These girls invited us to share their holidays with them in their home in China while our family was celebrating back in the states. We golfed together, played mah jong together, went to spas, had facials, shopped (boy, did we shop), and lunched together. We took trips to Guilin, the Silk Road, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Viet Nam. We could as easily have told you how to barter at the local markets as told you what a string of pearls from Lilys should cost or how much to pay for jewelry from Chesters. Jewelry was our specialty, much to the chagrin of our hard working husbands.
Amazingly, our guys would laugh and jest that they slaved while we spent. It was a magical time, in a budding city that never slept. Our years together were chock-a-block with activities. Together, we hardly left a store unshopped in the whole of Pearl City or all of Hui Hai Lu. Passionate about exploring all of our new environs, we set out to discover all our Asian hosts had to offer.
Hours were spent swapping stories about our Ayi's (maids), our drivers, and our (shush!!!) husbands. Advice was handed out at will and we basked in the knowledge that others before us had paved the way so that we would be able to garner the fruits of their labor. Nothing was too frightening or too odd. We were invincible.
Together we welcomed, with open arms, the new expats as they came, wave after wave, eager to explore. New friends were made, old friends moved on, and memories were made.Expat women know the names of all of their friends' children, the colleges they attended, and where they finally landed their new jobs. We filled the days with trips to art colonies, Chinese water towns, calligraphy studios, and too many antique furniture stores to mention. We discovered where to buy ancestor paintings, have our jewels reset, and how to design floral arrangements. We made Chinese dumplings, stayed up all hours of the night playing Tripoly, and learned how to make quiche from Shau Woo.
My friends know how to play bridge, model for the Australian Melbourne Cup Hat Show, dig for opals in Australian opal mines, captain sailboats, organize balls, run charity events, and get the best prices for airline tickets all over the world. They are skilled at selecting fabrics of silk, cashmere, or cotton while securing a seamstress to fashion the latest styles. They keep files of holiday destinations and generously share their bounty with other expat travelers.
These are the women who have held one anothers' hands when loved ones have been ill. They have cheered one another on when contracts were closed or promotions were due. They supported one another through life's toughest moments and laughed together until tears have run down their cheeks. Friendships forged in a foreign land are necessary for survival and grow slowly, but tenously, until their bonds are unbreakable.
These women are my forever friends. And although we now reside all over the globe, we meet at least once a year to renew our special bond of friendship. Last year we gathered in Las Vegas. This year it was at Phyllis' beach house on the lake in Canada. It was a girls get-a-way, this time, but it could easily have been a couples cruise or a villa in France. No matter how we gather, we know that we are linked by a very unique experience; that of being a Tai Tai in Shanghai!