Homesickness is a strange beast.
When I first arrived in Scotland, I felt for the longest time that there just wasn’t enough oxygen in the air… like a tight band had wound itself around my chest, preventing me from feeling anything beyond a dull ache. Constant exhaustion. I would wake still half locked into vivid dreams of home – ready to crawl out of bed in darkness to hike up Lion’s Head with friends and watch the sunrise. First, Devil’s Peak as it shifted into silhouette against the lights of a city just beginning to fidget and wake. Then sun sun sun and Table Mountain towering over us and blue ocean from every side. Strong black coffee from a thermos and laughter. My friends.
There’s really no shortcut to getting over some things.
This week marks three months in Scotland. The dreams have become less vivid and there’s even the odd day where that ache is not constant. I’m also making new friends in my department, despite my social awkwardness.
At the World Fisheries Congress a few weeks ago, I met loads of lovely people and we’ve actively stayed in touch – in fact, two visited for a long weekend, there’s a tempting open invitation to Mull (hide the cinnamon!) and another keeps life interesting with recipes from her blog. I also eagerly befriended Canada-in-Norwich, who loves fish and beer and understands the dull ache better than anyone. So when my baby brother told me he’d be in London for just one night en route to Croatia, I decided to impose on Canada-in-Norwich and make an adventure of it.
Time with my brother was too brief but well worth the mission. I must admit, we totally pulled the clichéd ‘run across a crowded platform and burst into tears’ thing that Londoners must be sick to death of. Anyway, he still gives the very best bear hugs and I left for Norwich feeling happier than I have in ages (also: thanks for smuggling me all that wine, Jord).
The rest of my weekend was a bit of a blur – nightcaps with delicious Polish vodka, sightseeing around Norwich itself, spoily home-cooked meals, a sunny Sunday on the beach with a dripping ice-cream cone and I even got to try the famous crab salad at a quirky restaurant called Cookies… but mainly, much-needed down-time.
I couldn’t quite identify the feeling in my tummy as I meandered back to Scotland, but I wasn’t unhappy. Home to my own bed, back to the work that I so thoroughly enjoy… a ‘slotting in’ of sorts.
Maybe all I needed was a little resolve.
Today is Mandela’s 94th birthday and many of my friends spent the day doing amazing things – they put on plays for kids in the townships, planted trees, painted schools and helped out at homes and shelters. It’s really hard being away from that. But I’ll be back in 3.5 years. In the mean time, there are exciting conferences to attend, friends to be made, adventures to be had… and above all else, the conundrum of weight gain to solve.
My supervisor has been acting a little weird since I asked for time off last week, so I’m going to have to seriously knuckle down now. Ummm, which doesn’t mean I don’t have intentions for Mull in August! It’s not like he’ll KNOW I’m slacking off to explore – just every now and then…