Anxieties of traveling to the Motherland
For most of us expats living away from our country of birth and/or lineage which I fondly like to refer to as the Motherland, there comes a time when we have to make a trip back home to visit, usually on the occasion of a wedding, sometimes due to a death and other times just to spend time with family. I was preparing for such a visit thankfully of the latter kind. It has been almost two years since our big move to Toronto from Karachi, the longest time my husband has been away from his parents and being the only son you desi mama’s know that is practically an eternity!
Enough time has passed that we have acclimatized to the ‘gora’ way of living a lot more than we anticipated. I say this because as I was planning for this long haul journey to the Motherland where we will stay for approximately 7 weeks, I was bombarded by several questions being brought to light by those around me, and my head started to spin!
You’re travelling to Pakistan in June? Did you know it is 40+ degrees?
Did you hear Karachi’s mob boss got arrested last week and the city is in lock down? Is it safe for you to go?
Did you hear Karachi Airport was under attack by terrorists this week? Is it safe for you to go?
There was a polio outbreak in the country. Have you got all your vaccinations? Is it still safe for you to go?
I hear the water is pretty bad- Have you arranged for imported water to drink and bathe in?
Dengue Mosquitoes live there- Are you carrying imported bug repellant?
Your little one should only drink the freshest milk there- no not the packaged kind, don’t you know the harmful additives in that? No not straight from the cow either they adulterate that with the dirty water, didn’t you know?
Have you bought gifts for your entire extended family?
I was born in Karachi and have lived a total of 20 years of my life there. Despite the city being my home the moment you move away and view the place like an outsider you can’t help but succumb to the unexpected paranoia.
And so I let these questions keep me awake at night as I made a mental checklist of all the preparation I had to do. My rational voice kept telling me to calm down I was a Karachiite damn it! We are survivors; Made of stronger stuff than this! But my maternal voice kept telling me I had to worry about my daughter’s well-being.
I did what I could do. This was the only time after school ended where we all could travel as a family. We got our vaccinations, bought the bug repellant and sent across a list of ‘approved’ food and drink safe for our 3-year-old’s consumption. Anxiety rose as we boarded the flight and I prayed the entire 20-hour journey (including a delay on the second leg of our flight!) that our plane arrived safely at our destination.
As we landed on the tarmac I was expecting to land into a war zone but instead was greeted by the early light of dawn, exuding serenity amidst the regular hustle bustle of the airport. Familiarity took over as we exited the airport and I took in a breath of comforting humid air. I knew this place. I still felt safe. The Karachiite inside me started to stir.
As we reached our house it looked more palatial than I remembered; I couldn’t help but compare it to the tiny condo back in Toronto. Even the expansive garden was lusher than ever. The presence of family was a constant warm embrace and made me realize the sense of community that could never be replicated in our foreign home.
The Karachiite in me was now bubbling inside and finally spilled over when the alleged ‘freshest and safest imported milk’ turned out to be sour on two occasions. That was enough for me to switch back to the good old packaged kind which I had no issues with before. My daughter is just fine with it.
Sure I wasn’t going to take any risk with the water as heck even I don’t drink the tap water in Toronto when there is a Britta filter around. So bottled imported water it would be. But for the rest of it I decided I wasn’t going to turn into the paranoid ‘foreign-return’ aunty who had become too big for her own boots and I sure didn’t want my daughter turning into a fussy snooty child either. She too was born in Karachi and was made of the same good stuff as her parents. Her feet were meant to walk on this soil, her eyes were meant to see the great opportunities and in contrast the staggering poverty so her heart could learn to feel, make her mind question and motivate her to positive actions.
Regardless of where we moved away, whichever country we decided to live in, Karachi will forever be our first home and birth right. And our family getting to see us after so long was more valuable to them than any gift we could have bought!
Have you gone through anxieties of travelling to your country of lineage and finding it was unnecessary? Or perhaps you were not prepared?
Do share your travel experiences with us, the good and the bad!
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