Speed Dating for Expats

They assembled at a long table in a coffee shop. There were some who’d been the week before, they knew their targets and immediately aimed for a chair nearby.

Your time starts now. No-one said it, but the feeling was there.

She spotted her across the room. It was the green top, she loved that green, and then she saw her necklace, it was much the same as hers. But it was the smile that gave her the confidence to head in her direction.

Your time starts now. Go.

“How long have you been here?”

“A year. What about you? How long are you here for?”

“Our contract’s for a year but we’re hoping to renew”

There was a hesitation. Hoping. What did that mean? Was she going to leave in a year? Am I going to learn all about her, like her, laugh with her, become attached to her children, make her a birthday cake and then have to wave her goodbye in a year?

I don’t want to come back here in a year.

“We’re pretty sure it will be renewed, they’ve said they’d like us here for five”

They both smiled.

“So who are you here with?”

“Education. You?”

“Natural Gas.”

They were both tempted to make a natural gas joke, but it was too soon.

“Did you come straight from the UK?”

“No. We were in Malaysia”

“Oh, we had friend in Malaysia in 2008”

What was she thinking. What a ridiculous thing to say. It was like saying “Oh you’re English? Do you know the Browns?”

“We arrived in 2010. Did they like it there?”

“Who?”

“Your friends – did they like Malaysia?”

And then the conversation moved to a comfortable place. They talked about housing, holidays, school and work. They were both in the same position, far from home and making their way through each day trying to work out what the new rules were.

They both laughed when she talked about the near death experience on the roundabout that morning. She told how she’d left the house and it was a roundabout only to return at the end of the day and find it was now an intersection. They tried to ascertain if it were myth or reality that a woman at the other end of the table had found a scorpion in her washing basket. They talked of non existent wifi and where to find a tin of milo.

And then they exchanged numbers.

She left the table realizing that she had laughed for the first time in a week. And often what was making her laugh were the same things that had made her cry earlier that day when she’d thought of driving straight to the airport and heading home.

She was going to be okay. She had a friend.

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