Firstly, yes your shock and bewilderment is justified. It is me, the one that would pop up weekly in your feeds, spilling my expat guts. So whilst the shock of my return to writing is shared between us, I hope that my first post back, after my little self imposed blogging break, won’t disappoint.
When I read expat blogs, many delve into the ins and outs of friendships. I myself have fequently mentioned that there is a fine line between the the ones you had in your old life and throwing yourself into potential new ones. I can only speak of my experience, which thus far has been extremely positive. There haven’t been any transisant, right for right now, kind of friendships, so for me they have been a massive part of my journey.
Last weekend was a prime example of being reminded how special these friendships can be. How they can stand the test of time. The test of distance, of huge life changes and yet they are always special. So this is the story of 2 girls, 2 boys, a Czech city, babies and a big fat expat wedding………
Late 2010 Hubs and I headed to the bohemian snows of Prague. The first year was new and exciting, learning the nuances of a new country and my new life abroad. It was pretty darn perfect. There was just one thing missing. Friends. So when the dawn of 2012 beaconed, Hubs came home declaring there was a new expat Brit on the scene and we would be meeting up to show this newbie couple the ropes. I was filled with hope (the cynical expat hadn’t kicked in yet. I wasn’t aware that you often do these “meet and greets” and they fall off the face of the earth, once settled and dont need hand holding anymore).
We approached the agreed meeting point, on a below freezing, Saturday morning in January. As we got closer, we looked at each other. Even though there were numerous people milling around, we knew instantly who we were meeting. How?
There they are, he said. The idiots with no hats or scarves
I turned and laughed, declaring They’ll learn!
What followed was a tentative chit chat as we walked to our breakfast spot of choice, but once in the warmth, with coffee flowing and food arriving, it was apparent we would be friends. So there in that little dodgey student loved eatery, it began.
The boys worked very closely together, their joint love of laddish (or childish if you ask the Mrs) humour, meant they hit it off. I too grew to know the better half of this new couple and we equally gelled. We could easily talk the day away, shared a hair dresser and would usually end up spending many weekends, exploring all that the city had to offer. Finally the last piece of the Prague puzzle, friendship, which meant for me, my transition was complete.
The four of us would have epic days out together, laughing like I’ve never laughed, experiencing a life that no one else could understand. There are things that happen when you live abroad, that would be so simple back home. Being admitted to hospital, getting pregnant and giving birth. Things that you wouldn’t think twice about in the UK, suddenly become magnified. Having people around you that support you no matter what, to be that sounding board, live those moments with you , will tie you together for a very long time.
Was it always easy? No. I worked, so wasn’t always available or had endless time to spend getting to know or supporting her as much as she needed in those early days. Expat life isn’t easy and adjustments can take their toll, effecting you in so many ways.
Did I always understand these difficulties, the best I could? Probably not.
When your experience is so different, its sometimes hard to see a different perspective. However, sometimes in life a moment happens and how you react can pave the way to two very different outcomes. I am glad that in this case, there was a moment of reconnect, of guards being dropped, the hand of true friendship was offered when it was most needed and from that day on, we were inseparable.
When we decided that a desert adventure was next on the cards, we feared telling these two the news. It was like planning a break up. It’s not you, its us. How do you let them down gently or do you just rip the band aid off? That moment of breaking expat moves, never gets easier, but I will never forget their faces and the realisation that the band was about to break up. The biggest concern was that we would miss the birth of the impending child but the expat gods were looking down on us and we literally held a 4 hour old baby girl and headed straight to the airport. Probably one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve had and a moment that was one of a kind.
Fast forward four years, we are still in Kuwait and the other band members are repatriated in England. We keep in touch, always feeling like we know what is going on in each other’s lives and even caught up, via Jersey one year, but nothing like the intensity we had in those 3 years. Never doubt that connection, life moves on but it still meant something, so when a wedding invitation arrived we didn’t hesitate in immediately saying yes.
In true expat style I was probably a real pain in the butt. While the bride should have been basking in the idea of her dream wedding, I was inundating her with messages about the logistics of the day, venues and timings. She didn’t know all the ins and outs at this early stage, but I was thinking flights, hire cars, hotels and at one point we thought we would be living in another country! She was wonderful, patient and didn’t once go Bridezilla on me and my incessant planning. Everything was booked and we would be there, no matter what.
Last weekend I flew from Jersey, met Hubs in London and we drove down to Sussex. Can I just point out that the driving was stress enough, when you are from Jersey, where the island speed limit is 40mph, pretty much single lane traffic everywhere and you are more likely to come across a cow than a lorry, driving in the UK is daunting! We made it in one piece, through the dark, rain and rush hour on the M25 (still not sure how I didn’t need Valium) and settled into a gorgeous country pub for the night, anticipating the next day.
To say that this was the most emotional wedding I’ve attended, is an understatement. Seeing these two after many years, was hard enough, but seeing how far they had come to get to this moment, filled us with such joy. It was overwhelming to be included in such an intimate family wedding and we felt like celebrities, when everyone knew who we were and expressed how touched they were, that we had come all that way. The bride was beautiful, the groom besotted (once he got the colour back in his face) and everyone around that room, loved them.
Many tears were shed (even as I write this I’m misty eyed) and we laughed about the memories we shared. Everyone there, had been in their lives for years, been through ups and downs with them, but no one knew them for those 3 years like we did. It’s as if there was this unspoken moment in time, that no one else could understand, except the four of us. The window into their journey which no one else witnessed. It may have been an unconventional way of meeting, it may have only been for the briefest of time, but those memories will tie us together forever.