Back home from my trip home

27 June 2013

Our two-week trip to the US was way too short, a topic I repeatedly picked fights with my husband about during the actual trip, further diminishing our enjoyment of the time we had. Part of the problem was that the first week was mostly taken up with driving places; seeing my mother’s friends; injury; and illness.

The very first morning I set foot in the ocean, I got attacked by a sting ray and required various forms of emergency medical care. I was holding Baby Brother at the time I stepped on the sting ray, which then whipped around to stab me in self-defense with his venomous barb, so Husband had to pull both me and our heavy toddler out of the ocean. His back went out. Then several of us had a cold. It felt like by the time we were starting to relax and enjoy ourselves and I made some headway overcoming my new fear of the ocean, it was time to go back home. Next time we’ll just have to stay longer.

While we were in America, everything felt so natural, like I had never left. It was weird how I had naturally, without consulting or being around any other Americans, prepared for the trip by ordering from Amazon, to have shipped to my mom, the same exact swimming gear all the other Americans around me had, but which I have not seen used in Sweden at all. I just fit right the fuck in. It felt like the last three years in Sweden quickly faded and details were difficult to recall. People would ask me about Sweden, and I’d be like, “uh, it’s green?” At one point I wanted to say something in Swedish, and it came out in Spanish. That was weird. My brain was evidently on a total vacation from Sweden.

My mother’s neighborhood is full of young families and Little Girl made friends with a girl across the street (she played fabulously with all the American kids we met, was hardly shy at all like she is in Sweden, and was totally outgoing at the party my mom through for us with a bunch of people Little Girl had never met; it was shocking, really. She’s such a different kid in America/English). The little girl’s mom and I chatted a bit, and it was just like looking at what my life would have been like if I had, well, to put it frankly, married a different man and not ended up moving to his foreign land. (In related news, tomorrow is our tenth wedding anniversary!)

The good news is that I am glad I don’t have her life, even with all its comforts and ease. It would be just too insular to have stayed a nice upper-middle-class white Southern lady surrounded only by other nice upper-middle-class white Southern ladies. Difficult though it can be, I feel like it is ultimately beneficial to my character, my broadening perspective on life, and my brain activity to be a fish out of water at times and continuously adapt and grow as a person. I guess that sounds like a snide remark about that woman, who was lovely; that’s not my intent. What I realized was that I never really fit in with that kind of lady to begin with. That’s probably why I married an outsider and moved away. I’ve never cared about hairspray and azaleas and hosting cocktail parties. I didn’t know what life I wanted, and I’m not sure the one I have right now is the best fit, either, but my mother’s wasn’t it. Expats are expats for a reason.

And I don’t quite know how to put this, but I like not living surrounded by the remnants of slavery and racism. It weirds me out that all the nannies and household help and yard workers and elder caregivers we came into contact with were black (or, closer to the coastline, Hispanic). I have a newfound appreciation for Sweden’s more egalitarian society where class features much less prominently and there’s no unquestioned tradition of cheap labor with darker skin to take care of the dirty work.

Enough with the heavy stuff. The children were good travelers, we loved the food (mostly lowcountry and seafood), we swam a lot in various pools, Little Girl adored time with her grandmother fishing and gardening and biking and generally tagging along, we rode boats, Baby Brother was game for most everything, we saw a lot of friends and family. It was a good trip. We’ll have to do it again. (We have a billion great photographs, but here are some snapshots from the waterproof camera as proof of our trip.)

DSCN0047

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11 Responses to “Back home from my trip home”

  1. cpalsson Says:

    Stung by a sting-ray??? Oh man. How scary! Glad you are ok, even if your trip was too short.

    Happy 10 year anniversary!

  2. a Says:

    Ouch – all the illness and injury sounds very unpleasant! Glad you managed to salvage the trip.

    I think it took me about 6-7 years after I moved for it to not feel like home any more. I was in my hometown last week, and the store I wanted to go to was closed. The museum that I visited was different. I didn’t even remember the zoo. The beach was the same, though, so that was nice.

    It sounds like a wonderful vacation, and a nice break from Sweden. Hope you post more photos – these are great!

  3. loulouloves Says:

    What a way to start the trip! Dramatic stuff. Happy anniversary, 10 years is quite a feat!

  4. Isabella Says:

    You indicated that: It weirds me out that all the nannies and household help and yard workers and elder caregivers we came into contact with were black (or, closer to the coastline, Hispanic). but this comment just make you sound like you are as much a Southern woman as any of these people! and no matter what experience you have in Sweden..you are still from the South…sad really!

    • Annika Says:

      Eh…I am extremely confused by this comment, Isabella.

      Of course, antropologa still comes from the South no matter what experiences she has in a new home country. The same is true for all of us – can’t change where we come from and how we grew up.

      But I don´t really see what’s so sad about that and I especially don´t see the problem of talking about/ recognizing that there is a lingering problem?

  5. christy Says:

    Stung by a sting-ray? CRAZY! Well, I am glad you managed to have a little fun, despite the medical emergency.


  6. Wow what an intense trip! I’m already kind of nervous about my first trip home – I think if I was to go too soon, it would be too easy to want to stay amongst the familiar and the safe – Sweden is hard work! But it’s inspiring that you’ve lasted 10 years – thanks!!

  7. Sara Says:

    I’m glad it was a good trip, despite the initial drama. A stingray? Of all the things that it never would have occurred to me to worry about before a trip, that’s right up there! I’m glad you’re OK.

    I totally understand your comment about race issues in the South. I’m originally a northerner and an expat, but am now living in the South, and it’s a constant source of stress for me (and my biracial family!).

  8. Cloud Says:

    YIkes! A stingray… a friend stepped on once while we were surfing, and it seemed to be really painful. What a bummer of a way to start your trip.

    We’re just back from a two week visit to my husband’s home country (New Zealand). It was fun, but also weird to be there with the kids- it was our first trip back with the kids. And jet lag sucks.

  9. M Says:

    I wonder if you are still in Sweden, I’m having a terrible time here, would love to have your advice!


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