Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Making of an Expat

It would have been impossible for me to know on that fateful night 12 years ago when I first met the Handsome Australian, that one day I would not only be his wife, but would make my home in a strange land far away from all that, up to that point, was comfortable and familiar. The future ramifications of our love affair never really played on my twenty-something mind. I was swept up in the excitement and open to the adventure. Come to think of it, I've never really been much of a planner. I've never had a 5 year or 10 year plan. I'm not a goal setter. I'm a "let's ride this wave and see where it takes us" kind of girl. And that's precisely how I approached my relationship with the Handsome Australian.

When we first met in Buenos Aires, I had no expectations for our blossoming relationship. He was a great guy and we had fun together. The reality was that he was Australian and I was American and we were both in Argentina for a finite amount of time. At the end of which, we both had intentions of returning to our home countries which may have well been opposite sides of the earth--oh wait, they are. It seemed perfectly reasonable to treat the whole thing as a holiday romance and just enjoy the fun while it lasted. So this is exactly what we did. We never talked about the relationship or about a future or about anything particularly serious. We just had a really, really great time.

At the end of the Handsome Australian's time in Argentina, he booked a trip to the Southern region of the country to visit Lago Argentino and Glaciar National Park. Saddened by the thought of him traveling alone during his final week in the country and finding myself a bit more attached to him that I wanted to admit, I spontaneously contacted his travel agent and booked myself a seat next to his. I wasn't sure how the Handsome Australian would take the news, but it was very well received. He was glad to have a travel companion and happy to spend one last week with me.

Our time in the remote town of Calafate on the periphery of Lago Argentino was magical. Our days were filled with sight seeing tours and our nights were spent sampling the local cuisine. The glaciars were mind boggling and beautiful. Each night the food we ate was amazing. Everything was perfect. I remember wishing it never had to end. It occurred to me during this *final* week of our holiday romance, that I might just be on to a good thing. I might have just found something worth holding on to. Only problem was that this something, or someone rather, was about to get on a flight to the other side of the earth and I was meant to head back to Buenos Aires solo. What was a girl to do?

With about 4 hours left before my flight was set to depart the Rio Gallegos airport and I was due to say goodbye to the Handsome Australian, we sat together having lunch at a hodgepodge Asian buffet--in the heart of Patagonia. The food was an unexpected and bizarre mix of Argentine standards and Chinese favourites. The concept of the restaurant was almost as crazy as the ideas that were running through my head. So with this mixed up meal as my preface, I floated the idea of me possibly coming to Australia after my time in Argentina was finished. And then I waited.

The Handsome Australian began to sweat profusely. His normally calm and relaxed face took on an anxious and confused look. Perhaps he was even frightened. Then came the questions. How? When? Why? I did my best to answer his queries, but I was shy on details because well, I'm not a planner. This was just something I knew I needed to pursue and the how and the when would have to come later. The 'why' was obvious. I'd come to the realisation that this was more than a holiday romance and that if I didn't follow my heart, and take this chance then I'd always be left wondering 'what if'...

The clock ticked on and it was time to catch a cab to the airport. It was during this cab ride, that the Handsome Australian slowly returned to his former self. He had started to consider what neither of us had considered up until 2 hours before...a future together. The more we discussed the possibility, the more relaxed he became. Still, he proceeded with caution and warned me that life in Australia would not be like the life we'd known together in Buenos Aires. I told him I understood, but I still wanted to ride this wave and see where it took me.

By the time we reached the airport, the shock had worn off and he'd agreed to think about the proposition and was speaking more and more positively about the idea. Our time had finally run out. We said our goodbyes and I walked out on to the tarmac and up the stairs of my waiting plane, not wanting to look back I marched up the stairs, but then suddenly turned around to see the Handsome Australian standing inside the glass with a smile on his face. I gave him one last wave and moved into the plane.

For the next three hours, I sat in a window seat looking down on the vast and sparsely populated Patagonian landscape below and I felt, for the first time in my life, completely and utterly at peace. I'd said what I'd needed to say. I'd put it all out there. I'd ridden the wave. No regrets. What happened next wasn't for me to decide. The ball was in destiny's court and I'd just have to wait to see what came my way.