Back in the Sandbox: On Change and Expat Life

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.

IMG_0229Yes – I still miss blue skies and puffy clouds.  (I took this photo of puffy clouds on the plane.)

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:

6 Lessons From Change Ready Kids: On Life Outside of “Normal”

Do you know anyone that is struggling with a change in his or her lives right now?  Do you know any organizations that are in the midst of extreme change and sinking instead of swimming?  Are you aware that 3 of the top 10 Critical Human Capital Issues for 2013 are CHANGE related?

A series of events in our expat journey has convinced me that anyone that has grown up as an expat child has developed wisdom and skills that will help others navigate change.  So I asked a couple of friends to share their experiences.  (Special Thanks To:  Amy Murphy & Lynette Elrod Hudson for sharing their stories!)

After hearing their stories, 6 lessons stand out:

1.  Provide vision and stability in the midst of extreme change.

“When we moved to a new country, my dad would go ahead and scope things out and then come back with great stories of what he had found. Sometimes he would be gone a month or two as he started a new job and found a house and we finished that year in school, so when he got home we were just happy to go wherever it was to be together.”  Lynette

479757_10151689092104766_952536038_n2.  Form relationships with people based on their character, not the color of their skin …Or the shape of their face!

“The first time I realized that people of different races looked different was in 3rd grade.  (I’d been an expat child since I was two.)  I thought my classmate had a flat face and I asked, “Why?”  Amy

Outside the Comfort Zone: In Hot Pursuit of the Vision!

Change is growth.

Change is growth.

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This week I realized that it has been 8 months since we agreed to turn an unwanted opportunity into an adventure.  Today as I type this the last box has just been unpacked, the pictures are hung, and we’ve taken one quick spin around the compound on the Harley – celebrating that we are finally settled!

This weekend we shopped at one of the stores that we were in, on my first day here, causing me to reflect on that day:

  • Shortly after 3 AM the anticipated call to prayer blared from a speaker.
  • Once we were up we drove on roads that have lanes painted on them, however those lanes really don’t mean anything, as drivers simply drive wherever they want, whenever they want with no driving protocol or enforcement.  
  • As a woman – driving is not a wise option for me.  (It’s not a law, but you can get arrested if you do it!)
  • I was wearing my new black “cloak of invisibility.”  (In case you wondered, it is effective – as my husband quickly discovered how difficult it was to identify his wife when everyone is wearing a cloaking device!  Since that day we have wondered how small children learn to identify their mothers in a crowd and joked that perhaps I should add a huge Harley Davidson decal to the back of my “cloak” so he can spot me in a crowd!)

Moving forward when you don’t know, what you don’t know…

As my husband and I prepared for our international move we went to the bank and ordered the currency he would need when he arrived there.  The banker was a young man who had grown up as an expat child in this foreign land.  The currency arrived without incident and my husband had nothing to worry about.

Two and a half months later, as I prepared to leave the U.S. to join my husband. I went to a bank in a different city to order the same currency.  When the teller asked if I wanted small or large bills, I quickly said small.  (Using my U.S. filters and thinking about how hard it can be to use big bills in the U.S. or in Europe.)

The day I went in to pick up the currency.  Every teller knew immediately who I was.  (I thought that was odd.)  A few minutes later a teller emerged with four large wrapped packages.

iStock_000008219942XSmallAs she opened them she revealed 4 “bricks” of bills.  I was in shock!