sour puss

I don’t know where or how to begin.

I’ll be the first to admit to my embarrassingly poor planning. I have 7 weeks until I leave for maternity medevac in Johannesburg. Since we’ve moved into our house and finally gotten our temperamental internet connection established, I will have something to occupy my time until then. My overwhelming desire to nest is thwarted by the 6 month voyage our things are undertaking over the Atlantic. I can’t even bake a pie! (No bakeware at all in welcome kit. I have a new found respect for tinfoil and the free form tart.)

Things here are not easy. I didn’t expect them to be. I’m not sure what I expected. I have a tendency to think that people exaggerate and as a result, I down play whatever it is they’re telling me. Thinking, we lived in DETROIT, not the surrounding suburbs: in the hood, gunshots at night, hungry pitbulls chained in backyards, generators coughing and sputtering their lethal breath into neighbor’s basements, all of that. And through it all, we sat out on our back porch, sipping homemade lemonade and enjoying our odd little sanctuary. I grew up on a farm in the sticks, without privilege or excess of any kind. We struggled to make ends meet every single month. I’m tough, resourceful, and damn it, I always walk up hill . How bad can this be?

I wish I could attribute some of these feelings to the fact that I’m a powder keg of hormones right now, entering the third trimester, and maybe I can. But to a large extent, Snakes feels the same. And he has 50 or so hours each week when he is behind the 20 ft walls of the lush embassy compound. He is still enjoying his job. It suits him well. Since I am discouraged from walking anywhere alone, I generally stay home all day. It’s been a little challenging to strike a balance with each other. I respect the fact that he needs time to decompress by reading, running, working out, but the minute he walks in the door, my excitement rivals the mastiff’s.

I was ecstatic about the fact that I’d found and attended a yoga class a couple of weeks ago. It has always been important to me to that I have my own interests to pursue independently. Plus it’s a great way to cultivate new relationships, and get out of the house!! Snakes has a couple of different running groups he’s met up with and of course there’s that whole job thing which gives him a sense of belonging and purpose. I had this yoga class. The instructor called before class on Saturday to inform me that she’s not comfortable with me in her class since I’m pregnant. I insisted that I’ve been studying for over a decade and am totally confident in my ability to modify the practice as necessary. I offered to loan her books on the subject to help her understand. I offered to sign a waiver. No go. Of course the rational me understands where she’s coming from, but the selfish me is totally devastated. I actually cried. This was my ONE thing.  I still practice at home, but honestly, this was more about the social outlet and a whisper of my former life of independence. This whole “dependent spouse” thing starts to take on a new and deeper meaning all the time. I hate it.

We went for a walk yesterday around town. It was Sunday afternoon and the city was relatively peaceful compared to the complete gridlock of activity that comes with weekly business hours. As we set off, I imagined we’d find some little café in this city of 5-6 million inhabitants to stop and have a tea/coffee/juice/latte (totally dreamin-I know) and perhaps even a little pastry (downright delusional). Maybe we’d find a park along the way where I could rest for a minute while sipping my water (ever the optimist). What it actually amounted to was climbing through rubble and festering trash heaps, trying to “mouth breathe” in a futile attempt to avoid smelling the waves of hot urine that flow more than ebb. Our Sunday stroll became a forced march in sweltering heat for around an hour before arriving back home, having long since switched to “straight-up survival mode”, as I put it to Snakes.

So, yeah, poor me. Whatever.

As I said in one of my last posts, as much as I want to shoot from the hip and let people know what my life here is like, I also feel like a complete fool for complaining at all. So that’s enough for now. Internet willing, I’ll be checking in more often. Our housing is seriously fantastic, a massive blessing. So, you can expect me to start adding a little sugar to this endless flow of lemon squeezing. After yesterday’s walk and this blog post, we could all stand a little refreshment. Free form lemon bars, anyone?

PS- to the FS folks: What’s the protocol on posting house pictures? Is it okay as long as they’re just inside or does that give “the bad guys” a blue print to “plan their attack”? None of the facade or outer gate?

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20 thoughts on “sour puss

  1. Oh Eve, sending you great big hugs. The isolation can drive you nuts. As can feeling like your whole life ended when your spouse joined the FS. I was a stay at home mom with 4 little kids for years before we ever started this stuff. It was still hard to adjust to everything having to go through my husband half the time. Beautiful as those four walls were, I hated them some days. We had lovely hosuing and it helped a lot but the isolation is still there. Hang in there. It’s hard when outlets seem to get cut off right as you find them. The mind numbing poverty must be so hard to deal with too. You are amazing. Thanks for YOUR service to our country too.

