Saturday, 30 October 2010

You know a way of living when it goes

Finally, I found the island bakers. Turn off the road through the village, follow the pink concrete wall of the toilet behind the hole in the road. There's a little baker's counter hidden beneath the overhanging green awning that reads Beerlao. For the past two months I thought it was the hotel Bali breakfast bar.

That's what I'll answer, if anyone asks. I'll also say that, for my taste, their bread's too salty, six raisins do not deserve the title raisin bread, and I miss Dove's Farm wholemeal something chronic.

The fact that it took me over two months of living here to find the bakery tells me something too. It's another of the difficulties I discover, half-way perched up a hill on an outlying island in Hong Kong. I have few neighbours, fewer I can call on as friends, and fewer still to whom I can remember to ask, as we cross paths on the ferry pier, By the way, is there a bakery on this island?

I can talk to people like that at home. There, we live along an ordinary street; across the way I can turn here, there, and ask, Will you help us out? Are you going in that direction too?

By the way - and despite what you read in newspapers and popular books - never for one moment think that people who choose a lifestyle built around an alternative education somehow lack friends. That we stare mournful and listless out the window and wonder, What's going on? How can I ever meet anyone again? No. I don't do that at home, in England. I do that here, in Hong Kong. Along with the wish that someone would stop me in the street and give me a leaflet for a local baker.

There's one group of people who are - by their language and looks - obvious targets for new-found island friends. The ones like me. The expats.

But it is hard. I am not a good expat. Walking back from the ferry pier in the early evening, through the small town where I pass the English bar with the blowsy blonde tipped at the front seat on the corner, the seat that comes accompanied with a red-faced beer-bellied man pitched forward on his elbows, I shudder. I think, I hope I never become like her. Somehow, I do not think that sudden response is a good basis for friendship.

I have met people here of course, but mostly they are off the island, working, busy with their own families, filled with the concerns of their own lives. I have made friends Hong Kong wide, too, thanks to our home educating ways, and they grow more valuable to me as the days pass by. We can talk about bread as suitable fodder for hungry kid bellies. But they can't tell me where the island baker lives, nor whether they have bread by 1pm on a Saturday afternoon. (No.)

Perhaps it's a reflection of my own shortcomings. I cannot say I am totally alone on this island, nor that I recognise no-one here. In passing on the street to buy eggs and pak choi, it feels lovely to raise my hand, smile, wave, and in recognition, shout Hi!

I admit, sometimes I may do that a little too enthusiastically. I did it once by accident, when I wasn't wearing my glasses, and assumed the long hair and slender frame belonged to someone else. As I grew closer and her face fell into focus, I thought, Bugger. I've never seen the woman before. I'm glad she smiled and waved back though, even if she did look puzzled.

But I found the baker's. At last. The bread's too salty, the raisin bread is disappointing, and can you air-lift emergency supplies of Dove's Farm? You see, there's a missing bit of my life. Another bit gone. A comforting bit about knowing where I am, where things are, people I can reach out to, places I can touch and, without a moment's hesitation, find bread that tastes good, and that I can just take for granted.


Kitty said...

The tag about 'cheer up Grit ...' made me guffaw, and for that I thank you. I think you are doing remarkably well. It would take me more than two months to find the local baker, I'm sure. :) x

Sugarplum Kawaii said...

Maybe find some ancient yeast and make a hearty loaf?!

(Pleased you grimaced at my severed leg!!)

ladybirdcook said...

"Bread is an important part of living. Yet, we may not always have an oven available.
Terrorists may strike or Mother Nature may wreak havoc. It’s nice to know, you can still
have bread."

just what you need - and certainly educational.
(I have no idea who patriot resistance are)

Iota said...

Grit, I haven't caught up with your life. You're in Hong Kong?

You asked for some wisdom from Mums Abroad. Oh gosh. I think patience is a good word to employ here. It. Does. Take. Time. That's horrible for you to hear, because you can't do much about that, and if there's anything that most of us mums love to do, it's to get busy and sort things out.

Are there things you can make good? Can you find a horse for her to ride, or fill some other need? Small things go a long way.

The constant "I want to go home" must be horribly wearing. Can you ban it, or have a whingeing half hour every evening, where she gets to say everything she wants, and repeat as many down-beat phrases as she wants, but is then not allowed to whinge at all outside that half hour. (Half hour? Maybe 10 minutes would do...)

When we moved here and my middle child was very homesick, a wise friend said to me "it doesn't have to work all the time for everyone". I thought that was a true fact about family life, and one that I found very releasing. I can't make it right for all of the people all of the time. Sometimes I just have to be there, while they find their own ways through.

How about a new interest for her? Launch into some class, or activity? Or does she not have the emotional energy for that just at the moment?

Hang on in there. And arrange something to look forward to. A visit from family, a trip somewhere, a huge birthday or Christmas treat. Looking forward to things is morale-boosting.

Feel free to email me and whinge if you like. I'm totally up for a good whingeathon.

Iota said...

PS I think it is appropriate, depending on age and temperament of child, to explain to them that their behaviour and words are having a huge impact on your feelings. Perhaps you've already done that. And of course you don't want to stifle their ability and desire to express their feelings. But the repetition would drive anyone mad. A word that Americans use a lot is "appropriate". Can you have a discussion of the appropriate way of expressing feelings?

Sorry. Teaching grandmother to suck eggs here, I know.

sharon said...

It does take time to find substitutes for the things you left behind. I was so surprised that even the brand name goods we bought in the UK that are available here taste completely different. So weird!

Grit said...

hi people, and thank you for your comments. they're helpful, and i'm grateful to blogland!

(i've emailed separately iota and i bet you regret that offer now ;))