Saturday, July 25, 2009

Being an Expat: Out of This World?

My daughter came home from school this afternoon with a tattoo. It had been a prize for something. They give the children little prizes and treats the whole time here – it drives me nuts. Anyway, she said that the teacher had told her “stick to your face”. I didn’t want her to have a tattoo on her face, for heaven’s sake, so I was just persuading her to put it on her arm, when I saw what it was. It was a picture of a cross, with the motto “stick to your faith”.

Well, I was outraged. I don’t like the whole tattoo, body art thing on a 6 year old in any case, but that aside, the school isn’t a religious one, and I just felt the teacher was making huge assumptions. I mean, this might be the Bible Belt, but brain-washing young children through tattoo slogans, that is a bit Below the Belt. I was going to phone the Principal straightaway, and tell her how I felt. I think a school should be a haven of cultural sensitivity, as well as an establishment of learning. And I am well-placed to know, since my husband is a university lecturer, and if that is what universities strive to be, then so should elementary schools. You can't start too young.

I didn’t make the phone call, though. I stopped and took a few deep breaths. Thank heavens for those NCT ante-natal classes and the breathing exercises! I calmed down, but it did make me think what a difficult job I have to do, raising a child in a foreign culture.

People underestimate how hard it is, being an expat. It’s not just remembering to say ‘tomaydo’ instead of ‘tomahto’, ‘dennist’ instead of ‘dentist’, or ‘refrigerator’ instead of ‘fridge’. It’s a question of adapting to a whole new way of life. It’s as if your whole physical, emotional, moral, religious, ethical and tactile sphere of operation has been turned upside down.

I thought of a rather good metaphor for this. If you moved from the northern to southern hemisphere, the very stars in the night sky would be different. I think they even move in the opposite direction. Your whole world has been literally turned upside-down. I am very aware of these things, as my husband Des is a university lecturer in Astro-physics.

I asked him what he thought, and he said

“Sweetie, I think you’re a bit confused. We’re still in the northern hemisphere. The US is in the northern hemisphere.”

I replied “I know that. Duuuh. It’s joined on to Canada, which is pretty much the North Pole. What I mean is that it is as if we had moved to South Africa, or New Zealand, or Australia, and are looking at the stars.”

Des clearly needed time to reflect. He pushed back his recliner, pulled his baseball cap down over his eyes, rubbed his big belly, belched loudly and said

“Hon, could you quit yabberin’ and get me another beer?”

So I went to the refrigerator and got him one. When a man needs a beer, a man needs a beer. My refrigerator. That’s a whole blog post in its own right. Its HUGE, and has a chilled water dispenser on the front, and an ice-maker inside. I’ll have to explain what that is another time (hint: there’s a clue in the name).

See what I mean? One minute you’re helping your daughter put on a tattoo, and the next, you’re questioning your place in the universe, and wondering how your husband found it so easy to transition from warm beer to cold, and realizing that only a few months ago, you had no idea what an ice-maker was. No, it’s not easy being an expat mum.

Iota Manhattan of Not wrong, just different has been Dee in this post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I was approached by a company called So, Pleasure! and asked if I’d like to review one of their products. It’s called a baruvsope, and it’s to replace the pump-action handwash that you have in your bathroom. It’s meant to be more natural, and apparently it dates back centuries. It originated in ancient Persia, hence the exotic name, but at one time its use was widespread throughout Europe. My mum says she remembers it from her childhood.

Well, the baruvsope comes in a neat little packet, with instructions. You need a little dish to put it in, and I can see why that would be – it does leave a bit of a mess on the side of the basin. I tried the simple use first, which involves an action where you wet your hands, and then, holding the baruvsope between your hands, you rub them back and forth. Eventually you get a lather, and it smells nice. Then you have to put it down again, in the dish, and rinse off the lather. For more advanced users, there’s a movement that they described as ‘like rolling a fish over and over in your hands’, and this gets the lather going more quickly, but I didn’t master that. The baruvsope got very slippery, and kept leaping out of my hands.

So my verdict. On the plus side, it did leave my hands smelling nice, and I like the idea of the little china dish beside the basin, to add a touch of old-worldly charm to a bathroom. Baruvsope comes in different colours and fragrances, and they can be as exotic as you like. Looking through the So, Pleasure! Catalogue, I liked the look of the French Carbolique and the Egyptian Kohl Ta’ar. They sounded very sensuous and romantic.

