Relocating to a new country has a very unique effect on our
dialogues. I can’t claim that our
conversations lately were as free flowing and fluid as they’ve always been. As
we grow older and our positions in life become so vastly different, the common
threads that usually weave themselves into interesting conversations begin to
He talks mostly about work and I listen only when he
mentions the kids, my friends or my workout routine. I talk primarily Yoga, Soul Spinning and Swim
classes and he listens only when the words “lucrative” or “paid consultancy”
permeate my free flowing monologues.
Otherwise, we communicate great! (Smirk)
So when I started telling him about my plans for packing up
the house, I didn’t expect much. I was proud with my decision to designate all
the Thomas tracks and trains as family heirloom, his silent appraisal of the
car roofing came as no surprise. At
least he wasn’t rolling his eyes… yet. I
kept talking anyway.
- - I don’t think I want to give the kids’ Thomas
- - Maybe just the train table but not the tracks
- - I mean those tracks represent years of our boys’
Silence .. I’m thinking: eventually he has
to give in and engage, or else, his neck will go stiff on him for staring at
the car roof for so long.. and we still have five more traffic lights to cross
before I drop him off..
- - You know what? I’ll put it all in a big box..
Maybe I’ll send it with you on your first visit
There is a sudden neck movement. Yes, I
finally got his attention. I keep staring ahead, focused on the road
- - Why would I take a box full of train tracks on
my first visit?
- - I don’t know, you’re going anyway, you might as
well take some stuff with you
- - Yeah, but after that first visit, I will go and
settle for 6 months. So I’m thinking: I need to carry as much of my personal
stuff as I can. Otherwise I’m stuck for months till the container arrives.. You
know, essential things like suits, shirts, shoes….
-- Really?? You want to take your clothes? But a
single box of Thomas tracks is too much for you? That’s just silly!
Oohhh, did I just say that? Did I actually just say that?
Blessedly, I only had one traffic light left and he was kind
enough to laugh, just laugh!
He did do the Choo Choo signal as he left the car however,
and I think I heard him sing: they’re 2, they’re 4 they’re 6 they’re 8..
Shunting trucks and hauling freight………..♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬♩♪♫♬
I have to concede to the fact that... when overwhelmed I tend to panic about the ridiculous stuff, start packing the trivial "heirloom" items, spend hours making to do lists with all the things I should have done in the past 5 years, never bothered, but now must, absolutely must do before I go!
I’m 40 this year.. So I had a list of 40 things to do before
I turn 40.. A list to do while I’m 40.. A list to do the decade of 40.. I’m
cheesy.. I know! But I am an expat housewife living in Westchester. That is
enough to justify Cheesy!
I thought I had my lists all under control. Until a new one just
unfolded before me: 40 things to do before I leave Westchester..
I’m leaving.. and I’m loving my next hub.. We couldn’t have
landed a better destination.. a dream post.. Why then?
Why am I bargaining for a few months more? A few extra
moments to do all the 40 things I set out to do the minute I heard we’re
The expat mind is a very unique one. We spend a lifetime
carving a life that keeps changing on us. We take every move as an opportunity
to reinvent ourselves, to leave behind all the things we DON”t like about the
place we just left., to say goodbye to people we didn’t necessarily click with,
houses we couldn’t grow fond of, environments that stifled our desire to
Somehow, everything we DON”T like about that place seems to
vanish. We are equipped with memories that can only retain the good stuff. It kicks in, not when we leave, but when we
first hear the words: “Honey, I got the job!”
(side note: Honey is not in our vernacular, I just like the cliché)
He looks at me and all I see is raw frustration. But you
said you would jump at it if this job comes, he says to me. Why do you want to
separate the family and prolong your stay here? It took you over three years to
even like this place and now you want to stay???????
He’s right on all counts: I did hate it here when I first
move. Not because it’s New York, but because in and out, I’m no suburban wife.
I had to lock my professional ambitions up for 5 years. Did all the housework I
hate to do. Became the soccer housewife I swore I’d never be. One would think
I’d take any opportunity to jump ship even if it was half as good as the one we
But that’s not how the expat mind works!
