Different

I’ve had two opportunities to ponder two things about me that are worth pondering. Both are related to being an outsider: I’m an expatriate, and I’m a mature student. The first ponderous moment was a survey I filled in. It focused only on my experience as expat, and even the pondering brought about more pondering about the subject of my musings.

All this pondering now has me thinking about ponds. And Doctor Who.

I digress, though: having recently commemorated the tenth anniversary of our arrival in Ireland, I’d say my expat label has matured to where my view on the matter can be considered informed. And the information I can impart is this: for all that I have an Irish passport, I am not Irish, and never will be. Because life has a weird and twisted sense of humour, I am also no longer South African. Leaving, living elsewhere, means I am forever changed. I am neither one, nor am I the other. My identity is that I am identity-less.

The second period of pondering was brought about by someone asking me what it was like to be a mature student. (This was perhaps ironic, in an Alanis Morissette kind of way, as I was just acquiring something rather immature to play a trick on my kids.) Being a mature student is a similar experience to being an expat. I am a student, I have a student card, I attend classes, but I am not a student. I’m late for class because the cat was sick and I needed to take care of her before I could leave, not because I partied last night and overslept because I only got in bed at 3am. I’m stealthily texting in class to remind my son of his haircut, not to flirt with my boyfriend. I don’t have a boyfriend – my husband would probably object if I did. That personal problem my classmate is facing – I’m helping my child through the same thing.

The commonality, I think, is that both experiences are of being different. Different is difficult, but I believe difficult is the entry fee for an awesome life.

I pay it with a smile.

Cycling… Gah!

In other news. Marshaling at a cycling race can be terrible.

These cyclists woosh past at hair-raising speeds. The roads were closed to traffic along the cycling course. You’d think pedestrians would, for the most part, see the barriers, the Gardai (police) and high-visibility-vest-clad marshals and realise maybe they should be careful crossing the street. And do it quickly.

You’d be wrong.

For the most part, people needing to cross the street were good about it, but there always has to be a few nuts in the fruitcake. I suspect I might be too anal about this, as I am in such awe of the racing cyclists. But even taking my overly developed respect for the race into account, there were a few complete idiots out there last night.

One guy seemed to have a few drinks in him already. He ignored my warning that there was a group of cyclists coming really fast. Instead of waiting just ten, twenty seconds for them to pass, he staggered across the street in a small gap between one clump of cyclists and another. From where I stood, it looked like a close thing.

Another who stands out in my memory was a woman in a dress that had aspired to be a shirt before it changed careers. Its cousin would be the skirt that applied for a job as a belt, but was considered a tad too wide. (I am trying to say the dress was very short.) She tottered across the street on heels that had been stilts in a previous life. I watched, heart in mouth, the whirr of approaching cyclists in my ears as they came down the alley before the S-bend where I stood. I know there was probably a bigger gap between her making it to the pavement and the next group of bikes zooming past than it seemed to me, but from my harassed point of view she only just made it.

Other things I did was to chat enthusiastically to a taxi driver, with a big disclaimer that my knowledge of this sport is woeful; give directions to several people; and help one pair to find the nearest hotel.

That felt good. I remembered a day long ago, when only a spit away from where I was last night someone asked me to direct them somewhere. I grinned and said: “I suppose I need only speak for you to understand why you’re asking the wrong person.” Hearing the accent, they laughed and moved on to find a local. I felt a bit odd, because I realised the guy probably thought I was a tourist like him. I almost ran after him to say I lived in Dundalk, it was just…

Now I’m a local, and it feels good to be part of this town as much as any foreigner can be so. Wel, I’m at least local enough to be able to tell people how to get to where they need to go in Dundalk.

Most of the time.

View from the Rear Part One

This all started with a bread board.  I stood behind a group of exceptional humans as I contemplated the fact.  They were special because they were all made from bone, sinew, and muscle.  Especially muscle.  Fat?  Nah.  Fat cells disintegrated on contact with these people.  I got thinner just standing near them.  My cycling shorts and running shoes were little more than a disguise: I was an impostor here.  My cotton tee shirt came closer to the truth, bearing the legend: “Pete Puma’s Super Intelligence Serum – favoured by morons everywhere”.

I can’t say for sure what went through their heads as we waited for the ‘start’ signal that would mark the beginning of the race, but I can guess.  I’m sure it was serious stuff, like a mental visualisation of them running the 3.2km course through the rural paths near Dundalk where the race took place, making a smooth change from runners to cycling shoes, pedalling hard and efficiently through the 17km cycling leg, then repeating the 3.2km run and finishing strong.  Maybe some were thinking of the person they wanted to beat this time, pictured themselves passing him or her and crossing that magic finish line first.

I’m not entirely sure if anyone else was pondering the profound influence of bread boards.

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