Andrea and her family relocated to NZ one year ago after serving 14 years in East Asia. Below is her account of what life has been like since her return.
My kids look over at me with the “help me, I’m going to strangle someone” look. I don’t even need to know what the conversation is about, someone, who cares for my kids a lot, and has prayed for them consistently has gone where I fear to tread. They have asked “how are you settling in?” How can one question evoke such a deep reaction? Well, to start with it seems to be the go to question for everyone upon meeting us and it can get a bit tedious repeating the same mantra each time, but for my kids, and somewhat for me it is also a hard question to answer.
The kids tell me that it is because they have been here a year now and are completely settled - in fact they were pretty much settled within 4 months of being back here. Their transition has perhaps been easier than mine. They had school to focus on, they joined up with a good youth group pretty quickly, and being TCK’s are actually pretty adaptable. They have constantly shifted between cultures and people ever since we took them overseas 14yrs ago. There has been the odd day when both would mumble some feelings of not being understood or fitting in, but then in the next breath are all excited about something else they are doing. This is the way of youth.
Transition is interesting and it’s impact manifests so vastly different in each person experiencing it. But I guess a common theme, in talking with others like me, is of finding ones niche again. What is perhaps hard for me, that the kids haven’t experienced, is that I once belonged here and had a life here, and was valued here, and now I am starting all over again. I am starting on the back foot in some respects as my chosen field of vocation has progressed 14yrs without me. I have to re-establish, re-train, up-skill, re-orientate, re-network and learn a whole lot about how NZ has changed (and it has) in a short space of time. We come home to peers who are now way ahead of us in the work pecking order as well as financially. We come home to family who have grown and changed in our absence. Parents not as energetic, nieces and nephews no longer babies and of course those members of our families who are no longer here. These situations take quite a mind shift to get used to.
Life back “home” has a smell of familiarity but also an unrecognisable touch. At times a whiff of memory drifts by of how things were, and its ensuing sense of loss, but, then remembering a life in another distant “home” that was fulfilling, was wonderful and was so totally worth leaving NZ for makes it all ok. Life back “home” here is different but the mixed feelings are a good reminder to me that our “home” really is not in this world and focussing on things eternal brings a more settled feel. Are we settled in? For now. For however long it is until God moves us to our next “home”.