Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ten Ways Living Abroad has Changed Me

This is hard.

I was not expecting to move back to the U.S. Just here for family reunions and then wait for visas with family while Lance worked out of London. But then the bottom gave way on the Chinese market and with it the offer that was taking us back. So it is back to plan A, where we start an investment fund in the U.S. and raise a family closer to loved ones and within a school system we understand.

Easier said then done. I had heard it was rough, but repatriation has been so brutal as to take my breath away. Harder then leaving, because you know you'll be back. The ocean that divides my country and Europe is deep and wide and full of bureaucrats who require visas please, thank you very much.

I have grieved before, but this grieving- of a life that won't be lived, of friends my children will never remember, of a way and philosophy of life, of a freshness and excitement-is-around the corner rush that is gone, of my beautiful quiet little London village where I could live peacefully without a car and car seats, of the many educational activities for children and babies within a stone's throw, of places in Europe I will never see, and where my part-time career was facilitated by everyone I wanted to meet traveling through at some point- has been made harder, almost larger than life because I didn't ever say goodbye properly. You can't heal a wound that refuses to surface- it just festers beneath, and avoiding it is probably more painful in the aggregate than facing it head on.

This week may change all of that- I am passing through London on my way to a conference, and perhaps the long layover will make it possible to finally say goodbye and get closure.  Then I can face my demons and make room for the joy of living in my own country in a place above all others my husband and I have picked.

Regardless of how long that takes, one thing is sure: I have returned to the U.S. of A. changed. In no particular order, here's just a few of the ways I have changed:

1. I think my exercise should be part of my life, not a separate activity.  I want to walk or ride my bike as much as possible, so we are moving to a spot where most of life's amenities are within striking distance.

2. Related to #1, I want to use a car as little as possible. For exercise value, fuel savings, environment saving, time saving, and simplicity's sake, my husband and I are going to only use one car between the two of us for as long as we can manage. This means I walk places, a lot (see above). By choice. I'm sure people find it strange that I walk a mile with both kids to go to the pharmacy, but I love it.

3. I read international news with as much interest as domestic news. Foreign Policy is a favorite. I used to read it out of a sense of obligation because I knew I should care. But now I really do.

4. I use my passport as an ID. It is now habit.

5. I know how to dial internationally. Not once did any of my family call me on a normal phone during our entire five years abroad, and I don't blame them-that was me.

6. I have no idea what to call the facilities. Toilet sounds crass, lavatory sounds like I'm an airline hostess, loo sounds like I dined with the queen, and bathroom just can't be found in my vocabulary at the right moment.

7. I am shocked by the price of health care. Private insurance plus a socialized system meant I could go to the doctor for anything without seeing the bill-with the exception of our tax bill!

8. I want to travel more, but in different ways. Traveling wets and never satiates the travel appetite. However, I want to do it differently. Europeans see one city or region for weeks or months, not in a few days. I would love to travel to one place and really get to know it by frequency or length of stay.

9. I have slowed down and learned to relish tech-off time and doing things properly and with enough time. Brits don't get together unless they have time for at least a cup of tea or a four course meal. You always have to ask for the check.

10. I have developed my own special relationship with the British. I am more sensitive to my Americaness and that of my faith. I am more aware of what unites and distinguishes us from our fellow sojourners, and celebrate both. I have a profound respect for the British way of being, and of the much-lauded special relationship between our two countries.

No comments:

Post a Comment