It’s been one of these days that we read about under the heading ‘Developing Resilience as an Expat’, and already I am an expert. To be fair, it’s nothing life and death, just a seemingly endless parade of disasters, bloopers and general humiliation that characterizes rather too much of my life. In Global Mobility literature, I believe they are referred to as ‘challenges’ or ‘opportunities for development’. In my world, they come under the heading of ‘oh, sh…ootarabbitdead’.
Current life in my world, involves the attempted purchase of a home while our bank accounts, assets and credit history all languish the wrong continent. Factor in a housing market where any homes not scheduled for immediate demolition are selling within a day of being listed and the impending Relocation Assistance cut-off date and you begin to see how the ‘challenges’ of international currency transfer, non-local residence and 8 hour time difference all begin to fray the nerves.
In amongst all this is my abortive attempt to submit my proposal for FIGT 2013, ending with me managing to apparently delete my entire presentation – predictably without making a copy. It would have been a little less embarrassing if I wasn’t on the selection committee and already in receipt of plenty of obviously glitch-free proposal submissions. It’s not an auspicious start.
So back to today. I got an early start on it all, which with hindsight, only meant that I managed to cram rather more chaos into a day than the average expat.
The morning began bright and early with me attempting to make a payment to an online currency exchange from our UK bank. Predictably, since the global financial meltdown, banks are now somewhat reluctant to part with deposited cash, and years of corporate financial shenanigans are now being remedied by tighter security for those of us who have yet to do anything shady. Perhaps if they applied the same rigor to their own dealings, we wouldn’t be in this mess, but who am I to comment on the morality of banking practices.
So, an hour and two international currency transfer attempts later I was walking the dogs, clutching the mobile phone registered to my account in a rather sweaty hand, lest security need to contact me to verify my inside leg measurement. Sadly, for reasons known only to themselves, they had chosen to make the call not on the painstakingly registered-and-verified-by-fifty-million-security-questions phone, but instead on the never-registered-just-used-once-on-an application-form-somewhere UK line. Not only was my transfer not complete, I was now locked out of internet banking, and all hopes of transferring a home deposit before Halloween were disappearing before my eyes.
Should anyone need to know where every single customer service department in Santander is actually based, I could now tell them. Three hours, and a oft repeated ricochet between Belfast and Liverpool call centres later, my account is now reinstated. Predictably, international banking is now closed, unaware that they have my call to look forward to tomorrow.
So when the email from the delightful Maureen at FIGT came through, complete with a retrieved copy of the proposal, I thought my luck had turned. I had demonstrated resilience, patience and good manners, and my efforts had been rewarded – I had both a functioning bank account (albeit still not he wrong continent, but I was determined to stay positive) and I now had a chance at demonstrating my charm, wit and intelligence on a global stage. All of which demonstrates why I will never earn a living as a psychic.
In my defense, I thought I was being both funny and helpful, neither of which I am ever attempting again. Mrs B had called with a request for more information about tonight’s Open House at the High School, and I felt if was my duty not only to share the official details, but also my behind-the-scenes-for-those-of-you-who-have-never-done-it-before review. It was witty, it was insightful, and if it displayed a somewhat less respectful tone (I believe a hip flask was mentioned), it was at least informative. It was also – thanks to a lack of attention to detail and a unerring skill for the inappropriate for which I am notorious – sent, not to Mrs B, but to the Principal of the aforementioned school..
There is that horrific moment at these times when you are desperately clawing at the computer, willing the laws of Google to suddenly change and allow you to recall something that you know full well is pinging into their inbox at that very moment. You want time to stand still, and then when it does, it finds you replaying in your mind just how that acerbic riposte sounded to someone who might not find your dry humor quite as hilarious as its intended recipient.
As all the literature will tell you, a sense of humor is one of the pivotal characteristics in developing and demonstrating resilience. What you might not know is that it’s even better when the other person has one too. That and the kind of grace under pressure that allows you to work with 12oo teenagers all day and stay sane and smiling. Clearly, the Principal has read all the literature about dealing with unfamiliar language patterns, acceptable behavior and diverse cultural norms and offered the universal gesture of tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness.
Thank God. I thought we were going to have to move schools.. Yet again.