What We Miss From Home

What We Miss From Home

By Ryan Murdock
Photo by Tomoko Goto

Ahh, yes… The care package from home.

It’s the nicest thing an expat can receive, next to a shipment of English books from Amazon. And it’s the first thing I thought of when a friend asked, “Murd, what do you miss from home?

No matter how long you live abroad, I think you’ll always crave those things you grew up with.

Comfort foods or treats you enjoyed as a child are high on the list. But so too are magazines, hometown newspapers, and a hand-knitted afghan from your grandmother.

Speaking of grandmothers, mine used to make a subtle delicacy called Fadge. My grandparents came from Northern Ireland, and this potato-based breakfast food is the object of much intrigue among my family members.

Fadge a simple mix of flour and mashed potatoes and magic, and when it’s rolled out and baked it transforms itself into the sort of edible gold the alchemists could only dream of. The final artery-clogging touch is to fry these firm spud strips in bacon grease and serve with a little HP Sauce on the side.

There are no allies when it comes to fadge—only temporary truces. Cousins steal from cousins. My father scammed it from my aunt by pretending to go on a fishing trip each May 24th (she only found out at his funeral that the annual trip had ended at least 10 years before). And my father and I always ate my sister’s Christmas share.

So you can imagine how surprised I was when my dad offered to post a packet of fadge to me when I was living in Tokyo. Of course I suspected a ruse of some kind. But his offer was genuine, and the package was sent.

Alas, my dream of firm potato bread fried in bacon grease was too beautiful to come true…

My fadge was held up by customs for several weeks, and by the time it finally arrived at my apartment it was covered in thick green mould. I vowed to egg the Japanese Postal Service in revenge for this travesty, but I left the country before I could carry out my raid. (…I haven’t forgotten….)

The painful lesson I learned from this cruel bait and switch is that, when it comes to the care package, perishable fresh food is best left out. Save it for maniacal stomach-aching binges when you go back home.

So what’s in my expat care packages these days?

several packs of green Clorets gum
 
Cadbury creme eggs
 
high quality vitamins and supplements bought at a discount
 
Jetstream Uni 0.38 pens
 
Gohan desu yo(a seaweed paste to eat with rice) from Japan
 
and those little chocolate-topped mushroom shaped cookies, from Japan too
 

And what else do I wish was in those packages?

Pumpkin pie!
 
a good Canadian whiskey (if only they shipped abroad…)
 
liquorice pipes, the kind with the candy fire on the end (sadly discontinued…)
 
homemade butter tarts from Betty down the road
 
natural peanut butter without sugar or additives
 
takeaway shawarma

But a care package can only go so far. And it will never be able to contain those immaterial things every expat misses from home:

Raising a glass with the friends you grew up withthe ones who shared your childhood adventures, who know where you came from, and who never expect you to be anything but yourself…

The scent of Fall in Ontario: nostalgia distilled into the tangible caress of cool air tinted with the smell of decaying leaves.…

The St. Lawrence River in summer, the North Channel, and all those memories I have of it…

A proper truck stop breakfast, with home fries and crispy bacon and scrambled eggs…

Shops that are open 24-hours, with a proper selection of anything you need…

Lunch with Aunt Sally & Uncle Jack…

The Ottawa Public Library…

Long road trips with a Bridgehead coffee and miles and miles to go…

…and all four seasons (as long as winter is short)…

Every expat misses out on such things.

No journey is made without sacrifices, and in choosing to go one place, we’re also choosing to miss some of these other things too, whether we do so consciously or not.

But hey, I also miss out on a lot of other stuff that I don’t miss at all, like endless dark winters, high income tax rates, and hockey season!

So yeah, Expat Life does come with some compromises. But its nothing a trip home every couple years won’t fix.

Are you an expat, or have you lived as an expat? What sorts of things do YOU miss from home? And what’s in your care packages?

Please share them with me in the comments below, I’d love to hear about it.

And if your care package involves fadge, please send me directions to your house.


Ryan Murdock is Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Outpost, and has written several features over the past decade for Outpost—on France, Jordan and Namibia, to name just a few. He’s also author of “Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America,” and you can see more of Ryan at www.ryanmurdock.com, and twitter.com/roadwisdomStay tuned for more of his columns on The Expat Life!


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