Thursday, 20 December 2007

My Town

I live in a pretty small town, in a pretty small county, in a pretty small country.

Because I'm American, I often get people asking me in surprise, "Why would you want to live here, of all places??!" They are surprised by my answers.

I like it here. I like the river running through the town, I like the pedestrianised town centre with the different markets on different days of the week, I like the low-floored buses so I can wheel my buggy right on board without folding it down.

But mostly, I like how multicultural this town is. We have Sikh temples, a huge Italian population, and a burgeoning community of Eastern Europeans. My children go to school with other children from vastly different cultures, and the teachers celebrate everyone's religious holidays. The kids learn other languages and how to cook native foods. My Eldest Child is friends with a little girl who only knows a few words of English, and this girl loves my daughter. I've seen them interact, and it is absolutely amazing to watch.

I am an immigrant, and I live in a town of immigrants. I may not be surrounded by other Americans, but I see these people on the street and in the corner shops, and we have a connection. I feel like I belong here, in all my loneliness.

I say loneliness, but it's not a heartbreaking or even upsetting feeling. I just feel alien sometimes, like when a group of people share a joke from their childhood that I can't take part in -- I didn't grow up here. I've lived in this country for nearly a decade, and I still come across slang or turns of phrase that I haven't heard before. Someone may ask me where I'm from, or how long am I visiting for, and I have to stop and remember that I'm not a native. I will never fit in completely.

Perhaps I like this town so much because it feels like we are living on the Island of Misfit Toys. Maybe the Poles and the Italians and the Indians and the Americans all mismatch, but we all mismatch together, and the end result is a thing of beauty.

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