Thursday, June 21, 2001

WHY Do I Do This?

I'm having one of those bad expat days where I can't see the value in this, everything is too hard and too stupid, *I'm* too stupid . . .

It started because the one toilet that's not a shelf variety wouldn't stop running. It seems every time I turn around there's another wonderful discovery about this house. I can't figure out how to fix it, so I have to turn off the water at the wall until I need to use it.

Then this morning we had NO water at all. There's some sort of construction creeping down the street toward us, and I'm sure this has something to do with it. I asked at playgroup this morning, and the host mom, who lives around the corner said she had the same thing. Another mom who lives farther up the hill says she has water (although they are on a septic system and not municipal sewage), but hasn't had electricity several hours a day recently. I guess I'd rather have electricity than water, but still. I couldn't brush my teeth (never thought of using all that bottled water I have), I need a shower (my hair is really greasy), I didn't get a chance to shave my legs (which meant wearing shorts was sort of ugh, but it's finally a little warmer and my jeans are dirty anyhow . . . ). So we tried to laugh about it at playgroup and concluded no kissing and the other moms would try to refrain from touching my legs.

I walked over to playgroup (UPPPP hill there, DOOOOOWN hill home) with the girls in the double stroller. I met a man walking down the hill as I was who said "blahblahblah" to me (actually, in Slovak, it would be more like "vy'lkzchzrq!"). I looked confused and he said, "Deutch? French?" I said "Un peu. Espanol?" He laughed and said something in French that I interpreted as "You need a handbrake on that thing, eh?" He was nice and all, but I hate playing What Language Do We Have In Common.

So I took the girls to the mall for lunch at the Food Court.

Eleanor had her usual Happy Meal. I decided to branch out and try the place that serves what they call Thai food, but which isn't. I had some sort of chicken and vegetables and rice. It was presented in a plastic plate with sections. It was a flimsy plate. There were no trays. I wanted a salad, too, but with the plastic silverware in one hand and the flimsy plate, I could choose between a beverage (which I had to buy in a bottle instead from the fountain so I could put the bottle in my shorts pocket) and a salad. I was brave and got both, but sheesh! I would spend more money if they'd make it easier. Nothing makes me crazier than trying to exchange money for goods or services when the seller doesn't seem to want my money!

We ate. It was okay.

I finally took a deep breath and decided to venture into the Slovak quick and cheap haircut place so I could get someone to cut Isabel's hair. I couldn't tell if it was Appointment Land or Take a Number. Surly Teenage Stylist tried to indicate something about 5:00 on my watch (I think she meant 5 minutes, but I couldn't tell), sort of rolled her eyes, yelled in Slovak, "Can someone help this woman. I can't understand what she wants." Kind Colleague came over and said, "Deutch?" "I said, "Espanol?" (are you noticing a theme here?). She continued to address me in German until I said, "Wait?" She nodded, so we sat down.

Got Isabel's haircut. I noticed that Surly Teenage Stylist worked reeeally slowly on her client so she wouldn't have to deal with me. Too bad for her. I tip. The haircut was 50 crowns ($1). It looks nice, but sure emphasizes her EARS now.

Then I thought I'd look in the Carrefour for something vegetable other than cabbage or peppers. On the way I stopped in the shoe store for a look. It was a sort of self-serve place with boxes under the model shoes. I was looking for something to fit my size 41 boats, and a young woman came over and said, "blahblahblah." I handed her the box of shoes and said, "Maybe?" Then I tried to find another pair of little school slippers for Baboo because I had seen kids wearing a dog version (she has kitty ones). Different woman came over. Isabel was getting bored and started to cry. Eleanor wouldn't put her foot on the measuring device so I could read it. The shoes that fit had no relation to the size indicated by her foot. The woman disappeared and came back with something that seemed to fit fine. I went to pay, and couldn't find the first woman or what she had done with my size 41 boats. Second woman finds her (I was ready to give up on the whole thing). I managed to pay with exact change. Isabel is still fussing.

I go into the Carrefour and remember that I had dropped of film the other day. I have no idea how this works or even if the pictures are ready. I go over where the drop box is because I thought the sign there said to ask the woman at the next booth (I think she was taking applications for Carrefour credit cards) for your pictures. I show her my receipt. She points across the way to the kiosk where you buy film. I go over there, wait my turn (Isabel is really going now), show her my receipt. She points me toward the drop box and Carrefour credit card lady. I say, "She sent me over here," and film lady turns her back and refuses to look at me.

I think about crying. It worked well in Taiwan.

I drag the girls to the Information desk where I have to elbow my way through the mass of people there who all seem to be getting their receipts stamped (Note to self: what is THIS all about?). I show this woman my receipt and say "Where?" in a sad voice. She calls Carrefour credit card lady (who I can see through the glass wall that separates us). Then she calls film kiosk lady. Then she says in Slovak, "One moment." Then one of the managers on rollerblades shows up. He gestures, "Follow me," so we follow. He goes to the film drop box, pulls open a drawer, and hands me my pictures. I say (in Slovak), "No key?" He nods, "That's right." It's totally self-serve.

Now I *really* want to cry. I'm 40 years old and I can't do the self-serve film developing process.

I have to go back to film kiosk lady to pay. Isabel is ballistic by now. There is a little rail about six inches off the ground that Eleanor is standing on. She falls off it, twisting her ankle through the rail. She begins to scream. Film kiosk lady wants me to pay with exact change. I dump my coin purse on the counter and say, "Help yourself." She does. I'm trying to comfort two children and get my change back in the purse. I give up on vegetables and just go to my car.

So, what I need now is for all the expats to remind me of all that upbeat crap I told all of you when you were down. In theory, I know it only gets easier from this point on, but at the moment it looks like it will just stay stupid for the next three years. Ron thinks I should cut back on my Slovak lessons so I have more time to find sympathetic girlfriends to vent to. Maybe, but with summer here, it looks like many of the people who speak English are already taking off for summer vacations. So maybe I should just keep up the Slovak hoping I meet some nice Slovak moms. The rest of you need to remind me how many aspects of motherhood are just the same where you are. Or come over and have a drink with me!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading this makes my beginning in Bratislava look much easier! Tough life as an expat with two kids!
Btw. thanks for coming to our first expat meeting tonight! It was really nice from u!
I will post some comment on about it tomorrow..
Too busy to read your great blog now :)
See u soon

11:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home