Migrating to and Networking in a Foreign Country

Making Friends But Not Exactly Influencing People

I do confess that last week I was feeling a touch lonesome and missing my far flung amigos. So this week I’ve vowed to take a more active role in making new contacts, meeting people and maybe even making some new friends! To do this I have settled on a four-pronged attack. This is following on from joining the Surf Life Saving Club where I am starting to feel a bit more comfortable and getting to know some friendly faces. My poor children though, they aren’t really into the Nippers side of Surf Life Saving and all the activity is a bit beyond them but that’s another story.

These are the four lines of attack I have chosen in my bid to make some mates.

1. Help out at school with reading in Medium’s year three class: I can meet Medium’s classmates and maybe their parents down the track.
2. Help out in the tuck shop: this has been recommended as a great way to get to know the ins and outs of the school, hear the gossip and get to know some of the teachers. Plus, I’ll get to know lots of faces around school and some of the mums (I bet there aren’t any men!) who work or help out in the tuck shop.
3. Find some groovy women to go surfing with: I can do what I love, be active and make a friend or two in the process.
4. Go to the movies on cheap day Tuesday: make myself invite some women I’d like to get to know better and see the latest cinematic offerings, a rare treat and something I’ve been largely deprived of for 12 years!

The Results of My Friend-Making Attempts

So this week I’ve been charging ahead with my plans to meet the people. There’s a lovely lady I’ve met through the Surf Life Saving Club who lives close to me and she very kindly gave me the phone number of a friend of hers who goes out surfing with some other ladies once a week. I took the plunge and called Claudia’s friend who was super friendly, even though we had a Costa Rica style conversation on our cell phones and it took about four calls to organize. To give you an idea of what I mean by ‘a Costa Rica style phone call’ the initial contact went a bit like this:

Me: “Hi, my name’s Annabel, I’m a friend of Claudia’s, I’m interested in going surfing with you.”
This sounds a bit stark but please imagine that I was talking with a smile on my face.
My prospective new surf mate: “Hi, hi…” (white noise, silence)
Me: “Hello, hello, can you hear me? Are you there? Hello, hello? Sorry, I can’t hear you, I’ll have to call you back.” I hang up.

This charade was repeated several times, each time with a little bit more information being relayed, until finally it was agreed that she would text me in the morning after checking out the surf conditions. I have to say she was incredibly friendly and helpful despite having been landed with an apparently semi-deaf newbie to entertain during her special surf day.

Well, I was very excited and slightly nervous about my relaunch into the realm of ladies surfing. Not least because it means I have to get all my stuff ready and deliver the kids to school early so that will be a challenge. To avoid too much stress I located and packed my towel, rash top, wax, hat, dry clothes and tampons. Of course, it would have to be the first day of my period and having a little blue string dangling out of my bikini bottoms isn’t quite the first impression I am hoping to make. But it was a risk I’d have to take.

I laid out my togs the night before and did everything except strap the surf board on the car roof because, after all, it wouldn’t really feel like the morning without a bit of stress. As soon as I got down to the beach for my run at 5.40am I thought the surf date looked dubious. Sorry to boast about the running thing but I had to slip that in. This morning the sea was almost totally becalmed and that’s the first time I’ve seen it like that. Also the beach had changed so much, with about two feet more sand than usual, that I completely failed to recognise my beach exit and walked an extra kilometer leaving me quite literally running late. Of course when I finally got home, soaked from an unseasonal downpour, the surfing had been canceled so we will have to try again next week.

Instead I kicked off the day by helping out in Medium’s class. I get to hear the kids practice their reading which is lovely. I listened to about four of them and they were so quiet and studious it really touched me. The reading levels are hugely different with some children at a very low level and others quite fluent, with my boy being in the latter category I hope! Medium’s teacher is lovely so it’s good to spend some time with her and I met another mum who is helping out lots so off to a good start with my meet and greet despite there being no surf.

I followed up on that mini success by popping into the tuck shop and offering my services there for half an hour. Well, every little helps! Sure enough that was a good move. There were three mums in the tuck room baking cookies and making cakes. They were very friendly, quite funny and a veritable font of all kinds of useful information. In the short time I was there I made garlic bread, filled tiny pots with ketchup, prepared rolls with mayonnaise and lettuce for chicken burgers and got some good insider knowledge on the school scene. I must go back and help regularly. I offered to help on Friday but apparently there are loads of parent helpers there then and they were worried it might scare me off!

Teaching Four Year Olds Karate

Next stop was Small’s school to watch her karate lesson. The four year olds look adorable in their karate suits and I met a lovely mum and her son so that was a bonus. Small was practicing her blocks, kicks, scary looks and screams of “back off” with gusto and it is nice to think that one day she may have a fighting chance of defending herself should the need ever arise. I haven’t really told my kids much about ‘stranger danger’ mainly because there hasn’t been much of a need for it in the small communities we’ve been living in, but I think it’s a different story here. Small’s not shy so when they sat down at the end of the lesson to talk about ‘staying safe’ she was an eager participant.

“If a stranger said they had some kittens, puppies and sweets in their car would you go with them to see?” asked the teacher.
“Yes!” yelled Small enthusiastically. Those three items must be about her favorite things ever and it’s scary to think that some pervert could use that against her or any other child.
“Don’t you think you should ask your mummy or daddy first?” asked the teacher, concerned.
“OK” nodded Small, happily getting up to come and ask me.

I think that the ‘stranger danger’ thing is going over her head at the moment but I’m sad to say that I know she needs to be made aware of these things as do all our children. The age of innocence is over.

Anyway, all in all I think that my forays into friendship have been a great success so far. At least the scheduled ones. There was an awkward moment this morning at the end of my walk when I greeted a neighbor cheerily with a beaming smile. It swiftly turned to a look of revulsion as I felt the need to point out:

“Your dog’s just done a poo.”

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

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