Year In Review - Joy & Sorrow in Expat Life - Part I
I’m sitting on my balcony staring at the sea. In this exact moment I realize that new construction is about to block my view. How sad. I feel a tinge of pain at this because staring at the sea has gotten me through the hardest days. Gazing at the sea helps me judge the weather, makes me feel at home and gives me life.
It is the turning of the page and it is ironic because that’s what I’m sitting here to write about. There are many wonderful things that have happened this year but it has also been the most challenging of my life. I hope sharing this ride will help you embrace your own roller coaster. There are good days and bad days. A bad day doesn’t mean a bad life.
As I look back at the past year I feel incredibly brave. Considering that so much happened in my life I would have to write a book to make it all clear. Therefore, I have broken each month into three parts: our experiences, our emotions and our fun events. Please travel with me through the last year and arrive with me to this moment in time…
Experience: We spent New Years Eve in our amazing apartment just blocks from the Space Needle. Brad left for Oman on January 17. From that point on I packed alone, I lived alone, I said goodbye to our family and friends alone. Our relationship existed simply as international phone calls that were fuzzy and disconnected often. Our life was being packed in boxes and I was facility management. It was surreal.
Emotion: My emotions were somewhat numb. I was so busy packing and saying goodbye that I didn’t process much. I just went through the motions.
Best Event: New Years Eve.
Experience: I quit my job. I made February 14 my last day of work. It was a Valentine’s Day gift to myself. I spent two weeks enjoying my family and friends and got on a plane around the 26th. Brad was away on business so I spent the first few days of life in Oman sorting things out alone, but I was strong and self reliant and convinced I would be okay.
Emotion: My journal says: “I think today is the 27th of February. I was going to look, but why? It’s so much fun that I’m unsure.” It was still unreal that my life no longer revolved around the Monday – Friday workweek. I suppose that made me smile.
Best Event: Brad taking me on my first tour of Muscat five days after I had arrived.
Experience: We lived out of a hotel because our apartment wasn’t ready yet. We were over an hour from town and I didn’t have a car so life was transient and bizarre still.
Emotion: Brad worked 10 hours a day. There wasn’t much to entertain me at the hotel: a pool, a beach, my camera, my journal and my imagination. I spent most days trying to avoid thinking. I tried to focus on being present in the surroundings. I tried to focus on enjoying the sunshine in February, which we wouldn’t have had in Seattle.
Best Event: I really wanted to see something new. I couldn’t find details about camel racing, but I knew it existed. I spent a few hours on Google Maps until I found a circle that looked like a racetrack. We drove to it and found a military base. The guards gave us directions to the actual track. There was no camel racing that day, but we did get to see some great horse racing and meet some lovely people.
Experience: We moved in to our apartment but our furniture was not quite ready. We slept on an air mattress and sat on the floor. Looking back we were practically camping. Every day was about finding things: the grocery store, the gas station and friends. We requested the Internet but it wasn’t ready for seven weeks. Every day I went to the coffee shop to stay in touch with family and friends back home. I started Arabic Lessons.
Emotions: My emotions were up and down and my life was day to day. Some days I loved it and some days I cried. But I kept telling myself that a bad day isn’t a bad life. I guess it became my mantra.
Event: I had to travel to Dubai to wait for my residency visa to come through. I remember being so shell-shocked that I was going to Dubai alone. I spent Easter there and took myself to the Dubai aquarium so I would always remember the experience.
Experience: I thought I would work in Oman, but a new law made it more difficult for expats to work here without a specific skill. I realized that I was very American in this instance. Not only was I sure I would work when I came to Oman, but I learned that my work defined me. I often asked myself who I was without a job. What legacy would I leave? How would I introduce myself? As a housewife?
Emotions: Despite this new stress Spring was fun. I started making friends and feeling more connected to other people. Brad still worked 6 days a week and was usually gone 12-14 hours a day. Having friends made the days easier to manage. When I think back on this time it makes me smile and feel free. I painted, I laughed, I had so much fun.
Best Event: Day trip to the Grand Canyon with new friends.
Experience: The weather got increasingly hot. All of the expats I knew left for summer. My new friends were gone. Many left for three weeks to three months. The 45C degree-days were unreal and isolating. I finished my second level Arabic class. I did well on the test and was shocked how much I was learning. Classes were over for summer.
Emotion: In June I was still feeling optimistic - at least for the first half.
Then the heat and loneliness really started to get to me and my life felt much worse before it felt much better. The ups and downs were exactly like a crazy roller coaster. Come back tomorrow to see how the year ended and how 2015 has begun.