Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Roamer: Expat on the move - Packing lists

Roamer: Expat on the move - Packing lists: Relocating to a new country has a very unique effect on our dialogues.  I can’t claim that our conversations lately were as fre...

Roamer: Expat on the move - Packing lists

Roamer: Expat on the move - Packing lists: Relocating to a new country has a very unique effect on our dialogues.  I can’t claim that our conversations lately were as fre...

Expat on the move - Packing lists

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 thin out. 

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 stuff away.
-      -  Maybe just the train table but not the tracks
More silence
-      -  I mean those tracks represent years of our boys’ early childhood
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!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Expat ont the Move - Count Down Diaries

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 moving.

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 thrive.

And yet!

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 have.

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!

So the count down begins….
40 more things to do before I go……

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The life of a Westchester Mom - Halloween Madness

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 bones.

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.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fallin’ into Fall

There is something to be said about Autumn in NY.

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 of allergies.

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..

Fall encounters

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. 

At 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 human.

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 

This 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!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Coffee Talk - Expat Wives : WHen is it Ok to UNFOLLOW?

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 am.

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 be.

End result????

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 their own??

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!