The summer I found home
Photo: Lucy Hu
I think I just found it. Home. You know, the place where the heart supposedly resides. But wait, did I?
As I am sitting alone at the Wharf, hands dancing on my keyboard, documenting the summer that is changing my life, I notice my surroundings.
Warm, humid air tries to engulf me, but a light breeze comes to the rescue as it reassuringly brushes my skin. A thin, short tree stands beside my table, providing respite from the sweltering sun, but a few rays still ooze through the gaps in the crisp, green leaves above my head. The shadows of the leaves dance on the table with the rhythm of the wind as my speaker plays notes of summer into my ears.
I take a sip of sweet, refreshing coconut water as I look at the Potomac River directly in front of me. Boats rest at the dock, dying to be set free for a cool swim on this blistering late-June day. Kayaks glide north along the Potomac, and people standing on paddleboards slide atop the soft ripples. On the pier, summer citizens play a giant game of Scrabble, placing plate-sized letter tiles on the game-board painted onto the concrete. To my left, there’s a rooftop bar. To my right, there’s a bustling fish market.
Washingtonians clearly haven’t undervalued this water-side treat. They’ve taken advantage of the sunshine, the economic opportunity, and the simple enjoyment of life.
Exactly like in Auckland, New Zealand — my hometown 9000 miles away. Watching sails flap in the wind and propellers foam the water, I am swiftly taken to the Viaduct Harbour, my favorite water-side spot from home.
I’ve been in Washington, D.C. for one month. Within the first week, I realized I found something special. In the second week, I fell in love. And in the third, I was ready to move in for good.
I thought I loved D.C. because it was clean, pretty, green, bustling, and relaxed. With the lights of New York City and the parks of Copenhagen, Washington was professional, political, and corporate, but green, natural, and airy.
But, could a string of generic adjectives really explain my infatuation?
One day, while snapping pictures of ducklings in the lakes at Constitution Gardens, it dawned on me: D.C. wasn’t simply another metropolitan playground for me to eventually grow out of; it was home. Well, it was the spitting image of home. For every new reason I found to love D.C., my mind paired it with nostalgic tidbit about Auckland.
The tap water was tasteless-therefore-delicious: Same as in New Zealand. Birds actually chirped: Two years in Philadelphia deprived me of a sparrow’s song, but D.C. flew me back to my nest. People even smiled more: how I missed the friendly Kiwi attitude. But what completely swept me off my feet was the water around Washington: as an expat from the City of Sails, I couldn’t live without rivers, lakes, and harbors.
But, Washington went beyond Auckland.
Living in Philadelphia for the past two years brought me a sense of American identity. Washington didn’t only contain my favorite memories from Auckland, but it also epitomized everything that I had come to love about the United States. D.C. showed me my New Zealand parks, water and friendliness, but it also proudly offered me its American professional, historic, political and metropolitan life, becoming a mixing bowl for my life.
Washington, D.C. is the amalgam of two cultures that have defined me. When I fell in love with this place, I learned about home.
No matter where I go, my mind will creep back home. But not only to New Zealand.
I look at the boats swimming on the Potomac. One day, I’ll be back in Auckland on my own boat. Better yet, I’ll be in an entirely different city, dreaming again of going home — this time, to Washington D.C.
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