I’ve always thought that ‘expat’ is just a fancy word for ‘immigrant,’ and no amount of official persuasion that ‘it is about the type of stamp in your passport, not your race’ will persuade me otherwise. Plus, The Guardian agrees with me.
Regardless, my brain tends to interpret ‘expat’ to ‘expatriot’ rather than ‘expatriate,’ which is funny, because I’m far from a former patriot. Rather, a newly-minted one. Nothing like a revolution and an invasion to make one choose a side.
I wear on my wrist the colors of peace, the colors of war, and a Tolkien quote… The colors of peace are legitimately the Ukrainian flag. The colors of war are on a wristband bought at the Reading festival, UK, a year ago, and the only politics they may be related to take place in the year 2018 in post-apocalyptic New California. The Tolkien quote is “Not all those who wander are lost.”
It’s been two years since I visited my birth country, which, patriotism notwithstanding, I cannot in right conscience call my home country, because home is a difficult thing. Now I’m here for a couple of weeks.
Liverpool, train, London, underground, Gatwick, hotel, plane. Finally, KBP.
Dry grass over the fence from the tarmac. I realize this is the first time I’ve seen dry grass in two years. The UK is so wet that it’s green all year round.
Passport control, luggage, buying a burner phone sim while waiting for a taxi. The driver calls and tells us to walk some way from the entrance, along the road, because there’s no room for him to pull up. Terminal D, the fanciest one in KBP, has a tiny taxi rank, most of which is full of buses. We roll the luggage trolley until we run out of pavement, and leave it instead of making it jump a tall curb. Buses zoom past a few inches behind our backs while the driver helps lift the bags over a fence of knee-high concrete blocks.
The air is hot and smells of faraway smoke.
I ride in the front. I have to stop myself before I get in on the driver’s side. UK brain deformation, item one.
On the way to Kyiv, I keep an eye out for familiar landmarks. The Wild Bean cafe, a reminder of New Zealand which had sat at a gas station by the side of the Boryspil highway for years, has been replaced by something off-brand. A large piece of land behind a long black glass (noise reduction?) fence, which might have belonged to someone in the old government, has been turned into a resort.
My mother chats non-stop with the driver. I feel kinda bad for leaving the trolley so far from the terminal.
At the entrance to my apartment block, a new concierge nods at me when I say good evening, then, a moment later, asks me which apartment I’m headed to.
Childhood home of twenty years is stifling hot and just stifling. I’ve lived in one place between the ages of 7 and 27. Between the ages of 27 and 30, I’ve lived in two cities and five homes. Looks like those last three years were enough to become an easily-suffocated tumbleweed.
Too tired, distracted, and generally weirded out to do anything useful, I spend the last few hours before sleep playing a mobile game set after a nuclear apocalypse and watching a show about bureaucrats in the US state of Indiana.