Saturday, September 13, 2014

Aaaaaaand... We're Back

"How many stars can you see in the sky?"
"I see one over there. Oh, there's another..... and there's one more."
Three. We counted three stars in the hazy, light-polluted night sky.
"Okay, girls. Your cheeks are flushing too much. We're going to have to get out of the pool soon. We'll be able to swim longer in a few weeks, when the temperatures start cooling down."

We had been back in Qatar for just a few days. Less than a week earlier, we had been staying at my sister's in Canada, where each night we would sit outside in front of a campfire, leaning back, craning our necks to see hundreds, thousands of stars, even shooting stars. And the pool? It had been a cool summer, and the pool was far too cold for wimps like me. Instead of flushed cheeks, we had been watching for goose-bumpy skin and blue lips. "Time to get out... you need to get yourself warmed up."

The contrasts between our two homes never fail to amaze me.

And yet, for the first time, I don't feel the lump in my throat and the pit in my stomach as we return to our lives here in Qatar. Year 4. Yes, we had another fantastic, fun-filled summer back in Canada, but for the first time, a part of me felt eager to get back to home. Home's a funny concept when you're an expat. Where are you from? Where do you live? Where are you headed? This summer I longed for home, unsure exactly of where that was. But for now it's here, and yes, strangely, I am very glad to be back.

We are full of optimism this year. Gone is the awkward stage of settling in. Our systems are in place. Kaiya is in her third year at Compass, Izzy is taken care of by our nanny. We know our way around town, the places to avoid during high times of traffic, the places of escape when we need to escape. We have cars, a home full of homey-ness, friends to call on when we're in need.

Gone too is the long, ugly stage of culture shock we endured. A stage that was made trickier with the addition of post-partum and heavy back-to-work blues last year. Anxiety here was far too high for far too long.

We feel relaxed, clear, focused on our goals. Incredibly thankful for the friends we have made here; friends who help make life feel so full. It's been so great to reconnect.

Year 4. I don't consider myself a "long-timer," especially when compared to folks I know from the college who have been working here far, far longer than I, but often now when I meet fresh-faced newbies, they grow wide-eyed when I tell them it's year 4. "Wow... you've been here so long...." I promise you folks, all of you dealing with the many headaches, frustrations, and anxieties that come with living abroad, and that particularly come with living here... it does get better. Meet good people, be honest in the struggle, keep your goals in mind, and get regular breaks. At some point you too will "cross that line" and it will somehow, magically become better.

But if it doesn't.... be honest in the struggle and know when to cut and run! It ain't for everyone. And while I may sound like a super-chilled Pollyanna, let's just say that it's much easier to be in Year 4 of a five-year plan than it was to be in Year 3. Somethin' about that hump year....

And so here we go! I am hoping to write a little more often again, but I'm a full-time working momma... who is also planning on taking an online course this year. The intentions are good, but the actual results may be a bit wanting. :p

Here's to a good year!