Feeling ill in a foreign country (and generally being tired and irritable)

Un animal.
Un animal.
(Honestly, no idea what.) Prevost’s Squirrel.

I remember the night when I was first homesick. It was a summer evening, reasonably warm but not hot. I was nine-years-old and for whatever reason I had decided that I did not want to hang out with my close friend and tent companion who was, for whatever reason, that night annoying me. We hadn’t fallen out exactly. I’m so anti-confrontation it has always been rare for me to fall out with anyone. However, that evening I just wanted to be left alone. In fact, I wanted to be at home and alone, not in a huge field of hundreds of kids supposedly having a jolly good time.

It sucked.

What’s more, I felt like I couldn’t really tell anyone as it didn’t fit the image I had of myself. I’d already decided that I wasn’t the sort of person who was homesick, and yet I felt that deep longing for being wrapped up in my own duvet. Being nine, I didn’t have to worry much about what I was going to fill my remaining hours with. There was a stage show that evening, and I sat quietly and picked at the grass waiting for it to end. But it did end. We went to bed, and the next moment I awoke hungry for breakfast and eager to enjoy the day, safe in the knowledge that I would soon be home and I had survived the dreaded weakness that is homesickness.

Perhaps homesickness is an inevitable part of travelling

It happens, I think, when the demands of your environment bringyour base line stress above a certain point. For some people it happens soonerthan others. Mostly I think, depending on how much you rely on your environment for comfort.

I’ve had a busy few weeks

Last weekend I went out to a concert, then played pool with a friend and her friends in a local bar, drank tequila with slices of orange, sprinkled with cinnamon and gummy sweets (because that is what one does here apparently) and collapsed into bed at five in the morning. In England this might be considered a wild night out, here in Spain it’s early. The next day was an alternative paella (pasta instead of rice but cooked in the traditional paella fashion) to celebrate a birthday. The next day was a pre-lunch drink, which turned into a rather extended cheese and wine tasting afternoon.

It’s autumn, the weather is changing, and I work at a school in a foreign country. Unsurprisingly, I’m now tired, grumpy and have a streaming cold which is developing into an aggravating cough. My nose glows.

Meanwhile, life goes on

I’m battling the need for clean clothes, multiple meals a day and am still chasing Spanish bureaucracy. Understandably, I crave my own feather duvet. There’s something comparatively dissatisfying about layers of sheets and blankets. Even if they are your own sheets. I also crave the vocabulary to whinge about this cold, as my Spanish hasn’t yet developed as far as illnesses.

Whilst I’m being grumpy at myself, I’m wondering if it’s appropriate to ask one’s parents to vacuum pack one’s duvet and bring it in a plane, and I’m craving custard.

My highly analytical brain believes this to be ridiculous

There is a part of me, which having had quite so much therapy, points out that custard and duvets, like shopping and chocolate, aren’t really the solutions that they might initially feel like. What I need is some self-soothing. I need to come to terms with the reality that I’m tired and ill and living in a far-off land which means my body’s stress level is uncomfortably high.

I buy a cork board and pin pictures of people from home on it, entwining my little lights around the coloured pins.

But that ever so English taste of custard…

I buy eggs, the ones with a picture of a hen surrounded by grass in the hope that this means that they are free-range. And then I proceed to make custard. You can, I discover, make a chocolate cake in a mug using only the egg whites. It takes less than two minutes of microwave time. I mix up the batter whilst the lactose-free full-fat milk comes to a simmer, filling the kitchen with the scent of vanilla. What I’m going to do with the rest of the carton of milk I have no idea, I haven’t planned that far ahead. I couldn’t find cornflour in the little local supermarket, and so I beat self-raising flour into my bright orange egg yolks. At least, I think it’s self-raising because there’s a picture of a cake on the packet, although it reads as ‘biscuit flour’.

I measure nothing, and yet, miraculously, it all comes together

Curled up on the sofa, I eat chocolate sponge and home-made custard, nose still dripping, but feeling reasonably content with myself. I am, I know, feeling a little homesick. However, I also know that it’s okay to feel this way, and soon, I’ll be back to learning more about this crazy, wonderful life I’m living.

2 Comments
  • Clare Pooley
    Friday 26 October 2018

    Get better soon, Catherine <3

    • Catherine
      Friday 26 October 2018

      Thank you Clare!