Woo Hooooo I’m Rolling In It!!!

I was up to my eyelashes this morning planning our last-minute goodbye party for this weekend, when the phone rang. It’s actually the pre-goodbye party because I want to have another one at the Tanjong Beach Club the weekend after, but this pre-goodbye goodbye is at our house beautiful abode. The packers arrive next Monday, so it’s the last opportunity for an awesome blow-out on our glamorous roof terrace. I’m not really feelin’ it right now – my chi is not so much in a partying space – but once I’ve ruined Liz’s life (scheduled for tomorrow) I should be hot to trot.

Anyhoo, so my phone rang and it was my father’s lawyer. Haven’t heard from her in a good long while. She gave me the best news everrrr actually. Apparently before my father went proppa loopy, he decided to leave the bulk of his sizeable assets to myself and my sister, while he is still alive. That was what he’d always said he wuzgunna do, but being such a wuzgunna guy, I didn’t think it would actually happen… So how AMAZEBOBS izzat?!! Woohoo, huh babeses!!! I can totes keep that Burberry tote!!

I’m in such a great mood now that I’m going shopping. Maybe a champagne lunch with my girlies later. Nothing much happening at home anyway. Don is being all weird and doing tons of “fun stuff” with the irritants. They’ve all gone to Legoland in Malaysia. He didn’t even take the help! Yesterday it was Universal Studios for the gazillionth time (god how I loathe that place). He’s also buying them gifts left right and centre. Some seriously high-ticket items! He got Milly these Tiffany ear-rings: 18k rose gold with diamonds. What now, now?? (And excuse me, but where’s my gift?!)

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He went equally OTT for Max and got him an iWatch, but not just that! He even bothered to choose him a strap. It’s insania! This level of attention to detail is completely unlike him when it comes to the children. Work, yes. Irritants, noooooooo. I can only assume that he has lost his mind. Liz must have finally sucked all the sanity out of him. Care muchly, do I?? No, not a whole wad muchly.

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Flying Long-Haul With Irritants, ie. Children

Picasso's Guernica aka What it's like to fly with children

Picasso’s Guernica aka what it’s like to fly with children

It’s that time of year again when a bunch of the Expaterati are pootling off, hitherly and thitherly, on glamorous holidays or paying the piper back home. For many of us fab folk, this brings up the inevitable question of whether perhaps the children are now old enough to fly unaccompanied, or even stay behind for the summer with the help. The latter creates its own ramificatory problemations (because the people at home want to see the kids and the kids want to see the people at home), but all options suddenly become viable when faced with the hideous reality of flying for ten+ hours with our irritants.

Under these potentially traumatic circumstances, we could be forgiven for looking back longingly at our younger, child-free days, when flying was basically an airborne bar/ cinema (though even then some of us complained about how exhausting long-haul flights were), after which we would arrive at our gorgeous destination, and do exactly whatever TF we pleased. No whining, no incessant chatter. Just lovely lovely niceness. Mmmmmmmmmm.

So as much as I am loathe, dear readers, to pull you from that reverie, I am afraid that I have a duty to tell you:

THOSE DAYS ARE OVAAAAH.

Soz.

(Unless they aren’t for you, in which case whatevs and all, because oh kids are so cool and great, and stuff.)

Having been quite harsh with my insistence upon reinforcing realitification (cousin Clara the psychologist says true friends discourage self-delusion in one another, and I consider my readers to be nothing less than true friends), I can at the very least hereby thusly provide you with my tried and tested expert advice on the best ways to approach these dreadful issues.

Option 1: Fly Separately

a) Unaccompanied minors are still able to fly, as they were in the Glory Days of expat history. I believe there are now more restrictions, but cannot advise further as I do not work for an airline (I’d be awesome at that though). So you just get a different flight and meet them somewhere at the other end, or send a driver to pick them up from the airport.

b) Have your spouse fly with them. This is an excellent route, provided your spouse has no qualms about it, and will not use it in future as a source of poisonous resentment. Before pursuing this approach, I strongly suggest that you read my post on expat marital bliss and how to achieve it.

c) Have your helper do it. This is way better than 1.b) as you will be able to travel with your spouse, thereby strengthening the marital bondage, free of irritants, and you will not have to endure the hell at all. I do not personally know the practical ins and outs of this. I am not an immigration service. They have a very clear websites and you should look at them yourself.

Option 2: Sit Separately

Kids in Econ, you in Business or preferably First because it’s further away and therefore so worth the extra moolah. Sitting separately can be achieved by:

a) Bringing the help. Again, it’s not my place to advise on this or any other legal matters. I’m so over all that law stuff.

b) As once happened to moi, an airline which shall remain unnamed took Don aside during check-in and offered him, but not his family, an up-grade. Do not dismiss this offer. After an hour in the air, no jobsworth steward will dispute switching seats between spouses for touch-tag childcare. If they do, I have it on good authority that a few notes changing hands will remedy the situation (but this is, I stress, entirely hearsay).

c) Bite the bullet, buy one seat in the highest class you can afford, and apply the parental turn-taking strategy as per above.

