Friday, May 04, 2007

Sad farewells

Most expats stay on average two years, like we usually did, but this time we were not moving. But other families were not so lucky. It began with a few phone calls, ‘Can you come over….I have some really bad news…’ and the inevitable confirmation of a move back to France, England or to another country a few days later. The wives felt useless, nothing they could do could save their husband’s job, and all they could do was to busy themselves shopping before they left Asia, and try to be imagine going back to normal life again.

We were hit badly in June. Marc lost Benjamin from our new condo, the oldest of three boys, who often played with our kids. Nina was devastated when she heard that her class twins, Julie and Marie, would be departing a year earlier than planned for France, along with her French-speaking friend of two and a half years, Alya, who was returning to Tunisia, her parent’s country.

Nina had also become close to Nadia, who had been at the school only eighteen months. The girls did ballet together on Fridays. Nadia’s mother was Malaysian, educated in England at Oxford and her father was a Greek/German, who was brought up in an expat family in several Spanish-speaking countries. They had a wide circle of diversely multilingual friends and Jacques and I felt positively boring only speaking two languages together! They were aiming for at least four languages for their two adopted children - Bahasa Malay, English, German, French and maybe Spanish too.

Nadia was very good at languages and adapted well to the French school, even though she had little French input at home. The law in Malaysia stated that Malaysian parents could choose any pre-school they liked, but by age seven the child must go to a Bahasa Malay local school or a private school which had classes in the national language. The exception was if you were married to a foreigner, which gave you the right to an international school place. They could have left Nadia in the French primary school but her parents reasoned that the workload in French would be too much, and they transferred her to an American school. It was another loss for Nina.

Another diplomatic family from our first condo went back to Algeria and another moved out to another condo. Some of these departures were happy, but for us they were heart-breaking. We hurriedly arranged Goodbye parties for Anne and her three children, Youssra, Falak, Alya, Julie, Marie and Nadia and we sensed that life would be empty without their daily smiles and chats. I felt quite sad, I had lost about eight friends in the space of a few months. Although I was only close to two or three of them I would miss their places by the school door, the pool and at the birthday parties.

Goodbye Party for Nina's classmates

To make matters even more the French school was moving location, so next school year Nina would be starting Primary in an unfamiliar school and without her close friends. On the good side, just before school ended, I found out she would have a lovely teacher, Catherine Hervé, who I already knew.

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