Tag Archives: oil and gas

Home for a Week

For anyone who’s ever been on an expat assignment, I think you’ll know where I’m coming from when I say a short home leave can sometimes quite literally be a trip from hell. Last week, my husband had a workshop to attend in Houston and I was fortunate enough to be able to go with him (perks of traveling so much = air miles, miles and more miles.)

From baby showers, dinner parties, doctor visits, and car inspections… it was a whirlwind of a hectic week. In many ways, my duties as a petroleum wife kicked right into full throttle. Bills were organized, sifted through old mail, reinstated the internet service, car insurance renewed, arranged continued payments to the lawn mower, finally took care of the basket full of laundry that had been sitting there since July. Yes, July. What can I say, our move to Calgary also came about quite suddenly.

Touched base with the few friends still willing to show us some kindness through patience with our crazy schedules. Let’s not forget the obligatory phone calls to be made and housewarming and baby gifts to be given. As I’m sure many of my fellow expatriates will know, the life and friends you left behind don’t usually stop at a standstill waiting for your return. But it was definitely nice to catch up on all the news we had missed.

The day we left, I scrambled to get my act together for our 4:30am pick up. Passports in hand, and snacks in the other, alarm on, doors locked. Crap. Did I turn on the dishwasher? Too late now. The driver’s waiting, and the plane waits for no one.

For the next three weeks it’s back to my executive high rise, living the life of a part-time wife as my husband goes back on rotation. The upside? No cooking and minimal cleaning (who are we kidding), and making the most of my last few weeks of adventure!

But I’ll still be thinking about the scary mildew monster feeding off of my dishwasher back home.

Mildew Monster Dishwasher

Not a pretty picture.


Last Minute Suzy

I love last minute changes

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to explain to friends and family our crazy last minute schedules. Especially for those who haven’t been exposed to the workings of our oil and gas expat community.  Often times, with last minute business trips popping up, it becomes more complicated than not to plan for dinner parties and lunch dates, let alone family vacations. I believe I’ll perpetually be known as last-minute Suzy, and at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if I lost a few friends because of it.

In the past year alone, we’ve had to seriously consider moving to the United Arab Emirates, Papua New Guinea, and Japan. They all fell through except for Calgary, Houston’s oil and gas equivalent in Canada.  I know that’s a lot of speculation right there. Some oil and gas expat assignments are straightforward and clearcut, you’re given a 2 year contract and that’s it. But my husband’s situation has always leaned towards the ‘exception’ to the rules for the last couple of years now.  I guess that’s what happens when someone is ambitiously successful, and when projects just don’t seem to want to let him go. I don’t want to let him go either, but I remain his ever-supporting partner in crime.

Yesterday evening, November 21st, we just found out that our stay in Calgary would be extended for another month, and possibly until January. We had been scheduled to repatriate on November 30th. While some might find it outrageous that we received word of our extension just 9 days before the end of the month, it has actually become somewhat of a norm for us.

Yes, this of course brings about several different complications.  The landlords of our apartment have been harping for a decision from us for weeks on whether we’d like to extend our rent for another month. It seems that 9 days was too short notice for them (go figure!) so we’re on the hunt once again. My fingers are crossed, prayers have been said and semi-threatening emails have been sent, all in hopes of being able to at least stay in the same building.

I’ll also need to beseech my dear friends and neighbors to continue to look after our house, occasionally start our cars, and check our mail for a few more weeks.

Cancel doctor appointments and dinner parties. Check. Write out and mail more checks for my neighbor to give to my lawn mower. Check.

Find something to keep me occupied in freezing-cold Calgary for 3 more weeks after my French Class ends. Help.

Company Wives Coffee

I feel like I’ve been officially inducted into my new lifestyle. Yes, I’ve been a petroleum wife going on a few years now, but last week was different.

Last week, a member of the Company Wives Club reached out and invited me to attend a morning coffee meet-up at  her home. This club consists of petroleum wives like myself who have accompanied their husbands on assignment in Calgary. This was the big leagues.

My first wives-only event as an official petroleum wife, I went in expecting a Stepford Wives rendition of expat living. Carrying a customary hostess gift, I was warmly greeted at the door. And so the exchange of stories and backgrounds commenced.

“How long have you been here?”

“Is this your first expat assignment?”

“Do you know when you’re going back home?”

“Where is home for you?”

Despite embracing my new status as a petroleum wife, I too have (or shall I say had) my own preconceived notion on what this lifestyle entails. While there definitely is an element of luxury in their lives, there was way more to this group of women than meets the eye.

American Petroleum Wives

A more accurate portrayal of American petroleum wives. Photo credit.

There were about 12 women at  “the Coffee” as they called it.  I was undoubtedly the youngest of the group by far, soaking in their stories with awe and admiration of their adventurous ‘go-get’em’ attitude. Above all else, I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of the ladies that morning, and not just their backgrounds. Indian, Turkish, Arab-American, and Australian were some of the nationalities and ethnicities present at the Coffee.

Despite the thousands of expat families within the Company network, somehow my new community seems incredibly close knit. Even being relatively new to the scene, I managed to recognize a few names as the women discussed friends from past assignments.

From Singapore to Italy, Tokyo to London, their stories were enthralling. Reminiscing on where they had the most fun in the past, where the best Korean food in Calgary is because they want a little taste of South Korea again, and where their next assignments would lead them were just a few of the hot topics.

I spent most of the morning asking different ladies how they felt about raising their children abroad.  Generally I’ve received such varying answers to this question which leads me to believe petroleum families have a love-hate relationship with the idea.  Mothers tend to either love the cultural diversity and awareness their children are exposed to abroad, or they feel a sense of ‘home’ is lost to them as their children grow up as perpetual expats.

One woman actually moved 13 times. 13 times! Undoubtedly her husband enjoyed a long and fulfilling career. But even over the span of a 30-year career, moving 13 times across the different corners of the world with 2 children in tow is no small feat. I can’t begin to imagine the kind of adventures they must have had. Yet a part of me, a tiny small part in my heart, can only imagine how lonely this woman must have been. To constantly pick up and move your family, say good bye to good friends and embark on the process of making new ones must not have been easy.

These women consist of the backbone of their partners’ careers, working so hard to be successful. I don’t think our husbands would be able to fulfill their demanding work schedules and grueling pace without our full-time support. Someone needs to take care of the logistics of daily life while also keeping quality of life at an all-time high. That’s our job.

While you might think I would be intimidated by what the future most likely will bring for us, I couldn’t help but feel excited at the thought of exploring the world. So few people get opportunities to live like this. I’m going to make the most of it.

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