It’s been a melancholy few days on the island as we’ve farewelled our very own “Snow White” (otherwise known as Ms Philo, Bucket, Projects Engineer or just plain “Emma”).
Here on the island, the door constantly revolves. Not surprising when you consider that a huge proportion of the expat workforce is hired on a contract-basis – when their project ends, or their role is no longer required, it’s Sayonara suckers. And of course, the environment itself is in many people’s minds, mostly temporary. It’s a big leap moving overseas away from your family, friends and sense of normality. In many cases, the intention is: “oh I’ll be here for 2, 3 years” and then return home. Of course, 2-3 years sometimes turns into, 5 or 7… and sometimes even 10.
One of the nice things about living on the island is the sense of community and the opportunity one has of meeting so many different people from all over the world. You end up spending time with people with whom you wouldn’t normally, which results in a wider acceptance, tolerance and appreciation of people who are different from yourself. Here, if you choose only to socialise with people who are exactly like you, you may in fact find yourself socialising with no one. Hermitting oneself is easy.
Within the community, this constant socialising with the very same people you work with, builds strong bonds. You become used to a certain back-drop, a certain routine which includes the people you see every day. Friendships are intensified. Spin-off families are created. Yet, with all the comings and goings, one is always in a natural state of hellos and goodbyes. And at times the goodbyes will become permanent.
The goodbyes and the parties that follow bring both certainties and uncertainties:
- Uncertainty: will I ever see that person again?
- Certainty: there will definitely be alcohol at the leaving party.
- Uncertainty: will there actually be a leaving party? Or has the leaver left the island without telling anybody?
- Certainty: people will definitely be raiding the leaver’s apartment for leftover food and drink supplies.
Scavenging leftover food? Really? Well, whenever someone leaves, it goes without saying that only important or meaningful items will be shipped back to their home country. Why would they ship food back when they are (in most cases) returning to the big wide world of food and consumerism? The raiding happily prevents the leftover items from going to waste. And of course, who’s going to say no to a few treats – particularly those that are not readily available on the island!
People will leave that you wish you’d had time to get to know better, or spend more time with. People will leave that you know you’ll never see again, and you feel okay about that. And there will even be people that you won’t even notice have gone – or if you do, it won’t be for a few months.
Thanks to Ms Philo’s departure I have acquired* the following:
- tampon supplies for the next 6 months;
- fancy cupcake wrappers in a variety of colours;
- a green rabbit with a missing eye (our new office mascot); and
- some crystal-like, dangly earrings she purchased during a previous trip to Japan.
The items listed are just a sample. Yet while I am apparently richer in both material and functional items on her departure, the sense of loss surrounding me is thick. There will be no more daily visits to my office to debrief, hear me whinge or hijack George’s crossword. No more weekend rice-papers rolls or Sunday night Yorkshire puds. No more walks along the EGLNG trail in the late afternoon African sun.
And although my buddy, the other female member of our little Aussie family has flown the island, she is of course about to embark upon a new world adventure. And while it is uncertain how our little family will manage without her presence, we know that we will see each other again. That is a certainty.
*Please note, these items were gifted not raided!