February 21, 2014

Who am I?

It has been three days now that I have been chewing on the question asked by my favourite blogger from Doha: Who am I? She challenged her fellow expat readers to think about who we really are. The about pages on our blogs contain our marital status, our number of children and the times we've moved. But what is it that really makes us tick?

The various moves in themselves redefine who you are every single time. The experiences you undergo, the people you meet, the cultures you confront. Each and every time you take that plane to relocate to your next destination it is a very different "you" waving good-bye to the "you" that arrived some years beforehand. Places and especially their people leave an imprint, an impression or at the very least an influence that cannot be denied.

Who am I today?

A very self-sufficient Expat wife enjoying the time and place she is in right now, making the most of her days as a companion, a mother, a friend, an explorer, an organizer, a fighter, and a blogger.

I love being on my own but I take great pleasure going on adventures with others. I like keeping to myself but can't resist the drive to blog about my life. I prefer to keep my life private but spend a great deal of time on facebook contributing to my timeline.

I enjoy a good squabble with the locals even though I have grown fond of the city I live in. I am keen on expressing myself and can't help from making comments when something bugs me.

I encourage my kids to be independent but am the last mum to leave the school grounds because I need to give my kids just one more little hug. I am a control freak but can't keep tears from flowing even at the slightest emotion.

I enjoy meeting people and imagining their life stories. I am a friend who will listen to you all night over a glass of wine. I am the fellow expat who'll go out of her way to stay in touch.

I am your friend who sends you her funky newsletter every single year without which Christmas just wouldn't be the same.

So tell me, who are you?

February 20, 2014

The Expat Wife Prayer

This prayer has been making the rounds for a while. I have read it over and over again and am not quite sure whether to cry or to laugh. I do believe it applies more to those who have trodden off the beaten path in less developed countries. My Expat life has been between Europe and the Americas - I am still hoping that one day our path will lead us to Asia - although we have had our fair share of unexpected surprises.

Rest assure that someone will have to listen to my stories one day when my expat days are over, if only in my blog. ;)

Heavenly Father, look down on us your humble obedient expat wives who are doomed to travel this earth following our loved ones through their working lives to lands unknown. We beseech you, oh Lord, to see that our plane is not hijacked or doesn't crash, our luggage is not lost or pillaged and our overweight baggage goes unnoticed.

Give us this day divine guidance in our selection of houses, maids and drivers. We pray that the telephone works, the roof does not leak, the power cuts are few and the rats and cockroaches even fewer.

Lord, please lead us to good, inexpensive restaurants where wine is included in the meal and the food does not cause dysentery. Have mercy upon us Lord if it be the latter, make us fleet of foot, to make the loo in time, and strong of knee in case we have to squat. Also give us the wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we do not understand.

Make the natives love us Lord for who we are and not for what we can contribute to their worldly goods. Grant us the strength to smile at our maids, even though our most treasured dress resembles a rag or they take bleach to clean our well-admired Persian rug.

Give us divine patience when we explain for the hundredth time the way we want things done and Lord if we ever lose our patience and thump them, have mercy on us for our flesh is weak.

Dear God, protect us from so-called "bargains" we don't need and can't afford. Lead us not into temptation for we know not what we do.

Almighty Father, keep our husbands from looking at foreign women and comparing them to us. Save them from making fools of themselves in nightclubs. Above all, please do not forgive their trespasses for they know exactly what they do.

And when our expat years are over Lord, grant us the favor of finding someone who will look at our photographs and listen to our stories, so our lives as expat wives will not have been in vain.


Source: Unknown

February 19, 2014

When I turns into WE...

It started with a post by a fellow blogger, no I rectify that, actually Kirsty Rice is my favourite blogger. No, I have never met her personally but ... maybe ... one day our paths might cross.

"Who am I": a simple question that got my mind wondering in all kinds of directions. I could fully relate to most all the points she listed, being a fellow Expat. With exception, maybe, of the WE bit. "Expat couples travel in a collective ‘we’" she stated.

Of course, there always is and always will be the WE in who I am, BUT - call me selfish - I have always made sure that the ME bit never comes too short. I am a firm believer that you can only support your husband and family, if you believe in yourself. We all know this whole expat thing would fall apart without - what they call - the trailing spouse! And this part of you cannot be linked to a job, it must come from within. Call me pretentious but with age you learn what is good for you.

I learnt a lesson very early on in life. The day I announced to my boss that I would be leaving my job thereby giving up my rather promising career to get married and move to Buenos Aires for an undefined period of time, he told me: "You must realize, my dear, that now you no longer will be sitting in the driver's seat but on the passenger side." THAT stuck. Being fiercely independent (and a control-freak) I promised myself I would always make sure the balance is right in my relationship.

It is all about the balance between him and me.
The exchange.
The communication.
The respect.
The trust.
The complicity.
The patience.
The understanding.
The tolerance.
and always ... The fun!

... which is why the WE is so much better than the I when you're an Expat!

February 18, 2014

Valentine's Day is stuck in Morocco

Here I am, sitting at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport over a not-so-romantic dinner with my hubby on Valentine's Day. All my magnificent planning of whizzing my sweetheart off for a surprise dinner in Lugano tonight, have just gone royally down the drain thanks to our easyjet plane stuck somewhere in Morocco! Valentine's dinner at the airport it is. On a brighter note, dinner has never been so cheap on February 14th. 19.90 Euros for the four us. Trust me it is not thanks to the four easyjet vouchers that are worth 4 Euros each and barely cover the drinks!

