My Expat Life Story

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a podcast series for expats – Expat Life Stories – by the amazingly friendly and energetic Mariza of Mariza ABroad (where these youngsters get all their energy from I don’t know!), It wa a fun experience and you can listen to the outcome via her website Abroad Podcast. In the interview, I talk about my experiences as a trailing spouse expat partner in Pakistan and St Lucia as well as discussing why I wrote the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide.

static1.squarespace.com

Whilst you’re there, have a look at (listen to) some of the other stories on the website. The podcasts are quite long, but the one I listened to (about another woman who had lived in Pakistan and now lives in Botswana) was fascinating! There’s another on there about a woman who lives in Antartica and was kidnapped as a child which I am waiting to have the time to listen to! Makes my life sound very boring…..

I would thoroughly recommend this experience to all other expats – she is looking for more victims volunteers, so give her a shout via her website if you are interested!

In the meantime, I’m gearing up for another interview tomorrow night. This one will be via Skype and will actually be a video so no pyjamas! Yikes!

Advertisements

Blooming hell – life on a hothouse island

Welcome to May 2015’s #TrailingSpouseStories!  This month, we’re talking about “Bloom Where You’re Planted.” How have we bloomed in our very itinerant way of life?  Here is my take on the matter.

When I heard the theme for this month’s Trailing Spouse crawl was BLOOM WHERE YOU ARE PLANTED. How do you think you’ve bloomed in your past and / or current location? all I heard was the word bloom. And it made me think of mould.

Now I am not sure that this is what Tala and Didi intended we write about for this month’s link-up.  I suspect I am supposed to say something about how I developed and blossomed over the months I spent living as an accompanying partner, happily tending the home while my husband tripped off to work every morning.

Unfortunately though this wouldn’t be true so I can’t write about it. So instead I want to take the word bloom and explain why life in “paradise” isn’t what you think it’s going to be.

When we knew we were going to St Lucia, I thought we knew what we would find there. It’s a beautiful island, surrounded by the azure Caribbean sea. White beaches, swaying palm trees, sparkling swimming pools  – it really does have it all.

If you are on holiday.

IMGP2255

And of course, we weren’t on holiday. We were trying to live a reasonably normal life with two active children, one of whom took a huge disliking to the sea or the beach. Many a morning we paddled in the water with our younger daughter while the older one sulked on a towel (she didn’t even like stepping on the sand!) asking when would it be time to go home. They were both at the stage where they wanted to learn to ride bikes, but there was nowhere safe to take them. Just like all children their age, they loved swings and climbing frames, but the only public playground on the island was slightly rickety and completely unprotected from the sun.

Oh yes, the sun, did I mention that yet? It is of course wonderful to greet the tropical sun when you’re on holiday, bikini at the ready, pool loungers and cocktails beckoning. But try shunting twelve bags of shopping from your car to the kitchen when it’s 95 degrees and 99 per cent humidity. Because it wasn’t just the sun that was the problem, but the stifling, draining air. The air that made you feel like you were constantly swimming through cotton wool, that kept you dripping with sweat all day long….and that made your clothes, canvas chairs, towels, and pretty well everything else in the house that was made with the right material bloom with mould.

IMGP2321

A hot and sweaty little girl

So we finally get to the blooming part of this post. Yes, it was a constant battle. Not just with mould and dampness, but with the effect the sea air had on anything made of plastic. It just fell apart. And the ants, oh the ants! I cannot tell you how many ants there were – they were everywhere. Leave out a grain of sugar and it would be black with the crawling insects within minutes. Every single item of food that we owned had to be locked away as tightly as possible in a jar, tin or plastic container. Every single crumb had to be wiped up as soon as it had been spilled. We mostly ate outside, which was a good thing as our younger daughter was only just pushing two when we first arrived and so messy, I wouldn’t have been suprised to see her being carried off by the ants herself.

Yes, living in St Lucia might have had it’s ups – but to say it was like living in a tropical greenhouse was no exaggeration. One big blooming hothouse to be precise.

