The Early Days

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

We touched down in Gabon at the end of July over 6 years ago.  The regional flight landed in Port Gentil, we disembarked, then stood around the tarmac watching as our bags were unloaded before proceeding to line up at a table where two officers opened and searched bags manually before waving you out of the chain linked fence.  Our driver took us and our six suitcases to the company office to retrieve the keys to our temporary home, a 'suite' across the road in a hotel located right in the middle of the industrial zone.

The hotel was mainly inhabited by offshore and rotational workers.  The parking lot bordered a zoo which was home to a gorilla and chickens but mostly just smelled terrible.  We had a one bedroom suite with a kitchen full of ramshackle supplies, a television with a reliable CNN channel and an unreliable Discovery channel.  There was no working internet connection and nothing other than company offices and work shops even remotely nearby.  I spent twenty two out of twenty four hours a day in that room, terrified by the lizards that sunbathed on the pavement outside our door and even more terrified by trying to use the complicated, often unsafe taxi system to do anything else.  I devoured books on my Kindle, typed emails and blog posts into a Word document to copy and paste into browsers when we walked over to Joe's office after dinner for an internet connection, and became very acquainted with CNN's news reel.  The unfriendly housekeeping staff would stop by daily, using a bottle to squirt bleach on the floor and then smear it around leaving the place reeking for hours.  At night we would hear the quiet knocking on our neighbours' doors through the shutter like windows and a 'Bonsoir' in a semi-seductive tone - the ladies of the night doing their business.

However, the most frustrating part of the entire experience was the dribble of cold water that would come from the shower.  After one failed attempt at washing my hair, Joe arranged for me to use his colleague's empty home in the afternoons for a hot shower, satellite TV and an internet connection.  It felt completely luxurious.


July first, four years ago, we landed in Stavanger for the first time with our six suitcases.  It was cold and windy as we made our way out to the pick up lane where Joe's boss and a colleague were awaiting us.  It was a short drive to our temporary home, a 2 bedroom apartment on the edge of downtown.  We were advised to head to the grocery store before 6 pm as everything would be closed on Sunday and then we were left to our own devices.  The apartment was small, clean and functional and we were thankful Joe's boss had recently vacated it for his new family home allowing us the space as opposed to a hotel elsewhere.

We had television and internet and when it wasn't raining, I could walk into Sentrum and peruse the shops.  I was nervous, not knowing any Norwegian and feeling out of place after two years in Gabon.  Most of my time was spent writing on this blog and perusing rental listings.


We landed in Abu Dhabi after a strenuous 13 hour direct flight with a toddler who slept a mere 3 of those hours.  A porter helped us with our six bags out to the taxi stand in the blazing 43 degree heat and we sped down the multi-lane highway downtown to our temporary home.  It's a hotel with a proper front desk and friendly staff and most importantly, cool.

Our 1 bedroom suite feels small for the three of us.  Jasper's bed hardly wedges between our bed and the closet, our suitcases litter the minimal floor space.  The kitchen is equipped with two hotplates and two sets of cutlery and dinnerware.  I ask for a third set so Jasper has something to eat off of.  The television is mostly Arabic minus the standard international news channels but the Wifi connection is fine.  The air conditioning is frightfully cold and is either on or off, despite the temperature gauge.  We hear the traffic below us and the call to prayer several times a day.

In the middle of summer in the desert, it is near impossible to spend any amount of time outside and we're thankful for a large, beautiful shopping mall beside us.  Jasper, used to spending a lot of time outdoors at playgrounds, doesn't fully understand why we can't play outside.  I haul him every morning next door and let him loose in the open spaces of the mall. We wander the aisles of the massive supermarket in the basement trying to find things to cook with our limited resources.  Too nervous to tackle the traffic, this has to do for now.

The early days are difficult no matter where one lands.  It's lonely and overwhelming but also full of anticipation.  Everything is new, every task a challenge.  This time I'm forced to get out every day as being cooped up with a toddler is worse than the alternative.  He needs to eat proper meals at proper times, there's laundry to do and energy (his) to be burned.  In a way, I'm thankful for the distraction.  On my third expatriation, I'm more confident in myself and my capabilities.  I'm less nervous about making mistakes and less shy about asking for help.