Option 3: Fly and Sit Together, argh!!!

This is the most horrific option, but for many, the most difficult to avoid. If you want to arrive at your destination with your sanity intact and without the burden of a criminal record, I will now give you – entirely free of charge – the means to do so. You’re welcome, babeses.

a) Phene… phen… something, I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s an anti-allergy med that causes drowsiness in some children. I reiterate some because it can also have the opposite effect (as it does on Max and the Millster : ( hashtag bummer), and so must be tested in advance. Clara says we should never ever medicate our children to meet our own needs, nor to placate our anxieties or guilt as parents (and that American psychiatrists and drug companies are doing a number on young people today by over-prescribing bla bla yada yada… Clara should really chill out and have more fun, away from her job; she should totes become an expat and realise that there’s more to life than facing grim reality all the damn time). But Clara hasn’t been on a plane – five hours in, eight to go – with two wired irritants, and a hangover. So she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

b) As close as possible to the time of your flight (and overnights are best), take the kids to a crazy-making place like Universal Studios. Put them on every ride they’re tall enough to go on, regardless of protestation. Multiple times, if nec. Give them ice cream and highly-coloured frozen beverages. When they say they’re all funned out, keep sending them on the rides. Then go catch your flight. Once up in the air, feed them carbs and watch them fade. At most, it’ll be four nightmarish hours before you can switch to me time, for a few Veuve Clicks, and a couple movies that you’ve been meaning to see for ages.

c) The draining path of actually engaging with the irritants and “journeying with them”. Oh yawn. I got the text below from Doom and Gloom Expat Wifey’s blog (sheesh EVERY f***er has a blog these days!), and I can’t find the link right now, but it’s really not my job to promote other bloggers, right babeses??

So here are her recommendations. I can’t recall the name of her blog. Expat something-ish, I guess. Ok, I’ve sort of stolen it, but no one is going to enforce copyright law for blogs anyways. Ridic.

I have done many long-haul flights with our children from when they were tiny babies until now that they’re four and eight. Most of those flights, I’ve done alone because my husband is so busy with his work. I am definitely not an expert, but I’ve found things that worked for me, so I want to share them and hopefully hear from other people how they handle flying with kids. It’s hard, right? There’s no one single answer.

[Sheesh again, it’s so nauseating that she does that blogger thing of pretending to be all sweet and sharey, when actually she just wants to go viral with a popular topic, and get a publishing deal. Vom!!]

The easiest time to travel was the early months. My babies just slept and ate throughout flights, and I know it’s a bit scary for new parents, but honestly, while they’re infants, it’s fine. Hold them as much as they need, and feed them on take-off and landing if they’re awake. If they’re really upset and you feel ok about administering a painkiller, that might be the best thing to do because their ears could be hurting.

Once they can walk and are within the toddler bracket, it’s much tougher for parents. Take them for walks in the aisle and remember that, although some passengers might prefer not to be disturbed, many love young children and will welcome the opportunity of engagement that your toddler is seeking.

For the toddler years, the key to success is preparation and breaking the time down into manageable, repeatable sections, so that you feel in control. It’s about being fully aware of your own time-frame and the children’s routines, so that you can minimise their excitement of being in a different environment.

For kids that age, one important component is to bring with you a “Magic Bag of Fun”. I like to think of this as a little like a Christmas stocking, full of fun, interesting objects they haven’t seen before. Gradually offer items from this magic bag throughout the flight – interspersed with aisle walks – and eventually the toddler will shift from exploration to relaxation, and then to sleep.

Once your kids are around the age of three or four, they’ll begin to enjoy the flight experience of watching TV and see that as a treat, in addition to time on devices, should you choose to offer that.

From there on out, it’s plain sailing, or plain flying tee hee. As they get older, they are able to stay in their seats and entertain themselves. My kids are still young, but what I hear from parents of teenagers is that it’s not about the flight anymore (that part is easy), but what it represents, be it a happy or a sad departure. I can’t speak to that, personally.

That’s what’s worked for me. Happy flying, and above all, enjoy!!

So that’s her advice and it sounds pretty reasonable (albeit incrediblé dull), if there is truly no alternative to flying with your offspring. Based on my personal expertise, I would summatively conclude that parents encountering the troublesome trouble of travelling with their irritants employ any means necessary to ease their immense burden.

I hope that I have provided effective solutions, and in exchange for my outstanding assistance, it is surely no biggie to request your ongoing support with my campaign to get a second helper by clicking here. Come on, I gave you all that for nuthin!!

Inequality Rocks!