Ah how I miss it!

Now read how some of my fellow trailing spouse’s have interpreted this month’s assignment!

For Didi of D for Delicious it is not rocket science that plants need roots to grow, but for trailing spouses it is not the case in #TrailingSpouseStories: How To Grow Without Roots.

Liz Smith of Secrets of A Trailing Spouse talks about how becoming a trailing spouse is one of the best things she has ever done in Bloomin’ Marvellous.

Jenny Reyes of MyMommyology say that the whole #TrailingSpouse experience is like planting seeds and hoping they’ll grow in #TrailingSpouseStories:  Growing A Garden (Or So We Hope).

Tala Ocampo put her HR hat on and explored the key competencies needed to “bloom where you’re planted” in What Does It Take To Bloom Where You’re Planted?.

Yuliya Khilko of TinyExpats says that whichever way you bloom, you’re not likely to remain a greenhouse plant in Not a Greenhouse Plant.

A weekend in Martinique

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will already have come across Phoebe. An old school friend, Phoebe and I share a love of travel and a similar childhood, both daughters of British diplomats. A few weeks ago, she wrote this guest post for me, about her Memorable Journey in Mongolia. Now it’s my turn to guest blog for her.

Phoebe’s blog is French themed. So I had to come up with something French to fit in. I have visited France, several times, but not for a long time and I can’t say any of my visits were interesting enough to make a post out of. My parents lived in Cameroon, which is half Francophile. But it wasn’t really enough. Then I remembered, when we were living in St Lucia we had visited Martinique, one of the French ‘dom toms’ – also known as French Overseas Departments and  Territories. Unlike our British overseas territories (eg Cayman Islands, Monserrat, Gibraltar), the French dom toms are actually France. The people living on them have the same rights as people living in France. They are part of the EU and they use Euros. So there was certainly something very intriguing about visiting the island.

On the ferry to Martinique

On the ferry to Martinique

Although this is a post about a beautiful Caribbean island, with golden beaches and aquamarine sea, I won’t be talking about those things. I’ll be ignoring the sound of the waves lapping gently on the sand and the tall palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze. Nope, those things aren’t for me. Instead, I’ll be discussing French cheese and the play area at the local McDonalds restaurant. I know that sounds strange, but stick with me on this. To read the rest of this post, click here.

In the meantime, Phoebe is on the lookout for anyone who has lived in or visited any of the other French dom toms to contribute to her series. Have you ever been to:

  • Guadelope
  • French Guiana
  • Reunion
  • Mayotte (although I am hoping Curtis already has this one covered!)
  • French Polynesia
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
  • Wallis and Futuna
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Barthelemy
  • New Caladonia
  • Or, strangest of all, Clipperton Island.

If you have then drop Phoebe a line over at her blog, or leave me a message below and I will pass it on.

From Cuba to the UK to St Lucia – my interview for Blog Expat

I love expat blog interviews. It gives me the chance to talk about me, me and me again! So much fun. This week I featured on BlogExpat.com’s site, talking about my time as an expat. In particular I focused on my time in St Lucia – here is an extract:

Almost everyone we met was through the children (my husband also met a few people through his work). The girls went to a lovely Montessori pre-school where we met a great range of people of all different nationalities. As well as St Lucian and British friends, I met people from Israel, Syria, Cuba, the States, Venezuela, China, Australia, India, Panama….it was a very small expat community so you did tend to get to know everyone, but most of our friends were the parents of our children’s school friends.

Please click here to read the rest of the interview – and let me know what you think!

 


Expat Interview

Ten totally fantastic things that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been an expat partner…

So I realise that sometimes what I write about trailing spouse life can sound a bit, well, negative. Recently I have posted about depression, relationship problems and the reality of expat life – all of which have their place (after all, the point of both the book and the blog is to prepare people for this reality). But this is, of course, only half the story.

