Tag Archives: Expat

Done and done.

20 Apr

Yip. Not much writing being done! I’ve been riding the roller coaster of expat life on an island where I don’t belong. No really, I do not belong here. Sometimes in life, you just need to realize that you need something else. Maybe forever, maybe temporarily, but in any case, something else. 

“Yeah, if you were happy with yourself you’d be happy anywhere.” Uh-huh. Ok. Let me air drop you into __________(insert worst place you can think of here), Captain Zen, and you tell me how that goes. 

We’ve been enjoying our home. She is beautiful. I will sincerely miss her. Thing is, when it’s scary to to out of the house, even a beautiful house can start to feel a bit confining. “Scary? Come on. You’re exaggerating  You’re married. You have a visa, everything should be great and easy now!” Ya. I know. And it is. In my personal life. Except for the fact that – I know I’ll get some hate for this – there are too many rude, depressing, haters on this island. (I realize the irony of me writing that) 

Example 1:

My girlfriend goes to her usual supermarket. At the checkout stand, she asks if they sell bags. Normally all the stores do, especially for cold and frozen goods. They whip them out from under the register and charge you for it and life goes on. Checkout lady replies, “No, and I don’t have time for this.” Really, checkout lady? You don’t have time for this? While you’re sitting on a chair at the checkout stand you don’t have time to answer yes or no to a question concerning a bag to carry items bought in the store? No time? Too busy doing…..oh right. Your job. Which would likely include answering that question. 

Example 2:

I’m standing in line to checkout at the supermarket. At the last minute a man jumps in front of me. I’ve been watching him dance between two lines, not waiting in either one of them. He only has one item, so I let him go. After he’s paid, and while he’s organising his change, I say calmly and with a smile, “You know, if you had asked to go in front of me I would have said yes, but it would have been nice if you asked.” His reply, “I didn’t do that.” My face, incredulous, I reply, stil smiling (but now because I’m laughing), “I just watched you do that. Are you joking? It’s fine, but honestly, you should at least ask first, it’s just polite. I waited in line for ten minutes and you just jumped in front of me.” Again, like a child who believes they can’t be seen under the blanket, he replies, “No, it wasn’t me.” Ok. This is what I’m dealing with. 

Example 3:

I arrive at my car in the parking lot. Woman is opening the passenger side door of her car next to my driver’s side. It is very windy. She opens the door and just lets it go, the door whips open and slams into my car, denting it and leaving paint on it. She continues what she’s doing in the front seat of her car, and when she comes out of her passenger side – and only when she is done doing whatever she’s doing, she shuts her door, and walks nonchalantly to her driver’s side. I say, “Excuse me, ma’am. Your door dented my car.” Her reply? “It’s not my fault. What’s your problem?! I’m not responsible for what the door to my car does!” I ask her, “OH? so who is responsible for your car, ma’am? Who should I talk to?” Her reply, “Pffffff….get out of here, you’re bothering me! Go take care of your own problems!”

Yeah. Great. 

Example 4:

I’m walking my dog. On leash. Man sitting at a picnic table walks towards me and asks me when we can cook and eat the dog. Yep. That happened. 

If these things happened once in a while, it would be funny. Thing is, I have the impression that they happen all the time. That this is the general population. if I want to go out of my house to do the neccesary things, like food shop, mail letters, exist, I have to encounter shit like this. Does this happen in the states? Of course it does. Can I move away from it to a place where in general people are more polite and logical? Yes. Would I then experience this nonsense less often? Yes. But…Guadeloupe is SMALL. When things in general  start to bother you, there isn’t really that far to run to avoid it. 

Thankfully there are a small handful of people on the island that impart just enough hope and positivity to help me keep my head above water. There are really nice, interestED and interestING people here. I think they hide. Likely because they experience the same shit I do and enjoy it about as much. I’ve met some born and bred locals who are incredibly kind, creative, open hearted. These people need to procreate. More of that please! I consider it an amazing feat to be born and raised in Guadeloupe and be positive, zen and happy. I do. This is not an easy place. The more I learn the more I’m enthralled and yet ready to leave. A Guadeloupean woman I met in my visa process, who was of great help to me, told me her personal story. What left me amazed is how she explained that after she did her studies, and came back to Guadeloupe to start her own business, she was essentially shunned from her own community. She was told she was now a ‘negropolitan’, who did she think she was, that she was above them, etc etc. What a pity. When people could look at someone and say, ‘oh I want to be more like them’, instead they say, ‘I want to defeat them’. It’s a choice. An interesting one. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that type of story, but the first time I heard it directly from a Guadeloupean. 

