Home vs Homeland

March 2023

I've spent these last 15 years in Alaska.

In a way that parallels my parents, for whom Australia is now *home* and Vietnam is now their *homeland*, Alaska is now *home*....and Australia has become my *homeland*.

Homeland: the place that was once my home.

Home: the anchor that all other experiences get compared against.

There is a disorientation during the transition period, when "here" is not home, and when "there" is not homeland: a suspended psychological homelessness of being neither "here" nor "there". A liminal space and a threshold - betwixt and between all worlds.

When I lived in Australia, I never felt home there. I needed a third place - Alaska - which revealed to me the depth of my Australian-ness and my Vietnamese-ness.

Edward T. Hall, a cross-cultural anthropologist who consulted for the CIA during the Cold War, says that: when you travel to somewhere else, you are not getting to know the host culture; you are actually getting to know your culture-of-origin.

Alaska saw me ferociously making the food from "back home": moose meat pies (from scratch!), caribou Wellington, and soft-boiled eggs with Vegemite soldiers. Caribou pho. Moose egg rolls. Wild duck rice paper rolls. Salmon cá kho, and rainbow trout canh chua.

It's been five years since I've been back to Australia, and truth-be-known, a part of me has been lolly-gagging about going back because that part secretly knows that Australia has transitioned from being *home* to having become my *homeland*.


I'm currently in London and, despite this being my first trip here, there is – surprisingly - the nostalgia of a homecoming.

The comfort and familiarity of vehicle and foot traffic on the left-hand side of the road, just like in Australia. The Victorian architecture. The short bread biscuits in the tea and coffee tray in the hotel. A proper cup of Earl Grey tea with milk and half a sugar. Bacon with the rind on. Sausage rolls. Proper baked beans in tomato sauce (not sickly sweet like American baked beans).

And no guns.


Growing up in Australia, I had many Anglo-Aussie friends who - during their teenage years - spoke of plans to "go back to the motherland" (England) during their twenties, a homing instinct impelled by longing and pride. To visit family. To reconnect to ancestry, to their roots.

I always envied them....they had a homeland to go back to, unlike myself, whose homeland was under Communist rule. Whose homeland my parents could barely speak about because of the weight of their pain. Whose homeland was depicted in the media as a war-torn shit-hole.

I never imagined that the strange circuitous route of life would lead me to connecting with England as part of a colonial heritage that offers me a comforting feeling of home.


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