It was a beautiful Saturday morning. The sun was out and the sky was clear blue. My husband headed to work, and my son and I left the apartment soon after into that crisp winter sunshine.
We headed to the Science museum near South Kensington Station. We walked the paved streets, past the traffic lights and the Natural History Museum and approached the grey stone building.
The place was huge. There were three floors of exhibits, a giant silver aircraft hanging from the ceiling and a wall of cars that reached the second floor.
We made our way through the museum and came to the Space exhibit. There were giant rockets and replicas of spaceships. An American flag featured prominently on one of the models.
In the middle of the dimly lit room was a sphere on to which different planets in our solar system were projected. An image of earth lit up and began to rotate.
“Look mum! There’s home!,” my son pointed at the globe.
And there it was. Down near the bottom, our big brown land that had endured so much this summer. The country held all my friends and places I loved. It’s the land of warm, open and generous smiles; of “Don’t stress, she’ll be right”; of friendships that traversed cultures and ages, particularly in Sydney.
I almost cried. At that moment, home suddenly felt so far away.
And it was.
I wandered Asia with my family when I was a child. Born in Japan, to Korean parents living in the jungles of Borneo at the time, I never completely belonged anywhere. But I felt like I belonged there.
Then we moved to London.
Home is a place that is ours
I always thought that home was where my husband and son were. It was wherever we laid down our bags and slept soundly in the evening.
It is. But it’s also more than that.
After spending weeks at a couple of Air BnBs before finally moving into our rented apartment, I realised home wasn’t just family and a safe place to sleep.
Home was a physical space as well. A place that is ours. Where we can be ourselves without being hyper conscious of the regard of others because we had the right to be there.
It is an apartment, a house, a caravan, a country. What it looks like doesn’t matter. Our ownership of it, the degree of autonomy we have around it, makes it home.
It’s what I love about citizenship ceremonies. After all the hurdles, the years spent in Australia, the citizenship test in a language not their own, many migrants pledged their commitment to the country and Australia officially welcomed them home.
These people were now able to have their democratic say every election and determine who should look after their welfare and the welfare of others. They had earned every right to be there and it would be a travesty to take it from them. They were home.
Home is a place where we are loved
Home is where we find love and acceptance. It’s too hard without the two. We may scream from the roof tops about our right to be there, but if people do not embrace us, then we will forever be outsiders.
The Hazara, the Rohingya, the Chin, and many others throughout history were persecuted for the way they looked and what they believed. They may have loved their homeland, but their homeland did not love them. Many fled across the seas to find another place generous enough to welcome them.
As I watched the spinning earth at the museum, I could feel the ache of homesickness. It’s a good thing, I told myself, as I soothed it away.
It meant I loved the place and the place loved me. I recalled all the people from different parts of the world who lived there. Who were proud of their heritage as well as their place in Australia. I loved that I could call them my friends.
I was thankful my country adopted a nomad like me, gave me a home and called me one of her own.
Home is a place we know
I think London isn’t quite home at the moment, because I have yet to get to know it and its people. What they think, how they perceive the world isn’t second nature to me. I haven’t started thinking like them.
I call Australia home because it is the place I’ve known the longest and the best. Through countless interactions with others, I’ve come to know some of their concerns and how they are expressed. I have seen their flaws and their incredible strengths.
It has taken time, effort and sometimes pain. More often than not, I learn through mistakes and rejection. But I think it is through these interactions, some positive and negative, that we come to understand the place and its people.
All this takes is time and experience. Time and experience I have yet to invest in London. We’ve only been here a little more than two months and I realised I was impatient to learn more about this place and its people. To see if this cold winter city could become a second home to me and my family.
I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.