Expat Revolving Door
Beer Fest 2014–the name of the event explains the photo, I sincerely hope.
My very first and close friend, here in Abu Dhabi, is moving back to the states. Of course, people come and go–they do everywhere. Just this time last year, I was selling our family home, leaving our town of 8 years, which was a really long time for us to stay anywhere and preparing to move here; it was also a very sad time. It’s a bit different here though. This is not our country; we all know that our time here is finite. None of us, in the expat community (84% of the population of this entire country), are from here.
Fabric shopping in Abu Dhabi
I really like to move. I always have. I love to face all the challenges that a new locale offers: where to shop, where to eat, where to find great stationery and where to find fun. I enjoy a good and regular resettling within my home country, but I relish the same experience abroad—it is filled with so many more surprises. I have blogged about these searches ad nausea, I’m sure. My friends all know this about me. If you are new friend to me, know that, while I am loyal and a great friend, I am not destined to be local for very long. I’ll still be your friend, but it will change. The very best friendships can withstand distance. Everyone has that friend--you know, the one that doesn’t stick around for long. The one you do not see for years, but when you do, it’s as though no time as passed at all. I seek that variety of friendship because I am a nomad. My feet get itchy, and it isn’t athlete’s foot.
With a little help from my friends
Enough about me, let’s talk about my friends. The way we befriended each other last fall was fast and furious. There was no time for questions or finding things in common. There was no time for politics, religion or “what school did you go to” and many of those other questions you know I like to know upfront because I am nosy, but you are not supposed to bring up in polite conversation. There wasn’t even time to figure out if we had kids and husbands who might be compatible, which is mandatory friend criteria for burgeoning friendships back home, but not a concern here. (We were very lucky that they all did get along.) We were simply all new here, lost, confused, in the same boat and needing a shoulder to cry on, a smiling face to move towards when you walked into the school lobby and, most importantly, someone to laugh with at all the absurd experiences that were happening around us because, we all knew, if we didn’t laugh about them, we’d cry or, worse, go crazy.
Which leads me to believe that friendship is a lot like opportunity. It knocks on your door, all the time, everyday in countless ways, but you don’t usually open the door. How many opportunities have we all missed because we were too scared or busy to simply say yes to some odd invitation? I think if you look back, you could summon up a vast array of “missed friendship opportunities” because some strange person you met somewhere dressed, behaved or spoke very differently to you or just wasn’t what you perceived to be “your type”–I know I can think of thousands.
Can I get some nuts, please?
To honor my dear friends going home this month, I vow, from now on, to welcome more people into my life the way I did you: with no questions asked, no outward appearance assessments or affinity tests. As one proverbial expat revolving door swings shut behind them, I hope that another is swooshing open in front of me brimming with another new friend–hopefully just like you. This friend will never replace my dear friend, but she will have to do. I wish the same open revolving door full of potential friends to you as well. Godspeed Shahana and family; I will miss you dearly. I know you will make many new friends, just like us, in your new home.