Not unlike your first semester in college, or first week at summer camp, as a new expat, your normal social blinders are off and you are open to befriending others. Within a short time here Hillary and I knew more couples with young kids, couples eager to have dinners out or go to the beach together, then all of our college friend-making combined.
There is decidedly an opening of the spirit that happens being pulled out of what one has grown up with. After years of habits at home have become rote – riding the metro without thinking, or going to the store and knowing each aisle – living overseas can truly open one’s eyes in a profound way not only to the surroundings, but to other people.
Like in summer camp, you can find yourself forming fast and deep friendships. But also like camp, perhaps part of the ease comes from inherent time limitations. Ex-pats rotate in and out.
Our friends Teal and Nat are heading back to D.C. after three years here. They arrived in Dar as a couple that could explore the restaurants and night life of the city, and are leaving (find a better verb than “saddled”) with a beautiful 2-year-old, Clara, one en route, and a firm 8 pm bedtime.
Bodie and Clara love each other and I can’t think of a dinner that we’ve had at their house that didn’t end with the four adults jammed in a bathroom, glasses of wine in hand, Bodie and Clara playing and splashing in the bath. Somehow Teal always cadges the prime toilet seat (playing the prego card).
My Dad just celebrated his 80th birthday. One of the amazing things my parents have managed is maintaining friends from their young married days in Boston and Washington. The party, which my mom threw (and unfortunately we could only make a video appearance), had a roomful of people that my sisters and I grew up calling “uncle” and “aunt”.
It is both joyful to make new friends, friends whom you both like enormously as individuals (which might be a way of saying they seem to like me as well as Hillary, who everyone likes anyway), and as a couple. But it is also extremely sad that they are leaving.
Hillary and I have talked about how neither of us is a good as we want to be about maintaining networks over time. We are having a farewell lunch with them this afternoon, and Bodie will say good-bye to Aunt Teal and Uncle Nat. Because Hillary and I are both getting better about identifying things truly important in life, we’ll invite them now to my 80th birthday party.