For me, the most exciting and rewarding part of living overseas are the friendships I've made with the locals, the Embassy community, and other expats. Oftentimes friendships begin well in advance of moving to your new location; you get an e-mail from your sponsor, you leave a comment or two on a blog you found while researching your new country, or a friend of a friend once lived there and knows someone who you should meet. But usually it's the friendships that have slowly built over a one, two or three year time frame, where you've experienced the ups and downs, highs and lows of daily life, daily love, and living in a foreign country that really make their mark.
People who know us personally know how fiercely loyal we are, and how we hold on so dearly to the close friends and relationships we've made. We really have to. These are the people who are leading a similar life. They are experiencing the same things. They are seeing the same doctors, shopping at the same grocery stores, taking their kids to the same activities. They get it. And more importantly, they get us. But the exciting part is that the friendship doesn't just end the minute you leave a post... if it was a strong one, it will continue to build momentum, and you'll make efforts to get together again somewhere, someday.
Matt and I have been extremely lucky over the last seven years as we have cultivated and maintained some of the deepest and most meaningful friendships with people who now live all over the world. We've found common interests in outdoor activities, dining, kids and dogs, scuba diving, travel, shopping, and movies. We've gone camping with friends all over Oman and Israel, we've traveled with friends to Dubai, we visited friends in Hungary, and schlepped into Jerusalem many times to see friends who always wanted to come to Israel. We've gone on weekend retreats here in India. We try to fly through DC every R&R so we can see the friends who are no longer overseas. And thanks to Skype we can still see each other, and with Facebook we can write on each others walls as often as we used to text when we were all in the same country. We e-mail. Sometimes daily... though the true ones know that I either don't have internet or life sometimes takes over here and I don't get back to e-mails as quickly as I would like.
In the foreign service, the most important thing I have learned is that you can never say, "goodbye", rather it is always, "until we meet again."
Tomorrow I'm leaving the house at 4 am and taking the kids on a week long trip up to New Delhi, where we are meeting friends from Israel we haven't seen in two years. My girlfriend is flying in from Turkmenistan with her twin daughters who were together with Riley at the preschool in Tel Aviv. We have been talking about getting together for several months, and finally decided to just plan it, and throw it all together in less than two weeks. The original idea was to have them come here for the week, though due to a crazy airline schedule on Turkmen Air just to get to Delhi, along with the additional costs of then having to fly down to Chennai, I told her we'll make it easy and just meet somewhere in the middle.
As I've never been to Delhi (aside from flying there and driving down to Jaipur), we're winging the entire trip. All we have booked are the airline tickets, the car / driver, the hotel, and train tickets to Agra so I can finally see the Taj Mahal, since I didn't get to last time I was there. Remember?
I'm not sure if I'll have e-mail access this week, so just in case I don't, have a great week. You KNOW we will.