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Home is Home

Sept 22, 2016

I’m home.  In fact, I’ve been home for almost one month now.  People keep asking me if I’m settled. Yes, I’m settled.  The adjustment period actually wasn’t that bad.  Home is home.  I’ve lived here for 23 years and 14 months away is not enough time to wipe out my memory.  Though certainly some things that used to be second-nature now seem undeniably strange to me.  Were our toonies always so thin?  Why do we eat dinner so early?  You mean I have to start calling it the “skytrain” instead of the metro again?  I completely forgot about the colour of Canadian bills (the $20 bill looked an unnaturally vivid shade of green to me when I first saw it).  I JUST got used to calling money “euros” and now I have to start calling it “dollars” again.   The knob on my shower felt strange too. So did opening our front door. (We got a new knob while I was away).  We actually got a few new things while I was away.  Items were rearranged and replaced. I kept discovering them with time and each time I exclaimed “Oh! This is new!”I was told that actually it was already considered old.

During my first couple nights at home, I would wake up at 4:01 (on the dot) and be starving.  So I would creep down to the kitchen and eat a Portuguese cake. The very first morning that I woke up in my bed, I had  a mild panic attack and had to blink several times trying to decipher where I was. I also had to open up a few cupboards in the kitchen until I found what I was looking for. Now it feels like I never even left.  If it were not for my art work hanging on the wall directly opposite my bed, reminding me that I did go to all these places, I probably would never believe it happened.

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I still dream about Europe constantly.  Some days I can’t even look at photos from my trip or listen to certain songs without feeling a physical pain in my heart.  There’s an intense longing or pull.  It sort of feels like I scattered my heart all over the continent, leaving little pieces here and there and so in a way, it feels like my heart is broken.  It feels like it’s come back not quite whole.  Rakel told me it’s Europe homesickness.  She said it’s normal I should feel homesickness for Europe instead of for Canada because I always knew I would come back to Canada but I don’t know when I’ll go back to Europe. I guess that makes sense.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve gone on a few hikes, went to the cottage (and fell completely in love with it), had a wisdom tooth pulled, got told by the eye doctor that I have to wear glasses for at least two months because my eyes don’t look 24 years old (I blame the dry weather and smoky atmosphere of Europe), and applied for some jobs.  The first commute back to work was a rather depressing one because the weather was rainy and I was surrounded by a lot of sorry looking people.  It made me sad because I couldn’t even be bothered to look out the window.  In Europe, the dirtiest street was spectacular to me. I could never stop looking out the window. Now I’m back to reading other people’s stories on buses again instead of living my own. That’s a big exaggeration but do you know what I mean? It just felt sad to be sitting in Vancouver reading a book set in Paris and wishing I was there instead.

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I want to feel excited about Vancouver again. On the plane ride home (which was long and horrible because they didn’t offer free food or in-flight entertainment) I kept waiting for that moment of uncontrollable excitement. Mostly, I just felt dazed (it was a collective 19 hour journey from Athens to Malta to London to Home) and I was sleep-deprived and hungry.  I made friends with the Irish guy sitting next to me and we kept ourselves entertained by playing word games while his friends behind us played Monopoly. (Oh, old fashioned fun!) Anyway, it was ironic that he was at the very beginning of his 2 year adventure and I was at the end of mine. What a mysterious world we live in.  My moment of uncontrollable excitement came when we were landing and all I saw was mountains — so many mountains! — and then I realized I was only a few minutes away from being reunited with my family. Luckily I didn’t have to wait around for my luggage because they were able to send it directly home. I sped-walked to the arrivals. We had a family dinner that night.  I went to pick up Omi from her new place and when I met her at the door, her eyes opened in disbelief and then she hugged me with trembling hands and started crying and then I started crying a bit too.

I do love home. I do. But I’m 24 years old and I don’t want to live at home anymore.  Especially not now that I’ve had my first real taste of independence. No actually, not just a taste: a whole feast of independence.  I’m not sure what will happen with my dreams to see Asia and South America. I guess we’ll see. Some parts about being home are wonderful.  I like having proper meals again. I like having my bookshelf again. I like laughing with Krystyna so hard that my mom tell us too much silliness is going on but we keep on laughing anyway.  Yes, I do love home.  I just think I’ve grown a lot this year and maybe I don’t quite fit here anymore.

You know, I was looking out my bedroom window and I saw the familiar, old, black crow on the tree. He’s still there…old faithful.

It’s the first day of fall today. Today is actually pretty hot too — I was sitting outside wearing a tank top. I’m glad it’s sunny now because during my first week back, it rained every day.  You have no idea how depressing that was to return to after eternal sunshine in Greece.  I’m excited for a crisp fall this year. Last year in November, I was still wearing short sleeves to the park so I’m rather looking forward to sweaters and golden leaves. It’s funny…I used to be so afraid of change.  Now I’m looking forward to it.  I think that’s the best way to illustrate how much I’ve grown.

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Dear Santa

Dear Santa

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Dear Santa,

I know I haven’t written to you in a while, many years in fact.  It’s not that I forgot about you; it’s just that I got older and maybe people stop writing letters when they get older. I wanted to let you know that just because I stopped writing, doesn’t mean I stopped believing in you. Even when people used to whisper things to me, I never stopped believing in you with a fierce devotion.

I can’t explain why it was so important for me to believe – maybe because I was holding on as tightly as I could to the fraying threads of childhood innocence. To stop believing would be to grow up. And I’ve been fighting growing up my whole life.

