One of the unequivocal benefits of being an expat is having had the opportunity to cross paths with a multitude of women whom I would never otherwise have met. Each has touched my life in her own way and all of them have enriched my life in different ways. I am still in touch with some of them, some I will likely never see again and others I have yet to meet in person. Who are they? They are:
- The women I have worked with – In my banking days they were the ones with whom I pulled all-nighters to finish a merger analysis . Doing voluntary jobs like sorting clothes, they were the women with whom I laughed about the absurdity of people donating their questionable underwear and with whom I cried over the plight of the people to whom the clothes were being sent.
- The soon-to-be Mums, sharing the joy and fears the unknown lives ahead of us and the new Mums in baby groups, relieved to be in the company of other adults but so sleep deprived that we could barely string a sentence together.
- My fellow students in language classes, all grappling with the intricacies of a new language and the challenge of becoming a student again.
- The teachers of my language classes who patiently suffered the butchering of their mother tongue while trying to instill correct grammar, a respectable vocabulary and a bit of cultural understanding into their struggling students.
- The amazing Philippina women who have helped me in my home and with my children. Making the unimaginable sacrifice of leaving their children behind so that they can earn enough money to give their children a better education and a better life, they manage to smile and to love our children like they were their own
- My fellow students (all Chinese) in my yoga teacher training class who struggled to comprehend the idea of Hindu deities and who (mostly) managed not to laugh at my relatively un-bendy Western body.
- The women who have taught my children, supporting them as they have made the transition to new schools and teaching them valuable life skills as well as academics. They have provided my children with a supportive yet disciplined environment in which to learn and have saved me (and my children) from all but the briefest flirtation with homeschooling.
- The yoga teachers who have helped me to ground myself and stay balanced through all the stresses of international moves and the students who have attended my classes to enjoy some time focused on themselves
- My running buddies whose commitment to a goal has helped to make sure that I dragged myself out of bed to make my own fitness goals
- The women that I’ve become friends with in each of the countries I’ve moved to (though our kids, classes, committees, book and Bunco groups); the ones whom, as we’ve got to know each other better, become surrogate family members in the absence of our real families.
- My online expat and coaching friends; the ones I’ve come to know as I’ve set up my business and who are unfailingly supportive of each other and the lives we all lead
These women have diverse backgrounds and nationalities. They speak different languages and they have different goals in life but I was lucky enough to share a path with each of them for part of the journey. As International Women’s Day comes to a close, I’m taking a few minutes to savour my good fortune in knowing each of them. Who are the women who have touched your life as an expat?