It comes round to the time of year again when summer must end and the trip back to Abu Dhabi to serve another term is nigh.
Ninety per cent of expat wives in Abu Dhabi and around the Middle East travel to their native countries to escape the too-hot Arabian summer months. For many it’s just the shot in the arm that’s needed to balance the boredom and monotony of being an expat wife from September to June.
Coming back to Ireland always starts with the same great plans, meet everyone, do everything, After the first few weeks home you begin to realise that it may not be possible and by the time it comes to the final week you block book the last seven days of your holiday and reserve same for the single thing you miss most when living abroad, family. Year on year the focus has changed since the first summer home, four years ago, “around the Island in eighty days”, driving like a maniac from Cork to Donegal, back to Dublin, across to Clare, up to Galway, before finally crumbling with dizziness and exhaustion from trying to catch up with everyone. As each summer came and went there was a noticeable change in the dynamic before finally reaching the current plateau of, “you know where I am if you want to visit”. Incidentally it is surprising the number of meets that get cancelled when you adopt this approach and stop doing the running. Also surprising is how many acquaintances get kicked to the kerb when time becomes precious and you want to spend every available hour with family and close friends.
So now, having spent the last nine weeks gorging on family and lucky friends, when it comes to stuffing the cases with Barry’s Tea, Tayto and Sausages, one can’t help but feel a little lonely. Knowing that it will be almost a year before you get to spend time with your loved ones again makes the summer months all the more significant especially when trying to nurture the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
But alas one has to look at the bright side and seek the positives in emigration. No more standing in the cold filling the car with petrol at the price of gold, as sheets of rain make their way across the forecourt and ruin your new poker straight hairdo. No more having to carry untrendy shopping bags into the supermarket in an effort to avoid the hefty 22c plastic bag fee. No more picnics in the rain. No more evenings curled up on the sofa watching riveting current affairs programmes about recession, septic tank charges, household charges, refuse charges, taxes, cuts and levies. No more recycling, separating rubbish, rinsing yogurt cartons and wishing that shoeboxes weren’t made so bulky. No siree, it’s back to the Middle East where you can throw everything from a wine bottle to an ironing board into the bin without question. Albeit you need a license to buy the wine in the first place and expat wives don’t iron, they have a maid to do it, so many wouldn’t know what an ironing board looked like or that it only needed a cover and didn’t require dumping, thus the run on ironing boards.
This time, unlike times before, I’m looking forward to going back to Abu Dhabi, meeting up with friends and getting back into the routine that started off feeling foreign but has finished up feeling familiar. While it might feel strange having air conditioning blasting on Christmas Day, there is solace in not receiving the heating bill and being nervous opening same as it were a threat and not an invoice. And while the plastic roll out grass of Abu Dhabi isn’t the same as the green grass of home, I certainly don’t miss the long hours of cutting grass and pulling weeds, before emptying same grass and weeds into the compost bin which now looks as if it has morphed into a hideous little country with a nasty pollution problem.
So living abroad has it benefits and while it’s easy going back again, it’s still hard to say goodbye.