Every “summer” (June through August) a weird thing happens in Nairobi, and I imagine in other places with large expat communities. People clear out. J. and I have started to refer to it as The Great Migration.
Of course, the real Great Migration is about animals migrating. We’re talking about a different kind of animal: the expatriate human. Its migration season is going on now.
There is a seasonal, temporary migration. People head back to their home countries during these months. The kids are on school holidays. It’s the time to go reconnect with family and friends back home.
The city empties out. Social life gets a bit quiet. It’s a little lonely, but you know those people are coming back.
There is also a more permanent migration. Professional life and school calendars coincide. People pack up and move away. They go back to their home countries or they go on to the next post.
Many people here are transient that way. In fact, a good number of them are only here for two years. It’s just enough time to settle in and make friends before having to move back out again. From our standpoint, it’s just enough time to become friends and then say goodbye.
We’ve already had to say goodbye to some of the friends we’ve made here. There are a couple others that I know will leave next year, and I’m already sad about it.
But, this is how it is as an expat. It’s how I grew up. It’s how J. grew up. I used to be pretty good with it as a kid. I managed.
I’m all right with it as an adult, but it is sad this first migratory season. I just settled in. I’ve just established friendships. And now some of those people are moving away. From what I understand, the people who are here long term go through this every year. It’s sad every year.
The solution is to make sure you meet enough people who are going to be around for the long haul. We are meeting people like that and we hope to meet more. We plan to be here at least several years and we’d like to have long term friendships. Of course, that doesn’t exclude us from becoming friends with the people passing through. It will, however, make each year’s Great Migration a little bit easier.