Expat Dilemmas: Episode One

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Faithful blog reader, I’ve got an exciting preview to share with you this week: the first episode of my first podcast! In a month or so this will be live in iTunes for listeners around the world to hear. You can say you were among the first.

Life overseas has many complications including what to do when the grocery store runs out of the remaining box of chocolate pudding. On the Expat Dilemmas, you’ll experience the ups and downs of making a home away from home.

All the Single Ladies

Looking for love in all the wrong – or strange – places. We hear from single men and women on what it’s like to try to find your soulmate in the Arabian Gulf where dating is forbidden.

[powerpress]

Deserted in the Desert

The flavor of your summer depends on where you live. Like anything in life.

Qatar
Qatar Airways (Photo credit: Flygstolen)

But I can’t shake the suspicion summer here is unique from life elsewhere, unless you have lived in a beach town during the winter. The impulse towards uniqueness must also be a human compulsion. Hear me out, though, on summer in the desert.

Unlike a beach town which has a seasonal peak, rather than escaping to the desert, those who can, escape from the heat, leaving behind a skeleton population, which in a disaster movie, would most likely be described as “essential personnel” by a big chested general with muscular arms as he strode through the street.

For our family, this summer is no different than the others preceding it. Except maybe that we are going away later than everyone, which again conjures upĀ  survivor-like feelings, though this time of a social apocalypse. We, along with the others that are left behind (“to work” as my husband gruffly puts it) band together against the zombie causing level of heat, which when combined with boredom, can be lethal to the pursuit of happiness in these the most idyllic months of the calender.

People are taking advantage of Ramadan occurring over summer this year, overlapping with the school holiday, to travel for longer than normal. The requisite one month stretches to two months (you read that right my-reluctant-to-take-two-consecutive-weeks-American reader). They wave with glee, a sticky hand of each child in their grasp while climbing the metal staircase into the plane’s belly.

Friendships are challenging to maintain in such a seasonally driven place. You may be facing the pressure of work, family, and the unfulfilled desire to see friends who live only a mile up the road.

In a nomadic place like Qatar, which may have migrated from tents into skyscrapers, associations between people are still based on place. Your interaction with a person will start up, be paused – either by the long summer or winter holiday – and then end. Because sooner or later, everyone leaves.

Whether expat or national, whether because of summer, winter, a degree, secondment, or wedding, everyone leaves. The leaving may be temporary, it may be permanent. Ten years later people have been known to return to find the entire landscape of the country unrecognizable.

The intermittent quality of relationships here is reminiscent of the friendships you had during school. Thrown together by a particular context, making friends (or enemies) with those in proximity, and the tearful promises to keep in touch.

The average expat/family stays for three years before moving on or moving home.

I thought I was safer blending into the national social scene.

But my Qatari friends go to graduate school in roughly the same cycle; they come back, work a job, and then are off for the next degree.

We have buffeted two and a half cycles of leaving. No coincidence we have two children. Averaging a child, a semi-permanent social connection, guaranteed to need you for at least seventeen years, or six cycles, means we need to leave soon. Or consider adding to the family.

And no matter how hot it gets this summer, that’s an idea I’m not yet ready for.

What’s ahead for your summer?

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