Saturday, December 11, 2010

Crossed Cultures

Friday morning started before 6 a.m., when I awoke to the sound of Yogi the dog chewing my favorite high-heeled brown leather boots. Let's just say I was less than happy with him.

Aidan had his last game of the soccer season at 9. Shay's last game was the week before, but Aidan's team won that week, and so on this particular day, they were playing for the championship.

Aidan's team won! Hip hip hurray! But no time to celebrate - we had to hurry home, because Aidan had a birthday party to attend at 11:30.

We pulled up to the house at 10:52 a.m. Just as we started to pull into the driveway, Aidan asked from the back "mom, do you have my sweatshirt?"

Sigh. No, son, of course I don't have your sweatshirt. But it's late, and I don't want to drive 15 minutes down the road again to retrieve it. On the other hand, it's your last sweatshirt. On the other hand...

"My mother would've made me go back and get it instead of going to the birthday party," Bart announced to no one in particular.

(Aside to newlyweds: do not ever compare your wife to your mother. Ever. Especially if your wife has been up since before dawn because your dog ate her favorite shoe. Trust me when I say that your wife will not be excited to hear the comparison.)

We drove back to the soccer field, retrieved the sweatshirt, and headed for home, again. This time, when we pulled into the driveway, it was 11:18. Party in 12 minutes.

At that moment I remembered that the boys had stepped in dog poop (again with the dog!) the night before and I'd banished their shoes to the porch. I decided to rinse off the shoes quickly while Aidan ran in to change for the party. Of course, when I aimed the hose at the first shoe, the water richocheted back at me, leaving me covered in a fine mist of nasty water.

I turned off the hose to comtemplate my next steps, and that's when I heard a crash from inside. Turns out Shay had leaned against a bookshelf to remove his shoes. The bookshelf wobbled and several glass candle holders crashed to the floor, shattering.

I cleared the kids away and turned my attention to picking up shards of glass. I tried to vacuum the final bits, but the vacuum wasn't working too well. So I took it outside to empty it out - it's a bagless vacuum, which means I need to take it apart and shake out the contents whenever it stops working.

It was windy.

And I was damp.

So now I was covered with a fine dusting of vacuum cleaner innards, which clung to the poopy water on my very torn up, oldest and favoritest pair of jeans.

But we had to go!

Quickly I wrapped the present, grabbed the invite and headed for the door with Aidan.

"You're sure this kid is American, right?" I asked him, and he assured me that the kid was, indeed, one of us.

Good news, that, because American parties are drop-offs. Weird that they didn't put a pick up time on the invite, but no matter. We'd work it out somehow.

The invite said the party was at the "Royal Automobile Club," whatever that was - I pictured a car museum or something like that, where kids could clamber on cars in a park or something.

But no. When I pulled up to the guard gate, I realized we were entering a real club. A fancy, shmancy club.

There was no sign of the party. No way to simply drop Aidan and keep driving. So I parked the car and walked in with him. I looked again at the invite, with no pick up time written, and I got a little worried feeling in the back of my brain.

"You're sure this kid is American, right?" I asked again, only this time, Aidan answered "I don't know. I think, probably."

We found the party, in a reserved dining area next to the private bowling alley.

There were lots of kids there. And lots and lots of Jordanian parents. All dressed up, with hair and make-up done just so. A buffet line, with silver and china. Coffee and tea. Waiters.

Aidan ran happily off to join his (clearly) Jordanian friend.

And me? Picture me: I'm in my oldest, holey-est favoritest jeans. A sweatshirt. No makeup. Covered in fine particles of dust, glass and poop.

The parents were most gracious. They insisted that I stay and join them for lunch, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to invite a hobo to the table at your exclusive club. I stammered an excuse about needing to drop another kid off at another party and begged to leave for awhile. The husband asked me to please return by 1, so they could treat me to lunch.

And I fled the building. Oh, how I fled.

I raced home. Changed into khakis with a sweater. Threw on some makeup and those dog-eaten boots, and drove back to the party, arriving just before 1.

The mom looked up and smiled, surprised. "Well, you look so different, I hardly knew you," she said. I joined the group, sitting in the nearest empty chair, with a cute little grandma sitting to my right, on my deaf side. She kept trying to talk to me, in Arabic, it sounded like, but with the deaf ear it was hard to tell. I just stared at her with this big dumb smile, trying to think if I knew how to say "pardon me, I'm deaf in that ear." She tried a few phrases, all of which elicited the same vacuous smile from me, the recently feces-covered foreigner. Eventually she shook her head and left the table, finding herself a seat far away from me, the stinky deaf-mute foreigner.

The food was delicious: tabouleh and fried cheese pastries and stuffed grape leaves. The other guests were all so nice. I even met a couple of moms from Aidan's class, so we got to chat about the school and the curriculum and the teachers.

And I learned a valuable lesson: always dress as if you are meeting Jordanians for the first time, and you won't go quite so terribly, horribly, embarrassingly wrong as I did. Also: never try to clean dog poop off a tennis shoe with a garden hose. Not right before a party, anyway.


Daniela said... [Reply]

Oh, man, glad the day turned out alright in the end but that's a lot of stress for one day!!! Do something nice for yourself today - you deserve it.

Jill said... [Reply]

I'll give it to you - holy awkward batman!

And um ... yeah ... never compare the wife to the mom.

I don't know if I would have gone back to get him from the party... :)

So glad it turned out well in the end. :)

ML Awanohara said... [Reply]

All's well that ends well?

I am so glad to come across such an entertainingly written blog. As it happens, I have just now posted an interview with a diplomat's wife on my blog, Seen the Elephant, about the challenges of being a repeat expat or rex-pat and of attempting to go home again...

My interview subject is a Frenchwoman who has lived in Norway, Sri Lanka, and now the U.S. (Chicago) with diplomat husband and two kids: French Expat: Chicago, Her Kind of Town. She mentions how she is just now getting started with a "portable" career as a writer. Perhaps you could swing by and offer a few words of encouragement/advice?

Thanks, and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

Kate said... [Reply]

The real tragedy here is what happened to the boots. So sorry for your loss. Also, I may have peed my pants a tiny bit laughing just now, so thanks for that!

Connie said... [Reply]

Sometimes, it seems like the kids' parties are more for the parents than the kids! I give up. I wear whatever the heck I want to these things... although I try to avoid the 'sprayed on poop' style, when possible, but sometimes life deals days that spray...

Sara said... [Reply]

My husband knows to NOT compare me with his mother - it's a very, very bad thing to do. :)

BTW - I think you and I might be the same people in different bodies and on different continents. Seriously...all this stuff would have/will happen(ed) to me.

Please. Write your own stuff.