Monday, May 17, 2010

"Expiration Dates"

A few entries ago I made mention to expats having "expiration dates". While some expats are on an open-ended assignment or living permanently overseas, most of us are on assignment for a given length of time and when that time expires you repatriate back home or move on to your next adventure.

School is out in 4 weeks. But when you are an expat the end of school doesn't just mean the start of summer break, vacations and getting ready for the next year of school. It also means saying goodbye.

Shortly after we moved here several people left and there others at the end of the school year. Maybe it was because we were new and I was in a perpetually confused state, but people leaving didn't really affect me much. This year it isn't quite the case. Over the past 15 months we have built friendships and memories with people. When you are in an international community like this, people become like family.  And now some of those friends and family are leaving.

Since graduating college 12 years ago, we have moved four times. In all those years I have never had a friend move away from me, rather I was always the one moving. In fact, I have really only had one friend that I can remember move and I was maybe 8. I have always been the one doing the abandoning, never the abandoned. And know what?  I way prefer to be the one moving. (And no my darling husband, that does not mean I am ready to move anytime soon)

My neighbor, Lottie, is one of those leaving. She has become a very dear friend to me. Our kids play together almost everyday. Our families went on vacation to Vietnam together. She and I went away to Okinawa for some girltime. She has taught me how to cook some fantastic meals and is always helping me decorate and rearrange my house. I know if I am never in need of anything, she is one I can call. Today we spent part of the afternoon moving her plants to their new "home" since she is not able to move them with her. (I guess you could say our house kind of looks like a jungle now.) It feels sort of like dejavu, except this time I am on the receiving line.

 Lottie isn't the only one leaving. Other friends are on to their next move, the kids have several friends from school leaving, and Matt has several co-workers leaving as well. The next few weeks are filled with sayonara (goodbye in Japanese) parties, lunches, last minute outings and many tears.

When people move within their own country, I think it is easy to say "we will get together" or "I will visit".  Does it always work out? No, but the idea and possibility is always there. It just struck me a few days ago, some of the people here I will never see again, unless there is some divine intervention that brings us to the same place sometime. Sure, with things like email, Skype and Facebook staying in contact will be easier, but saying you will visit people in New Zealand, Europe and even India isn't quite as believable as saying you will visit someone in California or Arizona.

So to all those who got our cleaning supplies, alcohol, plants and are babysitting my books, to all those who have helped me post-it-note our stuff, paint our house, clean the empty rooms, and have watched the moving truck pull away ––  I apologize from my bottom of my heart. This moving stuff really sucks.

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