A couple of times a year I leave home to visit home. Over the years home has been different places. I have a collection, but there has always been more than one home at a time. When I was young it was Cyprus and the UK. As a student it was the USA and Cyprus. As a working adult it was London and Cyprus. Now, it is of course, Oslo and Cyprus*. Home².
This, I know sounds suspiciously like I’m talking about going on holiday, but a holiday it is not. Going home from home means going to see family and friends, going where I feel safe and where everything is familiar, going where I feel most like myself, my whole self.
Two homes, lucky me – some people have none. But having multiple homes takes mastery to manage what I like to call – the switch.
Making the switch
Travelling to and fro on an annual basis means making the switch. Switching languages, switching cultural habits – the dos and don’ts, switching mannerisms and ways of interacting with people. It’s hard work, all the switching. I remember the first time my Norwegian husband got a taste of the switching process, it was to put it mildly, overwhelming. Cypriots are expressive people, they show it when they talk and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. Norwegians, not so much. So when my family asked my husband if he liked Cyprus (yes, it is their test for all foreigners) and he reacted with a simple yes I do with a slight smile, they kept on asking. His reaction was not something they could understand. His words were saying he liked it, but the rest of him was not. Where was the intonation on the yes? Where was the excitement on his facial expression? In his mannerisms? This, was just too confusing for them – so the same question kept on coming over and over again. My husband on the other hand was thinking why do they keep asking me the same question? I like it, I really do! I had to jump in at some point and help resolve the confusion, but this is the switching that I am talking about.
For me, the switch comes more naturally. I like to tell people that I borrow the best bits from every home and that is what makes me me, but sometimes even I get confused. So over the years I have started to understand that making the switch is a process. It all unfolds in a similar pattern each time so treating it as a process helps.
The process: Oslo – Cyprus
When heading home, south from Oslo home, I get to the airport and as I wait to board I like to play spot the Cypriot at the gate. It is fun to see if there are other compatriots surviving in the North. Sometimes I even hear Greek being spoken. Ah yes, I think, that’s what it sounds like. Just hearing it creates an instant, warm fuzziness in the pit of my stomach.
As the plane lands in Cyprus I try to see the Larnaca beachfront from the window, see if I can spot McDonalds where I got my first real job (that wasn’t helping family out). I step off the plane and immediately – despite the air conditioning – I feel the warmth and beads of sweat begin to form. I greet my family, hugs and kisses all around. I try to remember to kiss on both cheeks – something I try to not do in Oslo just in case I end up in accidental smack on the lips moments. Awkward.
I speak Greek, it feels a bit weird. Did I say that right? I do a mental double check. Yep that is Greek. A few Norwegian words usually slip out but my family tend to not notice – or at least they act like they don’t.
As I walk out of the airport the heat hugs me into recognition. Ahhhh, my body is relaxing into the rise in temperature. I’m not going to lie more sweat comes at first but then something switches and my Cypriot heat tolerance kicks in. Something that just never really happens for my Norwegian husband when he is with me.
I hop into the rental car and make a mental note – remember to drive on the left. I stall the car at least once as I try to adjust to using the gears with my left hand. Soon enough though the familiar roads of Larnaca and the taste of souvlakia complete the switch. I am home.
The process: Cyprus – Oslo
After a few sun-filled weeks, a lot of Cypriot pastries and a top-up of love from family and friends, I arrive at Larnaca airport ready to head home. I get slightly perturbed at the long queues at check-in. Where are the convenient, I-don’t-need-to-speak-to-anyone, self check-in machines for my flight? I am silently thankful for the efficiency of Oslo airport where I don’t need to interact with anyone at all at the airport if I don’t want to.
I arrive at the gate and sit amongst the package-deal tourists with their golden locks and their glowing tans and I hear the sing-songy tones of the Norwegian language. I do a quick audio check to make sure that I still understand what people are saying.
Yes! Thankfully, it’s still all there.
As I board the plane I greet the smiley-faced flight attendant with the traditional double hi in an upbeat tone of voice – “Hei Hei!” and I take my seat. As the plane fills up I catch the flood of Norwegian dialects and take a quick reconnaissance – yep West coast, yep somewhere up North, yep no idea where that is from but it all still makes sense. Well most of it. Language switch complete.
I land in Oslo and I make a beeline for the tax free shop with the rest of the people from my flight. Tax free first, baggage second. Like a good Norwegian I fill my basket with my full quota of wine and beer and queue. The queue is long. Everyone is stacking up on slightly cheaper alcohol. How very Norwegian of me – switch!
I collect my bags and buy my train ticket on the app. Technology is so great. I talk to no one, just head right for the train. As I stand there on the platform I try to adjust to the inevitable drop in temperature. My body tenses up. The acclimatisation never works as smoothly this way round. Cold is not my happy temperature. My teeth a-chattering I board the train – thankfully its warm inside. A short journey and home it is. Ahhhhh it feels good to be home. The switch is complete.
*London makes it home³. London is what I like to call my spiritual home. For the purposes of composing a short readable blog I have chosen to omit it but just so there is no misunderstanding – I love you London. You will always be home.