Most people I know work in a 12 month cycle, the year begins January 1st and ends on preferably a drunken night on December 31st. I used to be one of those people, living the standard calendar and making those new year resolutions to be broken my mid Feb. Expat me, works in a completely different way. My annual flags seems to have moved and fall into 3 distinct phases. Pre Ramadan, summer break and the new year. In this case the “new year” in my expat circle is September, this has now become the clean slate, the bench mark for all the great intentions for the 12 months ahead and the re setting of routines. When did my end of the year become the start, the middle become the end and the start become the middle? Welcome to my expat life!
Back in my regular life, time used to run fairly slowly and I didn’t really consider annual markers past January, my birthday and Christmas. The seasonal changes help progress you through the year without much attention, as the weather changes, you realised months have passed and the cycle continues almost unnoticed. When I moved to Kuwait, I had not considered what it would be like, living in a country that is practically unseasonable. Sure, if you ask a local they will tell you there are definitely seasons but what they really mean, is when the temperature falls below 30 its winter and above 40 is summer! To anyone not of this climate, it’s practically summer 10 months of the year and we accept the January/February cold snap when it feels as close to a European autumn as we will ever get. With that being the case, we have no seasonal markers and therefore, time is measured by different things.
This in itself is an odd adjustment, I really struggled without my first autumnal change, having come from Prague where the leaves changed to a spectacular gold and followed by snow in time for Christmas. Here is was just warm and sunny and that can be quite disconcerting, as you long for sweater weather, mugs of pumpkin spice lattes in the park, the smell of pine trees in the snow. The closest I get to those now, is my annual Bath and Bodyworks scented candle haul. Not quite the same but fake it till you make it right?! So I have learnt that in order to plan the year (you know I’m a planner by now and that control can’t be relinquished) I have to create new flags to set the year by.
I arrived in this sandpit in August, so my dersertversary is the start of the annual count down. However August is also my birthday month, so I automatically get reflective about the year gone by. So August has become my December, that annual reflection, assessment and check list of the 12 months past. August is also my alone month, no one is around due to the expat exodus of summer break, so it feels like the calm before the storm. Everywhere is quite, the expats have gone, the locals have gone, the malls are empty, the gym is empty, it’s like the Christmas period back home, everyone is with family, eating, drinking and being merry.
So here we are in September and its all systems go. Everyone is back, the kids are back in school and its all new and exciting again. I can’t speak for everyone, but my guess is that the summer whilst necessary, does become very long and the amount of travel and running around soon takes it toll, so everyone is somewhat relived to come back to the land of sand. It was fun, over indulgent, full on and family focussed but just like the festive period, you’re glad it’s only a once a year event. Back to reality, back to the normality and to the new intentions.
My annual planning is currently in the making, thinking about what trips to take, booking flights and deciding what we want to achieve by next summer. I reassess everything, my expectations change, I clearly set out what I want for the next few months and I know everyone else is doing the exact same thing. New fitness goals being set, new study goals, new house, new pets, it all takes place in the next four weeks. I am already getting my social calendar back on track, Whatsapp groups pinging back into action after lying dormant for months and hearing everyone deconstruct their summer and laying out all their plans going forward.
Who knew that September would be the vital clean slate that everyone needs. The reigniting of the expat engine, friendships, routines, it really feels like a fresh start. The expat excitement is back, the buzz around the place has returned and the impetus for a positive new year head is infectious. Even the pain of the September traffic is being brushed off simply part of the life, part of being here and even in those moment of WTF is someone reversing up a highway, there is a little bit of you that smiles and thinks I’m back!
So to all my desert girls, welcome back and here’s to another year of expat adventures, Kuwait-isms that only we will understand, to new memories and a couple of WTF moments thrown in!