It’s been three and a half years since we landed in tropical paradise. The place has inevitably changed since we first arrived – most obviously, there are less people. The compound has shrunk, but is still diverse, although it seems we keep to ourselves more and more as time goes on. We also don’t go into town as often. Weeks may pass without either of us setting foot through the gate. It seems to be the general trend – those that have been here for ten years, even longer, contain their hitches to the walls of the compound. For us it’s mainly laziness, plus the hassle, and perhaps that the novelty of eating at the same restaurants has just worn off.
One always knows that the island is not a forever after place and the truth of this is starting to set in little by little. As it takes its place comfortably in the corner, one can’t help but wonder about the changes that have already come upon us, the way we live, the way we do things, the way we have adapted to life here – will those changes follow us back to the “normal” world? Or were they merely temporary adaptations we had to make that will then morph into new adaptations when we return to the world of 8am-6pm work days and four weeks’ annual leave?
If I was a betting woman, I’d say the one thing that will probably stick is the food usage mandate. Living on the island of limited food variety, use by dates are meaningless. Who know when we will get that particular cheese/yoghurt/vegetable again? Just go through the basic steps – does it smell bad, is there mould on it… No? Go on, eat up! I truly hope this one does stick with us for the pure fact that it means less wastage. I’ve always hated the idea of wastage but at the same time I would religiously stick to the stupid labels on the food, stressing myself out to ensure that all food was consumed BEFORE the use by date. One day over? It was in the bin. What a ridiculous unnecessarily high standard!
The one that I think probably won’t stick is the 8.00pm bedtime. Back in Oz, I wouldn’t get home from work til after 6pm, even later on pump class night. By the time dinner was cooked, eaten, a few too many glasses of wine drunk while watching Snog, Marry, Avoid, it could easily be 10.30pm or 11.00pm. Here, there’s generally no mid-week drinking, we leave that to the weekend binge. And getting up at 5.20am every morning to go to the gym requires a lot of morning energy, and therefore a lot of sleep. Plus, one always seems plagued by tiredness here, probably something to do with being indoor office workers with little exposure to serotonin or vitamin D. There never seems to be enough sleep. It’s no secret I love mornings; even in my slightly hungover state I would still get up before 6am for a short jog around the block in Oz. I hope to always be that way – but perhaps with a more adult bedtime in future (and less hangover).
One which is too close to call is the optional underwear rule. Now, this rule applies only to home (or equivalent locations). I always wear a bra and undies to work out of respective for my co-workers. But in the privacy of the apartment? Turns out underwear isn’t necessary. The husband, like most men, has known about this rule for years and happily roamed around the house commando every night of the week for as long as I’ve known him. But for some reason, I had mistakenly thought this rule didn’t apply to females. Turns out, if one is garbed in nothing but floaty hippy pants or a skirt, underwear is an optional extra. And in a place this hot and humid, I’m happy to take the minimalist approach thank you very much. It’s fantastic. It’s freeing. I urge you to try it. No heat rash or fungal infections welcome here!
The great thing about being exposed to different lifestyles is that it helps one understand what one values the most. Similar to the way in which living in lots of different houses or locations gives you the best idea of your dream home or ideal living climate before you finally build a house or choose a town to live in. Adapting is good for the human spirit; the human body and mind love a challenge. If you can learn something from your experience that will help you in the future, then it’s all been worthwhile.
So while I can’t promise that I’ll be keeping a granny bedtime forever, I can say that the use by labels on products are overly generous. And girls, what are you waiting for? It’s time to shimmy out of those undies and feel the breeze between your knees.