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.