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Déjà vu

déjà vu

/deɪʒɑː ˈvuː,French deʒa vy/

1. a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.
Source: Oxford Languages 

When your mind suddenly takes you back

As expats we criss-cross the world, hopping between countries, languages and cultures. Saying hello and goodbye with unnerving regularity. Forever adjusting, absorbing, adapting. We become experts at landing on our feet and finding our balance quickly, wherever we go. Expecting the unexpected and prepared to handle it with panache (OK, that’s the dream) as we make our way through the world.

You can be concentrating hard on settling in and building new routines when you look up and bam! something knocks you back to another place and time. A smell, a view, a voice, a spice, a warm breeze surprises us and stops us in our tracks. 

I love this feeling. It can be a bit unnerving but I revel in the unexpected flood of (usually positive) memories that suddenly wash over me. Have you experience this?

Recently, driving past Frankfurt, Germany in the dusk with the city lights twinkling in the distance I was suddenly back in Beijing. In the blink of an eye I was overcome with longing for the crazy, chaotic, beautiful city we lived in for four years. To be honest it was as much a longing for the lifestyle as it was for the city itself.

I’ve never given much thought to Frankfurt’s skyline but I now have a new appreciation for it – starting with the positive feelings that welled up that night. I also realized something I feel in my bones but have never put into words: you can always find something familiar, even in the most foreign place because all humans share emotions and the need for nourishment – a shared smile and meal is a good start to finding connection and building memories in new places and old.

Chinese Lime Shredded Chicken

This recipe was a revelation when I first made it. Herbs that we would use as seasoning in “western” cooking feature as the vegetable in this dish. We eat it as a main course in the summer for its bright, fresh flavor. It would also work well on a buffet or for a pot luck.