Joining the Expat Bubble

Last week, a bunch of my new girlfriends threw me a surprise baby shower! I felt very touched to be made such a fuss of after so little time here, and it certainly makes the impending arrival of the baby tornado seem a little less intimidating. (Due date in 4 days!) So how have I come to meet so many lovely people so fast? Some of it is about being in the ‘expat bubble’…

It’s called a bubble because it’s fragile, slightly unreal but full of loveliness. It’s a bubble because it’s a way of being part of your own little expat world, even when you are living 10,000km from home in the tropical Jamaican heat. It’s a bubble because it feels like it could go POP! at any moment, and all of us in it, would find ourselves back home in an instant, back in our ordinary lives. But for all of that, it’s a pretty lovely bubble to be a part of!

Since the day I arrived, a whole gang of European women found out I was new to the island and got in touch. I was invited out for coffees, lunches,  taken shopping, to doctor’s appointments, looking at places to live…  Most of the ladies are Irish; wives to men that work with my husband (though I got to know them long before he ever met the men at work!), then some of the ladies’ husbands work as diplomats, with various drinks brands etc. Some moved here a few months ago, some have been here years. Most of them have young children, and at least 3 I’ve met are pregnant too!

Then there’s baby group. I went along on about my 3rd week here (feeling faintly ridiculous with no baby) but it’s been a brilliant way to meet people. The ladies are from Jamaica, Canada, South America and Europe so it’s a lovely mix, and a good chance to get some practice in with their various babies! I hosted baby group myself last week, which was pretty chaotic but good fun – about 20 ladies and their little ones came, so there was plenty of noise and mess!

Most of us have come to Jamaica as ‘trailing spouses’ – an unpleasant expression that makes me think of entrails… but actually is a pretty lovely way to live! It basically means that you’ve moved over you’re your husband because he was offered a good job. Having worked all my life until two weeks before we left Ireland, it’s very weird suddenly not working, and being identified by who your husband works for. But there are some serious perks…

Living in lovely houses in secure compounds with beautiful gardens and shared pools, driving about Kingston’s pot-holed roads in company jeeps (when we had a house-warming BBQ, our car-park looked like a Suzuki forecourt!), being able to afford to have childcare and/ or a ‘helper’ to help out with domestic work at home. Manicures, pedicures, lunches, coffees, trips to the beach, time to go swimming off-peak at a lovely local pool … All these things make me feel very lucky, and certainly make the impending arrival of a new baby seem a lot easier to deal with!

In spite of all of this, I am missing home enormously and feel a very long way from my friends and family. Skype calls and emails make up for a lot, but it’s a long way to go home for a hug. And it’s spring! The most beautiful time of year in England / Ireland, am missing the fresh air, daffodils and cherry blossom, not to mention the freedom to go about enjoying it. Kingston is pretty dangerous, and perhaps not suprisingly when there is such a huge poverty divide here. Just last week, while out enjoying a pregnant waddle around my neighbourhood; a lovely, leafy, well-heeled part of town, I was saddened to be told that a woman was mugged here jogging just a few months ago. Reckon I might have to find a neighbour to pair up with, but I’m too pregnant at the moment to keep up with even the slowest of them!

The Mona Reservoir

Mona Reservoir

Ibis at Mona Reservoir

On Sunday night, my husband and I went to Mona Dam, a reservoir that offers a lovely peaceful walk, suprisingly close to central Kingson. Home to a flock of beautiful ibis and many solitary egrets, the evening sky makes a beautiful reflection on the water here. I think it’ll be somewhere I come alot to walk the baby; the required ‘joggers pass’ to get in seems to keep it pretty safe. In fact, having spent a large part of today trying to acquire such a pass (involving calling in at two different divisions of the National Water Commission), it’s a wonder any body gets in at all! Don’t get me started on Jamaican beauracracy…

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