Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
Flying home was not flying home. Flying home meant grabbing the homing pigeon inside of me and twisting its imaginary magnet one hundred and eighty degrees to the north instead of southwards to Australia. The magnet still twitched stubbornly north even as the plane droned over Darwin, five hours before I finally reached home. Except it wasn't home. Sydney now looked as foreign as the glossy travel leaflets I grabbed from Singapore, its shine not quite matching the missing substance of my once childhood home.

"Thank you for choosing Singapore Airlines…I hope you will enjoy your stay in Sydney, or a warm welcome home."

Winter air slapped me like a bucket of ice water as I emerged, searching for my parents and my sister. For eight years, their voices were tinny and masked by static on the occasional phone calls home. Today, they sounded as brittle as ever, Australian accents barely sheathing the chill emanating from them.

"Welcome home, sis," said my sister with an unusually bright voice. My mother hugged me and suggested we get the hell out of here before the traffic built up at this hour of day.

As twilight descended upon Sydney, choking in its fumes of its famous peak hour traffic, I tried to picture Singapore. It would only be 2 o'clock, perhaps the laziest time of the Singaporean day. Thirty-three degree heat would hover around customers sipping on the sugar cane juice that's being peddled by some hawker downstairs. The streets would mostly be bare, with everyone else ensconced in their air-conditioned homes until twilight. Then, the real activity would begin, with night markets spilling out from the sidewalk selling anything from pyjamas to chicken rice and restaurants boasting the best chilli crab in town. Just remembering the vibrant night scene was enough to send a twinge through my heart. Seven thousand kilometres was not enough to dampen the memory.

"Your lips look chapped already. You need lip balm." I broke out of my reverie at my sister's critical gaze. Her blonde hair, pressed stiff by years of hair straightening, hung in lifeless locks around her too-pale shoulders. I licked my lips and grimaced. Even the Sydney air was treating me like a foreigner.

"Yeah. Never really had that problem in Singapore, you know. All that humidity."

Silence surrounded me till I reached the apartment, or at least, what was supposed to be my apartment overlooking Sydney Harbour. I once thought it a monolithic structure, but it was a gnome compared to the giants of high-rise flats that were the norm back in Singapore. The three of us dragged the luggage into the lift. I insisted on taking it all into my apartment without their help. They backed off immediately and bid me goodnight, and some mumbo-jumbo about me needing rest after a long flight. I had never been so alive with restless misery. I barely shoved my luggage (all five pieces, each more battered than the next from my constant travels) into the apartment before running downstairs.

It was now eight o'clock. It was probably less than ten degrees Celsius. The birds had long retired for the night.

I still found myself jogging on the Harbour Bridge, under the dirty yellow lights of street lamps. My breath powdered the air. I made a mini thunderstorm out of my exertions before I finally paused against the protective barrier, the metal cold against my flushed cheeks. Cars whooshed by. The path was empty. So empty. At this time of night, it would be buzzing in Singapore. The wrongness of it curdled within my chest.

Click, click, click.

I pressed against the grate in fright, but it was only a young man with a Poloroid camera, capturing the miserable scene before him. Like me, he had been leaning against the barrier but now rose out of the shadows for a better angle. His black motorcycle jacket was rumpled and faded like the photographs that were pouring out of his camera. He blinked when he saw me staring at him.

"What are you looking at?"

"Don't worry about me. I'm just curious that anyone would take a picture of the Sydney night-time. It's as boring as watching sloths sleep." I rubbed my half-frozen hands together in a vain attempt to conjure warmth. In contrast, the young man's fingers appeared animated as they hovered over the buttons.

"It's getting better over the years." The young man smiled ruefully. "I guess for an expat like you that seems rather bizarre. Sydney is always boring compared to where you were previously."

I took a step backwards, my mouth hanging open. The way he said it, almost confidently, reassuringly, rang serious warning bells for me. "Who are you? What do you know about me?"

"Nothing, except for what I've observed and heard from you so far.  I could be completely wrong, but judging by your reaction, that isn't the case. How long have you been away for?" He placed his camera back in the bag and now directed his full attention to me. It was almost surgical, as if he had done many, many times before.

"Who are you?" I didn't trust him just yet. Eight years in any country would teach you to be wary of seemingly friendly stranger talk. Especially at night.

"I'm David. Receptionist for a travel agency, budding photographer." He paused to glance over the harbour before looking back at me. "And undertaking an honours degree in psychology focusing on reverse culture shock."

The last three words stabbed me like chopsticks. "Reverse culture shock?" I echoed, as though I was trying to pronounce a particularly difficult Chinese word.
He nodded. "When you come back to your home country after spending time abroad and realise things have changed. And you can't fit in again."

"What I'm feeling has a name?"

"Yes." He looked at me with a sad smile. "I didn't know it myself until three years ago. I was only starting to take shots of the Sydney nightscape when I saw someone jogging along the Bridge. He stopped by me and commented, just like you, about how boring Sydney was at night. Even the nightlife in Asia was more vibrant than the occasional spurts of life here, he said to me. I found out from him that he was a frequent traveller but he decided to settle down in Australia and realised that no one was interested in where he'd been. Everyone had moved on. No one really cared about how much he started to miss being abroad."

