When I first moved to Europe, a French woman told me something I didn’t yet have the experience to understand. Having been an expat in the US for many years but now back on her home turf in Europe, she said many of her friends here are expats because “Once you’ve had an adventure, you find yourself drawn to other adventurers.” More than language or cultural similarities, her “people” have become those with the shared experience of having lived as a fish out of water.
I get it more now. There is the opportunity for the relational concentration of the college years mashed together with the vulnerability of the middle school years for those willing to genuinely forge new friendships while living abroad. Making new friends in a culture that applauds a slow lunch and frowns at a to-go cup of the coffee is valuable lubricant for conversation with the potential to go beyond the surface. And in the absence of nearby family and a network of long standing friendships, 1) “Sorry, I’m busy” is a well-known lie and 2) shallow swimming ain’t gonna satisfy for long.
The downside of friendships established over new peaks and unknown valleys are that the goodbyes hurt a little bit more. Next week I say goodbye to these two beautiful women, Holly and Heidi, who have seen me through the good, bad, ugly, confusing and humiliating for the past two years. They have also graciously kept me from gaining twenty pastry pounds because I am far more faithful with exercise when they are around.
My oh my have they both adventured well. Not only have they taken the tosses and turns of a new everything in stride, but they happily hit the pause buttons on their careers (as a scientist and a Ph.D., respectively) to anchor their families here in Luxembourg and literally pour themselves out as a blessing to so many. I am but one of those grateful recipients.
So for you in Seattle and Iowa that get them back, my heart does sing for you. They are ready to be back home with you, dare I say more deeply alive than even before, and I happen to know – fully equipped to make you an excellent cappuccino in a “for here” cup.