Ashley Huizinga-Staff Writer (Off-Campus: SPICE)
The “home country.” Everywhere I turn, from perusing Facebook statuses to visiting friends of friends to interacting with Viaa University professors, I hear this phrase, or one of its various variations: “the mother country,” “the homeland,” “the fatherland,” “the home country.” But what does this really mean? What is a home country, and why is it so remarkable that I’m here, in the Netherlands, in what many at Dordt College would deem their own home country?
Your guess is as good as mine, or was, at least, until I decided to do a little research on the topic. As far as the Internet is concerned, someone’s “home country” is actually their native country or the land in which they were born. This means the term isn’t applicable to me while I live overseas because I was born in the States.
However, “motherland” and “fatherland” are terms that may be used to refer to the land of one’s ancestors. Therefore, it is fair to tell me that in going abroad to the Netherlands, I’ve returned to “the fatherland.”
Why does this term interest me so much then? Why do I care enough to write an article about how often I hear a simple word?
Two words: family history (or one word, “genealogy,” but in my experience I’ve learned that students shouldn’t use words they can’t spell on their first try unless they’re writing essays for core history classes, so we’ll stick with “family history”).
I’ve always been intrigued by family history. The idea that one person could trace their lineage back decades, or even centuries, is so interesting to me. Think about it: Before you, there was a father, and a father before him, and a father before him. And there are people who claim that you look like or act like that father’s father’s father. How amazing is that? How incredible is it that someone can look at your siblings and know immediately that you come from the same family? Despite being a twin myself, I can’t pretend to know a lot about inherited traits and the genetics of twins being more common to one family than another. Still, it makes me stop and stare all the same.
So, am I glad to be “back” in “the motherland” (though this is the first time I’ve set foot on this continent)? I absolutely am. Why? Because there’s so much to discover about how I came to be and how the hand of a great God worked in the lives of hundreds of people before me in order to make me.
In his book “The Alchemist,” author Paolo Coelho wrote, “Our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.” Nowhere have I been more aware of that reality than here, in the middle of the same country (and maybe even on the same ground) where walked the ghost of the person who would make me who I would be centuries down the line.