Monday, October 1, 2007

It's an Ex-Pat Life for me........

It's been a bit of an 'ex-pat lifestyle' week this week. On Wed it was M's birthday and also a Poya day, so we decided to go to our favourite hotel for a swim. It's the old Governor's residence from the days when the British 'ruled' Ceylon. It certainly looks the colonial part, white pillars, doorman in pith helmets (no, really), afternoon tea, complete with tiered cake stand etc. And as members of the Association of British Residents we swim for free, and get 10% off food. (Who said the Empire was dead?) That was a joke by the way. I like it because it's where I had my 1st 'happy day' in Sri Lanka. I thought, if we can come somewhere like this to 'escape' then I can survive. How wimpy is that?

Our son said to me "Is daddy really 41?" Yes really, I replied. He sighed and said
"I wish you were both 30 again" (YOU wish, I thought....) I asked why and he replied
"I just don't like you growing up so fast"
A man after my own heart.

On Fri, M's NGO hosted a Farewell and Thank You Celebration for the completion of the Tsunami work. In the speech by the Regional Director, he thanked us spouses for our support in 'allowing our spouses to work at the start 7 days a week' (that wasn't us thankfully, as we arrived a year later) and for being so gracious and understanding about 'our spouses working 14 hrs days'. This whingy old bag felt very ungracious, thinking, when did I or the children ever agree to that? It is a sad truth that in the time we have been here, we have seen people succumb to stress, burn out, quit, marriages break up and children seeing very little of their working parent. It doesn't feel a very family friendly career. But that is Emergency Response more than Development. She said optimistically, with an ever so slightly hysterical laugh.

At this do they had party games. I had not been to a very Sri Lankan party before. The Sri Lankans were SO into the party games. One of which I remember from my childhood; making an outfit from newspaper. They were superb at it. They made a Kandyan dancer, a Sri Lankan traditional bride, a soldier, incredibly intricate designs. It left us Westerners in the shade. Also the Sri Lankans loved dancing. But the cultural difference was the band struck up a song, and all the........MEN.... raced to the dance floor and were, let's say, uninhibited in their grooving and jiving compared to the soft shoe shuffle of the Western men.

One of the night's unexpected highlights. Despite being the NON-Hello reader that I am, nevertheless I always enjoy spotting a celebrity and thinking 'wow they seem quite normal. No second head'. Our party was at the same hotel as the England cricket team were staying in, and as we came out of the door of our function room, who should be peering in to get a piece of the action, but Kevin Pieterson, and Ryan Sidebottom. Strangely Pieterson was much taller than he appears on tv. I thought the reverse was true of TV. It was one of those situations where you want to say something (preferably cool and witty) but of course can think of nothing to say. At the time. My husband also refused to ask for an autograph for our son (who loves cricket), because he didn't want them to think it was for him! Being 41 he now considers himself far too grown up to collect autographs. So our son was right. If he'd been 30 perhaps he'd have done it.

Finally this weekend we spent in the nicest hotel we've stayed in, in Sri Lanka. I had won a prize to stay there in a raffle in June. I have to say this is what I will miss most about Sri Lanka when we leave; being able to stay in lovely places cheaply, by palm fringed tropical beaches. The trips we have done with the childen all over Sri Lanka have been a wonderful experience, and one I hope they will remember a bit of.

This week wasn't all gins slings and lunch on the verandah though. I spent 5 and a half hours in hospital with my daughter on Tues having a scan of her kidneys to check her repeated urine infections hadn't scarred her kidneys. I received very Sri Lankan intsructions. As if perfectly simple and straight forward. "Wake your 'baby' at 5,30 so she will be sleepy because she must sleep during the scan". I said she doesn't sleep during the day. They said "She must. We will give her 'syrup'". Last time they did this, they said it took 20 mins to work. She fell asleep immediately. They came to fetch her 20 mins later despite me telling them she was already asleep. She woke up the minute they started to scan her. So I wasn't brimming with confidence. Neverthelss I was taken to a darkened room, told to remove my shoes, turn my phone off and 'make your baby go to sleep'. Right then, no problem. We lay on the bed, she danced, she bounced on the bed, she fidgeted, I pleaded, she giggled. No sign of said syrup inducing drowsiness. After 47 minutes she suddenly fell asleep. She woke up 15 minutes into the scan but seemed curiously unfazed by the velcro-ed blanket binding her to the bed under a giant 'camera' which rotated. The dr then told me the scan was 'no good' because she had been moving. ever so slightly. I nearly wept. It is amazing how often my daughter can reduce me to tears of frustration and defeat. So he did 10 mins more and seemed satisfied. Hari hari. O.K, O.K. Head wobble. Head wobbled back. Must remember to lose this habit once departed from Asia.

On Thurs my husband came home in despair, having opted out of a work do that night and told me how he had been on the verge of tears all day with so much to do, and so many demands on him, many un-solveable. I was utterly amazed and not a little worried. I have been married 16 yrs and NEVER once seen my husband cry, or even admit to needing to or being close to it. (whether this is normal or not, is material for another day) He just doesn't. Not even when our children were born. I'm not sure he actually knows how to. Probably just as well, I do enough for both of us. He is so stressed and under pressure, that I wonder if he is on the edge of a breakdown. He is very different in himself too. I remember a very conscientious colleague of mine at my old school who had a nervous breakdown, and a term off. One of his symptoms, apart from feeling utterly unable to cope, was crying 'for no reason' and not being able to stop, so he told me. The Director didn't mention anything about this in his Thank You speech. Thank you for being willing to subject yourself to a nervous breakdown. Your contribution was very gratefully received. Your family can have you back now. Maybe they will provide the sticking plaster and glue............

Two sides of the ex-pat coin.

1 comment:

Iota said...

I am worried about your husband. If this is really out of character, you need to take it seriously.

But you knew that.