Navigating new waters …

This space has been quiet for a long time. The longer there is silence, the more difficult it is to re-emerge into the daylight.

Silence is not usually golden here, and the past months have been enormously challenging. We live in a troubled world and one of uncertainty. This has affected me directly and my work in Africa came to an unexpected and early end. I will not pretend I was ready to wrap up nearly two decades of life and work overseas, but that is life.

To complicate and intensify an already difficult situation, I was also tussling with scary health issues. Happily, it is not all bad news and it appears that this has NOT been cancer related. I am in much better shape than I was in the earlier months of the year, but still striving to fully regain health and have greater clarity and management of the situation I now find myself in.

So I find myself in a very strange space and with very little remaining of the life I was so used to. I am in totally new waters, and I feel poorly equipped to move forward or even to know in which direction forward lies.

I will be honest. I usually thrive on change and new challenges. This time however, the changes have affected all areas of life, and been painfully deep. I crave stability and find that there is little to grasp onto, to enable me to clamber onto solid ground and work out my direction ahead. I know I will work it out, but I have had to dig deeper than ever before into reserves which feel exhausted.

While there are major life decisions to make, there are also implications on the essence of this blog. I am no longer a Scottish woman overseas. I am a Scottish woman in Scotland, cherishing and reflecting on the best part of two decades of life and work overseas. And still dealing with the aftermath and sides of breast cancer. Constants amidst the change.

I am floundering somewhat as I try to get used to life back in a Scotland which is enormously different to the one I left with a suitcase and rucksack, bound for Kathmandu 17 years ago. I guess I am now a “repat” and no longer an “expat”. I have a great deal to learn, re-learn and become familiar with. Such as Scottish wild flowers, covering the hedgerows and gardens where I have become used to frangipani, hibiscus and bougainvillea. Such as very different bird and critter noises. Seagulls instead of geckos and frogs. Such as, bewildering choices in the cavernous supermarkets. Exhilarating options for cultural and creative engagement. Understanding the words, but not not the essence of conversations on the train and in the street. Such different perspectives in the news and media. So many directions to look towards.

glasgow uni flowers 1

Scottish wild flowers in a Glasgow garden

While I am firmly physically re-grounded in Scotland, my heart and soul are feeling scattered. I still have many tales to tell from my overseas times. One of my words for the year has been explore. While circumstances have not been conducive to great exploring, there have nonetheless been a number of gentle adventures and experiences. I plan to tell those stories and share the images in the coming weeks and months. Tales of Rwandan weddings, African sunsets and safaris, lakeside resting, and exotic Zanzibar to highlight but a few.

Telling these tales will support a gecko which is striving to swim, and not sink, in these new waters.

Kivu Agama Lizard

Agama Lizard at Lake Kivu (Photograph © Feisty Blue Gecko)

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22 thoughts on “Navigating new waters …

  1. Six years ago I returned to England – also reluctant and bewildered by this strange country, so different from the one I’d left twenty odd years before. ‘Explore’ is a good word to bring to the situation. It has taken me a while but I am finally beginning to feel a sense of belonging.

  2. You are a truly inspirational lady. I am truly confident that your next adventure is just waiting until you are ready to grab it with both hands. Much love to you my dear… xx

  3. I feel you! Regrounding and ‘re’-pating have been harder for me than transitioning to new places. Glad to see that you are writing again–I love your stories! Sending hugs! JoAnn

    • Exactly! Reverse culture shock is a Real Thing for sure! Transitioning to a new place always brings anticipation and novelty, and it is in a different shape when repatriating. Hugs to you too xx

  4. Sending you lots of love as you navigate the next steps. Perhaps we should take a slow steady walk up Ben Lawers next spring/early summer to view the flowers.

  5. Glad to hear from you again. Enjoy the new voyage of re-disovery – there is much to explore in your home country too, and having the expat’s (or re-pat’s) perspective will help you appreciate it, I am sure.

  6. Dear Philippa, so heartened by your courage and tenacity to explore repatriation. Bless you abundantly. I am searching for my courage to repatriate while aware am holding on to the known, wondering and wandering in search of self determination! Very hard adjusting to abrupt endings. Takes a lot of effort and energy when decisions are external to self determination. Sending good energy and lots of love. Looking forward to tall tales and true of the legendary adventures on the continent of many colours

  7. Wow, you’ve got a lot going on right now. Going back to what was never seems to exist because that, too, changes. Best of luck in adapting and exploring new territory among the old terrain.

  8. Philippa, so many changes in life are difficult. And you are going through a huge one now, learning to adapt to a world that’s changed — and even your identity as an expat is changing. Just hang in there one day at a time. I know that’s a cliche, but it’s important. Take care of yourself.

    • Thank you, Beth. Yes, so many fundamental changes and little left underfoot. It is especially hard for those around me as I am not easy to be with! One day at a time, indeed. Thank you for your wise words.

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