I have been very lucky in my life to be able to make good friends. I have friends that are from college and friends from my 20's and I am lucky enough to still be making good friends even into my 40's. Not just sit-on-the-sideline-and-watch-the-kids friends but women I have bonded with and could count on. Women I could delve into life's philosophies with. More often than not women who I have shared both a morning coffee and a late night glass of wine with, traveled with, cried and celebrated with and worked to change the world with. They are the "village" I am counting on looking after my oldest while I am on the other side of the world.
The unfortunate problem is that I am on the other side of the world from all of them and while they are still my "village" I need to expand it's members.
It seems that most women intuitively know we need each other to make our lives better.
One piece of advice we received before we started this adventure was to say "yes" to all activities we were invited to when we arrived. This way you meet new people and begin to establish your community. You find the people that you connect with. This is, I believe, is extra important in a foreign country where I am still finding my way, don't speak the language and don't know all the customs. T also has a regional position that requires him to travel so I will be doing this on my own frequently and you need to know who you can call for that glass of wine or directions to the Emergency Room.
Because I am what the State Department calls a Trailing Spouse and we are in Indonesia where I am only allowed to work for a U.S. entity I am not meeting lots of new people through work. I am out there meeting new people, mostly women, and going on "dates"
I don't want to be accused of sexism here because there are many Trailing Spouses who are men, but let's be honest there are many more women. It is also important to remember that many of us gave up careers in the corporate world, academics, law or medicine for this life of adventure.
The good news is that there are lots of opportunities. I have attended and joined the American Women's Association and the Indonesian Heritage Society. I have signed up for two learning classes and one explorers group in the IHS too. I'm joining a book club. And I have found the old standby of soccer-moms, a group to always be counted on.
Perhaps because we are all in the same situation where we are in a temporary life, people come and go from expat land, or perhaps because they all remember being in my position, where they were new and didn't know anyone, but I have found people to be quick at sharing their contact information, inviting me to call if I need anything and reaching out to invite me on "dates".
Now, I have been happily married for almost 20 years, so it has been a while since I went on an actual date. You know the kind where you sit at coffee or lunch and try to figure out if you have a connection that will help you move forward.
And while I have to say I don't ever want to join the actual dating pool again, this kind of dating is kind of fun and almost as awkward as the first kind.
I am sure that I have already met some women for whom I will be friends for a long time, especially thanks to Facebook. Those philosophy over coffee or wine friends. I have met a few that I know I will have fun hanging out with for a period of time but will lose track of once one of us moves away. A few that I will see regularly, serve on committees with and think of fondly but never be really close to. And there are a few very nice women that I may never really connect with but we will be there for each other because we are in Expat-Land and we need to.
In the future I am sure all of these women and I will exchange tips on where to find soccer cleats, food we are craving from home, and someone who can actually color blond hair. We will be there when someone needs a ride and or a break from our kids. We'll eat together and laugh together.
I feel very lucky in one way. Many people move to other cities in the States for jobs or family and for them it can take a long time to make connections in a new place. I already know that the expat family is here for me..and I will be there for the next newbie.
You never know what the next "date" can lead to..maybe someone who knows the best place to stay in Bali, a good book club that will make me think or how I can find a good job that is flexible to accommodate T's new career.
Or maybe they will just know where to find that perfect cup of coffee and make me laugh.