Antipodean Endearments: Homesick for Australia

Expansive Australian Sky in the Swan Valley, Western Australia.
© Rochelle Del Borrello 2013

I recently found an old diary of mine with a list of things I miss about my hometown Perth, Australia and concerns I had for myself as a new expat in a non english speaking country.

The list is nearly a decade old written when I first moved to Sicily and I am amazed at how naive it is, I certainly had a romanticized idea of Australia. Reading this list made me realise how homesickness is caused by an inability to let go, like all forms of depression or grief. Home is where I make it and it is contained within myself, it is no longer a place I write elegies for.

The main part of feeling homesick for me nowadays has to do with friends and family they are the main things I miss. I do my best to keep in touch thanks to blogging and social networks and if I feel particularly in need of hearing an Australian accent I surprise my friends with a phone call or Skype call.

In my diary entry I was being terribly honest and expressing real concerns about being an expat living in Italy so I thought I’d share.

Here is the full diary entry:

Coming back to my house in Sicily I write a list of the things I miss most about home in Perth, Australia.

● The expansive sky which makes up half the landscape, together with the flat stretch of the terrain, full of endless space and possibilities. This broadness in the landscape is echoed in the broad Australian accent, the relaxed life style and in the space to be yourself.

● The wild nature of the countryside, like an unconquered land: bare, sandy and endless in its vast and expansive nakedness.

● Listening to the radio in my car, the music I love.

● The books and bookshops I love to browse in.

● Sleepy Sunday afternoons listening to chamber music concerts followed by milky coffee in trendy cafés.

● Goofing around with my friends and my brother.

● The cooling sensation and freedom of walking bare foot in summer.

● The smell of summer mornings, crisp and cool. The smell of the baked earth which has cooled during the night like the aroma of an exotic new dish being roasted in the oven.

● The wild flowers, banksias, kangaroo paws, gum nuts, desert peas, wattle. The exciting alien Australian vegetation I have grown up with, which looks like something invented by a props master for a science fiction film from the nineteen sixties.

● The freedom of taking off in my car on wide easy streets, uncrowded by confusion and uninterrupted by traffic. The road which promises to distract you away from your problems by giving you the freedom you need in that uniquely expansive space which stretches out to the remote horizon.

● The flatness, the broad endless land. Seeing the Perth city lights in the distance, glowing in the night sky. The blue florescent incandescence from the tops of skyscrapers that mark the highest point in the C.B.D. They shine like halos of imaginary angels. In my memory the mirage of the city is so close, like reaching out for the end of the rainbow just out of grasp. Go a little faster, just around the corner and you will see the spectacular Xanadu, city of light, floating above the river, luminous in the dark sky like ghostly sepia shadows in old photos.

● I miss the freedom of feeling like myself. Here I am full of limitations because of my lack of control over the language, myself and this place.

● I miss the multicultural nature of Australia; eating Asian food, enjoying the freedom of having Greek, Italian, Spanish, Indian and African friends. Sicily is painfully mono-cultural with a threatening racist underbelly.

There are changes in me here. I am becoming more introverted, shy and I have no friends like me.

Here I have no tongue. I am learning half a language. In my head there is nothing but half sentences, half ideas, badly expressed. I cannot express myself as I am used to, something that I value with all that I am. It’s as if I’m losing half my identity.

My tongue is broken into small segments like a piece from the once uniform jigsaw of the one universal language represented in the Bible by the story of Babel. When man’s tower of pride tried to surpass heaven, the language shattered into fragments Failing in its endeavour to transcend god the edifice fell to the earth and the once united language became jumbled. Thus the tongues of the world were created, each piece of the tower smashing the languages and dispersing them throughout the globe.

I have a faded memory of this once universal language, yet when I try to speak it the holes in my memory are so great that I only recall small simple words which are insufficient to express the emotions, opinions and memories in my mind. This broken language I own is only enough to express my basic needs, trapping me within myself rather than sending me out into the world of words and expression.

One day, feeling homesick, I start to write, deciding the beginning of my story is the discovery of what Sicily is for me, of my place, or lack of place, within it. I want to write about what Sicily means to me, apart from the alienation, frustration, suffocation, guilt and my struggle with my desperate desire to go home.

Sicily is where part of my origins are, but it isn’t where I want to stay forever. It is a forgotten place, alien to me. My desire to explore it is strong, but I’m tired and ready to leave behind the past to create my own stories instead of hearing other people’s. I resolve to explore everything that I see here, even the ugliness and despair. There is the great beauty here but there is also great ugliness and danger in Sicily too.

Every time I’m back at home in Perth Western Australia I always discover endless possibilities and ideas so much so that I am beginning to believe it is the font of my creativity. Yet when I travel back to Sicily it is with a surreal sense of whimsy. I know how life in Sicily is but when I travel back from Australia it’s like I’ve forgotten everything and I’m making my maiden voyage .

Perhaps Sicily really is the island that robbed Ulysses of ten years on his journey home to Ithaca and I too am under the influence of the same ancient magic spell.

I am tantalised by the conversations of Italian jet setters at Dubai and Bangkok. Their smooth Italian dialogue seduces me and makes me wonder if I’ve been mistaken about Sicily. Whether I’ve missed something more valuable or elusive, a more profound element, like I need to descend deeper into its heart.

I wonder if I’ll find that Sicily has changed as I always find Australia in constant evolution, transforming itself into new suburbs and developments. I want Sicily to be more like Australia. I want to fit easier into its arms, rather than feeling so awkward, isolated and stifled.

Unwilling Expat

Now that I got it all off my chest why not crave something more delicious here:

and top ten of things I miss here and what I’m going to do to make up for all this moping!!