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Dr John Hawkins

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You have to remember where you are - America!

Posted on 2005/11/18 08:13:34 (November 2005).

[Thursday 17th November]
Well today was my last full day in the US. Three weeks has been a long trip and it felt good to have it more or less behind me, only the unpleasant matter of the long flight back to deal with. Went out in the evening with the one colleague from Japan who had stayed on with me for the last few days. I suggested it should be a bonenkai (Japanese for "forgetting the year" party), but he said perhaps more appropriate would be uchiage (a "completing the project" party). Whatever you call it, we had a nice evening out. First off we went to a fairly average Mexican (ish) place which served rediculously huge portions I couldn't possibly finish. The waitress helpfully said "You have to remember where you are - America!". She asked us if we wanted to box up the leftovers, and it felt kind of cool to be able to say we were flying to Tokyo the next morning, so we wouldn't get a chance to eat any of it.

After this we moved on to a bar which had a small but respectable selection of single malts. Did a short tour of some of the more popular Islay/island distilleries - Lagavulin, Talisker, Laphroaig then back to Lagavulin. I'm not sure my colleague was that pleased when I said his Bourbon reminded me of nail polish remover, but you have to take this in context - it's a valid bit of whisky nomenclature, and I don't mean it to be in anyway detrimental. My Laphroaig, for example, is well known for it's medicinal, TCP-like qualities. Not sure what TCP is called internationally (particularly in the US and Japan) - perhaps Dettol, Germolone, antiseptic...? So if TCP is an acceptable adjective, then surely so is nail polish remover!

Again I found food and drink (in this instance mainly drink!) had a great ability to make me feel at home. In my head, my Dad was sitting next to me at that bar as I was sipping those whiskies.

It's a strange feeling to be on the verge of going home, and yet not really be going home. I've spent most of this year without a fixed abode and am not really sure what or where home is any more. It is one thing to live abroad, but it is another level to go from somewhere abroad to somehwere else abroad. This puts you kind of doubly away from home. In nerdy terms it is an extra layer on the stack, a double indirection.

Of course, what home is really about is where the people whom you are closest to are. The last couple of years has seen my family move about quite a lot - my Dad moved from South to North Wales, my Mum has (sort of) moved to France, and my grandmother also moved house, albeit on a much more local scale from one town to another within South Wales. Having spent most of the year as a nomad myself, and given that my family have also moved so much, I thought I would be really lost... but actually I realise that feeling of being at home is really equivalent to being with Chie or my family.

So home for me now is not one place. It is Llangwnadl in North Wales, or Vayrac in the South of France, it is Abergavenny, Guildford and a little district of Tokyo called Hatagaya - although no doubt by next month we'll be somewhere else. Home is a number of pins on a map of the world, and no doubt some of these pins are subject to change.

I think this has been an important lesson of 2005 - home is about people, not places.

Comment 1

Spot on! I couldn't agree more I felt the same when I moved from Japan back to England.
Bravo, good post.

Posted by Lox at 2005/11/18 09:48:56.

Comment 2

Yes, excellent post!

Posted by Nigel at 2005/11/18 11:13:38.

Comment 3

Home is where you lay your Ted.

Posted by Mum at 2005/11/18 11:27:26.

Comment 4

You are a citizen of the world, John. You don't belong to any nation. The world belongs to you. You are Super Cosmopolitan Man.

Posted by Sheri at 2005/11/18 15:30:19.

Comment 5

VAYRAC ! It's because of you, the British, that property prices are now outrageously high in the Sud-Ouest. We, the French, need a new Jeanne d'Arc to drive you, the tea drinking "rosbifs", out of our beloved "Hexagone" ! VIVE LA FRANCE ! VIVE PETAIN !

Posted by Sheri the Xenophobe at 2005/11/18 15:42:11.

Comment 6

Doctor John

Greetings from Llangwnnadl ..... funnily enough an important 'place' on the Pilgrim trail .... in the peripatetic sense for many who pass this way .....

Brilliant John ..... what an insight into 'HOME' ..... people first ! Yes !

'Wherever I lay my hat ...'

yes ... but most important of all ..... when you are home with Chie ....

Now that you are leaving Seattle .... I reflect that the 'diary journey' of the last 3 weeks has been a roller coaster ride ... and in some strange way cathartic for all of us !
It's a great gift that you have .. to take people with you on your life's journey ..... charisma !

Bless you my son ! (literally)

Posted by Reverend Nick at 2005/11/18 19:21:23.

Comment 7

Hi there John,

I came across your blog and pictures a couple of days ago and have really enjoyed what you write. I have to say that what you say about other people defining who we are as against place defining who we are is a compelling thought.

Your blog goes over at least the past five years, at least in terms of the pictures, and, as a newly-started blogger, I find that quite inspirational.

I look forward to reading more of yours and Chie's experiences in coming days, and best of luck with the flat-hunting!

all the best to you,

Northern Greece

Posted by Bryan Hollamby at 2005/11/22 12:04:13.

Comment 8

Thank you Bryan - it is really nice to get this kind of feedback!

Yes the site has been going quite a while now in internet terms. I surprise myself sometimes when I look back through all the cruft I have accumulated here over the years!

Posted by John at 2005/11/23 09:54:52.

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