When I was five or so my aunt called from California and said I had a ‘twang.’ I guess that’s what you get when you’re born in Abilene, Texas. Ten years later I went back to Abilene and was told, “You have a strange accent. Where are you from?”
Africa, I said: eSwatini-formerly-Swaziland. After all, I’ve grown up there and hardly remember the land of my birth.
It began when my grandparents decided to come home. They lived at African Christian College as long as I have, but “home” was the States because that is where their children and grandchildren were. My family flew across the ocean to see them. It was my first time outside the country.
My family – me, my two younger sisters, and my parents – loved our stay on the campus. We made friends. My dad taught a class.
But boy was I surprised when six months later they sat me down as said, “Ellianna, how would you like to move to Africa?” Well I’d never moved before, only read about it, but it didn’t sound too hard. Turns out it was.
I had a life in Abilene, little though it was, and I missed it. I wonder now what my life would be like if we’d stayed. I might go to public school, have a driver’s license, date someone. But in all that time my life would be so much smaller than it is. I wouldn’t have flown for 17 hours or eaten NikNaks or gathered friends from six different continents. (Twenty countries. I counted.)
I’m glad I made that trip.
Now I fly back and forth year after year. My dad’s job takes us from one side of the world to another. To me, they’re two different planets. There’s even two different Elliannas! But you can’t tell the difference unless you know them both. And that’s only me.
I’ve learned to blend in anywhere and where I can’t blend in, stand out in the best way I can. I’ve learned to make friends no matter what. I’ve learned the importance of hugs when you say goodbye. I’ve learned that not everyone is like me and that’s okay. I’ve learned that what’s strange to me is normal to others, and I’m pretty strange myself.
I’ve learned that people are… people, pretty much everywhere. (Well, at least in twenty countries.)