EXPATS ARE NORMAL PEOPLE

The other day, while a friendly nurse chit-chatted to pass the time, she asked our middle little "so where do YOU go to school?"

Yikes.  I sucked in my breath and waited for what seemed like forever to hear what he would reply.

You see, I decided, when we found ourselves in the middle of America where no one knows our names, to not make a big deal out of the fact that we live in India.

When the cashier at the store idly says "so you're buying quite a bit of tampons, that's interesting", I choose to say something like "they're for a project" instead of answering "Yes, recently the import rules changed for Delhi, where we live, and tampons are not easy to find there".  

When the dry cleaning lady (who is just darling, by the way) says "what's your LOCAL number, I can't call long distance when your clothes are ready to be picked up", I just quickly fire off the digits for the hotel, instead of saying "We don't have a local number. We are just here temporarily while we try to get visas processed and renewed."

When the pharmacist asks for our zip code, I struggle to remember which state-side address we're using and spit one out somewhere in Florida, instead of saying "We live in Delhi, India and I doubt you have their postal code in your system."

You see, telling the whole truth opens up a big can of worms.  Life in Nowheresville, Kansas is a lot different than life in Delhi, India.

Or at least everyone thinks it is.

When someone learns that we live in India, they immediately gasp, eyebrows shoot up, and their mouth forms into a perfect little "O". 

"India?  For real?  Like where they ride elephants?  Have you seen the Taj Mahal?"

"That is SOOOOOOOOoooooooooo exciting" ... "Your life must just be so amazing and glamorous." (and other similar sentiments)
The reality for me is that while we do live in a funky and strange location, our day to day life is still filled with the same stuff it was back at home.

Sure, there are some new things added into our daily existence that we would never otherwise experience, but we still discuss our family budget, angst over whether our kids are adjusted and doing well in school, lose socks, pick up dog poop, drink coffee that has been warmed up repeatedly in the microwave and argue about what movie to watch on Saturday nights.

One lady that crossed my path while in Kansas said "everyone here is like this state, just flat.  No one does anything exciting or has any plans or goals past just what restaurant they're eating at this coming weekend."

In my opinion, I could say the same thing about people I encounter in our daily life, back home in Delhi ... except to interject the facts of where everyone goes for travel during a school break, because it is so important to take a break from the daily grind.

You have to make a POINT to not live your life ... flat.  You have to be intentional about waking up every morning and setting a goal for yourself.  It doesn't have to be a crazy ridiculous goal like eliminating urination on the streets of Delhi, or finding a cure for disease, or discovering the next wonder of the world. 

It can be an simple, ordinary moment ... that you successfully turn into magic.  Whether it's helping your kiddo learn to tie his shoes, or calm down a distraught teenager who is experiencing drama with his friends, or stick $20 in the Salvation Army red bucket. 

I am feeling quite full of ideas and possibilities about how to make sure that 2011 isn't a year of living life like the State of Kansas.  It's not about living an extraordinary life in India as an expat.  It's simply about living an extraordinary life ... wherever you are.  Wichita, Cleveland, Omaha, the Bronx, Delhi. 

(Oh, I am rambling today!!)

I tend to not glamorize our current living location or even bring it up that much anymore, because sometimes it gets old droning out the scripted responses to an audience that frankly, loses interest after about the fourth sentence.  

The typical conversation goes like this :

So do you just LOVE it there?

Pat Answer #1 : It is interesting for sure!

What's the weather like?

Pat Answer #2 : It is quite warm, but the winter sure is nice.

What's your favorite thing?

Pat Answer #3 : Oh, definitely the ability to see such new and exciting things.

Really, all I want to do is talk about some great new charity project you've just learned about.  Or discuss your latest favorite song.  Or act as if I don't live where I live, and just talk about normal stuff. 

You know, playdate chatter between moms. 

Kind of on the same topic, yet not at all -- is the topic of polite conversation.  Husb and I have been talking recently about working with our kids about developing their manners when conversing with other people. 

I think I've written about it before, but human nature is to "one up" the person you're talking with, and in a very excited manner, often interrupt your fellow chatter with YOUR own story, experiences or opinions.  We ALL do it ... but I want to know ::

How do you teach a child to listen patiently to someone's story ... and then instead of responding right away with their own stories, pause a moment to ask a question of that person.


Example:  Susie tells you all about the circus she just went to.


Normal response : Oh, I love the circus.  This one time, I went to the BIGGEST circus ever .......... (and on and on and on).


Suggested response : So what was your most favorite part of the circus?


I don't quite know how to end this rambling diatribe, but I just felt like sharing that we are just normal people who happen to live in another country ... encourage you to live an extraordinary life wherever you call home  ... and ask for your opinions on how to curb the habit of over-talking and instead encourage healthy conversation and manners?

What say you?


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