Home is where the heart is, right? Or is home where you feel the most comfortable, where you were born, where you actually live out life?
One of my dearest friends attended a missionary re-entry class at the Global Missions Conference last month. She was trying her best to learn some things to help us with our upcoming transition. One of the little nuggets of wisdom that she shared with me is to never tell returning expats, “Welcome Home.” Instead, one should use a simple, “Welcome back.”
This is a wise thing to do. I certainly won’t hold it against anyone who tells me “welcome home” in January, but for our children, it isn’t home. We moved to Arequipa when Ana still had a paci and was just barely starting to speak English. We enrolled her in a Spanish-speaking preschool while we attended language classes, and she became fluent in Spanish along with English. Her memories of her “home” country are only traced through pictures that we took of her.
Just the other day, I was teaching her the pledge of allegiance and our national anthem so she would have a clue. The girl can recite every verse of the Peruvian national anthem (and there are a lot of them I assure you) by heart. Where do you think she calls home?
While Ana only has a US passport, her younger two siblings are actually Peruvian. Both Maggie and Cohen were born right here in Arequipa. I honestly don’t think Cohen had any real idea of the states until our last visit, because of his age. They are both speaking Spanish, and when they speak English, they mix up the sentence structure because they literally translate the Spanish to English in their head.
The only place they have ever referred to as “going home” is our house in Arequipa.
They know their grandparents and uncles and aunts, but they have more collective memories with their Peruvian abuelos and tios and tias at this point in their lives.
They are our three little Peruanos, and for them, Arequipa is home.
So don’t welcome them “home” when you see them in January. Maybe it will become home in the future to them, but their home is where the llamas live, where big red and white flags flap in the breeze, where a huge volcano towers off in the distance from the city, where Manuela cooks delicious Aji de Gallina for them and Etelvina offers to make Papa a la Huancaina. Arequipa is home, because Arequipa is where their hearts are. And a big chunk of their Daddy and Momma’s hearts are in Arequipa also.
I am confident that our hearts will rest in new places that we will call our new home. But for now, two months from today to be exact, a “welcome back” will do.