This is goodbye from this blog.  It had fallen into disuse anyway – too little time with 4 little ones, homeschooling and normal expat life.  (But you’re still popping by and checking the site – I can see that on my stats.  Thank you!)  Now I’m back in the UK and life is almost unrecognisable from our overseas one just a few months ago.

This blog is my reminder of that part of my life.

We had an early birthday party for G yesterday.  About fifteen children came and a few parents stayed; it was good fun and the zipwire in the garden was very popular, as were the activities I’d planned.  It was more children than I’ve invited to parties before, but – granted with some help from a couple of friends – I probably felt happier with the result than I have done with any other party in the past.

Anyway, after the party come the presents.  Lots of big, shinily-wrapped boxes, as is the way here.  Filled with toys from China, which they all love here for some reason.

This was the first to be opened:

Ooh, what is it?  It’s got a track and ramps and a little car, could be nice.  It’s a carwash.  You put the car in one end, use a lever to move it along, push a button to spray it with water, another button to turn it round, another lever to move it out through the foam drier things.  Something like that.  Of course, it broke within two minutes of coming out of the box.  Something right in the middle of the tunnel, which it’s impossible to get to because you can’t take the tunnel apart.  Daddy tinkered for a while, but as far as I can tell it’s still broken.

By this time, it was half an hour past G’s bedtime, so the remaining presents were deferred till morning.  Nice way to ensure a brief lie-in for me, while the kids opened and inspected what they could!  Here’s the first I saw when I got up:

A spiderman mask, spiderman action figure (legs not attached, either that or G had already pulled them off and broken the feet by the time I got up?  I blame China myself), spiderman sword (does Spiderman even have a sword??), two little soft plastic spiders (lovely, will no doubt find L chewing on one in a day or two and have a brief panic while I investigate if it’s real or toy) and a bit of yellow string.  I’m assuming the string came with this toy, some webbing for the mini-spiderman to throw, maybe.  I’ve made him a skipping rope.  🙂

Next up… a jigsaw puzzle.

Have to say that I wasn’t expecting this – I have heard from teachers here more than once that jigsaws are something they just don’t do at home here, and the type of reasoning involved is very difficult for the children when they first come across them.  Unfortunately, this one creased coming out of the packaging, it’s so flimsy.  It looks a little on the tough side for G, all greens and browns, but I’ll have a go with him and see what we can do.  If the pieces were twice or three times as thick, it could be a good puzzle, given a few months maybe.  But I don’t think they’re going to last that long.  Shame.

Next, something to channel G’s aggression away from L.  It’s apparently a punchbag toy.  Nice.

Next we have three cars and a little track.

Having played with the children’s playmobil trees and ELC cars, I know this stuff is flimsy in comparison and going to break in no time.  But one of the cars has survived a 5cm drop from L’s hand without breaking, so I may be being unnecessarily pessimistic!  They are cute and it’s not a bad little toy (for something made in China) and actually L spent a happy ten or fifteen minutes pushing one of the cars round on the floor this afternoon, so I can’t be too harsh.

Now the next toy has to be heard to be believed.  Unfortunately, I can’t load videos onto my blog without paying some silly sum to WordPress.  (Maybe I should start up a fund and see who wants to hear this remote control car enough that they will pay something towards it?)  I tried taking a photo with the flashing lights, but they don’t show clearly.  Nearly every part of the car lights up red or blue, while very loud (I was going to say music) noise accompanies.  “No no, no no no no, no no no no, no no there’s no limit, left, left, right, right, left left, right right, go go go!”   – you get the idea.

Anyway, we put the battery they’d helpfully included in the box into the remote, switched remote and car on (“no no, no no no no …”) and – no movement.  This car is supposed to do tricks and stuff, the instructions say so: you can see for yourself below.

No, I don’t know what it means, either, but it sounds like it could be fun!

Anyway, the lack of movement was not well-received by the children.  E suggested the car might need charging.  I pointed out that it was happily singing at top volume (“there’s no limit…”), but wondered if she might be right.  Movement uses more power than lights and music, doesn’t it?  So she plugged it in, having read that it needs six hours to charge fully.

