When Sense Memory Delivers the Same Feelings as Homesickness

Last week I was lucky to travel to Dusseldorf for a two-day conference. I flew out Thursday after school and returned Saturday night. While I was there I experienced a few moments of a very funny thing – homesickness.

Now, homesickness in itself is not really that funny (more odd). It can be tiring, frustrating and sometimes painful. I like to tell my students that homesickness is like most sickness – it makes you feel bad for a little while, but then it passes and you feel better.

Homesickness has some very distinct attributes – feelings in your throat and your chest and your stomach – memories – smells and sounds. If you’ve ever experienced homesickness, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then I don’t know that I can adequately describe the sensation.

I have felt homesick for Canada before and when I go back to Glasgow and London, for there as well. But in Germany I had a moment of what felt like homesickness … for Poland.

I was walking home from the grocery store. It had just rained and the air was still wet. There weren’t a lot of people around, and I was surrounded by trees and bushes. Suddenly, it felt like I was back in Poland; back in my old neighbourhood. I thought I was back in Poland for at least a full minute before I even realized I was thinking I was back in Poland – that is to say, before I realized I was in Germany, not Poland. Does that make sense? When I became aware of the fact that I had been back in Wroclaw in my mind for a few moments, but was in Dusseldorf in body it made me a bit sad for a second – homesick.

But … hang on … I’m not homesick for Poland. I enjoyed my time there, yes. I made some very good friends and taught some very nice kids, yes. But when I left Wroclaw after two years, I was done. And although I have been back to visit and would go back to visit again, I don’t want to live in Poland again. So it was strange to have that moment of homesickness upon realizing that I’m in Dusseldorf and not Wroclaw. At least, the feelings were the same as homesickness, but it wasn’t. Was it?

Am I the only one who has felt this strange sensation? This powerful sense memory that throws you back to somewhere you’ve been before? That feels like homesickness but actually isn’t? Maybe. But I doubt it.

BTW – if you want to hear more about my time in Dusseldorf, check out this post on my other blog, and why not hit “follow” while you’re there?


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