Not Quite So Familiar

What do the following things have in common?


Yes, Janelle’s tears and the rain are both organic and beautiful expressions of catharsis. That’s kind of secondary to my experience, though.


I’m sitting at my desk in an otherwise empty office, reworking a draft briefing paper, listening to Ms. Monáe’s album and the rain pounding down on the roof. This song comes on and I’m immediately transported back to the first time I listened to the album all the way through in my basement apartment on Hilda street in Ottawa. The rain was pouring down then, too, but on Hilda street I was wrapped up in a thick blanket, had a cup of really good coffee sitting next to me, and was “working” on a lab report.

The feelings of relaxation, serenity, and joy in the small things that I experienced then are contrasted against what I’m feeling in this moment: tiredness from extra 3 a.m. prayers, a slight pang of hunger that I’m trying to ignore, frustration at the disorganization of my own thoughts for this briefing paper, and–I now realize–genuine homesickness.

It seems this precipitation-and orchestral hip-hop-driven quasi déjà vu has tugged on just the right heart strings to make me suddenly want to be back in that cold basement apartment, wrapped up in a comforter with a cup of Peruvian at my side. Or better yet–a really good latté. And instead of my lab report, I could be reading a fantastic book. I’d follow that with a slice of extra cheesy pizza with lots of bacon and maybe a nap with my cat curled up beside me in my warm and inviting bed.

I snap back to reality and wipe the drool from my mouth. As I redirect my focus to my work, I realize that I should not have sent that email to my mother this morning about all the food I want her to have on hand when I return from Ghana. After all, my thoughts on the topic about which I’m trying to write are scattered enough without daydreamed distractions. I continue the re-write without really thinking about the words on my computer screen. Something in me still craves the scene I’ve created in my head.

Two things about this experience are curiously new for me. The first is that I thought of–no, felt–Ottawa as my home. That’s literally never happened to me and I guess that, despite my best efforts, I’ve finally let my guard down and let that city into my heart. The second is that the depth of the homesickness is greater than I’ve felt before. This prompts me to think that maybe I haven’t really been homesick until now. Are missing home and homesickness the same thing? I’m probably thinking too much into this, but it really beats longing for good food and the company of my cat.

This has definitely been a phenomenal adventure that has really opened my eyes to a lot of different things about the world and myself. There are so many things that I take for granted and my time in Ghana has made me understand that in a big way. I might be ready to go back to those things with a new-found appreciation, but I can’t help but hope that I’ll miss my life in Ghana when I’m home just as much as I miss home right now.



One response to “Not Quite So Familiar

  1. Boy, don’t EVER make lists of ‘food wot I want to eat but can’t.’ That way lies MADNESS, self-flagellation, and visions of sugarplums dancing in heads.

    That being said, this was a wonderful post – you evoked the scene very well, I could see it so clearly (kitty! ah mah gah). Funny how the Ottawa=”home” thing happens almost accidentally, isn’t it? Sneaks up on you.

    Homesickness is a funny thing. Not to go off on my own tangent or detract from yours, but this is the first summer I’ve ever spent fully away from Muskoka, and no matter how many amazing things are happening to me here that could never happen there, and no matter that it was time I did this, there’s always that heartspace where home fits.

    (Oh, and you know I love Janelle Monae, and – true or not – I take full credit for it appearing here 😉 😉 I know scent is supposed to be the strongest sense tied to memory, but songs have a way of doing that – I can’t listen to P!nk’s live version of ‘Glitter in the Air’ and not have an intense longing for Muskoka.)

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