Living in Bangkok has had its ups and downs, as does any change in lifestyle. Mostly it’s been a lot of ups and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ride. However, right now I’m experiencing a definite downside.
It’s the end of the school year (we run to the Northern Hemisphere calendar for those antipodeans), and as such it means that it is change-over time. It’s a time where most people are leaving, either home (especially those from Europe and America) on extended holidays in Summer with family and friends or on to new postings. For the expat community, especially those staying put, this is an unsettled time.
For the first time since moving here I’m truly experiencing this downside. I’m saying good-bye to what feels like a lot of my close friends. They are scattering around the globe, some to Oman, Hawaii, Bali, even Angola and then some returning home.
It’s a strange time for those leaving, it might be the second move, or some the fifth or sixth. I don’t suppose it changes too much, the mix of emotions, sad to leave, but excited to be on to the next adventure, there is a true sense of adventure amongst this community. It’s a busy time, packing down a life in one country and imagining and planning a life in the next, whilst knowing it’s also a temporary move (usually).
So, as a friend, I too have to have an optimistic view, I’m of course sad to see these friends leave, but excited to see them move on to the next thing. I understand the thrill of change, and looking forward to the unknown and what adventures lie ahead.
This is the first time through this downside of the expat life, and I won’t lie, it’s tough. These women are my friends, many of these ladies were some of my first contacts, they advised me where to buy furniture (apart from IKEA), where to pay my bills, where to take the kids to keep them busy. They became my life line to being connected here, my exercise buddies, coffee chatters, and many have explored the small corners of this crazy city with me. We have drank too much wine, danced all night to cheesy music, and mused over hangovers the next morning.
In the early days it felt like I was going through extensive speed dating as I was grilled on play dates, coffee mornings and school pickup. I understand now, that it’s a short cut to get a feel on people and understand who would be the best fit. As 90% of the expat women here do not work (apart from some volunteer) we have a lot of time and great friends is a good way to fill this time. Having someone to go to the gym with, walk with, do cooking classes with, explore or even have a glass of bubbles over a Friday playdate with is so important.
I’m watching my son going through the same. Towards the end of the school year he was anxious as discussions in class turned to who was staying at the school for the next year, and who was moving or where everyone was going for the school holiday. We’ve been lucky to have a great group of kids (and parents) so the change is unsettling. Especially as our son’s closest friend is moving schools, but thankfully not away from Bangkok, yet. It has dawned on him that he wouldn’t have known this group of children if we’d stayed in New Zealand and he loves his school. But my heart wrenches to think how he’ll be when we do finally say good-bye to close friends.
What I hope this doesn’t do is hold me back, make me pause before making new friends. Fear the wrench, rather than revel in the joy of new friendship. I hope for our children too, this teaches them to make friends, wherever they are, get close to people. Some will be friends for life, and some for a short time. The ones that matter will be the ones that make a positive impact on their lives.
So, it will be with tears I bid farewell to friends, knowing that for many it is unlikely we will cross paths again. However, I am thankful that we are doing this in 2017, with social media, such as it is. I am already connected with people my husband and I met on our travels 15 years ago through Africa and South America. I know that if they were ever to visit New Zealand (or wherever we may be) we’d happily welcome them into our home, and hope they feel the same. It is with these downsides, I guess, that the upsides feel all the more up!