Trading the heat for the cold – is it worth it?

To most expats living in the Middle East, summer school holidays mean various things. 

Things like bored children for 3 months, extortionate heat, high humidity, dusty winds, and a mom that’s going crazy trying to keep the kids indoors and hydrated. One just cannot imagine what the heat is like until you’ve experienced it. 

Since there’s only so much one can do each day to keep the kids entertained and occupied, I had to make the decision – stay for 3 months, mainly cooped up indoors, while friends either worked daily, and others exit the country OR leave to go stay by my mom. 

Bunny bored 30 min into his holiday – got himself stuck in Monkey’s chair

The answer seemed simple. We’d take the kids to go visit their gran and some other family members, meet up with some old friends, be away from the heat in the very chilling and wet, winter Western Cape climate, and allow the kids to run outside in the garden, play on the beach or just go for a walk. 

Mr Bear came with us for the first week during Eid and then make his return to the sandpit to continue work; leaving us behind at my moms, knowing I had an extra pair of hands to help with the kids. 

But was this the best decision?

Friends would ask me if I’d be ok to be without Mr Bear for 2 months. I’d give them the quick, well recited response that at least I’ll be with my mom, I’ll have help, and of course some company. 

Looking back on my decision now, I’m not so sure anymore…

My pillar of strength, partner in crime, sounding board and love of my life is not just a few kilometers away from me. I can’t just count the hours down until I know he’ll be walking through the doors to help out during the Murder Hour. My extra hour of snoozing in bed in the morning has left with him, as he used to get up with Monkey at the crack of dawn. My time that I used to catch my 2nd wind and get ready for bedtime routine is no more as now it’s just a continuation until my animals are all in La La Land. 

Monkey having an afternoon snooze

And then I’ve also got my routine of even the smaller things like running the house that is no more. Simple things like watering the plants and popping in to a friends house for a cold one, or coffee in the mornings has all been put on hold. 

So was this the best decision? For me? The kids? My life?

I don’t know. 

It’s like half of your being is missing. Half of your personality. Your life. Just not here. Yes, there’s social media and WhatsApp and skype. But that’s just not the same as a pair of hands to actually be there. Someone who also knows what each cry, moan or whine means. Just your someone. 

Mr Bear showing Monkey the rocks and sea

On the other hand, the kids are happier. Yes, they do miss their daddy, don’t get me wrong. But they see their gran, who adores them. They can play, get dirty, and do boy stuff like get dirty and wet. They are not grounded inside the house while their friends are off on their own exodus from the heat. 

Little explorer

And with that, I suppose sometimes your kids happiness comes first, even when you temporarily feel hollow. 

Only 62 days to go… 

I should have listened to mommy when she said the water is cold – now we’re both wet!
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Our first visit “Home”; as an Expat

We’ve been Expats now for close to a year, and the boys and I recently had our first trip “back home”.

Being away from Home for just over 10 months has widened our hearts and minds. We’re part of a different culture; not only the one that we currently live in but also the culture of being an Expat; an outsider.

For months I’ve had friends and family telling me how they miss us and when are we coming to visit. With Bunny’s school holidays approaching towards mid-January, I suggested that I take the kids to visit friends and family, instead of just lounging around in the house while Mr. Bear still had to work. It would be 2 weeks of excitement; constant get together’s and meet-ups where Bunny could play outside in a garden, Monkey could get used to what real grass feels like, I could soak up the typical Highveld summer thunderstorms with the added pleasure of seeing the people I hold dear to my heart.

I had announced our idea to some friends and family and it was very well received. Some even counting the days down with me, some starting to make plans, but then, some not sharing much care or enthusiasm about it.

I was told numerous times by other expats who have gone through this type of visit, that it’s rarely all that you wish it to be and one often will expect way more; that I had to remember that I’m not going through what they are going trough right now; I’m not really part of their lives, even if we still had daily contact; that I would see who were willing to make an effort; and that the easiest would be to organize one event where people can come see us, instead of me dragging the kids all over the place each day to try and try fit everyone in.

My heart sank quite a bit when I heard that it wouldn’t be all sunshine and roses. I mean, these are people I care for and they care about me. I’m making the effort of a 11+ hour trip across the world; why wouldn’t some make a small effort. I’m sure my people won’t be like that!!

Well, wake up and smell the bloody roses!! They were right.

By all means, I had family and great friends who really did make a lot of effort to come and see me. Effort from driving 3-hours to come to where I was staying; extending their own trip to stay longer; to blocking out an entire afternoon to see their “doctor”; and others just making the effort to maneuver through hectic traffic to come say hi. It was absolutely heart-warming to see how some would put their lives on hold for a little bit to come see us.

Don’t get me wrong; I know one can’t always take off work, or take a break for a coffee, especially during the week, or rearrange a whole day with kid’s schedules. I really do get that. Good grief! I had to adapt and rearrange both my kid’s routines for 2 weeks, in a different time zone, miles away from their new home, without their Daddy, in a foreign house with new tastes and smells. I know that I’m not “used to” what’s going on in said Home Country. I know you have your own life now. I know sometimes plans just really don’t go as we intend them to go. Really, I do get that… Just didn’t realize your own life meant I can’t be a part of it in living form, but only through social media…

This is not a post to make anyone feel bad that didn’t make an effort or whom I didn’t get to see. This is just a heads-up to anyone planning a trip “back home”.

Visiting back home after being away for nearly a year, certainly has stirred up a lot of emotions in me. Even when you look past the whole visiting of friends and family.

Currently, we live in a country where it’s relatively safe. Where violent crimes are unheard of. Even petty crimes do not make the news headlines, not even on a monthly basis. It just doesn’t happen… Compared to our Home country, where violence and crime is part of everyone’s lives on an almost daily basis.

So it was quite a reality shock to be petrified to sleep alone in the house without a family member at night; to not allow Bunny to stroll behind me in a shop; to not want to drive around in case we catch a red traffic light and having to wait for it to turn green.

It made me realize how pathetic it is to live in a country where you don’t feel safe; where you have to constantly look over your shoulder and be on permanent guard mode. How did I ever manage to live with it for so long?

Our holiday overall wasn’t so great. It didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. It was lonely during the days while everyone was at work. It was nerve wrecking at night with only me and the kids in one massive house. I missed having my boy’s daddy. They missed him. We were all miserable. One phone call and a good amount of tears later and Mr. Bear went to change our flight ticket to come back home 4-days earlier.

Do I want to go visit again? Yes sure. But this time completely on my T’s & C’s.

The next time another Expat gives me advice on these type of things, I’ll actually follow them and not think that “my trip will be different.” Seems everyone’s trips are all the same.

 

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On our way back home