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)