Thursday, September 12, 2013

expat coffee ladies

The other day I went to a sort of meet and greet for expat ladies in the city. It's not my scene really, but I go to be a face for our school and to rub shoulders with other women who are not in my immediate circles. There are always some colorful characters to muse over and that part I secretly enjoy a little too much.

Exhibit Lady A: from Texas, with the big hair, big makeup, and big jewelry one comes to fondly expect of ladies from this fine state. She also plays Mrs. Santa every year alongside her husband at the Christmas Bazaar, and she is a big reader-- attending multiple book clubs per week. She speaks up quite a bit, and warmly greets everyone in the room as she breezes through with her amply filled out blouse, extending a hand and offering her full name as a sort of audio business card. Before you know it, she's on to the next person.

Exhibit Lady B: Romanian, with hair constantly dyed a different but equally vibrant shade of red, she is a jack of all kinds of trades: gemstone jewelry designer, choir member, graphic designer, Rotary club president, and she will somehow touch on each of those interests in nearly every conversation you have with her.

There was the wise old lady doctor who looks like something straight out of the 19th century with her wrinkles and white hair and British accent and the way she rides her bike everywhere, tanned and clearly bent on nothing other than spending time with and for the Chinese she lives to serve.

There were the consulate wives, and the newly arrived business expat wives who were keen to be involved in everything, especially mah-jong clubs. "Teach us Mah-jong! any! and all kinds of Mah-jong!" they were practically screaming from their seats.

There were a few, quiet Chinese women, though one spoke up for just a moment to offer her ukelele-playing, winner-of-awards-in-Hawaii brother as entertainment for the Christmas Bazaar. We listened and nodded. For a ukelele player, winning an award in Hawaii seemed to really tip the scales.

I sat next to a woman who has spent the last 19 years moving every two years to a different location with her husband and now 4 year old son. I felt inclined to be her friend for those moments and peppered her with conversation, but couldn't tell if she was just naturally reticent or had lost that social edge with the weariness of always meeting new people.

At the end there was a call to involvement, especially in the events that raise money for charity, which is a typical hobby for expat wives living in these foreign cities. The charities are worthy causes: heart surgeries for the children of poor families, and dormitory and latrine construction for migrant worker's schools. Money is important; money is what allows practical needs to be met, needs that are essential to life itself, if not a quality of life that is desirable by most people.

Charities are good (amazing statement there) and necessary. Though there is something that seems out of place when spending a lot of money for a dinner or event with the intent that the proceeds will go towards people in need. It seems like we should just give our money out of generosity and compassion and maybe even with some measure of involvement. But regardless, there are still great numbers of people hurting, struggling and suffering here that any means to help them is worthy enough.

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