Many people think life abroad is always glamorous and exciting. I really can’t complain because it is often thrilling, in a way that is different from home in some respects. It is, however, not fun at all to keep saying goodbye to people who return to their home countries or go to other places. Sometimes it feels like a revolving door of making a friend, having him or her around for a while then saying goodbye.
This happens quite often and it was the one thing I did not even think about when moving abroad. I guess you never know about it until you live it.
When friends go, you know things will change. The relationship changes because of distance; they move on to different contexts. In many cases I remain good friends with them because I am intentional about using all the online tools to keep in touch. The nature of the relationship changes though and I have to learn how to accept this in its new state.
I have lived abroad, three places in Japan, for a total of 14 years now. I have been to Sri Lanka, Colombia, South Africa, Kenya, India and Singapore to visit friends who returned home. I enjoyed every last visit of course and it is always great to experience a country through those you know well. It is also exciting when they visit Japan, so we can catch up and make new memories.
I do not like change, so at first it was hard for me to keep opening up to new people, especially those I know were here temporarily. Change is constant and as someone who wants to grow, I have learnt how to accept and embrace change. With this in mind, I focus on being in the present with friends and making memories. I also embrace the fact that people are in our lives for different seasons and time frames. Acknowledging this and putting it into practice has been very helpful.
I really appreciate being able to connect with people from all over the globe, right here in Japan. It’s great how often our shared experience of being foreigners here bring us together. I go to a church with over 50 nationalities represented and meet many of my friends there. Some are students, others are teachers like me, some work in the foreign services for their embassies, while others work in different businesses. It is also insightful to hear about life in their corner of Japan and of course to learn about their cultures. I have quite the journey into different cultures through the food that friends make for me and vice versa. Everybody loves Jamaican rice and peas with whatever it is paired with.
Hence, it is always bittersweet to know a friend is leaving. I wish him or her well and spend even more quality time before its adieu…
I now acknowledge that the reality of life abroad, means someone is always leaving. It is often a dear someone, a friend. I have learnt to send them off with joy and be expectant for them in their next season. A true friend is a friend whether near or far. Some friends were for a season here and we lived out our purpose. I focus more on being a true friend whether I am near or far and I also let those relationships that naturally peter out with time, fade and or evolve in what they become.
I also stay open to new friendships and take them as they come, because life happens and change is constant.