Tell Her I’m Cambodia!

A girlfriend of mine was having lunch with friends recently. A bunch of women who have known each other from a different time, a life pre children and partners. They were all back in their hometown, some permanently, some passing through. When the topic of weekend plans was raised my friend Fi said she was heading beachside for a dinner at the Star of Greece. She mentioned she’d be staying with (me), her friend, Kirsty Rice.

“Kirsty Rice?” said her friend “I know Kirsty Rice! I read her blog – tell her I’m Cambodia!”

My girlfriend Fi relayed the story after she’d set up her coffee machine in my kitchen (that’s how bad my plunged coffee is – people arrive with their own machines) and opened the first bottle of bubbles.

“Tell her I’m Cambodia” means tell her that when she sees Cambodia pop up in the side bar of the blog it’s highly possible it’s Fi’s friend Didge. And can I just say right now that I know Didge is a nickname but I bloody love it. I have already decided that Didge and I would be firm friends if we met, and Adelaide being Adelaide, I have no doubt that one day we will.

I know that my instant we’ll be friends attitude is terrifying to some. It comes from being an expat for 15 years where decisions on friendships happen in a moment. After arriving, finding the supermarket, school and bottle shop, friends are high on the list of what to find next. A mutual interest, a shared giggle, or perhaps a simple “I really like your jacket” can have two lost souls forming a life-long bond.

At dinner last week and old girlfriend of mine talked of how busy life is. Three kids, a part-time job and a house to maintain has her (and the majority of my friends) working on a schedule. “Don’t you just find you don’t have time for any new friends, I’ve got enough going on”. I nodded and agreed which was stupid because I didn’t agree at all. I think I nodded because I could remember that life, before I left, when I lived in Adelaide. I remember a large group of friends who I’d unconsciously built up and knew I could rely on. I was comfortable in where we went and what we got up to. Meeting new people involved time and effort that I couldn’t be bothered wasting. The unknown meant possible moments of awkwardness, the reliable was easy, it was already hard to fit everything in, I didn’t need more.

I’ve found myself getting teary twice now while I’ve been home, on both occasions I’ve had more than a glass of wine and on both occasions it has been while talking about friends who I know will not be in Qatar when we return. My voice has broken as I’ve explained that although I know I’ll see them again, I’ll never live with them again. I’ll never see them at the school gates, I’ll never pop in for a drink. I’ll never grab a quick coffee after school drop off. That snippet of time in our times is over.

Sitting around in the comfort of good friends is a luxury for the expat. There’s never “enough” because it’s a constant and ever changing world. The knowledge that nothing is permanent, that time ticks away on contracts and work permits – that one day we will all move on. I’ve realised while I’ve been home that it’s a gift – having to put yourself out there and open yourself up to friends you perhaps wouldn’t have considered in the past.

A mutual interest, a shared giggle, I really like your jacket. Tell her I’m Cambodia! Out there and open. It’s a gift, a complicated one, but it is truly a gift.

 

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