A foreigner in my own land

Sean Langan writes in the Guardian about his life reporting foreign conflicts beginning in 1998 before his kidnap in Afghanistan earlier in 2008. He talks about that feeling – reverse culture shock – common to anyone who has lived and worked abroad for any length of time,

Over the past 10 years I have spent more and more time abroad, filming documentaries in war-torn and poverty-stricken countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. My first film abroad was in 1998, when I spent six months in Kashmir. It felt really exotic and far away, and I can still recall that sensation of coming home, of coming back to reality after an adventurous trip abroad. Over the years that feeling has reversed. The reality for most people in the world is poverty, conflict and strife. And I was beginning to feel at home abroad. Life in Britain, on the other hand, was becoming increasingly unrealistic, and I slowly began to feel like a foreigner in my own land. link

I’ve never been kidnapped and I’ve never been to Afghanistan, but I have lived and worked abroad full-time since 1996. I can remember getting swept up in the exoticism of my new home, the feeling of being a foreigner in my old home and wanting to shake people with zero knowledge and little interest of the ‘real world’ I was living in. I can’t quite put my finger on when I learned to accept both worlds for what they are, but I did. If you live a life forever shuttling between the two, you have to. Having said that, I don’t think I ever met anybody quite as out of touch as one of Sean’s captors,

Near the end of my captivity, a Taliban commander entered my room and asked if he could speak frankly. He sat down on the floor, soon followed by his men. The commander had heard about our freedoms in the west, and wanted to know if it was true that women in the west “could marry animals? Even small animals?” I stared in disbelief. God, no. We’re not that immoral. Why was he asking? “Well, I read an article about a woman who married a frog in the west.” link