I don't have any photographic evidence of these transitory periods but the memories are seared into my mind.  The hardships of my first experience are comedic now and the ease of the second are appreciated.  I wonder what I'll think about the third in a few years time, whether we're moving somewhere new, or repatriating?  As practice tells me, this, too, shall pass.

I gave the blog a little facelift and there are some bugs and pages that need to be reworked. Bear with me.

Abu Dhabi

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Yes - you guessed it. We're moving to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Credit: Unknown
Over four years ago as we prepared to move from Port Gentil, Gabon to Stavanger, Norway we joked that we couldn't have picked more opposite locations however, this transition to Abu Dhabi might just take the cake.

To be honest, I'm not sure how we feel about it. Had we been asked where we wanted to move, I don't  think Abu Dhabi would have made the top ten.  Maybe it wouldn't have made the top twenty either. But, we're not upset about it. Six years of expatriation has taught us there are positives and negatives to every location but a positive attitude is everything.  So, we'll go optimistically.

In a week's time, the three of us will embark on our next overseas adventure together. We'll arrive in Abu Dhabi, settle in to a service apartment and wait for Joe's residence permit to be approved.  Once that happens, we'll be able to rent an apartment of our own. Joe has been working for the region for the last month, Jasper will start in nursery school part time in September & I'll take on the task of finding a home, furnishing it and navigating foreign grocery stores (seriously, the biggest job of all.)

Credit: Unknown

Likely the best place to follow along over the next weeks will be instagram but perhaps once we're settled and Jasper heads to nursery, I'll find my way back to this blog.

Thank you for your support & good wishes along the way!

We're Moving To...

Thursday, 28 July 2016

I wrote this post ages ago when I thought signing the contract was imminent but here we are, almost into August and Joe has not received a contract to sign despite signing the offer of employment and actually being there and working the last 2 weeks!  I've been holding off telling anyone where we're moving until it was official because who knows what can happen.  So it's not officially official but Joe has started the job, Jasper is enrolled in nursery school and we're working on flights over in a couple of weeks. So I might as well put it out there.


We have lived in Norway for four years. FOUR YEARS! I have not lived in one place this long since my childhood home. While every expatriation has it's ups and downs, both Joe and I can say it has been a wonderful, easy stay in this beautiful country.  We have really loved living here but we have also known that we needed to move on and we've been preparing to do so over the last year.

Those of you that follow me on Instagram have likely heard about the imminent move and all of the uncertainty of the last six months but for those in the dark the short story is a terrible economy has resulted in a real lack of positions all over the world and Joe's contract coming to an end in the midst of it was unfortunate, to say the least.  A few potential opportunities came up but fell through for this or that reason and there were times where we thought we might actually be moving home without a job. Time ticked away, our apartment was rented to someone else for July 1, our visas were running out and we still were uncertain about our future.

Now, with less than 2 weeks to go, I think a decision has finally been made.  It's going to be a huge change for us and despite being well practiced in expatriation, I'm feeling more nervous about this one.  Perhaps because we are tackling it with a toddler or maybe it's the last six months of stress wearing me thin but I am cautiously optimistic about the move.

Four years ago, I announced our move to Norway on this blog but not before making you all guess where we were headed.  I figured I'd carry on the tradition.

Our new home city...

**is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world (I guess we like to hover at the top of this list.)**

**is on a continent we have never called home.**

**frequently records temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius.**

**is a capital city & home to 1.5 million people.**

**is an island, or rather, a collection of islands.**

**is home to the world's largest carpet, the world's fastest rollercoaster & the world's most expensive hotel.**

**is on the Formula 1 circuit.**

Can you guess where we're going? Bonus points for those who don't use Google. I'll confirm or deny in a couple of days.

Unintended Silence

Friday, 23 October 2015

Photos from our trip to France at the beginning of the month
Several weeks ago, Joe, Jasper and I were wandering around a local shopping mall here in Stavanger. We hadn't been there in well over a year and were feeling a little disoriented, it was Saturday (busy) and we were hungry so we pulled off to the side to try to come up with a game plan.  In the midst of all this, a woman walked past us then turned back and said, "I love your blog." Feeling slightly embarrassed/shocked/confused I thanked her for the compliment and she went on to say how helpful it had been and she had appreciated my honesty.  As she walked away and I turned back to Joe slightly blushing, he says, "Do you know that lady?"  I laughed and rattled off a joke about being famous in Norway.  I couldn't help but smile when I thought of that encounter over the rest of the weekend.  I vowed that I'd make a real commitment to get back to blogging.

