Monday, April 25, 2011

Adjusting to Life after Unexpected Repatriation

I have been happy living overseas all these years. So having to move back indefinitely to my home country unexpectedly (aka "repatriation") has been a bit of a shock, to say the least.

Someone told me that the emotional side affects of moving can be more difficult to deal with than the physical moving.

I think they might be right.

The feelings of loss that sneak up on you in the middle of the night can be a bit overwhelming. It's not just about the physical loss of the familiar space you call home. It's not knowing where things are in your kitchen anymore... all of my stuff is still in Egypt... my hot water kettle... my special mugs... all of my spices carefully arranged in my spice cabinet...

I know it sounds trivial. I mean, who cares that you know where your favorite mug is?

But here we are in Kentucky, my son and I - that is. My husband is still in Egypt. It's not like he can just pack up and leave his job.

So after being evacuated from Egypt to live sort of indefinitely away from my home, my stuff, and - most importantly - my husband, I still feel a little lost sometimes.

I read an article recently about the 10 ways repatriation is nothing like home leave.

#10 describes me exactly. "You're no longer a rock star." I've lost my identity. I don't live in Egypt anymore. I meet people, and I have to tell them that we live out towards the Anchorage area in Louisville, KY. I'm not interesting or special anymore... at least I'm not until I can't help myself and open my big mouth to spill the beans (about having lived in Egypt, that is).

It's not all bad. 

Actually a whole lot of it is good. 

My son has adjusted well to life in America. My parents live about 15 minutes from our apartment. He has toys to play with. We have things to do, fun things like storytime at the library, playtime at the local park's playground, or visits to the local super pet store to watch their doggie daycare dogs play.

Some of it we could have done in Egypt. But a lot of it we couldn't have.

It's great to have everything so easily available. I can go to the store here and buy just about anything I need or want. And if I can't get it in the store, I can always buy it online. 

And, oh, how I love buying things online.

Plus I get to drive here. And not just a rental, our own car. Definitely a plus.

Do we plan on moving back to Egypt? ABSOLUTELY! I miss Egypt desperately. And it will be nice to live on the same side of the Atlantic with my husband. And if there's anything you've picked up after reading any of this blog, I hope it's been how much I love Egypt.

But if you do find yourself in a similar situation (becoming a repatriate unexpectedly), I would definitely recommend the following:
1. If you can, stay somewhere familiar when you go home. While you might suffer from reverse culture shock with all the unexpected changes, it's a lot less stressful to move to a place you already know.
2. Have a home base. Even if you're not sure how long you'll be back, make sure to create some sort of normalcy in your life by having a place to call home.
3. Have a schedule. Give yourself something to look forward to every day. Find things to do for yourself and for your kids (if you have any).
4. Live a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy and exercise regularly. Remember that moving and repatriation is stressful. Exercise helps relieve stress.
5. Keep in touch with people you knew abroad. While it may seem strange to hang onto relationships that you've left behind, I think keeping them may help you transition into life back home more than you realize. 
6. Take it one day at a time. Some days might be good. Some days might be bad. Just keep moving and you'll get through this.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.
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