We are seasoned pros now. We arrived in Germany, September 1, 2005. We hit the seven year mark, and when I look back, I see a mountain of adjustments. We learnt a new language. We picked up a new child. We dealt with chronic illness and job worries. We endured blistering Winters and Christmas without family. We learnt to endure the highs and lows of expat life.
Stability came, with an awareness and acceptance of the costs of living far from home. In a way, Leipzig has become an authentic second home, one which I am proud of and will keep in my heart forever. You get used to the culture, the language, the adjustments which keep coming with each new life phase or challenge. You develop skills in hanging tough, and become easier on yourself, to cope with the minor indiscretions that come from being a foriegner. Although you remain an outsider, you come to accept being able to understand a culture that is close to you, without falling completely into it.
And then BOOM, you have an unbearable day, when you want to run away, back to your first country, your old friends, family and Australian sun. Usually the trigger is small and unexpected. Today, I saw the wave from a distance, and worried it would swamp me. I steadied myself, but had no chance this time.
My sister had come for a weekend, on route to a wedding in Switzerland. I met her baby for the first time, and my children were delighted to see an Aunty that they'd only seen on Skype for the past four years. At the train station as the ICE pulled away, I felt coldness wash over me. It was only the next day that I understood: she had come and gone, just like an Autumn breeze, with me, grasping at moments, feeling more grief than joy. Today, I am tired of the expat life.