THE NEVER-ENDING CYCLE OF CHAOS
Uncertainty is a constant source of welcomed grief for the trailing spouse. Uncertain what city one will live, what housing is available, where the kids will go to school and where to find the best meat. For a two-year tour, the prior six months to arrival, the spouse is firing off emails and connecting with people already at post. Endless online searches of their newest territory appease only the most seasoned veterans. Newbies to the culture find no answer is long enough and too many questions go unanswered. The list of what is needed to survive at post entails detailed descriptions of personal preferences and an overwhelming amount of toilet paper.
The embassy Community Liaison Officer (CLO) is the golden ticket and purveyor of all additional information related to improving one’s standard of living. Lists of nannies, babysitters, housekeepers, hairdressers, personal drivers and community events are all supplied by the employee in residence. Helpful tips and the ability to use English language is shared through a series of lunch gatherings. A system of sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are created. Employment offerings are communicated to spouse’s that rise above the others and deemed compatible to serve.
Once at post, the spouse surrounds oneself with every possible friend and begins the process of elimination through a series of behavioral observations and quizzical interactions. When similarities are revealed, and companionship found, the spouse clings to the like-minded species and vows a loyalty of friendship usually akin to the those written in blood.
Friendship supplies the foundation of the necessary network to supply the needs of the spouse. It allows all unanswered questions to be exhausted through explorational outings and early morning meetings where sipping coffee with one another precedes expectation. Expertise and knowledge is shared on which company has the fastest Internet, the best routes to navigate traffic, converting the American system to Metric measurements and where to find the cheapest fruits and vegetables.
Throughout the spouse’s tenure at post, one spends time baking and cooking appropriate dishes for the non-obligatory, unstated obligatory, events like chili cook-offs, bake sales, and various potluck dinners. Attendance is noticed at receptions, and absence of any spouse is noted with deafening tones as it is interpreted as a lack of support and involvement of the community. The pressure of an officer to feel comfortable making excuses for a partner’s sickness leaves a guilty taste in the spouse’s mouth. The cold shoulder treatment immediately following the unaccompanied event further isolates the spouse, to which one feels like a hunchback retreating to private quarters yelling, “Sanctuary, Sanctuary.”
After the high school shenanigans, rumors and gossip die down, the hunchback may leave it’s tower and join the community once again. As long as no further decree is violated, the spouse climbs the ladder of acceptance and approval. The remaining months at post become an endearing and empowering opportunity.
When it is time to cycle out, the spouse has the pleasure of bestowing one’s gained knowledge on incoming flesh. Sharing insider secrets to the best tailor in town, or where to dine like a king on a pauper’s salary are all used to the advantage of esteeming one’s own reputation as a valuable and dominant contribution to the society. The hurdles and challenges the spouse overcame are approvingly exaggerated to gain awe and appreciation for the efforts and revealed mysteries entrusted to ease the minds and hardship of the next generation of survivors.
To be continued,…UP NEXT: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs