The Call

While I was growing up, I was sent to Catholic school in hopes that religion would take. While it never did, I remember being powerfully impressed by one particular idea when I was a child – The Call. 

“It’s a message from God,” said my 2nd grade teacher. “When God wants you to become a nun or a priest, you receive a call to do so. When you accept, you will enter a life of servitude to God.” 

Oh please, oh, please, I thought, don’t let me get that call. 

And for weeks, I flinched each time the phone rang. 

There’s a different kind of Call that strikes terror in my heart now. As I get older and as I stay longer and longer away from home, the mere thought of the Bad News Call can send tears rushing to my eyes. It’s bound to happen at some point. No one escapes it. It is the Expatriate’s Nightmare. 

When I first made plans to move to Japan, a number of my acquaintances said: “I’d like to do that, but I love my family too much.” As if I don’t. As if the mere act of leaving heightens the chance that something terrible will happen. The reason religion never took with me is because I don’t believe in the supernatural. No one in my family is going to get hurt because I choose to experience a new culture. Speaking in religious terms, that would be punishment for … what? A hankering for authentic exotic foods? No. I know nothing will happen to people I love because I’m far away, but as time continues to pass, I realize that I’ve experienced very few such Calls in my life and that it’s only a matter of time before  I do receive one. I know that if something does happen, being far away will make it much harder. Feelings of guilt for not being there; have I been selfish after all? Fear that I won’t make it back in time; will I lose my position here? I can only imagine that long plane ride – heading home yet sealed off from home, alone in a crowd with your grief. 

A word of advice to all readers who have friends and family members living abroad: ingrain the time difference in your head and never, ever call at odd hours. You have no idea what a random call during the work day or, worse, the middle of the night, can do to us. The reason I’m even writing this post is because I got such a call at dawn this morning – an Unknown Number. I don’t know who it was because I was too groggy to find my phone in time. They didn’t call back. I’ve been awake ever since. 

It could have been a drunken wrong number. It probably was. And if it was really The Call, I’m sure they would have kept trying. But I won’t be calm until I know for sure that everyone’s okay.

0 Replies to “The Call”

  1. It’s not until you travel that you truly understand the meaning of “time difference”. For years my family couldn’t understand why I didn’t call them more often from, like, Australia. There might be a two hour window in my waking day when I could get them at the right time – otherwise THEY might this it was The Call!

    Happy Holidays!

  2. expat on the go says: Reply

    Being an expat – with a husband and kids – makes it a little easier. You figure that you have your own family now, with your own worries and experiences. The ‘family dynamic’ is different. I’m sure, having said that, that when I will get ‘The Call’, it won’t be any easier!

    1. It turned out that it was my brother calling; he was up late and thought he’d give me a ring. Safe again. For now.

  3. I only live two hours away from my parents, and I freak out all the time when I think they’re calling me at odd times. Like that one time, when my mom called me panicking at six am because I had accidentally dialed her number in my sleep and wouldn’t respond to her calling my name 😛

  4. You are not selfish in the least. It’s funny how you hit a certain age and you start thinking about “the call”. Patty has given me a few scares with a couple of calls past 11pm. She just wanted to talk! 🙂 I am loving your blog!

    1. Thanks, Carola! 🙂 Besos to you and the familia, too!

  5. oh..yes…how did you make the curried quinoa…a friend and I were wondering!

    1. The quinoa was super simple – I rinsed it several times in cold water over a period of about half an hour and then boiled it until a white spiral appeared in each of the kernels, letting me know it was done. Drain, then add a couple of pinches each of turmeric and cumin, and then salt to taste. Optional: 1 tsp of olive oil, parsley to garnish. That’s it! Easy, quick, healthy.

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