Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Expat Life

Someone asked me what I do all day.

It's a good question. Most of the expat women I know don't have jobs. We are "following spouses" who gave up our (real or potential) careers to follow our hubs to foreign lands. Those of us without kids, well, it's assumed we live pretty cushy lives. (Shh. That may be true.)

Sure, there are women whose days consist entirely of massages, manicures, personal chefs and nutritionists to care for the belly, personal trainers to care for the body, regular appointments for the latest cosmetic procedure (invasive or not) and for whom "shopping" is a verb on the same category as "furiously crunching numbers for a report due tomorrow."

I don't really know what that's like as a lifestyle, but I imagine it gets rather boring. I see lots of bored faces behind those designer sunglasses on the street...

Things are "harder" here, it's true. A trip to the bank can easily turn into a 3 hour affair. I try to never have more than one meeting per day, one bus ride, etc... I had 2 medical appointments on Wednesday and I was gone from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm because of travel times, waiting, etc. I couldn't have squeezed anything else into that time except reading and scribbling in notebooks. Which I did. Also, because I don't have a car or personal driver, I spend ridiculous amounts of time at the grocery store. In Brazil, everything is fresh. You can't buy green bananas and expect them to ripen in 2 weeks. They'll be ready tomorrow. Maybe even before bedtime the day you buy them! So grocery shopping happens with more frequency, and is done on foot. As a result, I plan little maps of how I'll run my errands, based on the shortest possible distance between two points with the grocery store always last. Because you can't do anything when carrying 15 kilos + of fruit and eggs and your fingers might fall off before you make it to your apartment gate.

My day starts, usually, by banging my head on the sharp corner of a poorly placed cupboard every time I wash dishes. I wash dishes so that I can feel good about procrastinating. I love writing, I do. But I seem to find a zillion and one ways to do everything related to writing except the actual "putting words down on paper/typing" part. So I wash dishes, make breakfast, wash dishes, read the news, blog, have second breakfast, answer emails, edit articles...and eventually get down to the serious business of writing. If my hands feel up to it, I make jewelry or practice calligraphy, which I'm just learning. Lunch dates a couple times a week, afternoon tea with my neighbor and girls' night out supply me with social activities; I'm thinking about signing up for a course on Gemology and am trying to learn Italian. And even though I am one block from the beach, I am ashamed to say I can't remember the last time I went to hang out on the sand...it seems like there's never time...

What do I do all day? I'm not always sure, but it definitely keeps me busy!


anne said...

just the business of living takes time. Where you are, you have time to take the time, instead of the insane rushing that happens in so much of america...which doesn't make the waiting or convoluted travel 'better' but at least you have "time" to do it :D
I think daily shopping is awesome, if it doesn't require extra trips to town in a gas guzzling vehicle, like so many folks here do....
BUT you might need to go to the beach more often. At non-high traffic times, or every day after bfast (when you don't have a trip to MD or bank planned) or something....after dinner, w/your hubby....to watch the seasons, such as they are in brazil, change.

Jean said...

Ah you forgot to mention wasting time waiting in LINES at the grocery store before walking home on foot (!) with all your heavy goodies and occasionally getting caught in an unexpected downpour!

Or wasting time on the phone with frighteningly moronic customer service that is actually customer dis-service.

Or waiting at home all day for an appointment that may or may not show up.

Expat wife life (pre-baby) in Paris was pretty cushy, though I did spend a fair amount of time cleaning, ironing, waiting for 2 hour wash cycles to finish, hanging up wet laundry, and grocery shopping (on foot).

Expat wife life (with baby) in Rio? (and without full-time domestic help) = you just have to struggle through it to believe it!

All those that come to Rio to LIVE and not just to visit/tour temporarily will easily see how quickly a day flashes by with most of the day consisting of waiting, walking, wishing...wishing for some semblance of efficiency that is!

And then waiting some more...