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.


  1. Erin I love your blog! I've been checking a bit obsessively for the last two months to hear where you ended up. Glad you are well and moving forward.

  2. I'm so sorry that you had to leave, but you've had a drink from the Nile, so you'll be back! I totally see the advantages of living abroad, I miss online shopping too and driving etc, but the heart wants what the heart wants, even if it means giving up on comforts we love.

    Take care of yourself and hope to hear from you again. Keep blogging!

  3. Thanks. Londoneya, in sha' allah we will be back in Egypt before long. My brother's getting married next month, and we're expecting another baby in September. So after that we'll see what the situation in Egypt is. Anyhow, take care.

    And, yes, I will still be blogging. Just being 5 months pregnant with a 17 month old has kept my energy level down lower than I'd like lately.

  4. Hi Erin!

    I'm glad you and Amir are doing well. Is Sameh able to visit throughout the summer or is it a long stretch til you see him next? I'll be thinking of (and praying for) you this summer while I'm going through the OB segment of nursing school!

    Take care, Janean

  5. Glad to hear that you're safe and well as I'd been wondering about you. Hopefully it won't be for too long. Congratulations on your pregnancy. I am 19 weeks pregnant myself so we must be due roughly around the same time. Take care and keep us up to date with your temporary life in Kentucky.

  6. Janean- Great to hear from you! Yes, Sameh is coming in May for my brother's wedding. We've seen him twice since we left Egypt. Thanks for thinking of us! Good luck in nursing school.

  7. Ruby- Thanks. Yes I hope we'll be back in Egypt before long. And congrats to you too on the new baby! Do you know if it's a boy or girl yet (or are you waiting to be surprised)? Will definitely keep you updated. Take care!

  8. Hi Erin - really enjoy your blog! I have a feeling it will be becoming like my bible as it's likely I will be moving to Egypt to be with my Egyptian husband soon. Hope you are well and that you keep blogging :)


  9. Hi Erin, its now August....are you back "home?" I am getting ready to possibly be relocated to Cairo with my family. I am trying hard not to be isn't exactly peaceful yet. I appreciate your Passion for Egypt and am hoping I run into more people like you as I relocate. Just wanted to see what you were dealing with..maybe calm my troubled heart. I am an Ohio native..Cincinnati to be I figured we already had a lot in thank you for your it has been very very helpful in preparing for Egypt as a mom and wife.

  10. Summer we are not back in Egypt yet. This is mostly due to getting ready to have baby #2 in a few weeks and then waiting until he is ready to travel. Although from what my husband tells me things have changed quite a bit, day to day life does go on the same (or pretty much the same). I honestly haven't been there since Jan 31. I think it will kind of depend on which area of Cairo you'll be in and where you'll need to be going...

  11. Hello Erin! This is the first time I’ve visited your blog .I really liked the article.I love your stories and the way you write.Keep it up...Stay strong and healthy.Being concerned with your health is extremely very important, when you return to Egypt, make sure you are covered with an Expat Health Insurance ...All the best with your move and meeting your baby #2!

  12. Hope all is well with you- I always enjoyed reading your blog, so I hope to hear more Egypt stories soon! In the mean time, good luck with the new baby :)

    M from Sydney, Australia (I've been to Egypt twice (I went there for my honeymoon!!) and would love to return again someday

  13. Hi Erin,

    I hope you are well and everything is going well with your new baby over in the US!

    Just wanted to get in touch for some advice - i hope you don't mind and that you are still checking your blog! I enjoyed reading your blog last year and always found it relevent as my hubby is egyptian and as he has been trying to get a visa for UK for over 1.5 years now and still can't it's looking like I may be moving to egypt.

    Your blog has taken on a whole new light since we found out we are expecting our first child due in May. We have been told that hubby wont be able to get a visa in time to be here for the birth and this is heartbreaking so Im now exploring the option of giving birth in Egypt (he lives in alexandria) and from reading your blog I can see this is something you did. People have said to me it's not worth the risk and I should give birth in the UK but I just wanted to get opinions from people who have done this before.

    I hope you get a chance to read this as any tips/ hints would be amazing!

    Diana (25) from London

    1. Hi Diana,

      My name is Anna and I'm 24 years old. I'm from Canada and am also married to an Egyptian in Alexandria. He has tried to get visas to Canada and been denied also. We are also expecting our first child in May 2012, and it is looking very unlikely that he will get a Visa. The army is possibly not letting him leave the country due to issues with the military duty and his family (too much to get into in here) until Mar 2013. Even if he was allowed by them to leave, I think the chances of him getting a visa for Canada would be slim. So it is looking more and more likely that I will be giving birth in Alex. We had been planning on spending my Mat leave there anyway. So, if you'd like to email, it sounds like our situations are VERY similar. My email is Hope to hear from you. Will be going back to Egypt for a visit at the end of Feb.

    2. Hi Anna,

      I have sent you an email. Hope you are well!


  14. Diana- I'm not sure what advice I can give but sure! Did you see my post on that subject? It might be easier if you email me owene25 at yahoo dot com.

    1. Hi Erin,

      Thank you I have looked at all your posts on babys over in egypt :) it looks like our luck may have changed however and my hubby has been allowed a visa! so he may be able to make it over to the UK for the birth! thats if they issue his visa in time! thanks


  15. Erin, my daughter found your blog. She will be moving to Alexandria this year to be with her husband who is Egyptian. She is expecting her first baby in May this year. She may have it here in Canada if her husband can get the visitor's visa. If not, then she will go to Egypt to have the baby and spend her Maternity leave over there at least and then figure out where they want to live. I have been reading your blog with fascination and it has put my mind at ease a little about her moving there. I can't wait to read about all of your experiences. I was wondering why you had to come back to the US? Did it have to do with the revolution in Egypt last year or did your visa run out> I was just trying to understand why. Thanks. I alco couldn't find contact info for you on the "All about Erin" page or I would have sent you an e-mail. Ingrid

  16. Ingrid- I responded to your email. And about the visa, I have a residence visa for 5 years (you can get this after 3 years of marriage or after the birth of your first child). So no I did not leave because my visa expired. You might read my "Egypt Protests" posts to find out more information about that time. =)

  17. Hello. I have greatly enjoyed reading your blog since I am very interested about life in Egypt and hope to one day be able to visit for an extended period of time. Are you still blogging about Egypt? I would love to read more about your adventures! :)


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