It takes a special person to follow their partner to the armpit, ars*ehole or ends of the earth. A very special person indeed. One in a million in fact.
One of my favourite expat quotes EVER was coined when a British couple moved to the small island of Okinawa, Japan. At the time (aside from a formidable US presence on military airbases, which was a self contained community with their own on-base shops and cinemas and social life), the sum total of the expat population was around 10 people and most of them had Japanese spouses and were there on a fairly permanent basis.
It’s almost certain that the British couple were the only non-military expat couple on the island. Okinawa’s population at the time was around the 1 million mark and thus quipped the wife to the husband whose job had taken them to this tiny isolated dot in the Pacific Ocean:
Icebergs, people, cacti….you can’t always see the full picture, maybe because your perspective is skewed or obscured. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile and dig a little deeper (in this case inside my wheelie bin) to get the full story.
These large cactus ears popped out from behind our chimney over the Christmas break. I thought they looked about the size of a human head each.
I let our landlord know and a man with a ladder duly appeared to remove them.
I meant to ask him to let me see the cactus before disposing of it, but it had already gone in the wheelie bin by the time I’d walked the dog. I smiled and pretended that was exactly the answer I had wanted to hear. It wasn’t though, I am inquisitive by nature and really wanted to see the cactus and confirm whether my human head estimate was accurate.
I waited for him to leave and the minute his car turned out of sight I was rummaging in the bin and ended up tipping the contents all over the driveway to see what I could see.
Getting a hair cut should be a fairly simple procedure and yet I have found it to be one of the lesser known, but very real challenges of expat life. Plenty of expat blogs cover all the obvious, big ticket hurdles to being a successful and happy expat: emotional resilliance, repatriation, culture shock, depression, leaving well etc. But there are plenty of lesser known hurdles we face as we ricochet around the globe and getting a decent haircut is firmly on that list.
Whether I’ve asked for ‘a trim’ or ‘the same but shorter’ or shown a picture from a magazine or a photograph of my own hair I seem to have had more than my fair share of awful expat haircuts than I care to mention. Here are a few of my lowlights…. Continue reading →
The Princess and The Fish is what I’ve always called this photograph. I took it almost 11 years ago on a slim spit of beach wedged between the quiet creek and the wide Atlantic Ocean just a short boat ride along the coast from Lagos, Nigeria one lazy Sunday afternoon.
This girl was seemingly the leader of her ‘gang’ of beach roaming children. She was older than the others and was insistent that I photographed her and her friends. As I snapped the first picture, the one of her alone, she unexpectedly blew into the fishes’ mouth to make it puff up. She was pleased to show me her party trick and laughed gleefully at my surprise.
As promised, here is Part II of my A-Z of Lagos Lingo. If you haven’t read Part I yet, click here.
N-Z of Lagos Lingo
N is for NEPA plc: The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHC or PHCN) used to be called the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA plc). Due to the frequent power outages, it was more commonly referred to as: N.ever E.ver P.ower A.vailable, p.lease l.ight c.andle.
N is also for Naira: Nigeria’s currency…and is for Naija: A slang name for Nigeria …and for Nollywood – I’ll let you work that one out for yourself.
O is for Oyinbo: (I’ve also seen this spelled oyibo) Literally it means peeled skin. If you are a white person, you will probably hear this often, usually to get your attention (yes, you are the peeled skin person) or as an informal greeting.
The official language of Nigeria, the language of business and commerce, the common language for Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas and other tribes to communicate with one another is English. Whether you are a native English speaker, or like many expats have English as a second (or impressive third or even forth) language, it sounds like one less thing to worry about when moving to Nigeria.
However, even when more standardised English is spoken (and a lot of the time it will be the less comprehensible pidgin English that you hear around you), there are various words and phrases that are likely to confuse, amuse or befuddle you from the moment you step off the plane. You might figure them out easily, you might not. Let me help by decoding a little bit of Lagos Lingo for you.
A is for Area Boy: A local hoodlum. Watch out, watch out if you are told the area boys are about.
B is for Breaking Plates: Plates that are not plastic. i.e. the regular kind of porcelain plates that most expats over the age of 5 would eat from. Continue reading →
I am THAT woman. I don’t know how it happened, but I am the mug that runs our local expat Facebook group. I assumed there would be one (an expat Facebook group, not a mug) when I arrived in Johannesburg. After all, I’m sure every major city has had at least one of these groups for ages. I searched for it before I arrived, I asked around when I got here. I got tumbleweed. So eventually, I stepped up to the plate and set one up. It took all of 10 minutes to pick a name, write a description, add a photo, select the settings and add a few friends. I think I started off with about 10 people.
On the back of the initial 10 minutes that I invested, not much happened for the first couple of weeks. Then a lot happened. It’s become a bit of beast. A much needed and generally much appreciated beast, but a beast nonetheless.
Here are 10 things I’ve learnt from running an expat Facebook group (and yes, there are links at the end of the post).