Maybe I’m like that in a lot of ways. I still believe in so many things. I believe in kindness, in ocean waves, and in coming home. I believe in sunsets, and holding hands, and early mornings.  But the thing is, I believe in so many fewer things than I did when I was a little girl with a toothless grin, scrapped knees, and mascara-free eyelashes.

I used to believe that there really was a witch in our shed called Babayaga. That a watermelon would grow inside of me because I swallowed too many seeds.  That if I stayed up all night, maybe I’d be able to see you.

I used to believe in silly things too – that saying ‘sorry’ would make everything the way it used to be, that I’d be able to collect all the shells on the beach if I picked them for long enough.  I used to believe in people’s smiles and that all the troubles in the world could by kissed away by a mother’s lips.  That when the sun came over the hill in the morning, all the soldiers on the battlefield would drop their weapons and stop fighting. 

Maybe I stopped believing in things because I got older and wiser…or maybe I just got older. Wouldn’t that be terrible?

What if there comes a day when I don’t believe that flowers will bloom after the winter, that people who die go to Heaven, and what if I don’t believe in love, either? What if I stop believing in my dreams, what if I stop believing in myself?

It’s a terrifying thought to think there might come a day when I don’t believe in anything anymore. How grey and dull my world would be. I know that it’s impractical and dangerous to believe in absolutely everything, but my goodness those were some beautiful days when I did.  I believed in everyone and everyone believed in me too.

This Christmas, I would like the gift of believing again. I want to believe that when people say ‘I miss you’ they mean it.  That things really are better in the morning. That people who get married will stay in love forever. I want to believe that when people smile, it’s because they really are happy.  That when people want to be your friend, it’s because they like who you are and not what you can do for them.

I want to believe not just in you, not just in myself – but in life and magic and joy.  And not just at Christmas time, but all year round for the rest of my life.

Love Kazandra

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Somber Thoughts on a Sad Reality

Somber Thoughts on a Sad Reality

images I recently listened to the speech Angelina Jolie made when she won the Humanitarian award in 2013. She stated that she didn’t understand why she was given a life that allowed her to follow her dreams and go to bed without wondering how she will feed her children, while a woman with the same abilities and desires as her doesn’t have this joy simply because she was born in another part of the world.

I don’t understand it either and I never will. Why was I given the perfect childhood when other people never even got one? Why was I given the opportunity to travel the world when other people only want to escape from it? Why do I willingly leave my home when others would do anything to return to theirs? Why do I lie in my bed worrying about growing up when other people never get the chance to? 

These are the questions that I’ve started to seriously wonder about and I’ve realized that no matter how many times I ask myself, I’ll never come to an answer because there is none. It’s simply the sad truth of life.  It’s the reason people should complain that life is unfair. It’s unfair that children are born into war, that young people are flung into it, and that people die before they’ve had a chance to live.  When I think about when I was born and where I was born, I was one of the lucky ones.  I was born into the arms of loving parents,  on a bed with blankets and pillows, in a peace-filled country. But somewhere else in the world there’s another twenty-three year old girl, also born on June 2, 1992, who has only ever known hunger, fear, and war. Why? 

In light of certain events, I’ve realized just how sheltered my life has been.  Even travelling has only expanded my vision to some degree.  I haven’t seen famine, I haven’t seen poverty, I haven’t seen war, I haven’t seen hopelessness.  Europe has mostly shown me the cruelties and injustices of the past – and it was the blindly optimistic child inside of me that chose to believe that all these bad things actually were in the past.  Going to the concentration camp, visiting the Anne Frank House, listening to stories about the cruelties of past wars…they were chapters found in history textbooks, events people wrote books about, topics people based movies on. On one hand, they felt too far away to be able to hurt me.  On the other, they were things my Omi and Opi lived through. Things that occurred less than 100 years ago.   Now when I think about the crisis in Syria – and how my kids will eventually learn about it in history class – it seems incredibly near and unprogressive of the world.  It’s not the past; it’s the present. And it will likely be the future too.  

I always chose to believe that the world was better; that we as humans were better too. Not perfect, but better. I don’t know if I believe that anymore.  I don’t know what I believe in anymore, to be honest.  I’ve always tried so hard to believe the world is ultimately good despite everything bad that has happened in it.  Perhaps this blind belief stems from the fact that I haven’t been personally exposed to the hardship, sorrow, and pain that is a reality for most of the people in this world.  When reading an article or looking at a photo showing the horrid lives of many people, I would feel badly about it, maybe make a donation, maybe talk about it with my friends, and then close the tab and continue on with my perfect life consisting of second helpings of food after every meal, new clothes when I want them, a good education, opportunities to follow my dreams, and loving people surrounding me.  

Now I think I have to look closely at the world.  I will force myself to look and I will hold my gaze as I stare into the eyes of poverty, sickness, hopelessness and sorrow, no matter how badly I want to look away.  Because I can’t hide from it forever. It’s real – very, very real – and I can’t ignore it anymore. If I turn out a little more cynical, hard-hearted, and pessimistic because of it, so be it.  I’m too old to keep living in this ideal world of my carefully constructed imagination. 

But when I do see it, what do I do then? What can any of us do?  After the attack on Paris happened, I was on the train gloomily staring out the window at the falling rain and thinking about all the wars, and bombings, and man-inflicted pain that was occurring in that very moment.  I was thinking about how the rest of the world would retaliate against the wrong-doers. How it would lead to more war, more bombings, more man-inflicted pain.

Sometimes it seems to me that we are destroying ourselves: the world is slowly committing suicide.    

Europe, Uncategorized
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