On Living Abroad

Living abroad can be interesting. And exciting. And frustrating. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel lonely, a bit lost, and frankly, kind of dumb.

Consider making friends. This can be difficult when you’ve grown used to being transient. Is it really worthwhile investing energy in a relationship when you know you’re leaving in a little while? Will you be able to build a memorable friendship in such a short time?

Or consider freedom. I am currently waiting for the Polish government to grant my residency permit. It’s been 11 months so far. During this period of limbo, I am not allowed to do things such as get a driver’s license or leave the country. Do you want to go home and see your family? Too bad. Do you want to rent a car for a weekend getaway with your wife? Too bad.

Or consider language. I’ve been learning Polish for about a year now, albeit slowly. This is a very difficult language and I’m not particularly gifted when it comes to spoken languages. Programming languages come easy to me (read: I’m probably a robot), but spoken languages present great difficulty. As such, when people here ask me questions, I feel, well, really quite stupid. As if an educated adult cannot answer a simple question.

But this is not an essay on the topic of complaining. After all, I’m here by choice. My wife was accepted to a medical school here and I choose to support her in that.

And there is much to learn in accepting these frustrations. It is worthwhile investing in friendships, even if you know they may be temporary. After all, you don’t need to know someone for a lifetime to learn from them. Or to be there for them.

And maybe being stuck in Poland is not so bad. She has forests and mountains, seas and fresh air. And the beer… 🍻

And perhaps the language is good for me. Sure, it is immensely challenging, but I suppose exercising your mind is a positive thing. Did you know the word for “coffee” changes depending on whether you like it, dislike it, or want it with something? That just makes sense, right?

I think the best way to appreciate life here is to embrace the challenges. To cherish the friendships. To be patient. And to understand that things may not always work out the way I think they should.

It’s probably time to get back to learning the language.

Do jutra.

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12 Comments

Joy Speights January 15, 2018 Reply

I can related to so much of what you said. I’ve lived in a country, that is not my own, for most of my life.

Social media has made it much easier for
more reason than I can list.

Reading your writing already gives me a renewed strength to return to Thailand.

Thank you!

Graham Swan January 16, 2018 Reply

You and David certainly have more experience in this area than most. I’m still sad we didn’t have the opportunity to spend more time with you guys… there was still so much to learn from you!

JOY Speights January 16, 2018 Reply

Yes, sad! But I’m so thrilled you guys have been a part of our life!

Experience doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.

Leanne January 17, 2018 Reply

I agree with you here. To have spent more time with the Speights would have increased my wisdom and love of the Lord exponentially. But for the short 12 months I spent with you, Graham and Roma, I feel I will always love you and appreciate that time and thanks to social media, we can keep in contact and pray for each other.

But returning home, you can also feel alienated, alone, and frightened.

Graham Swan January 18, 2018 Reply

It’s confusing that returning home can lead to feeling lonely and alienated, but I suppose that is just part of life as a wanderer. At least we’ll feel at home in Heaven, right? 🙏

Joel January 15, 2018 Reply

I have travelled abroad a few times. But, visiting is quite different from living there. It’s easy to learn some survival language, and then laugh at yourself as the “tourist” when you don’t know a particular word. Some languages are easier than others. Honestly, I never attempted Czech, or the SE Asian languages. As for relationships… they are highly worth the effort. I have maintained connections with folks in various parts of the world, and I am much richer for it. By the way… so glad to see you back on here.

Graham Swan January 16, 2018 Reply

I hear ya. Traveling through other countries can also come with its fair share of triumphs and failures, but living in a new culture is simply a different experience. I do think I’ll look back on some of these challenges and realize they helped me grow in a positive way… and as you mentioned, having people to visit all over the world doesn’t hurt either! 😉

Rubí Sencion January 15, 2018 Reply

Graham
Hola!, is good to read you back , I’m glad you decided to write again, i really enjoyed reading your adventures and all types of histories you had to tell about your trip .

I can imagine how living in Polland can be challenging as in many other different countries but surely it will be a great growing experience for you and your wife.

All best wishes for this 2018 , and can’t wait to read your next histories

Rubí

Graham Swan January 16, 2018 Reply

Hey Rubi, good to hear from you! I’m sure we will have many positive memories of our time here… this is probably just a drawn-out case of “the grass is always greener.” Greetings to you and your family! 😊

Glen January 15, 2018 Reply

Liked the writing especially about the beer 🍺. Have to learn how to order coffee meaning I like it 😂

Graham Swan January 15, 2018 Reply

Talking about coffee is simple, really…

  • To order a coffee, you say: “Poproszę kawę”
  • If you want a coffee with lunch, you say: “Poproszę lunch z kawą”
  • If you don’t like coffee, you say: “Nie lubię kawy”

As a cherry on top, the actual word for coffee is “kawa,” which is of course different from all of the above words. 🤯

Glen January 15, 2018 Reply

I will have to start practicing now 😂☕️

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