Expat wife/life: NOT always as pictured!

I came across this meme the other day and chuckled. I/we do travel, I use to get massages while living in Qatar quite often, I was a lady who lunched, I did shop a lot, I felt like I managed it all, but at the end of the day, what do I really do? Sort out documents – from birth certificates, passports, vaccinations, insurance forms, etc. BUT that was then…this time around, on our 4th international move, I am in another expat boat and am doing a lot more than just sorting out documents.

To begin with, we moved with the expectation that we would just settle in this little town of ours for three years, enjoy family time and the whole work/life balance that Scandinavians are known for. (I know, I should not have expectations…) This ideal situation unfortunately hasn’t unfolded for us yet because unexpectedly things changed at my husband’s work and he now travels WEEKLY for work. I have now learned that surprisingly like many other expats, we have a weekend marriage…not the easiest thing when you have two small kids!

While trying to figure out our lives where husband/dad is not home during the week, I have been really sick with mastitis recently. Something that I wish no mother has to go through. But this has given me the time to think about our lives as expats, moving around from country to country, adjusting every time, orientating, finding friends and so on. It isn’t always easy or as glamorous as I may portray it to be via social media posts. I actually posted about this being my expat problem – click here to read about it!

One thing for sure is that I would not move with a baby again. Why? Asides from trying to get settled, baby is growing, not sleeping, going through milestones, and making the move just slightly harder. My personal ironic twist – we first moved to Denmark when my son was 7 months. It was hard then. This time, my daughter was also 7 months. Even harder this time around. Lesson learned for me: do not move with a baby, who is 7 months old!!!!

Now that baby girl is off to nursery, I have more time to ponder should we continue this expat life of ours. It isn’t about shopping, lunching, getting massages as the meme suggests. The travel is a big perk however. That is not only because we are expats, but we are in countries that support time off from work. Thinking about our ten years as expats, we have so many great memories and experiences that make it difficult to say, I just want to settle back home…wherever that is now! Maybe deep down I don’t ever want to settle. It seems to be easy to say, “let’s just move back”. But I know that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, is it? Need to start watering my own again…grass is greener where you water it…

 

Finding My Viking Mama Feet

I can not lie. Living in the Middle East quickly can spoil one. It spoiled me for sure. Now that I am back in Denmark, I am slapped in the face daily of no one is going to help me. Don’t set any expectations! (As I had mentioned in my post way back when I made my trip to Banana Island.)

So I had low expectations as I left Qatar this late spring. The kids and I moved back in with my parents in California while my husband closed up shop in Qatar. Then in August we flew to Denmark, and from the moment we landed, I was quickly reminded that I am now in the land of the Vikings. Case in point: traveling with a large number of baggage… 7 bags, 5 carry-ons, two kids and a stroller or two…baggage

Three countries. Three very different experiences. Qatar, by far was the best. People were willing to help out. From the curb side, to check in, through security, the flight (thank you Qatar Airways!). People were helpful. And they had always been. One of many reasons why I will always love Qatar.

Next stop, Los Angeles International Airport. After a 16 1/2 hour flight, I was delighted that we were able to skip the line in passport control/customs and have some priority or just simple kindness shown, since I had a four year old and 4 month old in tow! Then at baggage claim, we were offered help, for a price, but at least I had help to get all by bags off the conveyer belt and out pass customs.

Final stop: Denmark. Again, I didn’t expect much, but when I approached the baggage service desk for some help, I think I could have heard crickets. I asked for their suggestion of how do I manage by myself, two little ones and at least three carts of baggage. They seemed to be dumbfounded as to why I would even travel! I said I don’t mind pushing one cart out of customs at a time, knowing that my husband was on the other side and can collect them. That seemed absurd but I wasn’t offered any help or any other options. Then I spied a larger cart that was off to the side. After what seemed like the longest consideration, they said I could take the larger cart. I put on my Viking hat, loaded up the cart and tried to push it all through the doors. A lovely officer guided me, but didn’t even offer to help me.

I get it Denmark. Land of the vikings. Survival of the fittest. I have my hat this time around! Just need to find my feet…

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THE expat problem

I had written about my expat problem (link here) and now I am sitting in anxiety, dealing with what I believe to be THE expat problem. Demobilization. Moving again!

And I want to write about it because for those who aren’t expats, being an expat isn’t as glorious as we portray it to be through our pictures that we post. Especially the expat who is on global mobilization, like my family is. Meaning we move around from country to country for work. (One can categorize expats into two groups. The other group are what we like to call love pats, they have moved to the country where their spouse is from. They usually don’t move around.)

Some may think it is just another flight and move to a new city. There is so much more to it for an expat. Residency permits need to be turned in. Plants and cars need to be sold. Bank accounts need to be cancelled. Schools need to be notified and applied for, again. Pets need to have their accommodations sorted out while we move into temporary ones. Food needs to be passed on. We have to say goodbye to our friends, or rather see you later.

