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  • Writer's pictureJose Arrieta

Home as a Migrant

Home is hard to define as a migrant, e.g., for me, it has been where my parents live; where my partner lives, and where you live. However, the feeling of home. The deep-down feeling of the place I am home has always been singly defined. Problems appear when my life leads to a transition from one feeling of home to another. I can imagine nonmigrants experience this feeling also but for me, each transition has defined my life at the time. I talk as a migrant as this experience as society has decided that this is a deciding factor of who I am and chose to put obstacles specific to this trait.

Early in my migration, home was where my parents live. After a year abroad I would miss Costa Rica intensely. With time saudade would come, my head would fill up with the sounds of my country, my kitchen with the food I grew up with, and my heart would feel the yearning for being home, the Heimweh. I would then go back and while in Costa Rica, I would do something that would make no sense for “my Costa Rican self”. I would just lay in the garden and charge my batteries. Eventually, I would leave and the cycle would start again.

With time, the location home started to transition for the first time. And every transition would bring an emotional roller coaster with it. At one point, Switzerland became home. Not for long. It became home as I lost my sense of self. I needed to create a new me and Switzerland somehow felt like the melting pot to make this happen.

Clearly, it did not work. I used the traveling and the coming back home as a way of defining myself. Traveling was very important. I learned who I was by differentiation and feeling what I was not. As I learned what I was not, space was left behind all the contingencies, a sense of self. This would have happened eventually but traveling made it faster as I was able to add contingencies at a higher rate. I became a migrant scientist who lives in Switzerland. It felt senseful but it was shallow and lacked a center.

With time the lack of center flared up. A blinding rainbow announced my new home. Home became a person more than a place. A fight was fought and just as Germany had no mercy when it faced Brazil in the Maracana, my Swiss home was left in shatters. In contrast to the Brazilians, my new home gave me a feeling that things would be alright. However, the problem of having a home defined as a person, is that people live in places. I could hear trumpets hailing new battles ahead.

Soon after I found home I learned what the fanfare announced. It came out of the blue, as pandemics were not something I defined my life against. But COVID is much worse than losing a semifinal. I was legally banned from being home. Think about it, there were laws that made it illegal for me to be home. That rocked the foundations of my sense of self. I won’t go into details, of how I felt. Nihilism is easy enough to Google. With time, a plan came, and I thanked Pandora for closing her jar in time. I would not know it then but as a result of this plague, I would be able to be home more than ever before but at the cost of having migration in my head at every moment.

It took a year, unemployment, multiple visa applications, lawyers, and securing a new job during a pandemic for things to settle down. But now I am legally allowed to be home. As the dust of the battles settles, a familiar sound comes in the background, I hear the laughs, marimbas, and feel the warmth of Costa Rica. No more trumpets of war. For now..

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