Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Realities of Expat Life

I'm sitting and writing this on a beautiful Saturday morning. There is a breeze coming from the beach, the palm tree is swaying and the bougainvillea is spilling over the garden wall. As it's morning I have a coffee and not the requisite pink Gin (note: never have had one & must try some day). Life here in Dubai has been and is good.

Back in 1989 I set off on and adventure. On the 19th of April I left Boston and moved to London. I'd planned to live there for three years. Two weeks after I arrived I met my now husband and the rest is history as they say. It also created a huge question of what is home....

You, by now, are wondering why I'm in such a reflective mood...bear with me. So since 1989 I have lived in London, Calgary, London, Moscow, Houston, Jakarta, Dubai, London and Dubai. Before that I lived in a small city outside Boston and spent my summers on Cape Cod. Aside four the four years of university in western Massachusetts, I lived in the house that my father had lived all is life in...

So my move in 1989 was a huge break. The whole essence of home was neatly tied up in stability and the factors that made me, well me. In 1989 away from home and all it entails I could see me - I was not defined by assumptions (other than what people in London assumed all Americans were) of where I came from, where I went to school and who my family was. This for me was a defining moment. I was in charge of what people thought - well , sort of...they of course brought there own preconceptions.

So during these years wandering the world, the question of 'home' has been raised and not just for me but for my children. Because unlike me that haven't had the stability of home and community to hold them and shape them. At times this has caused me great worry. My kids have never been like anyone else...they have never had the comfort of fitting in (why I would want this for them when I have always felt a misfit I don't know - the things we yearn for).

I still have dreams of returning to my parents house on the Cape. It changes and morphs in these dreams but I always know it's my home. This house was sold back in 2001 and before that I used to think back to the house outside if somehow in my dreams I was at least still trying to hold onto home - whatever that may be.

As I write this post it's the third time in less than a year that I want to go home even though I know I won't recognize much of it. My uncle and Godfather is dying right now and won't last the week. My roots - Irish- are calling out to me to go home - home to grieve, to celebrate and to reconnect. When my great aunt passed away at the age of 102 in February, I couldn't go home and now I find I'm in that same situation. This week is the Emirates Airlines Literary  Festival and I am part of it....I have taken on responsibilities and I can't let others down.

So my family will be gathering this week and I won't be with them. I will however be united in spirits with my grandparents who left Ireland behind and were never able to go home - to laugh, to grieve, to reconnect. In some strange way by becoming a expat I have picked up a bit of them that left home to make a new life. They knew the pain of not being with family when things were celebrated or mourned. It was what they had to give up for their new life and I guess it's what I have to too...however sometimes it doesn't make the pain of being away any less.


Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Gosh how very unexpected and heart-rending, stick with the path you have set out on, you never know where life's lane will twist to next!

liz fenwick said...

Very true Rupert. thanks.

Jan Jones said...

Lovely reflective post, Liz. I couldn't imagine living a life like yours - it is enormously to your credit that you have provided a stable emotional life for your wonderfully balanced children.

I am quite sure - is asked - that they would define 'home' as wherever you and dh are.


Jan Jones said...

Sigh. IF asked.

liz fenwick said...

Thanks Jan. The hugs definitely needed at the mo...the ups and downs in one week.

It will be interesting in time to see how the kids feel about 'home' and their nomadic early years.


Helen said...

My husband is the child of expat parents. He said home was wherever they were.

You have led such an exciting life Liz. I'm sorry things are difficult for you at the moment. xx

Nell Dixon said...

Big, big hugs Liz.

Chris Stovell said...

Thinking of you at this time, Liz. Best wishes, Cx

Bex said...

You know my love and thoughts are with you. I can so feel for you and what you're going through now. Much love and many hugs.

Debs Carr said...

What an extreme range of emotions you must be feeling at the moment, Liz.

Hugs to you.x

Kathy said...

Perhaps your nomadic life will be of benefit for your children in their future. I'm sorry for your long distance loss. I grew up with a dad that moved with his job. Then we moved often so my mom could be closer to her work after they divorced. Seems this prepared my sister and me for life as military wives. I don't have anything other than summers and holidays at my grandparents house that was the same most all the time. Funny when we lived in Germany and in Hawaii it didn't bother me a lot being away from home. My husband I managed to lose family every time we were too far away. I send you virtual hugs and prayers to enable you to move through the loss.

Liz Harris said...

It sounds a very difficult time for you, Liz; my heart goes out to you.

Eight years ago, we moved back to the south after 16 years in Cheshire - our sons were in their early 20s.

We were told by friends that the boys would never look upon our place in Oxfordshire as a home because their formative years and childhood friendships had been in Cheshire.

Happily, our friends were wrong: the boys see our new place as their home because we are there - and they have done since the moment we moved in.

Their ultimate stability is where we - my husband and I - are, not bricks and mortar in any one location.

They go back to Cheshire and see their friends, just as we do, but, despite now having their own flats in London, when they visit us, they see themselves as coming home.

Your children will be exactly the same - wherever you and Chris are, that will be their home, even if they have an additional home of their own in future years.

Liz X