Sea shipment arrives: the awe of expat transitions

It was (mostly) a joy to receive the 40 foot container full of our stuff this weekend. The house is filling up, there are more toys and books for the kids, and I’m writing this sitting on an actual couch.

But I also find these starkly marked transitions to be oddly melancholy: What will happen in the next “x” years? What will the day feel like when it’s all boxed up again? How old will we all be? Where will we be going? Seattle? Shanghai? Amsterdam? Around the corner?

Moving to a new country (relatively) frequently has forced me to notice and mark every change according to where we were/are: Wow, I bought this sweater back when we lived in Seattle. Hey, these clothes from Zhuhai work again now that I’m back in the semi-tropics. Did I really ride this bakfiets cargo bike every day only 8 weeks ago?

My beloved bakfiets

I’ve been slowly reading the novel Sea of Poppies” by Amitav Ghosh. In talking about a group of migrant, indentured Indians traveling by sea to a far flung, foreign destination, he includes this description of their day of departure:

“… The long-planned-for rituals of departure were forgotten in the confusion, but strangely, this great outburst of activity became itself a kind of worship, not so much intended to achieve an end – their bundles and bojhas were so small and so many times packed and unpacked that there was not much to be done to them – but rather as an expression of awe, of the kind that might greet a divine revelation: for when a moment arrives that is so much feared and so long awaited, it perforates the veil of everyday expectation in such a way as to reveal the prodigious darkness of the unknown.”

The big, interesting question that these stark transitions force: What will be?

6 responses to “Sea shipment arrives: the awe of expat transitions

  1. Hope you’re enjoying Sea of Poppies. He’s very insightful, as a writer and I’ve loved his other books too. I’m sure your new, and next lives won’t be as daunting as his protagonists’ and though it’s all another journey into the unknown, you can be sure it’s a pretty safe unknown:)

  2. Glad you have a couch again! We just received our sea shipment on Friday – it felt like Christmas morning! And yet I’m already writing a list of things to stock up on when we head back to the states for a visit this summer.

    • It feels so nice, doesn’t it? I’m just wondering why I bothered to bring along sweaters for the kids that were already almost too small… My brain refused to wrap itself around how hot it is here compared to England.

      • I know! I thought the weather was great here year round since it was beautiful when we lived in visited in August of last year (winter in Brazil). I guess we were lucky and visited during a really nice week because I didn’t ship any sweatshirts or heavy clothing, and now we are all freezing! While I forgot the warm clothes, I made sure to bring the box of my “skinny” clothes that have been stashed in the basement since I last gave birth because, someday, I will fit into them again! At least that’s what I keep telling myself 🙂

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