The life of an expat is filled with bittersweet moments, just like life lived anywhere. It is a great life for the most part, although not quite the ‘adventure’ that most envision. It’s certainly not a life I ever thought I’d find myself living.
Unlike life in my home country, my circles of friends tend to shift each year if not every few months. (I intentionally say ‘circles’ since at this point there are circles of friends in Moscow, Amsterdam and Helsinki as well as all those in the US and those who live all over the place and don’t necessarily fit neatly into any of the other geographic circles.) The shift, however, is not a result of any sort of fickleness within me or amongst my friends. It’s just the nature of the ‘community’.
Rather than finding a job, buying a house and settling for several decades in a particular neighbourhood, life abroad is a very large game of musical chairs of sorts. Individuals and families drift in and out on a fairly regular basis. Contracts and assignments are temporary and tend to last several years at most. Unless one has strong family ties to a particular country (such as when someone’s spouse happens to be from that particular country), the community is in a constant state of flux as people come and go and move from one place to another.
It must have been a year or so ago that I read a fantastic blog about the intensity of expat friendships in particular. (I wish I could find it, because it struck a cord with me in so many ways.) It’s difficult to describe just how intense those bonds can be between expats. They form incredibly quickly and with an urgency and intensity that are rare in one’s home country. Perhaps it’s because we all know the temporariness to the time we’ll physically spend in that shared place and space. For whatever reason, they are immensely meaningful and powerful. It is also incredibly difficult and painful when friends move on to the ‘next’ place, and it happens far, far too often.
I do not like that ‘moving on part’ of the expat life, whether it is our own or watching a good friend leave. But, I’d not give those relationships up for anything in the world, despite how gut-wrenching it can be when it is time to say farewell to a fellow traveler.
Today’s image was from a send off for one such friend. Part truth (in that I’d do just about anything for these particular friends in whose company a lovely afternoon was spent) and part humourous (in that it’s not clear if the ‘deer’ was meant in an ironic way or simply an instance of ‘funny English’), it provided a nice backdrop over lunch on an otherwise bittersweet occasion.
And, to the girlfriend leaving, this is not farewell, but until we meet again, my deer (I mean, dear).