My Big Toe Hurts

I do not blog because I approach life with such rampant enthusiasm I cannot bear to let an unrecorded moment slip by; I do not blog because I think I lead an enviably fascinating life that everybody is just busting to read about. 

I blog because I’m lonely. 

Yup. That’s me: the poor sad cow who talks to herself in cyberspace.  

Because there’s nobody here to talk to. 

Except darling Hat, of course, who suffers her mother’s frustrations at life in an Outpost with characteristic charm and sweetness and generosity: ‘It’s OK, Mum, you can talk to me”. 

And I can: about Barbie’s or what’s on the telly or what to cook or what to sew or when to swim or go for a walk, about the wonderful and briefly illuminating characters she introduces me to. We talk about lots of things.

But I cannot talk to her about how desperately isolating I find this place. 

That’d be unfair.  

Not to say churlish: if she is graceful enough to understand why we need to be here, old enough, at just ten, to accept that; why aren’t I? 

And my husband. I talk to him: about what’s on the news, or his day, or where we can escape to when we manage to get away.  But I cannot moan perpetually to him about being lonely. For he’d lose patience and get cross with me and then he wouldn’t talk to me about what’s on the news or his day or where we’re going on holiday. He wouldn’t talk to me at all. 

But it is lonely. 

Imagine a place where there is nothing to do unless you drive the entertainment yourself. And nowhere to go. Nowhere. Not unless you are prepared to undertake an expedition in a 4WD. (My forays out are either to Kaidi’s duka for milk or the market for bananas). The Outpost is almost 100 miles from an asphalt road. Almost three hundred from the nearest big town (where one could shop, a bit, or people watch, a bit, or eat out at more than one place). And it’s five hundred miles from anywhere to shop in a proper shop (the kind you might happily browse in), have lunch with a girlfriend, order a cappuccino, get your hair done. It is miles from a game park (despite being in the middle of the bush) and the other side of the country from the coast. It is as if it has been dropped from some celestial body high above onto the loneliest African plains on a passing whim. The only place to escape to is into yourself. Which I do: I climb into the pool and plough up and down until I am so weak knee’d and winded from the effort that I can’t think straight. And that’s good. 

People articulated concern when I moved here. But with feigned ebullience I told them, ‘’oh it’ll be fine, I’ll keep busy’. 

And I do. In a wafty sort of directionless way. For there is little to punctuate the beginning and the end of the day, like school runs (imagine missing your school run so much it almost makes you weep?!). Where once I set my alarm for 6 to get the kids up and out the door for school by seven, there is no real need to get up with any urgency here; I can begin school whenever I like: 8, 9, 10. And that’s not entirely a good thing. Where once I parcelled my chores into a few hours in order to tear across town to pick the children up, now I can take all day faffing. And that’s not a good thing either. 

Days go by and I see nobody other than my daughter, my husband, Sylvester the garden boy, Kaidi for a pint of milk. 

I need to practice having a conversation I tell myself but I find picking up the phone harder than it was once: which friend haven’t I called so recently that she’ll see my number and say ‘’oh gawd, not again, why doesn’t she get a sodding life!””. 

For I have so little to say. Other than ‘I taught, I walked, I wrote, I wished I weren’t so bloody far away.

’Hi there, it’s me’’. Again. 

‘’Oh hi, just dashing to town’’. 

‘’Oh. Right. Is this a bad time then?’’ 

‘’No, no, but I can’t chat long’’. 

‘Oh. Ok” 


‘’Well .. how are you? Busy? How are the kids?’’ 

‘’Fine, fine, very busy, never a spare moment, had visitors last weekend, got some more this weekend, going to an art exhibition and drinks on Saturday and got to host a birthday party for Jack on Sunday. God. Manic’’.  

‘’Right’’. (Lucky you). 

‘’How are you?’’, distractedly. I think she’s talking to somebody else at the same time. 

‘’Oh fine. You know. Bearing up. Bit lonely’’. 

