Here’s a Dutch word. Heem. Similar to home, referring to the town or country you grew up in. Your dad’s music, the books your mom used to read to you. The trees under which you played, the streets and bridges you cycled on, your native language — the place you come to hide, the place where your life is tethered to the world, the culture by which you compare everything else. To be ‘ontheemd’ is to be outside of that environment, to have to do without it. Eleven months without setting foot on Dutch soil can feel like that – the closed Chinese border adding even more mental distance. It’s the limbo between China that gets more and more familiar, and the Netherlands, which gets less and less. I thought homesickness would never strike a full-grown adult, somewhat intelligent and independent. Perhaps it’s not rational but visceral. Perhaps it is not just homesickness, but the realization of lives lived and other lives lost in the process. The feeling rises without warning from the unknown parts of myself, when I spot the Dutch flag in the wild, or when I listen to Dutch songs. Living in a vastly foreign culture doesn’t make you a world citizen. Instead it confronts you by just how far away from home you are.