Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Just a Little Less Alien

It’s great having friends who all returned to the USA after our years of living in Qatar (and Kuwait) so we can share our experiences, our frustrations, our challenges. It’s been two years for me since AdventureMan and I made the big decision to retire, and in Pensacola, not Edmonds, WA.

Pensacola is a pretty cool place to be retired. One of the best things, after living in Kuwait especially, is the traffic. People might complain, but the traffic here is laughable. It’s very calm. Traffic might be waiting two lights at a stoplight, but hey – people wait, don’t just drive right through. No one has ever pushed me into a round about, or anywhere else, unlike Qatar, when I got in some young man’s way, and he pushed me out of his way (!)

When you go to the symphony, or to church, or to aqua aerobics, in the worst traffic it might take ten minutes. There are restaurants everywhere, many of them pretty good. The worst restaurants are usually better, cleaner, faster than most of the restaurants in Kuwait and Qatar. The only cuisine we have not been able to find here is Ethiopian, and we can drive to Atlanta or New Orleans and get that.

It’s been two years . . . there is something in me that starts getting a little restless, starts looking at my household goods with an eye to getting rid of, giving away, cutting down on weight. At the very least I might have to paint something, or change the furniture around . . .

My friends are suffering many of the same challenges, the challenge of being an expat back in the USA. What was formerly comfortable is not such a good fit anymore; we have changed, and we are trying to cobble together lives that can accomodate the changes.

I had a minor triumph; I realized that after two years, I am starting to have people I can go sit with when I walk into a crowded venue. It may sound like a small thing, but the fear of having to sit alone in a crowd where everyone is visiting and sharing is a little daunting. Who wants to look pathetic?

But my expat friends and I laugh; in expat world two years makes you an old-timer. When new people come in, you are expected to show them around, show them where (and how) to shop for things, where to get things fixed, altered, where to go to pay your bills and how to pay them. Two years makes you and old hand, often with one foot out the door, getting ready for the next posting or contract.

Three of my friends went back to their home locations, only AdventureMan and I settled in a new place. While I am making some progress, two years in, I still wonder who my friends will be? Will I ever feel at home in Pensacola?

February 23, 2012 - Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cross Cultural, Eating Out, Entertainment, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Living Conditions, Moving, Pensacola

9 Comments »

  1. I don’t know…I lived many many years as a foreigner in different countries and I think maybe the notion of “feeling at home” creates a yearning within us that may not need to exist. I mean imagine the pressure you put on a place, on your life in that place, if you continually need to satisfy the “feeling at home” notion. Maybe there isn’t a single place that provides such contentment, such fit, such warmth that it merits the word: HOME.

    I think HOME may be about the people you’re with. I see your grandson’s photo and you trying to be one kickass grandma…I mean come on what’s more “home” than that?

    Comment by 1001Nights | February 23, 2012 | Reply

  2. LOL, Alf Laila, I take your point. Yes, time with my son and his wife and our little Happy Toddler is definitely high on the “home” meter.

    I’ve lived more years outside my own country than I have lived inside it. You are well on track for having the same experience. (I wonder if you will be back for the National Day / Liberation Day weekend?) I wonder, too, if you and all the young Kuwaitis educated outside of Kuwait, who have lived extensively outside Kuwait will ever again be totally at home in Kuwait? And that leads me to wonder how the entire Iraqi invasion era impacted on feelings of ‘home.’ . . . I would think that experience is one that resonates through your life . . . How do you feel, does it still impact on your feelings of home? Stability?

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 23, 2012 | Reply

  3. I remember the invasion very well. I wasn’t in Kuwait at the time and I was very young but my life for those months was all about it – at home, in school, protests, efforts to get media attention, etc. I got on TV and radio myself. I think if anything it made us a lot more appreciative of the fact that we even had a country, a land of our own. It made us more patriotic but completely shattered our sense of trust in the neighborhood. Also, knowledge of torture and rape and rampant theft – you only hear of those on TV. But when your own cousin gets tortured and killed and thrown on the street with a sign that says you’re not allowed to pick up the body for three days, well all that stuff comes alive..the grotesque reality of it, that there are people who can be that evil, that hard, that depraved. It makes you turn in on yourself somehow, or rather turn to your own people and have a greater sense of belonging to them. Saddam was still alive for over a decade after that and that did create a constant nightmare for us which his death – thank God for that – relieved to some degree.

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t some other destabilizing factors. Every once in a while there’s some sort of political scuffle with the Iraqis that brings memories of the invasion and the leftover feelings all back. The US row with Iran is another destabilizing factor and all the more so since the US bases are in Kuwait and they’re much easier to hit than Wisconsin or Texas should there be a reason for Iran to hit something. The constant injustices and horridness of the Palestinian conflict put us in an awkward position as Arabs who are American allies. The Arab Spring and the new rising powers are yet another destabilizing factor. Let’s not even get into the polarization within Kuwait’s political arena.

    SO… all in all, we need to move Kuwait to somewhere near Switzerland if we want a bit more stability. 🙂

    Comment by 1001Nights | February 24, 2012 | Reply

  4. Holy Smokes! You mentioned a lot of factors that never occurred to me. So what was Iran’s stand when Iraq invaded Kuwait? Hadn’t they just finished a lengthy war with Iraq? Aren’t there a lot of Iranians living in Kuwait?

    I wish we could have coffee. There is always so much to talk about.

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 24, 2012 | Reply

  5. Iran had had a lengthy war with Iraq before the invasion. When Kuwait was invaded Iran’s political stance was in favor of Kuwait and it even supported UN sanctions against Iraq. I think any expansion or increasing of power for Iraq would have hurt Iran’s national interests so their position made sense. I think after that relations with Kuwait got a lot better than they were during the Iraq-Iran war.

    I don’t know if there are a lot of Iranians living in Kuwait but I don’t think they make up the largest percentage of our expat population – I certainly don’t believe there’s a large enough population to be a deterrent for Iran to attack should it be attacked from bases that are stationed in our country.

    I wish I could have coffee with you too 🙂 Got a lot to talk about.

    Comment by 1001Nights | February 24, 2012 | Reply

  6. As I am reading your post I don’t know why but a scene from Chocolate movie popped into my head. When the Mayan mother decides its time to leave in the middle of the night and wakes up her daughter, moving from one place to the next.

    Do you think you can stay in Pensacola for ever?

    Comment by Danderma | February 28, 2012 | Reply

  7. Are you talking about the French movie ‘Chocolat” or the movie “Like Water for Chocolate?” Both were wonderful movies and I can’t remember the scene you are talking about.

    Danderma, I think Pensacola is where my life is now. I will leave to travel, but I expect our home will be here . . . but we also have a house in Edmonds, WA. The truth is, in this life, I never take anything for granted. I THINK we will be here for the rest of our lives, but when I say things like tht God just laughs . . . 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | February 28, 2012 | Reply

  8. I sooooooo understand what you are saying. We also tried to settle” home” after a stint in the U.A.E. Ok at first, but soon that wanderlust started to kick in, and yes, you guessed it, we moved back to the the Middle East. Been a while now, and I do travel back” home” regularly, but it’s not the same. We even moved states, like you, but I don’t know if we will ever be able to call “home” home. Maybe after the grandchildren start arriving, We’ll wait and see.

    Comment by expataussiegal | February 29, 2012 | Reply

  9. The grandchildren make a difference, also wanting to be close to family. I think we won’t move back to the Middle East because I don’t want my husband to be working that hard! He was working long long days, too many days, too many hours. I want him to enjoy the fruits of his labors!

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 2, 2012 | Reply


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