One of the biggest challenges you face moving around the world is that of belonging.
It’s even tougher when you go from a community in which you have generations of history, loads of ‘aunties’ who have been watching your back (and gossiping about you-in a good way) your whole life, and a good portion of your immediate and extended family nearby.
However, I have discovered some secret tips that help one nestle into a place, and the hearts of those inhabiting it.
1. Laugh loudly and often: This is best done at yourself, as it is remarkably less effective when laughing at a local. I’ve tried both and can testify to that. After all, you are the newbie in town, so you’re the weirdo probably doing all sorts of strange things every one else is being extremely gracious about…like the time I commented to some friends that I was surprised mosquitos were biting us up the lodge tower because I didn’t realize they flew that high.
2. Endure ailments frequently: I have MASTERED this during my pregnancy. People feel sorry for you for being so far from home, while sick etc. Even better, if you haven’t already made friends, it is a sure way to add some people to that list. Here, we are planning dinner with our doctor, and every time I go to get a blood sample done Sam has a good chat to me about being hungry when pregnant (he is a remarkably astute man). Meanwhile, the pharmacists have become my own personal cheering squad, and after handing out the latest dose of drugs, wave me off with a ‘good luck!’ Or ‘I hope you win this time!’.
3. Force yourself on people: Don’t give them time to realize you’re strange. Just message for that next coffee date or dinner. Then, when you get there, introduce yourself to every person present (force yourself, see?) and make them engage in conversation with you. Some of them are BOUND to lack the insight to realize you are mildly odd, and you’ll be in with a grin. That’s as sound a basis as any for good friendship.
4. Start a ukulele club: This has the benefit of combining point one AND point three, as you’ll end up laughing a lot since the uke is a happy instrument, and you’ll be forcing yourself on people. Besides that, you’ll need all the help you can get making friends, so using any and every friendship tool at your disposal is advisable. Ukes are famed for their friendship-conjuring abilities.
5. Say thank you: The truth is that you are busting in on peoples’ world…and some of them will wholeheartedly and warmly welcome you in. They will look out for you, put up with your obnoxious cultural breeches, hug you (even if you’re a person who didn’t realize you would need them), check in on you and even love you.
Fortunately, we have found Vic Falls to be full of that sort. Just today a surprise parcel arrived containing gifts for our little girl. Another person mentioned wanting to get our return dates so they could stock the freezer with Pre -made meals. Friends have taken Kepler for the weekend to give us time off, or for play dates when we were sick. Others are master huggers, or listeners, or just laugh at your jokes.
Really, after one year in the Falls, there isn’t much more to say other than one big, giant THANK YOU to the very special people who have welcomed us in.