Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Retour à l’America: 01 – a Middle-dweller Goes Home

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Put your finger on a map of North America roughly somewhere in the middle, tu vas sûrement tomber sur un endroit s’appelle Omaha, you surely fall upon a place called Omaha. I was born in Omaha, Nebraska, which is geographically-speaking in the middle of America (“right to the heart that matters…” as the song goes). This middleness, this state of being in between or flown-over has always struck me as part of who am I. I’m a middle-dweller. Neither the seas nor the mountains were my home. The ocean remains for me a distant, dreamy place and going to the mountains means listening to natural gods.

From the age of 18 I studied in Chicago, which was quite a shock to my system being that I no longer lived at home and that this city was a slightly scary and totally unknown place. I found my self or one of my selves in crisscrossing these streets and metro lines. My fear eventually left me and I discovered a home.

I studied, I learned, I graduated and I ended up in France immediately after, teaching English and learning French.

I landed in another middle-place. Europe, a continent in-between and scarred across bloodied borders and trenches. I’ve traveled and met many a sweet face or a learned converser. France, a country between romantic and saxon. I’ve learned French and maybe even become a bit French in the process. Alsace, a frontier country or region passed back and forth between France and Germany yet remaining its own in language, culture and food. I’ve consumed Alsace Frei. Strasbourg, one of Europe’s capitals bridging economics and human rights across former enemies in a globalizing world. I’ve left home to find another in a new language and a new, now-welcoming place.

I landed in a midway-world and stayed, because I was and still am a middle-dweller.

But after nearly 3 years living in France, I’m heading back to my home natal in the Heartland of America, Omaha. While I’m not yet returning for good, I’m returning all the same for a serious visit and re-look at my homeland from the inside out. As only would be fitting, I’m taking going on the road with some of my friends to get back to my roots, to find out what roots me to my roots.

Road trip details to come…