As Memorial Day and the beginning of summer arrive in the US, it is a bittersweet time in “ExpatWorld”.   The upcoming end of the school year is always a time of transition in the expat world.   The kids (and parents) are excited about another school year ending, however it is also the time when many families repatriate or move on to their new posts.   Needless to say, this is a very emotional time.

It is amazing how quickly close friendships form when in a foreign country.  And no matter how many times we go through it – the emotions and pain are just as strong each and every time.   It also seems to affect us as a family – I am not sure why in expat life, but we seem to bond with other families more than with individuals.  Perhaps because in the expat network – your friends become your surrogate family – pseudo aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces & nephews.  You look after like your own and vice versa.  An open door policy seems to be the norm.   In Peru, it was “mi casa es su casa”!

My kids are now at an age where they recognize what is about to happen.  My daughter’s best friend is moving back to the US — needless to say there have been lots of tears in our house for several weeks.   And not just hers!   Whenever I think about the two of them being halfway across the globe from each other, it breaks my heart.  Never mind that we used to live a stone’s throw from each other and have had countless BBQs that lasted well into the night with lots of wine and laughter.

My son is also losing two close friends — one we’ve known about for months, one we just found out about 2 weeks ago.  That is also expat life – sometimes you have a long-time to prepare for someone’s departure, other times it is quite quick.   Not really sure which is better or worse — kind of like pulling off a band-aid — the pain in the same — just whether you prefer it quick or drawn out.

Fortunately we have today’s internet and social media tools.  My kids are whizzes at Skype, Facetime and email.   (What about Facebook? — well we live in China.  Enough said.)    As for me – I remind the kids that my husband and I are often friend’s with their friends’ parents, which means we like to visit them in either their exotic locales or when back in the US.  Via these vacations/visits, the kids have realized the benefit of having a global network — it is always better to have the inside scoop when visiting a new place!

As for me — I am also losing one of my dearest friends in Shanghai – she took me and my family under her wing when we arrived.  She has always been there when I needed a shoulder to cry on, or a stiff drink at the end of a long day or week.   She helped get me back on track with my fitness regimen when I had strayed.   She has loved my kids as if they were her own.  You can’t ask for much more than that.  I know we will cross paths again and again and again.

To close, I want to share an Irish Blessing with those who are on the move in the coming weeks as well as with all my expat friends who are flung across the globe:

An Irish Blessing
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
Author unknown