stop to recall local establishments that fit the bill of “pub”, and remember one not more than a couple kilometers from home. Stepping out the front door, we were immediately “smacked upside the head” by the tropical effect, not unlike entering the Palm House at Kew Gardens. This cuts short his reverie about great pub-finding walks about Edinburgh and Ambleside, and his enthusiasm for an evening stroll wilts quicker than his linen shirt. Rather, he has the urge to hibernate until 1st October, when the weather ought to break. So we take the less-than-green option to drive through the eight-lane interchanges and tarmac oceans of parking lots.

Being an American bar & grill, this one is kitted out with baseball ephemera, flatscreen televisions broadcasting Nascar races, splashy neon adverts for the likes of Budweiser and Coors, and tonight, there are two tables of poker games in progress. The rattling of plastic poker chips soon proves to be constant, suggesting several players with nervous stims.

Not being a fan of refrigerated watery lagers, I order a Guinness. Hubby refrains from strong drink, and gets an iced cola. Apparently these glasses were in a chiller, as they frosted up by the time they reached our table. The barkeep was in a hurry to draw the ale tap, and there’s hardly a head on my Guinness. I set it back down to rest a minute, with a little moue of annoyance. Normally hubby would be a gentleman and offer me a ship of his drink to quench my thirst, but we’ve been married nearly 26 years, and he knows I don’t like ice in my drinks (not even water) and I especially don’t like cola. I’m not keen on hamburgers, either, even when I did eat beef. Although an American by birth, I am hardly “indistinguishable from my peers”.

We reminisce about previous travels, discuss possible travels, and reflect upon how much more everyone in the family enjoyed staying in the same place for at least a week, where we got to settle in a wee bit, and know the local shops and whatnot.

I compare what I’ve learned recently about a MEd programme at Uni Birmingham, and one at the local uni. I’m flabbergasted to have found that the overseas tuition (even with the current crappy exchange rate) is better than the in-state tuition. But the situation is complexified because I’m also floundering in unknowns about post-graduate employment opportunities between the two. Given the option, I would just as easily take a job there as here. Andy why not? By definition, all of my ancestors were people who decided to up and move to a distant country. Some people say that there’s a sort of genetic positive assortment for restlessness among Americans.

Meanwhile, the waitress comes by to interrupt our nattering by offering another soda refill, which he deflects in preference to paying. I pull out my purse to add to his money pile, removing a paperclip and a one-pound coin from the loose change. (I’d found the pound when cleaning out my briefcase, and being me, never remember that I need to transfer it back to my moneybelt until I’m again paying for something with my American coins. At which point I say, “Oh yeah, I gotta put this away,” and then promptly forget about it again.)

Hubby makes a wry smile, his eyes crinkling fondly as he says, “You know how transgendered people feel they were born in the wrong body. You were born in the wrong country. Trans-something-ed.”

I stared off into space, accessing word roots. “Transpatriated,” I replied.

Today, the American travel writer, expat, and the new president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Bill Bryson, has an article in the Guardian. He says,

I know of no landscape anywhere that is more universally appreciated, more visited and walked across and gazed upon, more artfully worked, more lovely to behold, more comfortable to be in, than the countryside of England. The landscape almost everywhere is eminently accessible. People feel a closeness to it, an affinity, that I don’t think they experience elsewhere. If you suggested to people in Iowa, where I come from, that you spend a day walking across farmland, they would think you were mad.

Perhaps you’ve never been to Iowa, and know not whereof he speaks. Iowa has a lot of corn, corn, corn, soybeans, and corn. (corn = maize) And he’s right. You would have to be nuts — downright barmy — to stroll through millions of humid hectares of corn-corn-corn-soybeans-and-corn. Of course there are beautiful places in the United States, “purple mountains majesty” and all that. But it lacks that accessible comfort, and I find a lack of affinity for the mind-numbing Generica of American cities.

All this talk of travel is making me fair homesick. Well, not “homesick” as I’ve never been to many of the places that Bryson was describing, but I’ve yet to find a word that describes the silent keening of the heart, and the “longing to be back home to a place where one’s never lived”. I’m not sure that xenophilia, love of the foreign or strange, has quite right connotations — although fond of travelling, I’m not infatuated with an alien life form.

I’m definitely “here-sick” as in, “sick and tired of being here where I’ve been the past 45 years”.

4 Comments

  1. Mary said,

    1 December 2007 at 10:27

    Andrea, thanks for directing me to this lovely post. As an american living in england I understand the feeling of ‘home’ you mention. I was drawn inexplicably to Scotland many years ago, and felt more at home there than anywhere else (despite living most of my life in Chicago).. and that’s where I met my husband, although he’s english (bah!!), and I still consider Scotland my spiritual home to put it that way. I don’t feel as at home in England, and that’s mainly to do with the people I think, rather than the landscape, which I love.

  2. Estee said,

    10 July 2007 at 21:50

    Toronto is home for me, but I can recall places where I’ve felt more at home.

  3. Justthisguy said,

    10 July 2007 at 4:45

    Parts of Virginia, and East Tennessee, are a bit England-like, I think . New England is of course nothing like England, in climate or in the people who now live there.

    I have no dog in this fight, being Scots-Irish. Like Mr. Dangerfield, we get no respect, though we contributed significantly to the building of this country and did most of its fighting.

    I’ll go away and drink now.

  4. The Goldfish said,

    9 July 2007 at 8:03

    This is a beautifully written post, if a little sad, which made me very glad to live in England.

    I hope you find yourself more at home soon, one way or another.


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