A laugh, then, ‘’C’mon, it can’t be that bad.  There must be somebody to talk to?’’ 

‘’No. Not really’’.  

There’s the missionaries (who are very nice but a long ago memory of distant attempt by same to convert me to full blown bible reading Christianity has unnerved me), there’s a few do-good volunteers (who I’m sure are also very nice, very young, about my son’s age).  

‘’Anyway, look, sorry, I must run – I’m off to get my hair done, how delicious is that? And then I’m going to meet C for lunch’’. 


‘’Oh. Ok then. Bye. Talk soon’’. 

And I put the receiver down and wish I hadn’t called for now I feel emptier than before. 

I am lucky: I have a husband who loves me (most days), three glorious children whom I adore (most days – even if two of them are too far away to tell them that often enough), a home (in an ideal world not the home of my choice: but a home nonetheless) and a better internet connection than I’ve ever had. And I’m lucky because I can look forward to lunch. In Africa not a lot of people can do that. 

But I crave company and I long for the noise and bustle and pace of a busier world at times (getting away from it all isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, particularly not when you get this far away). 

One of my dearest friends (who remembers not to sound in too much of a hurry whenever I call) once told me, ‘it’s still your big toe that hurts’’.  

And when I’m lonely, it really does. It stings like hell and makes me forget that living in an Outpost absolutely isn’t the most difficult thing to cope with in the world.  

Even if it sometimes feel like it.    


67 Responses to “My Big Toe Hurts”

  1. nuttycow Says:

    Oh RM… what to say?

    I can imagine it must be desperate being in the Outpost and missing the comforts of town. I found it bad enough in Nairobi!

    I don’t quite know what to suggest… I think you’ve got a good thing going with the blog though – you seem to have a strong little following of “friends” to share ‘stuff’ with. It’s not quite the same, I appreciate, but it’s a start.

    I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning to your husband that things are a little lonely and talk about whether it’s possible for the family to travel down to town say, once every month or so. Then you’d have something to look forward to and you and your friends could make it a regular occurance. Appreciate it might be quite difficult to leave the house (and animals) and find somewhere to accommodate the whole troop though. Hmmmm…

    Leave it with me, I’ll think of something 😉

    PS I’d continue to keep out the way of the missionaries if I were you. Although they may be lovely, you don’t want start growing your own sandals and eating Tofu do you?

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    you are sweet nuttycow; thank you. i do try to get out. its the missing people en passant that i miss, oddly, the most. the brief reassuring exchanges. husband is dear. sweet and patient and kind. don’t think he thinks its a picnic either. and that helps too. be really awful if he loved it!

  3. Roberta Says:

    As I read this, I echoed the feeling of lonliness. I don’t even had the luxury of a “Hat”. (..and although she listens patiently, the dog isn’t much of a conversationalist.)

    My heart goes out to you!

  4. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    oh Roberta; i’m sorry. and now I sound indulged, with my entertaining Hat. My dog’s a great listener too but she wouldn’t parade a host of charming guests – marcia, marcella, sir jack – through my house, nor entertain me with hilarious barbie fashion shows. i’m lucky. just gripped by suffocating loneliness from time to time …

  5. Roberta Says:

    Don’t worry Mem. I’m just not looking forward to the approaching snow storm and husband being out of town overnight. Makes for a very loooong day.

  6. Iota Says:

    Rel Mem, I would love to live next door to you. I’d be your friend.

    You are very brave because loneliness is the one thing that it is completely unacceptable to confess to. And you have. The odd thing is, though, that I think there is a HUGE amount of it around. Even among people who live in cities and have busy social lives. Sorry, that isn’t the right thing to say is it? Won’t make you feel better.

    I am glad you can swim and are at least fit and lonely. And I think you will look back on these years (I presume it’s not forever?) and realise that it was a time when your writing skills received the daily airing they deserve.

