Right now you’ll be at the airport, saying goodbye to parents. You’ll feel emotional, but it still hasn’t sunk in that you’re not just going on holiday for a few weeks. It’s a bizarre sensation, almost like a dream. Everything seems familiar – the rituals of watching the flight departure screens, buying a paperback for the beach, anticipating the sunshine at your destination – but it’s not quite as it should be.
When you arrive it’ll be dark; your eyes will be glued to the taxi window, taking in the black shadows of palm trees, the pavements bathed in amber light and, beyond, the dark waves of the ocean. Straight away you’ll unpack, in the mind-set that you need to make the most of your time here because you’ll be back to reality soon.
The next few weeks will be a delightful novelty – playing housewife in the mornings, exploring in the afternoons, returning to make sure dinner is ready for the hubby when he gets back from work. The temporary apartment will be comfortable enough, but you’ll find it a little tired and you’ll grow increasingly intolerant of the little pile of dead ants that mysteriously appear in the kitchen every morning.
So it’ll feel like Christmas when your shipment arrives in your new condo. Mundane things will seem unexpectedly special; UK carrier bags will no longer just be functional but hugely sentimental – “Ah, Sainsbury’s! Remember when we used to do our weekly shop on a Saturday there?” You’ll be just as thrilled to see your teatowels as you will your shoes. Then it will actually be Christmas – the tree will be up, your parents will be here, and you’ll have a fun but bizarre festive period, with Christmas morning against the backdrop of a white beach in place of the usual backdrop of a white-frosted lawn. The year will finish brilliantly with fireworks and cocktails, and you’ll feel excited about what 2011 will bring.
Winter arrives. You’ll get a job offer – which is fantastic – but have to wait almost 3 months for the work permit. The weather cools, the sky is permanently grey and there is little to do at weekends. You’ll be doing your best to carve out a role for yourself volunteering, but it takes longer than you’d (unreasonably) expected and you’ll worry you might be losing brain cells on a daily basis. You won’t have anticipated this feeling of being without an anchor, of not quite knowing what your place in this new world is. You’ll cry sometimes.
In April, after 9 weeks of waiting, you’ll find out that your work permit has been rejected. At first, you’ll think, “Oh well, it is what it is”. Then later it will hit you. You cannot work here. You have no job back home. You have no career options. Everything you had planned has just vanished, like a gust of wind just scooped up your dreams and carried them away. You’ll feel like there’s an amazing life here in Bermuda, but there’s a layer of plastic between you and it. You can see it, but you can’t quite touch it. You’ll cry a bit more.
Then summer comes along. The turquoise ocean sparkles, the sun beams down every day. Your volunteering tasks turn into meaty projects you feel passionate about, and love doing. Friends will fall into place. Weekends will be spent on the beach or playing in the water. You can’t quite believe that this paradise is where you live. You’ll wake up every day basking not only in sunshine, but in happiness – deep-rooted blissful happiness; thankful that you have the opportunity to live in a tropical climate, privileged that you can make a difference through your charity work, hopeful that this is how life will continue. You’ll feel something shift and instinctively know, somehow, that something good is just around the corner.
And it will be because, 11 months after you first arrived, you’ll get a work permit, and a job that you love. By the time you get to next October, you’ll feel like life could not be much better, and will be incredibly grateful for every day in your job, and every evening with your group of fabulous friends. Your only wish will be this – that someone could have written to you a year ago, telling you to be thankful for what you have, and patient for what is to come.