What feels a long time ago (alright, 32 years!), DH and I moved to Sri Lanka with our three month old daughter. It was a crazy move in many ways, not least because just 3 weeks earlier, civil war had broken out between the Tamils and Sinhalese. Houses and shops had been set on fire, there’d been rampaging through the streets and many deaths. Later we heard stories of incredible bravery and self-sacrifice both towards and by, the expat community.
When we arrived the country was still in shock and we really did wonder what we’d stepped into. We were taken under the wing of an American missionary family in Kandy and they helped us find a flat, supported us, fed us and gathered us into their family, giving us the confidence to start this new life we had chosen.
It was a very small expat community in Kandy, most were in the capital Colombo, employed by banks and large corporations. We seemed to be a motley collection of academics, researchers and agriculturalists. Our few families were Dutch, French, British and Canadian. Like all over the world, having a baby gave us a special entry ticket, and though our ages were disparate, we came together on all sorts of occasions, sharing homes, food and hospitality.
When you are thrust into a new place you naturally seek out those like you, the familiar. Sometimes a situation forces you to bond with people you’d never normally connect with. I think it shows that in fact if we make the effort, we can probably find a connection with most people, but how often do we miss that possibility? That woman in the Post Office queue, that young man sitting on the park bench, the girl sat next to you at the bus-stop; what if they were the only people of your nationality in a strange land. Wouldn’t you strike up a conversation?
My thought for this week is this. If we went around our neighbour-hood pretending to be a newcomer, an expat even, what extra effort would we make to connect to those around us? Try starting a conversation with a stranger this week and let me know what happens! It could be the start of something rather beautiful.