Our interviewee today wished to remain anonymous but blogs about her permanent impermanence as Ersatz Expat. A few years ago she and her husband decided to have an adventure and took the children and the dogs to live abroad, firstly in Kazakhstan and now Sarawak:
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
This is a very difficult question. I am from nowhere and everywhere, I do not truly identify with any one country and my husband calls me a global soul. I carry an Irish Passport but, despite being very fond of my Irish family and heritage I have never lived there. I was born in the Netherlands and lived there off and on for many years. Other than with my parents my closest relationships growing up were with my Dutch family with whom I lived/visited long term periodically. I have strong bonds with the UK as I lived there for many years and am married to a British man, I even sound typically English. I have also been changed and enriched by every country I have lived in so I tend to typify myself more as ‘from’ my family and the sum of my experiences than from any one place.
And what did you do there, then?
After University I qualified as a Solicitor, I worked as a Commercial Finance Litigator for a well known firm in London and loved the work. I left to start a family and circumstances conspired to stop me going back immediately. I was elected as a Local Councillor and ran (unsuccessfully) for Parliament (a quirk of UK law allows Irish Nationals to stand for Parliament). I also joined a consultancy company as a Director and brought this work with me when we went abroad.
How did you end up in Miri?
We moved to Astana with my Husband’s work – he was founding Deputy Headmaster of a British Partnership School (Haileybury Astana). Last year he was offered the job as Principal of Tenby International School in Miri. We loved our time in Astana but jumped at the chance of a new adventure.
Have you lived abroad before?
I have lived abroad all my life. I don’t really know where home is but I have lived in over 30 houses in eight different countries and have loved each in a different way.
So what’s so good about Miri?
We have only been here a month so there is lots to learn. We had an 80+ degree (Centigrade) temperature range in Astana with very long cold winters and short hot summers. The even, warm, temperature here is very pleasant at the moment. The local people have been very friendly and welcoming and there is also a very wide range of products in the supermarkets.
And what don’t you like?
Our two dogs had to go into quarantine. They can’t get or pass on rabies due to vaccinations since they were both small, but the rules mean that while our puppy will be with us very soon our older girl will have to stay in until October. We are very worried about her and miss them both terribly. Dogs are so much a part of the family and our old girl, Bess, has been with us since our wedding in 2001 so our family feels incomplete without her.
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
As a perpetual expat I am used to not being a ‘perfect fit’ in any community. This means that I work to fit in and try not to stress too much about things, I have very rarely felt excluded or left out – the majority of people around the world are friendly so when expats feel excluded it is usually (although not always) down to their failure to do something. Everyone here, both local and expat has been very welcoming. I have only ever felt socially excluded in one posting (which shall remain nameless).
How do you support yourself?
I am on maternity leave at the moment. Our third baby is due in a month so it did not make much sense to search for a job straight away. Once the baby is born and I have some childcare sorted out I will probably start to look for a job.
Any advice for wannabe Mirians?
Make sure that you protect against mosquito bites as Dengue fever is endemic here. My husband was unlucky enough to contract it during a brief handover trip back in May and was quite unwell in Astana where we flummoxed the poor doctors who had not seen it before.
Is the move permanent?
No move is ever permanent. We don’t have any concrete plans for the future. My husband enjoys developing schools and will stay on for as long as the project demands. It depends on how this posting plays out and what opportunities become available to us both when it is time to move on. We expect to be here for at least four years, but for the moment we are enjoying settling into and learning about our new home.
Finally, tell us about something typically Miri
Hornbills! These beautiful birds nest near our children’s school and are one of the symbols of Sarawak. The other typically Miri ‘thing’ is Oil, Miri has been producing oil since 1910 and it still forms the basis of the local economy. Miri manages to combine a successful petroleum industry with its newer role as an eco town and gateway to many of the spectacular Sarawakian national parks. Everyone gives different answers to this type of question though, I asked my husband, a geographer, and his response was ‘the wild immensity of the rainforests of the interior’
Ersatz Expat blogs about how she and her husband muddle through daily life as expats and how things have changed from the adventures of her childhood. She can also be found on Twitter @ErsatzExpat and Facebook.