There is a moment every year, where there is only one thing expats talk about. Everyone does it, everyone talks about it, they compare notes, it’s the go to conversation throughout May and rankings are drawn up to see who’s the hardcore bunch, lasting longer than anyone else. Let the expat exodus begin…….
It is completely accepted that expats disappear from Kuwait in June and reappear at the start of September. The locals also get in on the action, making August in the desert somewhat desolate as temperatures soar and everyday life becomes limited solely to air con induced activities. The schools break for summer a whole month earlier than the UK, due to July and August reaching above and beyond 50 degrees (that’s 122 Fahrenheit for those who prefer old money) so kids here have a full 10 weeks off. Whilst this sounds great to the kids, that’s 10 weeks that they need to be entertained, 10 weeks of activities to find and Kuwait simply doesn’t have enough options out of the heat. So with little alternatives, my expat friends escape the sand pit and head home.
I say home, as many of us expats have embarked on a nomadic life and therefore have no real base in our country of origin. This means for some friends, 10 weeks of glorified sofa surfing and running round their home countries as not to impose on family and friends for too long. It becomes the norm that expat mums spend their summers ferrying the kids from here to there, making the expat escape a much needed break from the heat but also rather a gruelling task. Now I’m sure some of my mummy friends will disagree with this next statement, but whilst they’re embracing the role of all round kids entertainer, husbands also get a rough deal. Of course they are left behind, watching their family board the plane and knowing it’s weeks before they will be reunited. Most will take two weeks off work and fly to join their loved ones, but knowing how hopeless my hubby is in my absence, the first couple of weeks of bachelor life is a novelty, surviving on take out and sky sport marathons, but it soon wears off. The heat doesn’t allow them to spend weekends at the beach, the malls are filled with men wondering aimlessly around and their summer drags on and loneliness kicks in. It’s not the ideal family situation for all involved but it’s the only way desert expats can survive without bouncing the kids off the walls of your air con apartment.
As you know dear reader, I have no little people to factor into my summer plans and of course not dictated to by school terms but I also flee and join the expat escapees. My decision has nothing to do with the heat. We arrived in August two years ago and gave ourselves a real baptism of fire, getting off the plane at 10pm and entering 48 degrees was certainly a shock to the system, but I have always said if I can survive that heat, in my first month desert side, I can do anything. I simply follow the droves because I don’t want to be left behind, Billy no mates is not an attractive prospect for two months. So back to my little Island I go, spending six weeks socialising and eating!
Whilst it’s become the norm for everyone not to be here, I do wonder if its actually people’s choice or something they do out of necessity. This week whilst attending a ladies gathering (no twin set and pearl brigade I promise, although that did sound rather WI on reflection) I spent the morning nattering away, as we shared our travel plans.
When do you travel?
Are you going home?
How long for?
Other half joining you?
As the standard questions fly round the room, you are met with the standard answers. Whilst of course everyone’s destination maybe different, the sense of mixed feelings about the trip is also apparent. Now before my desert gals come and hunt me down for causing a family melt down, my next statement should not be taken out of context. For an expat, living abroad starting a new life away from the monotony of our old life, going home can be challenging. Whilst everyone I speak to can’t wait for the change of scenery, reconnecting with missed family and enjoying a walk, where you don’t feel you skin is going to blister after ten minutes, there is also an element of anticipated difficulty. It’s hard for us to readjust back into normal life and in most cases we are staying as guests in other people’s homes, so even if it’s my mum’s house where I’m comfortable you still have to adjust to their way of living and you don’t want to step on people’s toes. There is a pressure to see everyone, practically making your time back home a scheduled itinerary as to not annoy Aunt Joan who will black list you from her Christmas card list if you don’t comply with a visit. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had where friends are getting so stressed over the prospect of a summer of social juggling and navigating family dynamics.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like all my fellow expats can’t wait to get home (10 days and counting). We want to see you all, catch up on the gossip, have mum hugs and a glass of wine. However great our life is out here, we miss you all and look forward to a bit of normalcy, so please be there with open arms. But here comes the after school special…..be aware that this can be hard for us, we are with you all but away from our spouses, we are home but it’s no longer our home. It will probably take us weeks to get warm so have blankets ready, have alcohol on tap but be prepared for us to be cheap dates, we are there to see everyone but it’s also our holiday so there maybe times we just want a break. We will love every minute of being there but we also know we have to come back to the desert, whilst we will look forward to that prospect, we also have to leave you, saying goodbye again and so the readjustment begins again, but this time Kuwait side. It maybe the great escape from the desert but we can’t escape the mass of emotions that come with it.
Happy travels everyone, see you all in September.