They say bad things happen in threes. So, as I prepare to say farewell to our third set of friends leaving Dubai for good since the summer, I hope this is the end of the exodus for a while. There are many wonderful things about expat friendships but sadly one of the realities of life as an expat is having to say farewell far too often.
When you first arrive you make friends fast and are constantly awed by the kindness of strangers, fellow expats always willing to reach out or lend a hand in circumstances you wouldn’t dream of back home and such strangers quickly turning into friends. Friendships are forged over shared experiences and the most tedious of connections. But for many expats Dubai is a temporary stop on their journey and after a few years they will call time on their desert chapter and head back home or on to new pastures for their next adventure. That leaves long timers like us faced with sad farewells every few years and a new set of friends to discover and make memories with, for as long as they are here.
The two families that have already left this year we had known since our early, pre-kids days in Dubai. Days that seem a long, long time ago now. When living on opposite sides of town had no bearing on how often you would see each other; it was no bother to jump in a cab and head somewhere over the creek, after work dinners required no pre-planning or preparation and brunches were long, indulgent affairs. Sadly we hadn’t seen enough of each other the last few years when our respective families made logistics and co-ordination more difficult.
My friend leaving for good this week I met post-kids as part of a mums group all having our first child around the same time. We have “only” been friends for 3.5 years but it feels like we’ve known each other a lifetime. That’s probably because it is a lifetime – our childrens’ life times. We met when our boys were newborns, little compliant bundles of sleeping cuteness that allowed us to sit and drink cups of tea while chatting, eating cake and swapping stories as we all tried to adjust to our new lives. We discovered that we lived on the same road and walks in the park together pushing prams turned into toddler chasing round the running track, scootering sessions, and then, neighbourhood bike rides. They moved house and not long after we moved to the same neighbourhood, keeping us close in geography and friendship.
We have celebrated birthdays, Christmases and Diwalis, had Easter picnics and gone Halloween trick or treating. We have swum together, played together and holidayed together, we even tried to ice skate together. We’ve been to restaurants, theatre shows, soft play areas and more play dates than I can count. We have counted erupting teeth, compared weaning menus, gotten through wonder weeks and figured out toilet training. All the while our babies were growing into boys together and we were growing into our roles as mothers together.
Then we both had little girls, just a few months apart. As I prepared Monkey for the forthcoming arrival of his little sister he welcomed with open arms the arrival of his little buddy’s little sister, constantly asking after her and getting ready to be a big brother just like his buddy.
And with the new arrivals came a new level of chaos into our lives. But still, geography, our kids, our shared loved of all things crafty, our boys’ love of trains and our feisty little girls kept us close and in almost daily contact.
Half the time we seemed to be operating on exactly the same brainwaves – we put on a joint train birthday party for the boys and discovered our pinterest boards were identical, we liked all the same things. Combining forces for that birthday was a no brainer, the boys love doing things together and it was probably the only way we could have completed all the crafty projects we wanted to do in time for the big day. Such a shame we won’t be able to do the same next year, I don’t know how I will get everything done on my own. I will never forget the amazing cardboard box play train or our identical homemade train cakes and the joint sense of accomplishment from pulling the whole thing off together – our very own pinterest worthy birthday party!
Ever since I heard they were leaving I have been in denial, finding it difficult to imagine not having them there just around the corner for our impromptu play dates. My craft buddy no longer available to check out my latest craft store discovery or join forces to test out the latest kids activities in town. No more relaxed weekday afternoons together swimming in our pool followed by the kids’ communal dinners, as we made plans for the weekend. But it is time to face reality. Their house is packed up and shipped off, they are already no longer around the corner. In a couple of days they too will be all packed up and ready to jet off to Australia. Monkey is already asking about going to visit his buddy, particularly concerned that his toy trains have been packed up. It would appear the boys have already made plans to play with toy trains, go to the beach, and go to the zoo on our next visit to Australia, whenever that might be. Yesterday I told Monkey to say goodbye to his buddy as he might not get to see him again and it nearly broke my heart to see him look up at me with his big eyes and say “please mummy can I see him again“. I don’t think he quite understands.
Since my friend and I are both rubbish at goodbyes, I’m not sure we’ll manage it in person. I have always been much better at articulating my feelings in writing, so here is my farewell.
To my friend,
I have loved sharing this part of our journey with you and I am so happy to have been part of your family’s journey too over the last three and a half years. We have so many treasured memories together and I hope remembering your Dubai days will always bring a smile to your face and happiness to your heart.
Sadly our paths must now part and you will head off back home to begin an exciting new chapter in your journey. While I am sad for myself and for Monkey, I am really happy for you all, that you will get to be closer to family and live in an another awesome city (and so jealous that you will have SO many cheap craft and party supplies so easily accessible!) Know that you will always have friends in Dubai and a place to stay for so long as we are here. So please do come back and visit and don’t just say you will!
We will stay here and continue our desert adventure but you were such a big part of our day-to-day lives that there will no doubt be a hole for a while until we figure out who else will put up with our general ridiculousness! I will also apologise now for the fact that my whatsapping knows no geographical boundaries (and unfortunately no time zones) so you can expect those late night random conversations to continue. At least you have had the good sense to move to the same city as my sister and so I have no doubt in my mind that we will see you again. I am already excited about the boys seeing each other again and the fun and adventures we can have together there. So this is not goodbye, not by a longshot.
It is farewell, à bientôt, adieu.
Until we meet again.
Which we will.
Have a safe journey home. Hugs and Kisses to you all xoxoxo
Have you had close friends leave Dubai recently, how was your goodbye? Or were you the one leaving, how did you feel? Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you. x