I promised myself the last time I wrote one of these posts  I would follow it up with a positive one. So here it is. To prove to you that there is an up-side to being a trailing spouse, here are ten brilliant things that would never have happened had I not been an expat partner. (Note: these are all things that have happened because of or during my time as an accompanying partner; there were lots more fantastic things that happened to me as an expat but before I met my husband and officially became a “partner”. Perhaps I’ll include those in a future post).

1) I would never have learned how to make watermelon daquiris. Or mango, lime, banana (insert tropical fruit here) daiquiris. A stable of our time in St Lucia, this delicious drink was a particular favourite of ours because we had a lime tree in our garden and lime + rum + sugar + fruit = daquiri. The watermelon one was the prettiest; it’s actually a Nigella recipe: cut fruit into chunks; freeze; when ready to make drink, whiz with rum and lime sugar syrup. Drink. Repeat.

Actually strawberry daquiris...

Actually strawberry daiquiris.

2) My children would not be such good swimmers. (Almost) every day we swam, from the age they were one and three until they were three and five. We had pools in both gardens of our houses in St Lucia (we didn’t have two houses simultaneously, we moved from one to the other). There wasn’t a lot else to do. They were both little fish and still are. Let’s hope they get to continue with their swimming in South Africa.

emma in the pool

3) I wouldn’t know the recipe for Ansa’s curries. Ansa was our fantastic helper in Islamabad, who helped me with looking after the children, cleaned the house and taught us how to make her amazing curries. Telling her we had to leave (we had two week’s notice following the Marriott bombing in 2008) was one of the hardest things about the whole episode. She cried, I cried. She presented me with her recipes as a leaving gift. I still cook them to this day.

4) We wouldn’t have spent so much time here martha and minnie

Here:

dora girls

or indeed here

potter land

 Just a hop, skip and a jump away from St Lucia and we could use air miles to get there. How lucky were we? How lucky were the children! TWO visits to Disney in the space of a year…..

5) And the girls wouldn’t have had such a close relationship with their Uncle. My husband’s only living relative, my brother-in-law, lives in south Florida and rarely leaves it. By our regular visits, we were able to build up a good relationship between him and the girls, which carries on via Skype (and bi-annual visits to the Sunshine State) to this day.

6) I wouldn’t have written 9/10ths of an as yet unnamed novel, set on a fictious Caribbean island which isn’t anything like an amalgamation of St Lucia and Jamaica, starring a young female British diplomat who very definitely isn’t me, and who gets embroiled in the drugs trade…..one day I promise I will finish it. I haven’t really touched it since returning to the UK from St Lucia; although I did eventually get my main protagonist out of the boot of the car she had been stuck in for about 3 years….

7) We wouldn’t have been able to wake up to this view every morning

august 09 best view ever

Which could also look like this:

august 09 beutiful sunset

8) I wouldn’t have had the chance to understand Islam and the Muslim religion in the way I can thanks to having lived in Pakistan. I’m certainly no expert, we only lived there for a few months. But despite the fact that I have lived all over the world, I had never before lived in a predominantly Muslim country. We were there during Ramadan so I learnt what it meant for the locals to fast, and what iftar was, why Eid was so important. I was also able to introduce my oldest daughter to the concept of other religions at an early age (something I blogged about here). Learning about other cultures and religions is so important for all of us in this day and age.

9) I wouldn’t have met such a fantastic range of people of all nationalities – both in person while living in Pakistan and St Lucia and as online friends (some of whom are also real-life friends) I have met through our mutual expat-partner status….

10) And finally I wouldn’t have had the inspiration, and the opportunity, to write the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, nor the blog that goes with it….which means, dear reader, that I would never have had the chance to get to know YOU!

So now I’ve shared mine, I’d love to hear yours. If you are an expat partner/trailing spouse, what’s been GREAT about it? What would you have never done? What fabulousness about your life would you like to share? And if you’re not one of “us” do you think I’ve managed to balance things out a bit?

 

click here to buy

An interview, some questions and a giant spider on top of the Eiffel Tower.

Merging three short posts again this morning….