As dear readers are aware, the ongoing not-knowing about whether we’re repatting or wtf we’re doing is causing me some serioso stressoso, and actually it is beginning to interfere with my fabulous lifestyle and my rigorous self-maintenance regime. I’m doing my personal training with Eva and running a ton, but I’ve been too stressed to go to yoga (which means I haven’t seen Seth this week, but you know, whatevs). Today I decided to take Froo Froo dog for a walk along Orchard Road, to clear my brain. Who knows how much longer I’ll be sashaying my way down Orchard?! A grim thought…

The Froofster, so stylish in her diamanté tutu, came upon a hound of rather more mixed descent than herself, and in the unfortunate position of being naked, but for fur. My initial reaction was to try to extricate Froo’s nose from the other dog’s intimate areas, concerned that she might catch some dreadful illness, or an even worser affliction such as to fall in love which is the worst affliction known to man and beast. Froof seemed so enamored with the mongrel that I calmed myself by means of chanting, and allowed the proceedings to unfold as they might, in spite of my better judgement. Using my third eye, I observed the encounter: this meeting of mismatched beings, this “two worlds colliding”, (RIP gorgeous, tragic Mr Hutchence, we still miss you). And a fascinating deep thought came upon me from the unlikely source of the dogs’ derrières, which served to distract me from my own predicament.

The doggies got me reflecting on this mega zeitgeist thing that all the chattering classes are chattering about:

THE SO-CALLED SCOURGE OF INEQUALITY.

Following on from my ground-breaking study on social hierarchy among Singapore expats, I’m starting to think that I should become an economist or something. I surprise myself with how much knowledge I possess on the subject. It’s like it just comes naturally to me! Amazebobs, I know.

So I for one am a mahusiv fan of inequality because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today: vastly over-edicated, living a glamorous expat life in tropical climes, sharing said glamorous life (as well as my unrivaled expertise) with the masses, and owning a Maserati. It’s also super doops for my children because they have opportunities that other less equal people’s children don’t have, and it’s wonderful for any auxiliary staff whom we employ during our long lifetimes (made longer by proactive, preventative, private healthcare), in that they have employment. So it’s a win-win-win, I think we can all agree.

BUTTT. Butt, but, but apparently some people don’t agree. Crazybobs, I know!! Apparently some people say that it’s not ok because the rich are getting richer and the gap between the top 1% and um, all the others, is growing like never before. My response to them is, “Tell that to Dickens, babeses!”

It was abso no biggie then, and I can’t see why it’s such a biggie now.

Yet a biggie it does seem to nonetheless therefore thusly be! So like I read this v baffling New York Times article about it all and something about how things at the top become more “fractal” and stuff. I think it’s humbug jealorosity from the peeps not at the top that quite a few people now can afford to spend $179.4m on a painting, while a whole bajillion bunch of other people can’t. Can we not just be happy for those nice people who’ve worked so hard to have enough cash to spend on art? Do we even want that painting on our wall?? No, babeses, we do not. We want gigantic TVs on the wall so that we can watch Netflix and reality shows. Picasso Schmicasso.

Howsoever.

I have some non-expat friendses back in the UK who are quite unhappy about the election result (why??! Cameron will repeal the ban on fox hunting, do what-not with the Human Rights thingie, and we’ll all wake up the next day, have a cup of tea and it’ll be ok), and it’s these friendses who insist on telling me that inequality is a very bad thing.

So one friend for example – we’ll call her Miserable Marge – she goes on about the cuts in education, the National Health Service (which I think is like BUPA, but with worse hospital food), the criminal justice system, and the arts and all that. Marge says that very wealthy people can basically pay their way through life, for themselves and for their children; but families who are even marginally well-off, with both parents working, or not at all well-off, they’re struggling to stay afloat.

As an enormously empathic person, I feel for these strugglers, I really do. But my wisdom tells me that if they were meant to have money and power in this world, so it would be. Money and power are of course the most important things, as alluded to in this much-debated piece on Upper East Side housewives. (Actually, I won’t put the link in. Is the writer going to thank me for selling more copies of her book??) Maybe all those folk not in the 1% are so busy pursuing silly things like having a worthwhile, meaningful, principled, ethical existence that they’ve overlooked money and power. No wonder that they have neither!

I know what I’d rather have!!! Veuve Click at the beach club with my Expaterati girlies on an average Sunday avo, and plenty of time to create awesome expat rap. So what if my kids experience repeated “transition and loss issues”, bla bla bla?? They can have therapy when they’re older. And they’ll be able to afford it because they’ll speak six languages and run hedge funds. So I have v little time for this (frankly Communist) attitude from Miserable Marge and her cohorts.

Continuing my series of Master-Selfies, this is me paying homage to that Picasso painting. Imagine how much this version would’ve fetched! Hashtag priceless : )

Continuing my series of Master-Selfies, this is me paying homage to that Picasso painting. Imagine how much this version would’ve fetched! Hashtag priceless : )

The Theatre of Expat Families

I realise, dear readers, that I haven’t mentioned my father much lately, what with his shady doings at Shady Elms – nor Mummy at all for a v long time, and I would like to tell you for why. Firstly, in re my Wuzgunna Dad (he always wuzgunna do a ton of stuff, but never did), the thing is that it’s all rather annoying and therefore thusly bad for my chi. As expats, we choose to live thousands of miles away from our families, so I find that any contact between myself and his world means that his life encroaches upon mine in a most heinous fashion. So as long as his trophy wifey, now replaced by a nice old dear at the home, doesn’t phone me up and go on about him, I am much happier just getting on with doing my thang.

