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NTS said it last night: He can’t wrap his head around the fact that we’re moving. And when I come to think about it, neither can I.

I have it vaguely in my head that I’ve done this whole ‘expatriate’ thing before, having lived in Germany without my family on two occasions, once for a year after high school, and for six months in college.

But when I actually stop to think about it, this is different. Very different. We’ll be gone for four years. During that time, I suspect we’ll be lucky, on our graduate-student budget and schedule, to make it back to the States twice a year. And our family is no longer clustered on the east coast, making our visits even less casual.

And all those little cultural cues that differ from country to country, continent to continent–four years of those, too. They’re only little things, like not having ketchup on hand for chips, but the combine to leave you feeling off-balance and slightly disoriented. It’s unsettling. But by the end of the first year, we’ll be used to them, and find them familiar, if not understandable.

Too, the ways of Scotland are not so foreign to me as the mores of continental Europe. I spent one summer in Scotland on a research grant, and it felt a great deal like rural Maine. I felt right at home, and thought for the first time that the moniker ‘Nova Scotia’ (very similar to coastal Maine in weather geology, I’m told) might be a reflection of facts as much as of the settlers’ homesickness. (Not like New Caledonia, which does not, on the surface, resemble Scotland at all.)

And this time, when I come home from a strange day at Uni, I’ll not be coming home to an empty house. My husband (I have a husband!) will be there, an island of familiar in a sea of strange Scots.