I recently had a brief exchange of messages with another EWB volunteer in Malawi that contained a pretty standard question: “how is Mzimba?” (Mzimba is the district she is staying in)
The response was that: “Mzimba is so great, I’m really starting to feel at home here”. The conversation didn’t go much further, or into any detail, but I can probably guess the general feeling she mentioned because I was starting to feel the exact same thing where I’m staying. Feeling at home really is a very important and defining aspect that affects the quality of any long-term stay in one place.
In general I think it can simply be a feeling of familiarity, comfort, and belonging,
But what are some of those specific things that make the feeling of “home”? Those little things that most settled people don’t often get the chance to appreciate…
- Unpacking your bags, and knowing that they won’t be re-packed for a long time.
- Finding comfort and joy in that familiar prominent landmark. (and then climbing it!)
- Knowing what people are talking about when they give you directions based on landmarks.
- Being able to give someone else directions.
- Making the trip back at night, with complete confidence in the path you’ve taken in the dark.
- That particular level of comfort that your own bed gives when you collapse on it, tired from a long day.
- Knowing where the day-to-day things you need are, and how to get them yourself.
- You and the people you stay with, looking forward to having your girlfriend visit from another district. 🙂
- Walking down the road and having people greet you by name.
- Seeing the location from a far or high up place and being able to point and say: “That’s my home”, or even better: “That’s our home!”.
- Being able to look back at, and laugh about shared experiences with others.
- Knowing the names of all the neighborhood kids.
- Having the one kid, who used to be terrified of you, smile and wave.
- Being able to share an understanding smile with a food stuffed mouth, while looking across at someone you usually share meals with.
- Having someone comment when you’re off your normal routine.
- Knowing that you’ve been missed when you return after a longer than normal absence.
Most importantly, what seems to make a home is the people.
You’re feeling at home when you’ve had a connection with the people, and you know that you will really miss them when you leave…