I’ve worked as a teacher of English as a foreign and second language for many years and know how to teach the difference between the word ‘house’ and the word ‘home’. I teach that the former is a structure made from concrete or bricks, mortar or wood, while home is a conceptual idea of place and belonging. I can say with certainty that one provides the protection of a solid and quantifiable shelter, but I can’t be as unequivocal about the other. The longer I live outside my country of birth, the further I move away from understanding. I have become unstuck because I have no useful comprehension of the meaning of the word ‘home’ anymore. I can arm myself with synonyms such as ‘nation’, ‘family’, ‘familiarity’ or ‘being at ease’, but these words are purely academic.
I can list what it’s not. Home is not my country of birth. National pride is a curious phenomenon I might tentatively contemplate, somewhat like poking a long stick at a blue-ringed octopus hiding in a rock pool. Cautiously and from a distance. Up close it is dangerous and threatening and something to let lie.
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