I am well and truly back into the swing of desert life, the desert girls have all returned from their travels and you will be pleased to hear, that the ladies that brunch will be reconvening this week. However, whilst this weekly ritual was on hold, I still managed to meet up for a post Christmas Starbucks with those who had spent the Yuletide in situ, so I was very eager to hear their experiences. I am pleased to report that they were all very contented and even the newest desert gal was surprised she “survived”.
During this new year, caffeine induced repartee, we all admitted how positively we had enterered 2017. Now, I’m not saying this is unusual and that we are normally wallowing in deep depression, but all of us were a little shocked at our enthusiasm! The group spanned multiple degrees of time in the desert, from 2.5 years to 4 months, so it was interesting to see that we had all found our groove, no matter how much time had passed, we were eager to move into another year of sand filled adventure.
My fellow blogging newbie had mentioned that she had had a little wobble pre the Christmas period but that she was expecting it. She was not dragged down by it, and had remembered my wise words and posts (I love that I have become wise at 36) that this would inevitably happen. Upon her arrival, my welcoming committee had said it may take 6-9 months to feel “normal” with this life, maybe less, maybe more. This sparked an active debate amongst the four of us and posed the question….How long, is long enough, before you know you can survive all things expat?
In both my expat existinaces, I have been lucky enough that I have had success. The honeymoon period of excitement, anxiety and the novelty of new surroundings has always been predominantly a good one. Yes there are moments of weakness, like anything major change in life, it can make you wobble and second guess yourself. I have always said that change is good and even in the hard moments I’ve pushed forward and within 6 months, I have acclimatised, become secure and survived the adjustment period. Of course I can only speak from my experience and I have chatted to many a friend, in our early days, about how each of us were coping. I think this is the most important aspect to this life, communication. If you are having difficulties then speak up, we are all in the same boat, whether we are seasoned expats on our eighth continent or a newbie wanderluster, we all go through the same process, have the same feelings
and can identify with any meltdown because you can’t find Yorkshire Tea and crumpets!
Every one of my desert lovelies has gone through a completely different journey to arrive at the happy expat, laughing over Starbucks and looking forward to life in the sandpit. Many of my closest friends arrived within a week of me and were my earliest introductions, so we feel we are on the same path, feeling things simultaneously and hitting road bumps together. However, one of us did take that little longer to adjust to this weird and random life. Her cynicism about Kuwait life became her trade mark. We giggled over brunch, as she returned from her home country, full of eye rolls and sarcasm to all things desert. I am pleased to say 18 months, post arrival, she strolled back into one of our welcome back coffee sessions and declared it was good to be back!
We sat back in complete shock, laughed and said what have you done with our friend!?
Joking aside, it was great to see that she had finally relinquished all negativity, accepted the little nuances, that can be frustrating at times, but they make here here and we had all grown to love it.
Some say the first year is the hardest, I personally think year 1-2 is. The novelty has worn off, the buzz of discovering new things, meeting new people has vanished and its now become an established routine. It is now just life. It’s the norm. It’s the day to day. Now all you have to do is survive it. It’s at this point that you may become more homesick, people back home may not be so enthusiastically FaceTiming every week and your instagram posts get ignored. Just as your life has moved past the novelty, so too have they moved past your departure. The key for me is to just keep going, luckily for me I met an influx of newbies 18 months in and we became fast friends and my routine was rejuvenated and I supported them, as they navigated their new adventure.
As I said in last weeks post, I am currently half way through year 2 and this is my favourite bit. I’m deeply engrained into this life, I have strong bonds with friends, that have had 2 years to flourish, and a support network to lean on. Nothing feels odd anymore, I am in for the long haul and thriving in what is now my home, because it is home and I almost forget I’m in this random corner of the Gulf and this feels more “normal” than my old island life.
One thing I do know is this life isn’t for everyone but if it is then you will reap the rewards once its clicked. It may take 2 months, it may take 2 years, but I think you know deep down if its for you. Even those friends that have taken longer to settle in, have always known the day would come and it was more the cultural challenge of this country that slowed their progress, rather than the dislike or anxiety of living abroad. It’s personal, it’s a unique experience and you can’t put a number on it.
So how long, is long enough? Well, that is an answer that is as undefinable as the number of grains of sand in the desert.