Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Perspective Series-From Canada to Africa

This week I'm happy to introduce Jay from From There to Here for the next installment of the Perspective Series. This is a series about expats sharing their experience of living abroad and how it inevitably changed their perspectives on life. I have only recently found Jay's blog but I am loving it more and more with each post that she writes. So many of them are so applicable in an expat's day to day life. Like how to make friends as an expat. What expat hasn't had problems with that?! Check out more of her stories at From There to Here.

My husband and I both love to travel and I'm naturally a pretty inquisitive person who loves to read and learn about different cultures. I always felt like visiting a city or a country only scratched the surface and we weren't able to see the inner workings of that particular place. When my husband's company offered him a global position, we both knew it was something we had to do, even though we didn't know where they were sending us. We've been abroad now 2.5 years and neither of us regret a minute of it. We are currently in Stavanger, Norway and we are loving the lifestyle we have here but I truly believe, one of the main reasons we appreciate it so much is because of the 2 years we spent in Gabon, a country on the West coast of Africa. Before moving overseas, both of us were university graduates, working careers we were happy with, living in a new home my husband bought and settling in to a fairly easy life in Canada.

Of course, all of that changed when we made the move to Africa. I don't want to sound like a downer, because it wasn't all bad, but Gabon challenged us more than we could have ever imagined. Suddenly, we had to learn how to live without running water or electricity for days on end. We learned how to navigate police checkstops without paying bribes, how to go about our daily business in another language all while suffering through random bouts of stomach illnesses due to poor food quality and hygiene. We learned quickly that getting frustrated and angry did nothing to help the situation and after awhile we'd find ourselves laughing at the turn our lives had taken. As we learned how to navigate life in a under developed country, it became more and more difficult to relate to our friends and family at home. I remember our first trip back to Canada and listening to a family friend complain about a satellite TV company taking a week before they could come and install a new service. I nodded my head and feigned sympathy but inside all I could think about was that week that we went without water. Only 6 short months before, I'm sure I was complaining about those same things but my perspectives had changed so much. Every day life in Gabon could be so hard compared to Canada and it was difficult to relate now that I'd seen another side of things. In the end, both my husband and I came away so grateful for our life in Canada and all of those things we took for-granted. Clean running water, stable electricity, a good standard of healthcare (and it was covered!), a government that was held accountable, a great education and feeling safe on a daily basis were now felt as the luxuries they are. After 2 years in Gabon, we were able to take away so many lessons about life and the world, things I would have never fully understood had we not moved.

We were so grateful for the experience and we knew we weren't quite ready to return home so we accepted a second expatriation in Norway. Norway has got to be the polar opposite of Gabon in almost every way and oh my goodness, we were excited about so many little things. Being able to receive mail, smooth, paved roads, choices in restaurants & movie theatres were novel again. We could not wipe the giant grins off our faces that entire first week in Stavanger and to an extent, we still feel that way now, 5 months later! Our experience in Gabon was challenging but I'm so thankful to be able to fully appreciate our new location, Norway, and more importantly, our home country, Canada.

If you have lived abroad and would like to be featured, shoot me an email at lostintravelsblog{at}gmail{dot}com. I would love to hear from you!

Check out the other girls from the series:

Shireen from Eat, Play, Love that Top

Michaela from Michaela Rae

Caitlin from My Korean Adoptee Story

Andrea from World Walk About