Browsing Tag

Repatriation

Expat, Packing

Unpacking Memories

June 26, 2017

Unpacking Memories

My jet lag fog is lifting and the stomach bug that hit me a few days after landing is finally over, which meant that I needed to tackle the six suitcases I brought home. The big issue with this is that I really don’t have a place of my own to put all the stuff I brought back. Unlike many expats and nomads, I don’t have a storage unit. My few possessions live in a building on my parent’s property, in what we call “The Office.”

Before coming home, I had asked my Mom to clear some room in the closet and a drawer for me so I wouldn’t have to live out of suitcase for the month I would be home. She hadn’t gotten around to it by the time I arrived. Which ended up being good as yesterday she and I went through what used to be my old closet and unpacked some memories together.

The closet is now a mash-up of her off-season clothes, my nieces hand me downs, and clothes that have sentimental value. My prom dress is there. My Mom’s first formal is in there. All my sister and my oldest niece cheerleading jackets are in there. So with each handful, my Mom pulled out, we would say, “Remember this!” or she would say “You never saw this costume.” We had a great time looking at things we hadn’t seen in awhile.

Then there were the things my Mom hadn’t seen from my travels and Qatar. While I am not a big souvenir buyer, I do occasionally buy things. I have also been gifted many things over the years. We oooh’d and aahh’d over these things as they were unpacked only for most of the to be packed again. I am mostly sad that all my lovely things will not be on display again.

Memories continued when I took some things down to the office for long term storage. I found some knee high heeled boots from my New York days. They promptly went in the trash as the leather had dried out. I returned Christmas decorations that had been taken to Qatar to their box and admired the ones I hadn’t seen in awhile. I went through a few boxes and decided it was time to let go of a few things in them as well.

So many people have commented on the fact that I have gotten rid of so much stuff when I left Qatar, but that is just it. It is just stuff. I am sure that when I return home again, I will have forgotten half the things I have packed away on this trip. Just like those boots I had forgotten about!

What memories would you like to unpack?

Expat, Qatar

Things I Will Miss About Qatar

June 19, 2017

Things I Will Miss About Qatar

As this post goes live, I will be on a plane leaving Qatar for good probably crying a little. I have lived in Qatar for almost four years and have grown to love the land, the people and the culture. Despite it being a sometimes difficult place to live for a single person, I will miss it terribly. Here are some of the things I will miss the most about Qatar.

Getting Out of My Comfort Zone

Living in a foreign country is nothing like visiting a country on a trip. My patience was tested on a daily basis. On any given day, I would also complain about something that had irritated the American in me. However, I have learned more patience and understanding from this. Not only this, but I have learned about new things this way. I have tried new foods and traditions because of this.

The People

I will miss my friends and coworkers. In Qatar, being an expat means that your first friends are likely to be your coworkers. We get together outside of work and celebrate holidays together. I have made some great friends here as well that are planning on meeting up with me on the road, and I can’t wait. My students are also a part of this. I work in a school with less than 500 students, so I know many of them personally. I will miss seeing them grow and graduate.

But it isn’t just people I am close with that I will miss. I will miss meeting new people from new places. Many times I go to dinner with people, and there are five or more nationalities at the table. At my going away party there were people from eight different countries! Learning about other people’s cultures while being here has been the best thing about living here.

The Culture

Qatari culture is traditional and modern at the same time. They still participate in cultural traditions, such as falconry, souqs and shisha. However, they also love malls, cars and five-star restaurants. This has been the best of both worlds. I have learned about their traditions and their values. The family is huge here, and I appreciate that. Everyone will ask after your family even though they have never met them.

I haven’t just learned about Qatari culture, but all the expats I have met have shared with me their culture and traditions. I have learned about Indian festivals, Aussie footy, Thai food, and I can now understand an Irish person speaking English!

The Food

Ah, the food. Food plays a central role of social activity here. This is due in some part to the restrictions on alcohol as people don’t gather at their neighborhood bars but at their favorite brunch places or holes in the wall.

You can also try food from all over the world with ease. The world is truly represented in food in Qatar. Not only that, but people bring food from their home countries for you to try. My last week of work, my Indian coworker brought me some of the food she had made for her family the night before. Homemade Indian food is so much better than restaurant Indian food. Last night, I went to a party, and there was Turkish food, and I will miss homemade hummus!

The Desert

Living in a country without much green has been a bit hard, but it has made me love the desert. I have driven all over the desert here to explore the country. I have loved off-roading in my Jeep. The desert holds secrets that would have never have revealed themselves to me if I had gotten out and explored. I have seen camels on the beach and desert flowers. The desert also gets green when it rains! Who knew!

