They were familiar, but somehow different;
People I love, but haven't met for a little too long.
Those four people, as they sat among an enormous pile of luggage at Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport, represented a life I kept mostly out of my mind for the past three months.
In that amount of time, everything has changed.
I have become the typical medical student; my schedule packed.
Food is on-the-go (and not-so-healthy).
I have become accustomed to the cold; 10 Celcius qualifying as quite warm.
New weather, new food and new things to learn.
New country, new friends and new commitments.
Goodbye to home cooked meals, hello to Arab-sized portions of foreign food.
Goodbye to flip flops, hello to winter boots.
Goodbye to my old life.
Hello to a new one.
It has been pretty easy to bury my head into this life so far...so much so that it is only sometimes I look up and remember: "I'm in Manchester"
Until I called out to those four people in Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport, and suddenly my two lives are one again. Because those four people...they are my family.
Mama and Papa greeted me with the customary hug. It's been the longest time yet that I've been away from the only two people I've truly known my whole life.
Adik acted cool, but I knew she missed me as much as I missed her.
And Danny was the same ball of hyperactivity that he has always been.
Not too long after that we were heading to the centre of Manchester.
During the journey l inadvertently found myself in the position of tourguide.
It's weird...me, a foreigner in this country, suddenly showing my family around MY city.
My new home.
This is the parking lot I hurriedly pass through on blustery weekdays, late to class, with barely a glance around.
Mama exclaims at how beautiful it is, Adik takes pictures, and Danny runs around.
This is my room, the bastion of my new life. Neat as I can keep it, suddenly host to the (many) bags my family brought along with them.
This is the bus I take to the City Centre. A route I have travelled often enough. Today my hyperactive bro sits beside me.
This is the path I take on the way to the Curry Mile. Usually I go with an empty stomach, today I bring along 5: mine and my family's.
That was my life again for three weeks...
Three weeks of Papa's lame jokes, Mama's lovely cooking, Adik and Danny's voices.
In the past few weeks I lived in 3 separate hotels in 2 different cities, a lakeside cabin, and even a canal boat. I should be travel-sick by now. But somehow, I'm not.
Because here's the thing: I feel more at home than I've ever been in the past few months.
Here's the reason, then, why I buried my head into my "new life" in Manchester...
It was a self-defense mechanism. I wanted to keep myself from being homesick, from missing my old life too much.
But this is not my real life. I am my parent's son, my siblings' big bro. That's who I am. My family...they are my real home. My life.
I guess it took my family to travel halfway across the world to meet me here for the message to truly hit, well, home.
As I write this, I have already left my family at Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport. The time I welcomed them to my city just three weeks before seems like a lifetime away now.
Mama cries, just as she did at KLIA 3 months ago. But they have their lives to get back to.
And so do I.
But suddenly I can't imagine living that life again; hall to class, class to hall.
Nobody to greet me as I step as I return to a home which is not truly a home; life alone.
My family, my true home has left.