Living overseas is quite often a bit of a blur. We typically spend 2-4 years at a post with US AID and then move on to who knows where next. As much as language can be a factor in the placement of your next post, it can often be incredibly random and frustrating. Someone who studied Spanish as a part of their language tenure required for many jobs overseas could just as likely be sent to Mongolia as they might be sent to Mexico. However, this is the lifestyle that many expats are accustomed to and this is the way of life that now seems somewhat normal to me. Here’s a taste of the US State Department blueberry pie-When Sacha left Iraq after a year’s work, he was supposed to have “first dibs” on the best job positions in the best posts. Supposed to, being the key words. In the end, we bid on 10 countries, none of which were really “choice” posts, we were unofficially posted to Accra, Ghana, and 10 days before Sacha returned to Cairo from Iraq, we were told that we were in fact, moving to Dakar, Senegal. Two weeks later, we found ourselves in Dakar. WTF?!? On that note, I also tend to often find myself pregnant and moving, which is NOT a good combination. Makes for a VERY grumpy, cranky, tired, HUNGRY T. Sacha fondly (heheh) tells me now that the first 3 months we were in Dakar, I did not smile once. Could very well be true. I do remember being very angry, tired, hot, AND frizzy-haired. Not one of my best looks! It did not help that we arrived at the worst time of year-the start of the sweat-drenching rainy season, no car which meant having to take gnarly, nasty taxis everywhere, temporary (teeny-weeny) housing, and nothing to do because everyone else was gone for the summer! I look back at photos of myself and I look fat and miserable with a big poof of unruly hair. Good grief. Even my hat doesn’t fit my head in several particularly pathetic pictures because I have so much darn hair and a rather large head to begin with.
Anyway. I digress. Back to my original point. Part of being in this lifestyle of a “Third Culture Family” means knowing that those people with whom you connect at your new post might very well be gone in a few months. We expats live a transient life and even if I complain about having a couple weeks notice before departure, I have friends who are given a few DAYS notice before they have to move to the other end of the earth. It’s hard to adapt to this as human beings. Especially me, who is a true creature of habit. Anyone who knows me knows that I like my routine, my normalcy, and my schedule. I would plan out my cup of tea if I could. Well, pretty much all of that is thrown out the window living the life I lead now. I can barely even plan a vacation for the following month. And as much as I resisted, I had to give in to it eventually. I have found that there is a balance, though, but I still drive Sacha nuts with my attempts at pre-, pre-planning and endless
questions. We do find a way to make it work nonetheless. I have no choice!
My kids have known nothing but this way of life since they were born. In one sense, they won’t have a solid idea of “home” yet in their young lives, and this occasionally makes me ponder if we are doing the right thing for them. However, for them, home equals wherever Mum and Dad are, so I can learn to live with this notion of being a global nomad. As long as Sacha and I are solid, then they are happy. Perhaps when they get older, then we will move somewhere and settle down so that they can feel connected to a place and school. Or country! But on the flip side, my girls are extremely resilient and adaptable as most expat kids are. Mia and Zoë have gone to several different schools in their young lives already. They fall right into the swing of things in terms of meeting new friends. Yes, they are young. But they speak two languages fluently and have an incredible cultural exposure to a plethora of different nationalities on a daily basis. One of the great things about being a kid in this environment is that children here never have to be the new kid at school. There is always someone new coming in right after them. The schools here, then tend to be much more open to individuality and the kids are much more accepting of someone being different. I love this side of the life that we are giving them.
In the end, I still hate saying goodbyes. I will never, ever get used to this awful feeling. I usually turn into a crying fool, especially when I have to leave my parents or my sister and her children. Or my dear friends. And forget about my own kids or Sacha-even the thought of it now makes my stomach churn! Even if I live overseas, my heart is where my quirky family and much-loved friends are. For the moment, home is Senegal. And I still love a good old-fashioned schedule or check-list. That will also never change. And maybe we will be in Mongolia next year at this time.