Post Australia blues and sparkly red shoes!

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”. ย 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……..

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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.

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19 responses to “Post Australia blues and sparkly red shoes!

  1. 12 months before you need to ‘reset’ is good going.I need a quick escape after 2-3 months! Have found a day trip to Aqaba, full of proper coffees in nice cafes, a walk in the sunshine window-shopping and lots of foreign food – namely Chinese feels a world away from Wadi Musa. And if I’m in real need, then a couple of days in Amman, going to City Mall and Mecca Mall (where I can find so many shops from home), having an afternoon at the cinema, and again lots of Chinese/Indian/fish and chips/Italian is a great hit of normalcy. Anytime you want to try either, I’m available!

  2. Hi MEM. Greetings from your Irish friend in Saudi Arabia. I am lucky that I get home 3 or 4 times per year. But must admit that the older I get the harder it gets. Maybe its because getting older makes us see life a little differently. You appreciate much more the truly important things in life, like family & friends. When we are younger we are always in too much of a hurry to go somewhere or do the next ‘thing’ it seems. Thats my take on it anyway!
    And thank your lucky stars you got Jordan – and not KSA!!!

    • You’re right MD there are a lot of countries that are certainly far more different and isolating than Jordan. Getting home 3-4 times a year is pretty good going, but I can imagine that it can be draining on the coming back leg. Maybe as you said as we get older our priorities change and we put more emphasis on family and friends rather than trying to hunt out the next “new” experience and that’s why it gets harder and not easier to resettle into our adopted countries.

    • Getting a visa for Australia for an Arab Muslim male is just not an easy process! Definitely something we have talked about, but it’s a longer term plan. For the time being life is in Jordan.

  3. Love you! Feel with you! There is one obvious choice but it may have to be a difficult one . . . methinks you would have an awful lot standing lovingly alongside you . . .

    • Thanks Eha for the support. Yeah there certainly are choices that could be made, but they would be not only difficult but near impossible! Life for the time being will be here in Jordan. I just have to focus on what I have here, rather than what I don’t.

  4. I think your writing of this blog post signifies you’re well on your way to kicking homecoming blues.

    I completely sympathise with your feelings – and I agree with Gail, 12 months till you need a break is pretty impressive going!

    For me, having a few projects that are all “mine” is really important to give me something to focus on, and take my mind off the blues. I also find planning a trip somewhere else – less far afield that Australia of course, but still somewhere “different” – always makes me appreciate how much like home my new home actually feels! Even when you’re somewhere short term, I can’t tell you the number of times coming back to Beirut from elsewhere has rekindled my love for that crazy city.

    Finally, I’ll have to second another of Gail’s points – go somewhere that feels familiar, eat things that taste familiar, watch movies that remind you of home (and stick two fingers up at your expat guilt in doing so!).

    Good luck! You’ll be just fine.

    • I think that writing the blog was a first step in the process – still a few more steps/hurdles to overcome before I’ve completely kicked the homecoming blues – but I will get there. Thanks for the advice – will have to plan a few mini getaways to help with resetting the perspective and as you said make me appreciate all the things that I have here in Jordan. And love the thought of sticking it to Expat guilt for indulging in the familiar every once in a while! Sitting here with a cup of milo in hand! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I’m so happy I finally got round to reading this post! I like your terminology; “expat blues”.. I haven’t been back home in five years. I’ve only been outside Jordan once, on a weekend trip to Beirut about 3 or 4 years ago. I’m definitely ready for a reset as I’m feeling overwhelmed by by the frustrations of everyday life. It’s good to know I have fellow “blues singers” with me in Jordan!

    • Wow Jim, I’m not sure how you can gone that long with out a reset. Have you got one planned? So hard to keep on going when the daily grind is full of so many frustrations. Hopefully you can escape a little by actually listening to some blues music. Have you got a trip down south planned anytime soon? We are starting to come into wildflower season and if you are coming down south let me know as we could meet up and do some wildflower exploring. Nothing like taking some photos of the beauty around us to forget the frustrations for a bit. I’ve got a couple of sites in the memory bank from last year that I want to check out for black irises this spring.

      • Thank you so much for that invitation. Insha’allah, I will make it down in time to see the black irises! I still haven’t had the joy of seeing it in the wild.

  6. Pingback: Look at the opportunities, not the dead goat you have to cook with. | Middle East Moments·

  7. I read another post today about homesickness, it’s by another Aussie named Amelia over at Simple Provisions: http://simpleprovisions.com.au/2012/06/22/homesick-toast/ (follow it through to the other contributed Homesick Toasts if you can, it’s really lovely). I don’t think that food actually works to effectively help with homesickness or adjustment but it definitely makes me feel a tiny bit closer to home when I eat something that I associate with it.Hope that things are gradually getting easier lovely. Thinking of you, Wishing we could have vegemite and cheese together right now! xxx

    • Homesick toast – that’s awesome! I certainly came back from Australia with a supply of Vegemite and craft peanut butter! I also need to find a way to bring back a supply of good old Australian butter as well – the butter here is adequate but not really worthy of keeping company with Vegemite! ๐Ÿ™‚ Amazing the memories and experiences that can be wrapped up in food and come flooding back when we eat it. I will never be able to eat fresh summer white peaches without thinking of my Grandpa and picking fresh sun warmed peaches off the tree to be sliced up put on fresh white bread and topped with cream. That would be my homesick toast – takes me back to life as a girl growing up on the farm in a heartbeat. ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

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