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I’ve written before about how much I enjoy the activities and relationships I’ve experienced through the International Newcomers Club of Sao Paulo, but yesterday’s gathering at a friend’s house impressed me anew with the importance of the INC. It can be a lifeline for ex-pats moving to a new country, particularly here in Brazil, where spouses often are not allowed to work when they follow their partners here in work-related relocation. Formerly professionals, they find themselves cut adrift, without the net of job acquaintances such as their spouses experience.

Pam, from Australia (not her real name or country of origin), told me yesterday about coming to visit Sao Paulo in the Spring, prior to moving here. She was still living in Australia as her son finished classes, and wanted a taste of what she’d be facing if she moved here after he went off to university.

Her first comment to her husband after that visit was, “You’ll have to help me find a way to get connected.” Crushing loneliness was her first impression of living here as an ex-pat who didn’t speak the language, who was here without the company of children or family, and whose husband was consumed with his job.

Everyone who heard her tell the story yesterday understood. We are each here because of our spouses, and we’ve all experienced the resultant loneliness and isolation. Many of us have left our children behind in the States or our country of origin, as we follow our husbands. Each of us knows the meaning of the Portuguese word saudade (weakly translated as “longing for” or “missing” something).

When our hearts ache and we long for companionship, that’s when we turn to the friends we have made through the International Newcomers Club. At the INC, we find (mostly) women who are living the same experience as we are, far from home and alone in a strange new land.

When we gather, we plan how to reach out to others, whether through social activities (teas, tours, book clubs, etc.) or volunteer projects, for it is in the joining that we become less alone, less isolated. As we build our command of the local language, we are better able to explore the city and country, to reach beyond our comfort zones. And until we have command, we can join with others, who can guide us during the learning process.

Yesterday’s event included a breakfast and conversation with new friends, followed by trying on beautiful saris and dupattas (long scarves) for next Saturday night’s Diwali (Festival of Lights) celebration hosted by the Indian Association of Sao Paulo. Our hostess had arranged for several members of the INC to attend, and had graciously invited us to raid her closet for appropriate clothing.

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I think the fun and laughter we had during the try-ons are just a sample of the fun we’ll share at the Diwali celebration.

As always, I left the INC gathering having met several new friends from many nations and solidifying a couple of nascent friendships. Every time I drag myself away from my editing work and step into a social situation involving the INC, I am pleasantly surprised by how much fun I have.

International Newcomers Club: It can be a lifeline.