I met a friend of vasco_pyjama 's today, an online link-up based on the fact that we're both in Kinshasa. She's arrived only last month and plans to stay only about 6 months. I'm here for work, but not long term. We had an interesting conversation about the politics of being "new" in town, or, in my case, not new, but chronically temporary.
In her husband's office there are around 12 expats, many with families, and she has kids, so she said she was surprised not to be taken under the wings of the other mothers. I'm here by myself and tend to meet people out at night, rather than through playgroup, but the idea is the same - we are somewhat at the mercy of others' willingness to invite us in, to be social and to have opportunities to meet other people.
I've been lucky and met a lot of new people the past three weeks, and hopefully will meet some more tonight.
But it's been by the virtue of willing to be shameless about accepting and following up on invitations. People may mention in passing that "we should get together" or "you should join us tomorrow." But they're not going to call.
I tend to think they're perfectly happy to see us when we show up, but the ball is in our court to follow through. They are already well installed in their lives and don't think of us first. She was telling me that she was a bit disappointed not to be invited to the weekly kids/moms dance class, and tonight I was a little disappointed not to get a call confirming my plan to attend [acquaintance]'s drinks party tonight. So I figured the onus was on me to call my new friend and see what the plan was. When I call, people are typically happy to hear from me and happy to include me, but it's not easy.
In the end, though, what counts? That I'm getting out and going to the drinks party, and hopefully will meet more new people and solidify other connections.