    Sorry. Trying to be comforting here, and don’t think I’m hitting the spot. I ought to be better at it, as I do know a little of what you’re talking about. I know the Midwest isn’t Outpost, but I do sometimes have to make sure I go to Wal-mart to get an exchange of adult conversation in a day.

    Plan a trip. Having something to look forward to is good for morale. Can you do that?

  7. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks Iota; i wish you lived next door too! and you were comforting. i even giggled at the idea of you lurking for conversation in Wal-mart. yes, i am planning a trip. several actually. normally i’m better at this but occassionaly it all bubbles up and dribbles out, snot and tears, charming. maybe better that way, maybe all trapped inside and i’d burst. So. onward. Tomorrow will be easier.

  8. jen Says:

    it’s all relative, yes? i’d be lonely too.

  9. Iota Says:

    I don’t lurk for conversation. That would risk disappointment. I’m quite content with the exchange I am guaranteed at the check-out. “Did you find everything ok today?… Do you want cashback?… You have yourself a nice day….” That’s fine for me. Sometimes a comment on the weather or my accent. But that’s a bonus. I imagine Kaidi is more personal somehow…

  10. lifeonaboat Says:

    Hiya Mem,
    I know exactly what you are saying and you say it so well. I think it’s the little encounters that you make every day that often can make your day. The little encounters that you make when you live in a busy place and with a busy life…I just mean school runs, the familiar lady in the shop who asks about the kids, the neighbour you meet in the shop who gives you a nice compliment out of the blue…all those encounters that you don’t even notice until they stop…abruptly.
    And then there are friends…those wonderful people who just make everything much more fun and managable.
    When we started sailing I felt so lonely at times when we were on the move. I didn’t really even know what was wrong at first or how to handle it. I tried phoning friends back home in Ireland and had to accept exactly the sort of response you talk about. Ahh! Not easy.
    Now I try to enjoy every encounter, small and all as it is, when we are on the move. It works about half the time. With the result that when I was home in Ireland this summer I found that I was just loving chatting to the lady selling the tomatoes in the market etc etc and every tiny purchase took ages but the encounters were such fun! I think my Irish friends think I have half lost the plot but I’ve learnt to make the most of any encounter.

    I know that this is utterly unhelpful to you in the situation you are in now …I’m not trying to be helpful just to say I really do know that mind numbing, pit of your stomach loneliness and it’s hard. It’s hard too phoning people or telling them any of this because I don’t want sympathy..just a bit of human contact and although I may not sound it I know I am fine really ..just lonely.

  11. foxhollowjewelry Says:

    I too, can relate to your loneliness…When I went on the road with my husband, I was living in Singapore, but even though I could see people, cramped as we were on that island, having anyone to talk to was very difficult. Which seemed to be even worse for some reason…the fact that I could see them and watch them interact with each other, but they were not that interested in interacting with me… That is when I started blogging and writing and it changed my life for the better. These blogs are wonderful…a means to communicate and really talk to the world at large and it is so amazing when people respond, isn’t it?
    Anyway…I think it is good to have a sob every once in a while about is honest. And I find your life very interesting and your writing very funny! I wish we did live closer, for I too would be over for coffee and a laugh at what Hat’s next adventure in imagination would be…

  12. Kit Says:

    You have no clue who I am, as I have never commented before. Today’s post touched my heart. I think this time is strengthening your writing skills in an impressive way. I also can see it hurts and I wish I knew of some way to help. At the very least, know you are making a day brighter way across the world each time you post.

  13. gary Says:

    We, too, went through a similar spell in our first year in the arctic. We had a slightly larger choice of social circle than the local missionaries but just slightly. I also had my work but wundermom only had a sickly five month old and a very active 2 year old to occupy most of her days. Moreover, we are in the arctic and getting out of the house, even for a pint of milk, was an exceedingly difficult task for my wife. Our income was good, our house was very nice, and that was enough in the first year to get us through. We grew more and more used to the isolation. We grew to prefer the pristine air unpolluted by the perfumes old women bathe in, exhaust of cars, and cigarette smoke. We love the silence, absolute silence, we are usually surrounded by. This preference developed over an eight year period and we frequently punctuate it with trips to the outside that tend to be long enough for us to long to return home. I don’t know if this is your first year in the outpost or not. The sentiments that you are sharing make me think it is likely. I am not really going anywhere here beyond commiseration and a suggestion that your feelings of isolation on the outpost may pass in the near future.

