Life Abroad, San Francisco, Thoughts & Opinions, Writing
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Post #11: Belonging

Welcome to the eleventh post of the Great Writing Challenge of 2012.
Five days a week for six months, I will be given a topic to write about. The stipulation: it must be 250 words (or more), and positive in tone.
If you would like to suggest topics for me to write about, please email me at TheRebeccaProject [at] gmail [dot] com.

Post #11: Belonging

A friend at work surprised me with big gift last week. It was her way of saying thank you for helping her and her new Aussie husband with their immigration paperwork. And it was big! And heavy! I had thought myself immune to the giddy joy of unexpected gifts, but thankfully not! My friend had aced it: a bottle of red, some really hard-to-find Heinz beans and something I didn’t even know I was dying for: a jaffle maker (or as we always called it, a ‘toasted cheese sandwich maker’).

At once, I could taste the toasted cheese sandwich-y goodness of my childhood. Scalding my mouth on tinned spaghetti jaffles. Easy Friday night dinners with the Guthries while Mum and Aunty Robyn shared a few glasses. I had forgotten how much I miss my toasted cheese sandwiches!

I feel like so much of my writing lately has been about memory and nostalgia, but it’s unfamiliar territory I find myself in. I am Australian, but I don’t live there. I live in the US, but I’m not American. The best way to describe it is that I belong to neither of these places, and both. At the same time. I have been away from home (the Australian one) for so long, that my life and memory of my life there is starting to resemble the muted colors of my parents’ photo albums from the 1970s, with the added gloss of distance and a rose tint. And when it comes to smells, or unexpected memories, they’re brighter than ever.

Such is the life of an expat

I miss my family to bits, and get a little teary about being so far from them more than I let on. But this is the life I have chosen, and I know they understand why I’m not there to share birthdays, anniversaries and real life with them.

I love being here, in an environment that is supportive and embraced by a culture that encourages innovation and fosters the entrepreneurial spirit. People here cheer “Good for you!” at every turn, and that’s exactly what I needed. But whilst I am constantly falling in love with the city and its architecture, I don’t feel I really belong here. But I don’t belong in Australia, either. Or perhaps, my sense of belonging here has a completely different frame of reference, and I’m yet to really explore it. Who knows. It’s not necessarily a negative thing, just something that has become a little more apparent lately.

One of the most interesting blogs I’m stumbled upon lately, is from a husband and wife powerhouse from Geelong Sydney. I have been reading Grantourismo for months and oogling over all the amazing places they have visited, but also how they’ve made it their life and living. In a recent post, Lara discusses that instead of feeling like she doesn’t belong anywhere, she actually feels as though she belongs everywhere. It’s a great way to look at it. I have to agree with one of the commenters, that I only started feeling like myself when I was out and about in the world, meeting people, engaging that part of me that yearned for something… different. I wonder if I will ever get to a stage where I can feel at home everywhere.

But I am fortunate to have some really great friends here. And connecting with other expats here has been enormously helpful, because there’s other people close by who understand the challenges of living life out of your comfort zone. And there is general consensus amongst the female Commonwealth expat population here that American tampons are inferior in every way. But that’s a discussion for another day.


  1. What a wonderful post! And what a brilliant project – good luck with it! I’m going to look forward to following you. Thank you for mentioning our blog Grantourismo, too, and that post on belonging – I’m pleased you relate. So glad to have discovered this – the beauty of pingbacks 🙂

    P.S. We’re not from Geelong. Originally from Sydney, but left Australia for Abu Dhabi in the UAE in 1998. Our base is sort of Dubai, although we’ve spent the last 6 years travelling the world. We’re currently in Australia visiting family in Bendigo, which is about 3.5 hours from Geelong, I think 🙂

    • Thanks very much for the feedback, Lara. Ah, that’s what happens when you try multi-tasking and blogging at the same time! I must have Geelong on the brain for some odd reason…

      I have been reading GT for about six months and I really admire your work. Looking forward to seeing whats in store for you both next!

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