The day before yesterday we opened up their house. All that is there is the government issued furniture and the bare-bones items (plates, sheets, towels, etc.) from the "Welcome Kit." It's a beautiful apartment, part of what was once a grand old home, that's now been divided into several: rounded fireplace, hard-wood floors, arched entrances. As my footsteps echoed off the bare walls, I was transported back to my arrivals, the excitement, the relief, the hope.
You can picture it, can't you? You are finally home, walking into this skeleton of a house, with generic furniture, and empty cabinets; you are home. Discovery is around every corner; "Oh look!" a sun-porch behind the heavy curtains over by the couch, a peek outside and you discover a nice, green yard and a view of the neighbor's pool (hmmm, gotta get to know them!). There's toilet paper in the bathroom and food in the fridge. Someone made you dinner. You feel so blessed, so lucky. People are so nice. A block away you discover a park, a pharmacy, a bakery. Wow, this is your neighborhood. This is your house. Finally. Not all of it is roses. You make your eyes flit over the rough spots. Every place has rough spots, some more than others. This is your home now. You feel some ownership to this place.
As much as the arrival at every post is the same, the differences are marked. In Guatemala, my husband saved a moth that died in the laundry room until my son and I arrived. It was as big as my hand. The millipedes crawling up the walls were as long as my forearm. National Geographic in my bedroom! Awesome! In Macedonia, we picked apricots and pomegranates from the overgrown and neglected garden (complete with a moldy armchair) outside the student dorms down the street. We discovered a resident ground hog there. We had lovely porches for every room of our house, but my neighbor's honing pigeons loved to perch on them, facing my neighbor's house; hence, a line of pigeon bums outside my kitchen windows and pigeon poop slathered all over the porches. Ah, but who can complain. It was funny. The windows were grand, even if the view wasn't. Again, we are so fortunate, so lucky. So many of the people outside those windows heat their homes with wood-burning stoves if they are lucky. Too many make homes out of whatever they can find.
Home. Discovery. Gratitude. Excitement. These are the words that describe arriving at a new post for me. They are wonderful feelings, and they are why I am jealous. When I was showing our new friend the grocery store today, she marveled at the variety that was offered on the shelves (which maybe equals the selection at a 7/11), I nodded in agreement.
"We've got everything we need," I shrugged.
"We must live large here!" she said with a smile.
Yes. Yes, we do.
“Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a large unexpected cheque in the post, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair spring evening, loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a lazy sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square or tranquil stretch of quayside, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homy restaurant you will remember fondly for years is likely to lie down this street or that one? I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city.”― Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe