“You got a case of motion sickness. But the only cure for rootlessness, is to keep moving.” ~ Belize, “Angels In America”
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be rootless.
Refugees carry their homes with them wherever they wind up relocating. For the last couple weeks, the boys in my family have asked Emma and I to watch Nepali music videos and movies with them; they have a huge collection of DVDs that display those goofy shorts as well as some Bollywood movies. They’re all really goofy, but cute nonetheless. It’s cool that they have these resources at their fingertips.
Also in the case of my family, they surround themselves with friends and acquaintances from their old lives back in Nepal. When I was first assigned to them, I remember fearing that they would not be able to acculturate well without a support system. Fortunately, they do have that support system in order to keep them afloat as they transition to life in America.
This became most clear to me yesterday during the Halloween party. Sam and Arman left to pick them up from their apartment, but I was the first to arrive and saw most of them there. They had come with their friends, who function as an extended family for them in America. It was a display of independence (from me and other befrienders) and solidarity (with the Nepalese community in Rogers Park) that really resonated with me.
Even in America, Nepal is very much in their hearts.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on why I’ve been thinking about this for so long. I think the reason why these thoughts have infiltrated my head is because I can’t say the same thing about myself. I personally feel very rootless.
Hear me out a second.
I was born and raised in a small town in Connecticut… but the older I get, the more I realize that I don’t feel any attachment to the place where I grew up. I never applied to UConn when I was doing my college searches three – four years ago, because I just didn’t want to stay there anymore. When I visit over the breaks, it’s always great to see my friends and family, but I increasingly feel like there’s nothing left for me there. I don’t identify with the cultures that prevail there, nor do I feel any affinity for them.
That rootlessness extends beyond me, as well. Both my parents were born and raised in Buffalo, NY, but months before I was born my parents moved to Connecticut, where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. I had a very small, tight-knit family (my parents, my little sister, and myself); I am envious of the dynamics that exist in my refugees’ family, because they are always coming in and out of each other’s homes.
Basically, what I’m trying to get at, is that it’s easy for me to feel disconnected. If there’s anything I can learn from my refugees, it’s how to establish those connections and nurture them for the rest of my life. Maybe Chicago is the place to start.