White Snow… and the 7 Memories

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Snow of Fountain Square, Baku Azerbaijan. 1st McDonald's

Snow of Fountain Square, Baku Azerbaijan. 1st McDonald’s

Ever have one of those weeks where everything runs in circles? Where you set out to do one thing and have that deja vu feeling about something else?

This photo is from exactly 10 years ago this week.

I happened across it while looking for a picture of something “white” for a contribution to the fun #worldcolors project being put together by #Naomi Hattaway(http://box53b.naomihattaway.com/wp/2013/01/white-worldcolors/ )and #Anne Lowrey from Part Time Traveler.

It’s a beautiful snowfall on the Fountain Square in Baku. Can you guess what the building in the center is? Believe it or not, this is the first McDonald’s in Azerbaijan. I remember looking out over the Square from my office, thinking how much had changed since I arrived.

I spent nearly 10 years in Baku. I write now to capture things I remember, memories that bubble up now and then, mostly to have a way of telling the stories to my daughter who was at home in high school in Houston when I left, but had already entered a Ph.D program by the time I got back… Wow, so much time had passed for her, and yet for me, in ancient Baku, often it felt like time stood still. Until I saw this.

Circle around to the reason I was looking for a white photo in the first place…

Quite by accident I came a cross a blog post written by someone I knew in Baku. This was the deja vu moment, like I was back there again. #Judy Rickatson writes in her #ExpatriateLife blog http://expatriatelife.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/theres-a-special-place-in-hell-for-expats/ about first arriving in Baku, and what this new world looked like to her then.

What caught my eye was a line: “Many afternoons were spent staring out of my apartment window, happy my husband had a good job, happy my son was settling in school, happy to be having the adventure of a lifetime, but desperately lonely.” The reason it caught my eye was that it was the same thought I was having as I stood there looking out at McDonald’s in the snow, feeling as if it were a million miles away. My daughter was away in college, I was now divorced, and halfway across the world from anyone I thought might care.

And yet, I read this week that there was Judy, and who knows how many others, not many blocks away, staring out the window, having the same feelings of loneliness. As if the white snow had put a blanket around us, isolating us.

So the lesson I take away from all of this, is to reach out when I can. I had thought company spouses were well connected, and I didn’t think I had anything to give, being over there by myself. But I see now, how many of us need, and in so many ways. Most of us get through it and come out better for it on the other side, but how much richer and more joyous would our lives be if we remembered that whatever emotions we are feeling today, there is someone feeling that same emotion. Maybe next door or down the street, or an email away.

Now when I look at that fresh white snow, I remember that no one knows what’s underneath. I have to remember to go join others and play. I have to send some emails, to say I’m thinking of some friends today.

2 thoughts on “White Snow… and the 7 Memories

  1. Jonelle you are so right about the importance of not making assumptions about others. Of course we all do this, but when you’re living outside your comfort zone without your usual support systems it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking it’s “just you.” The longer I lived overseas the more I realized what a difference just a small contact could make such as an invitation to coffee and (more recently) an invitation to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook. One of the reasons I love social media and blogging is that it’s enabled so many expats to realize they are not alone. Hopefully that knowledge will encourage them to reach out more in the real world and make in-person connections.


  2. Pingback: The Expat Experience Link-Up: The Process of Moving Abroad | Life Lessons

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