It was only an hour later that I read this…

Do you see it?  Right there, under “Chrging”, point 3.  “Set the power switch to ON… otherwise charging is not possible.”

Set power to ON.

“No no, no no no no, no no no no…”

For SIX HOURS.

Now what?!

By the way, I found this present still unopened when G left for school.

Beautiful.  And too tastefully wrapped in comparison with all the others to attract a child’s eye, clearly.

The children’s snacks for school tomorrow contain:  steamed broccoli (left over from lunch – good so far), steamed carrots (with a slight charcoaly taste from being left to boil dry), very overdone pasta (which was almost left to boil dry too) and grated cheese (which fortunately didn’t dry out before I put it in their boxes, but easily could’ve done, the surprise with which I found the heap of grated cheese, five minutes after asking R to grate it).

Can you tell L kept me awake until 2am last night?  🙂

Okay, as far as it possibly ever to know (in life in general and in our family in particular), it is now decided that we will stay in our current location until December.

Hooray to knowing what’s happening, and a half-hearted whoop to the thought, do I really want to be here that long?!

L didn’t sleep for 3 hours last night, and instead regaled us with a loud and heartfelt aria concerning pain, anguish and the likelihood of imminent death.  (I think she was overreacting, but maybe she was just feeling Mummy’s mounting frustration…)  In any case, it was good exercise for her little lungs and amazingly didn’t tire her out one bit.  I am a walking zombie today, however.

R is off school today with probably the same cold L’s going down with.  She has a temperature and coughs like a saw.  It’s this heat that’s making us all sick – I’ve had a cold for goodness knows how long – but I’m sure it’s something to do with this country that makes us more ill than other countries too.

We’ve had lots of problems in the house the past couple of weeks, too.  All in all, I’m looking forward to getting on the plane and having a break from the place, hence the half-heartedness of the whoop!

Anyway, once we come back, G will go back into his class (they’ve kindly opened a place for him even though they’ve given his place to someone else already), E will go to a new school if she passes the test next week and they accept her, and R will stay home with me.  So now I can start planning it all!

And I’m looking forward to:  salad every day, getting to grips with the garden, more time with all our friends here, but not necessarily in that order.  Anyway, there’s plenty to enjoy here once I look for it!

Now that my youngest is one, I thought it might be time to try and resurrect the ol’ blog.  Theoretically I have a little more time on my hands, although in reality I’m preparing for a possible house move.

“Possible”.  Interesting word in that context.  Most expats here have uncertainty about when they will be allowed to come and work in this country.  We have uncertainty about when we will leave.  Usually when someone does not have a planned departure, it’s because they’re given three days to pack their bags…  In our case, it’s two things:  M has no replacement for his current job, and his new job (which doesn’t yet exist, so no hurry to take over from someone leaving, at least) needs a work permit, which may take longer to process than was initially thought.

“How do you cope with the uncertainty?” someone asked me the other week.  The funny thing is, I’ve known since last summer that this was likely to be our last year here, and also I’ve known that the chosen destination (Canada) was a possibility.  For six months, the future remained uncertain.  Maybe Canada, maybe somewhere else.  Most likely not here.  Occasionally, staying here (but with a different organisation) floated about as a possibility, but each time it was eventually discounted and we were back where we had been before.  In February, M decided that a decision should at some point be made and that time should be now (February now, not May 9th now).  So he accepted the job and I finally allowed myself to get excited.  Maybe six weeks later, when staying here was again floating about (like a lazy housefly that buzzes near your head and stubbornly refuses to be swatted), he pointed out that as yet no contract had been signed, so perhaps I had been a little premature to believe it to be a done deal…

<sigh>  I said to the aforementioned friend that uncertainty had been hanging about so long it was no problem to me now – but you can tell that’s not really true, can’t you?  The contract has now been signed, and we will be going, but when is unknown.  August?  September?  October?  December?  Any of the above or none, as far as we can tell.  We just don’t have enough information to know!

