Joyce, a mother of two, moved from her hometown in Huntsville Alabama to the Cook Islands to join her husband at where he took on a permanent position at a marine research lab. She tells us how many things in her life have changed since moving to this sunny paradise.
My friends considered me lucky, my husband was looking forward to being able to see the girls on a regular basis again, and I was just absolutely confused! I am a small town girl, living in a small town world as the song suggests, and I have to say that I was not quite ready or even remotely prepared to leave my little nest. Funnily enough my kids were extremely supportive; I guess contrary to their mother, living in a small rural Alabama town didn’t suit their travel genes much.
My days in Alabama were pretty routine-filled: I would get up in the morning, make the girls lunch and drive them to school. During the day I would run errands, do housework, walk the dog or meet a friend of coffee, until I had to pick the girls up from school. Then I would help them with homework or drop them off at soccer practice or gymnastics, prepare dinner, have family time and then put them to bed and unwind for the day. A pretty average mother-housewife day!
After moving and having survived the most massive part of my culture shock, I can now say that I led a pretty boring life in the States. The funny thing is that I would never have considered it dull; in fact I would have vehemently denied this statement simply because I quite enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom and housewife then.
However, I seem to have undergone immense changes in my personality and routine after having settled down in my new home! I am no longer ‘just’ a stay-at-home mom: The girls have become a lot more independent and since the island is so tiny they no longer need me to drive them to and from school or practice. They walk everywhere themselves, either alone or with neighborhood kids. In the beginning Al and I would walk with them but the 15 minute walk was very safe and they quite enjoyed being treated like grownups. I no longer spend my days running errands or preparing meals and taking care of everything because Al decided we could do with a housekeeper who comes by 3 times a week to clean. This means I have more free time during the day which I proceeded to fill by volunteering at the marine center. My life has more purpose!
Little things which I didn’t even consider to have been a problem in Alabama now drive me bananas! For example, our dog is never leashed; he runs around and gets enough exercise that he plops down at our feet happy and exhausted in the evenings. I rarely drive anywhere, since everything can be reached on foot I seldom even feel the need to own a car – where in Alabama my car was my lifeline, here I find it more of a burden. These things which were absolutely normal before are now completely foreign to me; it truly amazes me that I used to take the car out of the garage to drive five minutes to a pharmacy to pick something up. What a waste of time and energy and money!
I hadn’t really noticed how much I have changed during my expat life until I went home to visit my mother with the girls a few weeks ago. My mother and all my friends were amazed at how different I have become – apparently I am more balanced, I look healthier, am much more lively and animated, and I seem to have lost some of my Alabama slang too!
Heather Mason says
Hi Joyce, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story about your life in the Cook Islands. My husband and I are planning to come in December this year for a 3 month stay – from Australia. We feel that we lead boring lives here too in our Western World and cant wait to learn from and meet people from the Cook Islands. My husband volunteered at the Coast Guard Centre here and loved it, is that where you volunteer in Rarotonga?
Thank you for your assistance.
Regards John and Heather Mason