We’ve now reached the stage in our expat journey (I have, anyway), where things have ceased to look as rosy as they once did. The end of the honeymoon period, where not being able to find Nando’s becomes a source of intense misery.
I’ve been here for five months now. It’s absolutely flown by, and I feel that, while I’ve missed my friends before now, I’ve really started to miss them now. I have a deep, intense longing to see my friends, to be able to go home, walk into my local, order a Hunters, jalapenos on a stick, and talk absolute nonsense. It wouldn’t matter what we talked about, all that would matter would be the familiarity of that situation. Seeing the people who know me so well that I can communicate by raising my eyebrows, clearing my throat, or timing when I take a sip of my drink.
There’s a large part of missing people back home that is tangled up in fear. These people I saw all the time – the details of whose lives I knew, not because I asked, but because they were topics that came up naturally in conversation – I’m afraid that when I go back – whenever that might be – I’ll have missed too much of their lives. The comfortable ease of those afternoons and evenings will be lost. I’ll be trying to catch up. My friends will no longer recognise the eyebrows and the throat clearing.
The Ouch hits every now and then, when I find out that something important has happened – something I would ordinarily have found out about as a matter of course, but that I only found out about because of a Facebook post, or a stray word from someone else. – that I feel I should have known about directly from that person.
For example, I was talking to a friend who found out that someone she knows is getting married. They haven’t spoken in a while, but it’s still something she would have liked to find out from the source.
And the only response that seemed to fit was “Oh… that’s… ouch.”
(Because despite all the words I know, all the books I’ve read, sometimes there are no adequate words.)
That’s what I’m calling The Ouch. That moment. It’s just… it hurts. People grow apart anyway. Our friends are not going to be our friends forever (statistically speaking). But being in a foreign country makes it feel that much worse.
A few months ago, I’d just have thought “This is something that happens” but now… now I miss everyone. Part of me really wants to go home, not because I’m unhappy, or because I don’t like my life here, but just to be home. Just to be where I know who I am, who’s around me, what to expect. Just to know that I’m not going to lose that part of me that’s intrinsically tied to my life and my people back in Pretoria.
And some days… just… it’s Ouch.