Eight months. Eight months in which I have moved countries, settled into temporary accommodation whilst house-hunting for more permanent accommodation, and settled my children into their new school. To be sure, this last one was not as easy as I thought it would be. It is only when you are sitting in the car in the school’s parking lot and your eldest, that very one who has never had a problem with school, does not want to get out of the car. It is when she tearfully tells you that she does not want to go to school, that you think that maybe, just maybe, you should have paid more attention to those talks and books on repatriating third culture children.
I was going home. How hard could that be? I was excited, thrilled in fact about returning to South Africa. After seven years made up of a fantastic stint in West Africa to its polar opposite in continental Europe, I was more than ready to return home. Well, as close to home as I could get for a girl from Lesotho. I had imagined endless lunches and dinners with my BFFs; grandparents a mere phone call and drive away; a city familiar; people I never had to explain myself to. This did not quite pan out as I had imagined. First off: my friends are all working women – striving, achieving, accomplishing. My parents and in-laws, as it turns out, all have their own lives as they quietly settle into their golden years. And contrary to those holidays when everyone made a point to see you when in the city – I am struggling to get into friends’ and family diaries.
What has been more challenging though, has been the unanchored feeling that comes with being a repatriate. You are no longer an expat -no matter how many expat friends you have, and you are no longer a trailing spouse. Just an unemployed repatriate.
It hit me as I was refreshing my CV that I was either over-qualified or under-experienced for all the jobs coming through my Linked-In feed. Seven years of varied work-volunteer-pro bono experience will do that. It does not matter how many ways I have reinvented myself – potential employers want to see solid, uninterrupted work experience. So in keeping with what is familiar, I am not missing a beat, and am carrying on as if this is all par for the course . Goal posts are being shifted, I am more accepting of the fact that somebody has indeed moved my cheese, and that it is okay. It is the reinvention of the repatriate this time.