I feel amused by the noise. Next door are renovating. The vibration of the hammering and drilling into our common wall has made the tiles in my bathroom pop loose from the wall. At any moment they could just fall down. Crash. They will shatter. Splinters flying out in all directions. I am waiting for it to happen, like sport. As if I am watching a game of tennis and desperate for the opponents ball to drop, to go over the line.
I like watching how things pan out. Like sport, that edge of your seat amusement that whittles away the days, the weeks. My wall may well fall down. It took seven months for the air conditioner in our bedroom to get fixed. Someone would come, stand in front of it and stare. They would look at the wall a little and say they needed to come back. Then a few weeks later I would chase it up and someone else would come and stand staring at the unit. They would say someone else needed to come. Then you chase it up again and this time the person says they need to come back with equipment…and no, they don’t. So you see, you need to have a sense of humour. It got fixed eventually.
So our wall, well yes I am concerned about the potential safety hazard but for now I am curious as to whether the building maintenance feel falling tiles potentially injuring small children and a dog, is of great concern. How long will it be, shall we place bets? Our back gate is busted too. The lock just fell off so now a flower pot leans against it so Noodles can’t escape. He ate the plant in the pot. It was struggling for survival anyway. No-one seems too interested in fixing that up for us, the gate, not the plant. Perhaps I should let Noodles roam free in the gardens for a few days. Will that speed things up?
Another thing I like to ‘watch’ here in the expat world is the way the social wilderness plays itself out. In communities like these small details become the bigger issues. Situations that would ordinarily be forgotten become the stuff of legend. Words get spoken that should normally be filtered. ‘Oh you’re pregnant, I just thought you had put on weight, you should wear tighter clothes so people can tell your not just fat’ (no mum, not me, my friend is pregnant). You have a choice. You can get caught up in it. Lie awake at night worrying or you can see the amusement in it. Sometimes it’s a razors edge, which way you will go.
I met a woman recently. I haven’t seen her since because I was hitting her up for our girls to play and she said to me, as she stared nonchalantly into my eyes, ‘this is our tenth country, I don’t bother making friends anymore’. I smiled and thought wow. That is intense. That is lonely, and that is sad. So I smiled wondering why she had made the effort to attend a social function and then excused myself and went to chat with a friend. I guess she has gone back to her little world.
At a recent evening out we were trying to get even numbers for tables and I asked two new ‘friends’ if they would sit on our table, as opposed to the table where their ‘tribe’ were sitting. I was told by one, without eye contact ‘I can’t. It’s about loyalty’. Okay, noted. Thanks for the reminder that I am okay to be polite to and air kiss a greeting to but I’m not quite ‘there’ yet. I was bemused and again, I felt sad for this person who thought this was of utmost importance in her life. I gave a snicker and sat back at my table. Back where I ‘belonged’.
Don’t get me wrong, generally everyone is very super polite. People will help you, offer you information and surface level support which is excellent for a new person, but don’t expect too much more. Not right away. You must earn your place. There are Queen Bee’s for every tribe and a pecking order of inclusion. Your job as a new face is figuring out how the pack works and be strategic. If you are a strong social player you are well prepped for this gig. If your not, well, toughen up princess.
The trick is not to get caught in the fight. Pick your battles. Realise this isn’t so much personal as protective. Stay quiet, polite and gently allow people to get to know you. Tough ask for someone like me who wants to call a spade a spade. Yet it is how it is done here. A good lesson in diplomacy and you really do learn to laugh. Like the night someone went off at me for taking too much cheese. I still don’t understand what was happening there. It was a good night though and the cheese was damn fine.
Last night as I walked to the couch with my plate full of dinner, I stepped on Elsa’s dress, or was it Princess Belle’s. Whichever it was, I slipped over. Straight down I went and as I did I tried to save my dinner plate so went down straight onto my elbow. I lay on the floor winded, unable to breathe, pain radiating up and down my arm. The children ran out of their beds and stood on tiptoe to see over the mezzanine at what had happened. BB cried when he saw I was hurt so I put on a fake smile and told him I was totally okay and not to worry. I would be up soon to get special kisses to make my elbow better. SB got me the Nurofen, made me a cup of tea and gave me his piece of Kitkat.
This weekend I did a painting course. Botanical Watercolour. It was pretty nice. Until SB messaged asking where our new driver was. The one I told to ‘go home, SB needs you’. A message lost in translation as he sat outside the café waiting for me. So my zen was gone at that point, luckily it was nearly the end and I made my apologies and left. The joys of having staff in a foreign country. First world issues, sure. You know though, still stressful when you already have five thousand things on your mind like smashing tiles.
I messaged a friend the other night, she said she did a painting course last week but found it wasn’t for her. She likes to stay between the lines and Watercolour bleeds. I said when I was feeling OCD I liked to stay in control, within the lines but when I felt in a ‘save the whales’ mood I liked to be more expressionistic. Today my goal was not to fuck up. I don’t think I did.
So there you have it, a week and a bit in review. The moral of this story is this. Life can throw you absolute bullshit. It is totally in your control what you do with it. You can let it weigh you down and sink you, or you can look through a different lens. View it as sport, as art, as a game. A bit like I do when I drive. It’s one of those cryptic puzzles where you have to figure out your next move that will affect the next ten. For me, I just want to be brave, I want to stay authentic and unaffected. A bit like when I do art, I’m either pedantic or I blast on my page like a Jackson Pollock (homage to Entourage there – awesome show). Don’t get me wrong, I bleed just like everyone. I drink, sometimes too much to dull the pain but the next morning I get the fuck out of bed, brush myself off and think about my awesome Gran who says ‘just get on with it’. And I do (Sorry about the swearing mum, black those bits out for gran).