(and I dedicate this entry to the delightful, inspiring and amazing friend who is Lana – you can read more about her journey through breast cancer here)
One of the things I've learned being an expat is that the community here is really small. Pretty much everyone knows everyone – either in person, by extension, or through various expat groups and organisations. People have heard me speaking English to my daughters and have gone 'Oh, you're Stephanie!'. I have no idea who this person is, but they know me. (Obviously, in Almere, there are not that many Australians who have twins!) It's happened at the child health nurse, the bus stop, the supermarket …
Of course, it also means that you meet many people. Initially, you are clinging to try to find your circle of friends – just like the ones you had back home! – a group of people who are confidants, drinking buddies and that essential shoulder to cry on. You friend everyone you meet and sometimes this has disastrous consequences. You are sometimes forced into social situations with people you ordinarily wouldn't even give the time of day to. There are the inevitable bust ups, the blockings and the sour taste of things going bad…
And just occasionally, you meet a Lana.
The inspiration for this particular post comes from a discussion around Lana's dining table (which was groaning under the weight of a gazillion delicious Filipino dishes). A mutual friend (ironically, in our own 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon halfway across the world from home is the childhood best friend of the sister of one of my best friends … it really is that small a world) asked us all "So, how do you know Lana?"
I met Lana through the international group we both belong to – she offered to write some articles for the group's website. It started with a few jokes, and progressed to a working relationship. It really wasn't til everything went pear shaped with my pregnancy and the birth of the girls that I can truly say we became friends. She's one of those rare people who asked the simple question every now and then – 'How are you?' and meant it. I started writing for her online magazine, and I spent hours just chatting with her. We shared parenting ideals, experiences and frustrations, and many laughs.
From there it's blossomed into a friendship I truly treasure. Despite her own personal struggles, she still pops up and asks 'How are you?'. And you know that she listens and is ready for a laugh. She shares openly, she embraces people and she cares. Her home is open to everyone – and there is always a feast on the table and new friends waiting to be met in her house. And of course, her generosity is legendary 🙂
So really, the point to my post? I hope you all have a Lana in your life. And I hope that I can be someone else's Lana someday. But for now, I'm going to cherish an amazing friend. 🙂