The making of a home

A thread throughout this blog has been a question of home. Where is it? What makes it? How do you define it? As I left Plettenberg Bay for our next destination, these questions resurfaced.

My time in South Africa was the first time I was responsible for my own groceries while living or traveling abroad. The Program Leaders shared a car. We were settled- with filled dresser drawers and wanting cleaning supplies. We bought spices and teas and paper towels.

Being the small town Plett is, I knew servers by name at every local favorite. They in turn knew my order, my reason for being there, and the sound of my laugh.

Every time we walked into the Market- a square of outdoor stalls with food and shops- we saw friends enjoying the sun and the lull of the off-season. In fact, with any errand, I’d see a familiar face: my surf instructor at the print shop, a friend of a home-stay parent at the gas station, a caregiver at the mall.

We were not merely visiting, but living. Yet, leaving felt far different than leaving Rwanda or Tanzania. While I had a house that I emptied, I don’t know that I had a home from which I departed.

In reflecting on these differences, I realize: my kitchen made it so that I shared meals with only my co-workers with whom I lived. Our car, and the streets itself, robbed us of the routine walk to work I enjoyed this summer in the village of Nkomangwa. While my material reality reflected one more settled than any prior travels, I shared home-cooked meals with locals just twice and I could not tell you my neighbors’ names. Though I knew a lot of people around town, little was really known of them- or them of me.

I spent my last night in South Africa in a backpackers in Johannesburg on my own. Sitting in the common area, I met several fellow travellers and we swapped itineraries and dreams. Hearing of their adventures helped me recognize the many ways there are to travel. Hostel hopping. Resort lounging. Couch surfing. Group touring.

I am not interested in making judgments on these different styles. Instead, I’ll ask: what values inform the way that I want to travel? What would I do differently if I found myself in Plett again? What learning will I hold onto from my time there?

And for now, I wonder, how do I want to live in India?

So many of the distinctions between house and home for me are rooted in relationship. Rhythm delineates a visit from a stay, but people color in the lines of these images. Bringing meaning and understanding, perhaps it is in turning to one another that we find a home within ourselves- that we become fully human.

As I adjust to life in Jaipur, I am transitioning from a small beach town to a large and over-populated city. Right now, the idea of this ever feeling like home seems allusive. And I don’t know that that is the purpose or a goal of my time here. But knowing Jaipur- people included- certainly is a part of my intention.

I am setting myself to this intention now. The house that I live in has a rooftop on the fifth story with a view of the city all around. Enjoying that view in the midst of Diwali a few nights ago, the students and I watched neighbors playing with sparklers in the street. With a smile, I suggested, “let’s go!”

We ran down the many flights of stairs. Crossed the street. And stretched out our hands.

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