A short time ago, I wrote about some of the major adjustments of our recent move to become first-time expats in a big sandbox and shared that the hardest time for me after any move consistently occurs four and six months after each move. (I’m in that zone now.)
Three weeks ago we were blessed with a two-week vacation to see the people we love, and to do some traveling. Now everyone is asking if it is even harder to go back to the sandbox.
Yes – I’m tired. I think that’s from the traveling and the heat and humidity we returned to.
No – I did not miss my “cloak of invisibility” – I did not dig it out once the entire time we were gone.
No – I didn’t think I missed driving that much, until I saw my car. When I saw it I literally had to go sit in it, and open the sunroof and imagine I was cruising down the road on day filled with bright sunshine and cool breezes. (Unfortunately, driving it will have to wait until the next visit with the hopes that there will be more time re-tag it and get it out of storage.)
However, many of my friends said that after a summer away from this place, returning was harder than usual. (…And not being able to load their children in a car and take off go wherever and whenever they want to, is one of the reasons for their struggle.)
Yesterday as I sat at the grocery store waiting an hour for my bus, not being able to drive hit home at a higher level:
- First a young expat mother, fully cloaked in the required black robe, came through the door pushing a heavy stroller that was filled with an older child that had outgrown it and carrying a baby. All three had sweat soaked hair and perspiration running down their faces, the mom was obviously stressed and fighting tears. The older child was sick and the mother couldn’t find what she needed for him and she was trying to find the solution on foot, in the heat, in a strange land before her bus would arrive.
- Moments after we took the baby from her, handed her damp towels to wipe the sweat off, and they had something cool to drink another woman walked up. This woman is a new expat and thought she recognized others from her compound. She explained that she had taken the compound bus to a nearby bookstore, but the driver had not come back for her at the appointed time, which was nearly an hour ago. In the meantime, that store had lost all power causing her to leave and walk to the location we were in. She did not have the phone number for the driver or for anyone in the compound. When she discovered us, she was on the phone asking her husband to leave work to come and get her.
So yes – My time at the Anne Frank House last week hit home at a very high level, perhaps as one of my expat friends suggested, because many of the restrictions the Jews faced during WWII resemble the restrictions for women in this country.
In the midst of it all, I’m reminded that the secrets to making it as an expat are the secrets to adapting to any change:
- Focus on the blessings, or the challenges will eat you alive.
- Be willing to be vulnerable and ask for help when you need it. By doing so, you receive the full gift of the experience and gain wisdom, renewed strength, and life-long friendships.
- Turn each challenge into an adventure and use it to be better prepared the next time and to support others.
Some of the blessings I’m counting:
- My husband does not work offshore. So he is with me every night. (That is not the case for other women here.)
- That we are all in this together: If another expat has an extremely tough day, others rally on their behalf! (When you move from state to state you don’t usually have a community of people like this to help you navigate the challenges or the emotions that come with change.)
- In two and a half months we get to take another trip, this time to a place on my husband’s bucket list. (Ahhh, the power of a vision!)
So back in the sandbox I am doing significantly better than I usually am 4 – 6 months after a new move.
What advice would you give to others to stay focused, positive and purposeful in the midst of change?