~ I wrote this blog while in the air as I was leaving Expat Life. It was an emotional time, writing my feelings and thoughts was therapeutic. Wow. Leaving Expat Life. After 13 years. Ug.
Our last day of international school turned out to be a bit crazy due to a tropical storm passing over the region that led to an Orange Alert meaning early school pick-ups while trying not to get completely soaked.
This led to no elongated good byes. No last teary hugs. Probably just as well. My ten year old said out loud that there was no one especially she would miss. But saying the final goodbye in her classroom as friends and teachers handed her goodbye cards I could see the emotion on her face, as her mother, I saw she was whiter than white. Eyes down to the floor and walking quickly away. Those moments when you are struggling to stop the tears from flowing.
But we had an instant diversion of the heavy rain to dance between the raindrops to the car. Then a call to my husband who had already flown … But he couldn’t hear us over the raindrops falling on the car roof.
Then came the end of day stories of the final day which included water coming into the classrooms, a pigeon flying in an open window, watching movies with another class while their class secretly made a farewell card.
Friendships had been celebrated in the last week at familiar venues and new contact details exchanged. I had a lovely international lunch with friends from all over the world. Eating in France but none of us French. We are not saying goodbye but cementing future holiday destinations to reconnect again.
Expat life is unique. It’s amazing and aggravating in equal measures. But it is an experience I would recommend for anyone to take up if the opportunity arose.
I have international children. They move through airports with ease. Know how to pack their own suitcases by the time they were six. What not to pack. Whether to take shoes off or not. How to address the personnel. They have an ability to make friends fast. Small openings of a friendly smile by the playground slides soon turns into full on playing together.
This ability to link up and get on with others even when you do not understand a word that the other person speaks is a gift. I hope they carry it with them throughout their lives.
“Smile and the world smiles with you.”
But as I now fly to repatriate, there is a sadness in my heart that this period of my life is over. No more an expat. That had been my identity for the last 13 years. Unlucky 13? No, quite the opposite. I feel incredibly blessed to have had this experience. Learning about different cultures and developing as a person with a truly international outlook.
I had spent many many hours people watching, observing how life around me was working. Learning new habits to fit in with those around me. Adapting my language as needed. Learning customs on greeting and visiting other people in their home. The world is a huge place and people all over have made their little corner home. And I have been priveldged to call those corners home to myself and my family too.
Now I need to start again. Look, observe, note the changes and expectations that British society looks to in 2015. The language and acronyms have changed while we have been away. I must take note.
But it does feel right for our children now to have a period where they can settle and make some life long friends. Both my husband and I still have a few friends that we were at secondary school with. It is good to cultivate these long friendships. In fact this next week or so I will be meeting again with one of these friends whose parents still live in the town I am moving to, she is flying in from America where she moved to and married an American many years ago.
There is also a friend who I have not seen since I headed off to University. Her children attend the school mine will start at on Monday. My mind wonders if we will still connect or whether our life experiences have changed us so much we now have little in common. Curiosity means we shall meet up though!
Have you repatriated? What has been your hardest challenge to face on return?