When you live in countries very far away from home, you live an interesting mixture of blended cultures and multiple identities. Back home you’re just another person on the street. In some countries you fit right in and look like a local, while in others you’re suddenly the exotic one. You simultaneously fit yourself into a life surrounded by all things foreign, while still trying to find daily little ways to connect to the familiar.
For example, on my first few visits to Vienna, I didn’t dare step foot into a Starbucks. I had to have the Wiener Schnitzel, eat the Sachertorte, have my tea in an historic coffee house. But after living there for quite some time, Starbucks was a regular part of my weekly schedule. (A girl’s gotta have her chai tea lattes!) I had already had lots of Wiener Schnitzel, had my Sachertorte, drank the teas in the fancy coffee houses. (I don’t like coffee, so I stick to tea drinks.) The point is, I was no longer a tourist, I was just living my daily life in my new “home.” As my surroundings became more ‘normal’, I found my own way of blending my American self into the culture of a different country.
During the times when we’re living in Croatia, the culinary landscape where Milos is from is primarily Mediterranean cuisine blended with Eastern European. I truly love the olive oils, truffles, and prosciutto that is so prevalent here, but every once in awhile, I just needed some Chinese food, darn it! Something different! I also am slowly learning the incredibly difficult language that is Croatian. (It’s really hard!) But there’s nothing more alienating than not speaking the language where you live. (At least I speak enough German to live and function in the German-speaking countries, which makes Austria a little bit easier to function in.)
Now that I’m working on the ship with Milos, I find that I really enjoy speaking with the passengers, as they are primarily Americans. I’ve met a good number of folks from Pennsylvania too – and they know where my hometown is! Some of them even live near there! As far as I know, I am the only American crew member in the entire company’s fleet, so it feels really nice to connect with folks from back home. Some of my fellow crew members have really good English skills, but they just don’t understand every cultural reference, joke, or most slang terms. Even though I’m surrounded by some of the nicest people, there’s always a slight sense of being an outsider.
But despite this oddly misplaced Bohemian-like life-style we’re currently living, where the concept of ‘home’ feels a bit disconnected, there is ONE true home that I always have to hold on to: the warm place I get to go every night at the end of each long day. A hand to hold. Someone to really talk to. The one who gives me the extra long hug when we both need it. His name is Milos. 🙂
(And I make sure to hit up Starbucks in every town that has it along the way!)