Family Magazine

Getting to Know the Neighbors

By Sherwoods
A few days ago, the doorbell rang.  When I asked who was there (the camera view wasn't showing anyone), a high voice asked, "Is Joseph come out play?"
"Joseph," I shouted down to the basement, "your friend is here! He wants to play!"
A few seconds later, Joseph came barreling up the stairs, sprinted to the door where he put on boots and coat, and streaked out the door. 
Before moving to Tashkent, we have never lived in a neighborhood where we've made friends with locals.  Our last house was on a busy street with a Chinese business on one side and an oligarch on the other.  In Baku, we lived in a neighborhood populated mostly with expats.  In Cairo we had mission members across the hall from us, but never met anyone else in our building during our two-year tenure there. 
I can't completely blame our lack of local friends on our housing situation; I'm lazy when it comes to making friends with someone who doesn't speak the same language as me, and I'm busy with my own life.  Some people view this as a moral deficiency, but it doesn't bother me.  I don't live around the world so that I can soak in all of the cultural experiences, I live around the world because Brandon's job requires that we live in foreign countries.  I enjoy the occasional cultural experience, but they're not something I seek out.  After all, I have six children that I homeschool while running a household.  I have plenty of things to keep busy.
When we first moved in, the children played outside in the yard.  It was summer and a hundred degrees every day, so the pool was much more appealing than the road.  But when the weather (finally) cooled down, the children started playing in the road.  We live on a very quiet road with a constant guard presence half a block from our house.  Someone very important lives nearby and some sort of government facility is also at the end of the road, so there's not going to be anything troublesome happening in our neighborhood any time soon.
So the children in the neighborhood often play out in the road.  Our across-the-street neighbors like to play tennis, so when it was warmer, we would have doorbell rings with broken-English requests for the ball fairly often.  My children have been hesitant to join them, worried about ridicule for their poor Russian, and I haven't bothered them.  Their outside playtime is up to them, and I manage their lives enough already.
But eventually they got bored of the yard and ventured out in the street.  One day Joseph burst inside at the end of his playtime, excited with his new achievement.  "Mom!!!" he exclaimed in his high little voice, "I made a friend!!!"
I realized then that none of my children have ever made a friend on their own without some sort of engineered situation where they could meet peers.  Joseph was wriggling in excitement at the thought of someone to play with who lived right next door.  There's nothing Joseph loves more than talking with people, and the thought of having constant access to someone who wanted to play with him was just about his wildest dream come true.
"That's great!" I replied, "what's his name?"
Joseph wrinkled his brow for a minute, then shrugged his shoulders.  "I don't know.  He told me, but it was really long and hard to remember.  Tomorrow I'm going to show him my shotgun."
I often think about all of the normal American experiences my children will miss by living overseas, the experiences that I had in spades while growing up in suburban North Carolina.  I fret over how this will affect them, and feel guilty that they won't ever have a chance to live them, even after they choose their own path in life.  Obviously, those concerns aren't enough for Brandon to quit and move us all back to the States, but it doesn't mean that I don't have them.
So even if Joseph and his friend can't talk much to each other and they are playing together in an Uzbek street and his friend's Grandma scares him because she's so old and Uzbek, I'm still happy that he has a friend who lives next door.  It's as close as he's going to get.

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