the ex-pat love affair
For anyone who has ever lived overseas, the idea of the expat love affair will be distinctly familiar. Either experienced firsthand or witnessed too closely, it is a phenomenon that occurs time and time again the world over. It can take the form of a brief and sensual holiday fling, the newly found best friend/soul mate, and the usually devastating “love” affair.
The expat love affair is intensified for several reasons:
- The unfamiliar surroundings
- The loss of our comfort zone: family, friends, habit and normality
- The accent (exciting and exotic)
Relationships, sexual or otherwise, are intensified in short periods. New friends feel like lifelong acquaintances, and a couple of dates can instantly seem like you’ve met the one. These passions can be powerful and fleeting, but also genuine and heartfelt. Sharing our new found adversity breaks down otherwise stubborn walls of solitude, and surprisingly great comfort is found in the familiarity of complete strangers. I’ve been asked many times, ‘how do you move to a foreign country and start all over?’ I guess when I stop to think, it takes strong ties to home, but also the ability to find a new home in the people you meet. Sadly, these new homes are temporary and constructed within a certain time and space; friends and lovers dash in, make a splash, and leave. Some of these expat love affairs are brief, intense and destructive, where as others grow into lifelong friendships, or in the case of my parents, the successful love story.
‘Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.’
Whilst we are enriched by these experiences, however brief, it is also traumatising to have people enter your life and take a piece of your heart. At times I have an overwhelming desire to scream ‘GIVE THEM BACK! GIVE IT ALL BACK!’ As if all the pieces were back in place I would be whole again. But this would negate the profound effect these people have had on shaping who I am and where I am going. If I think about the different versions of myself I have been I find myself struck by the fluidity of ‘Milena’. I feel like my life is characterised by a dichotomy of constantly changing perceptions of self and the parts which are so deeply engrained and at the core of my being. So to ask back for all the pieces that I have given, or those some have taken, would leave me bereft of so many sides to myself, and so many ways of seeing the world that I have discovered through these connections.
Though I am sometimes almost distressingly overcome by the sadness and loss of my ex-pat love affairs, the times when they flicker back in, even for the briefest of moments – a message, a thought, a forgiving letter – I find myself deeply moved by the feeling that I choose well with that piece of my heart.
By Milena Bacalja
Do you love independent media? Can’t get enough of intelligent, thoughtful feminist content? Want to see writers actually get PAID for their work? Please donate to Lip through Pozible today, and help keep the mag alive!