With ‘Moving Stories’, I’m writing a series of posts about what’s on my mind as we prepare for our next move, with hopefully some insight into the unique circumstances of moving around the world as – like the word or not – an expat.
So we’re here again, well and truly waist deep in the leaving season. And this time we’re leaving! I’m so excited about our next destination; keep reading (if you haven’t already picked up the hints from facebook or instagram) and you’ll find out why! But after three full years here in Congo (after four consecutive annual moves) there’s a lot of packing up to do – physically and emotionally.
But here’s the thing – even though there have been moments where I’ve felt that time here was dragging, we have in fact arrived at this last month far too fast!
It’s because of the time travel.
Did you realise that expats are experts in time travel? Mind you, ‘experts’ implies we know what we’re doing with it. Perhaps ‘casualties of time travel’ would be more accurate.
You try to be mindful, live in the moment, but it’s difficult when there’s always plans to be made. In a place like Congo, staying during long holidays with kids when there’s nothing to do and everyone else seems to be travelling anyway, isn’t much of an option. So the return from one holiday is pretty much the moment to start booking flights for the next one in a mere 6 weeks’ time, whether it’s for a trip home or a more exciting holiday.
So, mentally at least, you are constantly transporting yourself weeks and months into the future, towards the next holiday, or the next school term.
What’s even more mind-bending is the time travel that comes with the knowledge that assignments come to an end, and bring change. In September of year 3, you’re wondering whether it’s your final year; by December, perhaps you do know that you’ll be leaving, and you’re wondering what the next destination will be; by February, there might be an offer made, and you’re looking up schools, neighbourhoods, and driving distance to Ikea. (Just me?)
By Spring you’ll be anticipating that after the Easter holidays you’ll have to start packing, and saying All The Goodbyes, and clearing the calendar for the leaving parties. Yes, from that last September onwards, we’re hurled inexorably into the future, wondering, planning, organising, knowing we only have to put up with [insert infuriating cultural idiosyncrasy] for a few more months; knowing that there are only a few precious moments left to enjoy [insert exhilarating life-changing friendship or experience].
Knowing that in a few months you’ll be gone, and elsewhere, confronting new frustrations, seeking out new exhilaration.
That’s where it gets tricky. It’s a fine line to balance between planning ahead and living in the present. It’s so easy, and (if you’re lucky with your assignment) so fun, to get swept into the future, that all too easily the present becomes the past. You might suddenly find yourself looking around a table at a group of people and see just how it’s going to be without you there. You see the dynamic happening around you, how things will change, and realise you’ve already moved on, that you’re disengaging.
Meanwhile you’re so conscious every time you do something, or see someone, for the last time, that it has to be significant and meaningful, that sometimes you forget to just be present in the moment and enjoy it.
So it’s hard to remember that the 3 years aren’t up yet. You’re here now, you’re part of the dynamic, there is still exhilaration and new experiences and yes, even new friendships to be made. And heck, this is just exactly the time when all those infuriating ‘quirks’ of the local culture start to be just charming inconveniences! So you have to make the most of it. I have to make the most of it.
Turn off the time machine.
Well, having said all that, I am HUGELY excited to reveal my future! Our family is moving to…
And we couldn’t be happier. Although I am mildly concerned about the extent to which Lego is now going to take over my life, not just our playroom, Denmark and Copenhagen have long been at the top of my bucket list. (We’ll be living in another town, but after three years where every destination was many hours of flying and many thousands of euros away, everywhere will feel like it’s round the corner!) I can’t wait to start experiencing the Scandinavian lifestyle, to make the most of being much closer to home and family, to plan European road trips, and to shore up my northern soul with Sarah Lund-worthy knitwear! Not to mention the drives to Ikea (about 90 minutes, since you ask).
But I’m not going to dwell on it too much just now. Under an African tree there’s a hard-won Friday apéro waiting for me, and I am fully in, here and now!
*Photo credit: Brickset