  14. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Iota: conversations with Kaidi might be getting too personal; he has offered to buy my car – even he knows I don’t have a life to go to!

  15. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    lifeoneaboat: how lovely to hear from you again. what a lovely response. you articulated it beautifully: and you’re so right, its the stuff en passant: the little encounters that buoy your day, break it up. add a bit of colour, somebody else to talk to, something else to talk about. thanks so much for continued reading. x

  16. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    foxhollowjewelry: thank you. yes, you’re right: loneliness isn’t always about geography. mine is mostly, but people can be lonely in the busiest of places and i think that must be worse? thank for you reading and for being so nice about my writing, even when i do out my heart weepily on my sleeve!

  17. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks gary. yes, still my first year. i’ll get better, it was helpful to know your isolation got easier. and you really were isolated. i sound a bit indulged now! i like the sound of your silence though. if i must be lonely, i’d quite like the absolute silence: the army’s disco behind me, the churches tinny choir beside me and the muezzin 5 times a day not to mention trains, dogs and traffic can drive a person madder than the isolation already has!

  18. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    jen – yup, all relative. but it helps to know you’d find it lonely too. other people’s justification of ones grumbling is always gratifying.

  19. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Kit – how kind. Thanks for reading. And for saying such nice things about my writing: along with ploughing up and down the pool, it is a glorious escape. i’m lucky I have that too. It is extraordinary how the blogsphere connects people from all over the place and its even more extraordinary how faceless strangers can proffer such comfort.

  20. black mzungu Says:

    hi reluctant memsahib, I read your blog sometimes, and its funny but today it feels so muuch, because you are lonely , cheer up lady and blog more you will feel better!

  21. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks black mzungu – and for reading. i promise to write something funny soon. and yes, you’re right, it will make me feel better: writing always does.

  22. carol Says:

    Oh how I wish that you lived nearer to me! I think i’ve had a lonely time when, at the weekend, I don’t go and visit anyone. Or if husband is playing golf all weekend. And I shouldn’t complain as I have all three kids at home to keep me company. I read this post and felt sad – but know that you are doing the best thing for Hat, Ben, Amelia and Ants – it doesn’t help much being told that though. You are a star, a great mum, and a fabulous big sister. Please make an excuse to come to Nairobi and stay.

  23. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    sweet girl, thank you Carol. I shall certainly escape soon to come and stay. I so loved my foray up there last year. with love xx

  24. Carrie Says:

    Can I come visit? I’m full of noise over here and right now, and even though you’re lonely, sounds like heaven to me. See? The grass is always greener.

    I am looking forward to reading more . . .

  25. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    you can, Carrie; I’d be delighted to have some new company. But you’re right: the grass is always greener … thanks for reading

  26. Linda K Says:

    Hello! I like to read your blog on a regular basis. It seems that you share your feelings freely. I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts on loneliness! I have known the feelings of loneliness due to a variety of changes in my life. For me, I find it hard to express these feelings. At any rate, thank you for sharing your feelings even it may seem a ‘taboo topic’. I do not feel I have any suggestions, but I am sending this comment as an encouragement that I heard you.

  27. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Linda K – thank you. I wondered about not posting this piece but i figured what the hell. words and loneliness, it seems to be what i do most of these days so why not blog about it? I worried a bit after I’d put it up, it but I’m glad I wrote it and put it out there, I’ve had some fabulous responses and I’m glad I’ve outed a taboo. thanks for reading me. and for your encouragement.

