The more times you do something the easier it gets…..right?
Well then tell me this – why hasn’t coming back to Jordan after visiting my home country of Australia gotten easier with each time I return. In the 4 years that I’ve lived in Jordan I have been fortunate to have visited Australia 4 times. There is always a period on returning of feeling homesick after spending time with family and friends and it takes a bit of readjustment and resettling in to the Jordanian way of life after experiencing the “normality” of life back “home”.
Yet this time around the post Australia blues have hit with a vengeance. And unlike returning from previous trips this time I’m not doing that much to send them on their way. I’m hanging onto them, somewhat stubbornly, as if keeping them around will somehow magically whisk me back to Australia and my “normality”. Which the last time I checked just wishing yourself to be somewhere else doesn’t achieve that much in actually getting you there! Not unless your name is Dorothy, your dog is called Toto and you own a pair of sparkly red shoes!
Ok so why is this time harder than before?
My trips back home, asides from being able to spend time with family and friends, have always been like a reset button for me. They are a chance for me to get a dose of my version of normality and then armed with this dose of normality I’m able to come back to Jordan and go again. Tolerance levels reset, batteries recharged and ready to face the cultural differences with a shrug of the shoulders or a laugh.
The trips home give me the chance to just do the everyday things without having to think. Living in a country like Jordan it’s fair to say that you can become mentally exhausted as even just the simple every day things like trying to buy milk require a far greater level of thinking and involvement from what you are accustomed to in your home country. When you have to undertake this level of thinking and involvement for absolutely everything that you do in a day, whilst trying to communicate in a different language and not potentially offend/embarrass/bring shame to anyone because you have accidentally committed a cultural faux paux then you can quickly develop a case of expat fatigue.
With expat fatigue comes increasing frustration at the differences in the new country where you are living and it’s hard to see the differences as just that – differences rather than it being wrong. I seem to have about a 12 month timeline on tolerating or laughing off these difference before a case of expat fatigue kicks in. This time my trip to Australia came 15 months since I had last been home and I was definitely overdue for my reset. I was struggling to keep my frustrations at bay and struggling to accept that things are just different. I had lost my sense of humour and ability to be patient and tolerant when dealing with differences both big and small.
This trip unlike the trips in the past is the last time that I’ve got a trip booked in advance for returning back to Australia. Every other time that I’ve come back to Jordan I’ve already had the next trip locked in. This latest trip may well be the last trip for quite some time with Alia now having turned 2 and the cost of her airfare jumping from 10% of a full priced adult fare to 75%. Jordanian wages just do not equate to Western airfare prices.
I think this is the number one reason for my post Australia blues. I have to be honest and say that it scares me that I don’t have a reset button planned for the future. Knowing that my limit is about 12 months and knowing how I became in the months leading up to this last trip I am worried about how I will keep on keeping on in Jordan where everything is just so different and expat fatigue can wear you down.
With this on my mind, instead of coming back to Jordan ready to go again, I have come back already in the doldrums and from the very start the differences are frustrating me. Without having that next trip back “home” on the calendar to look forward to I’m holding onto the past trip and this is impacting my ability to look forward and settle back into Jordan. Without a reset button and restorative time spent with family and friends on the horizon the future just looks long and empty – nothing to break it up.
Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I do like living in Jordan, differences and all. Sure it has it’s days, but then no matter where in the world you get out of bed in the morning you all have those days where you would much rather have just stayed curled up under the covers and try again the next day!
I know what needs to be done, I know what I have to do. I need to make the most of the opportunities that living in Jordan presents to me. I know that I need to get out and get some fresh air – nothing like feeling the wind in your face and breathing in the clean fresh air of mountains in winter to get the energy levels up and the mood improved. And I have a few mini projects just for me to start to keep myself busy and my mind focused.
So maybe, just maybe I’m done with my wallowing and maybe I’m ready to start shrugging my shoulders or laughing at cultural differences instead of letting them get the better of me.
Now where are those sparkly red shoes……..
Maybe I need to take a leaf out of Alia’s book and realise that when one is wearing sparkly red shoes any place can be a “happy place”.
I would love to hear from others who have been in a similar situation or have some insight to offer on post “home” blues. What are some of the tips and strategies that you use to get through the readjustment period. How do you cope with expat fatigue when it strikes. What other strategies do you use to “reset” when it’s not possible to fit in a trip back home.