This has been the hardest, yet the most heartwarming year of my life. Hands down. It is coming up a year since we repatriated home after spending five years in Qatar. Repatriation is not easy. So, where do I start?!
To begin, after about six weeks of being home in New Zealand, I had a strong urge to go back to Doha. Looking back it was probably that for five years we had spent this amount of time on holiday in New Zealand and it felt normal that it would be time to leave and go back. Coming home for good meant we had to create a new normal which added to the turmoil of emotional pulls.
It was crazy to contemplate that we had to readjust to our own culture. That coming home to so many things that used to be familiarities were actually now eccentricities. It was only when I returned to Doha on holiday six months later that I could put the uncertainty of our decision to rest. Visiting the place I called home for five years was awesome – catching up with dear friends, special – being able to see for myself that things were not as they were in my Doha heyday, clarifying. So many people had moved on to other countries or back home. It was healing. It was time to accept that I had an incredible experience in Qatar and now it was time to move forward with the next chapter in New Zealand.
This was the third time I had lived abroad. Somehow this last experience has enriched me so much more. I’m certain it is because we were able to share it with our family. For our children, even though there were difficulties from being the new kids in town, there were so many life lessons. We didn’t know how many until they reintegrated back home. Returning home as the new kid in town was a breeze. They had learnt so many times how to make new friends as people came and went in their expat community. The work ethic drummed into them at international schools bode well for continuing their studies at the public school back home.
Our 18-year-old has a CV that kicks butt! It’s incredible to think about what experience he can put to his name at such a young age. He got his first full-time job over many twice as old. His maturity in answering interview questions highlighted the emotional intelligence and resilience that comes from the struggles of moving countries as a young child, dealing with multiple cultures and languages, being different and the same simultaneously. Now he can see how positive it all was for his personal growth. Back then, not so much! We were accused of tearing them all away from a Kiwi childhood. Luckily we have redeemed ourselves.
As I said, this has been the hardest yet most heartwarming year I have had. I had taken family and friends for granted at home. It wasn’t until the turmoil of moving back to New Zealand hit me right in the middle of my forehead that I realised how pivotal these people were in my life. How had I coped without them?
It definitely hasn’t been plain sailing for the kids. Teenage life was safer in Doha. Yes, they still engaged teenage delights but many of the perceived dangers that exist in New Zealand weren’t present in Qatar. I really wasn’t prepared for the enormity of the teenage culture shock on return (for me or them). Many hard lessons were learnt.
Thankfully support has got us through while our family remains separated. Work for my husband remains in Doha. Hopefully not for too much longer. I’m not going to lie, it’s incredibly hard to be doing this by myself. But I’m not alone. Friends and family dropping in constantly has assured that (quite often with wine!).
Moving home was the right decision. It may have taken almost a year to reach that conclusion but looking at how far we have all come makes me proud. Another experience we can share as a family. Time to start our next chapter of revisiting old experiences with new eyes!
Debbie Crowe is a New Zealander who repatriated a year ago after a 5 year stint in Qatar. She has also lived in Saudi Arabia and England.
Here is the article she wrote a year ago – Why was moving home so hard?