All year long, the expats living here for more than a year kept telling me: “Don’t stay here during the summer, it’s too hard”. They talked to me about the temperatures, the humidity rate and the burning sun. To me, it was nothing I couldn’t handle. AC is everywhere, I have a pool in my garden and the sea is 50 meters from my house. My husband has to work almost all summer and I wouldn’t leave him alone here. Being the acting ambassador while this one is sipping cocktails in a 5 stars hotel somewhere in Europe looks cool, but in fact it’s a lot of work and I was determined to help him the best I could. Also, I have to add that having no family really waiting for me in my country helped a lot to take my decision to stay in this desert for the summer.
Now that we are in the middle of the summer, I can tell you, temperatures ok, humidity, hard but still ok, but nobody told me what the hardest part of the summer was: seeing your friends leave! You see, when you’re an expat, the friends you make in your new city become your new family. Very quickly you bond with them and spend a lot of time with them. You create a routine with them. Especially in this country where most of the wives don’t work. We have plenty of time to do things together. The breakfasts, the Pilates classes, the morning coffees, the lunches, the shopping at the mall, the afternoon playdates, the aperitives, the diners, the parties and the ladies nights! This has become my daily routine with these friends. People in Belgium often ask me if I’m bored… I answer that I don’t have time for that 🙂 . I never expected meeting such amazing souls around here. I came for the sun, the adventure, the change. But coming here, I met brilliant people. And I thought it was worth saying here.
In Belgium, I always felt a bit the odd one out between most friends. They didn’t quite get my urge to leave the country or travel so far. And I started to feel weird. Most of them wanted to build a house, in a specific village, close from their parents. There’s a saying in Belgium: “Belgian have a brick in their stomach”. I don’t. Why? People were saying we lived “so far” in Belgium, talking about 50 or 100 km. I didn’t understand. Why? I was so different. I always felt happier abroad. As If the air was lighter, the further I stood, the better I felt. The idea of staying in the same house my whole life terrifies me. For me it sounds like “You are going to die here, enjoy your life”. Yes, I’m pretty much tortured. Apart from my husband, none of my friends or family seemed to be thinking like me. And when I first started to meet expats, I noticed a lot of them had the same feeling. That was so nice for me to be finally like the others. To talk with people who understand that. People who do not know where they are going to be in 3 years and it’s ok. People who live to travel, explore and meet new faces. Also, people who don’t judge so easily, because they know life is different for each one and they don’t get into a competition. I’m not saying all expats are like that, I also met some serious jerks, don’t worry, but some of them are tremendous and they made me feel good around here.
Also, expats always have tons of funny stories. Because when you move your life from country to country, let’s face it, shit happens. But after a while you kind of laugh at those stories, and they become a part of you. Scars, figuratively… and actual physical ones, that you treasure. I love listening to all those stories that made me laugh so much. Like this posh lady who had to drink kava (a narcotic) and offer a whale tooth to a tribe chief in Fiji, in order to assure safety during her stay on the island. We also bonded around the fact that we were often facing the same problems; administration, housing, culture, …
This country has 90% of expats. Knowing that expats have a tendency to regroup, we met A LOT of people in 10 months. Before I came here, I wasn’t so sure about meeting new people. I had my friends in Belgium, they were great, why would I look for somebody else? And would I find someone who makes me laugh and thinks like me? It sounded very unlikely. I wasn’t sure my humor would be understood in another language. Also, where would I meet people? I had the impression that I haven’t met many new people in Belgium for years!
I don’t know if I got EXTREMELY lucky or if it’s the case for every expat, you’ll have to tell me, but I met those super funny/tolerant/caring people. OH, wait, did I met them or did Agnès recruited them? To be very honest, we both worked on it and “fished” some friends as well. On her side, she chose some friends at school (in the 4 classes of her level) and some friends at the compound. Then she introduced me to their parents. “Mom, I invited Allegra and her mom to our house, tomorrow, they’ll be there at 3” (yes, she did that… the super stressed mom that I was in the beginning of this year forced her to learn her new address by heart. She was 3, she remembered it very well). On my side, I met people at a diplomatic diner or in my daily activities and introduced Agnès and Jack to their kids. Each time the double match kids/parents were validated, we kept on going. Turns out, Agnès is the most sociable kid I’ve ever seen. If she had Facebook, she would have more friends than me. I should probably let her run my blog.
Anyway, now after 10 months, I’ve build some serious friendships… and like 80% of the people in the UAE, they left for the summer. And, like a baby, I cried to see them leave. I cried at the school, at the compound, everywhere I had to say goodbye. But I’m lucky this year, almost all of them come back in September. Because the summer is also the time of rotation for the expats. Some leave the country forever. And those goodbyes are even harder. Although I (almost) didn’t cried leaving Belgium, I feel like I’m going to cry my heart out when I will leave this country… because the people I met, will never be together in the same place of the world again. All of my Abu Dhabi friends are going to be shipped all around the world. But it helps thinking I will be able to travel and visit them in their new environment! So, to keep myself busy, I’m actually planning the biggest party ever when they will all be back in September. Do you have a party theme idea for me?
Ps: I’m writing to you with a gecko at my side. I thought those 7 cm geckos all around the house were cute and funny, but now I found the mom. A 30 cm Gecko living in my living room plant. At first, I screamed of course, but then I realized she might be, like me, lonely during the summer and my AC and company could be of some help to her. In return, she eats the ants and other weird desert insects trying to break into my house during the hot season. So, for now, she stays. At least until Agnès sees her…