I did hate it when I first came. But I did manage to turn my
life around. I surrounded myself with the best friends Westchester can offer: Hip,
positive, strong and colorful people who kept adding and adding to my life. I
pursued passions I never had time to explore: hiking, skiing (not so much a
passion, rather a terrifying challenge), dance classes, movie nights and
infinite good food.
I survived 4 farewells and watched most of my friends go
year after year, wondering when it would be my turn. With every girls night out I realized how
incredible those friendships were and still are to my life. It boils down to
this: I had no job, little help, zero support system but I had sooo much fun!
And that’s what my mind chooses to hold on to.
It’s a flip coin, I tell him, If I chose to resist, to stay
who I am, to hold on to a previous life and count the days till the new post is
over, I give you 3-4-5 years of misery and in return I’m the happiest partner
when it’s time to go. Bring on the bubble wrap! Your house will be chopped up
in tiny numbered boxes in no time. I’ll meet you at the airport.
But when I jump right into it, push my limits, explore the
options and cherish the gifts that every new post provides, I inadvertently
build a life, a good one!
Every hike with a friend is a new root that inches deeper in
the ground. Every breakfast with the girls is a day that just started right.
Every dance class is a bad moment chased away and replaced with a rush that
colors my outlook on the days ahead.
So when I’m asked to go, I’m actually wrapping up years of
sincere friendships, fun moments and seriously good food. That doesn’t usually
happen with a happy face!
10 pm, Halloween night. Kids are bouncing off the wall on a
mad sugar high! I’ve been up on my feet since 8 and I’m simply drained to my
An hour ago when I walked in, Walid proudly boasted: “I
cleaned up the kitchen!”
Bless him, I thought. I left a huge mess behind as I rushed
out of the house to go pick up the boys’ friend, drop three of the 5 in my car
at another friend’s, and head to another for trick or treating in their hood.
Granted I still had the last batch of laundry to do, the
last two luggage pieces to close and all kids ready for bed. But the kitchen
was a nightmare waiting to unfurl and my hero had just saved me from the kitchen witch's axe.
That is, until I stepped into the kitchen, an hour later….
Ten days, a trip to Egypt and a huge wedding later, I’m back
and I can’t remember why I wrote that intro. It’s a good thing I had no time to
finish it up! Lucky Walid.. he’s off the hook this time.
The weather, perfect! Sunny, breezy, warm but not humid and
for weeks-length rain seems to have lost its candor.
Westchester lights up with an explosion of foliage colors..
yellows, oranges, reds and greens. Simply put, It's BREATHTAKING!
For one short season, I can walk the woods, jog the trails
or just breath in the beautiful hues without sneezing it all back in a spatter
It’s the Indian summer. It’s my Indian summer. And it never
ever gets old!
Outside my window, my trees are beginning to show some
yellow. Squirrels have gone crazy
collecting their winter stock of nuts. Looks like it’s gonna be a long harsh
winter if their hyper panic mode is any indication.
But for now, I have decided to take this Fall, probably my
last, by storm.. Canoeing in the Hudson, Hiking the trails of Greenburg, Nordic
Walking the Woods, and just giving my summer tan a boost at Rye Beach..
Last Fall, Tamara and I had a long encounter with a family
of deer. The male politely tried to shoo
us away. It moved its head in a rhythmic movement. It was
fascinating to watch! Obviously the angry animal didn’t think we were that
interesting in return. We were upsetting their grazing routine.
The deer kept
repeating his head movement in hope that we might catch his jest and walk away.
But we slowly moved closer, mesmerized. The movements became frantic, its head
almost touching the ground every time it bowed.
Then came the warning hums. Then the hooves thumping dust all around.
that point, I stopped and just stared. Following my cue, Tamara trustingly just
waited, totally taken by the baby deer standing behind its dad. The little one,
just like mine, was closely gaging her parent’s every move, ready to run at the
first signal, fully assured that we, grown-ups totally knew what we were
doing! Poor kids!!!!! Both animal and
The deer and I seemed to connect at some deeper level,
because we both turned our heels and decided to run for shelter at exactly the
same time J
game was not fun anymore. The animal clearly took me for an idiot for not
picking all these hints, and I felt like I have trespassed enough and it was
time to go back to our human existence. But for that one moment, I wondered…
why is it that a chance encounter with a wild deer in the woods next door would
be so revealing? Why did I understand what that animal wanted to communicate so
much better than I understand most humans when they talk to me… hmmmmm.. More encounters to come!
