The Return…Week 1

It’s surreal to think that just a few short weeks ago we were toasting the arrival of summer and the end of the school year with our Spanish community in Granada. There were school concerts, end of year parties and dinners that went into the wee hours, especially as the sun didn’t set until 10.30pm. We shared our reflections on the year with our new friends followed by teary farewells….and then we were gone.

We spent a year planning and another year living ‘Our Year in Spain’ then one week ago we arrived back in Sydney and suddenly the dream was over.  All the shiny new experiences and aliveness that comes with being in a different environment became things of the past and the colours of our hometown are muted by familiarity. As I walk or drive down the same streets I have known for years, I no longer see the detail and I am on autopilot once again.

We have landed in the middle of a Sydney Winter, back to the same house and area in which we have lived for 14 years but everything feels strange – we are aliens in a familiar setting. The cells of my body remember these places that I have known since childhood but my mind and spirit can’t quite relate or absorb it.

Arriving at Sydney Airport on 13th July 2015
Arriving at Sydney Airport after more than a year away

During our year away we became practiced at adapting to different places and situations, testing ourselves in new environments, speaking different languages and learning new customs. I thought returning home would be another experience that we would easily flow with, so as the plane drew closer to Sydney, I had no inkling that the return home would, in fact, be so daunting.

First sightings of Australia after a year away
First sightings of Australia after a year away – the beautiful wilderness
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Seeing Sydney for the first time in a year

On my first day back and most days since, I have been stunned by the randomness and frequency of the tears that fall from my eyes. Although there were definitely hard days and sad days during ‘Our Year in Spain’, I do not recall ever shedding a tear. Why all this emotion now?

My hunch is that I am not only mourning the end of the dream that has been lived, but also finding my place and identity once again. How do we fit back into this old/new life that seems familiar and alien all at once? Added to that is the fresh perspective. Viewing our homeland differently after experiencing another way of life holds both positive and negative aspects.

There is much to be celebrated and just as much that is jarring. We are grateful for our loving and patient friends and family in Australia who have embraced our return and understand our mixed feelings around being back. They understand for now that it’s a difficult transition and that it is not personal to them or Australia. I do sometimes feel guilty though that my sunny disposition has gone, left behind on another continent for now, and that I may have given my best self to new friends in Spain while my loyal Australian friends receive the morose me. I’m waiting for my mojo to come back.

There are many things we re-appreciate here like Australian friendliness and efficiency and equally, there are the aspects we no longer relate to…the rush, rush of the city, the car culture and the constant chasing of the dollar to buy the latest and greatest house, product or experience. It’s jarring after living in a small city in southern Spain. Not that any place is perfect and Granada definitely had its own issues, these are just the things that I observe now with my fresh perspective.

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Happy things to rediscover at home: Parks and beaches that are not crowded. My Bondi Beach!
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Italian style coffee just how we like it…this was my husband’s first coffee straight after landing
Happy things from home: Italian style coffee just as we like
Happy things to find at home:  Asian food and convenient sushi everywhere
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Not so happy things: Over regulated, too many rules and too rushed – seriously, what does this sign actually mean?
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Not so happy things: Out of season, expensive fresh produce.

I notice our children’s wide eyes as they listen to their Australian friends talk about the latest trends and TV shows like ‘The Voice’ or Disney characters from movies. It’s a catch up crash course in popular culture. We didn’t have television for a year which was not some politically correct statement, just that with the very late sunsets in Spain there is no time to watch TV so we cancelled the satellite subscription. I observe my kids trying to describe to their Australian friends where we lived in Spain. How to describe a one thousand year-old neighbourhood of steep, winding, river stone laneways and walled Arabic Carmens? The ancient streets of the Albaicin are perhaps just too different to comprehend from this reality and the conversation quickly gravitates back to what is real and immediate here.

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The streets of the Albaicin, Granada
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Some of the things you see on the streets of Granada
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Our neighbourhood in Granada during siesta time

I understand that children tend to live in the present moment and I am grateful as it is that quality that has made our kids such incredible adventurers this year. In fact, witnessing how ecstatic our children are to be back and re-embraced by their community has softened our landing. Our daughter is like a proud peacock, head held high, carrying her confidence and new independence. Our son is straight back to his friends and soccer team as if no time has passed.

Meanwhile, my husband and I are slowly processing all that we have learned and experienced during our year away. We are thinking about how to bridge the two worlds and keep the best of both. How lucky we are to have two homes, both wonderful and different in their own way but we are in no doubt that it will take time to readjust.

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14 thoughts on “The Return…Week 1

  1. Hi Another excellent piece with wonderful pjotos and observations Badi says you write well as a pro but with lots ofheart Very enjoyable Love

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. Lovely reflections and beautiful words. Seriously, what does that Sydney street sign mean?!? Good luck with the transition home and thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
    Cheers, RvH

  3. I have enjoyed reading all about your fantastic year in Spain, enjoy being back home and hopefully you find a Spanish restaurant who does a good paella..good luck
    Monika Krempien ex Perth in Villa Costa

  4. I understand all that you are feeling and experiencing B. It will soften with time but you may always feel like you have a foot in two worlds! xxxx

  5. Bianca, what a lovely and poignant “re-entry” story.  My husband and I have enjoyed reading this. Thanks, Bianca, for your help earlier in the year and with info about Granada schools.

    We ended up going with Madrid and will be heading over in about three weeks.   Currently where you were, one year ago, doing the last-minute prep of the house, figuring out the whole renter situation, etc.  It’s a beast.  But in the end, we know it will be worth it one month from now as we survey our new surroundings over tapas and beverages.  🙂

    Have a great year in your home town of Sydney (and the sushi looks damned good – enjoy).

    Courtney Dodson

    1. Have an amazing time in Madrid. I am excited for you as you embark on your experience. I hope it goes well. Taking the leap into the unknown will always be unforgettable through tough times and amazing times. I wish you all the very best on your adventure.

  6. Great writing and As you say there is positive and negative in every country and every culture . About 10 years ago I left Australia with a one way ticket , a few dollars in my pocket and lots of trust in the universe !!! I was gone for 6 years travelling and working in the states , South America , the Caribbean and the Mediterranean . It was an amazing journey , beautiful , sad, challenging , liberating and for sure it gave my heart and soul flavour and juice. I returned home pregnant, and it was great to be home for that stage in my life. Australia is beautiful and free in many ways , but bland and controlling in other ways …. It lacks a bit of spice and richness , that you get from history and where things are not so ” easy” for the people. Sad to say, but we are a mini America …. Anyway ready to fly off again and grow my wings back , will head to granada first, knowing that no matter which road I travel I am going home…..
    Lots of love and blessings
    Beso grande
    Amanda

  7. Interesting to read your piece on reverse culture shock. You must be glad to think you have done something for your children that will forever widen their horizons even if they remain in their home country for the rest of their days. I can’t imagine returning “home” these days. I think it’s too late and I’d have to treat it as another foreign country!

    1. Thanks for your comment Georgia! we are indeed glad we have given this opportunity to our kids and are wondering if we might be able to do it once more before they leave the nest and before we become too indoctrinated once again as Australians!!! Do you live in Spain?

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