After facing an angry husband who was forced to leave a vital meeting with his boss at 4pm because his wife had other plans on the day of love, we got a head start and beat the Parisian holiday traffic, only to arrive at the airport and find ourselves blocked in a tiny, boring terminal for four hours. We finally boarded the plane at 10pm and reached Lugano by midnight. Record travel time. Those planes can travel so much faster when they want to...

We might have travelled thirteen hours for a 48-hour weekend but the motivation to head home to Lugano was great and the added surprise factor to celebrate Valentine's Day in Switzerland kept us going... even if we celebrated a day late!

February 17, 2014

February 12, 2014

Dreaming of the Belle Epoche

It felt like stepping into one of Paris's top Haute Couture houses in the early 20th century. The Musée Carnevalet was home to an off-site exhibition by the Palais Galliera entitled "The Novel of a Wardrobe: Parisian Chic from the Belle Epoque to the 1930s." How could I resist?

The remarkable wardrobe was that of Alice Alleaume, the chief saleswoman at Chéruit on chic Place Vendôme from 1912 to 1923. Dresses by Chéruit, Worth and Lanvin, evening shoes by Hellstern, hats by Alphonsine, Marcelle Demay, Madeleine Panizon and Le Monnier, evening headbands by Rose Descat, jewellery and much more were on display.

Manuscripts and documents, book logs and client lists revived Alice, Adele, her mother (a seamstress) and Hortense, her older sister, herself first salesperson at Worth's in rue de la Paix. Thanks to the models and samples of the Archives of Paris we could relive the Chéruit summer and winter collections, while the museums' paintings and prints evoked the atmosphere of Rue de la Paix and Place Vendôme - both temples of luxury - before the war of 1914 - 1918.

A little reverie never hurt anybody...

Portrait of Mme Alice Alleaume

Mme Alice Alleaume with friends in front of a beachhut, 1925

Worth's salesforce around 1900

Livret d'ouvière (Registration book of employées)
Profession: Couturière en robes

Salesforce of Maison Favre around 1910

Salon de Mme C. around 1910

Hats recovered from Mme C salon at the Musée Carnevalet in 2014

A model from Chéruit's summer collection 1920

A piece of bijouterie that made me smile...

February 7, 2014

A moment of glory for every little actor

Yes, I admit, tonight I am a very proud Mummy. Expat girl gave a stunning performance in her annual school play. She was not the only one, however. I dare say there was considerable talent on stage bearing in mind that the kids were all between 9 and 10 years of age.

They had been rehearsing week after week for nearly five months straight. After school hours and even at weekends but it was all worth it.

The play was the "Big Bad Musical". Tell me I'm old fashioned but I had never heard of this musical. The notorious Big Bad Wolf is being slapped with a class-action lawsuit by storybooks of quirky characters who want to get even: Little Red Riding Hood, her Grandmother, the Three Little Pigs and the Shepherd in charge of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. With Sydney Grimm as the commentator on live Court TV, the two greatest legal minds in the Enchanted Forest - the Evil Stepmother and the Fairy Godmother - clash in a trial that the jury - the audience - must decide the outcome of.

Expat girl played the role of judge and nailed it. Don't take MY word for it. I'm just reflecting the parents' and teachers' comments. Watching her, you could tell she was enjoying every minute of her stage presence. After all, she had been waiting to hit Grade 5 for the last two years... not to be amongst the biggest kids in Primary school but to grab one of the major parts that the drama teacher assigns every year to the "big" kids.

Bravo to the casting crew who managed to give each and every child their own moment of glory by scripting a part for even the shyest of little bears and most introverted tiny mouse. Helping out with costumes and make-up, I could detect the childrens' anxious smiles and agitated moves giving way to their excitement and finally the sparkle in their eyes as they realized that they were actually pulling it off.

At the end of the play, the judge invited the audience (jury) to vote by applause to determine the guilt or innocence of the wolf. The spectators were roaring, the clapping was thunderous and the jury had as much fun as the cast.

Bravo to all of you! We'll see you at the Oscars...

February 2, 2014

Crazy Horse experience

Back when I was a teenager I remember having a long discussion with one of my best friends about why I would refuse to join him to watch a cabaret show even if he paid my trip to Paris to see the Lido girls. Well, my dear friend, my thoughts were with you last night, when I marched down the dark red-carpeted stairs adorned with spot-lights, holding on to the gilt railing, stopping to take a photo of my reflection in the huge mirror embedded in velvet-covered walls.

Hubby and I had been invited to the Crazy Horse, Paris' cabaret known for its stage shows performed by nude female dancers. The expectations were non-exsistant. I had not managed to get a straight answer out of any of my friends who had seen the show, therefore I thought: just bring it on, baby!

Photography was banned in the black and red decorated theatre but I can disclose that the decoration was done just the right side of seedy. The show opened with all ten dancers identically dressed in remnants of The Queens Guard uniform, and I mean remnants!

Honestly, I found the show to be neither glamorous nor erotic, not even captivating. Then again maybe it was that exorbitantly expensive glass of champagne that had me dozing after the first half?

Frankly, the whole thing was underwhelming with so-called photographers running around all the time trying to squeeze more money out of you (50 Euros for 2 pictures on a CD!!!).

Therefore, I can happily check the cabaret show off my list and conclude that it's more about the experience of going than the show itself. I just wished my friend had been with me. He would have enjoyed it for what it is: entertainment performed by some stunning dancers!

February 1, 2014

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