Published on: May 15, 2019In her 6 years as an expat in Bangkok, Megha has come to redefine family as a series of scaffoldings that she discovered, inhabited and sometimes helped strengthen as well. She shares how. By Megha Jindal Expatriation forced me to rethink about family. Five years ago, ‘family’ would’ve meant my parents, my brother, my husband and my baby boy. If I had to cast the net wider, it would extend to the siblings of my parents, their families and my husband’s parents. Moving to Bangkok with my husband and my baby changed this family dynamics. The wider family became too far to access. Husband disappeared into work. Faced with zero friends and family. My baby and I were forced to figure out a new support system in this new city. Our new ‘scaffolding’.
The harsh reality of expat friendships is that it is not easy to stay connected once you/they move on.BAMBI playgroups became our first scaffolding. The company of fellow mums from diverse nationalities sharing the struggle of young motherhood in a new city. It helped me enjoy my baby more. It helped me make new connections, get valuable shopping tips, exploring, eating out and weekend getaways. Attending these playgroups gave a much-needed structure to my days. However, it wasn’t enough. I needed more. BAMBI committee became my next scaffolding. I volunteered to become Treasurer Assistant and ended up being the Treasurer. It felt great to have another purpose to my days. To get back to the computer, excel spreadsheets and all the finance jargon I had left behind. But more than that, my work with BAMBI became the stepping stone of several solid friendships with diverse women. Our children had connected us but what kept us together was the work we did for BAMBI. We became comrades. During my four years at BAMBI, I witnessed the worst crisis in BAMBI’s 36 years long history. Helping steer the organization through that crisis became one of the most significant experiences of my life. After dousing that fire, it was time to find a new scaffolding. A new family. I became a member of Empower Toastmasters Club. In this role, members of the club meet every week for 90 minutes to practice their public speaking skills in a fun, safe, yet challenging environment. We all follow an education curriculum set by the world headquarters in US and progress at our own pace. It’s a pleasure to see each other’s improvement and play a constructive role in it. Each club runs for and by its members. After the enriching yet intense experience at BAMBI, I had promised myself to stay away from “taking office” again. I was simply going to focus on the education element of Toastmasters. Within one year, I found myself breaking that promise. I found my club struggling and decided to step up. I took upon the challenge of serving as the President and help it transform from struggling to strong. I had always shied away from leading, thinking I am best at working solo. It quickly became very clear that if I wanted the club to become strong and sustainable, it would need a team effort. You might ask, what about friends?
If you are new … in the city, I encourage you to … seek scaffoldings instead of friendships.Aren’t friends supposed to be the new family? I have been fortunate to make several strong friendships in the last 6 years. It would be tempting to say that my friends in Bangkok are my family. In some ways, these friends are much closer than family. But I wouldn’t be honest if I counted them as family. The harsh reality of expat friendships is that it is not easy to stay connected once you/they move on. My friends hold a deep place in my heart but I know that we will lose touch as the years roll by and our paths may not cross often, if at all. Instead, I have come to see these scaffoldings as my new definition of family. These organisations/ institutions that existed before I came to Bangkok and which will exist after I have left. If you are new or not so old in the city, I encourage you to reconsider your definition of family. To seek scaffoldings instead of friendships. The friendships will emerge from the scaffoldings. The friendships will be valuable but the scaffoldings will be invaluable. They will stay long after friends move on and they will help you find a new purpose or reconnect to a buried one. Scaffoldings are the new family.
About the AuthorMegha lives in Bangkok with her husband and two young boys. She served as BAMBI’s Treasurer from 2013-17 and currently serves as President, Empower Toastmasters Club. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or LINE @meghaj
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