Expat Eyes

This blog contains the photographs, observations and reflections of Rena Diana, an educator and writer, during extended stays in the Arabian Gulf, China, and Mongolia.

The Expat-Multipat-Repat Life

“Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place.”
Barbara Kingsolver, Poisonwood Bible

Since I spend several months at a time in different countries, I am not a classic expatriate. I am more of a multipat, who repatriates twice a year, and thus am in a constant state of adjusting and readjusting, with ripples of culture shock on each exit, entry and re-entry.  My husband qualifies more legitimately as  an expat/multipat because he is away from the United States for longer periods of time. So I made up a new word to define myself: “transpat”, individual in a fluid state of geographical transit and transition.  Add to that constantly shifting status the fact that my husband’s work entails temporary relocations and a fair amount of travel. We are always in a state of limbo.  The revolving door syndrome. Thus, the theme of the photos on this Post, taken on various trips. (Drag your cursor along the bottom right of each photo to read the label.)

Doors and corridors from everywhere  to anywhere. Just keep on movin’. So, as I reflect on what we have learned from being in flux thus far , I will share some highlights. These are the little pep talks I give myself on a regular basis! Welcome to my internal dialogue.

1. Accept being in limbo. We actually never know what is going to happen next anyway.

2.Travel lightly and accumulate little. It is tiring to carry a heavy load.

3. Pay close attention to everything around you: the people, the architecture, the artistic and decorative details, the customs, the language, the music, the natural beauty. This will help when you are spending endless hours waiting in lines, stuck in traffic jams, and delayed at airports.  And you will never be bored.

4.Develop patience. See part two of #3. Plus, getting worked up about things is a waste of good energy. And you NEED your energy.

5. Be flexible and prepared for change.  Expect detours, technical glitches and surprises. Things might not work out the way you planned.

6.Communicate clearly and understand that every interaction is an act of diplomacy. You are an ambassador. Figure out what you want to say and be careful how you say it. Not so easy…

7.Refrain from making assumptions about people you meet.  It is limiting. We tend to stereotype more than we think, and when we do, we are cheating everyone…especially ourselves.

8.Know your math facts.  We are thinking mathematically incessantly when we travel. (This actually requires a whole separate post. Stay tuned.)

9.Relationships are fleeting, so cherish them. Honor them. People come along…and before you know it, they are gone.

10. Ask for help.  Get over yourself. Save yourself a lot of trouble.

11. When someone invites you on an outing, go. This is no time to hold back. Or to be socially lazy.

12. Soak up the adventures that every day offers. You might not have another chance.

All aspects of life as a “transpat” are in high definition. Our surroundings, our daily logistics, and our relationships. Suddenly you are more dependent  than ever on those closest to you as well as strangers- and on yourself.  And everything seems harder. Getting around, talking with people, making purchases, decoding tacit cues, cooking, making telephone calls. On and on.  But I am not complaining….

This experience also makes me feel wide awake, fully alive and engaged. And, as I try to adopt my own 12-Step Program above, I recognize that this so-called transpat life is just the way LIFE actually is. No matter where you are. I am simply more appreciative of that now. And this is a privilege.                        Next Post: Souq Waqif



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5 thoughts on “The Expat-Multipat-Repat Life

  1. mggl on said:

    Rena: beautiful words and pictures.

  2. Jeff Fenstermacher on said:

    Rena, I’m really enjoying your posts. Keep ’em coming.

  3. Ann Fenstermacher on said:

    Rena you take my breath away. Your pictures! Your insight! Your articulateness! Your openess to this experience and willingness to share it with us. Thank you for all.

  4. John Sasser on said:

    Good advice(s). And you are certainly soaking up the adventure!

  5. jane goings on said:

    good observation…life everywhere is like that!

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