What you just do.

Being an expat in a country very different to your homeland creates a battle between the heart and mind so equal in artillery and strategy you think you’re going crazy at the indecisiveness of it all.

The opportunities while abroad argue ‘for’ being in a foreign land. Then, the unprovoked memories of the familiar and comfortable act as cues connected to an identity that makes you you. Logic says stay, you’re lucky. The heart says go home, you’re lucky there too.

Who am I without driving my children to swimming lessons, play dates, the shops, the Dentist, the Doctor or anything at all? Who am I without kissing my children at the school gate and waving them off as they make their way across the quadrangle then returning 6 hours later to take them home? Who am I when I don’t see the dirt marks on their laundry, fold their clothes or curse over missing socks? Hear their praises or see their scrunched up faces over a meal I prepared in the hopes it both nourished their bodies and pleased their little taste buds. Who am I when I can’t shop online, visit a fully stocked art supply store, find an art teacher, buy clothes that are my style, order a soy decaf cappuccino or even read a magazine? Relying on others to do the things I would ‘just do’ at home is an adjustment I seem to be resisting to say the least.

The things I used to do at home are either done by somebody else or just not easy to do here. Since a large part of what we do accumulates into the whole of who we are, it seems an obvious thing to say that I don’t just miss being home, I miss being me.

On the flip side, the opportunities to do things I would never do at home either due to lack of time or availability are endless here. I already find myself in situations I never thought I would ever see myself, doing things I never thought I would do. I have private tennis lessons, I’m learning a new language, experiencing a different culture and forming friendships unlike any before.

Although still unfamiliar here and despite feeling a little (or a lot) lost at times, I’ve found the answer. It is a simple matter of mediating between the heart and the mind and letting each have their turn to rule.  This creates a medium between the old you that has always been and the new you that will meet you in the future.

And how does one manage that?

You ‘just do’.

One more thing I am doing is taking advantage of the wonderful local craftsmanship at a much more affordable price to frame drawings I would normally store in a draw somewhere. Here is my first of many yet to come.

Mum, you will recognise this drawing from my first 8 minute life drawing exercise that you liked the most.

Framed nude drawing in charcoal

My new identity

I know, these are the best years of my life, rearing children but time out for mum is vital. So imagine what it would be like to have a driver? I mean, I usually pack all three kids into the car, drive while instructing them to stop fighting, explaining where we are going, negotiating treats and surprises and then having to shuffle them through the car park like a border collie herding sheep. With a driver, I have someone who helps shuffle them through the car park, carry my bags, read the road signs, concentrate on the road rules so I can concentrate on the demands to stop fighting, answering endless questions and negotiating the allocation of treats and surprises. Sounds nice but not entirely considered a luxury.

So …… what if I had someone at home who could look after the children at any time so I could pop out and do my own shopping without any of the above concerns? Brilliant, and trust me, it is. So I am sitting in the back of a car, by myself right, no kid noise, fights, cries, tantrums, wish lists, cuddles (miss those) or runny noses. Nope, just me, my thoughts and pen and paper for that ever elusive shopping list.

So I’m feeling pretty special right? Just popping out without having to organise a babysitter before hand, just hanging in the car with my very own driver, relishing the city of Lima, the colours, the contrasts, the interest, the unknown and endless possibilities. I mean, I am living in South America!!  All of the sudden, with this new realisation remembered, I begin to feel pretty tough, like I have been let out on good behaviour. Yeah, you heard me, I’m bad ass man. I’m just cruising around Lima South America. ‘Hey! You lookin at me??? Well you should be’. You get the picture right. Then I decide to turn to my driver to soak in the whole atmosphere, after all, he’s my compadre, my partner in crime, we’ve got this you know!

IMG_1085

Feeling pretty special, I expect to view my driver/security guard with one hand on the wheel, the other on the windowsill with a slight slouch to the left and a possible subtle movement to the beat on the radio. Is that what I see as part of my new identity in South America? No, instead I see my driver bopping side to side like a metronome with the same amount of badass grace as a nun. I’m thinking it’s just a cover …. right?