The Land of Exoticness

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Land of Exoticness
Photo: unrosarinoen vietnam

“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. TheΒ  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.

More posts about reverse culture shock:

36 thoughts on “The Land of Exoticness”

  1. Wow! This is very beautiful. You’ve captured perfectly how many of us feel, yet can’t explain to so many others.
    Tweeting, Stumbling, Linking it now πŸ™‚

  2. What a great post, as usual, Caz. It’s always great to know that so many others have the same feelings as I do. We love our homes, they are great, we long for them while we’re away, but when we finally get home, something just doesn’t feel right. It’s so difficult to explain to people who have never gone through it. I can’t imagine having traveled/lived abroad for as long as you two have and then coming home. After just a year, I’m struggling, but 13!?! You do a great job describing it, and these types of posts really help me come to terms with my place in life right now.

    1. I’m glad it can help Adam. It is really difficult to explain to others who have no way of ever understanding how you are feeling. I spend the majority of my day just wanting to run far away and I’m not sure if that will ever go away. We are trying really hard now to make the effort to travel in our own backyard and bring the exoticness to us somehow. It’s comforting to know that we are not alone with these feelings

  3. A beautiful post. I think we need the exotic to stay alive. Whether that’s the call of a rooster, a mouldering statue with hibiscus behind his ear, the hiss of sled runners over crisp snow, or the sights and smells of somewhere unfamiliar, new and wild… How long before you hit the road again???

    1. Hopefully tomorrow! LOL. No plans yet but we are working on it. Thanks so much- it’s always great when people connect with your wavelength

  4. Really beautiful Caz. It’s really impressive how minor and “insignificant” details can bring a lot to life. It’s true that home doesn’t need to be a place. It can be a state of mind that makes you feel happy about life and about the little details that make you feel warm, no matter where in the world you are.

    1. Yep. I don’t think there is any place I can actually call home. I think you just made me realize why every day I want to live somewhere new- it’s because of the experience I can have. And its that experience of living out loud that is home to me.

  5. Wow what a great read.

    “My home is immersed in the screaming crowds of Carolina Blue.” – I have the reverse of this in my head. That is where I am from, so holds likely the same mystic that you had for Woywoy. Sigh.

    Yes, this is almost exactly how I think expats that try to go back are driven out again. Somehow one gets so used to being slightly uncomfortable (just a tiny bit), that going back to where everything was/is comfortable itches far more than the tiny irritations in The Elsewhere.

    1. Spot on Andrew. I hate being comfortable- to me that feels like I’m not stretching and growing. I think so many travelers struggle with returning home because they have outgrown the comfort zone they were in before they left- and you just can’t go backwards.

  6. Great piece! Paul Coehlo in “The Pilgrimage” says “close your eyes and listen to the orchestra (of life) playing”. Look forward to the All Blacks playing the Australians this week!

  7. Hi Caz,

    May I suggest that you add some share buttons, so that is it easier for us to share your beautiful posts. Sharing is caring as they say, but we can be a little lazy πŸ˜‰

    1. I have some share buttons to the side of the posts that scroll along with it and at the bottom as well. Do you not see them in your browser?

  8. Home is where my wife is.
    Home is where my dog is.
    Home is where my son is that bought me a day fishing trip charter.
    Home is where my daughter is that finally got another job.
    Home is where I go after a days work cobbling.
    Home is where the credit card bills are sent to.
    Home is where I wait for the letter that says my op is booked.
    Home is ….ummm trying to think of all the reasons why being home is better than being on the road….

    Home is where we watch another Wallaby team get beaten!
    Yay!Found one decent reason.

    1. You are too funny Jim!!! We’ll just have to wait and see what happens World Cup time. ch… ch…. what’s that? That’s an All Black choking πŸ™‚ Actually I probably should not be cheeky right now with the state of our dismal team!

      1. Should be a great game Caz, and best wishes for it.
        BTW, I can appeciate how you feel about being unable to transition from one mode to the other. Right smack in that position now. But there’s always an option…..even if you have to create them for yourself.
        PTSS used to mean Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome..
        But I’m hijacking that and renaming it Post Travel Stress Syndrome! I think I’ll go blog it.:-)

  9. I’m sure if I ever go back to Canada I’ll still be subconsciously listening for the motorcycle behind me on the sidewalk. I’ll be disappointed when there isn’t one there to knock me over πŸ™‚ ….or the monk in front of the train station chanting. I love Canada, but it always seems so ordinary when I visit.

  10. This is beautiful! I love the prose in your words… gorgeous! And, of course, the sentiment is something I think all travelers can relate to.


  11. Your post, Caz, brings back my sorrow at leaving a place I loved. It’s 1974. I’m in the airport in Luxembourg, a lump in my throat, but I haven’t yet learned to cry much. I’m leaving the world that I’ve been astonished that I’ve been a part of for almost exactly three years. I love Europe for the proximity of great natural beauty with millenia of history with buildings that stop me in my tracks with art on the walls of buildings with dense populations living near humane parks with Sylvester fireworks with six weeks of vacation or holidays a year with salaries ministers can live on with stores not open on Sundays and only one Saturday afternoon each month with wonderful trains with museums containing masterpieces like “The Man with the Golden Helm” with Fasching and Fasching parades with Notre Dame and Chartres cathedrals with the beauty that I hear in the German language with Oktoberfest with wursts, German beer, and German wines that cannot be exported to the US bc they don’t travel well, and on and on. I’ve spoken German, taught in German, published in German, laughed in German. Now I am putting that behind me to take my dear wife and children, now 8 1/2 and almost 12, back to the US, to American schools, to our stateside families.

    I had no words for the deprivation I was going through as I sat waiting for our plane to depart.

    You’ve left many places you’ve loved. I can’t imagine what that’s like. Or what it’s like to try to return after 13 years. Coming back after only three years was hard enough. My heart goes out to all three of you.

    Russ’s last blog: After the Awe. . .Grand Teton NP

    1. It sounds like Germany has never left your heart Russ. That is why we are traveling to make memories that impact our life forever. Thanks for your kind words.

  12. This post is just gorgeous! I needed to read this so badly today after experiencing my own feelings of sadness from returning from traveling and not loving being home. You need to send this post to some contests!!!

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