the parents and the expat

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It’s funny when roles reverse – in any sense really; girl / boy, doctor / patient, teacher / student but for me, the most interesting in recent days has been the parent / expat child reversal.

My entire life has seen my parents showing me the ropes. The ropes of life, of New Zealand, of travel, of cooking – basically of everything! Anyone half has lucky as I am will know exactly what I am talking about. Your parents are your guide, your safety net and your due north. When you move your life to the other side of the world you may be able to take those ropes with you but suddenly the ropes don’t seem to work the way they used to.

You re-tighten and re-work the ropes they taught you in some way or another. You trip over and fray them more times than you care to recall and it can feel like they will never be as strong as they were back home. Do not fret potential future expats, the time does actually come where without even realising, you’re not double knotting your new ropes anymore – they’ve become your natural instinct, your new, personalised survival kit.

You become pretty damn proud of these new ropes and your independence but no matter what, you miss those nagging, embarrassing creatures who taught you the old ropes a lot. While many of us leave our parents to be blissful empty nesters, (who often lead way cooler lives than you) if you’re as lucky as I am, they’ll make that dreaded 26 hour flight to come visit you in your new life. Just when I thought I had my new ropes all figured out, kinda, I then found myself feeling slightly anxious at the thought of showing them off, proving I have my sh*t together over here and I’m a functioning London adult. Uh….yah.

The countdown to my parent’s arrival (via visiting my sister and her hubby in ‘straya) started at the 10 months mark – and between the five of us, their trip was talked about every single week #sorrydad.

Finally the day came. I caught the very first Piccadilly Line (5.47am!!) out to Heathrow Terminal 2 and the instant I saw the slightest hint of my long lost parents I completely forgot I was in public. I jumped up and down and sprinted over to them almost tackling them in hugs. Once the tears and the ‘oh my god hi!!’ ‘s were done, I then realised they weren’t in Guatemala Auckland now – they were in London and I needed to look after them, show them the ropes – make sure they were safe, happy and comfortable.

I felt a sudden urge of responsibility. Sh*t. I’m only used to being responsible for my own London self…

I found I was constantly keeping an eye ten steps ahead and five steps behind, making sure they weren’t being pushed by notoriously charming Londoners, sticky fingers weren’t shopping in their bags and there was a seat on the tube or the bus for them to sit on. I made sure we walked the nicer, safer streets where possible, I constantly looked at the weather forecast rearranging plans in sheer desperation of some blue sky and/or sunshine and I made sure I had plans to entertain them at all times, while including coffee, toilet and seated breaks. I felt like London was constantly on show and I was the ringmaster needing to ensure the best possible performance was seen.

Hang on a minute… is this what it’s like to be a parent?!

Worrying and role reversal aside, it was honestly some of the best five days I have had since moving here. We walked an average of 7km per day and for semi-retired parents used to the laid back lifestyle of Ohope Beach, that’s pretty good going. To say I’m impressed would be an understatement.

I surprised my dad with tickets to Exhibitionism where we walked through the Rolling Stones first ‘flat’, mixed songs in new ways in their old recording studio and rocked out to a 3D concert at the Saatchi Gallery. We went for Pho at my fave Vietnamese down the road, we drank beers in my local pub, we ate ourselves silly at Camden markets, we battled the thousands at Portobello Road markets, we went thirty-five stories high in Sky Garden to look over the whole of London and we watched New Zealand play in the Rugby Sevens at Twickenham. Mum and I were little girls and went on the carousel on the South Bank, we took a million selfies at various touristy hot-spots (or just anywhere really), we caught buses, tubes and trains using our Oyster cards, we explored the West End, we watched street performers in Covent Garden and we ate ourselves silly, again, at Borough Markets. Most of all; we had fun, we smiled and we laughed. What felt like a whirlwind trip that barely touched London’s sides, was nothing short of fun.

They came, we saw, we conquered.

My dad is now safely back in New Zealand and while I’m pleased for him to be back in his much-loved home where there are no traffic lights, tubes and often shoe-wearing people, I’m sad that his and our time here together has been and gone.

Thank you for travelling 18,324km for a beer with me dad, I’m sorry for the weather, the crowds and the pas-ag Londoners – at least we found you a BBQ and we beat England in the Sevens at Twickers. I’ll miss you more than ever GP and I will never forget the special time you, mum and I had together in London.

I promise I will be home one day, but I hope you can now see why this ridiculous city is home for me at the moment.

Until next time dad.

gpsp

Sarah x

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