As to Mummy, she cut short her visit to us last year, leaving under a cloud on Boxing Day. She said some terribly unkind and totes untruesome things to me, which, frankly, ruined my Chrimbo, and we have hardly been in communicando since then. She has not apologised for her attacks on my self, nor has she taken any steps to make amends. Hence therefore thusly, neither have I. She sees Max and Milly on Skype each week, but this is usually facilitated by the helper, with whom Mummy has maintained a spectacularly inappropriate relationship. (As if she doesn’t know any better from her own decades of having staff! Bizarre.)

That said, I am glad that she and the irritants are keeping up their bond as I think it’s v important, particularly if we are repatting in the near future. It occurred to me today that if we do return to the Yukes, I may need Mummy for childcare or other assistance, and as she insists upon keeping up this childishness of not speaking, I suppose that it falls to me to take the first humiliating steps towards reconciliation. I had hoped it wouldn’t come to this. One of the many great things about being an expat is not needing to pay too much attention to family members back home, and a vast number of people make the decision to become expats for this very reason. For other reasons, click here to read my previous ground-breaking post on the subject.

So I am currently considering how I might approach this sticky issue, with the least humiliation possible on my part. I suppose that I must accept that all families are indeed psychotic, and whether we like it or not, even with the extreme step of moving far, far away (hmmmm, perhaps we ought to have moved even further away…), we still unfortunately belong to them.

I’m thinking all of these profound thoughts because at the weekend I saw a play about this very topic. I went to do a theatre review for the Singapore International Women and Trailing Spouses’ Association monthly magazine. The editor knows of my great literary prowess, so of course she tasked me with the task. The play is called Tribes, and I thought it was v interesting, and quite refreshingly sweary, but two obstacles unfortunately presented themselves in pursuance of my mission: firstly, I couldn’t remember how to do Pitman’s shorthand, and b) by the end of the play I was crying so much that what I had managed to write was all a big soggy mess in my notebook. I can’t even say for sure what I was crying about – it was just like, kind of really sad in a totes unfathomable way. I’m so mysterious, what with my deep emotions and stuff.

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Amazebobs play what I saw

I got the main synopsis, that here was a family in England who liked a shout and had some Issues, and one of their three grown-up kids (all of whom had left home, but then come back – argh I hope that doesn’t happen with my irritants!) was deaf. Beyond that, I was fairly baffed.

Luckily, in the foyer afterwards I ran into my Harvard friend, Marni, who I haven’t seen for yonks. The last time I saw her was at this awesome talk organised by SheSays (there’s another one this Thursday which I totes want to go to if I’m not out partying). I asked Marni what tf the play was really about, hoping that she would offer to ghost-write the review for me. No such offer was forthcoming : (, but she explained that her understandio of the piece was that it was: “An exploration of identity, and fitting in, and the dichotomy between needing to belong – what we give up of ourselves by adapting to a group – and our need to be separate individuals. And separation can become alienation… isolation… which is also painful. So if we look at the family entity as a microcosm for society, the play, from my perspective anyway, is a story about how we negotiate belonging and not belonging, and the inherent losses we experience, but also the gains. A bittersweet piece, I thought. And some great performances. The actors really got under the skin of the characters. There were moments when I felt that I was there, a fly on the wall in a Cambridge living room… Oh, hi!! How are you?”

I had been so intent on writing down everything Marni was saying that I didn’t notice Mrs Doom and Gloom expat wifey sidling up to us. [Why am I constantly running into this woman?? It’s like the universe is trying to tell me something but what?? Or maybe the universe is trying to tell her something. Yes that’s much more likely. It’s trying to tell her to kick back, chillax and enjoy the fabulousness with which we expat wives – we lucky few – have been blessed.]

“Hi EJ, hi Marni”, D & G said, while incorrectly doing the expat wife protocol greeting. The woman can’t even air-kiss right. She does this awful face bashing thing and because I have v pronounced model-like cheekbones, I am in agony for days after an encounter with her. It’s so not worth it.

“Marni, I’m really interested in what you were saying about the play because I found it very moving, and it made me think about my own children, and what it means for them to grow up in this transient expat community. Because it’s like we, as parents, have chosen this lifestyle for them, and they adapt, don’t they? That’s what the TCK literature says, that they become experts at adapting. And the play made me wonder about how not only are they adapting to fit in with their changing environments, but actually, all the time they’re also adapting to us, to their own family. The people who are the constants during the changes. But we’re adapting too! Or trying to, anyway!! So as an anthropologist, what’s your take on this… on how it relates to us as expats?”

She finally stopped talking and I looked at Marni, ready to roll my eyes when she met my gaze, but she didn’t meet my gaze. Instead, she turned towards D & G, as if I was invisible or deaf or something, and started chatting away with mahusiv enthusiasm.

