Thirty years. That’s how long I’ve been calling Montreal my home. This is where my mom lives. This is where my friends live. This is where I received most of my education, got my first job, my first girlfriend and subsequently my first heartbreak. Montreal is the city that saw me rise from the small immigrant boy that only spoke one language to a now 37 year old man fluent in 3 languages. I know this city. This is my home but why doesn’t it always feel like home?
Yesterday, December 31st, I was having dinner with my mom. We were having roasted duck. It was delicious. Suddenly, I dropped my fork on the floor. Mom immediately said “a man is coming”. As I bent down to pick the fork up, I listened carefully but failing to hear any footsteps, I looked out the window instead. We were on the second floor and it was pitch black outside. There was no man coming or going. I turned to her and asked “what are you talking about?” to which she replied “that’s what we say back home when someone drops a fork”.
Don’t ask me what that means, I don’t know.
What my mom said that night at dinner resonated inside me as I often use the expression “back home” or “in my country” when talking to friends, colleagues or strangers about the Seychelles. I’ve been a Montrealer, a Quebecois and a Canadian for 30 years. Canada is my country so why do I still refer to the Seychelles as “back home” or “my country”? I love Canada and I really think it’s one of the greatest places to live. So what’s going on?
Where is home? I’m not sure how to answer that.
I left the Seychelles at the age of 7. I still have very fond memories of my early childhood spent on the islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I remember going to school and getting disciplined with a “switch” when I caused trouble (yeah, that was acceptable back then), I remember going fishing, riding around on giant Aldabra tortoises, hunting the giant bats that came to feast in the mango trees in the evening with my cousin and I even remember my friends Daniel & Rebecca from school. That was 30 years ago though.
I have been back to the Seychelles a few times recently and every time I feel like a tourist. Sure, I have family there, I speak the language, I remember all the places and can roam around town just fine. But I’m still a tourist visiting my country of birth. When I talk to my family or anyone else in the Seychelles, I refer to Canada as “back home”.
Quebec has fully assimilated me since I was quite young when I got here. I do all the traditional things like eating “tourtière” (meat pie) around Christmas time and going to “la cabane à sucre” (sugar shack). I celebrate St-Patrick’s day (Quebec’s National day) every year just like everyone else. I do all these things but they’re still not “my” traditions. Perhaps this is why I never feel 100% at home here even though it’s the only home I know.
For the people of the Seychelles, I’m a Seychellois living abroad. Whenever I go back to the Seychelles, for my friends in Montreal, I’m on a trip abroad.
In the end, I’m never truly home but always abroad no matter where I go on this planet.