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Travelogues and Musings by Nandra Galang Anissa

Chasing Hiraeth: My Journey ‘Home’

March 10, 2017 nandrawr 0 Comments

For about 3 months now I have this piece of writing I’ve been meaning to publish…somewhere. I’ve mentally made notes in my head, and kept a collection of scattered scribbles written on coffee shop napkins. I was trying to pinpoint what I should write about my recent trip back to United Kingdom. It was a trip full of personal agendas: visiting long-lost friends, rediscovering my favourite city in the world, and of course running back to the arms of my beau. It was like coming back home, but it wasn’t quite like home. It was like I was… chasing for home. I was chasing for this concept of a home that I seem to have left back there, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what that concept of a home is. Then it hit me: Hiraeth.

Hiraeth is an untranslatable Welsh word and arguably my favourite untranslatable word ever. Linguist have attempted to translate the word as a feeling of homesickness tinged with grief or sadness with the lost or departed. It’s a mix of sadness, nostalgia, longing and wistfulness. It’s been likened to the Portuguese word Saudade. To me, it’s a word that can’t be defined, and demands to be felt. So, I guess I went back there to chase Hiraeth.

I stepped out of Gatwick airport to the blistering sunlight. An unlikely sight in mid-September, indeed. I was unbearably warm in my parka and boots. This wasn’t what I expected, at all. Though, deep down I’m glad I get to see London basked in warm sunlight once more.

I got on a Southern train onwards to Victoria. For once, it operated on time, I thought. Upon arriving on the platform of Victoria, a strange overwhelming blanket of nostalgia confounds me. I wondered why, but then I approached an insignificant, yet familiar bench where a former lover used to wait for me as I alight at Victoria. Damned this city. It still bleeds memories of you and me. I shrugged it off, and raced to the Underground.

The train rolled along in the heat, as I make my way up to Wembley. London’s accommodation prices is a nightmare, so I chose to stay with a family friend. Never mind it’s all the way up in Wembley, but as soon as I settled in, I simply let London unravel before me.

I spent the week in London roaming around Soho, staring the theatre that housed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play in agony. I spent hours in Southbank; getting off at Westminster and dodged the crowds of tourists taking selfies in front of the Parliament and London Eye. I chose to sit at a small park right by the strip of hip restaurants crowding Southbank, overpriced soft ice cream in hand.

I revisited friends. Sipping glasses after glasses of mojitos and reminiscing the good old uni days. Realising we’ve actually grown up and not about the life of going on a wild night out and chugging Jagerbombs every other day of the week. Our conversations revolves around career aspirations, being burned out by work, and co-workers we can’t stand. We talk about (and weep at) the state of the world today, and how shit 2016 has been. Little did we know it was about to get worst. Though, mainly, we talk about hopes, dreams and making unrealistic travel plans and taking advantage of our youth.

In all of that, though, everything falls into place. Suddenly London and the UK felt like home again.

Hi, Ben.

TRY ALL THE CHEESE. Borough Market, Sept ’16

Then, I spent one weekend with Alex in London, and everything in life was alright again. I had intended to take this trip for a long(er) break from my routine, and to spend cheerful days with him again. Long distance relationship is extremely hard, and we live for moments like this where we can share an entire day with each other again. Sure, it costs us fortunes, just to spend a few days or weeks with each other again. But, it’s a sacrifice that we were willing to make. It’s a sacrifice that we decided to commit to, and it’s moments like strolls through Borough Market, trying out free samples of various cheeses that makes those sacrifices worth the while.

I also went back to Cardiff, a place I called home for 3 years of my young adult life. It feels odd being back, but I needed to go back. Wales was calling for me, and I guess hiraeth took me back there. I spent an entire day with my old classmate in her hometown, where I begged for her to take me to the coast. It wasn’t the best day to take a stroll along the cliffs of Rhossilli Bay. It was cold and windy, and my ears hurt. But, I do miss the sound of the waves crashing to the shore and looking down from the cliffs. It was peaceful, and I had great company. We haven’t seen each other in 3 long years. We poured our hearts out like we did back then. We went through a horrible loss of a loved one that year, and it was incredibly heart-warming to talk to someone who understands how it can still be painful up to this very day. More importantly though, we talked about our plan for the future, and the struggle of finding our place in this world.

I went back to Cardiff and revisited all my favourite cafes and coffee shops. I indulged in a few moments of solitude. The coffee and tea at Barker still tastes the same. The bagels at New York Deli still taste like the heavens melted in my mouth. The cheese toastie at the Market still as indulgent as ever. But, it dawned on me come nighttime that Cardiff felt insanely quiet. It wasn’t a big city after all, but it lacked the feeling of home that I remembered simply because the people who made it home wasn’t around. I could only reminisce about the nights spent queueing up outside of Revs in the cold on our numerous nights out, and the blurry chain of events that followed thanks to endless shots of vodka and tequilas. Looking back, we had such a hilarious time. But, would I repeat it again? Perhaps. But, also I’m probably too old for that shit.

Castle Arcade, Cardiff

This bagel is not only beautiful, but melts the taste of heavens in your mouth. New York Deli @ Castle Arcade, Cardiff

Tea at Barker never disappoints.

Rhossili Bay: Coast, Gloomy Weather, Wind Chill. Perfect description of Wales.


After Cardiff, I went on the long journey to visit Alex, and I spent my last weekend before heading home with him. We explored his new home for the next year, had a few drinks with his friends, and we explored the Norfolk coast. It was still unbelievably warm for late September, albeit a little windy. We took walks along the coast, took in the view and the peacefulness of waves crashing against the shore.

The rest of my stay in England was spent with trips to the groceries to buy my favourite British snacks and biscuits to take home. I basically piled up Digestives, Hobnobs, Teacakes and Shortbreads into my shopping cart. Hey, I knew I was gonna get homesick for Britain when I get back, and those indulgent snacks is my ‘ticket’ back to my second home. Other than that, I spent some more quality time with Alex. We cooked up some nice dinner, watched series together, and packed for our early morning drive down to Gatwick. Poor Alex had to drive a total of 7 hours there and back ?

Technicolour beach houses ~

Oh, the things that man do for me. I can’t be more grateful. As per usual, it was a bittersweet goodbye. I’ve come to have a love-hate relationship with airports throughout this LDR. But, more importantly, I was yearning to come back to Britain for some reason. Perhaps I will always feel ‘Hiraeth’ throughout my life, since a part of me have such attachment to the country. Despite Brexit, rising tensions, and that witch Theresa May as PM, I still long to come back.

So, maybe I will come back. Finger’s crossed I’d get to continue my education in the UK again, and semi-close the distance with Alex for at least one year. I don’t know what the future holds obviously, but I’m quite determined to set my sails towards that direction.

Until then, perhaps I’d still continue to chase Hiraeth, and keep figuring out what it actually means to be ‘home’.

#adventure#britain#experience#solo trip#travel#travelogue#uk#wales

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