Thursday, January 23, 2014

Don't Bother Trying to Integrate

Are you eager for a giggle? So listen to my morning. 

I awake at 5.30am to get some work done. My inbox is filled with panicked emails from my team about some ridiculous consular issue in South Africa so as a result, I am frantically calling-pulling-favors before the sun has even risen. I managed to sort out the situation through a contact but I am now indebted to said contact. In fact, he has made it clear that a case of champagne will not suffice and that rather, he would prefer some lovin'.  I am still not fully certain if this was said in jest. Surely he was not flirting with me? Should I make my husband aware of this situation or should I relish the one-sided-flirtation-with-a-sexy-guy-who-seems-he-could-throw-a-lion-over-his-shoulder?

While on the telephone with my team, I cut up some fruits, tossed them with butter and cinnamon and put them to roast in the oven. The steel oats that I had soaked last night were put on the stovetop to cook at a low heat. I must admit that I felt quite  satisfied, even smug, with my ability to mult-task. I returned to the computer but about half an hour later Cedric awoke and crawled into my lap. He insisted that I stop typing and wanted  me to help him pee - a ridiculous request since he normally insists that I give him "pribacy" and that he is "comstable" peeing on his own. Emotional manipulation to get me off the computer, perhaps? The problem is that I was in the midst of writing to my boss in China who expected an immediate response. "Wait my love, I just have one more sentence to complete and I will be all yours." Flashing me a seemingly innocuous smile, my precarious 4 year old managed to delete my email. My email that was 97% complete. And of course, my some turn of fate, this email is neither in my sent box nor my trash box. 

Ok. Husband. Where. Are. You. Help. Now. But no, Andy was on a conference call dealing with a client the company had lost the night before. Not only did he not wish to be disturbed but he was hardly approachable. Do you recall a book of our youth - Where the Wild Things Are? Well, my lovely husband was comparable in both expression and activity - his face crunched up and anguished, his teeth gnawing at his already tortured fingernails and his hair being pulled out in clumps. It hardly seemed the moment to remind him that, in fact, he did not have a lot of hair to spare since the consequences of middle-age have been fairly unkind. 

Sniff. Sniff? What is that smell? Why are they clouds of smoke violently emerging from the kitchen. I run to the kitchen to find generously cooked (read: burnt) oatmeal topped with a medley of crunchy fruit (read: burnt to a crisp). What a pity. Cedric, perhaps some leftover pea soup for breakfast instead of steel oats? I then run towards shouts in the bathroom. There are three rolls of toilet paper that are barely-floating-and-rather-sinking-towards-their-demise. And a 4 year old who is fascinated by the process observes the consequences of his science experiment. 
Cedric and I depart for school after overcoming a bit of a drama associated with his wardrobe. He could note decide which superhero underpants he should wear today and I resolved the issue by sending him to school in three pairs of knickers. He was not pleased with this finality but well, mama decides if you cannot. He forgot all about his now sweaty-itchy bottom once I told him that I was one of the volunteers at school today. My job was to help the teacher prepare galletes (cakes with cream inside) for a parent-teacher breakfast tomorrow morning. There were four groups and one mother was assigned to each group of children. The children in Cedric's group know me by name at this point and find my English songs and chants amusing. Or are they laughing at me and not with me? Do the French already begin to mock-snuff-criticize foreigners at this early age?
Nevertheless, I began to follow the teacher's instructions and my team members were a delight in helping me mix, measure and fold. While mixing and singing, I suddenly realized that my filling was quite liquid. It was more like pancake batter than the stiff filling suitable for a cake. Surreptitiously, I peeked at how the other two mothers were managing their batter. One realized that I was peeking and in turn, very blatantly covered her bowl. Yes, she ensured that her breasts-hair-and-hips were dangling over her bowl. It became very clear that teamwork was not going to be the day's mantra but rather, we were embarking on a full-out war. Mama against mama. 

The teacher took a look at my filling but did not need to say anything  - her expression was clear and the message it implied was clear. I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to be promoted to "cool-foreign-mom-who-has-adapted-to-the-French-way-of-doing-things." Forget about trying to integrate. I became dizzy, flush and scenes from that a recent Sarah Jessica Parker movie (you know the one, where she has lice and cannot cook for her kids bake sale) began to suffocate me. I did not hesitate. I mustered up my pride, determination and wallet and ran to the kids in my charge. Smiling, I told them "I am running to the store. Ella is the boss - whoever does not wiggle while I am gone will be the proud recipient of a pony. Anyone who does wiggle will have to kiss a frog." Weirdly, it worked but I am now nervous that their furious parents will email me.   

I ran to the Casino supermarket, about three blocks away, the wind whipping in my hair. Giddy-up Black Stallion. I raced to the shop and back to school. I had three things on my mind: Save your child's honor; save your gallete; and my god, my breasts hurt from all this running! The outing took approximately 5 minutes because I was driven by compulsive-competitive-no-compromise-obsession. I dodged cars, old ladies waving their cane at me, prissy children shouting "c'est interdit marche vite, a construction site where small flicks of debris landed in my hair, and a small dog who leapt towards my jugular. Sweating, panting, in tears yet laughing at the absurdity of the situation - I arrived at the school and ran through the gate. 

But I stopped to look at my reflection, fix my hair and reapply my lipstick. After all, we are in France. 

And this was only 9.25am. 

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