Jaci Stephen:'Christmas decorations on Rodeo Drive are making me pine for Cardiff's lights'

Way Out West

Share
Related Topics

Hiraeth. It's a word I used on my Facebook page this week, saying that I was suffering from a rather severe bout of it. It is a Welsh word that, as far as I can gather, doesn't have an English equivalent, and it means, quite simply, a deep longing for home.

It's not a longing for your house or any specific individual, and the only way I can explain it is in terms of its being a longing for one's homeland: the place where you left your heart. No matter how far you travel, hiraeth is the rhythm of your innermost being, always reminding you of the place from which you came and gave you life.

Maybe it was the Christmas decorations on Rodeo Drive, and quite what it was about those that made me pine for the half-dozen light-bulbs in Cardiff, I don't know; but hiraeth came upon me suddenly.

I love LA. I love the sun, the easier pace of life, the lower utility bills, the great service in bars, restaurants and at the end of the phone. I love being able to go to the gym and eat healthily with such ease and without being considered a freak.

But then there is that little corner of a foreign field that is, to me, forever Wales, and I am as attached to it now as the day I was born.

I know how lucky I am to be living in Beverly Hills, where the sun rises in my living room and sets in my office. I know that for many, this would be the trip of a lifetime, and that even to see the Hollywood sign on the hills just once, let alone every day, would be one of life's great joys. And I know that I am blessed to have a job that enables me to travel, and that I have been equally blessed to have the good health that enables me to do that.

All of this I know in my head. But then there's hiraeth. That aching, longing, tugging of the heart that, this week, has seen me sobbing uncontrollably to go home – to my family, my friends, my homeland. To where I belong.

I've been looking at the languages of other cultures to see if they contain a word that conveys the same sentiment. Arabic has the word "ghurba", which is a derivative of the word for stranger, and in the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic is explained as: "absence from the homeland: separation from one's native country, banishment, exile; life or place away from home." it is also often translated as "Diaspora".

Like hiraeth, "ghurba" also carries with it an intense, melancholic feeling of longing, nostalgia, homesickness and separation: of, according to the Canadian newspaper columnist Ghada Al Atrash Janbey, "a severe patriotic yearning for a place where one's heart was not only living, but ... to a place where one's heart danced to the silence of a homeland's soul."

There is a word for it in Portuguese, too – "saudade" – and it expresses a feeling of nostalgic longing for something or someone that one loved but is now gone. It also carries fatalist undertones and the repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return – or even, as one translation puts it: "a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist". Apparently, this state of mind is part of the Portuguese way of life – a feeling of absence, something missing, and yet a desire for presence rather than absence; or, as they say in Portuguese, a strong desire to "matar as saudades" (literally, to kill the saudades). I don't know about you, but that kind of thinking isn't going to put Lisbon top of my must-see holiday destinations.

The Fins have "kaiho" – a state of involuntary solitude, in which the subject feels incompleteness and yearns for something unobtainable or extremely difficult and tedious to attain. My Welsh hiraeth buddies are a veritable choir of laughing policemen among this lot.

In Korean, "keurium" is the closest to saudade, and reflects a yearning for anything that has left a deep impression on the heart – a memory, place, person etc. My favourite word so far to describe my 6,000 miles away from home hiraeth is the Dutch one: "weemoed", which is apparently a "fuzzy form" of nostalgia. If we're talking about Holland, we don't have to guess for very long quite why that nostalgia might be fuzzy, but I like the word.

Whatever you call it in any language, it's a desperate longing for home. I know it will pass, but, like most clichés, Home is Where the Heart Is didn't earn its cliché status for nothing.



To read Jaci Stephen's blog, LA Not So Confidential, in full go to: LANotSoConfidential.blogspot.com



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker