How I ended up in my nightgown under an umbrella in the garden in the middle of the night

Still I am trying to catch up on all the award stuff, but life in Mexico has been rather turbulent these past few months. You know, rainy season is in full swing. Doesn’t sound exciting? Well, it actually can be pretty exciting!

As a matter of fact, I always love those first few grey days that remind me of autumn. Finally, it’s time to cuddle up on the sofa with some hot chocolate and a book, a sleeping baby on my lap, and when I keep the A/C on, I can bamboozle myself into thinking that Christmas were around the corner. Might not sound tempting to you, but I am just not this eternal summer kind of gal. I miss autumn and winter.

So when the first heavy rainfalls started, I felt very content and was determined to get as cosy as possible. Until I opened our front door. You see, our front porch was gone and the water was just about to enter our hallway. That’s when we put our furniture on stilts and put a towel in front of the door to absorb the water – just in case. But so far, no harm done. Apart from the water that came in through the roof, but that’s an in-built feature in many homes here, and we are pretty used to it.

She does look like a princess, doesn't she?

She does look like a princess, doesn’t she?

But we have one family member who never gets used to the water: Our dog Mrs. P. Some of you may recall that I rescued Mrs. P. from the streets. Now you might think that a street dog should be used to rain, right? Well, poor Mrs. P. had been tethered for a long time and couldn’t get out of the rain, so naturally, she dreads getting wet. Or she is a princess. Whatever. Fact is, she won’t step outside as long as she only hears the sound of a light drizzle. And as long as we don’t train her to use our bathroom, this will continue to be an issue.

That very morning, we had an appointment and didn’t want to leave her at home. But there was no way, Mrs. P. would have walked the way to the car! Instead, Mr. R. took off his shoes and his shirt, rolled up his trousers and carried her to the car. (And I did the same with little F., only that I left on my shirt – those paparazzi are everywhere, after all.) What can I say? We didn’t look remotely as sexy as people on TV in these situations.

Late at night, Mrs. P. woke me up for she needed to use the bathroom. Apparently, she had forgotten about the rain, but when I opened the door to the terrace, she looked at me reproachfully and refused to step into the garden. So I grabbed an umbrella and a biscuit (mmhm, chocolate flavour, her favourites!) and went outside myself. I made a mental snapshot of myself: cowering under an umbrella in my nightgown in the middle of the night pretending to sniff at a dog treat in order to get my dog to pee. Well, Mrs. P. did what she was supposed to do, and we went back to bed.

Fancy a swim?

Fancy a swim?

When we got up the next morning, our entire ground level was flooded. I mean, the entire level. So we had to move all the furniture to dry the floor underneath and had to empty all our closets for there was water everywhere. Everything inside the closets was soaked, too. All the boxes and suitcases, and everything inside those boxes and suitcases, so we had to empty those, too… – you get the picture. So Mr. R. and I were running around in our night attires, hair unkempt, trying to keep the damage as minimal as possible. It was one of those glamorous moments that life hands you every now and then. Then we got aware of the state of our garden. Except there was no garden but instead, our house was in the middle of a muddy lake. The pool water had turned black, and there were frogs jumping about. No kidding.

Do you know these situations when you pause and think that this can’t be real? I was sure that I was in the middle of some bizarre dream. Or the Truman Show. Then little F. started crying in his nursery, and I ran upstairs – and whoosh, there I slipped and crashed on the floor for now the water was not only dripping through the ceiling but also came gushing in through the door leading to the rooftop terrace. And our staircase had already turned into a mini waterfall. Oh, the gadgets that come with Mexican construction! Well, my hair was still unkempt, but now my nightgown was soaked, and my ankle was swollen and blue. When I was little, my dad would say in these situations, “This will all be forgotten by the time you get married.” Now I am married, but I guess this will all be forgotten by the time I move into that nice nursing home in Florida.

Once the ground floor was more or less dry, I started mopping up the water upstairs. However, since the rain didn’t stop and little F. had an exceptionally hungry day, it seemed I could never finish this task, and I still wonder how I managed but I did.

The next day, the sun came out again. We removed the furniture stilts, all the big towels in front of all doors, the pool guy came and cleaned the pool and it would have almost seemed like a dream – had it not been for all those frogs still hanging out in the pool.

