Tuesday, September 04, 2007

From Away

I was sitting in a freshly cleaned room reading a Robert Goddard book that Notional Past gave me ages ago (I love the book, by the way, NP. Definitely on my list). Suddenly, I found myself thinking about living away. More specifically, coming back after having been living away.

You know how you sit across the table from a person who’s been away for a long time and you can just read that different place in their mannerisms, their way of speaking? It’s like they want to be entirely of the new place because, oh my God, it’s where they were real.

Yes, I’m making fun. I can because I was that annoying tit. I’m thinking specifically about the last time I came home after being away for a long time. It was 2001, I’d gone to teach in Estonia for half a year. It was only half a year but wow, what a half a year!

When I got to Tartu, I was so completely lost. Entirely alone for the first time in my life. The first three months were absolute torture; I would lay awake at night and listen to the party going on down the hall but have no courage to leave my room. I didn’t know you could just joined in.

Then, it all changed. I found things I liked: kickboxing, A. Le Coq beer. Seljanka soup and üks, koks, kolm. And I made friends: Alex, my elegant friend with the white blond hair and the fabulous taste in clothes and clubs. Siret, with the sharp blue eyes, had a fondness for Russian champagne and a cheeky way of mouthing “shweetie” when she addressed me. Anne, a gorgeous and very fun Danish girl who went from boyfriend to girlfriend to boyfriend. Jamie from Calgary, someone who got my jokes and helped me get over the ‘Canadian rah-rah’.

Soon, we were throwing the parties. I became the most social of social butterflies, which I’d never been in my life. I remember one party that was so good that I was still finding pancakes under my bed a full week later.

Suddenly it was April and my contract was up. It was time to leave. I panicked. My friends were supportive and loving but a bit confused at my strong aversion to returning. And when I finally got back, I felt completely out of place. I hated being home. I didn't want to be my old self.

I’m sure people could tell I’d been somewhere. Hell, I’m sure people rolled their eyes at my faux-euro ways. But it didn’t last very long. I settled down and went back to work and soon it was like I’d never even left. Only I had left and I didn’t want to forget who I’d been for a brief half year. “I shall always think of Estonia,” I vowed to myself one particularly sad night.

And then I promptly forgot. Well, it took some time and I didn't completely forget. Every once in awhile I smile with fond remembrance. Especially when I think of my friends. But I’ve packed away the pictures and flags.

Toronto was a foreign experience in a different way. Maybe I did bring a little bit of ‘away’ back with me. I'm not talking about the times I say, and so annoyingly, "back in Toronto we (fill in blank)". I mean something else that I still can't quite put my finger on.

For example, I actually experienced a panic attack this week over suddenly having so many family and friends to visit. I left a perfectly lovely get-together early because I suddenly felt overwhelmed and needed to go back home to my room. Crazy, huh? Toronto sure wasn’t like the Euro experience, but it was an experience nevertheless.

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