I grew up in big, noisy capital cities. My life reads like the window of a smart shop, Johannesburg, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, Strasbourg, Montreal. Winnipeg sort of ruins the look of the window. Trinidad is too small and exotic to make the window and who knows what is next? I haven’t been to a big city since July and I fear I might feel a little like a country bumpkin as I tread the streets of London. Hopefully my “cured” but formally serious bout of materialism won’t come creeping back and hopefully I will ingest enough culture, good food and fabulous window shopping to last me another 6 months. I used to think it was not worth living any where if not the top of the world, the capital big smoke but I think I have changed my mind. Sometimes the noise of a big city drowns out the important noise inside my head. Having said that, put me in the country for more than 4 days and watch me go mad.
Expat life is a bit like living in a bubble. As I step out of the bubble for the next 10 days I am excited to see how I feel. Bumpkin or fabulous world wanderer coming home?
Three auspicious things going on today. It is Chinese New Year, and the Year of the OX at that, it is Australia Day, so that means lots of BBQs on the beach in OZ and it is my dear friend Clare’s 40th and that means a big O. That is an interesting thing, especially because the biggest O of them all is the Oh nO! It is me next! I am turning 4O.
This will probably become a common theme in the weeks and not so many months ahead. I am trying hard to embrace this fact. Of course, I do not mean, by embracing, anything to do with letting the hair go grey and letting it all hang out. No. I mean the 40 is the new 30, it is the best time of your life thing. Hmmmmm.
But if my friend Clare can do it with such panache; she had flown down here to Trinidad from a chilly NYC to celebrate (see the “celebrate” instead of “commiserate”?) the big day, she has two yummy daughters, a lovely Swedish, marathoner, diplomat husband and a gorgeous pregnant belly. She is also lovely, and has been like a sister to me since I was 11. If she can throw 40 together, toss it up in the air and catch the confetti, then I can too.
It’s funny how different my daughters are . One brushes her hair three/four times a day, loves to borrow all my lotions and potions, soak in bubble paths and spend hours choosing the perfect outfit. She is soft, self aware and very feminine. He older sister needs to reminded to cut her nails, shave, sometimes even wash her hair. She is a natural beauty but doesn’t care too much about clothes, would rather be comfortable.
Is this nature or nurture? Did I focus more on one’s prettiness than the other or are they just wired this way? One has a voracious appetite, the other eats like a bird. One knows how to play the charming game, can coyly say just the right thing to get what she needs; her sister is so concerned with telling the truth, she has no concept of conveniently leaving out facts for the sake of diplomacy.
As much as one is intensely curious and needs to know it all now, her relaxed sister is content to let things lie until the moment determines her need. One loves to play with babies and small children, always the first to help out and show her maternal and nurturing side. She is empathetic to a fault and loved by many friends. This comes from a drive inside her that needs the affection of others. Her independent sister likes the limelight to shine on her and at times lacks the empathy she needs.
Someone wise once told me that we never love one child more than another. It is just that some children are easier to love. In fact some people are easier to love. In my classroom I don’t have to try and treat all my students equally. I do. It is easy to like them all, truly I have come across very few that I have disliked. But having said that there are some students, just as there are some people, that shine. There is one girl who sits in a corner with a smile and a gaze that glows. She is a person that will glow through life. Easy to like, easy to teach , she is popular amongst both teachers and peers. Life will come much easier to her, just as it does to all people that are charismatic, smart and attractive. There is another student who is prickly. Many students are rubbed the wrong way by him. He is stubborn, arrogant, talkative, crude and often contrary. And yet. There is something gentle and brilliant and vulnerable about him. I can see through the bristly exterior to some thing deep inside. I know that it will take a special and patient person to find that core and appreciate it.
I realize now that the reason I love to teach is that I love people. I am too optimistic to be a misanthrope. I know that I will never reach some, there are people who walk out of my class and instantly forget what we did. But I do not consider that a failure. They were there for a time and if I did my job right they will remember most of it some of the time. And truthfully I am not being altruistic. I am not only there for them. I am there for me.
I wonder what kind of students my girls are?
Words that should be struck:
Salmon kamikaze sushi