BORDERLINES – WHY WHAT WHEN WHERE HOW

Borderlines is a collection of thought pieces, some creative, some direct accounts, some memoirs, all true. Borderlines collects stories from people who are not fleeing from one country to another, but rather chose to move, or were made to do so by a series of non-threatening circumstances. In these stories there is anger, hope, disappointment, joy, fear, optimism. They are all different, and yet all striking in their approach to the subject matter.

Borderlines aims to show the reality of migration, and how we are all, in our own way, migrants.

by Kymm Coveney
Barcelona, November 2015

Why did you come here?

My life as a migrant was promising. A year out of college, with no serious job, no serious boyfriend, I’d saved up enough for a ticket to Madrid. I planned to master the Spanish language and then move on to Italy, returning home sometime after the economy recovered to market my new language skills. I became a poster girl for immersion.

I became a poster girl for immersion. 

No mere tourist (I wanted to speak like my native flatmate! write like Lorca!) I read the daily El País front to back. Out loud. Trilling the rr’s and hawking the jotas. By the end of the summer, I was swatting my hand at Italy in the distant future. One day I’d get there. For the time being, I had a place to live, a job, a favorite barhopping route (¡la calle Huertas!) and friends to go with them all. I did end up migrating, Spanish lover in tow, but only as far as Barcelona, imagining this sea might salve the longing for my ocean.

What were you running from?

My life as a refugee has been liberating. Freed from getting the right internship and the right job; from locking on the wrong mortgage rate for the wrong house on the wrong side of town. Freed from marrying my father, and turning into my mother. As a foreigner, I’m exotic. Social gaffes are forgiven, even slightly endearing (I like to think). I shrug my shoulders when asked what I do on October 31st. We neither roast chestnuts nor dress up for Halloween. We do not go cemetery hopping on All Saints’ Day. I’m free to blithely ignore each and every holiday, should I choose. I’ve taught my kids to venerate Sant Jordi. They wish me a Happy Bloomsday.

( Sant Jordi stalls in Barcelona )

( Sant Jordi stall in Barcelona )

How long are you here for?

My life as an immigrant has proven deceptive. I came with one suitcase, yet now have two houses and two kids. One kid got her education in Barcelona’s Italian school (see, I almost made it!), while the other went to the local Catalan school to grade six, and then switched to a proper English school.

Though my Spanish now passes for native, I find myself re-immersing in my own language.

Though my Spanish now passes for native, I find myself re-immersing in my own language. I spend hours in online forums, MOOC courses and poetry groups that are all conducted in English. I’m part of three different (English) bookclubs. I talk in English to the cat at the country house, where I weed to the tune of American rock and roll, and swear at all airborne insects in the most foul of Boston accents.

When are you going home?

My life as an expat has not been as exciting as one might imagine. I married no affable aristocrat; there are no embassy invitations clogging my mailbox. (An awestruck classmate at a recent high school reunion kept sighing, ‘How exciting to live in Spain!’, until I informed her that even here there are pots to be scrubbed and trash to be taken out every night.) When my first marriage broke up and everyone urged me to take my five-year-old and go home, I wondered where they thought home was. I kept her near her father.

How right you were, I said to myself a few years later, when I was swept off my feet by my younger kid’s father, a tall-dark-and-handsome Catalan. When he died, on Bloomsday, everyone again assumed I’d go home, when it was all I could do to not throw myself under a train. What I seem to have done instead is to stick my ostrich head back into the English language. Where I never said I love you. Where there are no divorce decrees or funeral card poems. Where my kids are just mine, and we are an island.

( The author's garden tomatoes )

( The author’s garden tomatoes )

The crisis has people once again asking me why I don’t go home. I wave my hand at that as I used to wave it at Italy. There’s a windswept beach with my name on it back there, but, in the meantime, I’ll be home tending my garden.

If you have a migration story from your experience that you would like to share, please get in touch at thenorwichradical@gmail.com, with BORDERLINES in the subject line.

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