Just got an email through from some organisation selling things:  “How hot do you want to look this summer?”

Hot?

Hot??

I already KNOW how hot I look!  It’s 45-plus these days, and it’s not getting any cooler – all the way to our leaving date at the beginning of June…

This is actually part 2 in the saga, but part 1 happened before I resumed blogging.  So facebook friends may have gathered that there’s been an invasion in my kitchen, but others of you will have been blissfully unaware…

Part 1 recap:  All my bags of flour, crawling with weevils.  Makes me shudder just thinking about it.  Did some research and discovered I could kill them all by putting the bags in the freezer.  Put them in the bin instead.  Bought new ones and put them in the freezer.  So glad we have two fridge-freezers these days:  I have plain flour, several bags of self-raising flour (brought from outside the country as it’s not available here), a bag of semolina and some bags of bread flour (M is still hopeful we’ll get and use a bread machine one day before we leave), all now in the freezer.  Cleaned cupboards thoroughly and put anything that was in a packet into a jar instead (I’m thankful for M’s coffee-drinking now it’s provided so many big jars!)

Onto part 2…  Why didn’t I think of the boxes?  We have a few boxes of risotto rice and some lasagne sheets too.  I looked through them yesterday.  Have you ever looked at a foodstuff and realised it’s crawling?  Only one box of each seemed to be weevil-free and I put those in the freezer anyway as a safety precaution!  Spent quite a while sifting the weevils and baby maggoty weevil things out of a previously frozen jar of risotto rice.  Have perfected the technique of holding a few grains in my hand and blowing gently (frozen weevils and their younger relatives and their munched-up rice residue are all lighter than the grains.

Three days of freezing them good and proper and then I’ll have a fun weekend sifting.

But will I want to eat any of it afterwards?  And should I?

I was not looking forward to yesterday afternoon/early evening.  E received an invitation to her classmate’s birthday party last week and as soon as I saw the timing of it (5pm – 7pm) I knew it was going to be tough.  M was away, so there was no chance of dropping her off and getting the others to bed at a reasonable time.  We all had to stay.  The location?  A fast-food joint.  Oh joy.

Well, the children thought it was great (to begin with, at least).  A sound-proofed soft play area for the kiddies and loud music and attempted conversation for the parents.  (Who’s got the better deal?!)  After a while, it began to dawn on them that it’s sound-proofed and the adults aren’t actually watching…  Of course, it dawned on the boisterous boys before my younger daughter realised, but with a ball-dealt bruise just below her eye (hang on, I thought it was soft play?), she got a little upset.  Poor girl, she wanted to tell the boys off for playing too roughly and was quite aggrieved that they wouldn’t listen.  Then she was quite confident that I could tell them off instead.  I hate to disappoint such trust in me to right the world’s wrongs, but I told her it wasn’t my place.  Was I unreasonable?  I didn’t think I really had a case to report it to the birthday girl’s parents, given that R was riding on the back of her older sister’s invitation.

Well, that was the party, really.  Time passed.  Children emerged for water and popcorn (there were also nougat-like sweets, but I cast doubt on the child-appeal of the taste and they were not touched!  I’m not sure if it was my suggestion of the look of them) and went back for more energetic play.  R appeared with a nose bleed, sat with a tissue and popcorn, and went back.  G noticed my camera and had fun taking lots of photos so that the battery went dead just after the cake and singing (shame, as I was just about to take a photo of birthday girl wandering around with sharp knife in hand – it was removed by a more responsible mother as I put my camera away).

And time passed…

At half past six, one girl had to leave.  Others mentioned hunger to me, very quietly.

At ten to seven, food appeared.  Chicken nuggets, chips, bread rolls. And the cake, of course.  Plenty of food – it’s the thing here to provide more than can possibly be eaten.  It’s a sign of generosity, but it does lead to overeating and a lot of waste.  I shared a kids’ meal out between R and G, only to be thwarted by our hosts who distributed extra portions of chips to each child!

