Quenching Your Expat Thirst


G and I came up with the idea together. I’d go two days ahead of him and get all of the boring stuff done, and he and the kids would follow when school was finished. Our holiday could then begin immediately. These ideas always seem fantastic when you’re making them months away from their actuality.

“Let’s volunteer to umpire the Under 10’s at 8.00am on Sunday mornings!”

“Sure! We can fit baseball, basketball, soccer and swimming in on a Monday!”

“I’ll go and buy every single freaking present and wrap it, while stocking the fridge and getting rid of the dead bird that flew into the back window.”

It all began tremendously, I arrived late on Saturday night and went straight to a girlfriend’s house. Champagne, white wine, giggles, it was the perfect beginning. In the morning another girlfriend sent me a text, she was just down the road watching her son play baseball. “Come down if you’ve got a minute.” Oh the irony, what does one do when they’re not in town to watch their own child play baseball? They go and watch someone else’s child play baseball. And you know what? I really wanted to go and watch him.

The geographical schizophrenia washed over me as I walked towards her for a hug. Here I was in a familiar part of town, with a very familiar face, watching and talking with gorgeous kids who my children and I adore. My girlfriend has returned to Adelaide after 10 years in Melbourne. She’s done what G and I constantly wonder about, she’s come home.

I heard an American accent over in the bunker. And then noticed a coach making those fantastic baseball signs up and down his arm.

“Is your coach American?”

I was thinking of my own Americans. My friends at school back in Qatar, my baseball buddies in the bleachers. I wanted to head over and ask questions, let them know that I understood what this baseball palaver meant to them. I could sing the songs, chant the chants.

“When I say Fred, you say hit. Fred. Hit. Fred. Hit. Fred Fred Fred. Hit Hit Hit.”

But it was nice and warm on the bench, bathed in the familiarity of sitting in between two of my most favourite people in the world.

When you arrive home it’s like your vision changes settings, from everyday to intense. I was surrounded by the greenest grass, grass that seemed to go for miles, and  leaves  that were only days ago an Instagram treat to be scrolled through. Huge towering gum trees were all around me, while the Adelaide hills looked down over the field from a distance.

“The whole time I lived here I don’t think I once noticed that you could sit in a park and look up at the Adelaide Hills like this?”

They were beautiful.

As boys ran bases and batters swung, I continued to quench my expat thirst. So this is what it would be like if we were home? This is where we’d come for baseball. We’d volunteer in the canteen.  This would be our life. I thought about the dust that sits in the bleachers in Qatar. The sound of the mosque in the background and the diversity in the teams. Girls in head scarves hitting home runs.

After the park, I grabbed lunch with a friend. She suggested a small pub on the city fringe. As we walked in the breeze followed us through the open windows. Music blared while a small television up on a wall shared the cricket playing in the background. Bronzed women stood at the bar with short summer skirts while men kept one eye on the cricket while a mate told a joke. In that moment I couldn’t have been further from Doha.

“I just have to take some video” I said as we grabbed one of the last remaining tables in the bar. I had to capture the moment. It was extraordinary to no-one else but me. I knew if I had it on film I could look back at it and feel that feeling again. I think if I were a drug taker this would be how it would feel, a shot in the arm, an immediate sense of warmth and happiness running from head to toe. On the drive back to the beach that afternoon I switched between music and the cricket commentary. The sunshine, the beach on my right, the grapevines on my left. This is why we mark the days off on the calendar.

And then the jobs began. The intense switched back to everyday.

The refrigerator is fully stocked. The mail box cleared, the cobwebs swept and surfaces wiped. I’ve made the obligatory 45 minute phone call to Telstra about the wireless connection, and the 10 minute phone call to Vodafone about the mobile. I ended both calls asking the same ridiculously optimistic question. “So next time I come home this won’t happen, we’ve fixed this now right?” Every time we come home. Every. time.

I’ve been very busy giving instructions to Santa. I have driven into the city each day and then zig zagged my way across it. I’ve confirmed appointments with doctors, hairdressers and ear, nose and throat specialists. Rolls and rolls of paper have made their way around Christmas wishes. I’ve jostled through shopping centers making three trips back to the car only to head back in again in.

And now we’re nearly done. A council office visit, a trip to a surf shop, a couple of phone calls, the collection of a beach tent, followed by a drop off to the bus station with a “special” suitcase to Grandma  – and we are done.

The little travellers have boarded their flight, they and G are on their way. The final day ticked from the calendar. When they get here we will put up our second tree, do a second lot of advent calendars, and a second lot of Christmas lights because that’s who we are right now. Two homes, two lives, sometimes double the fun, sometimes double the work. But every time, the same feeling.


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