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A couple weeks ago (in this blog post), Gary and I had lunch with writer and illustrator Mei Matsuoka, and Mei and I were comparing notes on what it's like for us, living between two countries and having parents with two different national identities. We had lots of thoughts on the subject, and finished up the conversation via e-mail today.

We asked each other, 'What is it, when you arrive in each country, that makes you think, ah, I'm really home now'?

When I arrive in Seattle, I know I'm home when my Scottish dad makes me scrambled eggs on toast, with a cup of tea. He uses a lot of butter and a lot of black pepper and his eggs always taste a million times better than anyone else's. The secret, he claims, is to keep the heat under the eggs very high and keep stirring. I used to get cheap red-eye special flights home from university, and even when I got in insanely late, he'd always make the eggs for me.

When Mei arrives in Tokyo, it's the vending machines:

They are EVERYWHERE & they have the most amazing ones - sometimes with free prize draws, (for a free extra can!) most of them have hot or cold drinks (& they're all really tasty) and now a days you can even get a meal in a can! (Ramen noodles, Odens, puddings like jelly too) They also have vending machines for cigarettes and alcohol (which would be broken into in a second if it was in London! ;)) Mostly I just love them for the hot cafe au laits I can get on a cold winter morning.
Also, toilets, convenience stores and generally all the useful things they have makes me think 'Yes, I'm back in Japan'.

Mei Matsuoka, in our studio cafe modelling the shirt with a design from her latest book with Peter Bently, The Great Dog Bottom Swap, recently shortlisted for the Roahl Dahl Funny Prize.

When I get back to London, it's getting on the Piccadilly line, and the smell of the London Underground that makes me know I'm home. The Tube has such a distinct smell; yes, it's sweaty people and upholstery, but nothing else in the world smells quite like it.

Mei: For the UK, it's the flat fields that stretch out across the countryside driving home from Heathrow. Compared to Japan, the sky seems SO big back in the UK. And the clouds are much lower. The sunsets are beautiful because the clouds catch the setting sunlight and create amazing palettes... Just the flatness of the land and the dozens of little sheep in the fields make me feel I'm back in England.

Oh, and also the lack of humidity (and my mum's curry - which she always makes on the day I go back home).

So, just wondering, what about you, is there anything that triggers off the feeling, 'I'm home'?


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
For Ireland it's the green...I know it's a bit of cliche Ireland and Green but I didn't think the country was that green until I lived aboard for several years and I remember coming home and taking the train down the country and thinking "fu*k it's really green" Other countries don't seem to have any less green stuff around but it just feels so green here. And then there's going home to Tipperary, that's all about the milk....no where has as white and creamy and yummy milk as Thurles Milk...hmmmmmmm

And I always feel at home every time I go back to New York, something about the city just feels comfy to me, I always slip back to "new york mode' 10 seconds off the plane...you get a slice of new york pizza and sit out in union square and just feel the buzz that no other city has and it's like ahhhh I'm home.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 10:35 am (UTC)
I totally know what you mean! The first time I visited Scotland, when I was 12, I thought the same. I have this vivid memory of sitting in the lounge at the house of the headmaster of my dad's old school and staring out the window. The grass was so startlingly green it almost looked unnatural.
Sep. 21st, 2009 11:00 pm (UTC)
Freeways. Coming off I-5, usually heading north returning from Olympia or Portland, I play the game with myself that I always play: I cheer as soon as I see the Seattle skyline.
I recently went back to my home town of Sun Valley, which is near Reno, and I got that home feeling when we pulled off Sun Valley Drive onto East Fourth. That place never changes.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 10:37 am (UTC)
Oh my goodness, that's something I REALLY don't miss about Seattle, but they are so part of the city! The Renton S-curves on the way back from SeaTac, they always used to mention those on the radio because they were so often badly jammed up. I think they straightened them a bit because it was so bad.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 07:38 am (UTC)
Hillside Avenue. It's a really long road, a bit ugly, completely treeless, but full of familiar sights and storefronts, that runs from Queens into Nassau County. Once we get off the parkway from JFK and onto Hillside Avenue - Hillside being the bulk of the route we'd take every week when I was a kid, going to my grandparents' house - I know I'm back.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 10:37 am (UTC)
That's so cool! Do you remember any of the shops in particular?
Sep. 22nd, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC)
Just by category: pizzerias, Irish bars, Italian banquet halls, VFW halls, Pathmark, Astoria Federal Savings (and other bizarre, small local banks), diners. Though one landmark is now gone: the excellent 1950's architecture of Frozen Cup.
So sad.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)
My Mother is Norwegian, but she never took me there as a Child. I was 40 before I took her there! She had told me so many stories, I felt I knew the place.

What was amazing was sailing up the coast to Bergen, It was just as I'd imagined. More amazingly, there was a huge gaggle of Family that I'd never met waving on the quayside. We all went off to eat - the kind of food we had at home, that no one else ever had in their homes. Pickles, cold meats, cheeses all laid out on a crocheted table cloth, with lots of candles - just like home! I wasn't the odd kid on the block after all.
Sep. 22nd, 2009 10:41 am (UTC)
Re: Fjiords
Hi, Shoo! That's brilliant, makes me wish I had some Norwegian relatives! I once went to a school where they had 20 Norwegian students and they all brought national costumes with them; they were so, so beautiful.

I kind of felt that, moving to the UK after living with my British dad; a lot of things that seemed peculiarly like my dad are normal things here, and it makes them feel comfortably familiar. Growing up, I didn't know any other kid who drank tea with milk in the evening. ...But actually, a lot of things are just eccentrically my dad. ;-)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


Sarah McIntyre

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