“I think you’re absolutely spot on with that comparison. I was turning it over myself, though I don’t have children yet, and I think you’re right that expat kids – or anyone from mobile populations – have another layer to negotiate around adapting to be part of a group, while choosing also to stand alone, or to “find their own voice”, like the play refers to. From what I’ve read, it’s particularly relevant to expat kids returning to their passport culture when they fly the nest, as in the play. A lot of them do go back to their parents sooner or later, and it’s like they need to go back, so as to differentiate parts of their identity that they couldn’t explore in the course of their acrobatic adaptations. I mean, like Darwin said, ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor even the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’. So adapting isn’t something these young people do lightly or that just happens. It’s about survival. It’s tribal. It’s about meeting ancient human needs.”

“Oh, that’s so fascinating!”, replied D & G, as if she had understood a damn word of it, when I’m sure she was as utterly baffed as I was.

“I completely agree”, D & G went on, “And I’m going to have a think about what I can do to understand my family better, and how our kids are adapting… How I can help in that process so that they find their own voices. Thank you, Marni, thanks so much!”, she kissed Marni (ouch, poor lovely smartsville Marni’s cheeks).

“Don’t thank me! The play obviously brought up a lot for you, as it did for me. Thank goodness for theatre, huh?”

D & G said she had to go, and I didn’t swerve in time to avoid the next cheekbone assault. I needed to run too because I had to pick up the irritants from a stupid kiddie party. So I didn’t manage to get more deets for the review out of Marni*. Those children. They’re the bain of my otherwise glorious existence.


*But I did manage to get this from a post Marni later put on her Facebook page, so I borrowed it, along with some of the other stuff she’d said:

FB Friends, I want to recommend a play to you. Tribes is another wonderful production from Pangdemonium, lovingly and poignantly performed by an amazing cast. We’re lucky to have them, given the current local and global funding crisis in the arts, so please go and support them in their vital work. Whether correctly attributed or not, I am reminded of this quote: “When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply replied, “then what are we fighting for?'”

I didn’t use that last bit for the review because, like everything Churchill supposedly said, it has zero to do with our lives today. Obviously what we’re fighting for is the ability to buy more stuff, eat at fabulous restaurants, go on beautiful holidays, and generally have an amazebobs time. That is, quite clearly, our birthright or we’d have been born as other, more lowly creatures.

Tribes, babeses

Tribes, babeses

Expat Ex-Wife Flying Solo

1408995526zolbvDespite being the incredibly resilient woman that I am, I’m really feeling quite miserablé about the prospect of returning to the UK. There is a triumvirate (thanks again to M in India for that awesome word!) of reasonation for my woes.

Firstly, the weather. London, of course, has its own micro-climate which makes it that much nicer than the rest of the country, but it is still quite crappy compared to Singas. I can’t get my head around not just chucking on Chanel flip-flops every day as I sashay out the front door, dodging clamouring fans and tourists who want in on my glamorous life. (The lack of clamouring is also not so appealing, which makes me think we should move to a house with one of those lovely blue plaques from English Heritage. I suppose we could just get the plaque made ourselves. I’d quite like one that says Charles Dickens. That would be way cool.)

Secondly, but related to the weather, is the issue of snot-ridden children. As dear readers will know from previous posts , I cannot abide by snot, and like I have said before, Crouch End is positively awash with the stuff. If Max and Milly become one of those children, I don’t know how I am going to cope. I’m all for unconditional love of our irritants, but vile effluvia raises a v real obstacle to that IMO.

Thirdly, and this the the most worrying part of my dire situation: no live-in help! Never mind my ongoing quest for a second helper, at home they have these awful laws about minimum wage and how many hours a person can work which prevent us from having even one live-in. ARGH!! And yet I have two children to look after! It’s terribly unfair because it means that either I do literally nothing else besides irritant and home-related tasks, or I squeeze in other things such as a rewarding job, a social life (which would be a fraction of what it is here), and my gruelling health and beauty regime, in which case I will be perpetually exhausted. I certainly won’t have the time to continue sharing my glamorous life with you, beloved babeses, as I will barely find the time to have a glamorous life : (

I was thinking these thoughts today at the hairdressers, and before I knew what was up-ski, I felt a big sad tear running down my cheek. I must have looked truly tragic because the expat ladeee seated next to me took pity on me, handed me a tissue and asked if I was ok. She was super sweet and reminded me of Angelina Jolie, smiling beatifically as she goes about her charitable missions. It made me think that maybe I should abandon my Kate Middleton smile and channel Angelina instead. Because Angelina is also hot and has a hot hus, so perhaps that would be a good transition for me as part of the repatriation process. I could even switch to her hairdo. Make a fresh start. Become a new repat EJ through being Angelina-ish. Ya think??

The woman told me her name was Katie (LOL #weirdness!!), and said she’d be at the salon for a while, in case I needed someone to talk to. I guess I must have because I started telling her about my life as an expat, my marriage, and my dreadfully difficult predicament of now having to return home against my wishes. The words just tumbled out of me. I even told her about when I thought Don was having an affair, and that now I think he probably surely isn’t, but actually I only probably surely think that because he said I was being ridic.

Katie listened and smiled sadly, saying, “Something quite similar happened to me actually, with my ex-husband. He met another woman here, and said I should go home with the children. I was lucky though, much luckier than some, because my business was going well, and I had just managed to get my own Employment Pass. If I had still been on a Dependent Pass, I would have had no choice but to leave. Tim didn’t want the kids cramping his style with his new relationship, so he did everything he could to persuade me not to stay. It was hard. And hopefully your husband isn’t doing that, but it sounds like what you’re going through is very difficult.”