  28. Karen Stanley Price Says:

    I found your blog through africaexpatwives blog, and have never read a blog so religiously before – every day I have to catch up on the pair of you, like an addiction. I enjoy yours mainly because… I envy your life so much…! I love the idea of the outpost – the bush, the birds, the dark nights with stars etc, from the boring safety of my mundane life in the northern hemisphere. But today was a shock – where was the humour (making me chuckle out load and repeat it to husband in the evening) in the minutiae of day to day life in the outpost? It made me THINK how much I take for granted the boring certainties of each day, seeing friends, interacting with strangers in shops or the street, my boring part time job etc.

    I felt so sad with you. Your blog pals have written wonderful things (which I hope alleviate the pain of loneliness in some way?) but I think Kit has said it all, from me too.

    I spent seven years in an outpost (in the Middle East) just after we got married and before we had children. I remember the loneliness but actually from this point in time (28 years later!!) I look back in wonder at the privilege we had to live the life we did. Sorry – I know this does not help you in the here and now.

    I was intrigued by who you might be so asked my brother and sister-in-law in Arusha and they came up with a name and a husband. I was at school (Kaptagat) with Ant way back in the 60’s, his mother taught me to ride and his sister was my “best friend”…!

    I miss Africa! We left Kenya six and a half years ago for the mundane life in northern climes but return every year to see my mother and other relations and friends. I am so saddened by all that is happeneing in Kenya.

    Whoops – gone off on a tangent there! I don’t mind if you don’t print this or cut out bits. I am thinking of you and sweet Hat – bonne courage.

    By the way I think your writing is amazing – very amusing and very absorbing!

  29. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Karen, thank you for writing. How extraordinary: that you were at school with my husband! How incredible that a blog should throw out tiny little familiar facets from a whole huge world? Yup. Shocker, eh? Not all laughs. Actually I spend a fair bit of time here being brave but stiff upper lip wobbled yesterday. I shall be fine. And you’re right; I have had overwhelmingly kind responses. I have been amazed and encouraged. You must be sad and worried by what is happening in Kenya. I promise to write something less morose in the next day or so in the hope this post didn’t put you off entirely. all best, RM

  30. Potty Mummy Says:

    RM, a great and illuminating post. Interesting that you have so many comments when you write about loneliness; I think you’ve struck a chord, and for one would put my hand up to being a lonely blogger too (yes, in spite of the school runs and frequent interaction with close friends). You’ve got my e-mail, thanks for using it, and if you want to chat I promise I won’t drop the lunch / hair appointment / birthday party line on you. (Of course I don’t have to as I already do that on my blog…)

  31. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you PM. Yes, responses number more than I’ve ever had before, ditto readers to the page. I’m not glad you get lonely too. But there is some solace in knowing its ok – and probably quite normal – to be a lonely blogger? I will use your email – since I am still too thick to post responses to your posts and so often I’m busting to, and thanks for promising not to drop busy life on me! enjoy your weekend.

  32. Patsycake Says:

    After such an eloquent confession and these equally eloquent responses, I would like to send you a message of encouragement on an issue you have raise in past entries! The essence of the case you have made for your beloved Africa is making news today!! Bill Gates has announced a new direction for attacking poverty and has pledged $306 million in grants to develop farming in poor countries. Your message is getting out!!! Perhaps he and Melinda will come to your Outpost and hear your story first hand.

    To quote:
    “If we are serious about ending extreme hunger and poverty around the world, we must be serious about transforming agriculture for small farmers, most of whom are women,” Gates said. “The challenge here is to design a system including profit and recognition to do more for the poor,” he said, calling for a new form of “creative capitalism.”

    to read further and follow the story you might want to go to :

  33. Kathleen Says:

    Your subject is difficult to write about. I live in the country but work in the city and I glory in my aloneness on the weekends, although I have to admit when my son left for Univeristy it felt very oppressive, still does when he leaves after a visit. I can understand your feelings over your isolation though. I’ve often thought I would like to quit work and just stay at home in my isolation, I’m afraid I might turn into a hermit. I would surface occasionally make a trek into the city and not know how to act with people. I actually have felt overwelmed sometimes in the city because I have gotten so used to the country. Your writing is wonderfully eloquent and I could feel your aloneness through your words. It seems you have a lot of fans in the blogosphere.

