In my post earlier this week, 3 Expat Problems in this Coronavirus Outbreak, I talked about some general issues that expats are facing in these unfamiliar and uncertain times. But today, it’s time for me to get personal. After all, that’s why I endeavored to start a blog. For the last two weeks, my girlfriend and I have been dealing with the fact that we live in two different countries. But it gets more complicated than that.
I am an American currently living in the Netherlands (Duh! That’s what this blog is about). She is Dutch, but currently lives in the US in Philadelphia, and was scheduled to move in to my/our apartment when she would start her new job in June. We had originally planned a flight out for her mid-May. Needless to say, this was all before the Coronavirus situation.
Two weeks ago when I was visiting her in the US, the Coronavirus infections reached a number that got people around the globe worried. It was not yet declared a pandemic and social-distancing wasn’t a term everyone in the English-speaking world and beyond was familiar with yet. When we were together in the US, we asked ourselves whether she should move back early to the Netherlands and try to finish her Ph.D. dissertation from there. Now, if you’re trying to finish your Ph.D., you’re going to want to finish that dissertation. In order to finish that dissertation, having access to your advisor and the University library is pretty important. The Universities hadn’t closed yet so we decided that she would stay, and try to come back slightly earlier, around mid-April, as opposed to May. I don’t need to tell you that this was a bad idea. It’s two weeks later now and shit has hit the fan. And there’s poop everywhere.
The day I arrived back in the Netherlands, the Universities were closed to all students, including Ph.D.s. We went back on forth on the idea for a few days, which was another mistake, but again, we had no idea what to expect. The world was rapidly changing around us. The day I arrived back in the Netherlands, people all over the world, and in the Netherlands, had begun to self-quarantine themselves. I did too. I stayed indoors, with my girlfriend in another country. People around us are spending quality time with their partners, but we were alone.
Then, about a week ago, we decided that things had gotten so bad that she needed to come back. Only, it wasn’t so easy for us. We were supposed to have two more months to sell furniture, bring things to the Netherlands, and make sure our cat was ready for travel. These things take time. At minimum, it would have to be at least 10 days before our beloved kitty would be ready to relocate (those are the rules). On top of it, due to travel restrictions, there aren’t many flights between Europe and the US.
These past several days have been trying and we are both emotionally exhausted. Her flight was cancelled. Twice. And we needed to rebook without any available airline agents because the lines were jammed. Also twice. She lives in Philadelphia, and of course, there are no flights leaving from Philadelphia to Schipol Airport. She needs to go to JFK, and we had to find a friend to drive us to JFK. These things were just the tip of the iceberg of what we had to deal with. And unless you’ve been in a similar situation yourself, it’s probably difficult to understand how much moving across continents can SUCK. I’m talking minus the corona, obviously. Unless, you’ve just gone through this yourself then do let me know in the comments! We can be soulless sisters. After dealing with this crap, you’re so exhausted that you feel like a shell of a person.
To be clear, I know there are worse things in life. I personally have also gone through worse. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suck to see everyone else taking short walks around their block and having lunch with their partners when I’m Netflixing all by myself. Well, not having to share the remote control is obviously a silver lining, but you know what I mean. I’m also in a foreign country, and I would love to have some time with my Dutch girlfriend here. Everything is changing and is so uncertain. And as much as I like to take things in stride, there are only so many nights when you can drink an entire bottle of wine by yourself. It would be nice to have my partner to share that with.