On the minus side, I’m not sure I could relax as a mother, without the peace of mind that comes with using my anti-bacterial handwash or my alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel. I suppose if I had a baruvsope, I would probably wash with the handwash first, and then use the baruvsope afterwards, to give a nice fragrance to my hands. But as anyone with a baby will tell you, time for life’s little luxuries is scarce and I’m not sure I would really ever get into this habit. I don’t see it catching on with mums, to be honest.

So my conclusion is that I might buy a baruvsope as a novel gift for a friend, an intriguing peek into a world of luxury items that time has forgotten, but I don’t see myself as a regular user.

Iota Manhattan of Not wrong, just different has been Dee in this post.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Designer Changing Bag Giveaway!!

Luckily for me, when the traumatic incident that I told you about in my last post happened, I had my new Camille Burgoyne brown and turquoise all-in-five changing bag with me. PHEW!! Click on this link if you'd like to see the range, and if you send me a blank cheque, I'll enter you into my competition for one. The first 5 blank cheques I get will win, but I'll still fill in and bank the others, so don't worry if you're not reading this blog post within the first hour of it being published. I like a competition where everyone gets something. Must be the party-planning Mummy in me! I helped my sister organise my niece’s party, which I had at my home because oh, that's just so much nicer than paying “other people” at “a venue” to entertain your children (although that's fine too, if you want to do that). I made sure that all the children won a game, and then EVERYONE got a prize!!

But I digress. Back to the Camille Burgoyne bags. They are just GREAT!!! Take it from me. You open the top, and you put everything you need inside: nappies, wipes, sudocrem, rattley toy to keep Baby amused while you are doing the business. Everything fits!!! That is what good design is ALL about! Every mummy should have a Camille Burgoyne bag, and HERE'S YOUR CHANCE!!!

Iota Manhattan of Not wrong, just different has been Dee in this post.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A trip to the “poo-permarket”


Have any of you other more experienced mums had that dreadful experience? You know... You're in the checkout queue, and all of a sudden, you're wondering if the eggs in the box on the conveyor belt are past their sell-by date and have just cracked? Then you notice someone behind you turn to their neighbour and point at your child. OH NO!!!!!!! Your child has pooed!!!!! What can you do???!

I finished packing my bags, and paid, and then asked if there was a public loo. The cashier said there wasn't - it’s only a small, local supermarket - but I could use the staff loo. So I had to get the manager to escort me, and he was busy, so I had to wait FIVE minutes. I mean, don't people know the meaning of customer service these days? Poor little Shortcake's bottom! Five minutes is enough to make her sore. She's got such sensitive skin! Anyone got any tips on the best nappy rash creams? My health visitor just says to use Sudocrem, and it works really well, but I'm a bit worried about all those chemicals.

Anyway, I marched past the sniffy woman in the queue. I knew that I'd say something rude to her, if I opened my mouth, so I just put my nose in the air and walked past. And Shortcake gave her such an adorable smile that I’ve no doubt her heart just melted, but I didn’t deign to turn my head and look. I changed Shortcake on the floor of the staff loo (Imagine! No changing table in the staff loo! I’m going to email the NCT about that one). Thank goodness for the handy fold-away Changeroo mat that I always carry with me. WHAT did people do before these were invented? Then with Shortcake all spick and span, I went to collect my trolley which luckily was still there, as the kind manager had offered to watch it for me, and we headed off to the car. The whole thing had only taken 20 minutes, which I was pleased about, as I really would have felt bad if the manager had had to watch the trolley longer than that. It’s probably quite a busy job.

The best thing about the whole experience was this. I’ve come so far as a mother, as a mummy! If you’d told me a few years ago about this incident, I’d have died. I would have cringed at the thought of my child pooing in public, and not just anywhere in public, but in a supermarket where fresh food is on display. “Yeurrrgh, disgusting!!!” I’d have said. But now I am pretty used to the kind of humiliation that motherhood involves, and I just smile to myself, and know that it is totally just so worth it when I give Shortcake a cuddle and she gives me one back. And I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet, but I just have to say that I was pleased with myself with the way I dealt with it. In my early days, I think I’d have run out to the car and driven home as quickly as possible with Shortcake, poo or no poo, or maybe I’d have burst into tears. But these days, I’m soooo much more confident, and that’s a very good feeling.

Does anyone else have any supermarket stories to share?

Iota Manhattan of Not wrong, just different has been Dee in this post.


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