make here home

I stumbled upon an opening for an essayist for a newspaper. I wrote two personal essays. Despite having had blogs before, I found the challenge — the word count limit, the audience, the purpose — well, challenging. But I thought it was a good exercise, an eye-opener to what it might be like to write semi-professionally.

Here is one of the essays I wrote for submission:

My current country of residence is infamously austere. There are few festivals and practically no holidays. For expats, this drab environment makes celebrating our holidays even more important than it would be if we were in, for example, Japan.

The reality of my situation really dawned on me this past Christmas season. When I lived in Matsuyama, Japan, I bought a mini Christmas tree one year, but one year I didn’t. When I lived in Korea, again, I bought a palm and decorated it like a fir one year, but another year, didn’t. When I lived in the States, my native country, I could choose whether or not to have a tree, and it wasn’t a big deal.

And then I moved here, where it is a big deal. A very, very big deal. And yet…

The first year, I didn’t consider getting a tree, for whatever reason. But last December, you would have thought my world hinged on having My Very Own Christmas Tree. I became dedicated to the cause. I daydreamed about the color palette, schemed how I’d import the trimmings, told all my friends to come over for a “Tree Trimming Party.” And I hadn’t even found a tree yet! But then I did, and in the most unlikely of places. But there it was, waiting for me to take it home.

This fiasco over a tree got me thinking about the lengths to which we go just to find familiarity and comfort. To be sure, I crave the expat lifestyle. Living abroad feels natural to me. But once in a while, I crave something particular to my state or country, something unique to my race or culture, something odd and rare that takes me back… I’ve yearned desperately for any number of random things — from bacon to high-thread-count sheets to a karaoke machine.

Sometimes, when I come home, I want (and need) that natsukashii feeling. To remember who I am and where I’m from and the beautiful experiences I’ve had. This isn’t just about personal style or home decor. It’s that thing that took up too much space in your suitcase on the way here. It’s that item you had shipped because none of the local ones would do. But you’re glad you went through the effort because, when no one is looking, you smile.

I’m not a proponent of materialism or comfort shopping, but I think it’s possible to strike a balance. Whether we’ve lived where we are for one month or one decade, we’re always looking for ways to make here home.

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