I still struggle with the word “home”. Perhaps it is because I am an ex-pat or maybe this would happen if I moved anywhere else other than where I consider my home base to be, but the word “home” can mean a lot of different things to different people.
When we first moved to Abu Dhabi five years ago I was leaving what I knew to be my home. I was leaving pretty much everything behind, and it was very clear to me where my home was and where it was not. It was most certainly not on the other side of the world in the middle of the desert in a country that where the official spoken language looked like art and not something I could even imagine learning to read – ever. It was not in a place where it is standard practice to have an eye scan, finger print scan, blood test, and chest x-ray in order to obtain a residency visa, and it was certainly not a place thousands of miles away from our friends and family.
So for the first few years after moving to the UAE every time I used the word “home” I referred to some place far away. Some place that I needed to board an airplane to get to, and some place that felt more and more foreign to me as the years went by. And then we had a child in the UAE. And when we took her to the USA and she started asking to “go home” I realized that my sense of place and home would forever be slightly different than her’s. Home for her is the desert. It is a grove of date trees that ripen in the sweltering summer heat. Drinking camel milk and seeing the animals gracefully cross the brunt sand dunes is all normal to our daughter. Understanding that the sighting of the moon indicates a change in the Islamic calendar means something to her. She knows that Ramadan lasts for days and weeks. Her passport has more stamps in it at the young age of 2 than many people’s passports do when they are in their 30s. Home is a sense of place. It is a place where one feels most comfortable. And as soon as I realized where that was for our daughter I started to understand that being at home underneath the desert sky was a perfect place to be after all.