Homesickness is a really strange thing. I doesn’t always make logical sense. I have now been in the UK for more than 10 years. Put that in perspective: I was only at school for 12 years, so when you compare it that way, it is a really long time. Have I always been homesick? In short: NO.
When I first left South Africa, I moved to France for a few months. There I was incredibly homesick. Everything was just so completely different to anything I was used to, and I think the language barrier made it far worse. My French was very poor when I first arrived, not that it is good now, but at least I can understand and make myself understood in most instances.
Six months later, I arrived in London. Compared to France, everything seemed to easy and simple. I could understand everyone! Work was new and exciting and life was blissful. I don’t think I was homesick – truly homesick – for about 4 or 5 years. I would have the odd homesick spell – normally just before or just after my annual trips back to South Africa.
Then all of a sudden, in about my 5th or 6th year, I became homesick. I am not 100% sure what triggered this, but I think it is a combination of my parents getting older, my dad having quite a bad fall a few years ago, my mum having suffering from an illness, missing my sister, my nieces growing up too fast, 3 bad summers in a row and realising that I am forgetting some everyday, basic afrikaans vocabulary.
But these days, I try to manage the homesickness by going home more often. My work is set up to allow me to take more time off than standard holidays. I don’t really know whether that makes it better or worse, but it makes me feel better at least. But I think I learned something from our last trip home. I think part of the homesickness is attributed to the fact that I am constantly feeling that I am ‘missing out’. I don’t see my friends or family often enough, and when I do see them, it’s normally just a fleeting visit. I miss birthdays, christmases, weddings and family get-togethers. This time, I saw so many friends and family – almost all my dearest friends. And we had enough time to have a good catch up with many of them. And I think it has staved off my homesickness for a bit.
Until yesterday. It is amazing how it creeps up on me and surprises me when I least expect it. It makes me feel sad, tearful and I get an indescribable longing for the country of my birth and the familiarity that it brings.
I don’t think I will ever be cured. In fact, I think it will get worse as my parents and family age and for as long as the sun continues to hide between grey clouds in summer.