My grandmother always said that your relatives are forced to love you but you want to make the job as easy as possible. I suppose it is true that there is a social code that encourages for family members to be supportive, forgiving and tolerant of flaws. But is blood really thicker than water? I’m not quite sure and this belief is put into even more question when you move somewhere else.
One of the realities that comes with relocating to a new city is that you have fewer people to count on. Of course you make friends and meet your neighbours but they probably don’t want to drive you to the airport at 6am or pick you up medication on their way home from work. Nor should they have to. I think we all prepare for this before the moving vans are packed because we don’t want to be shocked upon arrival. You expect to cocoon into each other, make a party of three and lean in. What is not spoken about enough are all the ways that people do help you, the various times they go out of their way to make life easier.
Most of our belongings are traveling by land in a truck, stowed away in boxes or bubble wrap. These possessions are all that we carry and they bumble along the road of life much like we do. It takes time to cross the US-Canada border and days pass before the miles are traversed and these reminders and memories land at your doorstep. So you plan and prepare your suitcase to last a few days, in our case it will be closer to two weeks. The positives about moving to a neighbouring country are that the culture and currency are similar and the language is the same. So you buy all those objects to start a home, to survive and eventually thrive. Now, what you travel with as a single or even a couple is very different from boarding a plane with a toddler. Extra baggage in the form of car seats and fold-out cots are essential along with a carry-on suitcase of toys. This is when it gets heavy and tricky. What surprises you most in these situations is the kindness of others: the stranger on the airport shuttle who helps you unload your bags, the other passengers who don’t roll their eyes at your fussy child and the rental car agent who leaves his desk and carries your suitcases right to your car.
When you begin a new job you know that your first connections will be with your colleagues. This will be one of your circles, maybe not an inner one but an important one nonetheless. So when they host a barbecue to welcome you on your first weekend in the state and serve you lobster tail, scallops and shrimps, basically the best that New England has to offer, your heart aches a little, and not in a bad way. But you do get a bit teary when they buy your son organic animal crackers, juice boxes from Whole Foods and crayons galore. When from the start they treat you with a warmth and genuine care that you only expect from your relatives and those who know you most, you are surprised and humbled.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve experienced this form of support or friendship. During my fieldwork in Thailand so many individuals offered such great advice, help and camaraderie that can make a place less daunting and lonely. I remember when my colleague and friend V picked me up from the Chiang Mai airport because I had never lived alone in a foreign country before. She got me home, gave me water, and turned on the fan, basically the first things you need when you’re a bit intimidated and unsure. I also cannot say enough of my friend M who drove me to the mall to get a cellphone and to grocery stores countless times to get good cheese and chocolate. My roommates L and K allowed me to hitch so many rides to jazz bars and cinemas because I could not operate a motorbike. Well, I could but not without severely compromising my personal safety and the safety of others.
All of these experiences with such giving and generous friends makes you want to be better. You hope for opportunities to help someone out and pay it forward because you were so lucky to find what and who you need, when you needed it the most.
From my heart, thank you.