Since we moved to Dar I’ve been pretty isolated. I can’t get a work visa, but being a stay at home mum is not really a thing in middle-class Tanzania, so it’s been hard to even find people to be friends with. I had an American friend who worked full-time but we saw each other every weekend; she’s just moved away. So I’ve been trying to make friends with expat SAHMs at Elliot’s new school.
That brings with it all the usual complexities and vulnerabilities of trying to make friends as an adult, and when it’s cross-cultural. And you know what really stops a conversation dead in its tracks? Yes, that’s right, I did intend that pun. It’s mentioning that your identical twin sister died in March.
Sometimes it’s pretty unavoidable, for example:
Them: Oh, you’ve been here five years. Cool. Do your family visit much?
Me: My twin sister used to come every year.
Them: Oh, she doesn’t do that any more?
Of course when that question’s asked, I could just not mention her. I could just talk about the time Arthur’s parents visited, or the time one of my other sisters visited. But that would feel like ignoring her, like cutting her out of my life, like almost being dishonest about this person who was our most frequent visitor.
The problem is, the death of my identical twin sister less than 6 months ago is a pretty heavy thing to drop into a small-talk conversation! So mostly I don’t say anything. I try to steer the conversation so that it won’t come up.
That’s nigh impossible though. She is everywhere. Every conversational track leads back to her. And then all there is is a big gaping hole of no Red Twin. How do you explain that to someone?
I want to be a good friend. I don’t want to be the person who makes conversations awkward with her massive emotional burdens. Or is like a broken record, constantly talking about this person whom the new friend never knew. Except, imagine the awkwardness when a friend realises you’ve been going through a big thing and have been holding it back. It’s like you’ve been inauthentic with them.
You know who I need to talk to about this dilemma? Red Twin. She would have some great insight, or sensible strategy, or reassuring words. Or I would come up with one while I was talking to her, because everything made more sense when she was there.
I can’t talk to her, and I have no friend to whom I can talk about her. So instead, I accidentally lock my keys in the house and have to make a two-hour round trip on public transport (the car keys also being inside) to the TAFES campsite to get the second pair. I get home and inadvertently leave the baking powder out of the cake, and neglect to give the toddler his nap, and forget to have lunch.
I only remember to pick the boy up from school because I have an alarm on my phone. So I go to school and sit at the playground with the other mums and try to make friends, and grief makes that harder.
Categories: Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.