“It so is, babe!”, I said, “And I really appreciate that you get where I’m coming from. It’s just so hard to talk to my actual friends because, you know, we’re all mainly having an awesome time all the time. And if Don is having an affair, well, that’s just… that’s just… humiliating!! What does it say about me?? Where does it leave me..? What if this whole repat thing is about sending me and the kids home, and he’s secretly planning to do a u-turn and say we’re leaving, but he’s staying?…”

When I started crying again, Katie got up from the chair, her head full of foils, and gave me a hug.

“How did you do it? How did you cope with being so massively humiliated and so horribly dumped… cast aside, like a disgusting old piece of rubbish??”, I asked, sobbing elegantly into her neck.

She gave me another tissue and sat back down, pulling her chair and the head-heater thingie closer to me.

“You will be ok, whatever happens, and you just have to believe that. If he is seeing this other woman – Liz, did you say? – then it’s really not about you as a person, it’s about him. It’s about whatever has changed inside him, not about who you are. And you will get through this. If I did it, anyone can.”

“Ok”, I faltered, unconvinced, “What did you do?”

“I moved to a smaller place with our kids, switched them to local schools, and I worked 70 or even 80 hours a week, for a long long time. Thankfully I was able to keep our wonderful helper. She is like the co-parent for me. Tim has a baby now with the other woman, and he sees our kids every few weeks, but only because I’ve insisted on it. He has only ever contributed the bare minimum, so I really didn’t have much choice. The choice was between going back to a place I hadn’t lived for years, taking the children away from the only home they knew, and seeing their father maybe once a year, as well as me losing the business I had worked so hard on, or doing what I have done. But now it’s a few years down the line, and I’ve been able to hire some people, so work has eased off. I get to spend much more time with the children. And I can even get my hair done once in a while!”

She grinned as she said that, and I wondered what my hair would look like if I could only get it done “once in a while”. As well as what I would feel like if I lived in a tiny flat, and worked for 70 hours a week. Seven zero!! That seems rather a lot.

I was deep in reflection when Katie began speaking again: “But you know, I have learned things about myself through this experience that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. There were days when I thought I couldn’t go on, when I wondered if it was really worth it… when I had a hard time believing that it would all be ok. And I wondered if I had made the right decision, or if I should’ve left. But now I see that it was the right decision, not because it was the easy one, but because it was my decision. No one else’s. I made sacrifices, but they were worth it. For me and for the children. I look at my three little girls, not so little anymore, they’re teenagers ha!… I can’t believe it!!… I look at them and I see three strong, independent-minded, thoughtful young women. And that makes everything we went through worthwhile. So you’ll be ok. Just believe that.”

My hair was finished and my mani-pedi was dry. I wanted to stay and talk to Katie some more, but she said apologetically that she had a conference call, and I thought I had better not cancel my girlies’ date for high tea at Raffles. My hair looked frankly stunning, and thankfully my bullet-proof mascara had not suffered unduly from the emotional journey I had endured with the lovely Angelina doppelgänger.

Just the Usual Expat Hol in Paradise

A spot of beach art, where the other half (3/4? 7/8?) lives.

A spot of beach art, where the other half (3/4? 7/8?) lives.

Following my completes crappola Chrimbo (who would have thought it would’ve sucked so badly that morning when I was making my Expat Exmas Message, like Her Maj?), we are now on our fabulous holiday in Boracay. Boragrad, if you must know, babeses, LOL.

Another top-notch hotelee por supesto, to wind away all the stresses and strains of my equally fabulous life. That said, even with the kids’ club, I’m rather wishing we’d brought the help along. I had forgotten the full horror of the tedium that bath and bedtime can be with Max and Mills. I am having to do it myself!! And I don’t mean supervising! So, after a full day of lounging in the sun, and attending to my rigorous health and beauty regime at the gym and spa, I then get myself all worked up on the few evenings we don’t hire a sitter, thanks to the irritants. Well happy bleeping holidays to me! Don, as always, said that bringing the helper was “unconscionable”, and that holidays should be just the family. Hmmmmm. This means that I don’t really have a holiday!! Which leads me to conclude that:

Paradise – Help = Almost Hell

Gandhi said something very similar when he observed that, “Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as”… I’ve lost the rest of the quote, but the skinny is that it’s totes ideal for me to depend on my helper because she depends on us for her livelihood; and it’s totes reasonable for me to have a bit of a sh** hol without her.

As if things weren’t bad enough, guess, dear readers, who is here. One of my all-time least favourite members of the Singapore Expaterati: Doom and Gloom Expat Wifey. Ugh-amundo. I know you feel my pain.

