Are You Leaving Soon? Great!

In the midst of a conversation on an expat page, a question. Is anyone else here living in Ghana, we’ve just moved here and I’d love to meet you.

The desperation of newness is an emotion I know well. Hello my name’s Kirsty, I hope you don’t mind that I’ve arrived unannounced to your baby group. While I’m here though, is anyone moving on or leaving town soon? You are? Great! Would you mind if I came home with you and had a look at your house, we’re looking for something in the area. That was me on a visit to Kuala Lumpur two weeks before we moved there. And yes, we did end up in that house. In one day I found a house, a car, two new friends, and a baby group. That’s called relocating like a BOSSSSSS. Of course it’s not, it’s called relocating when you’ve been given two weeks to do so.

A girlfriend of mine put a note out on Facebook that she was stepping back from her column writing while she wrote some non-fiction. After writing two or three columns a week over ten years she jokingly said she was sick of her own voice. I nodded with gusto, not because I’m sick her voice, I love her voice, but I’m really sick of my own. I”ve now gone past the 1500 post mark that’s roughly 100,000,000 words.

I often wonder if I bang on about this expat thing too much. Is it really such a big deal? Is it making people’s eyes glaze over? Am I actually just boring the pants off of unsuspecting readers who thought they were coming here to read a story about a beagle on an adventure?

One of the joys of starting the podcast  has been the opportunity to hear and tell the stories of other expats . Women who’ve narrowly escaped death after being medevaced from foreign lands. Women who have resurrected careers in locations I’d never heard of. And women who have risen from the ashes of a marital affair.

Why do I keep banging on about it? Our expat conditions are often lauded as glamorous and indulged, for good reason. With job offers sprinkled with perks such as housing provided, school fees, and tax free, it’s easy to see the bright side. Social media accounts are awash with long brunches and beachside holidays shown as the reality of expat life. It’s far more exciting to speak of these things even if it’s only a snippet of the reality. Perhaps I should just shut it down, and be thankful.

Only it wouldn’t be the truth.

Expat life has its perks but it also has its problems. The accompanying spouse continues to be offered “grocery money” for full time work, held captive with the visa restrictions and notion that he or she is playing second fiddle in his or her expat ensemble. School places are limited and children with special needs are often ignored. Post natal depression soars within the mix of missing family and home while trying to understand health care (or lack of) in a foreign land. Low income workers remain to be exploited, household staff are tucked away out of sight. We say goodbye often, let go, move on and start again. We often return home and marvel over the simplicity of a policeman directing traffic, a family picnic where everyone is wearing shorts in the park, a same sex couple in an embrace on the beach. We live in a state of geographical schizophrenia,  I like it here, I miss it there, should we be living…?

Our expat lives should be celebrated, we are lucky, dare I say it hashtag blessed – but honesty also needs to prevail. It’s not all flowers and chocolates, there’s the occasional cockroach in the salad. While we have so much to be thankful for we need to keep telling the stories of the idiosyncrasies of expat life.

We will continue to arrive at our destinations and find a house, a car and a corkscrew to open the much needed wine. We will sit at our computers and search for clues on how to set up our new lives while mourning the loss of our old. We will type messages to strangers “Hi, is anyone else living in…?”

It occurred to me this morning as I interviewed a woman who’d lived in eight or nine locations in the past fifteen years that while I’m sick of the sound of my own voice, I really enjoy to hear yours. Your truth, your happy and your sad.

I’m going to keep banging on about it for awhile longer.

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