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catching up again

Even in our digital age, there is no real substitute for face-to-face interaction. This may seem like a trite, obvious observation, but its truism feels all the more weighty when we reflect on the last seven years, the bulk of which we have spent far away from home.

When we started our Foreign Service journey, it seemed easy to stay connected. This blog helped, and we had tons of visitors in Kenya, our first post. Family and friends stayed with us practically every month, so we did not even feel the need to fly home during the entirety of our two-year assignment in Nairobi. Now that we have kids, of course, staying overseas for two years at a time is not a tenable proposition. The grandparents wouldn’t allow it. During both our subsequent Moldova and Rwanda assignments we traveled back to the United States on more than one occasion.

It’s not just relatives we miss, of course. We do a decent job of scheduling Skype dates with our immediate families, but sometimes years will fly by without a phone call or an email exchange with people (college and high school friends, for example) who in what seems like a previous life shared our every joy and sorrow.

Paradoxically, even as we struggle to maintain our old friendships – with high school, college, and grad school buddies; with people who knew us in the various cities (Chicago, New York, Seattle) we’ve called home; with friends from other formative epochs of our lives (camp, Peace Corps, foreign exchange programs) – we find that we are constantly forging new meaningful relationships each time we move overseas.

This is a good problem to have, of course. Living in one place indefinitely, one tends to stop developing new friendships because with work, family, and other adult responsibilities there never seems to be enough time to see even the friends one already has. Arriving virtually friendless in a new location every couple of years, however, one is forced to step out of one’s comfort zone and build a new support network, cultivating new relationships.

The upshot is that there are now tons of people whom we consider close friends scattered all over the globe whom we rarely see. Fortunately, the ones who are U.S.-based tend to be concentrated in hubs, so we can usually reconnect with a large number of them with just a handful of strategic visits. For example, after our road trip through Idaho and Wyoming, D visited Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago, reconnecting with about thirty people in a dozen days.

Sadly, our home leave travels have now come to an end, and the next chapter in our Foreign Service adventure is beginning. We’ll be in D.C. for the next little bit, catching up on our recent travels on this blog and catching up with as many friends face-to-face as we can. If you’re passing through the nation’s capital in the coming months, drop us a line. We’d love to see you!

The photos were taken at the Dale Chihuly Garden & Glass exhibit in Seattle.

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