I’m back to Toronto after 3.5 weeks in Brazil. When I moved to Canada back in 1996, my intention was to go “back home” every 3 years, so that I could use the scarce North American vacation days to get to know other places. In the last several years though, due to various family-related events, my yearly allowance was mostly spent in São Paulo. Something changed in the 12 years I lived abroad. When I entered my Toronto apartment yesterday morning, it became clear that Canada now also feels like home to me.
My mother immigrated from Japan as a toddler, and my father left Korea in his early twenties. They never went back. My mother clearly enjoys Brazilian TV shows and finds NHK programming a never-ending bore. She craves leitão a pururuca, (yes, it’s visually disgusting, but believe me, it’s delicious) and coxinhas. Sushi and miso soup? Not so much. She is much more Latin-American than oriental, despite her Japanese descent. On the other side, my father never really blended in in Brazil, and had all but forgot Korea. I remember offering him a trip to Seoul a few years before he passed away. He politely declined, saying that the country he once knew no longer existed.
Sometimes I wonder if I fit any of those two models. While I miss Brazil badly, I know that if I ever move back there, I’ll miss Canada too. It remains to be seen if this is a win-win or a lose-lose situation, but whatever it is, it’s all I have.
Of course, my case is not unique. In this age when the movement of individuals and populations is in overdrive mode, the concept of what is a native and what is an immigrant has blurred. Increasingly, we are all just nomads with many places we call home.