Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Home is where the heart is

The three resident cats
Psalm 137:1, 4-6 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion...How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth - if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Being in South Sudan now for two months (three if I included the brief time I was here in March/April), I'm naturally homesick. Frankly, I get homesick quite easily (like the time in internship when I was attached to a rural clinic about two hours out of Melbourne, I would drive home every weekend I wasn't on call). This takes it to an entirely new level.

No family. No friends. No car. No Chinese food. Just to get basic amenities like soap or groceries means a trip into town, which involves catching a boda (motorcycle) and negotiating the dirt roads that turn into slippery mud in the rainy season. No international ATM machines so you better hope you brought enough cash prior to arrival. No 000/911/999 number to call in case of any emergencies; e.g. if in need of an appendicectomy, your options would be to either submit yourself to the local health service or going down the very complex (not to mention expensive if uninsured) route of organising a medical evacuation. No postal service so what you packed in your luggage is what you'll live with for the next few months or, at any rate, until your next flight out to neighbouring Kampala, Nairobi or back home.

Truth be told, it isn't all bad. I gained a new family in the other missionaries here in the compound (some of whom have been here for over a decade and have lived through the war together with the longsuffering Sudanese). I've the chance to make new friends in the people I meet everyday, be it as a doctor, kawaja (foreigner) or otherwise. I'm young and healthy - I can walk where required. I've three prepared meals a day (we have communal meals here in the compound) and I can cook (although procuring ingredients can be tricky; I'm currently lamenting my lack of foresight in bringing essentials such as oyster sauce!).

It's taught me that 'home' is a fluid concept. I guess I first learned this when I migrated from Malaysia to Australia as a teenager back in 2003. It took me almost eight years to get over my homesickness then, and I still consider Malaysia my first home. Home is such an integral component of one's identity, so much so I firmly believe that it could cause a crisis when there's an inability to shift or to reconcile a dissonance between what was and what is. Will there ever be a time when I can say that such a place is no longer home? I don't think so. It will always be a part of my heart and soul, but I believe that these can expand to include other people and other places. It has to as a matter of necessity, even if only to survive the emotional trauma.

Psalm 122:1, 6-9 I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the Lord."...Pray for the peace of Jersualem: "May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces." For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, "Peace be within you." Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your good.

For the sake of my family and friends both in Malaysia and Australia, I will always seek the good of these countries and uphold them in my prayers. Who knows whether this place would eventually take on a similar role one day? All I know is our final home will never change, and I choose to find comfort in that irrevocable reality.

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