    1. Becky- You’re the best. Thank you for that thoughtful comment. I often think that once I have our little family started, I won’t have the luxury to revel in my isolation. Do you ever feel that as a mom you have to hold it together for the sake of everyone else and try to convince them that it’s a “fun adventure” when you know damned well you’d rather be curled up in bed with a cup of tea and a trashy fashion magazine? Or on line shamelessly ordering miracle lipgloss and neck creams? I hope we have the chance to actually meet someday! xo back at ya.

      1. It’s true that you have to pull it together for the fam lots of days. And it’s hard. With young kids, it seems like they do okay if the primary caregiver is okay (e.g. me). Some days I do better than others. Part of the reason we’re on a self-funded R&R right now is that I was starting to lose it (’cause the pool at the consulate was having issues and we were out of options). It was hard because we had freedom at first there and then everything went downhill. So, not only did we not feel comfortable going out anymore, but we also were kind of taunted by what used to be.

        I most miss a good soccer game or run by myself. Have rarely had either in years. (Though we have found some soccer moments here and there.) Both are on my DC, home leave, and Taiwan must do lists. There are days when I dream of just forgetting about all of it and going for a nice long run, by myself. We take so much for granted in the US.

        I do try to make it an adventure for the kids and for the most part they do okay but man it’s hard. I never realized how much I wasn’t a homebody until we got stuck at home a ton. Even when I had four toddlers/infants, I was out of the house doing stuff many days of the week. Just didn’t realize it until it was all cut off. Hang in there. You are amazing. I don’t ever want to deal with this kind of thing again but I am grateful for the experience. I will never take my freedom to walk down the street for granted again.

        If you need to vent in a less bloggable form, you are always welcome to email me. You can do this. I’m glad you’ll get a break for a bit in S. Africa.

      2. Sorry, hit return too soon and my then my internet kicked out. Just going to say that I hope we run into you at some point too! I am cheering for you.

  2. I’m so sorry about the yoga class, the smallest diversion can mean so much when it’s the only link to your former self. Perhaps you should start a book club, a supper club, a knitting group…all three? Also, is there a way for the spouses to connect with a local charity? It seems like there must be a venue for you to serve as goodwill ambassadors to the people of Angola. Perhaps working with local woman artisans? I’m sure they would appreciate your experience and expertise on creating and marketing handmade treasures. You are such a compasionate and artistic soul, I feel there are women who could benefit so much from your guidance. Perhaps the ambassador could point you in the right direction?

    Your lemon bars, freeform or not, look luscious!

    I love you~ BigSister

  3. Oh my beautiful darling~I am so sorry about your yoga class. How devastating for you. I know that feeling of wanting one little thing so much and not being able to have it. It doesn’t seem at all right. But to answer with those lovely looking lemon bars…You’re still on top of things and I’m not one bit surprised!!!

    Is it possible for David to call for you at lunch time? You could spend an afternoon here and there at the embassy and enjoy the pool or library. No more sweet strolls through the rubble. Too depressing.

    Please be as careful as you can manage. Staying healthy and strong is really your main priority. I am actually very proud of you for not walking alone as advised. I know it’s not your nature to be humble or afraid. Good thinking though~doesn’t sound like a place for risky behavior. LYTP Check your email!

    1. David does come home for lunch everyday and occasionally I will walk with him back to the embassy. But seriously- sometimes I just can’t take the sights and smells. We walk right by a “public” maternity hospital- you can’t imagine the horror and medical waste that spill into the streets. Of course it resonates as I do my own pregnant waddle on by in my pretty and flowy dresses (thanks to you girls!) and comfortable well built shoes. It’s just too much on most days. I prefer to stay in.

  4. Oh, Eve. I’m so glad to hear news from you, I’ve been thinking of you so much. Please don’t feel at all guilty for your rough transition. You have always been such a strong independent person, it’s only natural for you to feel sour over the loss of your everyday freedoms. And yes use the “prego” card as much as you can!!! You only get it for 9 months. After that you’ll get to use the “new mommy” card and that last for about a year. Look at the bright side, life gave you a whole basket of lemons and not only did you make lemon-aid but you went the extra distance and made your yummy lemon bars too. I’m so proud of you and I know that your facing your challenges with as much gracefulness as any of us would! I love you and miss you and I want to hear more about that sweet little baby in your belly, she has to be creating quite the stir by now. Also, I’ve just been introduced to a great idea for all of your knitted squares….. baby wash cloths! I just made my first Etsey purchase for some hand puppets (amazing selection, just like you’ve said) anyhow the lady sent me a complimentary knitted wash cloth with my order. I thought it was so cleaver!
    Lots of love to you, to your precious baby, and those three stinky boys you live with.

