Friday, 25 August 2017

The day I discovered I was just like Frodo.

It is official. My summer is over. I am back in Doha after a lot of eating and drinking and relaxing first in the UK and then, in Azerbaijan. The usual. A friend has noticed the lack of Facebook activity on my part and commented to my husband that I was probably so fat these days after all the eating that I no longer posted any photos of myself. I sent him this latest picture to reassure him I was still alive and well in shape.

I have not written here for so long not because I had nothing to say. Quite the opposite: My head is full of thoughts, memories and experiences that I would love to share, I simply don't know where to start. I want to tell you how I met a wonderful gay couple and what philosophical thoughts that meeting raised in my head. I want to tell you about my almost trip to Georgia, my almost staying there forever when I realized I had no return visa for Azerbaijan, and almost not drinking at all while in Baku.
Yes, so lots of thoughts. But, I will start with the most domineering of them all. The one that rules them all, so to speak. The one to bring them all and in the darkness bind them…got carried away a little here.
I would like to name this particular funny feeling the Frodo syndrome.
You see I was on the airplane going to England when, admittedly under the influence of a couple of extremely strong G&T’s the pretty stewardess prepared for me (she did apologise in advance, saying she was new, and asking if they were any good and I, having watched her fill the plastic cup half full with gin, assured her it was just perfect) and having realized, as usual that there was nothing decent to watch, decided I actually quite fancied the Lord of the Rings, the very last one, you know? I just love the battle scene where Legolas jumps on the oliphaunt, and when the dead dudes emerge from the ship from behind Aragorn...



Sorry. Anyway. So, I thought I would fast forward the film to my favourite parts and enjoy them again. But, as I continued to the end of the movie, to my astonishment and embarrassment, I realized I was extremely affected by it all. I felt Frodo’s pain and confusion as he described returning to his beloved shire. Fuck, Frodo… I thought. We are the same! We are of one blood, Frodo (like Kaa said to Mowgli) you and I.
Yes. I am just like Frodo.
That thought almost sent me to tears. I only resisted crying because nobody seriously cries at LOTR do they? OK, I also got all teary at that moment when what’s her face? Princess Eowyn tears her helmet off to face the black rider on Nazgรปl and says I am no man! And stabs the shit out of him. 
That was amazing with my strong G&T, let me tell you. Sent shivers down my spine.
But, still. Seriously. Nobody cries at LOTR. Especially not at the end when all the painful stuff is over, everything ended well, the world has been saved, the best looking people all alive and Aragorn marries the elf princess? You will of course say I was just being silly, but listen. You just don’t know how it feels to suddenly realise you don’t actually have a home where you belong anymore. I felt Frodo’s pain when he, having spent all that time missing the lovely shire, returns to it only to discover that, having experienced everything he had experienced, he cannot ever possibly be the same. The shire, the normal hobbits, with their normal hobbit business would never seem the same to Frodo.
Okay, I appreciate that living in Qatar as a western expat is not quite the same as going through all the shit poor Frodo had to go through. Me, going to Aspire to work out in my air conditioned car in the mornings is not quite the same as Frodo barely surviving in Shelob’s cave, even on a very bad driving day. Still, I am a writer, so allow me some allegoric connection here. Frodo said, and he definitely knew what he was talking about, that he could not really stay in the shire, not after everything he had lived through, not after what he had seen in the world. And I realised, as I was looking forward to seeing my lovely Hertford-shire that I could never really return there and settle back into my previous suburban life. Not after I Iived as an expat for all these years.
I don’t know how others do it. I have met people who spent years here only to suddenly announce they are going back, to the same little village they came from. I just want to wear shorts again, they say, cook dinner for my kids and walk to the local pub. Well, really if you want to bring normality to your life in Doha, I thought, just fire your maid and do all the cleaning and cooking yourself, as well as go to work and then, if you still have any energy left, get a raincoat and wellies on, not shorts, and walk to that pub. Where you could probably afford one pint of beer since you probably wont have much money.
But that is a personal choice, and we, expats are all very different.
I myself am just like Frodo when it comes to returning to the shire. I have definitely changed and there is no going back to the old suburban myself.
Yes,visiting felt nice. I love it, don’t take me wrong. I miss those enormous green trees and the smell of rain in the air, wearing warm clothes and the normality of it all. But, as I sat in my friend’s car on the way from the airport, I kept thinking this feels wonderful but it is not my home anymore. It is a peculiar feeling, let me tell you. Because, you know that place. It is familiar. It is comforting and relaxing. But, knowing myself, I know that I no longer could fit right back in. It wouldn’t be easy.
Now, perhaps it is more obvious for someone like me for whom England was already a second home. I know all about emigrating, I had been there before. Still, having lived as an expat, how do you go back and continue your old life?
My friends…I missed them so much. I loved seeing them but I also noticed how by now, they had moved on with their lives. They were excited about me visiting, of course, but they were also very busy with their own schedules. Schools, events to attend, paperwork to fill in, family routines. I was grateful they still found time to see me.
If, after just a year or two of being abroad it all felt temporary, now after this many years it was different. They probably realized I was no longer going to be a proper part of their circle. They mostly stopped asking when I was coming back. I was someone who used to live there, who used to have the same concerns and issues. Now I was just a visitor from abroad, someone with a completely different life, whose visits they enjoy but there are more important things going on. I am different. I wear different clothes, I talk about different politics. I definitely drive differently. I worry about different future. The topics I come up with to discuss and my jokes are all different now…Well, those were always different, some might correct me here, but hey, at least I tried to control them a little better before, trying to fit in, adjusting the volume to the level of appropriateness of the English suburbs. Nowadays, I have moved on, too.
Which brings us of course to a question where to next? But, as Scarlett O’Hara would say…
I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.
So yes, Frodo. I know exactly how you felt.