I arrived in Porto in 2005 (actually, this was my second arrival as a non-tourist, but this time I would be here to stay). At first (and in fact, this initial/ initiation period would last almost a year) I would spend my days wandering the streets. I was a stranger here – and I was still searching for the different version of myself I might become. Porto is a city of alleys and gaping windows and rough-faced doors. It was something on the doors that struck me – quite a few of them, in the old town, had knockers in the shape of tiny hands: slender and brittle, feminine, and as if they just slipped out of a lace glove. I found them a bit macabre: these small hands, seemingly severed at the wrist, limply holding on to the doors, as if they’d grown tired of knocking, but they were not yet willing to let go. I had moved from South Africa to Portugal, leaving home behind…and I was moving for love. It was not an easy process (perhaps this goes without saying). My voyage here was crisscrossed with red tape. And if home is where the heart is, mine was to be in two places from now on, clumsily held together by the strings of packages sent to my family, the wires of calls to and from the other side of the world. Also, I was trying to get a hold on being here: struggling to read the signs, to find my way in… It was tiring at times, this constant reaching out and across. My arms grew numb, my hands listless. How does one hold on and let go at the same time? Five years have passed, and I have yet to find a resolution… but I know many of the streets now, I am feeling my way through Portuguese and I don’t find those little hand knockers so bizarre anymore. Perhaps I have formed some kind of detached attachment to being here, the condition of the migrant, the stranger at the gate: coming and/or going. And maybe one of these days I will dare to lift one of those hands at the door, run my fingers on the inside of it, reading its palm, let the fine-boned metal shape grow heavy in my own hand, and then let it go: knocking.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to My Story: Holding Hands.


I understand how strange that must have seemed to see these detached hands on the doors but there is also something very sweet about a hand being the first encounter with a person's home. It seems so welcoming in spite of what may lay behind the door. I hope that you will continue to share more of your experiences in this foreign land which you now call home. Best wishes, Janice

I believe to truly understand yourself and who you want to be you have to move. Move from the familiarities of your mom's voice in the morning, your friends laughter so close, and your ability to know exactly where you are. You have shown, through your story, that moving made you a stronger person through venturing the unknown. Good luck with everything and it is always nice to know that home is where the heart is.

I can relate to the feeling of displacement you describe although I've never been so removed from home for such a long period of time. It sounds like you have found strength in your new home and new identity. Thank you for sharing your journey!