10,000…

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When I started this blog my goal was to write about our experience living abroad. It was meant to be a link for family and friends to stay up to date with what we were doing and stay connected to our lives. What happened next was completely unexpected. My posts were getting hundreds of hits, from over 50 countries! I would never have been bold enough to think people in Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Hungary or Peru would ever be interested in something I had to write about. I know people in Guatamala, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Denmark and France so these countries were less of a surprise and thank you for reading! The top three countries were the United States with thousands of hits, Mexico and Canada. I know some of my following started in Mexico by the woman who actually became my son’s English teacher at the private school he attended in CQ. Our initial journey started eight months before she arrived in CQ and when she searched for more information about the city and international school my blog came up. Later I learned that another teacher who joined the school was also reading before she came. It was nice to hear that my blog was actually helping people before they travelled the long trek across the world! I will never know how people in the Republic of Korea, Serbia, Lebanon, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, Germany, Barbados, Macoa, American Somoa, and the Russian Federation stumbled upon my blog, but I’m happy they did! It is mind blowing to me that the journal I decided to write has had 10,000 hits! Of course some of those hits are from wonderful family and friends who were dedicated to staying connected and truly interested in what our family was doing including the good, the bad and yes, some ugly! It’s funny because just as you tend to forget the pain of childbirth, it is hard for me to recall the difficulties we had living abroad. We miss it everyday and we have thousands of wonderful memories! Please know that each and every blog reader is part of this experience. The more you read, the more I was motivated to write!

THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART! Your support was felt from thousands of miles away!

More blogs to come… We left two years ago on February 8th! It’s time for a recap!!

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Tips on being an expat…

Two years ago today my husband and I landed in Chongqing, China for our pretrip. This was the introduction journey to see the city, pick out a place to live and get a first glance at where we would be relocating. Without exaggeration, this week had to have been one of the most stressful of my life. I left my kids (in good hands) and flew half way around the world and landed in what felt like at the time, another planet. I constantly think about our 18 month adventure and here are some tips for you if you are about to make a similar move!

11. If you are planning a pretrip meet up with other foreigners on the trip! We were the only expats for my husband’s company so there were no foreigners to meet, so if this is the case for you, seek out families from the school your children will attend. Ford is a big company in CQ and the families are now having dinner gatherings for people on pretrip! What an incredible opportunity to ask questions and put some concerns at ease. Once you have picked a school for your children then you can also ask for emails for other American moms that are willing to answer your questions.

10. Leave your judgements at home. You have left your society, your customs and your culture and entered someone else’s. Accept everything that is new here. You may not like it or get used to it, but if you don’t accept it, it will cause you hours of wasted frustration. We decided we would laugh it off. When someone held one side of their nose and blew the other side onto the street, we would laugh…only to each other of course. When someone let their child poop in the street, we would laugh, not at them, but at the extreme culture difference for us and a little laugh is a whole lot better when dealing with something so foreign to you!

9. Meet and befriend local people! If you do not extend your friendships beyond your own culture then you are limiting your experiences. The best way to get to know your new surroundings is to explore it with a local!

8. Learn the language! This may at times cause you extra frustrations, but as you acquire the language and feel empowered by speaking it the frustrations will be few and the ease of living in your new environment will be….awesome.

7. Get involved. There is bound to be an International Women’s group or if you have kids, a PTO group at school. Your calendar will fill up before you know it!

6. Don’t be afraid to spend money. This caused me hours of frustration. No matter what, my guess is you will live in an environment that is much more expensive (for daily living) than life in America. It is difficult at first to realize how much money is going towards groceries, travel, and eating out. Most, if not all companies adjust your pay to live abroad. They have given you the extra money for you to spend, so spend it. I don’t mean go crazy, but everything will cost more. Living in America is certainly not cheap, but if you know how much you pay for real maple syrup in the US and you compare it abroad at five times the cost that’s when you start to feel the pain 😉

5. Eat out! My husband and I have been together twenty years and in the last eighteen months we ate out more combined than the last twenty years! Eating out is a social experience. It was actually something “to do” in our city. When you are stressed at times about what to cook because of limited cooking supplies just say “screw it, let’s go out or let’s get take out.” We ate out several times a week, most often with another family or many other families. It became a play date for everyone.

4. Find a person or two who are “yours.” You need to find your “go to” person. You will become part of a group quickly, but you need to have that confidant that you can share everything with. That person that you can talk to daily, grab lunch with, share frustrations, have them put you in your place or commiserate with you!

3. Resist the urge to say “this isn’t how we would do it at home!” You are not at home and no one wants to hear how it is done there!

2. Explore, visit, and travel. In our city the only way to survive was to get out, but wherever you are this is probably for a period of time so take advantage of it! If you stay within the gates of your compound I guarantee you will be miserable. I was often concerned about travel and the money we were spending, but I’m not now. We don’t have a single regret. We explored the country we were in and the countries around it. We saw more than we ever expected to and had experiences we most likely will never have again. Our adventure is over for now, but if the opportunity came again we would jump at the chance! It may never come again, but we are so happy we took advantage of it the first time. If you are an expat don’t set yourself up to come home with regrets!

1. Enjoy every minute or as many as you can. It is such a unique experience, enjoy the new people, culture and ability to learn something new everyday. Yes, I promise you will have bad days, but you will have many more good days, even great one! Try not to get bogged down with how overwhelming it can be. Each issue gets resolved, jump in with both feet and make it your own! Remember, it will just be a bad day, not a bad life!
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