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Caribbean musings #5 Pieces of me

There's something about living away from home that, for me, presents a constant search for my place, the little piece in the giant puzzle where I fit in. I'm not just talking about the role that I play. Although it's no doubt true that working or volunteering can give you a sense of value and add meaning to the population-space that you inhabit. No, I'm talking about a more shallow version of identity. That wavering, transient me that is always changing a little bit - flexible and malleable to a degree.

Maybe it's because my sense of self is influenced by the people around me. As though I have an idea of who I am, and the society I live in acts like a mirror, reflecting that idea back at me. I exist in relation to others.

Yes, the people closest to me are the most important in terms of the way they make me feel, act and perceive myself. But the place I'm in and it's people are my bigger context. They're my landscape, setting, they're my scene and are a constant source of action.

All of this sounds obvious. We are all shaped by our environment. But it's not something that I've always been aware of. Living in London's suburbs, I had a strong sense of belonging. My surroundings were equally familiar and exciting. Staying the same and changing on a daily basis, as cities do. The architecture, the grey skies, the rush of steps and accents were all a part of me.

But then, not long after leaving university, I moved to Japan to work as an English teacher. One of my most striking memories is of the main street in Yokohama, where for the first time in my life I was the only tall blonde person in an endless sea of black heads of hair and walked in a crowd so dense I couldn't see my feet, like an awkward, raised head in a bed of nails.

So how do I feel about living here in Barbados? In a different demographic again? How does this small beautiful rock, and it's people, whose ancestors were forcefully displaced hundreds of years ago, feel about me as a visitor, an outsider, who, as a trailing spouse is another version of what it means to be misplaced?

I'm still finding out. Every day I make new connections, through the people I walk past, the people I meet, the other drivers on the road.

For the time being, I am part of this country and I have a place on this map. And maybe if I remember that I too am a mirror holding up a reflection to those around me, I will see something familiar in them. And with the sparkling turquoise seas, the palms and the hummingbirds as my backdrop, I too, will start to belong to this island.

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