Some amorous frogs in our pool.

Some amorous frogs in our pool.

So when some concerned friends or family members ask me whether life would get boring, I have to say no. No, it doesn’t. Aren’t I lucky?

Need an Interpreter? Call Superdad!

Being an expat often includes learning a foreign language and we all have different learning styles. When I was trained to be a language teacher, I was taught that there are three different types of students: Some monitor very closely what they are saying (we used the expression “filter”), i.e. prior to speaking they think it all through in order not to make any mistake. They try to figure out the right sentence structure, the right tense, and of course the right vocabulary. If in doubt, they rather don’t talk at all. I belong to that category, and may I say, it doesn’t help. I sometimes find myself standing vis-à-vis of someone and am almost bursting with what I want to say, yet I only nod or shake my head, looking rather foolish, while my brain is oh so busy trying to find the right tense. Once the threat chance of a conversation has passed, I believe to come up with the right answer and think about what I could have said and how clever a remark it would have been. Instead, everybody must be under the impression that I am the biggest bore on earth. Or that I might have swallowed my tongue. It’s pathetic. What helps, though, is a glass of wine – turns the unforgiving filter into a soft focus!

Like that one evening in Madrid: I went to a college there just for the duration of my holidays to improve my Spanish. My group included one guy from Scotland, one from England, one from Ireland, a Canadian girl and a giggling Chinese guy who had a fetish for large noses which I was very grateful for, since he was the only person ever who made me believe that my nose was tiny. But I digress. What I wanted to say was that apart from those few lessons in the mornings, we hardly spoke any Spanish, and I still felt very shy displaying my poor knowledge of the language in front of my brother who was living in Madrid at that time. However, wise man that he is, he took me dancing in the evening and bought me a couple of drinks – oh boy, was I fluent in Spanish! So, dear over-users of this annoying language filter: Start drinking! And yes, this is the perfect excuse for every expat to get drunk every now and then!

No drinking excuse for people who belong to the remaining two categories, I am afraid. There are those who do use this filter but at the same time aren’t afraid of making mistakes – surely the most desirable group. Yet a dull subject for a post. And then there are those who hardly ever use their filter but who just talk without fear. Mr. R. is one of those, and though I sometimes found it rather entertaining to listen to him when we first arrived in Mexico and he didn’t speak a word of Spanish, I first and foremost admired him for his courage. The thing is, somehow everybody understands, and that’s the main thing, isn’t it?

Another person who belongs to the third category is my dad. My dad moved to Latvia when he was 6 and didn’t speak Latvian. That made him a target for bullies, and the poor guy got beat up at school every day, but luckily he managed to become fluent very quickly. When he moved back to Germany at the age of 18, he didn’t speak German but again picked up the language pretty fast. So he naturally is used to making himself understood and overcoming his fear of making mistakes. I guess that’s the reason why he can talk to ANYBODY. Like when he was here and I overheard him chatting with the gardeners. Since he had been doing the gardening, he wanted to let them know there was no need to remove leaves or trim hedges, but he only wanted them to mow the lawn. But how do you say that in Spanish when you don’t speak the language? I would of course first consult the dictionary to look up the right vocabulary, my dad however just said, “No, no, nix clean – cut!” and he was waving his arms, pointing here and there, and the gardeners nodded and understood.

The same thing happened with the pool boy. There they were, chatting like two old friends, my dad using a mix of English, German and some Spanish words like si and claro, and all went well. In fact, those workers got so fond of him that they always requested to talk to him and I could clearly feel that they had a lot more confidence in him than in me.

My dad wouldn’t have needed an interpreter for this, that’s for sure!

But it didn’t come as a surprise to me. Ever since that one Christmas I knew that my dad had a special talent in making himself understood: My sister-in-law’s sister from Madrid was visiting, and since she was studying German, we tried our best to speak slowly and clearly. So in an attempt to make conversation, I asked her very politely whether her parents had been to Germany yet. Que? “Have your parents ever been to Germany?” Que? That’s when my dad lost his patience with me and said, “Mama – Papa – Alemania – eh?”, and with the “eh”, he threw his arms up in the air which looked very Mediterranean, and L. beamed at him and said No, and my dad looked at me and said, “See, that’s not so difficult, is it?” Right he is!