Monday, February 18, 2008

I can't fill in the gaps


Living in another culture does funny things to you. I enjoy living in Russia. I have adjusted a lot over the last couple years to life in Russia. While I still have a long way to go, a lot of it feels normal. One of the things that happen when one lives some where else is that the lives of people back home go on separately. In fact the life of the whole country goes on without me. I try to take the time to keep up with what is going on in Australia, so that I will not be ignorant when I am there. But, the reality is that I can read all of the headlines and understand all the issues. But I can't seem to fill in the gaps.
The formal apology to the stolen generations is the perfect example. As much as it was very special to see, and even declare my agreement, I still did not feel a part of it. I was unable to stand in Federation Square with other Aussies and corporately apologise together. I was unable to gauge the emotion of people on the streets. These things can simply not be done from a distance.
The Bali bombing happened on October 12th, 2002. I saw reports of it for the first time on the plane in Canada when my new wife and I were on our honey moon. It was shocking and I felt moved by it. A couple years later, when I was back in Australia, a friend told me that the climate in Australia changed after that event. I could see it in his eyes and hear it in the tone of his voice. Some how, I did not feel as deeply affected though. I was not in Australia at the time, or even shortly afterwards, and I did not corporately take part in the grief Australia shared at the time. I realised that it was something about Australia that I would never properly understand.
I think these are the roots of reverse culture shock. There are certain things, that happen, that no matter how much I hear about them, I am still not a participant in, but merely a spectator. Then when I return to Australia, I will never be able to completely relate to people on certain things, because I will not have experienced it. At least I have been to Gallipoli, an experience that many Australians have never had, but that made me feel more Australian than ever.
I guess I am changing. I will always love my country, and I will always be an Australian. But I will always be an expatriate too, and will always have something in me that is different from the average Aussie.

2 comments:

Nigel said...

I can relate mate. Back in NZ 18 months after 8 yeras oversaeas and still re-entering.

Incarnation & re-entry

Lisette said...

I do get you Paul. Funny as it may seem to you I have been living with that ever since I first went overseas in 1993. And while I have not spent nearly as much time away from Australia as you have, I live with someone who lives in the never never land of having homes in different lands. This impacts on me deeply as we are one. It also influences my world view and how I feel about my land. When you say "I can't fill in the gaps", I said me either, because I understand that I can't fill the gaps in for you either, or for the life that Nickolai has missed there. It is a fact of life that is sometimes hard to reconcile. However, I like to think of it as a 'better to have loved and lost' type philosophy. The poignance of such a situation only adds to the richness and melancholy of life. You will be a much deeper person for it and you will ripen beautifully.