How did we get here?

March 26, 2010

How did we become an expat family? When I think about how we ended up moving to South America and now Asia, I often hear the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime” in my head. In particular the classic line “how did I get here”? To be honest, it was serendipity. Well, serendipity coupled with receptiveness. The opportunity arose at a time when we were willing and able to take advantage of it.

Early one morning in February 2005, while getting ready for work, my husband asked me what I thought about moving to Peru for a year. My answer – “why not”? That single question and immediate response set off an incredible chain of events and started our family on this amazing journey.

I still recall that morning – we chatted about the opportunity and whether we were comfortable with the idea. Whenever we think back on that day, we are still amazed at how quickly we decided. Within 45 days, my husband was in Peru working for a new client. Several hectic months and 80 hours of intensive Spanish training later, the kids, our dog, and I arrived in our new home in Lima.

That first assignment felt risk-free – it was only expected to last 12 to 18 months. If things didn’t work out, the kids and I could move back after 6 months and my spouse could commute. Not an ideal situation if it happened, but we felt it was a no-lose decision. We had good friends to look after the house in the US. We found good schools and a great house in Lima. There was no career risk for me since I was already taking a few years off from the corporate world while the kids were young. In the end, the decision was actually very easy.

What happened next we never could have predicted. We immediately fell in love with the “expat life”. An incredible group of fellow expatriates and Peruvians embraced us and made us feel at home. We did not want the experience to end. Luckily the “12 month” project extended and extended, and new clients appeared. After 2 1/2 years, we sold the house in California. Our brief experiment had turned into a way of life!

By early 2009, after 3 1/2 years in Lima, we knew our time in Peru would be coming to an end. We just did not know exactly when nor where we would be going next. The options were all exciting: Brazil, China or back to the United States. In our view, there was not a bad option in the bunch but we hoped to stay abroad. While the uncertainty was hard to manage, we did our best to keep living a normal life. In reality, we were in denial; we tried to ignore what was on the horizon. Despite the stress of not knowing, that last year in Lima was one of the best of my life. I took on and accomplished new challenges, despite the uncertainty. If anything, I was more focused because I knew I had a limited time to get things done.

In September 2009, we accepted a proposal to move to China. Things have been a whirlwind ever since. After a “look-see” visit in early September, we decided to move during the Christmas and New Year’s school vacation. That gave us a few months to unravel our life in Lima and it was a natural transition point for the children.

We arrived in Shanghai on New Year’s Day 2010 and the whirlwind continues! As the song goes, “how did I get here”?


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