My dear friend Jessica posted a tribute to me on instagram the night before I left on this adventure that started with the following:
“First of all, who just up and moves to Abu Dhabi, and second of all, how dare you.”
She goes on to sing our friendship praises and detail moments when I tried really hard not to be friends with her because we worked together… (holy shit that would have been my loss) but the opening line remains one that I feel needs a little explanation.
I did not just up and move to Abu Dhabi.
You’ve all read my departure pledge to Vancouver by now and my journey stories on the way here, but maybe what might make some sense is backing up to why I’m here in the first place.
Most certain future hubs is a Kiwi. Quite frankly, they’re just raised differently. His brother told me the other day that there were 2 rules for the 6 siblings:
1) Get an education.
2) Go travel.
When you grow up on a small Island in the South Pacific, it’s pretty typical that once you reach the age of leaving … you do, you leave. Parents, like birds, basically kick their young out of the nest and hope that they’ll fly. Wings acquired.
Have you met very many Canadians?
We’re rooted people.
Like…. Maple tree rooted. And my ultra-Canadian upbringing in a large prairie family encouraged wings…but more the kind of wings that Canadians knew… like “the coast” or “Montreal!” or the bustling metropolis of medicine hat. (note: Medicine hat peeps are super nice.)
But - these wings I’ve recently grown into feel different.
I don’t think there were many (or any) dinner conversations that included the words “Middle East” or “Abu Dhabi” - I don’t even know if we knew where these places were! But yet here I am, my Canadian roots in tow (Hudsons bay blanket, maple leaf temporary tattoos, flag (duh) and yes my olympic team jacket lol) exploring expatriate life.
For most I think this kind of jump is fraught with details and worry... and rightly so. Up and moving to another part of the world is stressful, scary, logistically heavy and probably most of all lonely.
I don’t have that - yet.
We moved here not having gone through all the usual chaos of an international move because we’ve got a lot of people on the ground to help us and it made just “up and moving” over here possible. (‘cause let me tell you, I have a lot of details to sort out that most people would have needed to figure out before getting on the plane...more on this soon) Anyways,
Here’s the team roster
-Future inlaw parents
-2X future sister in laws
-3x future brother in laws
-6x future nieces and nephews.
It’s a fam jam.
So, thanks to this incredibly soft landing, and a very generous one at that, I’ve found my first 10 days on the ground to be remarkably empowering and it's given me the opportunity to feel strong and learn. But, on Sunday of this week I had my first “low” moment which prompted a potentially life altering/perspective shifting result. I googled "expat support."
Sure I had researched some facebook groups and stuff before I came out here, but when you’re doing that from the comfort of “home” it’s not really the same. I can’t articulate why, but it’s not. So I’m clicking through the internet in my faux-lonely state and I come across this thing:
“Inter-Nations. Where nobody stands alone.”
To be clear, I’m not alone - please refer to the roster above for clarification. HOWEVER it’s easy to have small bouts of feeling very alone even when you’re surrounded by people and I think that comes from thinking no one else understands your KIND of roots and what it might FEEL like for you….(aka: get out of here palm trees, you don’t understand these maple roots!)
So there I am on the couch illuminated by the glowing blue of my laptop screen and I feverishly log onto Inter Nations, become a member and start looking for Canadians in Abu Dhabi.
The search results start populating. Okay... there are canucks everywhere.
I hope they’re not Oilers fans...
This mini douse of Canadian medicine - just seeing that there are so many of us in this tiny place on the exact opposite side of the planet was enough to basically make me feel better and get on with my day, but before logging off I noticed something:
“Newcomers February get together” I click.
“It’s tomorrow!?” I actually said that out loud in disbelief. How was it even possible that the timing of me feeling precious and this thing happening were lined up like that? “I wonder where it is…”
IT WAS DOWN THE STREET. Seriously. Abu Dhabi is a reasonably big place footprint wise so this get together could have been the equivalent to driving from downtown Vancouver to New West or Market mall to Chinook in Calgary but here was the magical expat fairy waving her sparkly adventure wings over mine saying “walk down the street and meet some people tomorrow.”
I signed up.
I signed future hubs up too.
Roots and Wings Continued here...