And at five past seven, the face painting started.  Cue fights and tantrums about the unfairness of a mean mum who wouldn’t let her children have their faces painted at the end of a party so that they could go home in the dark and have it cleaned off straight away at home.  Washable paints not even common here, so plenty of good ol’ scrubbing.  To give them their due, they settled down fairly quickly once in the car, munched on the leftovers of the food and started thinking about E’s party next month.

And L?  She went to sleep very quickly once we were in the car, no doubt dreaming of friendly scarf-adorned faces, hennaed hands and Coke bottles with straws – how do I get the drink out of there?

As for me, I made it through.  And I did have an interesting conversation with the father of the birthday girl.  He was telling me of his sadness about the likely future of the country.  He loves the fact that his country is so diverse.  I have not heard that quality appreciated, but then I don’t often speak to people who live here permanently, still less about such things.  Wish I did now…

The party was still in full swing when I left and BG’s dad said that most children here don’t go to bed till midnight.  Wonder how long it all went on for – and if there were more tears in the soft play area…

I’ve had a good day today. Given that this seems to be unnaturally cheerful these days, I thought I’d tell you about it.

Woke up to the sound of “Do you want to play with the plasticine?” Leapt out of bed, stumbled bleary-eyed into the kitchen, confiscated said item, returned it to its cupboard which should’ve been locked, locked it, looked in horror at the mess already in the house and returned to bed. Feeding L five minutes later, I heard whispered tidying up and sure enough when I emerged bravely from my room again twenty minutes later, all was vastly improved. Bless them…

I have discovered that Friday mornings are a good time to take the children out into the garden and watch them play. So we had a nice hour or so with them on the climbing frame and the trampoline before it got too hot and we came inside again. Our garden is a great place to spend time: it has enough big plants to provide plenty of shade and keep the temperature down, but it’s all rather overgrown and left to its own devices – so there’s really not much that can be spoilt. It’s therefore the most relaxing place to be with three year old G… The girls are getting more adventurous on the climbing frame (thanks, I think, to the example of their mother who surprised them – and herself – by doing a roll over one of the bars last week). It makes me feel less bad about not being able to take them to playgrounds.

Inside again, and we spent most of the morning with varying amounts of popping corn on the kitchen floor (spilling out into the main living area – or rather, swept out there by an enthusiastic small boy wielding a brush). I opted for the “smile serenely and think of all the enjoyment it’s giving them” approach, as they all mucked in to help clear it up, only to be thwarted when one of them decided it had been so much fun they should do it all again… We did wash some to cook for a snack – but the rest had to be binned in the end (it was coated with oil, dust, glitter and more). I was certainly naive when I walked out of the room without hiding the corn that had already been picked up (and the more so for doing it more than once – d’oh!), but on the plus side, they had lots of fun and nobody got cross.

We also had fun doing a little photo shoot with all four children, the results of which I am off to look at now. One more day to go – and by next weekend, M will be here and all will hopefully be easier…

I have been wondering recently whether it’s time to start this blog up again…

Two reasons why I haven’t so far: firstly, life with 4 children and an oft-absent husband and getting the house the way I want it now I finally live here with the rest of the family! Secondly, have been feeling a little negatively toward this place – the heat, the little everyday difficulties, the lack of things to do and people to do them with…

Really, the final problem should not be a problem at all. There are so many expats here for a few months or years, looking for friends to while away the time with. They tend to fall into one of two categories, though. First there is the development group. They are busy, up-to-date with current affairs in the country and their lives are wrapped up in their work: the frustrations, the concerns, the people, the meetings… I have sat in so many conversations recently which I have no hope of understanding. The second group is the missionaries. They are here because they have always wanted to come here; they get to know their neighbours, have local friends, use the market and public transport, speak a little of the language. It’s not really me…

So here I am, and it’s Thursday again and I’m dreading the weekend. Again. Two days to fill. Would love to take the children swimming, but with just me to look after them it’s just about possible but not much fun for them. And if I ask someone to join me they end up helping out and I feel guilty!

Wondering about inviting people round and worrying that no-one will come…