We’ve loved that about Cambodia.
But the downside is the goodbyes. It seems someone is always entering and exiting our lives in a steady and constant stream. Whether its expat friends heading home, or family visits that are coming to an end, it is an inescapable reality.
This decision to live and work in another country means we miss out on the little moments with family and friends back home. It also means that the friends we do meet and connect with deeply here most likely live nowhere close to where we’re from.
We’ve had the privilege of knowing a huge range of people from all different backgrounds and from a kaleidoscope of countries. We have grown, been stretched and learned so much from each one. But in the past 9 months, we’ve also said big, dislocating, goodbyes to 13 cherished friends, and 7 family members. And we are now gearing up for my parents to leave after 6 glorious weeks with us.
It just stinks. There’s just no way around the empty-hole-in-the-heart feeling when friends and family do leave. There is a sort of pitiful ache left in their absence. And it’s also developed a sort of hardness in me.
How do you deal with the constant transience that is part and parcel to life as an expat?
Well, my centre of influence has significantly shrunk! A couple of years ago, we really began seeking out friendships with folks on a similar trajectory – those here for similar reasons and for a similar amount of time. We have engaged very deeply with those individuals, and have struck gold, so to speak. We’ve been – well, blessed really is the only word to describe it – with a beautiful community of friends who have become much more like family. (Oh, and having kids naturally shrinks your community as well – only the most resilient folks who don’t have kids will choose to continue hanging out with you!)
That hardness also has a flip side. Like to protect myself from too many goodbyes, I often (half jokingly) ask people how long they are here before even asking their name!
Yes I know. It’s rude. I guess we all have our ways with coping.
With our two kiddies in tow now, I do think more now about how to develop a sense of place, home and family. Life in another country is so rich and fulfilling that I want my kids to experience that. With both born in Asia, different cultures have a deep place in their identities. I expect plenty of our lives will be spent exploring the world and contributing where we can as a family of expats.
And so, I hope for the grace to build deep and meaningful relationships in countries other than my own. I hope that we will be able to create stability and depth for ourselves and our children in environments where transience is the norm. And I hope that we will always grow in the wisdom of how to navigate goodbyes well when they do happen.