There comes a time in every expat’s year when you just need to get the hell out of dodge and regroup. I don’t mean vacation. No amount of vacations can help when you hit the point of no return during the year, the infamous wall. The only thing that can help at this point is the annual trip home. Most of us would call this spring fever. The point in the school year where we are ready to throw in the towel and chill out by the beach, savoring the long summer days with no schedule. It happens to us all. Except for that our case is slightly different because for expats, that spring fever means we are heading home soon for a much needed break. Alas, our kids go to school for 10 1/2 months so we still have 4 weeks left. Four long weeks. And as it rains here all the time, it feels nothing like summer.
So what’s with the need to regroup? Well, my life is as normal as anyone else’s. I do the school run, manage the house and take the kids to their activities 6 days a week. Only the catch is that I do this in a foreign language. Every day. It eventually becomes your normal. Most days, I don’t even think about it. But there comes that time, that spring fever time when a trip home is on the horizon, where you just hit your breaking point and need to just live a “normal” life for a few weeks.
By “normal”, I mean that I just want to look at a sign and not have to translate it in my head. I want to call to make an appointment and not have to ask “Do you speak English?”. I want to know where I can find ABC item without going to 10 other stores first. I want to go into a restaurant and not have to translate the menu as I’m reading it (though it’s become second nature at this point). I want to go to sports or other activities and understand what all the parents are talking about (I’m getting there slowly) without having to ask for someone to translate. I want to get messages from said activities and sports, the government and doctors that I don’t need to google translate (though maybe you would enjoy translating 5-10 page documents of a diagnosis or tax documents – I can find better things to do with my time). Or figure out how to use apps on my phone that would make my life easier, if only I could read them. I could go on and on.
I want to know the proper procedure for just about anything – from going to the ER (god I hope we don’t have to do that when we are home but at least I’d know what to do!) to getting a refill on a prescription. I want to stop getting speeding tickets in the mail at 100 euros a pop for going 10km/hr over the speed limit (that’s 6mph) which is ridiculous! To go home where sports are seasonal and not year ’round. To not have to search for a new babysitter that speaks your language. You know what? I want to dry my clothes in a dryer and not on a stupid rack (in the cold so it takes days to dry). Seriously, I could go on forever. I need a break!
As I write this, I feel like it sounds as if I’m not open to new languages or culture. Here’s the thing. I’m totally open to language learning and I love experiencing other cultures. And 99% of the time, I’m perfectly fine living in another one. I actually find it weird now if I hear English all around me – it almost feels more comfortable when I hear a barrage of languages around me. It can be exhausting and yes, it can get frustrating, but it’s also a part of this life less ordinary that we are leaving – a package deal. Sure, we get to travel all over and see amazing places, our kids are living a global life and attend international school with other kids from all over the world – but it also comes with it’s challenges all year long – challenges that are different than the ones I would normally face at home. Picture those challenges that everyone faces at home, only complicated by what feels like 1000%.
So anyways, back to the idea of re-grouping. I’m at that point in the year when I’m just done. I’ve checked out. I’m running on auto pilot and the tank is just about empty. I’ve managed challenge upon challenge all school year long. I’ve managed to make our lives as normal as possible given our very un-normal way of life. But at the same time, I’m ready for a break. I need to recharge and regroup.
Four more weeks and the kids are done with school. Just about 5 more til we head out on a jet plane for a few weeks of American goodness – friends, family and living life the American way. It’s our bonus at the end of a very long year so we can come back recharged and ready to tackle another year. I can’t wait!
Knuffels en kussen,