Weekly Head Voices #17: The Eternal Foreigner.

In this edition, looking back on the 10th week of 2010, I report briefly on the lack of blog-worthy events in my life, noting that my life is undoubtedly extremely exciting, just not always in that special blog-worthy way, before concluding with some backyard psycho-philosophy on my perception of the greenness of grass as a function of its distance from the observer.  Skip to just after the YouTube clip if you want to get right to the backyard part of this blog.

Work-wise, last week was good for 2 hours of lecture preparation, 3 hours of lecturing, 12 hours of meetings, including an inspiring visit to Real Scientists at the EMC, and finally some quality time catching a monday night paper deadline in the nick of time with one of our MedVis Ninjas, whom I’m coincidentally extremely proud of at the moment.  I completed only 16 GTD tasks, down 6 from last week.

Besides not having hot water for two days due to my boiler’s operating system (yes, it has a frikking operating system) refusing to switch on the heat exchanger, forcing me to take a bath in 15 litres of hot water boiled, cowboy style, on the stove, and also experiencing first-hand the surprisingly high actual efficiency of my house’s Super Environmentally Friendly heat-retention system (everything is insulated, air is mechanically circulated at about 100 cubic metres per hour, extra heat exchanger transfers warmth from expelled air to fresh injected air) which managed to keep the internal temperature at a comfortable 18 C (outside between 1 and 8 C) without any hot water in the radiators, and also managing to write one of the longest sentences in a blog post since last Tuesday, the only other blog-worthy artifact I have to offer you is this YouTube screencast I made the other day, demonstrating how to perform a rudimentary segmentation on DICOM CT data and extract STL surface meshes using DeVIDE:

You can add this to your growing list of natural non-ingestible sleep medicine.

Last week I heard that I’d passed my Korte Vrijstellingstoets. This is a test that you, foreigner in The Netherlands, can take to demonstrate that you have sufficient knowledge of Dutch language and culture and thus don’t have to take bunches of other compulsory courses and/or exams that are far more time-consuming. This is not such a significant happening, were it not for the fact that it’s another very concrete symbol of my growing affinity with and attachment to this little patch of the planet. I can hardly avoid thinking seriously about the future of this relationship.

Further, this weekend I missed the wedding of one my best friends due to the niggling matter of 10000 kilometres conspiring with sundry but unavoidable work-related constraints. I would really have loved to be there… There will always be drawbacks, no matter where you choose to live. Especially if you choose for the excitement of a country-skipping adventure and do so for any significant length of time, you will always long for That Other Place, that special coordinate that you currently can’t occupy, and the people associated with it.  Even if you go back to where you started, irrevocably tainted with a strange culture, you don’t quite fit in and long for your acquired home. The grass is and will remain greener on the other side.

I had the good fortune of meeting a wise and well-spoken French man shortly after starting my European adventure. This man, who had done quite some country skipping, finally ending up in Lugano (one can end up in worse places than Lugano), introduced me to the concept of the Eternal Foreigner. This is what one becomes when one simply embraces the idea that, once having moved country and culture, one can never ever be at Home again. Instead of struggling to blend in, struggling to be more like one’s neighbour, or struggling to retain and manifest some warped version of one’s own culture in an environment where it’s doomed to wilt, simply accept Being From Elsewhere.

The Eternal Foreigner misses Home, but smiles, and is at peace.

5 thoughts on “Weekly Head Voices #17: The Eternal Foreigner.”

  1. I found the remarks on being an Eternal Foreigner thought provoking. I just hope my children will be able to grow up, feeling at home, even if their parents don’t.

  2. I hear you brother! I believe the eternal foreigner can also come to be as a consequence of some innate desire to always be the foreigner (and all that implies:adventure new experiences etc) This desire increases as the current challenge is slowly overcome in that stepwise fashion: Language tests, medical council exams, citizenship… as one slowly becomes a “local” the desire to move somewhere new just grows…

  3. I read this with a warm smile but also with lots of sadness. You are such a important part of me and will always be. I remember your first cry , your first smile, your first hug, but is happy that you have achieved all your goals with so much success and hard work. I am so very proud of you and I am glad that you have peace and that you are still smiling……. but………. I will always miss you my son.

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