On the approach of the anniversary of my departure from Ireland nearly two years ago, I look back on my initial attitude to emigration. I did draw a few lines in the sand at the time and while I stand firmly behind the principle of same, I would like to highlight that these projections were made at a time of personal ignorance to expat life in the Middle East. I may have said that I wouldn’t have any visitors , I may also have said that I wouldn’t drive a gas guzzling 4 x 4, attend coffee mornings or have a maid, all points which could be interpreted to the extreme if so wished.
This morning I was running late for my weekly catch up breakfast with the girls, late, due to the fact that Ghianni had yet to wash the 3.8L, 4 wheel drive, long wheel base Pajero sport, but mea culpa, I should have made it clear that the car was a priority over the rest of the housework. I thought I did but maybe she just couldn’t hear me behind the mound of ironing which separated her and me, in more ways than one. I took the time, whilst Ghianni ironed the creases from my favourite Ginger Mary top to note that I now have a maid ( part-time) even though I said I never would. I was willing to forgive myself this, on the basis that I was being conditioned subconsciously and therefore couldn’t help myself. However, it was when an old friend from Ireland visited and asked, “What’s Ghianni’s story?” that guilt set in. I didn’t know. I knew she was from Sri Lanka and I knew that she liked her coffee black and her digestives buttered but other than that, I just never asked. All I had ever done for Ghianni was to pay her 25 dirham’s per hour, the going rate, in my defense I had given her a few pieces of clothing, rather than discard I let her have them, save the applause. I had also given her my favourite impulse buy, a lime green pair of Franco Sarto clogs purchased in Century 21, New York, a “must-have” purchased at the climax of boom times in Ireland, when a shopping trip to New York was par for most gals of limited foresight but maximum credit accessibility. Since I’d given her the heels, I’d taken great pleasure, every time I saw her pass on her ancient Raleigh bicycle, the Franco Sarto creations glinting in the Arabian sun and her skinny tanned legs sticking out of the shoes as if they were wearing her, rather than her wearing them.
This morning, time was on my side and sitting at the kitchen table, I chatted amicably to Ghianni, and asked her a little about herself. Turns out, that this week the windows are being fitted to her newly built three bedroom house and after another two year stint, calling Madam to Mary, she would be leaving Abu Dhabi with her house built, paid for and furnished back in her home in Sri Lanka. Sitting in my temporary abode in Abu Dhabi, thinking of my multiple mortgages in Ireland, I thought what would greet me in two years if I went back to Ireland, certainly not a fully paid house due my stint in the Middle East. I sit watching as she irons diligently, standing tall in the Franco Sarto clogs wearing a T Shirt saying “Just Do It” I’m thinking, ya, she’s doing it, in every sense and I’m sitting back watching her wearing a four euro pair of Jesus sandals from Penneys and a t-shirt saying “Whatever”.
Ghianni, with her two brown skinny ankles was raising the profile of the shoes, I wanted them back. But alas, there’d be no back. I had given the clogs with such ado that the action could not now be reversed. Ironing complete, money in fist , Ghianni clopped outside with an overtone of aplomb in the designer clogs and setting off on her rusty bike, she showed her missing tooth as she smiled back at me, as I stood at the door of my rented house, waving her off with an air of gratitude as if by operating the iron she had solved world hunger , “I look forward to see you next week Madam” she called. Clever Clogs.