It’s been three days and I’m still jetlagged. The upside to
lag in this beautiful weather is that, unlike everyday of my life, I actually
look forward to an early morning activity and am usually ready to pounce by 8
Hanan, as upbeat and energetic as ever, suggests we make use
of the weather+ my sunny humor and go for a brisk walk by the beach instead of
the usual first coffee after a long summer break.
We talk about anything and everything, our vernacular speed
matched only by our fast steps on the grass. We mention the number of UN and
foreign-service spouses who, this year, have decided to NOT follow their
husbands wherever they were posted.
One friend decided to stay behind because her son is knee
deep in IB, her private business also on the rise. One friend landed a dream
job and has also decided to stay on. Another survived the Saudi experience for
a whole year and has vowed to not go back.
The examples were too many and we started to analyze why we, the expat
spouses, have suddenly decided to rebel!
The cycle goes like this…
Our moms all shared a common denominator: a relatively traditional
upbringing geared towards a woman’s ultimate goal to become a dutiful wife and
a great mom.
For some reason, along the path to womanhood, our parents
realized that life did not quite always work this way. Some moms hesitantly tasted the forbidden
pleasure of life outside her domestic duties. Some have even managed to establish
flourishing careers and have achieved huge success. Other moms, thrown into a world that forced
them to rely on their limited skills and provide for themselves, have also,
along the way, realized that we are not as sheltered as our ancestors used to
They all invested in their daughters, us, to become well-rounded,
highly educated, very skilled and autonomous individuals. They equipped us so well to face a world that
is usually unfair and harsh. But then,
our lot decided to go the traditional way and married roaming career-driven
spouses. We didn’t just hit a brick
wall. We all collided into that huge Dam
that is called Sacrifice, head on!
So here we found ourselves, molded into a traditional role we
were neither tuned to nor trained for all our youth. We were expected to
follow, nurture, support, pack and follow again.. and again..and again….
A few girls I know have actually fit perfectly into that
domestic mold. Most however, have fought
viciously at first, given up when kids popped out one after the other, waited
it out with a small job, a consultancy, a degree here and there. And when it
was time to rise, like a dormant volcano that has suddenly risen from its
slumber, they have revolted.
They are the girls who truly hunger for a little more than
domestic gratitude, a lot more than what their spouses can offer ( I mean
intellectual input rather than $$$$ and Egppps).
They are the girls who believe that they can and should
pursue their own path rather than follow and accept another person’s path.
On the outset, you’d think what a selfish generation. Do
they think they can have it all? A man, a house, good kids and a career of
The truth is YES! We are that generation! Educated,
Rebellious, Strong and Confident (not that much!). And I don’t see that selfish! We only live it
once and we – in many cases (not always) – have a choice!
From all my peers who have already made the leap and stopped
following, I don’t see an ounce of selfishness in their blood. In fact, I see a zest for life so strong, that
it somehow overflows and reflects on their motivated and focused kids. The few
wise men, who have accepted and supported, have so far, maintained a very
critical balance and thus have kept their marriages quite stable. Hint Hint J
Admiring each and everyone of them, Hanan and I slowly fall
into silence as each drifts in her own thoughts! I just turned 40.. but my baby
girl is only 5! When will my time come?
I didn’t dare ask her what she was thinking at this point.
Minutes after, Ramadan TV series and silly commercials
overtook the rest of ourtrek. As expected, I went back home quick to cook for
the kids before they came home… hmmmmmmmm.. Did I just confess that I turned …… Better get working on that bucket list!
The question of who I am usually yields a different answer every... two to four years!
Sometimes, I'm a PR and Media Professional. I'm also a freelance Journalist. But the only constant job I have is that of a typical Roamer...
A United Nations Spouse who has followed her husband to yet, another destination.
It keeps me busy and it keeps me alive but right now... It stands in the way!
In the way of fulfilling career aspirations.
In the way of ensuring a core sense of stability for my family.
In the way of defining who I am.
Like Roamers everywhere, I constantly have to deal with Nostalgia, Insecurity, and kids relying on imaginary friends to replace those left behind.
I have made it my mission to investigate these issues and share with fellow Roamers tips and insights to overcome the hurdles of our lives and find peace with a rootless life.