  34. Primal Sneeze Says:

    Actually, I envy you, Mem’. Solitude, in these times, is something to be treasured. Time to think. And you do that. And so does Hat.

    Yes, too much solitude can make one lonely, but none at all is far worse. I’ve used the (very) Irish phrase, ah sure, it could be worse, in comments before and on this occasion it is very true – if you were surrounded by people all day long, you would be screaming your anguish even louder.

  35. Alice C Says:

    I hope that you find some relief in Blogland. You will be welcomed wherever you go and in return we can visit you and enjoy the glimpses into your extraordinary life – so challenging and so different.

  36. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Patsycake: thanks for that. I hadn’t heard that news story. And Mr Gates is right: embracing Africans in commercial ventures is more sustainable than chucking endless aid at problems. It is also less patronising. The thing is, the politically correct brigade must understand it isn’t about exploitation: a charge often levelled at those who attempt to harness rural agriculture in commercial efforts. Good for Gates.

    Kathleen, thank you. It meant alot that you recognised the choice you had in terms of opting out of work but understanding that might reduce you to hermit. Contact is important. My appreciation of blog contact has soared in the last two days.

    Primal: no doubt you’re right. And I hate that: that it could be worse: it’s my big toe that hurts, remember?!

    Thank you for coming back Alice C: is it extraordinary? I think everybody elses is: but perhaps we all think our own lives are dull in comparison to those elsewhere. Challenging. Yup, it is that. Today’s challenge is going to include finding a nice fillet of beef for supper!

  37. DJ Kirkby Says:

    I don’t get lonley but I will come visit you in blogland and I write lots of stories which are on my other two blogs. If you are desperate to step in to another world on occasion, then you can find my story blogs at the top left side of my blog under my blog header.

  38. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks DJ – and I’ll certainly keep visiting to read your stories, escaping to other worlds is essential for sanity …

  39. ali la loca Says:

    Hello – I found your blog through Stacie at FoxHollow Jewelry, and am loving it.

    I currently live in Maputo, but spent the first year of my time in Mozambique in Chimoio, near the border with Zim. I found life incredibly loney there, and it was considered the “big city” of the province we lived in. I relate very much with the things you write about here, even now, in the capital.

    Look forward to reading more. 🙂


  40. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks for reading Ali, and – especially – for empathizing.

  41. Mimi Says:

    Hi RM, i’ve love your blog! I think you’re very brave to admit to loneliness. I live in Dublin, have a very busy life with 3 kids and 2 jobs! But on the odd occasion that i have a day to myself, i nearly go crazy, and after about 6 hours just long for the gang to come through the door, so i can empathise. You write beautifully, if that’s any consolation. mimi

  42. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you Mimi. No so much brave as heart desperately hanging onto sleeve, perhaps? But it is enormously helpful to know that others sometimes feel similarly, even when they are surrounded by people and busy-ness. It makes me feel – even though my circumstances remain determinedly unchanged – less lonely. So thank you.

  43. insteadi Says:

    Hi Mem,
    I’ve not been around for a while, but just catching up this morning. I read this blog and honestly can’t think of anything to say to make you feel any better, because I am in a similar situation (different – I’m not in the middle of nowhere, but similar) and don’t think anybody could make me feel any better by words.

    All I can offer is what I try to do.

    When I reach pit of gnawing loneliness and realise I’m going nowhere with it (it’s a bit cyclical), I write a list of all the things I’ve always wanted to do, however small or fanciful and all the things that I couldn’t do if I was living a ‘normal’ life, but could here (also small or whimsical). Then I pick one, and dog-mindedly get to work on figuring out exactly how and when I’m going to do it. And I make sure I do it.

