“You’ve got it! Now let’s look at the next…”
The students look at me perplexed, as I stop mid sentence. My head cocks to the side to free up my dominant hearing side so I can be sure. The yard of my local Australian school is the most unusual place to hear it. What is more confusing to me is the warmth that has suddenly flooded my body.
I know this peace from somewhere.
Looking back at the wondering eyes of my students, who do not seem fazed, I shake my head.
“Sorry about that. I want you to listen carefully as I read the next paragraph and see if you can work out what the principal’s argument for wearing school hats is.”
“Errrt-uh-errr-uh-errrrrrrrr” there it goes again, cutting through the mid morning air. The students don’t flinch. Again, I feel as if I have just taken a deep breath and oxygen reaches through to my fingertips and toes, cleansing me.
My eyes close in hopeful anticipation, I breathe in deeply and I open the window to look outside expecting to see orange clothed monks walking down a dusty road collecting alms in the rising light of the new day.
There are no monks, no prostrating women, and no children running with naked bottoms down the lane. The bottom of a white and black flecked rooster walks behind the shrub that encircles the base of the gum tree in the center of the paved courtyard.
“It’s just a rooster Miss”.
“A rooster? Here in Woy Woy? Where did it come from?”
“Dunno, but they’re always here.”
Just a rooster, perhaps. But its crow brings something much more to me.
I continue on with the lesson and immediately the restlessness nudges me. Inside me I feel once again as if my soul is scratching around to find that phantom itch. I just can’t seem to settle my skin.
I sit with Helen and some other teachers at lunch. We talk about travel. Of Hitler’s Lair, Iceland, and Ocktoberfest. We laugh at the drunken debauchery on display there and how the steins- heavy with their golden nectar- bruise our hands as we comfort them. I feel light and free with the joys of laughter and memories.
The bell rings and as I stand to go back to class, I turn to Helen,
“You know I really love those roosters. It makes it feel so…. so exotic here.”
“We don’t know where they have come from. We used to only have the one, but a new one arrived over the holidays. This one is a bit more aggressive and has been trying to peck the students. We may have to get rid of both of them now.”
“Oh, how sad. I hope they can stay.”
On the way back to class, I think of the exoticness of the roosters and the feelings it brought to me. And then I place my finger on it.
Home. The roosters brought me the feelings of being home. Not home in the land of Australia, but home in the Land of Exoticness. For weeks I’ve been questioning why I can’t love being home in my own country, why it just doesn’t feel right to me, and why I want to leave every couple of hours.
Australia is too familiar and I can’t squeeze back into its zone of comfort.
The life of a nomad.
For 13 years I’ve been living in the Land of Exoticness, where each day is new, awe inspiring, and wonderful. A place that gifts me the freedom to grow. When I am in the Land of Exoticness, Australia becomes a part of that. Australia is exotic and I sing her praises endlessly. But when I return home, she becomes familiar and I become caged and itchy. Australia, or maybe just this town, is no longer my real home.
My home is with the roosters and the life it arouses in the temples, mosques, churches, and early morning markets.
My home is in the backpack that weighs me down physically but lightens my load in every other way.
My home is in the classroom where the sweat runs down my face and onto the microphone that projects my voice above the busy Bangkok street.
My home is in the conversations with the strangers who can’t understand a word I am saying.
My home is the gentle breeze that cools down the intense heat of the tropics.
My home is with the fiddle, the pints of Guinness, and the Irish Craic.
My home is sitting on a plastic table on the sidewalk, eating Tom Yung Gung from the street carts.
My home is immersed in the screaming crowds of Carolina Blue.
My home is with the animals that roam wild and free in the Savannah.
My home is with the cheers, the slaintes, the saluts of my new found foreign friends.
My home is drinking apple tea with carpet sellers on the streets of Istanbul.
My home is in the Land of Exoticness …
and it is the only place I want to be.
NB This post is nothing to do with Australia, but everything to do with me and my inability to adjust.