EXPAT ROLLERCOASTER

by Rirchard Cherry

If a positive attitude doesn't help - move to Kathmandu for a change

You know how it is. It's Monday morning. Your sleep has been shattered by the interminable bloody yapping of a street dog somewhere in the inky blackness beyond your window. Your alarm clock won't go off for another hour yet, but you know you'll never get back to sleep, so you drag your reluctant backside from between warm sheets and go make some coffee.

You think: Sigh.

Showered, dressed, and with sufficient caffeine in your system to approach the new day with a semblance of humanity, you step out onto the gritty Sofian street to walk to the taxi rank.

The pavement is almost impassable. Just about every inconsiderate bastard in creation has parked on the pavement in such a way that you are compelled to swerve, zigzag and dance about in order to avoid dusty bumpers and rear-view mirrors. Your clothes get dirty anyway.

You think: Damn.

You find a taxi. The driver is a crabby bastard with a face fixed in a permanent grimace, and who can't drive for toffee. You should have walked. Every road junction is choked with cars with horns blasting. You massage the dull ache in your forehead and try to visualize peaceful aquatic scenes, but it's no good.

You think: Grrrrr.

You're walking the last few hundred metres to work. You narrowly avoid being run down as several Bulgarian drivers ignore the traffic signals, and your safety, and screech past you with centimetres to spare. A blood vessel begins to pound ominously in your right temple, and not for the first time, you wonder how your mother would react to the news of your pulpy remains being hosed off the front of a big black BMW in Bulgaria.

You think: Kill all humans.

You're riding the Expat Rollercoaster: the cycle of pleasure and pain that is the gift and curse of your choice of lifestyle. It's a condition experienced by many living on foreign soil for any length of time. We're doomed to swing back and forth between loving the place, and having the place irritate the hell out of us.

So where were we? Oh yeah... Kill all humans. That means we're swooping through a low point on our rollercoaster ride. If you're anything like me, at this point you'll start believing that just about anywhere else on the planet is a better place to be, and start looking at job ads for different countries.

Place names like Caracas, Hanoi and Kathmandu will glitter from your computer screen with the promise of undreamt of exotic pleasures. You might begin to daydream about trekking The Andes; sun kissed beaches in Tanzania; smoking a water-pipe with rustic locals in a little known, out of the way quarter of Cairo. Yeah. You bask in the glow of The Life You Could Be Leading, and you resolve: "Yes. I will do it. I will go."

But then, doubts start to creep in...

You might be sitting in a restaurant one night after work. The cute, raven-haired waitress hands you the bill and you have to ask yourself: "Where else in Europe could I get a meal for two with drinks for less than 10 quid?"

Or you might receive an invitation to spend a weekend at a Bulgarian friend's village house. There, watching the sun set over the Balkans, a snifter of homemade rakiya in hand, you find yourself humming "Моя Страна" in a moment of unbridled sentiment. Magnanimously, you can even forgive the plastic bottles strewn around the landscape.

Anyway, don't they get paid peanuts in Caracas? And Kathmandu is so polluted. Doubtless there is a huge problem in Hanoi with... er... humidity. Yeah. Besides, I think that cute, raven-haired waitress likes me...

...and Voila. You've back flipped. You're at the crest of the rollercoaster. And for the next few days you tackle your Bulgarian tenure with renewed vigour. You can even laugh it off next time that guy in the Mercedes tries to mow you down...

...or next time you receive "service with a sneer". Sigh.

...or next time you struggle with Bulgarian bureaucracy. Damn.

And before you know it, it's Monday, that damn dog is barking again Grrrr, and the dream is over.

It's okay. That job is still up for grabs in Kathmandu...

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