Off to an Outpost …

Tomorrow I am going to visit my husband for five days.

Kind friends have offered to have the children and they are delirious at the idea of spending time with families who have copious – and interesting – ‘snacks’ on hand; if what Amelia tells me is anything to go by, every family in Arusha is popping the lids off (expensive, imported) Pringles with regular abandon, tucking into tins full of (expensive, imported) chocolate chip cookies and sloshing down buckets full of (expensive, imported) fruit juice. ‘All we have to eat in this house is bread’, she complained. I should have added ‘And water’, but instead I whined plaintively about the importance of not eating between meals and if she was hungry there was always fruit, ‘Ug, no thanks’, she said. (Note to reader: please don’t automatically assume that because we live in a place where there is – happily for me, tragically for my children apparently – a dearth of fast food and a plethora of fresh fruit that eating healthily is an easy policy to foist on one’s offspring. It’s not)

Anyhow. Children are off to friends and I am off to husband. I am going to join him – in the outpost where he is currently based – to consider whether I could live in said outpost. And if I can, whether we can find a suitable home. But outpost is so far flung that I must fly. And I have a pathological fear of flying. I cannot articulate why or explain when this fear manifested itself. Since I had children? (perhaps an over zealous sense of self preservation kicks in with motherhood?) Certainly my fear of heights has been, well, heightened, since I became a mother; I absolutely cannot sit by the window in a plane. Unless I close my eyes. Or wear those eye thingies. And then, with my earphones plugged firmly into my ears, I am rendered both deaf and blind and won’t notice the drinks trolley. Which is a shame, because at 27,000 ft I will really, really need a drink.

Tomorrow’s flying time will be four hours. With a change in the middle. 

I will be very pleased to land in outpost. So I can get off plane. I will be very pleased to see husband, once have removed attractive eye patches of course.

I have spoken to him several times since he left home and as a result of long conversations, I have slowly imbibed something of where our future may lie.

It is, by all accounts, a quiet place. And a lonely one.

‘That’s OK’, I say merrily, ‘I can do quiet’.

‘And the shopping isn’t great’.

That’s OK’, I say (bit less merrily), ‘I don’t need shops’. And I laugh. Just to keep the mood elevated.  Even if I’m beginning to feel a bit scared, ‘So long as I can run a home’, I say (pretending that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 18 years).


‘What does Um mean?’ I enquire

‘Well – grocery shopping is going to be tricky’.

‘What do you mean, ‘tricky’?’

‘You can’t get butter, cheese, fish, wine, sausages, bacon, cream, anything dairy actually, any luxurious goods like breakfast cereal or olive oil …”

Wine!? I can’t get wine? How am I supposed to stay sane if I can’t get wine?!

And olive oil, a luxury ingredient? I fry eggs in olive oil. Because as an aspirant domestic goddess that’s what you do. Even if eggs look like shit when they’re done.

‘What can you get then?’ I ask, trying to keep my voice level to disguise rising panic. 

‘Flour. Um. Errr. Sugar? Chickens. I think. A few veggies in the market’.

If I am to stay sane, if we are to live there, I am clearly going to have to get over my flying hang-up just to go grocery shopping.

I don’t know what to pack for five days in an outpost.  

But I know what to wear: a brave face. 


7 Responses to “Off to an Outpost …”

  1. Gorilla Bananas Says:

    Can you get mangoes in your area? I think even children like them. You didn’t ask him whether you’ll be able to connect to the internet. You shouldn’t go without that. Make it a condition, perhaps.

  2. Minx Says:

    A condition – are you mad GB? It is essential.
    Oh, and shoe shops.
    I am so shallow.

    Good luck with flying to the absent husband. I would lend you my broomstick but there is more chance of falling off.

  3. R.Sherman Says:

    Have fun.

    BTW, maybe this is your opportunity to open a gourmet grocery.


  4. Tim Says:

    Hi, found your blog courtesy of R. Sherman and am really enjoying it.

    If a whole grocery store proves too difficult to start you could probably make thousands merely by importing wine.

  5. problemchildbride Says:

    Tim has a point but I’d start by importing some wine direct to your stomach first. Then you might be able to approach the whole prospect with fresh, if blurry, eyes.

  6. Equiano Says:

    Oooh, this all sounds oh so familiar. Now that you’ve found all of us (your cheerleaders) you must, must insist on internet connection. In the current climate of interest in lifestyles where people are self-sufficient, I bet you’d even get a book deal out of your struggles in the great outpost. Other than that, keep an open mind even if your eyes are blurry (is that wine, dust or tears?)

  7. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Dear All … I love it here. In the outpost.

    GB – yes, mangoes, lots and lots, the town lies in the sprawling shade of trees which are apparently hundreds of years old. I shall enjoy the fruit and write a book, 101 uses for a mango … x

    Minx. Yup and internet. Fast broadband connection, hooray, a luxury after my frustratingly, bloodpressure elevatingly slow dialup. Shoes. I shall not need them, I can go barefoot year round …

    Mr Sherman – sadly the gourmet grocery store would lack customers sorely. I shall be the only aspirant DG here. Besides, I’ve found the olive oil, in an indian duka where the properietor chews betelnut and shouts orders to an assistant who scurries up and down a ladder to fetch Ariel and Drinking Chocolate from the hightest reaches of his tiny, dark domain

    Tim, problemchild – I have found wine. But understanding how wine improves with age and will not mind being kept – providing I can keep it, that is – I shall come home with carloads after depositing children at school, 15 hours drive away … that is my only sadness that they must board.

    Equiano – knowledge that I can retain and even improve my passage into cyberspace is an enormous relief. Does it matter that the conversations one conducts are with distant faceless once-strangers who through the ether begin to offer this intangible but fortifying system of support. What irony.

    Thank you all x

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