On our very first day here, I noticed Mills in the pool, playing with another little girl who looked vaguely familiar. Returning my attention to my iPad edition of Vogue, I heard a kerfuffle from the pool, as an adult waded in – yes, D & G Wifey – telling Milly to stop pulling the other girl’s hair. Oh Lordy, Mills! Being the responsible parent that I am, I had no choice but to put down my iPad, and dive elegantly into the pool, to pretend to reprimand Milly. Poor kid. The other little girl, Janine, has obviously inherited her mother’s dour looks and tote lack of humour, so I’m sure she got nothing more than she deserved, but what else could I do??

Once I’d forced Mills into a half-arsed apology, I then had to make polite conversation with D & G: how lovely to bump into you, what a coincidence (yeah, right), how’s your hol, are you having a good time, ra ra ra.

She was apparently gagging for someone to talk to, because she launched straight into her standard doom and gloom diatribe. I noted from her lack of woven resort bag (only available to the upper echelons) that she must not be staying in one of the villas. Probably in the main cell block. In the timeless words of Beyoncé, “Sucks to be you right nooooow”. Wise woman, that Queen Bee.

“Oh, I suppose I’m having a good time…” she began, her dull preamble warning of so much worseness ahead.

“I wanted to go home for Christmas, or maybe skiing, but Fred’s PA couldn’t take much time off, so Fred decided we’d better not go too far away. And they’re flying back before me and the kids anyway.”

“But, babes”, I told her, “Skiing is just so wet and cold, and accidenty. And England is totes miz right now, with the yucky climate, and all that economy stuff… still… I think… Here we’ve got the beautiful relaxing beach, and the lovely weather… Um, apart from the whole tropical storm thang, but that’ll pass”.

“Yeah, I know….,” she said, and for a moment I thought she might shut up, so that I could dash back to my sun bed. Alas, alack, and mega-bummer, I was profoundly mistaken. She went on.

“It’s just that we’ve been on so many of these trips: Bali, Langkawi, Krabi, Koh Samui, Yogyakarta, Hoi An…”, she continued, as I switched off and admired how smooth my freshly waxed Brazilian was looking.

“Bla bla bla, fa ba na noo fa bla, and at this point, the whole of Southeast Asia has just merged into one big blur of white sand, palm trees, and resorts. When I look back over the years, I can barely distinguish one holiday from the next. How sad is that?!”

I re-engaged with her bla when I noticed that the gel nail on my thumb was lifting, and much as I loathe nail-biting, I found myself gnawing at it.

“And what really gets me is”, she droned on, “I’m getting so tired of being the well-off Westerner, surrounded by locals calling me Ma’am, who bow and scrape in the name of good customer service. I can’t relax when I know that the people around me are so much worse off. It’s the inequality of it all! What does it teach our children?”

[OH GOD, kill me!! JUST KILL ME NOW!!!, I thought prettily.]

“And Thailand! Just awful. We were there last year for Christmas, and I heard such incredibly devastating stories about the tsunami. Whole families, wiped out. Babies, children. I thought, how can I sit on this idyllic beach, knowing what happened right here, just a few years ago? Horrendous.”

I tasted thick saltiness, and looked down at my thumb to find that it was bleeding. The woman was boring me so much that I had actually started to bite off my own hand. Enough was enough.

“Darling sweetie babes”, I managed to say, following a quick check-in with my higher power, “The fact is that without us well-off whities coming and spending our spondooli, these nice people wouldn’t even have jobs. We’re doing them a favour! The least we can do is have a good time, honey. Don’t we owe them that much?!”

I hoped that my impassioned words might turn the situation around, but she got her mouth straight back in there: “That’s a ridiculous argument! The fact is that our spondooli, as you call it, is because of disproportionate salaries, earned through the exploitation of people just like the ones working in this hotel, borne out of their disadvantage and our good fortune. We did nothing to deserve this, any more than they deserve the poverty they come from!”

O
EM
GEE

I found, then, that I was sucking my (half-eaten, bloody) thumb – something I haven’t done since childhood. Doom and Gloom Expat Wifey woman, I shouted silently in my head, it’s only Day One, and you have RUINED my holiday.

Gott sei dank, D & G’s helper suddenly appeared from nowhere, saying, “Ma’am, I am the one to take Janine for her nap?”

D & G nodded, “Yes please, Reyann”.

“Well, that’s lovely anyway!”, I chipped in, determined now to either lift this bleeping woman’s mood or get the bejesus away from her.

“At least you have the help with you!! Lucky old you, babes! Don never wants to do that, and frankly it’s a nightmare come truesome!”

“You say that”, (oh ffs, despite my awesome adorableness of niceness, she was finding a way to persist), “but the thing is that I knew she would have a better Christmas here with us than lonely in Singapore, while all her friends are working, or if we sent her home to her family. When she goes home, she comes back a stone lighter, and completely exhausted. Do you know what she does when she has a holiday at home?”

It was patently clear that I didn’t give a rat’s bottom, but evidently the woman has none of my empathic or intuitive skills when it comes to observing the responses of others. Instead of noticing that I was desperate to get back to Vogue, she…

Kept.

On.

Talking.

“She works on the family farm! For fifteen hours a day, every day! Can you believe that?! And not only that -”

While she was talking, her husband’s PA sauntered over, a vision in white linen.

“Mrs Davis,” he murmured – golly, such a treacle voice for a man! how divine!!, “Mr Davis asked me to tell you that he and I unfortunately have work to do, and will be gone for some time. He’s so sorry. He booked you a few treatments at the spa, and I’m awfully sorry I didn’t let you know earlier, because the first appointment is in five minutes. There’s a buggy waiting for you at the lobby. You should probably hurry. Have a great time!”

And with that, the delightful cloud of a man floated away on the honeyed gusts of his own voice.

What a charming chappie, I thought, and how fortuitous that:

A. D & G’s sweet husband had booked her a pile of fab treatments,

and

2.) She was gone, and I wouldn’t have to listen to her hideous whining any longer.

 

I got back to my Vogue, but promptly fell asleep. I must have been plain plum tuckered by that woman’s chi. Assaulted, I would say. I have had to do a veritable sh**load of chanting since then to cleanse myself.

Are Expat Kids Lucky?

Because of my interest, and growing expertise, in psychology, I have decided to start a new page, to discuss issues faced by expat children. From what I hear, some expat children and young people struggle with the transitions, so I want to explore that. Not my kids, of course. They’re totally well-adjusted and we’ve never had any trouble from them. They don’t even mind long haul flights; they just sleep, especially if I give them that anti-allergy stuff.

Saying that, since we got back from the UK in the summer, Milly has started kicking the dog, which is unlike her. She’s quite big (not fat, you understand, just bigger than other kids her age, probably because she was exclusively breastfed), and the dog is quite small.

So I’m not sure what that’s about. I hope she stops soon. The dog hopes so too LOL : )

Anyway, because I don’t have any readers’ questions, I thought I would start this page by asking Clara what she thinks is an important issue for expat kids, and then discuss that. She mailed me yesterday, and we had our first Skype session, hence… (drum roll please lol!)….. On the Skype Couch with Emma-Jane. My first topic is whether expat kids are lucky, and you can read it here.

 

The Help

The main problem with my helper is that she has absolutely no idea how normal people live. It makes me feel so sorry for these people, when I think how they must live at home.

I am a late-comer to Downton Abbey, and it has been a real eye-opener watching it this past year, now that we have full-time help. It has made me realize that I would have been a lot happier if I had lived in those times, when you could get an army of local domestic staff who spoke your language, and really knew what they were doing. Our helper didn’t know how to polish silver when she started : ( Training her was such an exhausting task that I decided to send her on a course. They have some excellent helper courses here, thankfully. What is really nice is that they run them on Sundays, which is her day off, so we don’t have to manage without her during the rest of the week.

I have to say though, she is a true gem when it comes to the kids. I hardly have to spend any time with them at all now. I’m more in a supervisory role really, and that’s what I am mostly good at because I have read a lot of books about child development, I did a six-week certificated training in counseling children, and I keep up to date on what products I need to buy to best support Max and Milly through these vitally important early years. I dread to think how other, less well-informed expat parents deal with the challenges of raising nomadic children. Perhaps I should set up a course on that. I do have a certificate, after all.

Shoes for the Under-Priviledged

I still just love those shoes where you buy a pair, and then someone somewhere who can’t afford shoes gets a pair too. Win-win : )

I hope it’s sustainable though. If their margins aren’t high enough, there won’t be any more shoes for poor people, and that would be a terrible shame. Maybe they would have to change the system, so that each time they sell a pair, the poor person gets just one shoe, either the left or the right, and then has to wait for another sale to be made to get a shoe for the other foot. Then there would be an administrative problem though, and they would have to spend more money, hiring people to keep track of which shoe the poor person still needed. God, I hope they have thought this through.

I wish Prada would do something like that because that’s where I mainly like to get my shoes from. I guess that if they did, they couldn’t afford to have such nice stuff because they couldn’t pay the designers enough to make it worth their while.

When Max got home from school today I had to take him to buy a present for his little friend’s birthday at the weekend. He was quite tired because he has mandarin after school on Thursdays (one hour a day as part of the curriculum just isn’t enough; 6-year old brain cells grow at the speed of light, and we have to get that Chinese in there asap because our children absolutely must learn the language to compete in this global economy), so I decided to go to the Toys R Us which is 5 minutes’ walk away, instead of the slightly bigger one which takes 7 minutes to get to, or the really huge one which is a 12 minute walk.

Bless him, Max was feeling a bit sad. He was talking about how much he misses his big cousins back home, and that he wishes he could see them more often so that they could help him get to the next level on Minecraft. So sad, poor thing. I hate it when he says he wants to go home.

When we were choosing the present, he wanted to get the same thing for himself. First I thought, ok that’s not a good habit to get into; but then he got all sad again about wanting to go home, and asked why we’re here anyway when all our family are somewhere else and we have a perfectly nice house in London.

It is just so hard to be an expat kid, I suppose. So I bought him the toy, but I got him the bigger, more expensive version of the one we got for his friend (the friend will never know). He’s in his room now with the helper, playing fighting games with the new toy, and he seems much happier than he was earlier. No mention of going home at all!