Our community is filled with Expats, people who live and work far from their homeland. For some it’s about a sense of adventure, for others it’s for the money or career opportunities and for others still, it’s to fulfill a lifelong dream to live somewhere else. This is one woman’s story.
About the Author: Shina has worked in media around the globe and is happily on her next adventure in Japan with her husband and son.
I moved my family across the world from during a global pandemic.
It’s incredible how much our world has changed since February of last year. The COVID-19 pandemic has scared the human race into hiding. It has upended careers, finances, plans for the future and life as a whole. But it has, in many ways, also humbled us.
I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in May of 2020 in the United States. I was over the moon over his arrival, but I couldn’t mask my disappointment over my family’s absence due to travel restrictions. I waited for months, in absolute denial, for the pandemic to end. Some nights in sheer exhaustion, I envisioned my mom getting on a plane to come meet her grandchild. Finally, I decided to take the leap, pack up our life, and move back to Japan.
Everyone has their own personal story of grief and struggle throughout this pandemic. And grief, as I’ve learned, is not something that can be measured or compared. Every individual, every group, has a story that is unique to them. The exhausted healthcare professionals, the elderly who have been isolated for months, the immune compromised, the essential workers, the teachers, the students, the parent…the families.
One group I know who is silently struggling are international families and couples. I know because I belong to this group. Growing up I was always proud of my international background. Born in Japan, raised in Alabama and Singapore… universities in New York… work in Myanmar, Vietnam and Beijing… my family and friends scattered across the globe.
It never occurred to me that a time would come where I couldn’t get on a plane to go see them. During a time of such uncertainty, it pained me that I couldn’t be near those that I loved. Never mind a socially distanced visit from the front porch or a drive over to the next state, my family and friends were thousands of miles away, in countries whose borders were closed until further notice. I would silently sob into my baby’s shoulders when I thought of all the other international families, couples, partners, and friends separated by continents during this time, unsure of when they would see the faces of those they loved.
Perhaps though, I should shoulder some of the blame. Perhaps it was naïve of me to always envision a plane, waiting at the departure gate, ready to take off to the next destination. Perhaps it was carefree to never consider the pitfalls of an international lifestyle.
Still as political divide and the pandemic raged on in the United States, I knew I needed to leave. With the unpredictable nature of the virus and flights being canceled on a moment’s notice, I knew if I didn’t leave now, I might not be able to for a long time. In the end, the risk of staying seemed far greater than the risk of leaving.
Two weeks before I left, I was in line for photo services at the local CVS in Alexandria. Standing in front of me was a heavily pregnant woman printing out ultrasound photos from a USB drive. I stepped forward to congratulate her and she told me the photos were for her husband. She was going to mail them to him. He worked overseas and was unable to come home due to reasons related to restricted COVID travel. He had yet to feel the kicks of his healthy baby girl and inevitably, she was going to give birth alone in a few weeks. I told her everything would be okay and that we would all be together again soon.