So, back to the original question: ‘What do you (expat housewives) do all day?’ I can’t answer for anyone else and I am lucky to be free from household chores, but FYI this is what I have been up to over the past week:
Friday May 30th to Monday June 2nd
Well at the moment, I have my parents in law staying for three weeks. They and my husband went off to the action packed ‘Rhino Charge’ charity off road driving competition to compete/support and I took our three girls to the beach for the weekend before last with a group of fellow stranded wives whose husbands like to go off and do things on their own. (I’ve done Rhino charge with small children a few times before and it wasn’t much fun – see previous post.)
The coast was lovely but not exactly relaxing as we were busy chasing a group of fourteen children who had morphed into a ‘Lord of the Flies’-esq. gang, where they made up all their own rules, didn’t listen to boring mothers and alternated frequently (both swimmers and non swimmers) between jumping Indian Ocean waves breaking at high tide and then running back into the pool with squeals of delight.
Tuesday June 3rd
Came home from the coast, had my hair done (as previously mentioned).
Combined with the tri annual hairdressing experience, I had tried to buy some designer rip off jeans from a shop outside the hairdresser’s but the one pair I liked had the front button missing. The lady in the shop said,
‘No problem, I can get this fixed this for you! They will be ready tomorrow’ I replied,
‘I don’t think I can take them then, as I live far from here (about 45 min drive across town) and can’t make it back tomorrow’
She then texted me in the hairdresser saying,
‘the jeans can be fixed today!’ ‘is it OK if they are ready by three?’ I said,
‘No, sorry, I hope to be long gone by then’ then she replied,
‘they will definitely be ready by 1.30’
I left the hairdresser at 2.30 and she said that the man she had sent off to fix the jeans was on his way back with them. He had had to take two buses across town to get to the tailor. I felt slightly guilty but was also anxious to get home having frittered so much time in the hairdresser’s chair already and my children had friends to play at home. The shopkeeper and I sat looking at one another for a while and she made a couple of calls on her mobile. The shopkeeper then said,
‘I will go to the car park to find him,’ so then there I was looking after the shop for my new friend because there was no one else there to do it.
‘What happens if a customer comes in?’ I thought.
I sat for twenty minutes minding the shop. It was three O’clock. I phoned the shopkeeper in the car park. She said,
‘I am walking up with the jeans now.’
I heard a car horn in stereo both through the phone and outside the shop so figured, ‘She’s on her way.’
I sat for fifteen minutes more and started thinking,
‘I can’t leave the shop unattended but I have to go home’. Then, ‘hang on this is ridiculous, it’s not my shop. I wonder if she has asked me to sit here so she can get out to do some shopping, chat to friends and grab a soda?!’
I rang her again. She said,
‘I’m walking up, I’m outside the Kikoy shop just around the corner!’
‘Do you mind if I go and get a sandwich quickly then come back, I’m starving?’
‘I think it’s OK because the watchman outside will probably keep an eye on the shop, I will be there when you get back.’
‘OK. But remember I don’t work here do I?’ and I thought, ‘How much do I really want these jeans?’
I walked down to get a sandwich and noticed that the watchman had no interest in minding the shop. I purposely walked via the Kikoy shop and there was no sign of my new friend or the jeans outside it.
Ten minutes later I went back to the still empty shop and thought,
‘Damn it, she’s playing me for a fool, I can’t wait any longer.’
I rang her guiltily because I felt bad for the man who had taken two buses and was rushing back to get the jeans to me and said,
‘I’m sorry, I have had to leave’ then she hung up on me. I rang back and said,
‘I had to go, it’s the school run you see?’ and she said, ‘OK then, next time.’
Wednesday 4th June
The next day I had a friend from Mombasa for tea along with some other mums who were in the same circle of friends when she lived in Nairobi. She moved away two years ago but we still all miss her. Someone else was supposed to be hosting the tea but she caught me that morning on the school run to ask me to do it as her husband was home sick in bed and didn’t want braying housewives over for tea as he dashed to the loo with vomiting and diarrhoea upstairs – how could I say no?! I quickly baked a cake.
Thursday 5th June
The next job was to think out my eldest daughter’s 8th birthday Hannah Montana sleepover party. At a stretch it’s possible to plan food, entertainment and where everyone is going to sleep in advance, but hard to imagine how it will all turn out or if it will be a success. Will one child cry for their mum, or get sick? Will anyone sleep at all? Will we have a medical emergency, a broken limb? We settled on a disco and a Hannah Montana dvd played on an overhead projector, cinema style with popcorn etc. We spent Thursday night figuring out how to re create a disco and a cinema in our house. It involved tall ladders, tidying up, lengths of string and adjusting lighting. I began to regret having eight, eight year old friends over for twenty four hours.
Friday 6th June
On Friday I collected very excited friends along with my daughter after school. In the end the party was great fun and I had an emotional moment whilst shining a powerful torch at a mirrored Christmas tree ball strung from the ceiling in an attempt to create sparkly disco lights. I looked at the girls all dancing with abandon to Avril Lavigne’s ‘I don’t like your Girlfriend!’ and thought, ‘Damn, they are growing up too fast.’ My husband and I went to bed at 9.30pm exhausted and told the children ‘even the grown ups are going to bed now, so it’s very late and you must go to sleep.’ One piped up and said,
‘But what time is it?’ I said,
‘Never you mind! And nobody is to wake up until it’s light!’
They were all asleep by 10pm.
Saturday 7th June
Did a watery slip and slide for the girls (ie slide, water, shampoo, plastic sheeting, garden slope), a barbeque, and my husband drove them all around the garden in his noisy ‘monster truck’ Rhino Charge car. Surprisingly the girls were mostly happy playing without direction in the sandpit, with the plastic oven, brushing each others hair and on the swing.
When the party guests left, friends of my parents in law came for tea.
That night we all went to a fund raising ball. I didn’t know what to wear and ended up asking my husband to trim bits off a top that I had made by cutting an evening dress in half, which was peeping out messily under the hem of a jacket that in fact I didn’t end up wearing. Also, I couldn’t talk properly all evening as the cold had robbed me of my voice, so squeaked and rasped at fellow guests who recoiled in fear of catching flu.
This week will be quieter, my only job is to make two green crocodile tails for my middle daughter’s school play and force my eldest to write thank you letters, but no doubt other things will crop up along the way….