There But For The Grace of God Go I

I was sitting at the dining room table of my neighbour’s house a few weeks ago when a ceiling light exploded, shooting fragments of glass onto the floor. We were at a safe distance, but only minutes before my neighbour had been standing directly under the globe as she’d offered me a drink. When we heard the initial pop, which was more of a bang, our reaction was to jump, then giggle and go and find the broom to sweep up the mess. It wasn’t the first time it had happened.

“It’s always this side of the house?” said the neighbour as she went on to explain the issues she’d had upstairs.

“At our place it’s the other side. We had water dripping through the ceiling over there” I motioned towards her dining room table, our houses are identical. “But I guess we had the same thing in the kitchen as well?”

As we made our comparisons on how many light globes we go through each week I realized just how flippant we sounded. Both of us now long term residents, both of us fully aware of the surges of electricity by our dimming lights and waning hair dryers. Each time I make a pavlova I listen to my kitchen aid speed up and slow down as electricity charges through it at an uneven rate.

It’s a story that isn’t unique to the Middle East. A girlfriend of mine was six months pregnant when she was zapped with a solid electric shock in her bathtub in Vietnam, she was lucky, both her and the baby came out alive. G and I lived in a house in Libya that had random weekly events to keep us on our toes. Water spurting out of walls at rapid speed, small electrical fires, and spectacular leakage in the rain. I walked upstairs to retrieve the second little traveller from a nap one day to find about five inches of steam floating from the ceiling. The previously boiling hot water that was all over the floor had cooled enough when I dipped my toes into it to make my way to her. She’d slept through the hot water pipe bursting through the wall.

When I drove to Al Khor yesterday to watch the second little traveller compete in track and field there was no sign of the house fire that had happened earlier in the day. I was yet to hear about the family that has woken today without a mother or child. And yesterday as I filled my car at the petrol station I didn’t know that within 24 hours there would be an explosion that has now reportedly killed twelve people and injured many more. I wondered about the man who filled my car, the discussion we’d had about how beautiful it was here when the weather was cool, how his job was a lot easier without the heat to contend with.

Last night G and I dressed up to attend a Gala Ball, a charity dinner which involved a new dress, fancy hair and G in a tuxedo. As I looked around at the men in tuxedos and women with glittering jewelry, I thought about how glamorous it all looked.  This morning after a shower which involved the water coming on, going off, and coming on again with varying temperatures throughout the event, I’m back in jeans, ready to do the school run. Back to the reality of 15 light globes which need replacing. Back to the truth of expat life.

There but for the grace of god, go I.

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