You’ve Got a Friend in Me

Day 26: Recognize someone who has made your expat experience better.

One of the best things about being an international teacher is that, though we’re all here doing the same thing, there are so many different people from so many different walks of life.  There is also an abundance people at different ages and in different stages of life to be found in an international school.  When I started in the DR, I was among the young, single group.  We partied on the roof top of Kury, went to the Colonial Zone for drinks and dancing, spent the weekends frying ourselves at all-inclusive resorts and, for some, surfing their hearts out. 

In Kuwait, I started out as part of that group but, after a year of singlehood, I found myself as part of a non-married couple.  We could still have fun, we still had bbq’s down by the pool and snuck beverages into the rugby games.  We went to the rugby ball and the Irish ball and any other balls we could go to.  But people started knocking on our door instead of just walking in… because we were a couple.

By Shanghai, I was married.  You start being ignored by the singles, especially the young singles.  You’re married, that means you’re not fun.  Well, the Rugby Star was still fun.  I’ve honestly never been that fun.  He still went out but more as a single than as part of a married couple.  And that was actually okay with me.  I had my Midsomer Murders, he had The Studio with K.

In Guatemala, we became married with child(ren).  That meant we were definitely only allowed to hang out with other couples and usually only ones where the girl was kind of (or totally) in the throws of baby fever.  I had an excuse to stay home whenever I wanted, which was often.  The RS had an excuse to keep hanging out with the boys like a single man.  We were both pretty happy.  Exhausted, but happy.

And now, here in Bahrain, we’re a family.  And there are other families and it’s good.  We live on the same street as all of our expat colleagues and they like to ooh and ahh at the gorgeousness that is my children.  We get invited to birthday parties where the dad’s stand in the backyards, drinking beer and grilling something and the mom’s hang out in the kitchen near the open bottles of wine.  We take day trips to the zoo and plan excursions to see plays or child-friendly musical acts when they come.  We meet at the playground or swimming pool for weekend relaxation time.

There are people here in Bahrain that are in all the stages I’ve gone through to get to family.  But there’s one stage I haven’t been through yet and the wonderful people in this stage are the ones I’d like to tell you about today.  This stage is the married couple with grown children who are off living their lives stage.  These are some of the most wonderful women I’ve ever met, ones who have helped make every transition easier in this crazy life I lead.

In the DR, it was MP.  Now, she was actually in the family stage at this point (still is).  She had a young son and a newborn.  But she was wise.  And she was funny and kind.  And she would invite me over for beers and we could talk forever.  She was calming and rational and she loved what she did.  She was not only the epitome of an amazing teacher, she set the standard for friend as well.  I knew that if I ever needed anything, I could count on MP. 

In Kuwait, it was Wedgie.  She was a different sort of mother-figure.  She was the fun mom, the one who would drink and smoke with the kids.  She kept a Diet Coke by her bed and hated drinking water.  She reminded me a lot of Blanche from ‘The Golden Girls’ because she was from Texas and had fabulous hair and was never seen without her makeup.  She could always be counted on for a laugh and, if you needed it, a drink and a shoulder to cry on.  Wedgie was usually the first at a party and the last to leave.  She put us yunguns to shame.

MP moved to Shanghai at the same time we did.  She lived across the river so we didn’t see her nearly enough, but she was the same ol’ MP with bigger kids and a better job.  Every time we saw her, it was like no time had passed at all.  I am lucky to have had her as my special friend in two countries.  

In Guatemala, I owe my sanity to K.  She wasn’t a full-fledged member of the grown children who are

I don’t know how my friends feel about me putting their
pics on my blog, so here’s one of the Ladybug when she was
a newborn… she’s turning 3 in less than a week!   Talk about
heartbeats!

off living their lives club as she still had one high school kid in the house until our last year.  But she was an amazing surrogate mother, especially when I lost my own.  She was a magnet for those of us who needed guidance or direction.  She was a shoulder, an ear, a rock, and a laugh.  Two years later, I still picture her beautiful smiling face and hear her kind, calming voice when I need to remember to breathe and slow down.  K just got it.  And it was everything. 

Being overseas, I miss my family.  There are interactions that you don’t get when you’re not surrounded by moms, dads, sisters and cousins.  You can make wonderful friends but they will never take the place of those connections you share with the people who know you the best.  But M, Wedgie, and K have filled a bit of that void for me and, whether they know it or not, I am eternally grateful.  I hope they know that if they ever need the favor returned, I would be there in a heartbeat.  Because they have become part of my heartbeats. 

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