Over the Christmas break, like any reasonable Canadian, we packed-up and headed south to spend time with friends in Slovakia and Slovenia. Being south of the Tatra Mountains gave us a very welcome increase in temperature…by about 25 degrees. We celebrated Slovak Christmas, Canadian Christmas, Matthew’s birthday and New Years with great friends. There was very little resting, but we honestly feel energized by our time with friends. We really do have an amazing group of people here in Europe whom we love and who love us. We feel spoiled.
Returning to the land of arctic winds, and at present rising flood waters, was difficult for us (that’s polite Canadian-speak for tearfully challenging). Before Christmas we had a solid routine going and the daily motions of 3 hours of commuting, 5 hours of classes, home work and general life had us in a heads-down and working hard position. Having a few moments to breathe, and soak in time with friends, was a smack-down of a reminder of how much we miss being in community. Though we’ve done it many times, leaving is not something we’re good at. We’ve said it before, but we’ll reaffirm it now: we hope it never gets easy. Our hearts are in a few places; and if home is where the heart is than home is an increasingly diverse place for us.
Building community and that feeling of being “home” takes time – we know that. So, at this point, does Włocławek feel like home? No.
There was a big leap towards that home state of mind last week when our shipment of things came from Canada after sailing from Vancouver to the UK via the Panama Canal. It took 4 months to get here and the only casualties were a picture frame, a candle holder and a 1.5 liter bottle of maple syrup (think about the maple flavoured carnage caused by syrup running free in your stuff for months). It’s the first time in our life together that we have all of our earthly goods in one geographic location – and it looks like a packing supplies war zone! It’s been enlightening, embarrassing and exciting as we organize our life (including wedding gifts we are just now putting to first use). We know all of our trinkets, books and corning ware are just things, but they’re a component of feeling at home.
Juxtaposition can be a brute. We’ve launched into 2011 by visiting Slovakia, where we feel so at home, and returning to a home where we feel like visitors. Often home is synonymous with familiarity and familiarity comes on a learning curve. With familiar things hanging on walls and standing on shelves, our little slice of Poland looks more like our home. Truly, home is percolating here in Włocławek.