Sunday, May 27, 2007

Just an average day in expat land (with pictures)

Dear sisters,

So what do I do all day? You may ask, and you have. As I, myself, have often wondered where my time goes. So for today's posting pretty much a minute by minute account of an average day: Tuesday 22 May 2007.

6.30 am: I get woken by the soft calling of my sweet daughter.
6.35 am: I stumble to next room and am greeted by a big grin, jumping up and down in crib. Jip is still sleeping, so we creep downstairs for hot milk.
6.40 am: we make a puzzle while drinking milk. I check my e-mail. No personal mails.
6.45 am: we return upstairs. Rosie hears her father in the shower and runs to him, shrieking with delight. I flop back onto bed and close my eyes. Get woken by two clumpy arms around my neck. Jip snuggles up to me for a few minutes. We discuss the quality of our sleep. It was good, but too short in my case. A leaves early.
6.55 am: I make breakfast for Jip and Rosie. I manage a conflict about the right to hold the Spiderman collection.
7.15 to 8.25 am: back upstairs Jip, Rosie and I get dressed in various stages. Slower than we usually do on a Tuesday, as we get distracted by things today.
8.25 We trundle down through the basement to garage and get in the car. We start on the rounds.

It is a bit of a drive every morning but it has, by now, a certain meditative quality. When we first moved to SF, I listened to National Public Radio in an attempt to keep in touch with world news, but I have shamelessly switched to 97.2 Energy Pure Dance, a station primarily catering to the vibrant gay community in SF, which means they play lots of Kylie and dance music from days when I was still destined for great things. I tend to play it rather loudly.

For the last few weeks Rosie and I have been swaying arhythmically to this song by Bananarama. Jip pretends to be unaffected by the catchy tune.

8.40 am: drop off Rosie at day care.
8.50 am: drop off Jip, who has a difficult morning, meaning he growls when I talk to him and blocks my way out. This means I will be late for boot camp.
9.13 am: arrive 13 minutes late for my boot camp in the Marina. Even with the shorter class, it is tough, after a weekend of wine and cheese in Napa Valley (of which you may hear more.)
10.15 am: the Tuesday after work-out coffee on Chestnut street with M, who expertly manages a conference call at same time.
11 am: pop into book shop across road to look at travel guides, oh and the shop next door for the shoes. Do not buy a thing, which may or may not have something to do with limit of credit card having been reached this month.
11.25 am: drive home.
11.45 am: back home, ring water company about very high bill and arrange for leakage inspection. Check e- mail (nope, nothing), shower, get dressed, eat something, call D in Amsterdam for long overdue chat.
1.45 pm drive to one of the schools that refused Jip admission to kindergarten, basically to beg. I get told to come back in half an hour as the Head of Admission is in a meeting.
2.00 pm drive to Safeway, get shouted at on parking lot because I make a perfectly innocent manoeuvre. Decide on the spinach, ham, nutmeg, pasta recipe for kid's dinner, one of the few dishes that still meet all round approval. Decide to come back later to buy crickets for Lizardy due to heat. It is hot today and I have too many clothes on. Drive back to the school.
2.30 p.m: The head of admission of school has fled the scene. I leave phone number, but decide to write a letter instead.
2.40 pm: drive back to buy crickets for Lizardy.

3.00 p.m: have one hour before pickup. Too short for something and too long for nothing. I make a detour to drive past the new hairdressers I have an appointment with on Thursday. I don't find it, because I cannot recall exact address, but enjoy new sights of the city. Must come back with camera. Make another detour for petrol. It is still very hot, the music is still playing. Drive past dry cleaners to drop off A's shirts.
3.30 pm: drive home to drop off crickets, check e-mail (I should know better by now). Make list of things to do. Watch mess in kitchen for a while.
4.00 p.m: leave for pick up. Run back to get two Oreo cookies for Jip and Rosie to give in the car.
4.10 p.m: pick up Rosie.
4.25 p.m: pick up Jip. As usual I ask "What did you have for lunch today? As usual he asks back " Before nap time?" "Yes", I say. "Pasta." Jip assures me he can eat more pasta for dinner tonight.

4.55 p.m: home again, make chocolate milk, turn on cartoons, cook dinner with Rosie on my arm.
6.30 p.m: feed the kids. Let them loose upstairs for free play.
6.45 p.m: I make a salad for myself (A. is coming home late) and sit down with New York Times. I read an article about Buenaventura, apparently the most dangerous city in Colombia, an article on legislation making it possible to issue birth certificate's for stillborns, an article about former President Carter calling Bush the worst government ever and an article about a website that lists informers and undercover cops.
7.10 p.m: happily load new dishwasher which has just been installed after the old one broke down two weeks ago. Put note on floor at bottom of stairs to remind myself to put garbage out later.
7.20 p.m. go upstairs and give Rosie a wash - in view of water bill, skip bath - put pyjama's on, give pyjama's to Jip to put on, make bedtime milk, read a book to Rosie, put Rosie to bed, give Jip ten more minutes of TV, listen to the story about Pompeii he heard at school today, which was rather scary he thought,get persuaded to quickly make a paper octopus before bed, read a story about pirates, brush teeth and sit by bedside.
8.20 p.m: go downstairs to collect things. Jip shouts down that he cannot get to sleep. I tell him to try harder and that I will be up in a few minutes.
8.40 p.m: I go upstairs with laptop, check on Jip who pretends to be sleeping but starts grinning when I inspect closely.
8.50 p.m: catch last ten minutes of American Idol, the first time I have watched television in weeks. In the meantime try and write this post. It is still very hot in our room. I cannot concentrate. Stare blankly at moving screen.
11.15 A. returns from his dinner. I ask him to put garbage out. We talk.
11.45 Lights out.

So, you see, my days are more about the details than the sweeping statements. Sometimes there is inspiration, sometimes a bit more cleaning, sometimes an e-mail or two, always the driving through the city.

Now, if I had described the next day, I could have given you a full description of the mother of all tantrums, had by Jip on 24th street, our local shopping street, climaxing in him screaming that he HATED everything in the whole wide world, EVEN HIS TOYS!. I stood for twenty minutes next to our car, with one child screaming and shouting hysterically for no apparent reason (we were on our way to get an ice cream, after all) and the other one on my arm screaming because she is upset by the screaming. I got many sympathetic looks from passers by, while I smiled feebly, trying to think of a new tactic. Sympathy, anger, back rubbing, ignoring him, eventually it was an ice cream WITH DVD rental that did it. An obvious highlight of the week.

So for any of you who were worried that my many years of education are not being put to their full use, you may rest assured.

What do your days look like?


the one obviously on the verge of an artistic breakthrough

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