Several years later, traveling from different continents, 21 women who reunited in North Salmon Creek over the past several days have a common thread.
They were expats at different times between 2006 and 2017 in Shanghai, China, and would meet once per week at each other’s homes. In a reunion from Thursday through Sunday, they met at Deb Spofford’s house.
The women hail from or currently live in several countries that include Germany, Thailand, Austria, Turkey, England, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Several states were also represented: Michigan, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Oregon and Washington.
“The expat community is quite a transient community, but this was a chance for us to meet people from all over the world with a common interest,” Spofford said. “We have stayed in touch because it is such a tight-knit group.”
The group in Shanghai was rather fluid; quilters came and went as their living situations changed. But one thing many of the women had in common was a lack of work visas after their husbands found jobs or transferred for work.
Despite finding themselves in a sprawling city of nearly 25 million people, the quilters would hear, usually through word of mouth from other expats, of various social groups. Hanni Fuchs, who lives in Switzerland and made the trip for the reunion, learned of the quilting group through a friend from Israel.
“You look for each other. We have a lot of time on our hands, so a lot of clubs,” Fuchs said. “We try to fill our time with sewing.”
The group also helped each other both practically and with some of the more difficult challenges of living abroad. Discussion topics could be as difficult as a friend leaving town and as simple as where to purchase a bottle of ketchup.
“You have to say goodbye to a lot of people, and that’s really depressing,” said Jenny Mooijman, who lives in the Netherlands.. “We were always laughing, but we could also cry with each other.”
Paula Vielhaber, who is from Germany and lives in Bangkok, Thailand, traveled roughly 25 hours to attend the reunion — not that she or any of the other quilters were fazed.
“When you live as an expat, you don’t really count the distance,” Vielhaber said. “It’s a big distance, but it’s not like we’ve lived in the same town for 30 years.”
The quilters have kept in touch through a Facebook group. They first reunited in 2017 at Mooijman’s home in the Netherlands and want to make it a biannual event.
Two years from now, the quilters plan to meet again in England.
“It was a special group,” Fuchs said before the group corrected her.
“Is,” she said.