Bon Voyage for many

Its already started in the last couple of weeks for me, with one of my best girlfriends of the past 2 plus years headed back to USA.

I’m glad for her, I miss her, I hate the fact she’s gone, I hate the fact that’s she’s got to go before me, I’m glad her life is already easier but at the same time I’m cursing why not me….

The life of an expat exists of many hellos and sadly too many au revoirs.  One truly never says goodbye as usually there is always a small jigsaw piece of a memory held onto by both parties, however, the one who has moved on is often the one to shrink that hole the fastest, whilst the one who remains is left sometimes with a hole that aches occaisionally.  I noticed this week back at school after the Mei Vakantie, my friend’s “shadow”: people clamoured for news of her and I like perhaps others still sought her in the playground to share a nugget that would make her laugh or empathise.  She’s just not there though.

This year to date hasn’t been too bad for me personally but I can already feel the rumours around the playground and see the noticeboards begin to fill with items for sale, homes to rent/for sale, dogs, cats and assorted pets to rehouse.  No doubt as school ends in July I will have attended a few goodbye pot lucks and dinners and the new school year will begin 6 weeks later with gaps in the fabric of the playground and classrooms as all adjust to the loss of playmates, friends, co-conspirators and supporters.

The worse year personally for saying goodbye was July 2008 through to July 2009 when 4 of my “inner” circle of friends relocated.  A whole support system and ecology of relationships literally eroded and broke down as they left over that period of time.  Not only does the friend and their family go, but the relationship not quiet friendships that they plug you in to too.  A friend of friend is enjoyable company: but suddenly when that particular friend is no longer there its harder to maintain the casualness of the relationship and perhaps it may require more work now that the lynchpin friend is gone, that some of these begin to move out of your contact too even though you both try.  Lives move on rapidly and holes start to fill.

I can now look at the house across the road without feeling great sadness.  It took 2 months for me not to feel so bereft when my lovely Swedish neighbour who had become such a great companion who got me as I did her and was there on my doorstep in our little enclave here in the Netherlands, moved on to South America.

That daily companionship beyond all other relationships I had established in the local town, the school playground and further afield was a relationship I had forgotten for 4 years of expatriate life that I could have.  My Dutch neighbours are friendly and kind but they work and have fully activated lives here so didn’t need to bring me into their lives in the same way another expat may.

My son misses his playmates too and still wonders 18 months on when will they come home, even though he knows that they never will. For that house belongs to a Dutch family living in the Far East and some day too they will come home and who knows will we still be here?  How many more goodbye/bon voyage/ keep in touches have to be said before we say goodbye?  However, I have to face the fact that there will be as many, if not more, hello’s to come and enjoy.

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