All this to say, it’s not me, this place is tough. It is not warm and fuzzy. You will not be greeted with open arms and open minds. It is, I would venture to say, unprogressive. Is that even a word?

BUT. Always a but. I can’t tell you I wouldn’t come back. WHAT?! I know. I know. I need a break. I need some perspective. I need something else. I know we’ll move sometime in the coming year, and with that knowledge I can say that I can see the intermittent good things about Guadeloupe. Perhaps one day we could come back. But for now…it’s time to focus on a different, hopefully more polite and uplifting path. Meantime, I’m perfecting my baking skills and my three guys make perfect taste testers. We also have a new puppy (there’s an spca in Guadeloupe – see? A positive!) who is freaking adorable, which totally makes my day. A bientot.

 

 

 

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This bed is a piece of toast. Toast, I tell you.

8 Sep

Just as I was waxing philosophical thanks to a reader’s mention of ‘enoughness’, I discovered this great post on this great site which I feel relates to the idea of enoughness, only coming from a slightly different angle.  Here’s what I’ve learned from two different people:

Enoughness=not having all the ‘stuff’ you had in your own country, but realizing that actually you have enough, even if you have less ‘stuff’.  Being able to feel happy without having everything you want or even everything you thought you needed.

Toleration: “The things (small and large) that we put up with in life but which make our lives just that bit more difficult and frustrating” –Evelyn of thesmartexpat.com

There are lots of  serious issues surrounding survival in another country, like healthcare, money, safety, your rights. I’d like to confess that it’s the little things that get me, in terms of enoughness and tolerations. Let’s review:

In the US, it’s fairly easy (although admitedly expensive) to buy a big, comfy bed where two people can sleep through the night without any of the following:

“Move over, I’m practically off the bed!” “Me too.” “Not even possible!(looks)Oh. Merde alors!”

Could I have a freaking corner of the blanket perhaps?”

“I can’t move my neck. The air conditioning blew directly on me all night. That can’t be good air. I think I’m sick. ”

“Is that a scolo?”

“Look on the wall. You told me cockroaches didn’t like heights and can’t fly.”

I have to say, and call me as American as you will, that the size of the beds here, and as I’ve seen in France,  were clearly designed without measuring the average person’s overall size.  It is clear to me that the beds were designed after some group of mattress researchers went into a third grade classroom, took measurements of height and weight, and left triumphant  and secure in their calculations for mattress production for grown ups.  Honestly, could we not simply have a mattress bigger than and thicker than a piece of toast? Is there not a topsheet or a blanket which could cover more than me or Pirate?  Why I ask you, must I set up a windguard system using duct tape, an old curtain, and a fan to block the lowest wind speed of 50mph which comes from the air conditioning unit which is (obviously)  mounted directly above our bed, which, based on the laws of physics and excellent architectural design, can only be placed in that particular spot in the room?

So you know, we tolerate it. We tolerate the matzoh bread mattress. We stay strong in the face of the howling wind that is the low setting on the clim, and I begin speaking to Pirate after a couple cups of coffee in the morning although he did his magic grab, roll, and lock trick with the covers all night leaving me windburnt and stiff-necked. We tolerate. Why? Because I’m happy to have the clim, after all. Not having it is insanity during the summer months, and only half insanity in the other months. And because frankly we’re happy to have a bed that was bought new and is clean and, when I’m not kicking Pirate in the ribs to get some space, it’s actually comfortable enough. Enough.

Enoughness. It is enough, isn’t it, to have a nice bed? Even if I can’t have that deep, soft, sleep inducing comfortable pilow-top mattress I left behind (read:still whine over) in San Francisco? It is. And since we sleep upstairs, isn’t it enough that we even have air conditioning, as opposed to sweating through nights relying on one window to bring in enough air to keep us comfortable? It is. It is enough, because when I wake up on the floor and see Pirate sleeping soundly on the toast, I look out the window at the town and the sea below us, re-align my spine, and consider the beautiful island I live on and the gorgeous beaches I frequent, the fresh food I prepare for Pirate and Les Monstres.

The question is, are two cups of coffee really enough for Pirate to begin talking to me in the morning or should he wait until I’ve had a third one – the coffee here just isn’t up to par you know….no seriously, have you had Blue Bottle Coffee? There’s just no going back from that….

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