Having been the recipient of a couple of kind acts of service this week, I've been thinking about how expat friends demonstrate their friendship to one another.
It's different than in the States. When I lived in the States, opportunities were plentiful to help other young moms like myself. Sick? I'll bring over dinner. Jury duty? Let me take your kids for the day. Super busy? Let me give your boys a ride to cub scouts. Critical in-laws coming for a visit? I'll come help you clean your house.
These types of activities in expat life (at least in Central/South American expat life) are all covered by the "staff".
Food? Check (maid)
Childcare? Check (maid)
Errands? Child pick-up? Check (driver)
Obsessive Cleaning? Check (maid)
Of course I'm generalizing and exaggerating a bit; there are occasionally times to offer such services, but it is infrequent.
Then there are those times when "the staff" is sick (heaven forbid) and what usually ends up happening is that we offer up our "staff" in lieu of ourselves. "Sure, Sergio the Driver can pick up your kids" or "Do you need my maid for the day?" And we actually feel like we're sacrificing for our friends. Humorous and a little sad, I know.
So, how do expat friends show their love to one another?
The first way is by letting our friends vent. The majority of Ballerina Girl's and my conversations are about:
1) maid problems
2) house/appliance problems
3) school problems
4) Brazil problems
(not necessarily in that order)
Because we have similar circumstances, she , better than anyone else really gets what I'm going through. Sure, I occasionally vent here on my blog about stuff, but if I did it as much as I do in real life, you'd all think I'm a brat (which of course I'm not, but it may come across like that).
The second way is by sharing our American products. The things we bring back from the States are like GOLD and sharing them is a true act of sacrifice. I have to really like someone to share my goods with them.
This week one of my friends randomly brought me over not just one, but two bags of Reese's mix candies and a tube of Neosporin. She told me they were "extra" and would we want them? (yes please!) Nothing's "extra" around here (especially candy the week of Halloween)-there's no Target, so once you run out, you're out of luck until your next trip or your next group of visitors arrive.
It really meant a lot to me (way more than a tube of antibiotic cream would mean to me in the States :) ).
The third way is by offering suitcase space.
Suitcase space, like American products are precious in the life of an expat. We all know exactly how many bags and how much poundage we can bring in per trip. (If we travel as an entire family, we can bring in 12 bags containing 840 pounds, not including our carry-ons. If one of us flys first class we can increase that to 13 bags and 910 pounds.)
You have to be really careful offering up limited suitcase space to bring back something for a friend. You really have to trust that the person is not going to take advantage of you and have 15 Amazon boxes delivered to your house (or one of your relative's homes).
Ballerina Girl is traveling this week in the States. She emailed me and offered to bring me back whatever I needed (she knows I wouldn't take advantage). She has two kids here of her own and things she needs (she always brings in toilet paper which totally cracks me up) and for her to offer me some space in her suitcase made me feel loved :). (I ordered a book for the boys, a blueberry muffin mix and some Laffy Taffy)
I am blessed with good friends here for which I am thankful.