After 1 Year As An Expat & Remote Worker
It’s Friday evening at 8 p.m. and I still have plenty of work to do. I even have a conference call scheduled three hours from now with a colleague on another continent.
Instead of trying to cram in as much work as I can before Friday officially ends, I’ve decided to unwind. Some people, at the end of the work week, go out to dinner, for drinks, to shop, or socialize. Creative outlets, like blogging, have taken the place of most of those things for me and are now my release.
A crazy work schedule has become typical for me. Having to work across various time zones as a remote freelancer, and a recruiter for that matter, isn’t always easy. When I began, I did expect it to be a challenge. At the end of most days the challenge has met my expectations, and I feel tired.
Every day I wake up grateful. After thanking God every morning, the feeling returns that something’s missing. That something is my family back home. They are my motivation.
I’m motivated by thoughts of going home to see them again. They’re my drive to seek means to travel and move freely about the planet. How we became separated is a story unto itself, my closest friends only know. However it occurred, I ended up living as an expat in Egypt.
Egypt, and my husband, have been a haven for me. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m starting to see things in a way that I never saw them before. I see now that patience and kindness is strength and that toughness is often a disguise for deeply ingrained weakness. I now believe that every day, a renewed effort must be made toward success, and not the superficial kind.
Besides the intense love I have for my family, I long to be with them and in my own country, which I also love.
It’s hard not to forget that I’m not there; and the pyramids that sit in our old neighborhood center is a clear reminder.
I miss the smell of Florida (my home) and the smell of rain; an oddity when you live in the desert. I miss the sight of low-hanging white clouds against a bright blue sky; an impossible sight in a city where haze from pollutants and dust dim the sunlight. The dusty haze is thick, and hard tell apart from the winter clouds.
I miss our wildlife; the large birds and little geckos that are everywhere waiting to surprise you when you think you’re alone. I miss the swampy marshes along busy roads and the hanging moss, being surrounded by it and loved ones on days out in the park. If I dwell on it for long enough I can get homesick, but I resist negativity and focus on the good.
I thank God for Cairo. It’s a place where even if you know no one, you find there’s rarely a dull moment. My second home isn’t at all a lonely place.
In addition to my work, there’s too much local distraction for homesickness to fully set in. The sounds of neighbors, street merchants’ voices, music blaring, and horns honking at any time of day break into any homesick thoughts.
If the sounds of other humans can’t be heard nearby, howls of cats and dogs instead fill the air. I’m not a quiet person, but I went through a period of barely being able to tolerate Cairo’s chaos and thought that if one more doggy gang war disturbed my sleep, I was sure to have a nervous breakdown.
But somehow one day, without any effort from me whatsoever, peace and harmony with it settled in. The city’s lively and interesting streets no longer seemed that bad after all.
Now, it doesn’t unnerve me at when the milk man comes down the street right before sundown screaming LABAAAN! ISHTAAA! ZABAAAAADEEEEEE!!! at the top of his lungs like he’s alerting us all to a tsunami. (He’s really just selling milk, cream, and yogurt).
Now, I laugh when the gas man comes to read our meter and knocks on our door like he’s going to break it down, yelling that we should answer while ringing our doorbell repeatedly.
This first year as an expat, I’ve learned enough of a third language to occasionally think and dream in it. I’ve become more appreciative than ever of people and places back home. I’ve started to understand that the most important things are given from our mind and hearts. After all is said and done, they’ll be all we’ll have left.
I thank God that more than ever, I continue changing. He’s shown me to persevere while relying on Him.
He’s shown me that just maybe, all along, I’ve been thinking way too small.