I swallowed, the beginnings of tears in my eyes. "Where is he now?"

"I don't actually know. He just disappeared after that before I could ask him any further. I thought that would be the end of it. But over the next three years, I was approached by many others who felt almost exactly the same. They had similar tales of grand travel and adventure, and yet coming back to Australia just didn't sit well with them. I learnt to read the signs. Their slightly foreign accent. Behaviour. Learning psychology probably helped. That's how I figured you might be one of them too. Although I've never had one who didn't quite trust me at first." He chuckled and looked over the harbour once again.

I joined his gaze through the iron mesh. The Sydney Opera House was the brightest spot on the harbour, its sails awash with white light. Thousands of tiny city lights competed for attention with the real stars above. I turned away and felt David push something in my hand. A leaflet.

"I created this group for former travellers. It meets at Town Hall every Sunday. I thought you might be interested."

I glanced down at the leaflet. It was faded and crumpled but I could still discern writing on it. "Adjusting to Life after Travel: A Weekly Meet at Town Hall. Chaired by David Holsworthy. Sundays 1-3pm. Join us if you've decided to settle down and find it hard to feel at home in your own home country." I stifled a laugh at the last sentence. How painfully ironic that last sentence sounded!

"Thank you," I said to him and turned the leaflet around. There was a picture of a homing pigeon flying towards Australia, its path from Asia marked by a dotted trail. Its eyes stared right through me. There was no doubt where its magnet was pointing towards.

Home.
Compose an original piece of writing that explores the significance of belonging for the individual and his/her sense of place.

Belonging=:chainsaw:

This is a little bit autobiographical for the Singapore bits but otherwise everything else is fictionalised.

1405 words, probably too long to write in 40min in an exam. Sigh.

Would appreciate feedback.
Add a Comment:
 

Daily Deviation

Given 2012-11-30
Exploring the topic of Reverse Culture Shock and a sense of belonging, this short story from ~julietcaesar is subtly worded with blatant dialogue and description. ( Featured by Nichrysalis )

The Artist has requested Critique on this Artwork

Please sign up or login to post a critique.

:icononeverylostsoul:
OneVeryLostSoul Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Your writing is brilliant. I have a bad case of a.d.d., so it must grab my attention quickly or I will lose interest, and I did not lose interest. Well done. This story kind of hit home with me. I never left my country, just my former states. My family would not welcome me back. It would be too weird. I don't belong here or there or anywhere. I'm just a lost soul. ;)
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Yeah, it's definitely tough when you don't belong anywhere. But then you try to find people who don't belong. I hope you find your place one day. Thanks for reading. :) 
Reply
:icononeverylostsoul:
OneVeryLostSoul Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
^_^ Very nice work.
Reply
:iconzireael07:
Zireael07 Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
This is brilliant!
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks! :)
Reply
:iconhumbug-liqourish:
Humbug-liqourish Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Student Writer
This rang so true for me, that sense of not belonging, of not quite feeling 'at home at home'. I lived in hong Kong for seven years before coming back to australia and that sense of disconnectedness and that sense of loss and 'not home anymoreness' reverberated throughout me when I read this.
It is so true.
Congrats on the DD!
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Glad you could relate. :)
Reply
:iconamika-crystacia:
Amika-Crystacia Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is wonderfully atmospheric. You seem to have managed to create very potent atmospheres in very subtle ways, making this very readable indeed.
Congratulations on the DD.
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :)
Reply
:icondoodlebertdesigns:
DoodlebertDesigns Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Beautifully expressed. Lost myself in the narrative; as I think would anyone who has made a home in another land however temporary. Especially upon returning to their "real" home...
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you. :)
Reply
:iconllirbwerdnadivad:
llirbwerdnadivad Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012
A nice story.

Still wondering what a homing pigeon is, though...
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
A homing pigeon is a pigeon that navigates using the magnetic field of the Earth. There's some kind of brain material in their heads which allows them to utilise the field to navigate for direction when they are migrating. :)
Reply
:iconllirbwerdnadivad:
llirbwerdnadivad Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012
Interesting...
Reply
:iconiyvoriah:
iyvoriah Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012
This is amazing. I applaude you.
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you. :)
Reply
:iconbookbunny9:
bookbunny9 Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I, too, am stuck between two countries. It's amazing how perfectly you captured the feeling. :heart:
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I'm glad I have! :)
Reply
:iconcaliforniaclipper:
CaliforniaClipper Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Fun yet poignant slice-of-culture and human reality. Thanks for sharing it.
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for reading! :)
Reply
:iconmomochan-1:
momochan-1 Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Student General Artist
Reverse culture shock seems so foreign to a lot of people, but for those who have experienced it, OH MY GOSH IT'S EXACTLY LIKE THIS.
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Glad you could relate. :)
Reply
:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:iconfatlaplz: GODDAMNIT! I'm never going to get to suggest a DD for you, am I?