Fast forward to last week when an email popped up in my inbox with the subject line, "Please don't stop blogging." (Hi Sofi.)  The truth is, I haven't made any sort formal decision about my little piece of the internet.  There has been a lot of changes in the blogging world over the last couple of years and it seems to me that many of my online friends are blogging less frequently than before.  Other social media platforms have stepped up and many, myself included, are sharing little glimpses there instead of sitting down to write blog posts. Those mediums have been easier for me now that I find my days consumed by my little offspring.

I do miss writing. I miss sitting down, reflecting on experiences and travels and cataloguing them here.  I miss my interaction with you guys and the blogging community in general.  There certainly isn't a lack of content.  In fact, I often find myself writing in my head as we walk to the grocery store or in the shower or laying in bed at the end of the day but those posts never make it to the keyboard.

In the early days of motherhood, I had a newborn who refused to nap anywhere but on my chest but these days, I have an hour here and there to myself. I've had a lot of great intentions for those quiet moments, yoga and writing included, but often I sit down with a coffee and a book or a TV episode on Hulu and literally do nothing until I hear some stirring on the baby monitor.  While I may be less sleep deprived, I'm no less exhausted and garnering the energy and mind space for anything else just hasn't happened.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm still here.  A new post might pop up here and there when inspiration and energy strike.  Until then, you can find me on Instagram posting an awful lot of Jasper pictures but also some travels and life around Stavanger.  (Say hello if you'd like - it's nice to put some faces and names to those of you who are silently following along.)

Canada's Okanagan Valley

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Every once in awhile Joe and I ponder where we'd live in Canada if we could choose absolutely anywhere.  It's a tough decision - Canada is huge and has so many wonderful regions - but the Okanagan is consistently considered a frontrunner for a potential home.  Nestled in Canada's most Western province, British Columbia, the region is flanked by mountain ranges yet home to some of the warmest temperatures in the country.

It's those warm temperatures that make it ideal for growing fruit.  In peak season, you can hardly drive a kilometre without a 'Fresh Fruit' stand or sign along the side of the road.  Those Okanagan peaches are so delicious.  (I'm salivating as I type.)  The Farmer's Markets are plentiful and people tend to really embrace an outdoor living and healthy lifestyle.  The summer has everyone spending their days on the lake while the winter sees people on the ski slopes.

See, I've practically sold you on the region and I haven't even mentioned the wine!  The Okanagan Valley is one of Canada's largest wine producing areas.  There are vineyards upon vineyards and some 131 wineries ranging from small family run estates to large, well known names.  Obviously, wine tours and tastings are a popular activity for tourists and locals alike.

At the beginning of July, we spent a week in Kelowna, the area's largest city.  When Expedia Canada heard about our trip to Canada's Wine Country they asked us to share our experience. There are an abundance of wineries right in the city, particularly in West Kelowna where we were based, which made for gorgeous scenery.  We could have easily spent all our time in tasting rooms but with the temperatures in the high thirties, the pool at our rental house was just too alluring.  We did, however, take full advantage of vacationing with grandparents to escape for one special night, sans baby.

Quail's Gate Winery is one of the most well known wineries in West Kelowna and it's restaurant, Old Vines, is consistently ranked as one of the best in the region.  Joe and I booked a table for an evening of wine and delicious farm-table dining overlooking the Okanagan Lake and it couldn't have been more perfect.  The food and the wine were delicious and the sunset was stunning. After dinner we took a walk through the vineyard, hoping to extend the evening just a little longer.  It was one of those nights - the kind that make us a little nostalgic for our homeland.    
We returned home happy and satisfied to a sleeping baby only to drive back to Quail's Gate the next day, camera in hand, to pick up a bottle of the wine we enjoyed at dinner.  While I would have loved to visit more of the wineries in the area, I'm happy to have chosen Quail's Gate for a memorable night out with my guy.  And who knows, maybe one day we'll settle down in the area and make it our personal mission to visit and sample wine at every estate.  One can dream…

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