I think the low point was me in the courtyard of the mall trying to wrestle Denton under the nursing blanket when he peed out of his diaper, soaking both of our laps, while it simultaneously started raining and Lila darted out of the drugstore alone brandishing a roll of stolen Christmas wrapping paper like a triumphant warrior. (She’s been watching too much Mulan.) It is true what they say: the adjustment from one kid to two kids is nowhere near as earth shattering as the adjustment from zero kids to one. However, let’s be honest: it’s still an adjustment. Based on today I would say it’s one we’re still getting used to. The scene went down this afternoon in the open air courtyard of the Woolworths shopping mall in upscale Hout Bay, South Africa.
In order to work in a foreign country, you generally need the permission of their government. This makes perfect sense but is one of those things you don’t think about until you find yourself in this particular situation. Botswana is a sparsely populated country (at barely over 2 million people), and it is fiercely protective of its own citizens, which translates into being a bit stingy when it comes to handing out work permits for expats. You have to demonstrate clearly that you possess a “special, valuable skill” that is not already readily available in the country, and that your job has already been advertised widely to give citizens a chance to nab it first. No work permit = no job, so the stakes are high, especially when you’ve already moved your whole family to Botswana at great personal expense and exhaustion of energy and you literally have no home to go to if they kick you out.
A few months ago, I faced an interesting dilemma. Laid out on the couch with a sore throat so painful I could barely swallow, I tried to decide which was worse: hauling my sick body out of the house for the first time in a week to accomplish an important errand, or sending my housekeeper, driver, and/or bodyguard to the drugstore to buy a pregnancy test. I didn’t love either of my options. With my significant other in the U.S. (nice timing!) I decided to take the “do nothing” approach and wait for the throat infection to pass. Five days later I made the trip to the drugstore myself, with driver and bodyguard in tow of course. There was nothing I could do about the entourage, but at least going myself spared me from having to pantomime “pregnancy test” to two gruff-looking Pakistani ex-military men. I chose my most conservative Pakistani outfit for the errand: full shalwar and long sleeves. For some reason this made me feel better braving Shaheen’s Chemist. At pharmacies in Pakistan, a line of male employees stands six-deep behind the register watching your every move. Don’t bother trying to figure out how all of them are necessary for the ringing up, packaging, or payment of your order: they are just there, and always will be. The drugstore is also so brightly lit one could perform surgery on the counter. I blew by the freezer case of Snickers ice cream bars (my normal reason to visit Shaheen’s) and entered the shop, accompanied only by the bodyguard lurking by the front door and the driver idling out front, to ask for a pregnancy […] Read More
So, they put me on the whore floor. Let me explain. It started out as innocently as any other business trip: board a plane in the morning, arrive in the not-too-distant city of Lahore armed with a full agenda and a small suitcase of hopefully not-too-wrinkled suits. It wasn’t until reaching reception at the hotel after a full day of meetings that things turned a little strange. The front desk cheerfully and efficiently checked in my boss and then turned to me and said, “You’ll need to check in on the third floor.” Confused but ever courteous, I decided to go with it and headed up the elevator alone. Upon arrival on the third floor, I suddenly found myself in a very different environment: one with lots of flowers, soothing music, and the presentation of a glass of cool, sweet melon juice. Third floor check-in isn’t so bad, I thought to myself. It turns out I had arrived in “Lady Avari” land, which is the name the Avari Hotel has given for their women’s only wing of the hotel. The reception desk on the third floor already had a print-out of my passport (weird), but they asked me all the right questions, as in What newspaper would you like delivered in the morning and Do you know about all the different restaurants in the hotel and What is your bust size. Wait, no they didn’t ask that one. But it was starting to feel like it was possible. I was escorted to my room, which was pink and girly and full of small bud vases. It was pointed out to me that all my calls […] Read More
I was just alerted to a devastating piece of news. From hulu.com: For now, Hulu is a U.S. service only. That said, our intention is to make Hulu’s growing content lineup available worldwide. This requires clearing the rights for each show or film in each specific geography and will take time. We’re encouraged by how many content providers have already been working along these lines so that their programs can be available over the Internet to a much larger, global audience. The Hulu team is committed to making great programming available across the globe. That’s right, no Hulu in Pakistan. Everyone knows what Hulu is, right? Maybe you saw that commercial for it where Alec Baldwin is an alien? Man, that Alec Baldwin is funny. Anyway, for those of you still watching shows on your tv, hulu.com is a website that lets you watch all sorts of shows and movies right away, on your own schedule, with limited commercials. I love it. On my original list of “reasons why not to move to Pakistan,” I didn’t add “missing a year’s worth of Lost, 30 Rock, and The Office” because I thought I had Hulu in my corner. I naively assumed that what’s available on the internet here would be available there. There’s a rumor that you can still watch shows on nbc.com overseas, but no such luck with any of the other channels. Seriously: what am I going to do about Lost? This is just the first of many surprises I imagine I will be encountering in the next few weeks as I move to another country. Speaking of surprises, I was surprised when I caused a security alert […] Read More