Caught Between Two Places: Reflections From An Airplane Above the Atlantic

I have been back from Cape Verde for a month and only now have I had the courage to sit and pen down my thoughts. It’s been quite a hectic month full of relocations and new beginnings. One can say it’s been, at the least, overwhelming. I arrived from Cape Verde to my parents’ home in Providence, then relocated to my new home and started a new teaching position. So my life in the last few weeks has been full of transitions. Meanwhile, I had placed all the feelings I’d been experiencing on hold as I dealt with more pressing family and professional matters like unpacking, address changes, matriculating my son at the new school, completing my syllabi and numerous faculty meetings. So today, right now, I will address these feelings on paper for the first time.

 

This entry’s title speaks to these feelings that I have had over the last 20 years but really did not know how to conceptualize them. I normally visit Cape Verde for about three to four weeks at a time, every other year. The first week or so, everything is a bit strange. The second week, I get used to being there but by the fourth week, I feel as if am truly home and part of the community. This includes running errands around town for my grandma or just sitting at the beach bar for hours, people watching, without a sense of urgency that I must go sightseeing or anything of the sort. By the time I feel this way, like I am truly “home”, it is time to leave and come back to my life in the United States. So in the fifth week, I am pulled and uprooted from a life that I truly love, to return to another life that I also truly love. When I get back to the US, it usually takes a couple of months for me to get back to some normalcy, feeling like I belong once again to the American society. I go through feelings of sodade, a very deep nostalgic feeling of homesickness understood only by those whose homeland is different from where they now reside.

 

For the past twenty years, I have been doing this back and forth between my country of origin and my country of residence; a back and forth between two lives that I truly love, feeling torn, not wanting to loose neither; hence, the title of this entry, caught between two places. When I am at home in Cape Verde, I do not feel one hundred percent me, because there is this undeniable American dimension to me, for which I appreciate and am thankful. However, when I am in the US, I also do not feel one hundred percent whole, because I do not have my entire family and what is familiar to me, what is peaceful and what is simple. I miss being around my aunts who are my mentors, my cousins who look like me and my grandmother who blesses me with infinite wisdom. In the US, I also live another airplane ride from my parents, siblings, and the Cape Verdean community. So there is an additional dimension to my sodade. Don’t get me wrong, am thankful for my husband and our son. However, the “whole” of me always feels incomplete without all of the pieces mentioned above. In the end, the best way to describe my feelings over the past twenty years is like I am suspended in the air, on an airplane flying over the Atlantic, not really sure whether to land at Boston Logan International Airport or the Amilcar Cabral International Airport in Praia, Cape Verde.

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