Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Stand by your man

One month of the holidays left until school reopens and we aren't actually doing too badly. The girls are enjoying the long epicurean days and it must be said so am I. I am pleasantly surprised at how well they are playing together although plenty of fighting goes on too...often about toys or dolls' clothes. It's definitely been a bonding period as Santiago slows down and empties for the summer while school and nursery seem like a distant memory.
Last week we were invited to DH's department's end-of-year party, an event held in the university grounds for academic staff and students alike-- plus entourage such as ourselves. The students had gone to a great deal of trouble, not just by setting up and decorating stalls and even a barbecue serving choripan (sausage in a bread roll) and anticuchos (brochettes) amongst other delights but also by erecting a sophisticated sound system with amplifiers and at least two lap-tops providing the soundtrack of non-stop music tailored for a range of tastes and age-groups. Spirits were high, wine and beer flowed and the atmosphere was generally good despite some minor scuffles marring the end. The children amused themselves, especially by exploring the grounds while some of us indulged in some uninterrupted adult conversation. Inevitably I was asked about how I had settled in to life in Chile, what my impressions were and whether or not I was working at the moment...probably about a dozen times. Needless to say my answers became more expansive and less guarded as the Sauvignon Blanc went down...
Which brings me on to an issue I have been wanting to address for a while but haven't yet found the right moment, namely that of the Trailing Spouse. At first it was a novelty and of course a privilege, not to have to work and following one's husband around the world while also busily taking care of domestic matters and the lion's share of the childcare. Isn't that what all women did once, I wonder to myself, and many still do even in our so-called most developed cultures, at least for a few years while the children are small. Not so in Chile, where I and others like me are the exception and very much the minority. I hardly ever see Chilean mothers with their children here during the day apart from at weekends; usually families employ the ubiquitous and strictly apron-clad figure of the Nana, a robust all-encompassing home-help whose tasks may comprise anything within the home but also include looking after their patrons' children. I suppose their "mistresses" haven't had to up sticks and move to the other side of the world but still it's food for thought as I am surrounded by an army of apron-wearing women in parks, around the pool and in the communal gardens, some of whom I can't help feeling probably don't care much for the spoilt brat(s) in their charge but who will put up with anything for 10,000 Chilean pesos (approximately US$20) for an entire day's work... As for us Trailing Spouses, we do feel a bit isolated at times but of course have to look at the positives such as travelling to a new country/continent/hemisphere, learning a new language, spending time with one's children and thinking about going back to work...

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