    It really has been varied: from cloud-watching (reading up online and then spotting them), to diving (obviously that one is no use to you!), to an accounting course (no idea if studying anything would be of interest to you, but the Uni of London has some really good courses –

    It doesn’t make me feel like I’m surrounded by people, but it does take the edge off feeling that everybody else is having a life (even if they don’t regard nipping out to an exhibition as noteworthy), and I’m stuck on my own, doing nothing of interest.

    It also helps somewhat with having no fixed schedule: chores are done much faster when there’s something I really want to do afterwards.

    Keep writing though – I love reading your blog!!

  44. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    oh hello insteadi, how lovely to have you back. i hope you’re well. i liked your cloud watching – hat would enjoy that. it’s not a loneliness borne of not being busy, rather not being involved, even on the periphery of, any busy-ness. but you’re right, the less head space there is for lonely thoughts, the less lonely a person will be. my projects for 2008 include learning how to speak french and make jewellery … too ambitious. thank for a lovely and very thoughtful reponse. and for reading.

  45. Paula Says:

    Oh memsahib you make me weep, because I know I know I know… the highlight of my day being lunchtime when hubby comes come and then 6pm again when he comes home! I so relate to what you say about not complaining to your husband all the time, because although they are sweet and patient its tough for them to listen to the deluge of depressed raving all the time. My only distraction at the moment is my new stray kitten!

  46. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Quite Paula, you’re absolutely right: that whole lunch and 6pm thing …. i’m glad you’ve got a stray kitten: don’t tell Hat though or she’ll think we’ve got an exucse for yet another cat: already have two who hate each others guts. And ours, come to think of it?

  47. asqfish Says:

    Loneliness comes from a state of mind when there is a wall between you and your environment.

  48. daisyfae Says:

    Wow… found this post through “post of the week”. You are living the sort of experience that drives weaker humans to madness, and you’ve captured the essence of the isolation so gracefully! A beautiful voice – quite literally from the wilderness… i look forward to reading more of your blog.

  49. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you daisyfae; that’s very kind. and it made me feel a little braver!

    asqfish: perhaps. but I don’t think I agree entirely: i think loneliness can be overcome but some of us are better at doing that than others.

  50. Post of the Week » Blog Archive » Shortlist for the week ending 1 February 2008. Says:

    […] 4. Reluctant Memsahib: My Big Toe Hurts […]

  51. misssym Says:

    Reluctant, I really didn’t know what to say to you in response to this post. I couldn’t put myself in your position; so no empathy. I didn’t want to say poor you, as I know there’s lots of joy in where you live and that’s why your blog is so interesting; so no sympathy. But I kept on thinking about what you’d written so decided to nominate you for Post of the Week as this was the best post I’d read all week. And !Yay! you’ve been shortlisted. Best of Luck!

  52. Sarsparilla Says:

    What a great post. The truth is that all bloggers blog because at some level they are lonely, but being 12 hours hard dirt road drive from a city, a bookshop, a cinema, or someone who will look in my eyes and see a personality, an individual, not the unwanted colour of my skin, this post strikes a strong chord with me.
    What Kit said was your best comment, I think – but what the other commenters say, too is correct. You will look back on this time as a time of opportunity. Imagine a point in your life when you were rad busy, and had no time to pursue the things your soul hungers for – you would yearn for the freedom you have now. And one day you will miss it, for it will go. This, of course, does not help in the least right now.

    I find isolation is lessened not by contact with people ‘back home’ (who misinterpret contact as wanting sympathy, not contact, and are fairly justified in finding it difficult to share with lives very different from their own) but by control. I try to have space that I control, time that I control, activities that I control. This is different from time or activities that I indulge in, or coast in, ar bathe in to relax. Controlled action is purposeful action. What the actual purpose itself may be is damn near irrelevant.

