|Those two idiots moved to Switzerland?|
John and Tatiana circa 2003
Many many years ago when my dad finished his PhD my parents were praying for a job for my dad. They apparently actually said, "Lord, send us to the ends of the earth if you have to." We ended up in Newfoundland. He sent my family to the end of Canada. Where arguably we DID learn a new language (repeat after me, "stay where yer at, I'll come where yer to.")
Little did I know that I was watching my future by watching my parents experience life far away from anything familiar. John and I weren't sent to the ends of the earth but we were sent to a place that everyone assume is Sweden.
The common thread through all of these couple we know (including my parents) is the presence of a trailing spouse. More specifically the trailing wife. We're a small but mighty community of cheerleaders, translators, holder downers of the fort, and occasionally the holder together-ers of everything else in their home away from home while the one that got us here is at work. We give up a lot to follow along and I dare say we are community of people who are often forgotten about in the grand scheme of being an ex-pat. Behind every person who gets an international job is a spouse who is stuck at the grocery store trying to find the local equivalent to black strap molasses. This isn't a "woe to me" post. Heavens no. This is a tribute post if anything to those who have followed along, given up jobs, communities, friends, education and their kitchen aid mixers to have a most excellent adventure. It's also MY truth.
We landed here with only one of us being able to speak the language and only one of us with a job and unfortunately it wasn't the same person. We each had a favourite coffee mug from home in our suitcases and the day John started his job I got lost on the way to our new apartment to get our keys and do the walk through. I also received delivery of our Ikea chairs and futon BUT didn't have a wrench or a hammer. We had to spend an extra night in the hotel and I had to find out the German word for wrench (in my 27 years of speaking German I had never used the word wrench.) I had no IDEA what I was doing. After everyone left our apartment and it was just me. I cried. I cried because I missed home. I cried because we had a place to live. I cried because it was all real now we weren't on vacation. And I cried because I didn't have my best friend to cry at when the song "For Good" from the musical Wicked came on my iPod. I had no idea what I was doing. I knew how to be a supportive partner but I had NO idea how to be a support trailing partner. But I started to figure this out slowly but surely.
I'm still figuring it out.
Contrary to popular belief it's not all dinner at 6 and laundry being done. It's not all weekend adventures exploring new and interesting places. It's not all locally made wine and chocolate. Hell no. Sometimes it's arguments about me always waiting for John or resentment about taking a back seat to his career. Sometimes it's me giving up on always being the translator and asking the person I'm dealing with to speak English for the love of all that is good and holy because I'm tired. Sometimes it's getting frustrated when John complains about having to refill the water jug or says "it's not like you're doing anything." Sometimes it's heart crushing loneliness because those who "get" you are far away. Sometimes you'll wonder, "what the hell have we done?!"
There is a dark side to this.
This WILL be hard. And "those" people will come out of the woodwork and they will suck. Especially when some of them call themselves your family members. You'll be lonely, homesick, angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, out of sorts and afraid. Those moments of doubt will creep in when you least expect it and ruin what you thought was a perfectly good day.
But you'll get through. How? I don' know. You just will. You will figure out a way. Because you have to or being here with your husband will not work if you don't. It helps to remember that in between the anger, the frustration, lonliness, "those people" and their comments are moments of amazingness and adventure that will change you, your partner, your relationship and how you experience the world around you.
You'll learn to okay with silence. To experience rather and take a picture of it. That writing a book isn't code of lazy but code for "I'm following my heart." You'll learn you're a lot stronger and braver than anyone will ever give you credit for and that as long as you and your willing accomplice have each other and snacks EVERYTHING will be okay. Maybe not right away but eventually.