Ramadan and Eid

Yes, I know Ramadan will continue no matter where I am, but experiencing it in a Muslim-majority country has been something I have enjoyed. By nature, I enjoy learning. Learning about the Qatari Ramadan traditions, the meanings behind things and the spirit of giving has been one of the highlights of living here. I truly believe this has made me a more accepting person.

I will miss the Eid holiday as it always signified a vacation for me. Yes, less of a meaning than Ramadan and definitely not what they celebrate during this time. Although many Muslims go on vacation during this time as well to be with family. Best of all there were two of these a year I was given vacation time around! Double the fun.

My Jeep

I loved my Jeep, and it got lots of use driving around the country from the desert to the beach. The fact that it was red meant people noticed me coming down the road and I hope it helped me avoid accidents. In a sea of white cars, it was easy to find in the car parking lots. I actually cried when I sold it. Now a nice Lebanese guy owns it and is taking his new dog on adventures in it.

My apartment

Now that I am going to be traveling full-time, I won’t have a permanent place of my own. While the apartment had its weird quirks, I have enjoyed it. It is the largest place I have lived in by myself, and I slowly grew into being able to stand on the balcony without fear. It took awhile, but it became home.

There are probably things about Qatar that I will miss that I have failed to mention here, but something somewhere will remind me of it, and I will think of Qatar. As we say here, I love Qatar!

Expat, Prep, Qatar, Travel

Pre-Repatriation Blues?

April 24, 2017

Pre-repatriation

Many expats talk about the repatriation blues after they return to their home country. It can be hard to adjust to life back in your own country since it is now not the normal or having the excitement of moving to a new country. I have what I am calling the pre-repatriation blues.

The What?

Since I am not technically repatriating, I am not even sure this is the right term! I am only returning to my home country to store my stuff and see my family. I am sad to be leaving Qatar. A few times right after I gave notice, I had the feeling I had made a mistake and that I shouldn’t go. It is hard to describe what I was feeling. It was a mix of anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. What was I thinking quitting this well-paid exotic local job? Then reality set in that, for me, living to work isn’t how I want to live my life.

Then came the reaction to my post about quitting my job. I expected some sad reactions and a few supportive ones. I expected the people who disagreed with what I was doing would not say anything. Most of that happened, but I was overwhelmed by the statements of support not only from friends and family but total strangers. Then the sadness really set in as the more people you tell, the more disappointed friends, coworkers and students I encountered. They aren’t disappointed that I am traveling, but that I can’t stay and travel from Qatar. I have been on the verge of tears many times. One student insists on giving me a hug every time I see her. Who wouldn’t be sad to leave after all the outpouring of love!

Just like with everything else, time helps. Every week gets easier, and I get a few more things checked off the long list of to-dos before I go. That last day, though, I am trying not to think about it.

It Would Be Easier to Stay

Part of these “blues” are because it would be easier to just stay in Qatar. So many things have to be done to be able to leave Qatar. The biggest thing for me is selling my car, which I managed to do yesterday. Because people leave Qatar in cycles around the school year, selling your car in the Spring can be difficult, and you are most likely not going to get as much money for it as you wanted. The other part of this is fielding the calls from people who know that you have to sell the car and making ridiculous offers for the car. I had some people be very rude as well. Like somehow, I owed them the car since they were willing to make an offer! (We won’t talk about the fact that I was also emotionally attached to my car!)

The next hurdle to jump is closing your bank account. That sounds so simple in theory. Go in and close it, right? Not so fast. First, you have to cancel your credit card. Credit cards here are attached to your bank account, so I can’t close my account till the credit card has been cleared for 45 days. Since I never picked up the credit card or activated it should be reasonable that I shouldn’t have to wait the 45 days, but no! So now I won’t be able to close my bank account until some time in late May. It isn’t the end of the world, but something I could take care of now.

Qatar uses a sponsorship system for expats working in the country. Basically, my company sponsors me to be in the country. Part of that includes getting a residence permit. This also has to be canceled before I go. My company needs ten business days to do that. Then once it is canceled, I have seven days to leave Qatar. Not stressful at all! This means I will leave four days after my last day of work. Again, it isn’t bad as I have started to pack, but it adds some pressure.

And I wouldn’t have to say goodbye!

Packing and Purging

The other part of all this is that I am determined to return to the US in my suitcases and not have to ship anything home. I am ruthless when it comes to getting rid of my possessions. Five bags of clothes and shoes have gone out the door and countless bags of paper trash. The rest of it will be sold or given away before I leave.

Packing has already begun, so that is the least stressful part about this whole situation. It also means I should know if I will need to ship some stuff. The only hard part will be getting it all to the airport.

Have you moved back home after being an expat? Did you have pre-repatriation blues?

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