From Expat To Home

I spoke to an old friend this morning, he’s hoping to fly into Adelaide over the next couple of months and we’re planning to catch up.

“I’ll be home from June – August” I was pretty sure providing the time frame was unnecessary, I’ve been travelling home to the beach house from June – August for five years now and we’ve always caught up. I’ve bored him with the explanation before – kids on school holidays, kids need to come back to Australia, why we bought the beach house, blah blah blah.

“Wow! How will that work with school and the kids?”

I took a moment to remove all traces of WTF from my voice.

“That’s why we’re home. The kids are on holidays. They have a huge ten week break mid year. That’s why we always come home at this time of year. It’s hot here, like, hellish hot, there’s a mass exodus from the Middle East in the summer. I’m always home from June – August.”

“Okay, well I’m working on some dates but I’ll let you know when it’s confirmed”.

I knew we’d have the same conversation next year.

The suitcases are out. While the sun beats down in our backyard with a haze over the browning grass, the winter clothes are being pulled from the drawers. With the air conditioner on wearing bathers and a summer dress I pack boots, tights, and winter woolies into the suitcases. After the last supper this evening G will drive us to the airport and the kids and I will make our way to Adelaide via Hong Kong.

“So how many sleeps?” I asked with a mischievous giggle as we climbed into bed last night.

He looked confused.

“I’m sure you’ve counted, haven’t you? How many sleeps will we be apart?”

After 16 years of a marriage which has been constantly punctuated with G’s business travel and the kids and I spending extended periods of time with family in Oz, we’ve perhaps become a little blaze about our time apart. Our situation is the norm in the expat world. With a need to head home to get the usual yearly maintenance attended to, as well as trying to have some sort of family break, it usually involves dividing to conquer. By the time G comes to join us in July the house will be humming, plans will be set for long lunches, beach walks, visits from friends and a trip to Queensland. He’ll miss the banal: the fridge stocking, the doctors visits, my plans for carpet steaming, and the annual trip to Target for socks and jocks.

As I sit surrounded by suitcases and scarves I’m hours from crossing from one world to another. In this expat world there are many countries joined by a global language, while our customs are foreign our routines are the same. I’ve sat at several tables in the past week discussing the excitement of heading home, the dread of the air travel, the layovers, the missed connections, the jet lagged children and the things that will be done first: the first meal, the first friend, the first place, the first experience.

Of all the thousands, perhaps millions of words I’ve written about expat life there is nothing that will adequately explain the feeling that arrives with turning the key in the front door of the beach house. The excitement of driving our car from the top of my parents driveway along the side of their house and seeing my father sitting inside at the breakfast bar. The familiarity of walking through the front gate of my girlfriend’s house and watching my children run ahead of me. Within seconds all of the experiences morph into one, home.

For the next 23 sleeps (I counted) we will be without a crucial element, G. He’ll sit at the desk via Skype while we talk subject choices for our eldest as we meet with her school for next year. I’ll relay the conversation with the ENT specialist as our second has her 300th ear appointment. I’ll chat to G for comfort after dropping our girls at their first concert ever (5Sos). I will take pictures of houses for sale in the area so we can have our annual and fruitless ‘should we get something bigger’ conversation. We’ll FaceTime as I walk along the beach, and I’ll fill him in on the local changes in the area. We will meet new people “So where are you from? Where’s that? Do you have to wear a burqa?” And we’ll catch up with old friends “So how long are you home for? When do you think you’ll move back? Aren’t the kids missing school?” And in the midst of all of this we’ll see the friends we’ve made in our travels doing the same things, pictures of Grandma, pictures of bacon, and then the ultimate, pictures of grandma and bacon.

We’re just about on our way. One foot in Doha, one stepping towards Australia. Crossing from expat to home. It feels amazing.

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