Expat Life: a lot like a Seinfeld episode
Remember that Seinfeld episode in the parking garage…the one where no one can remember where the car’s parked? Kramer is carrying a heavy air conditioning unit, he eventually off loads behind someone’s parked car; Elayne is worried her goldfish in the airtight plastic sack is going to die; George is worried he’ll miss his parent’s anniversary dinner and Jerry has to desperately urinate. At some point Jerry muses: Why is it other people always seem to be having more fun than me on a Saturday?
(This from guy who gave us: There is no such thing as fun for the whole family.)
Sometimes the expat life feels like an ongoing episode of Seinfeld–a series of misunderstandings and mishaps. It’s a lot of unnecessary drama, all because you live in a foreign country and most of the time you just don’t get how things operate.
Take this Saturday for example. Maggie had been begging for weeks to go ice-skating, ever since she saw the movie Frozen, the one with Anna and Elsa–the adorable Scandinavian princesses. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, CAN WE GO?
A 4-year old who has NEVER been on ice-skates…I somehow knew it wasn’t going to be as fun as it looked in the movies. Nevertheless, I asked my Danish friend who grew up on ice skates, takes her three children weekly to the rink, (they also don’t eat ANY sugar), “Where’s the best place to go?”
She texted me the address, and the time the rink opened to the public. I pinkie promised Maggie that ALL her ice-skating dreams would come true on SATURDAY, if she would please stop asking me when we were going to go ice-skating. It worked!! She stopped asking if we could ice-skate. Instead she asked: When is it going to be Saturday?
Let’s just get one thing straight…I don’t ice skate. I tried it on the ocean last year and it made for an impressive photo-op, but it scared me to death seeing the water through the cracks in the ice. THINGS LIVE UNDER THERE. AND IT’S COLD. The lowest documented body temperature of anyone recovering from hypothermia, was a 7-year-old girl in Sweden in 2011. She fell into the ice and nearly drowned, her temperature dropping to 55.4 °F. Knowing I’m literally a blade shy from an impending plunge just takes all of the fun right out of it.
Not just that, but one wrong twist of an ankle and there goes my To-Do list. I need my ankles! So I asked Micah, my 14-year-old (who has really strong ankles), if he would help Maggie learn to ice skate. For some chocolate chip waffles, he said yes.
By now it was nearly 1:00 pm and the rink was about to open. We were still looking for gear when Cooper happened in with Jonah from rugby. “Why don’t we all go?” I suggested. (Cooper would rather jump out of a plane than go on ice and he has jumped out of a plane.)
We got our helmets, skates, and put on our warm winter gear—the rink’s outside, of course. We didn’t have skates for Maggie, but I assumed we could rent those. No use buying if she wasn’t going to have fun. By the time we got into the car, we were rolling down the windows for air.
I put the address in the GPS. Only six minutes to destination. That’s odd. I’d never heard of a rink that close-by. We drove, following turns until we dead-ended at the ocean.
“Is this the ice-rink you’re talking about?” my 11-year-old’s voice was thick with sarcasm.
“No,” I assured him. “It’s a proper rink. I looked it up online.”
“We can’t find it?” Maggie’s voice quivered.
“We’ll find it. Don’t you worry honey. Mommy promised and we WILL find a rink.”
We googled on our iPhones, searching, until Cooper located what he thought could be the correct address. Another ten minutes and we were pulling into a parking lot. I could see the rink! But oh! Wait? Where were the people?? The only thing moving across the ice was a huge machine smoothing out the surface to look as polished as glass. “Maybe everyone is waiting inside, you know, for the machine to, you know, finish?” I spoke slowly.
I looked at the text from my Danish friend. Open from 12:00-14:30. (Gasp!!) Military time!! 14:30 is 2:30. It was 2:30 now. I read it completely wrong. I thought we had until 4:30! Public skating was over. (Cooper if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I never told you I messed up the time. I know. I know. I’ve been feeling guilty. You know me with numbers. Haha, isn’t it great how we can laugh together now?)
Just then a rosy-cheeked Swedish family happened by, drinking cocoa from their thermos (you could smell it). Is the rink closed? I asked.
“Yes,” they confirmed. They also told me there were no rentals. Everyone needed his or her own skates.
OH. It figured. What was I thinking? I was thinking like an American.
Off we went to the Mall to buy Maggie ice-skates. The boys stayed in the parked car while I ventured in with a very sullen 4-year-old, who despite complaining she was hot, would not take off her snowsuit.
A GENERAL RULE FOR EXPATS: For every three steps forward, you take two steps back. You still come out one ahead, but the time and energy you expend doing things that take relatively little effort in your own country, is exhausting.
Let’s see…I have an address to the skate rink. check. I have ice-skates for Maggie. check. I know the correct time the rink opens. check. All I have to do now is take Maggie ice-skating.
Next Saturday, when I ventured back to the rink, I have no idea what Maggie will think of skating. But you can be sure if she tells me it’s not fun, she’s going to get one of those “Mom Lectures.” You know the kind. “Oh really honey, well…that’s too bad, because YOU said you wanted to go ice-skating and NOW we bought you the skates, and Mommy made time to bring you here so YOU’RE going to have to have FUN!” It might not be fun for the whole family, but it’s gonna be fun for someone.