Ah well, it was quite a pleasant surprise to come back to the internet and find one of my favorite people in the universe getting well deserved recognition again. :love: Congrats on your DD sweetheart. :heart:
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Well, you might have to wait another six months. :B

:heart:
Reply
:iconpwnkage:
PwnKage Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012
BELONGING. HSC. -all my creys- I've been traumatised by those units.

I read this and felt the exact same thing. Australia's such a sleepy little desert in the middle of nowhere. We pride ourselves on traditions which aren't really a culture and we're really only made up of people who never really belonged anywhere else. We call ourselves multicultural for that reason and yet still... the Cronulla Riots, Pauline Hanson etc. All because of the cultural and language barrier.

A sad reality.

Whenever I leave for China and come back to Australia, I can't help but compare the two. And all those times, because I was young and naive, I would always wonder why they are different and ask impossible to answer questions. Now when I'll be leaving for China in less than 3 weeks I'm beginning to wonder the same things, "Has China changed?", "Would it have been better for me to have been born in China?", "Did my mother do the right thing in throwing away her education to come to a 'better place'?".

Thankyou for writing such a touching piece of writing. There's some solace in knowing you're not the only one stuck between two worlds.
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for reading and for this thoughtful comment. It means a lot. :heart:

It's always very hard to pin down a certain identity, when you're stuck between two worlds, because different cultural practices merge and fuse and become different parts of my life but they don't exactly represent a single way of life that you could attribute to a single ethnicity. Which is interesting, for me, coming back to this piece, because now I've gone beyond the HSC, started university and mixed around with different ethnic groups and even did a unit on intercultural communication- which was pretty much an excuse of a unit to blurt out my life story every tutorial. :lmao: So I've become more accustomed to understanding what reverse cultural shock means, and what culture really means, and how sometimes the theory doesn't quite match up with reality.

And yes, the what-if questions. My parents were both migrants, and as a first-generation Australian, I also wonder if they were right to put me through a Singaporean public school, and then to take me away at the cusp of teenagehood to the country of my citizenship which I had no real connection with until now. I think, eight years on, they made a good decision, despite the shock. :)
Reply
:iconprideofpanem:
PrideofPanem Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Student General Artist
This is absolutely gorgeous <3
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! <3
Reply
:iconprideofpanem:
PrideofPanem Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Student General Artist
You're very welcome :D
Reply
:iconglougee:
glougee Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Been there. Going home in the US was very strange after years in Southern Mexico.
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Glad you could relate. :)
Reply
:iconunluckynumberxiii:
UnluckyNumberXIII Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow. Replace Australia with America & Singapore with Italy and you've got me. This sums up everything...
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Glad you could relate. :)
Reply
:iconunluckynumberxiii:
UnluckyNumberXIII Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Glad this got put up for a DD and I know that I'm not the only one who misses a place they called home for a long while.
Reply
:iconmandaia:
mandaIa Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on the DD! :D
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks! :)
Reply
:iconmandaia:
mandaIa Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome ^^
Reply
:iconnosugarjustanger:
nosugarjustanger Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012
Aww, it's touching for me to read it. I live in Singapore and I don't really appreciate what I have until I travel elsewhere, I think. But still, I experienced the "reverse culture shock" when I was away for months at a time, traveling. :) I think it's just what a lot of people experience as well, when they do some traveling in their lives.
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
It definitely features a lot in the travelling experience. :) My experience would have been closer to migration though, being Australian-born but spending the entirety of my childhood in Singapore before moving back. It was quite the adjustment working out that I was only a PR in Singapore and a citizen back in a country I had barely spent time living in till now! :P
Reply
:iconnosugarjustanger:
nosugarjustanger Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012
Aww, that's a shock to the system. :lol:

You might be missing the local food in Singapore too. When I was away from Singapore, I miss everything but the general courtesy level. :dead: All that pushing and hustling during peak hours make me wish that I'm not here.
Reply
:iconquick-step:
Quick-Step Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist
This is a gorgeous piece of writing; beautifully descriptive and full of little delicate little details. It was a pleasure to read!
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you very much! :heart:
Reply
:iconkitamikichi:
KitaMikichi Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Student General Artist
Very intriguing and well-written!
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :)
Reply
:iconkitamikichi:
KitaMikichi Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Student General Artist
You're welcome! :)
Reply
:iconkarinta:
Karinta Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Student General Artist
Wow. Simply stunning.
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :)
Reply
:iconkarinta:
Karinta Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Student General Artist
Aw, you're welcome. :hug:
Reply
:iconicy-kisses:
icy-kisses Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Replace Singapore with Thailand and you've got it. Definitely. Congratulations on the DD; I hope you find your way home again. :heart:
Reply
:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Always nice to know I'm not alone. Thank you. :heart:
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×

:iconjulietcaesar: More from julietcaesar


Featured in Collections

Literature by SylveraDrake

Literature - Eye-catching by Axe-Cell

Literature by Dicegirl14395


More from DeviantArt



Details

Submitted on
September 26, 2011
File Size
8.3 KB
Thumb

Stats

Views
3,581
Favourites
160 (who?)
Comments
64
×