After six years living abroad, I have one big piece of advice for anyone starting over:
Only do 1 thing a day. REALLY.
For example, our first year in our apartment, caring for a one year old, this was my rule:
I can either get dressed, leave the house and run 1 errand OR cook dinner. Otherwise, momma goes crazy.
This was for several reasons:
- Getting dressed in a very conservative town in Western Asia takes a lot of brain power at first. Think about your clothes. How many things do you have that meet the following qualifications: crew neck or higher, 3/4 length sleeves or longer, you can stand it in 110 degrees, isn’t tight on any part of your torso, and long enough to cover most of your rear? Me either.
- Cooking in a new country takes a lot of brain power and energy. We didn’t have a dishwasher or microwave our first year. Cooking everything from scratch is not that hard, but takes planning. (Did I soak the dry beans yet? Did I thaw the chicken yet? Did I buy flour yet?) and lots of dishes (no dishwasher). Also, since my brain was exhausted, I was having a hard time remembering how to cook anything. Add to that the fun of discovering our new oven (settings are gratin, grill, traditional, top oven, and multilevel), and about half of all meals cooked went wrong in some way.
- We had a baby that was gradually becoming more mobile, required lots of supervision, and was also grumpy like us, trying to adjust to all the new things and smells. Plus, the baby was not used to the loud echoes of our building, and woke up when the trash man came (every day), or they filled the water reservoir (every couple of days), or anyone comes in the building and the gate slamed (constantly), or someone drills to hang something up.
- All three of us had desert colds for the first few weeks while we figured out the best setting for our air conditioners (Swing? Low? Auto? Fan? Timer?) that didn’t give us sore throats and major congestion/ cough/ headache/ general sickness.
- Any of the following things could happen in a day: building runs out of water, run out of drinking water, wait for a delivery (critical furniture or appliances) and spend at least an hour on the phone desperately trying to explain our location through language barrier since we still didn’t have an address and the salesman didn’t pass on the map we left, quick trip to store takes 5 hours, internet stops working, culture shock freak out by one of the adults, or total exhaustion for any reason.
- Oh yeah, and we didn’t have a car until we rented one two months in because all car companies required visa paperwork first, which we didn’t have yet. Taking a taxi (or doing anything) in that heat was exhausting. Passengers there were expected to tell the drivers exactly where to go. Never mind the car seat drama, communication problems, getting lost, getting stranded without a cab, or cabs that never show up when called for… or the actual errand. Just leaving the building is a whip.
And yet we ended up loving it there. But the beginnings are so, so hard.
Do you know someone who just moved to your town or just moved away? Send them a note telling them they are doing awesome, and please only do one thing a day.