First of all I want to thank The New Diplomat’s Wifefor featuring me in her fabulous Notes from the Field series. I wrote about my time in St Lucia and you can read all about it here: Notes From the Field: St Lucia. I really enjoyed doing this interview, sometimes it’s only when you look back that you remember some of the things you went through in a particular posting. I also really love The New Diplomat’s Wife’s website as it is so beautiful and elegant. Plus, she was training to be a diplomat but ended up marrying one herself. Sort of like me, although I did actually manage to work as a diplomat for a few years before becoming the spouse.

So on to the questions. This is in response to another award nomination, this time from Hong Kong – A Teacher Abroad who nominated me for a Liebster Award. Time dictates that I won’t be nominating others but I always think it’s nice to acknowledge the person who has gone to the trouble of nominating you, and I like to answer the questions they pose with the nomination. So here they are:

1. What made you start a blog? This is easy as I already have the answer in my About the Blog section. Basically to accompany the book, somewhere I can add to and update information in the book and just because I love to write.

2. How do you decide what to blog about?  I constantly come up with ideas, but don’t always have time to write them all down! Many of my blogs are based on the themes of being an expat partner, but I also like to write about travel generally. I get ideas from my own experiences, reading about other people’s experiences, news items, discussions in forums…..

3. Do you plan your posts and if so how? A bit. I try to plan ahead if I can but things change so this isn’t always possible. I like to intersperse guest posts with my own and try not to have more than one post from a particular series per week. I also try and do at least one really relevant to my blog’s theme every week.

4. Where is your favourite place to visit and why? At the moment it’s probably Florida just because of the ages of our children and that we have got to know it well. We don’t just go to Orlando though, we love travelling all over the State. My brother-in-law lives there which is why we go so often. We’re also really looking forward to exploring South Africa and the other countries in the region, including Mozambique.

5. Is there one thing you are particularly proud of? Writing the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide and getting it very very nearly to the point of publication! I have always wanted to write a book.

6. Favourite book As a child it was Watership Down. I am very sad my own children don’t want me to read it to them 😦

7. What 5 people -famous or otherwise, dead or alive, would you invite for dinner? It would have to be my grandfather who was murdered in Hong Kong when my mother was a young child – I would have loved to have met him and for him to see that his only daughter went on to have four children and seven grandchildren. Then I would also have to invite my granny (who died in 2003) and my parents. I would make the fifth person be a really good chef so they would do all the cooking. Mary Berry maybe as she was at school with my mum and my granny knew her!

8. If you could ban/get rid of one – celebrity, tv show, band or food (delete as appropriate), what would you choose? Fresh coriander (also known as cilantro). The devil’s food.

9. If you could travel back in time what period of history would you go back to? So long as I didn’t have to actually live there or stay there for very long, probably the Tudor period. It’s one period we all study in such depth it would be fascinating to find out what it was really like.

10. Who is your biggest influence in life? I don’t think I am really influenced by anyone. I am myself and drive my own ship!

Thank you again to Hong Kong – A Teacher Abroad for the nomination. And now the bit I know you have all been waiting for – a giant spider on top of the Eiffel Tower…

giant spider on the eiffel tower

Don’t worry, there is a point to this! The photo is the latest in the photo101’s theme for the day which this morning is: Scale. Enjoy!

Bliss: A Moment in Time

Today’s photo101 challenge is to capture our idea of ‘bliss’. I was tempted to take a picture of a box of Hotel Chocolat chocolates because obviously that is the most blissful thing I could think of. But I came across this picture of my youngest daughter, M, on a swing in our garden in St Lucia and I love the double meaning. It’s bliss for her, swinging in the garden, mastering something she’s just seen her older sister do. But her little baby chubbiness is also blissful – you forget this stage so quickly, when you’re trying to cope with endless tantrums and fights and mounds of washing…don’t you just want to go and squeeze her?

Martha on a swing in St Lucia

She’s got it!

I’ve also just noticed her shoes are on the wrong feet!

 

 

Seychelles Mama