I have heard it from many of how great it seems to be living an expat life, but there are plenty of downsides, and demobilization is one of them. We make the best of our last days in each country, checking off our bucket lists. The grass is greener where you water it! Even if there for only a short period of time!

Finally…CAKE!

Where have I been? I am now a mother of two! So, no need to write more other than I am a bit more occupied than I was before. I have been keeping up with my instagram account at least! But, that is not enough since I want to write more and have pushed it all aside. I am beginning with this post about trying to get back into doing things that I like to do, such as getting back into shape (losing all my baby weight!), writing my blog, and doing things that are on my bucket list. One thing being learn how to properly decorate a cake. Last week, I did just that. Continue reading Finally…CAKE!

Pink October

It’s the end of October and usually I would be getting ready for some Halloween party. Growing up in the United States, you couldn’t ignore all the commercials for Halloween. It was pure bombardment of all things Halloween. However, living abroad now, it is almost easy to skip the holiday. In Norway, it was difficult to find a pumpkin to carve, let alone a reasonably priced one. The idea of trick or treating was completely foreign then. I think in our 6 years living there, we had maybe 2 trick or treaters come round. In Denmark, they seemed to embrace the holiday a bit more. We even found a pumpkin patch to take our son to. Here in Qatar, I have almost dropped the idea of celebrating Halloween because not sure of what extent I have to go through to find a pumpkin, any decorations and should I bother with trying to organize trick or treating.  Continue reading Pink October

Good to be back

After any long vacation, it is always nice to return back to your own familiar surroundings and personal things. This summer, I spent one month traveling and came back to Doha not realizing certain things that I had missed, and probably will miss when we aren’t in Doha.

  1. My own bedroom, bed, sheets, pillows, house…This may not come to a surprise to many, because who doesn’t like their own bed with their own sheets? And now that we are back home and not living in hotels or staying with relatives, I literally have my own bed since my son is back in HIS OWN room! Bliss!
  2. The people in Qatar. I had barely been in Doha for an hour, when a local man handed me a plastic bag so that I can put my produce in. Then, the extra help at the cashier register that I had missed apparently. One man was placing my groceries onto the conveyor belt, while another man was bagging the groceries after being scanned. Perhaps not necessary, but it is nice to have the help, especially when jet lagged. I probably have written before, but have to write it again, the people here are genuinely kind and helpful.
  3. Karak shake. I have not written about this, and didn’t think I would miss it. But if you haven’t had karak, you are missing out! Karak is a blend of black tea, milk, sugar and cardamom. I had my first karak at the souq here, and have my favorite go to
    place since every place makes it slightly different. Some may make it with sweet condensed milk instead of regular milk and sugar, making the drink even richer. It is a personal preference. There are many places here in Doha that you can even drive up to, honk your horn and order a cup of karak. Even at the very popular Chapati and Karak in an area of Doha known as Katara. There they also offer a karak shake, which is divine in the heat of Doha in my opinion. Apparently they are also located in London, so if you are there, have one! Absolutely delicious!IMG_7166

Continue reading Good to be back

Expat problem #2: Being sick as an expat and understanding the local approach

I have been in a rut for a couple of weeks and it all began when I got sick for the first time living in Qatar. Needless to say, it is never easy being in a foreign country and needing to see a doctor. Without questioning, you take the advice of your newly made friends and go see their recommended doctor and hope that their doctor understands you, the illness and your approach of how to deal with it. To no surprise, this all varies from country to country.

Continue reading Expat problem #2: Being sick as an expat and understanding the local approach

My Expat “Problem”

Problems, we all have them. Living the expat life may seem glorious, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have our problems. One of my personal problems has been where do we begin with our social life, or to put it more correctly, where do we find our social life? Where do we find our local friends?! I have joked with other expats saying that our husbands have it easy. They go off to work within the first week of arriving in the new host country while us “poor” wives are stuck navigating the new city without any friends. Or vice versa, where the wives go off to work and the husbands are left to figure out the basics. In any case, the first lesson that should be taught to any new expat is to find and join a club. Of course I can only write this now confidently because when we initially moved to Oslo I didn’t have a clue.

Continue reading My Expat “Problem”

Malacis

Malacis is a Latvian word meaning good job. Malacis is also our beloved little dog, who truly has done a good job moving from one country to another with us. When Malacis joined us back in 2005, we were aware that we would have extra work, but I never expected so much work to get him to be physically with us in each country we have moved to. Qatar has definitely been the most challenging.

Moving abroad with a pet triggers some basic actions to meet import requirements. Malacis had to have all of his vaccines up to date and an identification microchip implanted. Prior to leaving the United States in 2007, we had taken care of this all. While living in Norway, his microchip was scanned various times that it never crossed my mind that we would encounter any problems. Well, of course change in technology caught up with us in Denmark, causing a new headache. (If you have been following along, I have not had the best of luck in Denmark).

Continue reading Malacis