Here in Africa we have an Iron Rule. It’s nothing to do with government control or military states. It’s to do with the state of electrical appliances, irons in particular. The Iron Rule is as follows:
Of course, I saved the best until last.
Overnight tiny African mud huts appear in building crevices. They are neat and rounded with a perfect cylindrical entrance. I’m slightly ashamed to say, the first time I found one of these structures I had no idea what it was and prodded it at arm’s length with a skewer until it crumbled, revealing a quite gruesome assortment of spider corpses, each stored in its own individual tomb cell. Continue reading
I’m not terribly keen on stinging beasties. Partly due to a ‘traumatic’ experience as an adolescent where unbeknownst to me a wasp crept up my trouser leg.
My friend Maple-Syrup explained her theory of expat locationships at the top of steep stone stairway that clung to the wall of Rumeli Hisari fortress in Istanbul. We had the place to ourselves one sunny September morning and had stopped to catch our breath and admire the stunning Bosphorus view.
You meet a lot of new people when you become an expat and unlike real life when you have months and years, a lifetime even to build solid friendships, when you’re on a posting friend-shipping is process you go through over and over again, at speed.
There are the kindred spirits. Conversation with them is easy. You become fast and firm friends. You can imagine them fitting in totally with any old friends you left behind in your home country. Wherever and whenever in the world you are you can pick up where you left off. It might be that you have a similar sense of humour or comparable staying power on the dance floor. But finding a posting pal doesn’t always happen, or you do and then they leave, or you leave.
What you find is there will be some people you get to know and the common link is location (and probably that you arrived at the same location, at the same time when you are clueless and friendless). Similar aged kids, shared nationality or language can help, but are not prerequisites. The point is that all things being equal, in any other time or place you probably wouldn’t have been friends with this person (the chemistry isn’t there) or you would never have met (different social or work scene). A friendship by default. I agreed totally with her theory, but liked the fact she had given me a name for it. The Expat Locationship.
But then occasionally a locationship, the one you thought was fleeting, turns out to be a slow burn and against all the odds develops into a real and lasting friendship withstanding time and distance, whereas other apparently solid as a rock soulmate friendships are squashed into a packing box and get broken during the move, it’s only when you arrive at your new posting that you make that discovery.
It’s a bit like our mug collection. If Mr Incredible jets off on a business trip, at the very least, however pressed for time, he’ll bring back a mug. An odd little tradition. We have a varied and changing selection. Every time we move one or two will get lost or broken, just like our expat friendships, whereas others survive move after move after move.
You never really know which expat friendships or locationships will stand the test of time and survive the journey. Like our mismatched mug collection you will probably end up with a broad, eclectic range of friends. I really kind of like that.
We’re back from a little jaunt to the Sandpit (Dubai). I’m still in a bit of a daze from the exhausting heat, the dizziness induced by looking up at all those glittering skyscrapers and the headiness of looking down at the ground from our birds-eye accommodation.
We’re off to a summer wedding in the UK quite soon and I need an outfit. It’s winter fashion all the way at the moment here in Jo’burg, so finding appropriate attire is a no-go. By the time we land back in the UK we will be hitting the tail end of the summer stock, which generally means slim pickings.
Sweetpea has grown. Her old wheelie case now bobs along uncomfortably on the floor and bashes her leg with every step. Time to buy a bigger one…
One of the wonderful things about being an expat is being part of a rich multinational community and the fact that you regularly have unexpected new experiences with lovely new people. For example…