So, I'm tired and have writers' block. I texted the International Man of Intrigue this morning and asked if he'd like to guest blog. He majored in History, so I thought maybe he'd like to discuss the political history of Sri Lanka. I got home from book club tonight and he had composed a blog post that makes me look way awesomer than I am. He's the one that's way awesome.
Without further ado (drumroll, please)... The International Man of Intrigue!
I enjoy traveling. I enjoy going to new places. I enjoy experiencing different cultures and learning, first hand, how societies outside of my own function. I am, after all, The International Man Of Intrigue. I also enjoy Dorothy NOT being mad at me, so I try not to let all my cultural enjoying get in the way of things like…her sanity.
That said, she may tell you that she is just as into cultural learning as I am, but that’s a big fat lie. She WAS just as into cultural learning as I am, but then two wars, three deployments, three kids, four moves, a dog, and a fish happened. Now, whether she admits it or not, she needs her cultural learning to follow a couple simple rules, like “no lessons during nap time! For crying out loud, the kid just got to sleep and you’re ringing the doorbell to make sure I don’t want to be disturbed?!” Unfortunately, life listens just as well as our kids when handed bubble wrap in a library. However, Dorothy is showing this adventure she can roll with the punches and learn a few tricks of her own.
Life, no matter where we are, doesn’t seem to follow the rules we try to lay out. Colombo is no different, but the challenges here, at least, are outside our norms. And that, kind readers, brings us to yesterday. Yesterday, oh that often happy place because we already lived though whatever craziness it brought, was a great lesson in Household Staff Management. Yep, I said it. We have a staff. Okay, so it’s a maid, driver and part time gardener, but that’s one more maid, driver and part time gardener than we have ever had before.
I guess I need to pause here and explain how we’re not pretentious, old world Westerns taking advantage of the locals for mere pennies. Dorothy and I don’t sit back drinking cocktails while someone else does all the work. Dorothy, more or less, spends her time teaching and protecting Amelia Earhart, Gertrude Bell, and Arthur Dent from things like 220v electric outlets and Dengue fever. We are finding, however, that the staff is essential when one moves into a developing economy, and here’s why:
1. They understand the local customs and help us learn at our own speed without accidently causing an international incident.
2. They understand local driving customs and reduce the risk of us driving into oncoming traffic because we didn’t know that one way streets are two way if it seems convenient at the time.
3. By default, they are also interpreters, and they know how to say, “we gave at the office.”
4. They know how “stuff” works around here, and we don’t have to get frustrated wasting hours in a mall only to find that the term “copying keys” is called “cutting keys” here.
5. Having a staff gives Dorothy some serious blog material.
6. And my favorite reason-Hiring a staff makes use of local service providers and reduces unemployment in a developing economy.
Okay, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Yesterday. Yesterday 1,150 pounds of the consumables we purchased in California arrived at our door step. We were anxious for this delivery. It meant we no longer had to ration the peanut butter because 36 jars could be stacked on the shelves. That’s no hyperbole.
It also happened to coincide with the arrival of a pack of hungry roof repair guys our land lord sent over to fix the leaks we found in the roof during the last rain. So, in the span of minutes, Dorothy and I went from daydreaming about 24 cases of Ramen Noodles to a house filled with no fewer than 7 Sri Lankan’s, some carrying boxes, some carrying a ladder I think Moses may have used, and all asking us for direction at the same time in a language I’m pretty sure they knew we didn’t understand.
Enter Dorothy. Her 8 days of experience as a house hold manager took charge. Where I was willing to let the chips fall where they may and hope these guys did something close to whatever task I thought they were there for, Dorothy stepped up as the “Madam” of the house and took charge. With Arthur dent on her hip, she tossed me one of our Motorola radios, delegated tasks to the staff, and went up stairs to supervise so I could count boxes of peanut butter come off the truck. It was then I realized she had learned a few cultural lessons and acted in a manner these guys were accustomed to.
So, as I counted cases of TP and Mac and Cheese, I reflected on how much I enjoy discovering formal and informal cultural norms, and apparently, how good my wife figures it out, whether she notices she’s learning or not. I guess it’s tough to discern life’s lessons when you’re actually living it. It’s tougher when you don’t have peanut butter reserves. Trust me.