Now that Mr. Understanding is back in the air and has no internet access for awhile, I thought I’d share a few stories from the last two weeks, to the betterment of expat spouses worldwide, and so that the rest of you don’t think we are without our issues and that our life is one extended spa date. Oh, that it were …
Before agreeing to move to China, I created a wish list of items that were non-negotiable on my part. Herewith a smattering of topics common to expat assignments everywhere, items ripe for marital strife and discord:
1) While I generally trust my partner to select countries to live in, I do not let him select houses. There is a reason for this. On Day 1 of my house hunting trip I saw a plethora of large, overpriced houses with moldy basements, ten foot “crystal” chandeliers, karaoke parlors, and funky décor. One house had textured swirls of copper paint all over the walls – jarring to say the least. Another, in a Spanish-esque “Villa” community my husband had previously scoped out, had Indian (?) arches in every door frame and a twenty foot high carved fireplace with a Hindu god and scenes from the Kama Sutra. Then there was the house with the tiny bedrooms, thirty foot floor to ceiling windows, and an elevator. Mr. Understanding would have been happy in any of these houses – mainly because he would only be sleeping there. It is not his domain. The house I selected is a brand new, 4500 sq. foot, 4 storey, Tudor model. One cannot eat in the long galley kitchen but the dog has a yard. I am not complaining, just stating the facts.
2) Another such item was not agreeing to the housing allowance allotted in the offer letter until I had scoped out the country itself and seen the accommodations. How can one make a rational decision without first seeing a place? Mr. Understanding conveniently forgot that, in my mind, this was a pending item and still up for negotiation.
3) Executive/business class airline tickets. This is not a mere case of elitism. As Angel is nearly 6 ft. tall at 13 years of age and I have a herniated lumbar disk, stretching out is essential for the two of us. Furthermore, I do not want to be separated from the other two children as I am usually flying without Mr. Understanding. I have flown cattle car grade for 12 years – ja basta.
4) Finally, there is the matter of air freight shipments. Mr. U forgot a few of the items we discussed putting in our air freight shipment from the US. After living abroad for 12 years, my pots and pans, mattresses, and linens are tired and I a) did not feel like paying thrice the price for the above items of sub par quality b) did not feel like lugging them in 20 suitcases to China and c) forewent my local air freight shipment. Why pack another pancake griddle in a suitcase if you don’t have to?
The bottom line: get it in writing, you trailing spouses. I am a slow learner despite the law degree. There is no excuse for my laxity. You, however, have been forewarned. When one is moving for six months, people are bound to forget entire conversations and to micromanage petty details. So before you get your panties in a bunch over a Kitchen Aid Mix Master, go get yourself and your partner a pad of paper and a pen. No need to sign in blood but don’t use disappearing ink either.
*(Note to expats: if you get the executive class seats for flights over 4 hours, you can usually trade them in for 2 home leaves per year in the cattle car section as that is still way cheaper than business class seats).
**Addendum: apparently Mr. U does have internet access and he wrote me a lovely email from that made the seemingly endless weeks of separation almost tolerable. I had already written this, but not published it, so he made me feel like the petty princess I am (albeit one who will be sleeping on a smaller, Brazilian mattress whose linens won’t fit).