The wicked witch of the West

It is 9 a.m and you are on a mission about your grey hair.  You cannot wait another day after the weekends’ performance where you had to smudge hair mascara on the bits that might show how old you really are. And to have to do that while your husband is driving you to the restaurant followed by friends in another car is never a good idea.  Because you then have to frantically run to the washroom the moment you arrive, to wash your fingers that are now black, while everyone is wondering if you have a touch of incontinence.

This morning seemed a very good morning  to do the hair, not because it is sunny but because the gardener is off with malaria and you can for once move freely from your bedroom to the bathroom without seeing him vacuuming on the far side of the pool, where his wandering eye might see you roll out of bed, despite your room being on the first floor and preceded by a balcony.  Plus you do still have cartons to empty, the bedroom ones, the clothes you have not seen for a whole year and a half, which you obviously did not need but that you now have difficulties discarding.

You keep an eye on the watch for the usual 30 minutes and it is now time to take it all away and look your young self again.   You know that you need to press the switch for a pump to bring water pressure to your shower and as you are about to do that a rush of ping ping whatsapp sounds come from your iPhone.  You tell yourself you will look at it later, it might just be your expat sisters chatting away in the morning. But now you realise after pressing the switch and nothing happens that instead the whatsapp messages were from your neighbours’ power group saying the usual ‘power off, don’t hold your breath!’ followed by little faces red with fury or sticking the tongue out.  Damn! Not today. But there is nothing to worry about you tell yourself, not only you can ask the staff to turn on the generator or instead just use the bathroom downstairs where water pressure is perfect.

Wrapped in your kikoy and armed with a torch, a towel for your hair, your special hair cream, and a bath towel you walk in a nonchalant way to the bathroom pretending you cannot see Martin sweeping the outside terrace and that he cannot see you either. Because if he did just imagine how dreadful that would be:  black dye pasted all over your head, hair in disarray, looking like the Wicked Witch of the West. You sigh with relief once you are under the shower, you have made it you tell yourself with a smile, all in order.

This is before the bathroom door opens wide with a bang and your 15 year old labrador walks in.  You now scream and tell him to bugger off, unfortunately he is stone deaf and half blind and now proceeds to walk towards the other side of the bathroom leaving the door wide open with a partial view of Martin holding the broom wondering why are you screaming.  Then Martin quickly looks down and you quickly shove Romeo out of the door and bang it closed and as you do you catch a glimpse of your naked body in the full length mirror. Oh my! A few unwanted bulges stare at you and you a make a mental note of no more lunches or dinners and glasses of wine for a while.

Now you are off to a girls’ lunch. Yes I know!  You just mentally told yourself half an hour ago that you would definitely stop all this but how can you do this to friends on short notice? It is just not fair. Not when they called you in advance a week earlier asking if you were available.  And then what excuse would you give? That today you were the Wicked Witch of the West, with bulges dimmed by a torch light?





Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


The vagueness of the morning lingers within me for a while. The fishermen boats are out earlier this morning, the tide has changed. Across the water, far out near its roundness and closure there is the sand bank slowly emerging, like a clock ticking away, telling me that soon I will have to head off for another chore. These chores that expat wives do are not only varied, but rely on a multiplicity of duties bound by our own creative way to achieve them. And some of them seem rather superfluous, like getting in and out of the car in torrid weather to try your luck at finding a small pack of butter that has been missing in shops for a month. Topple that with swerving out of gaping holes on the road left by the monsoon rains, and by the time you get back you have some vicarious sense of achievement that can only be shared with a glass of white wine because the husband, busy as he is at running the world, would not find it interesting or even exciting.

A cup of coffee or cappuccino at a small street cafe in the heart of the old town in Lisbon would be enticing, I admit, but there is no private jet waiting to take me there in that instant and an instant is as ephemeral as life itself, especially the instants in your mind where you dream up scenarios to replace the reality that assails you when you are tired or fed up. Regular travel takes many hours and by then my mind will be on other things, like dinner for example.

Dinner is one of the chores of ladies in waiting (this is what I call expat wives). First you need to dream up another interesting meal that would elope the boredom of day-to-day routine meals. I do admit that not all women are interested in eloping but I am, mostly out of some need to please beyond limits, and perhaps to dare my husband to throw me a compliment. But compliments might be hard to come by.  When the husband gets home he needs time to unwind: first he will tell you about the traffic, how awful it was, even if it is the same every single day, then he will tell you how he can’t believe that this ‘thing’ he has put ‘somewhere’ has disappeared (as he says that he normally looks at me as if I am either the culprit or somehow it is my fault that his memory is failing), then he is going to open the fridge and have a few bits and pieces of salami or whatever he finds, and finally he will go and change before he joins you for dinner.

You have waited all day to talk to someone apart from the dogs or the parrot – no, it was not girls coffee morning today – and then you hesitate. Your contribution amounts to very little, I mean, who wants to know about the devious way you got a packet of butter so that husband can have his buttered toast in the morning? (yes I did wink at the vegetable shop keeper and asked him very nicely whether he would have one hiding somewhere – but he was fat and ugly and too old for anything! And to top it all up I later found out that all my girlfriends did the same so he must be hiding the butter because he is desperate for attention).

What else? Oh yes I have been bending over hundreds of cartons emptying and organising our belongings after yet another move. No! I don’t think he wants to know about that. And the reason I know this is because he did not comment when I stood up very slowly and limped to the kitchen curved as the hunchback of Notre Dame! The best way to get a reaction is to say something about his beloved dog ‘Oh, look at Amy the way she folds her little paws under her body while she sleeps. Then he moves forward and smiles. Or to simply say dinner is ready! And there you have this amazing meal ready.  What? YOU did that with all the 400 cardboard boxes you just emptied? This is AMAZING!. You are a super expat wife!!! That is me talking to me by the way. What he said was: ‘What is this? It looks funny’. This is when the yoga breathing exercises are useful. You breath in and out and then with a most compelling smile you reply ‘try it, you will love it darling’. And you know what? he did. So here is the recipe to help you when you have no time to cook, or just had an exhausting day of unpacking and need something healthy afterwards (yes OK I confess I did it for me but husband loved it too).


Hunchback of Notre Dame Salad

Ingredients:  For two

For the salad:

Iceberg salad – 2 leafs

Zuchinni – 4

Smoked salmon – 4 slices


For the vinaigrette for raw zucchini:

Drop of olive oil

Squeeze of fresh lemon

Sweet chilly sauce – as you like it



Wash the zuchinni, (if you are in a third world country and tap water is not good peel off the outer layer of the zuchinni) Then with the potato peeler peel thin slices off the zuchinni and put them in a bowl* then add the olive oil and fresh lemon and sweet chilly sauce. Leave it in the fridge for a while preferably half an hour or an hour before the meal but if you have no time it is not a problem

Take one leaf from the iceberg lettuce, preferably one that looks nice and round since it will be used to serve the salad. Put the zuchinni salad inside and then on the top one or two slices of smoked salmon with a twist just to make it look a bit more interesting.


And that’s it!


* (if you have time you could put the zucchini slices on a tray with salt to take the extra moisture out but if you have no time it is still good)


Posted in Expat life | 1 Comment

Hello world!

Here we go again! Another move. Packing our beloved possessions and unpacking can be daunting. Whether it is part of our career or our spouse’s career much of the unpacking and setting up of a new home is still mainly a woman’s chore, well men are busy with work aren’t they? Just imagine if they had to multi task like us…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment