Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Glimpses of an Expat Exit

(Let me start by saying i am using a very wonky laptop.  Please pardon all technical issues below.  i'll try to get my tech person on it right away...)  

If you have ever wondered what it is like to move you, your family and all your STUFF half way across the world TWICE, here is a peek.  Although i hardly consider us experts, i know women who have done this most of their married lives and throughout various stages of mommyhood, i do know it is a process. It is demanding, exhausting, exciting and if you survive it, it will knit your family together and develop strength of character.

Expat (n.) a person temporarily living away from their home country for work purposes

Once you commit to an expat adventure, you find a way to settle yourself into a new lifestyle and culture.  You open yourself to new friendships with people from all walks of life and you learn to make close friends quickly.  Typically expats don't have family nearby so strangers quickly evolve into friend and then family.  There is an uncertainty in the expat "settling" as no one knows exactly when their time in a particular country is up.  You may enter thinking your time is 3 years and it ends up being only 2 as was the case with us.  (i know one lady who made an international move only to move back home 8 months later, while others presume 2 years and are currently on year 20). 

While in the states prior to our move we i, thought Dubai would be a 3 year assignment and figured after 3 years we would move back to the states.  But after making the adjustments overseas and being exposed to expat life all 4 of us decided we would be willing to expat it longer if given the chance.  We were quite surprised when we were informed that our Dubai time would be shortened.  i actually was quite sad.  Anyone who has moved away from the familiar knows it takes time to settle in, feel at home and find community.  Thankfully in the expat culture community happens much quicker and for that i am thankful.  Just when i learned to navigate Dubai roads confidently, grocery shop without tears, found doctors, ortho, hairdressers and friends that have become like family, now it is time to move on.

Once the moving date is established you start counting down to the unsettling of your home and life as you know it.  

A whole crew of movers descended upon our house to wrap and pack everything.  For 3 days they disassemble our entire house as bikes, beds, tv and couches are attempted to be formed into perfectly square boxes to save on surface area.

Anything especially breakable is put into handmade crates.  Comforting thought for the 2 months at sea right?!

A giant cargo container pulled up into our compound (yes, housing developments are called compounds in Dubai) and partially blocked our neighbors from getting to their house.  The entire contents of our home was then loaded into the container, locked up and taken directly down to the shipyard to be loaded onto a the next available ship headed to NZ.

4 family members, 7 suitcases, 2 weeks until the flight out of Dubai and 2 months until we will see our STUFF again.  We have moved numerous times within CA and i know that it involves about 2-3 days of feeling unsettled during that move.  After about 1 week we can be pretty well settled into our new home and have access to most of our comfort items if not our entire household.  
Not so when your things board a boat and you board a plane and you hope to all meet up again somewhere on the other side.
This is a great lesson to us as a family to hold things loosely while giving us a great appreciation for our blessings and comforts of home.

While most of our friends were adorning their homes with colors of Christmas, we made the most of the lobby Christmas tree where we would go to drink hot chocolate, eat our favorite Christmas snack and pose for the traditional "family in front of the Christmas tree" picture.

The Revelry

Because without a home or furniture and 2 weeks left in Dubai, we temporarily perched ourselves up high in a furnished apartment and attempted to make the most of our last days by wringing out every last bit of fun from Dubai before we left. 

           Life sized Gingerbread Houses and a Christmas tea with my Girl!


5K Color Run

Lunches with the Girls

 Late night chats would be followed by sleepy eyed school drop off

The Reflecting
 It seems only appropriate that our last few weeks in Dubai were spent up in the clouds overlooking the sights from a high rise.  It was a sort of poetic ending to our Dubai life.  Chris and i first viewed Dubai from this same hotel and view over 2 years ago to decide if we would indeed move our family and life here.  From this reflective vantage point we were able to get a birds eye view of our soon to be past life.  We replayed memories with friends through a game of eye spy and reflected on all the ways this move to Dubai has woven itself into our lives. 

Dubai Marina

A move to me is much like a well written book.  The lives of characters unfold within a unique setting between a clearly defined beginning and end.  It is only at the closing of the cover at the end of the book that the reader is able to fully grasp how the characters have grown, changed and developed within that story.  A truly good book always calls for a bit of self reflecting and makes you look forward to the next read ahead.  

Not only have our kids grown physically but they have experienced new cultures and have been stretched out of their comfort zone which i pray will imprint their character with compassion and courage.


Both Kyle and the Twisty Tower grew up before our eyes

In the end before the closing of the book and the actual Sifting of Sand there were lots of Parties, Hugs, Tears and Sad Farewells

followed by

We find ourselves in yet another part of the world, New Zealand.  It's not Dubai and not the US, it is new people, new culture and a new life.   We have lots of time together as a family to bond as we learn, sift and explore this new setting together.

Waiting for the Sand to Settle...
We are excited to say we have finally found a house and we can't wait to move in which is a major first step to the settling. Unfortunately for my Selfish side we will have to continue to wait a bit longer as our sea shipment isn't expected to be delivered until Jan 31st after it has cleared customs.  Apparently my Character side still needs a bit of a workout as i continue to learn patience and contentedness.  The good news is we have the great outdoors to explore and Chris has settled in his job and loves it! 

(Just to clarify his job description is not frisbee and beaches but that is pretty much how he feels about going to work) 

With this move we will be able say we have lived in all four hemispheres of the world and as we are finding our way in settling into another good book, i am anxiously awaiting to see how the story unfolds and how God develops the characters. 


Anonymous said...

I,too, will miss Dubai.

Betty said...

Great reflections!