Say Hello and Wave Goodbye

With the exception of my hairdresser, saying goodbye to friends in Ireland was the most difficult farewell. Made palatable only by the knowledge that they would always be there, possibly living in the same houses, doing the same things and that when we return, our fortunes made, we could continue again, where we left off. The adage, “good friends are hard to come by”, was certainly ringing true in the initial settling in period in Doha and the chance of finding friends to share an evening with seemed more and more unlikely.
In a potentially wide open friend pool, devoid of the parameters that an Irish community offers it was proving difficult to find suitable candidates for companionship. Jordanian, Lebanese, American, French and Dutch, all entered the first round. They each passed with flying colours making it all the way through to friendship level, lucky them; pick a prize from the top shelf! Delighted with our new friends and interested in hearing about their lives, loves and livelihoods the friendships flourished, each one reveling in the newness of the other. However, there remained one vacancy, it advertised, it would read as follows,” Irish Friends Wanted, apply within, must have similar interests, ideally from a suburban mini-tropolis in Ireland, two cars, one family holiday and one European mini-break each year, two children with room for a third, no tattoos or piercings, the candidate will ideally have an appreciation for any kind of wine and will not smoke, fluent in English essential but enrolling the children at the Gaelscoil, please email for more information” The list was specific with little room for deviation, so we would be guaranteed to find the right match.
Without formal application, imagine the delight when we stumbled across them, the ideal Irish friends, same as us, mirror images, perfect! Long evenings were spent thereafter with the men nursing the barbeque and the girls browning the children in the evening sun, chat, laughter and sometimes song could be heard when they met. The men chatted about work and money things, the ladies swapped recipes and housekeeping tips while the children played catch around the piano. To use another adage, “birds of a feather stick together”.
All was well until one Thursday, like a lot of Thursdays, the barbeque was started, the wine was chilled and our favourite Irish friends called round. Conversation started at the usual rapid pace with everyone chatting together, almost at the same time. The food eaten and the sun gone down, they opened with, “we’ve great news, we’re moving to Dubai, got a better job, it’s all happening so fast, we leave next week”. Great news for who? Not for me! My mind grappled with the next step, should I tell the kids to quickly go across the road to the Argentinean children to start making new friends, no point investing any more here, what was the point if they were upping and leaving. All these months spent nurturing the friendship only to be cast aside for a brighter future in Dubai and all after I had spent the evening making my homemade potato salad for them. I felt duped.
Days later after careful reflection, having adjusted my expectation to accept this new norm, I clutched on to the old adage, Friends come into your life for a Season, a Reason or a Lifetime. This transient element is the biggest pitfall in expat life. Nothing stays the same anywhere but it certainly won’t ever stay the same in this expat environment, everyone is here until their visa comes through for Canada, they get a better offer or they can afford to move home. So all you can do is enjoy the ships passing and remember to mention “an expected term of friendship” for the next round of interviews.

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