The Great Escape

When we arrived in Jakarta all those years ago I had no idea about work permits and visas. “We’ll have to go to Singapore in about six weeks for a visa run” G told me. Have to? Oh well, if we have to. I couldn’t believe our luck. The whole notion of being paid to leave the country “for work” was better than anything I’d ever experienced in the corporate world. Previously if someone had brought donuts to a meeting I thought it was pretty big day. A three day weekend in Singapore to gain a stamp in a passport exceeded all my past expectations, or should that be Expatations.

Over time I realized that sometimes these visa runs can provide the vital injection of sanity into a world of chaos and culture shock.  The great escape. When the phone no longer works or the electricity has gone off for the seventh time this week. Or you’ve been to visit a doctor who has misdiagnosed your baby as having some mysterious “genetic abnormality” that you just know can’t be right. That’s when its time to get out. Time for a break.

I have lived in seven different countries now, and I’ve felt different degrees or anxiety in each of them about needing to get out or get home. In Canada when the familiar feeling of edginess arrived it was always about getting home. It was about family and needing a fix of Australia. In Libya it was more about getting a heavy dollop of life as I remembered it, and obtaining supplies to get me through until the next trip out. I’d arrive in Malta with lists, and return loaded with items such as curry paste or a particular bum cream for the baby. We’d giggle at the excitement of drinking a beer on a sidewalk. Or stand in wonder in the aisle of an overstocked supermarket.

In Qatar I’ve been quite happy to stay. I’ve felt that everything I needed in a material sense was right here. It’s hard to complain of hardship when there’s a Boots pharmacy and a Marks and Spencer. We’ve enjoyed three Christmases here and a couple of Spring Breaks; but with holidays arriving this week for the little travellers I can tell you I am well and truly ready for a break.

It’s not a singular event, its more a cacophony of circumstance. I need a change of scenery. I need trees. I need a garden and the sounds of birds mixed with buses and street life. I need windows to look out of at the front of my house. I need to walk down a street. I need to sit al fresco and drink coffee and eat food that is fresh and prepared from a kitchen inside. I need to people watch. I need to have a conversation with a person behind a shop counter who is invested in their store because they own it. I need to see people kiss on the street. I need street art and buskers and colour. I need to hear someone raise their voice.

I need a fix, a shot, an injection. A vaccination to keep the apathy at bay.

And without doubt, the return will provide the cure. The reminder that we all have to leave in order to gain the fresh eyes of home.

The great escape.

What do you miss from home?

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