When we were invited to take part in a "two minutes of fame" segment during The Hague's European Life I Live Festival, we started searching our archives for something to read out that represented expats in Europe. We have a varied collection of letters home, poems, stories and life writing - it was a difficult task to select just one piece. We looked at descriptions of cycling to work in the Netherlands, tales of Christmas in faraway places, touching poems about the importance of friendship. In the end we settled on the poem "Now, in Norway" for its blend of optimism and the emotional struggles of living abroad.
The poem was published in the anthology "Life Now" which was compiled by the Shell Ladies' Project in 1996. This volume, and the preceding one "Life On The Move", provided the foundation of our organisation. With bundles of donations collected from all over the world, many sent in by people who had since moved on, the editors recognised that this was the basis of an archive.
The Archive became independent in 2008, and we are fast approaching our 5th Anniversary. Our collection has grown and continues to do so, thanks to the generosity of expats and their families who realise the importance of properly preserving their stories for the future. To pay tribute to our roots, here is the poem taken from "Life Now".
Living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world
And longing for my grown-up children.
Living in a most beautiful house
But no big Sunday lunches to prepare.
Travelling to and from the country I call home
But never really settling for a longer period of time.
Finding worthwhile things to do
Without the feeling of achieving anything.
Living in two worlds all the time
With a restless feeling never far away.
But also living a more active life than most
Keeping an open mind, my attitude young,
New cultures to explore, new friends to be made
An ever stretching flexibility…
Also towards a quite uncertain future
Because – what is going to happen, towards the end?
When there are no more countries to be sent to?
Which then will be the country I will call home?
Or will I be forever restless, a gypsy through and through?
These are the questions going through my mind.
Now somebody asks me: “How are you now?”
But I also hear my daughter say:
“Later I’d like an active life like you and dad.”
And I know then that our way of life has not been so bad
Not influenced the children in such a negative way
As in my darkest moments I sometimes feel.
They too would like the possibility to explore the world
And my son reassures me that the quality time we spend together
Makes up for the lost quantity in time we seem to have missed.
So making up the balance of how I feel now
I still feel uncertain of what is going to happen.
But this also has a certain edge of surprise
Which I have got used to over the years and which
I might well miss, not having it any more.
Therefore I look to the future with a positive expectation
Of a life that is still very much ‘on the move’.