    1. Love you too, Summer! Gratuitous baby blog entry forthcoming. As is a post on what I ended up doing with all of those knitted squares… Just finished the other day. I think you’ll be impressed! I know I was. I’ll catch up on our blog soon. I have a few interesting pix from when we went on a little field trip.
      Miss you! xoxo

  5. Can you receive mail where you are? I’d love to be able to send some stuff your way.

    As for the pastry problem… I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the place, but there used to be a great little place down by where the Ilha and the downtown meet. Not the yacht club (Club Nautico), but a big glass building. They had some pretty good pastries and even some salads (!!).

  6. Hi there. Your post brings back a lot of memories of the first few weeks in the country. It was hard for me and my husband to be on completely different schedules with different needs – he was exhausted after a day at the Embassy and I was dying for human interaction. I think like you, I felt bad for feeling bad – given the poverty surrounding me. I think it wasn’t until another (3rd tour) spouse told me that its ok to admit that you’re having a hard time with everything, that I finally got over my guilt about feeling so unhappy for those first few weeks despite living in a huge home. It took a while, but it did get better. Stay safe and healthy! And congrats on getting internet. That certainly helped my mood.

  7. Comments received as we read them sound awfully on target and helpful..Thanks Becky for putting into words what all FS wives experience and need to work through. You are well on your way Eve, to the adjustments needed to make the best of a challenging post. You are living in and with the horrors of the aftermath of the evils of colonization and a civil war… I can’t imagine what it must be like to have this be the only future for someone living permantly in Angola. Now here is yet more how to survive advice, food for thought. You are such a spectacular baker…how about a cottage industry someday, somewhere. “I’ll bake, you supply the ingredients” I just bet someone in the embassy would love some homemade goodies for a special occasion and you would have an outlet for all that creativity….Love and miss you, take care of all the Js……

    1. Knowing your son, do you really think that would fly??
      “Where are you taking that PIE??? Put it back!!”
      “what happened to those key lime bars???”
      “Didn’t you just order a bunch of kiffle ingredients? What gives?”
      hehehe! Just kidding (sort of). I actually sent a good portion of those lemon bars with him to the embassy, even though he assured me that he wouldn’t let them go to waste. I do look forward to doing many more baking projects but I won’t have any of my baking stuff until our things arrive sept-oct!! I’ve been using a nalgene water bottle (hard plastic) as a rolling pin…

  8. There’s so much to say, but first off: I am stunned at the yoga instructor. It just feels so anti-yoga to me. And honestly, I think you’re being too diplomatic when you say that you understand where’s she coming from. You know your body and the baby within it better than anyone. I’m offended. How could she possibly take that away from you!? I always think of yogis as being this lovely niche of people who are able to create communities wherever they might be and as important as the practice itself is, those communities are even more so. I am super bummed for you. That’s wicked lame. There’s a woman in one of my yoga classes who is due the same time as you. It’s a rigorous, advanced class and the teacher encourages her to participate when its appropriate and makes her feel comfortable when opting out of certain twisty, inverted poses that are not. I so wish you had such an instructor!

    1. I know… and that was my first reaction too, but it IS her class and what if she had a whole group of pregnant women show up, see me there, and insist they should be able to join in. There are many scenarios I thought of where I could understand her point of view, as much of a bummer as it was. She is an absolutely lovely person, I actually really like her. Bottom line is, it’s her class. She makes the rules. I respect that. So until I get to J’burg for an actual class, it’s me and Shiva Rea- kickin it prenatal style.

  9. just thinking of you…hoping things get better for you. So sorry about yoga, I absolutely understand how disappointing that was. I LOVED Shiva Rea during pregnancy! take care of yourself.

  10. Re: photos-
    I remember seeing someone get called out about posting pictures of the inside/outside of their home on a blog last year sometime. In general I don’t do it, but I haven’t seen any regulations on it. Home invasions are a pretty regular thing here, so I figure why make it any easier. I did put up some photos on a site where I had a little more control over who viewed them. Hackers can get to anything but I really don’t think they’re going to commit those kind of resources when they can just dress up as a pizza delivery dude and throw a small bomb-ish device over the wall like they did to a guy a couple blocks over. We were assured it wasn’t anything to do with the USG as he didn’t work for us and that our suburb is still ok for all of us to be in…and it probably is.

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