Life as an expat is invariably full of ups and downs, and it is the people who really make the difference when it comes to how those ups and downs impact one’s overall life experience. As we’re nearing the end of our second tour, I’ve realized what a gift making a true friend is, particularly in this lifestyle. As someone who has a fur baby but not a human one, I am often on the outside, and keenly feel the cliques that are rooted in having children of a similar age. There are some really nice people here but as the only spouse at post without either kids and or a job, I am perhaps more aware of how cliquey these cliques can be than they are themselves.
So when we finally received new neighbors in the final apartment in our building, after it had been empty for months, I was excited for the possibilities of making a new friend (as I always am when a new person comes to post, but wouldn’t it be so nice to have a friend living right next door?!). We were away when our new neighbors moved in, but I managed to catch up with the wife and her daughter a few days later, as I went over to introduce myself, welcome them to post, and give the girl a box of the incredibly popular Serbian cookie, Plasma.
We bonded over the quirks of our apartments and I told her to feel free to call me up for anything she might need, no matter how big or small. To my delight, she actually did! When I offer to help, I really mean it, and I was thrilled that she took my offer at face value. I like to be helpful and I really love living here so I particularly like to help people get settled in and learn about what a great place we get to live in here in Belgrade.
One of their first weekends here, her sister was in town, and Grant was gone, so I spent the majority of each weekend day with my new neighbors, checking out downtown, shopping, and just hanging out. Needless to say, Grant and I feel very lucky such a great family moved in next door, and we always love whatever time we spend with them. Sometimes, I feel like I’m back in college, like when I get a late-night text for a meeting in the hallway leading to the garage so we can exchange garlic/olive oil/flower/that thing one of us borrowed, where we inevitably stand, whispering, for much longer than the quick exchange required.
I am grateful for every friend I have made in this life, and particularly when I realize how unlikely it is that I would have met any of these wonderful people if my life had gone in a different direction, and I am so happy such a nice, fun family moved in right next door. Given the chance, I will still complain about not living downtown, but I feel much less like doing so now that we have friends living a couple feet away!