It’s not all beer and skittles

We had not yet moved into our new house in the ‘hood but were making use daily of the community pool, given the scorching Hotlanta summer and the seemingly endless school holidays. The accents used loudly across the pool by brother and sister made us a stand out and the small community targeted us as the ‘new people’.

Introductions were made and stories shared, friendly folks who oohed and ahhhed at the countries we have lived in, shared their love for all things Aussie (a welcome change to our last country of residence) and admitted to having always wanted to live in another country.

‘But we couldn’t do it, our parents are here, they’re getting older, they could get sick and we wouldn’t take their grandchildren away from them’

Stab, stab, stab.

Unintentional stabbing of course, but it hurts all the same.

A quick chat with any expat will reveal many reasons why they love the life they lead with its swings and roundabouts, ups and downs, opportunities and experiences they and often their third culture kids would never have had if they stayed ‘at home’.

By extension this often also applies to family and friends who visit the expat adventurers in a new and different country, one they may have never been to with no good reason to visit, or just needed an excuse to return to a favourite destination. These are special and cherished times, when the visitors get an insight into the life of their hosts, sharing experiences they may never have otherwise had. We as hosts push the boundaries of our day to day to make sure everyone has a most memorable trip and send them home to sing the gospel and  spread the word to make sure our calendars with penciled in possibilities become concrete conversions into visitors bearing jars of Vegemite and Strawberry Freddos.

There are so many special memories from the visitors we have had in our time away, friends who honeymooned with us in Hong Kong – delaying their trip so we had time to return to our flat from their wedding in the Blue Mountains, my cousin who swore to never live anywhere else but her home town became a regular visitor for ‘the shopping’ and since then has moved twice overseas with her husband and kids. To this day she remains the only person I know who shopped Stanley Markets from opening until closing.

Then there was the travel pack who visited and required a mini van to ferry around. My cousin (of course), her two kids and another of their cousins, her husband, his aunt, her parents and my grandmother, 88 at the time. It was a special day shopping over the border in Shenzhen introducing her to all our regular shopping haunts and telling all the shopkeepers about her very auspicious age. I think we got actual real discounts that day in deference to her age and agility and gracious charm with the locals.

The best man from our wedding and his wife and baby – discovering en route that the baby had inherited his father’s peanut allergy, my brother and his then partner, her terrified of bird flu every time we stepped out of the house, my husband’s sister and brother-in-law came and we popped off for a blissful grown ups only trip to Kota Kinabalu.

My Dad and his wife on more than one occasion – once sailing through the harbour on the Queen Mary and of course my Mum.

South Africa was lighter on the visitors but again my brother and Mum put in appearances. I am pretty sure my brother will never forget the elephant that just wanted to say hello, his first lion spotting or sidling up to the penguins in the Cape for the best photo opportunity.

My mum was the first visitor we had here in the USA, arriving the same day as the container full of boxes. Our first two months in the new house was experienced together. The drama of the pre-school vaccinations and medical checks, the first day of school, the slight changing of WASYO’s accent to move to a short ‘a’ sound and a rolling of the ‘r’s, drop offs and pick ups at a real yellow school bus, weekly drinks on the street corner, WASYO learning to read, Mr 9 saying he quite liked the new school (relief), introducing the local kids to fairy bread at the event where WAFYO became WASYO, she experienced it all at the same time we did. She arrived armed with my childhood set of Winnie the Pooh books and read them to her eldest grandchildren each night before bed, she did jigsaw puzzles with WASYO and talked to Mr 9 about his views on life and video games and became our personal laundry lady – daily collecting the clothes from various baskets around the house and returning them later washed and folded – apparently I have to get used to no ironing (that’s a story for another time).  After proclaiming to get lost in the house on the first few days, as we pulled away last Monday on the way to the airport she said she’d come to like our home. It has been a lonely week since she has left.

