My parents are going to work in a certain Pacific island nation far away for 2 years. It’s a somewhat dangerous place. One where you shouldnt catch a taxi from the airport because the driver is likely to drive you to the bushes where a helpful gang will be waiting to rid you of every possession. And where they had a shoot out at the airport last week…something about robbers fighting over gold? I think. I said to my mother – clearly, you should not be taking any of your jewellry with you on this mission. She replied, ‘of course i will, just not the REAL stuff. ( Yes Im sure the robbers will pause to authenticate her jewels BEFORE they chop her arm off for them…) I told her you shouldnt wear any of your usual clothing. ( Because as anyone who knows my mother knows – she is Vogue magazine personified.) She replied, scandalized, ‘of course i will, but i shall aim for understated elegance.’ I rolled my eyes and gave up. And so she continued planning her wardrobe for life in a semi-dangerous place.
Last week, to be helpful, a friend who once lived in that country for 8 years as a single woman, wrote to my parents and sent them a list of ‘Tips for Survival’. They included the following:
1. At all times, you must strive to be as inconspicuous as possible. Dress, act and speak as though “you are nobody and have nothing of importance.” Obviously, my mother won’t last a day there. Understated elegance screams of conspicuosness and will condemn you every time.
2. Drive with all the windows up and all the doors locked. Park in places that will give you the quickest escape route. While driving, you must be mentally prepared to run down anyone who stands in the middle of the road and signals you to stop. ESPECIALLY, if they are holding a gun.
I dont know how they are supposed to be doing their job which will involve networking with lots of different people if they cant stop for them on the road. Maybe they can crank the windows open a teensie weensie bit and throw out pamphlets as they hurtle past? As they duck bullets?
3. Never go shopping at the market. People are always getting mugged at the market. If you want fresh produce, go with a group of friends to a certain weekly market organized by a certain religion. Drive there in a convoy of vehicles. Follow all the rules regarding driving as per item #2.
4. Never go anywhere at night. Stay locked up in your compound. Be aware that the most danger-laden task is that of getting out of your car to go open the security gate of your compound to either drive in or out. The gangs like to hide in the bushes and wait for the unsuspecting gate-opener.
5. Never forget that even though it can be a dangerous place, it is also a wildly beautiful land with wonderful people and you can be very happy there.
6. Focus on item #5 if you lapse following any of the rules and end up in a horribly sticky situation.
Needless to say, the list did not do much to assuage my concerns for my parents upcoming travel plans. Im trying to help my mother practise dressing “like she is nothing and no-one.” I have offered her all my clothes. In exchange for hers. (she said she’ll get back to me on that one.) And Im trying to find someone who can drive like Vin Diesel in ‘Fast and the Furious’ so they can give my mum lessons. I have serious doubts about her ability to run people over. Especially when theyre holding a gun.
Vin Diesel we need you!