Eternal Expats?

I’m firmly in organisation mode at the moment, the kind that comes upon you after any substantial holiday. I love that feeling, when you’ve had a week or two or three of relaxing and sightseeing and sleeping in strange beds and just as you are about to leave for home you feel so READY and so overcome with ideas for what you will do when you arrive backĀ – change furniture around, get stuck into filing, organise cupboards, wash windows. Write blog posts, even.

We were in Thailand over Easter where we caught up with extended family which was slightly overwhelming at times but more so very lovely. Grandparents, Aunts, cousins, lots of noise and laughter. Our kids have brown noses and sun bleached hair and we’re all feeling a little fatter than fit but utterly revived. J and I have a long love affair with Thailand, his started not long before he met me and he introduced me to its bustling cities and beautiful islands.

One other consequence of the holiday was that it got us started again on the “What are we doing with our lives?” train. J mentioned that he would love to move to Thailand, for a while, at some stage, and I raised my eyebrows and said that I wouldn’t mind. Who knows? We are fast approaching the two year anniversary of our arrival in Hong Kong, which was originally pitched as our return date but that ship is so not ready to sail. Thus brings the eternal question, how much longer will we stay? Are we ready to go home? What will we do next?

A good friend and more seasoned expat than I told me when I first moved to Hong Kong that leaving home ruins you. I know now what she means; once you’ve had a taste of something different, left “home”, the world opens up to you. The opportunities are endless – continuing the corporate life in another world city, leaving it all behind for a more remote Asian destination, taking off to travel for a while, or settling down for a couple of decades in suburbia.

It’s slightly more complicated for us as J works for a local company, which means when we do leave he needs to quit his job (there is some potential for him to continue the same position from Vietnam or Australia, but it’s fairly remote). There’s no set career trajectory – two year stints around the world as you work your way up that corporate ladder. It’s not something that interests him, either. He’s always looking for the next challenge or opportunity.

Scarily, my family holiday made me realise that we don’t need to move home quite yet, or that I’m not quite ready. Chiefly because I realised that the children are still young enough for it not to matter, and they are gaining so much by being here. Soon, Heike will be old enough to have real memories of living overseas and having real connections with another country, another culture. What a great gift to give her, and a great shove in the direction of being a more accepting, culturally sensitive adult.

Still, I’m almost done with Hong Kong. There is so much of the life here that I love – the beauty of the natural landscape, the amazing city centre, the feeling that anything is possible, the food, the people. But there’s a lot, a lot of the day to day stuff, that doesn’t sit right with me – I’m not working, the kids don’t have enough space, the schooling is ridiculously priced, the help is nice but wears thin. I’ve loved it and continue to love it, but I can feel myself winding down and preparing for what’s next.

I know this is a silly attitude to have, as ultimately we have to stay where there is work and money, at least for as long as it’s sensible. And so I continue to move furniture and clean cupboards and update school uniforms and schedule playdates. But there’s a big question mark hanging over our heads, and I look forward to giving it an answer.