Regardless of what happens next, the choices to be made about visits, before or after operations, when, where, how and who with, all five of us will have that special time in our memories. Two months where she was part of our everyday life. Daily this week more than one resident has said ‘When Mumma was here…’

It is hard to be away from family in another country, especially when every phone call or text message could be news that puts everything on hold while you plot a course home, but if we lived in Australia, an hour and a half away by car it is unlikely we would ever have spent so much time together or that our kids would have kissed their Mumma goodnight every night for two months (except for those two pesky hospital visits).

Life goes on here, next week is my husband’s birthday, the following week my Dad and his wife are visiting, Halloween is shaping up to be bigger than Ben Hur and there’s some marathon in New York on November 4th I’m running in, but family near and far are always top of mind. You take the good with the bad and hope the decisions you make, when you make them, are the right ones and that holds true no matter what country you live in.

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24 responses to “It’s not all beer and skittles

  1. Brilliant, Nikki. Thank you for another spot on commentary on the life of an expat.

  2. Thanks Meg, I know you go through the same kind of things in a different way (as we are all individuals). Enjoy your time at home with your girls and stay safe over there x

  3. Gorgeous blog, we may even make it to Atlanta next year, would certainly love to. Thinking of you!!!

    • After your Asia sojourn and your extensive European vacation of this year – I would hope you wouldn’t go to Africa after we’ve left ;) – Disney World (the real one) just down the road in Florida. Bring on the McCaffs x

  4. Eish, this one gave me a lump in my throat! I guess that by definition I am also an expat, although no longer move countries. It is wonderful that you have a lovely supply of visitors. As for SA not being so forthcoming about Aussie… how rude!!

    • Di – as if you don’t encourage them in their misguided views that sheep jokes are about Aussies & not Kiwis ;) Thank you for the comment, my extended expat family support is very special to me. x

  5. Spot on Ms Moffitt. Spot on. I loved long visits. And kids connect with their families in the most amazing way.

    • It’s one of the best parts – family members understanding why their third culture kid relations are the way they are, giving them references they don’t always have if they haven’t seen them in their native environment.

  6. Life as an expat is amazing!!!!! I hope we will visit you at some stage! Although now that we’re back in Australia, Digs seems to be enjoying ‘road trips’……??!!

  7. That was brilliant Niks. You know how to put down in words, how all of us feel. Miss having you in SA.

  8. So true! Brilliantly said Nikki.

  9. Nikki, beautiful blog entry – tears in the eyes…thank you

  10. Very special memories for your Mum and with your Mum. How did the fairy bread go down??!

    • Ann the fairy bread was poked & prodded but mostly consumed by the birthday girl and her brother. Who knew it would be so hard to convince American children to eat butter & sugar on white bread?

  11. What a fab post. Makes me all itchy of feet. I’m an expat but I’ve been here for 22 years. I really wish I had traveled a bit more, but circumstances (jobs) didn’t really allow. Oh well.
    And yes, Halloween in the States is bloody humungous.

    • Thanks – I am getting the idea about Halloween, its all a bit scary how many houses are already decked out in our neighbourhood. There will be a wonder and awe post about that coming up for sure.

  12. My darling Nikki. You are my inspiration and my treasure. My time with you and the family at Maison Moffitt, Atlanta was the most precious and is a memory that will never leave my thoughts on any minute on any day. You are living your lives as you choose for the best for all of you and that’s the way it should be. The quality of time we spend together as a result is irreplaceable. You know that I love you all at an immeasurable level. You were all my ‘Team Terrie’ while I was there and you were amazing – I felt safe and loved. That’s not all – but all for here. My love flies to you all across the ocean. Mum xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  13. Helen Mundy (Martin)

    Hello Nik, YOur words are beautiful and terrifically well written. Sarah B and I were speaking about you and your Mum today and rememberinf how wonderful shen was to us all at school. My thoughts are with you as they have bneen for some time now. Helen

  14. Hi Nikki;) As said by the others, it is a really lovely post:) It is so hard being away from family but you point out some real truths of the longer quality time spent here in the expat world, that your kids won’t forget in a hurry, which will give them and your mum, some great memories! Fabulous writing too!
    From a fellow Aussie living in NJ.

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