You guys last week Lulu turned 2. TWO! And I am having an identity crisis. You know, no longer a mom of 2 under 2 and all. We’re celebrating her birthday this Saturday with a little shindig (why am I throwing a party for a 2 year old again?!). On her actual birthday we were at Tokyo Disneyland where she had a “Happy Birthday” sticker so everyone could wish her a happy day. I’m not sure she enjoyed it since she still doesn’t get it, but she sure did enjoy screaming her way through the park! She was like a little wild boar, running haphazardly through the park, bowling people over as she went. The inner conversations of the day went something like:
Me: She’s so cute, look at her running to keep up with us.
Other people: That child is a terror! Quit bumping into me!
Japanese Grandma: Those are terrible parents. Look how loud and rambunctious she is.
Chinese Grandma: Look at those terrible parents letting their underdressed child scream and cry!
I think that’s how it went anyway. Truthfully I didn’t have much time to think much while trying to chase and contain my exhausted, wound-up Terrible Two year old. And feed the baby of course.
Anyways, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things you give up and the skills you develop as an ex-pat and decided to do a little informal series about it (and write using only run-on sentences). Tune in next week for my post on being a “person of welcome” wherever you are.
Being an ex-pat is great, it really is! Its exciting, fun, adventurous, challenging, and rewarding. But of course, it also comes with some unique sacrifices.
People choose to live overseas for so many reasons, whether they’ve relocated for a job, with the military, teaching, being a missionary, or simply for an adventure, that it would be unfair to say that everyone experiences the same challenges. There are, however, similar experiences shared by many people who move out of their home country. The biggest sacrifice being relationships with people back home.
You see, while you move into a new country and deal with all the excitement and challenges cross-cultural adjustment brings, your friends back home carry on, life as usual. You may both make a strong effort to keep in touch, at least at first, but soon the people back home stop reaching out as much. Its really difficult to keep in touch with people when you don’t live in the same vicinity. As the old saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind”.
For an ex-pat, moving can become a way of life, as does learning how to keep in touch with people across the world; its a skill you develop so that you can keep in touch with the amazing friends you make during your time abroad. Unfortunately, its not a skill everyone has, especially if they are not the one who has moved.
I have always wondered why people don’t reach out more often, and I think it boils down to this:
1-They hate me and think I’m weird.
2-No, its just me that thinks I’m weird. Other people are simply busy and wrapped up in their immediate lives.
3-Its hard to
find the time make time for an email and an across-the-date-line Skype call.
3-They may not realize how challenging it can be to be living in a foreign place, especially in the first several months, and think that your exciting “My ayi is so awesome and look at the live snake I found at the wet market” post means that you’re doing awesome.
4-They aren’t skilled at keeping up long distance friendships.
Although I’ve often felt disappointed that friendships back home fizzled or became more distant, I’ve also been pleasantly surprised about the friendships that have hung on and even gotten stronger across time and distance. And those are the ones that are worth keeping.
If you’re one of the friends back home, why don’t you shoot your wanderlust friend a quick email, just to let them know you’re thinking of them, or a quick viber text to say hi. A little connection can go a long way when you’re living abroad; it always means a lot when someone from home reaches out.
Are you an ex-pat? How have you maintained friendships with people at home?