31 July 2016

Expat Summer/Expat Hobbies

I have only now realised how long it has been since my last post, positively ages.  As with most expat families we have engaged in the exodus home, although in our case it was only for two weeks.  Initially we had planned for Mini EE and I to stay at home in Jeddah in order to welcome the dogs when they arrived while Mr EE and the older children were to go to the UK.  Sadly we heard there had been yet more delays to the pet import applications so there was no point in me staying here alone.  We booked last minute flights and went to the UK with the rest of the family.

A last minute trip to experience
English 'Summer'
Because I was going to be here alone Mr EE had booked for only two weeks, just enough time to spend with our families but not to go on the driving holiday we had hoped for in Europe.  Nevertheless it has proved a good decision.  Having moved to our ‘proper’ home just before we flew spending a bit more time here has allowed us to sort the house out that little more quickly.  After a frenzied and disruptive start to the year the downtime has been invaluable.  Mr EE has been able to keep on top of work bits and bobs without stressing about an internet connection and I have been able to get on with a large freelance project I was awarded just before the start of the holidays.  Most expats  (and Jeddawis) are away so the place is lovely and quiet albeit almost oppressively humid and with the odd dust storm.  The pets are still held up so we are going to visit Dubai for a few days to get a change of scene.  It is a place that we have never been and the children, having heard so much about it from their friends, are desperate to have a look around.

The break has also given me a chance to catch up with my hobby – embroidery.  I like to have a cross stitch and a piece of more specialist work on the go and spend an hour or two in the evenings stitching in front of the TV.  It is something that is put on hold when the children are babies needing cuddles and bottles throughout the night.  Mini EE is now, however, moving beyond that.  Her room in the new house came with a double bed and she took one look at that and decided she no longer wanted her cot.  The space seems to suit her well and she is finally getting into a sleep pattern after 6 months disrupted by sofa surfing, travel cots and constant moves.  I have my evenings, and needle time back again.  I even took a day course at the Royal School of Needlework during our time in the UK.  This is something I have wanted to do for a long time but have never been there at the right time.  Hopefully I will be able to do more.

My fun foxy embroidery course...
Hobbies are so important for mental health and well being and perhaps for expats even more so than for people who live a normal life.  Doing something you love helps to put the day into context and gives you time to decompress.  I also find that doing something with my hands helps give my brain a mental break.  I love cooking and baking but the demands of family catering means that the line between enjoyment and work can be crossed too easily.  The embroidery is something completely different, something just for me.  I have even found a shop nearby that supplies basic threads and materials (although I have to order in specialist silks and beads).  It also has the huge benefit of being compact and portable.  My father’s hobby of model aircraft building and flying which had the benefit of being spectacular to look at, but rather less compact than embroidery.  His planes and materials followed us around the world and one bedroom of each house was set aside as a specialist hobby room. 

Given the health benefits of enjoying a hobby we are trying to encourage our three (or at the least the older two) to develop their interests.  Of course they read but sometimes something else is required to resist the siren call of the TV and iPad.  Our children are not so enamoured of my hobby as I was of my father’s, Miss EE has started a small tapestry but it does not really appeal to her, she prefers to help me cook and, as she is now approaching 8 I am allowing her to cook a few simple things on the stove as well as mix.  Master EE draws, anything and everything.  He also likes to write and is about 12,000 words through his first ‘book’ which has done wonders for his typing skills.  He has ideas for another 10 stories at least and it is fascinating to hear him talk through them.  It is not all indoors by any means.  We have a pool and swim a few times a week at least and, now that the bicycles have arrived the older two can take themselves off for rides around the compound and school.  

Do you have a hobby that you have taken with you when you expatriated?  Does it work better in some countries than others and do your children share your passion or enjoy something completely different?  

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Ersatz Expat