Posted by: scottishboomerang | March 14, 2008

I got the Stranger Blues: Reverse Culture Shock

I feel rather downcast today as I realise that I am experiencing reverse culture shock a little. To be honest, it was way too easy to leave Scotland, and aside from my family, there is nothing here that I find inspiring other than the odd Celtic music festival (and lets face it, Ireland’s just next door).  I was the child and grandchild of migrants, and therefore, in the pedantic tribalism that makes up Scottish culture in general and Ayrshire culture in particular, I have always been at the natural edge of things. A wiegukyin, outlander, in fact.  I have often been given cause to reflect that the things that drove me bonkers about the Koreans – the tribalism, the inner circles, the extreme distrust of everyone and everything, but especially outsiders, are also sharply present in Scottish society except to a lesser degree.  We invented golf and freemasonary, for crying out loud. Exclusion is our second nature.

Today I went to Glasgow and realised that the move to England will be psychologically very easy. I will be the migrant again, this time within the boarders of the UK, which has meaning only for politicians, journalists, soldiers and diplomats.   Fragments of India, even bits of Korea with its sad beauty, still more of Mexico and Colombia, have wedged themselves in the fiber of my soul, and my soul has grown over them like bone over titanium.

And the words of the blues song, echoing at the back of my mind since the time I heard it:

I’m a stranger here /A stranger there Lord knows that I’m a stranger everywhere

I would go home/But I’m a stranger there.  

But if you ask me where I would give anything to be right, now, at this moment, it would be sitting in the courtyard of a little slum school in the Me Quejo district of Barranquilla, Colombia a place which probably isn’t on the map, watching the boys fly their prisoner kites, all hope on the wing.

Me Quejo means “I cry”, or, more figuratively “The Neighbourhood of Tears”, but it struck me today, watching the people I once identified as my people, their faces twisted with strain, and stress and debt and fear, that I always saw them laughing and smiling: those desplazados who had lost everything to hired thugs with guns.

Would that they would lend me some of their irrepressible hope, their unquenchable spirit right now. Because its us, not them, that inhabit the country of tears.


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