Where Is Home?
“Does Belize feel like home?” It’s a question I hear a lot when we are visiting the States. I rarely pause before I answer, “Yes, it does.” We’ve lived in Belize over three years now, and when we step out of the airplane and into that blast of hot, moist air, I give a happy sigh. We are home.
Our home on the second story of the mission house with its ancient brown linoleum, ripped, chipped, and worn through in places feels familiar. The windows with their wooden slats look out on banana trees that we planted, the mango tree whose fruit we enjoy frozen all year. The geckos scampering up the wall, chirping to each other and darting at moths, seem right.
The neighbor children call to our girls, and Mr. Dave waves as he rides his bike around the village, tooting a horn to advertise the bucket of tamales hanging from his handlebar. Even the dogs seem glad to see us, wiggling and snuffling and drooling. Yes, it feels like home.
But when I talk to my Belizean friends, I often mention something that my friends or family are doing “back home.” And I catch myself. Wait, where is home?
When I walk into my parents’ kitchen and take in all the familiar sights—a basket of fresh brown eggs waiting to be washed, Dad’s keys and wallet dropped on the counter after a day at work, the Merchandiser sitting on the desk, mom’s glasses resting by the Dutch-Way ad, I can’t help but feel that this is home.
I get into the minivan and drive without conscious thought to Redners to pick up a bag of cheese and jar of peanut butter. And while there is a new traffic light here and a new warehouse there, the landscape is the same. I can drive to Walmart without asking for directions. I instinctively slow down as I go through the village of Mt. Zion, glancing at the church parking lot for the policeman who sat there taking radar so many times in my youth.
I am not disgracing either place by calling them both home. Rather it’s a privilege I can embrace and enjoy. Our lives have been enriched by this reality. I do not need to disown my Pennsylvania roots to feel at home in Belize, and I am not betraying my new-found loyalties by calling my birthplace “home.”
As we struggle through cultural adjustment, we arrive at one of two destinations: we can become fully integrated into the culture we’ve adopted, or we can become cosmopolitan. Cosmopolitan used in this way means “familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures.”
Realizing that home can be in more than one place has been freeing for me. When I’m in Belize, I don’t have to shun chicken-etti and pizza in favor of only rice and beans or fry jacks, delicious as they may be. Our little family can still celebrate Thanksgiving Day in addition to Baron Bliss Day, and I can continue to stock up on groceries once a week rather than buying day by day from the little shops on every village street corner. When I’m in the States I don’t need to try to use my (very bad) Belizean accent, say “You all right?” instead of “How are you?”, or constantly comment on how cold everyone sets their air conditioning or how clean the public restrooms are.
I can pick the best of both countries and from that make our own unique family culture. I’m hoping this will have two effects on my family. The first, that they will realize all cultures add value to the colorfulness of humanity, rather than believing the world revolves around the United States. The second, that they will be adaptable should we ever pull up roots and move somewhere else.
Where is home? It’s the place God called us, any place we’re together, and the smattering of places where we have grown memories.