    Do you speak the local language? If so, this is a huge advantage for you. Push yourself to interact more; even once a week, ask how a local vegetable is cooked. Make contact with someone else in the country, even by email and have a cook-off competition, who can make the best meal with the local ingredients. Force yourself to hunt out local history. Make a list of weird little known facts about your area. Explore something or somewhere or someone every Thursday, for example. Make up a stupid rule so you can’t get out of it.

    I’m in year two, and it doesn’t get easier, you just learn to carry it. Good luck.

  53. Sarsparilla Says:

    But one other question I have for you that keeps creeping in under the carpet I hide things from myself, deep inside: how do you blog? How do find the energy to be positive, to write for an hour or so about thigns that are not ‘what am I doing here?’
    How do you avoid the feeling of need for a right of reply to a country that rejects or isolates you? How do you voice your discomforts, your dissatisfactions, knowing that your readers will facevalue it?
    Hw do you grit your teeth, swallow the isolation, and write something nice?

  54. Post of the Week » Blog Archive » Post of the Week #53 Says:

    […] Reluctant Memsahib: My Big Toe Hurts […]

  55. SwissToni Says:

    Congratulations. You’ve just been voted Post of the Week. There’s not really a prize as such, other than the warm glow of satisfaction you’ll have knowing that it’s a job well done, but you are cordially invited to join the judging panel next week (or another week to suit you). See here for details. Just drop us a line and we’d love to have you on board.

    Well done again, it was a strong shortlist this week, but this was my favourite post by miles and is a worthy winner.


  56. misssym Says:

    Congratulations my dear. Job well done.

  57. misssym Says:

    Congratulations my dear. Well deserved!

  58. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    misssym: thank you so much: for your message, for your nomination and your congratulations: I am really thrilled to have been picked for post fo the week. Thanksx

    SwissToni: thank you very much indeed. It’s hugely rewarding. Warm glow made me positively blush with the thrill of it all. I would love to judge, may I do so one week soon: i’m on the road this week which makes internet connection sporadic until I get home. Would that be OK?

    Sarsparilla: thank you for taking the time to write such a comprehensive response. I do speak the language: and it does help. Alot. I like to haggle and giggle, when I’m feeling strong, in the market. Or discuss what’s happening in the news – especially in Kenya now – with the local people. How do I grit my teeth? I don’t know. Because there’s no option but to? Because I’m playing at being British? Stiff upper lip and all that? I don’t know: you just do I guess? Thanks again for reading.

  59. nuttycow Says:

    Congratulations Mem. Stardom beckons 😉

  60. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    I doubt. But I am moved that it touched a chord. And thank you

  61. patita Says:

    Feeling lonely and also being able to say it lights a beacon to anyone who has felt lonely before, and we’ll all show up to pay our respects eventually 🙂

    Congrats on the much deserved Post of the Week win (as one of the judges I can say that genuinely).

  62. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thank you very much patita.

  63. Why do people blog?, a crawler finds out « amitGupta Says:

    […] reluctantmemsahib […]

  64. lulu Says:

    Well, you certainly aren’t lonely in cyberspace…I think you should write a book – that ought to keep you busy and when you leave, if you don’t use the time to do that you might be cross with yourself, because you quite possibly won’t have the luxury of that amount of time ever again. Thinking of you -I know how you feel though – I’ve been in that situation before x Lx

  65. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you Lulu. It’s just what i’m doing …. first chapters went to an agent this week. doubtless they’ll be rejected but we’ve been there before and i know to just keep persevering x

  66. To Be (me) or Not To Be (me)? « Reluctant Memsahib Says:

    […] it. And the unravelling is often hastened when you can throw it into the forum of blogsphere. Once, overcome by loneliness, I wrote a post which generated a – for this particular blog– huge response. Readers weren’t […]

  67. Alone. But not Lonely « Reluctant Memsahib Says:

    […] I might be alone but I’m not lonely. […]

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