Somehow, I find myself having been in this place for almost one month. I am truly starting to lose track of the weeks – and had to actually count back to confirm that this really is week 4. My 30 day visa expires on Boxing Day – and so if the same occurs as it did with the husband, assuming my new visa is not granted before then, it will be recommended that I do not leave the compound – until the new visa is confirmed. This will unfortunately preclude me from any trips into town.
I did have the benefit of a further trip into town on Saturday morning, however – driven by one of the girls in the husband’s vehicle. Much more independent than the compound bus notwithstanding that we did manage to get lost (not a huge concern given the size of the island and the town centre itself) as well as issued with a ticket for apparently not complying with a traffic signal. The fine was 120.000 CFA or much less if we paid on the spot. Of course, given that our driver’s licence had been confiscated by this point, we opted to take the ticket and let the company deal with it. There is much more that could be said at this point but unfortunately this will have to be left to another time.
Driving in town is certainly an experience – one I am happy to engage in as a passenger but will avoid any invitation to drive myself. Happy to stick to the confines of the compound and my new mate “Ezzy” for now! The streets in town are narrow which is a challenge when attempting to negotiate a company ute through the other beaten-up vehicles and down streets which really should probably be one-way. The other challenge (apart from the obvious of driving on the opposite side of the road) is the uncertainty with which one must approach intersections and roundabouts – all the while asking the question who gives way to who?!
Christmas is approaching fast now, although it’s relatively easy to pretend that it’s not happening here. The compound has quietened considerably during the past week with the departure of staff who will return home to spend Christmas with their families, or go on holidays. The rest of us here will quietly look for opportunities to have beers, eat food and talk shit.
Food is a constant topic of conversation and I have begun feeling quite overwhelmed with it of late. Every conversation in every group seems to turn to food and cooking, and a kind of constant cooking competition – the island is certainly not immune to the MasterChef phenomenon! As the husband explained to me, it is largely because there is little other activity here that people need a hobby – something to keep them occupied in between the obsessive fitness sessions (including of course yours truly!). It is also linked to the pockets of inadequacy that creep into the psyche now then – I, as the “wife” having nothing better to do all day, should be dominating the kitchens, but, again those who know me, would recall how I tend to shy away from competition whenever such competition presents itself!
Although it is definitely not rocket science to say so, it is certainly not easy for a spouse being here – particularly one in my age group who is not meant to be looking at retirement for another 20-30 years. It is funny; when one is introduced to a new person and asked “what is that you do here” – the reply I am meant to give out is “spouse” – rather than my usual retort to date which has been “not very much at the moment!” While I have been content with the majority of my days this past month, and in general the staff are courteous and friendly, it is the external judgment and comments which do tend to have an effect, even on a subtle level and notwithstanding that such may not have been made personally. There are those who may be jealous of the infinite leisure time and who may think of the “spouses” as nothing more than ladies of leisure/trophy wives/ladies who lunch. Then there are those who contend that the “spouses” are deficient in some way, that they must have only half a brain and are nothing more than a “housewife.”
I can only reiterate the privilege I feel at being here, and confirm that yes, I am enjoying the time I have to embrace my inner (and now outer) gym junkie and dedicate myself to the Spanish language. I am not asking for sympathy by any means as I did choose to be here – only a little understanding and recognition of the challenges the “spouses” face each day between gym time and the dinner/drinks hour would be appreciated!