Monday, March 23, 2009
Livin' la Vie la Loca
In case you're confused, the above title is a mish-mosh of English, French and Spanish and can be roughly translated as Living the Crazy Life (in addition to being a convoluted re-creation of the Ricky Martin one-hit-wonder song title). In any case, I think it is a fitting way to describe life these days. The expat life is full of contradictions, both outwardly and inwardly. Life is an adventure, with crazy stories and fun adventures and new foods and about ten different languages floating through one's brain and colliding in a confusing vortex of vocabulary. I wander the streets, navigating through the flow of floor-length dish-dashas and abayas (traditional robes for men and women), eyes unfocused in an attempt to avoid the stares, questioning glances sometimes judgmental and sometimes just curious following my aimless wandering. In the past month, people have thought me Lebanese, Persian, Western European, Ukrainian, Russian and sometimes American. An old Arab woman stopped me at the grocery store to ask me in Arabic if a particular brand of laundry detergent could be used in a fully automatic machine. She almost fell over when she realized I was American and didn't speak Arabic. She laughed for about five minutes and then asked me again, repeating several times that this was a FULLY automatic washing machine (as opposed to...what?). I gave her advice but was careful to end my statement with "inshallah"...meaning God willing. God willing this soap really does work in a fully automatic machine and doesn't result in your entire house being filled with soap bubbles. Then I went on my merry way. I have a Lebanese store clerk at a local electronics outfit who somehow knows me by name. I have an amazing older Jordanian coworker who brings me home-made lunch several times a week because she knows I don't cook. I just found out I have a long weekend in April and am trying to decide whether I want to visit Jordan or Beirut. Livin' la Via la Loca. But the flip side of this paradox is the mundane slow march of a work week, the bad days in the office when I just want to scream, the boring evenings sitting at home watching endless reruns of the first season of ER, and the fact that even though I can travel to Beirut or Jordan, I'm not sure I actually have a friend here I would want to travel with! As an expat, I try to be all things to all people. I am expat and third culture kid (having spent a significant part of my childhood overseas). I am adventuresome and I am a home-body. Life is incredible, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. But as the gritty sands of the arabian desert begin their endless streaming voyage across this city and the sun takes up its vigil in the blazing skies, I find myself at times restless. There must be something more in this place, something I am missing. I am still settling, still meeting people, still learning my job and finding my niche. But the restlessness keeps me tossing and turning at night, my mind churning with the "what ifs" and the "what nexts". At the moment, my plan is to start writing a book...perhaps based on my own experiences overseas (Kuwait and other places). I don't know if it would be interesting or ever get published...or if a single other person would ever read it. But it's been a goal for several years, so what better time to start than in the midst of those long sweltering arabian days. Perhaps in the writing, a purpose will emerge and the restlessness will recede.