Sunday, December 10, 2006

Happy Birthday, Hubby

Happy Birthday to my wonderful Hubby.
Today he turns 35
And is officially OVER THE HILL.

(I guess that means that I like elderly men.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Iron Age

As I mentioned a previous blog, I was recently faced with the prospect of having to iron some of Hubby’s shirts myself. It was that or volunteer to fork over an obscene amount of money and admit to my own ineptitude. After much discussion betwixt Hubby and myself regarding my innate laziness, the cost of dry cleaning in Nai-Robbery, and the glory of dress shirts that don’t require feats of domesticity, I relented and went in search of the iron.

Now that may not seem like a big deal to some of you who have ironed more than 2 shirts in your lifetime, but to me this was a BIG step. Even Hubby at this juncture in our lives together had ironed more shirts than I. (Proof of his accomplishments can be found in the acknowledgement section of his Master’s Thesis, which gives a shout-out, and high-five to our friend the King of Kraft for instructing Hubby in this most complicated of chores.) My story; however, is slightly sadder (although I too received a shout out in the same acknowledgements, thank you), or, as Hubby would point (and he often does) slightly more pathetic.

Our tale begins not with my eager child-self ironing my dad’s hankies (which I did with a rather impressive display of skill, if memory serves) but later at my wedding shower. On that fine afternoon at Care Bear’s house I received not one but two irons. (Ahem! It is simply not that difficult to update a registry. Sheesh!) Everyone giggled at joked about all the ironing I would be doing for my once and future husband. And here I thought that the guests all knew me. But I digress… I won’t say here that I returned one of the irons for fear that the lovely gift-giver might find out, but… Well, I hardly needed two of them, after all.

Several months passed and I included the still boxed Black and Decker iron into my UHaul shipment for its long ride from Canuckville to Yankee Town. There it sat (out of its box) on a shelf in the laundry room for quite some time. The ironing board, you see, was being used as a hall table and couldn’t be spared for anything as trivial as wrinkle-free clothing.

One day about two years or so after our move, my friend Hershey came to work in a bit of a tizzy. It turned out that her iron had puffed its final breath of steam that morning and had gone to that big Ironing Board in the Sky. Hershey was rather beside herself as she didn’t want to come to work each morning in creased clothes.

“I have one you can use while you look for a new one,” I piped up cheerfully.

“Won’t you need it?” she called over the cubicle wall.

I walked around to her desk and let her peruse my somewhat crumpled outfit. “Oh.”

“Exactly. I’ll bring it in for you tomorrow. Keep it as long as you need.”

A year or so passed and I received my orders to move from DC to the Midwest. As a going away gift, Hershey presented me with an iron I could now tell my mother (without lying) had been well used.

Three years in the Midwest did not boast much action for our shelf-confined friend. At this point we had abandoned all pretense and had not even bothered with buying an ironing board. The good news (unless you were the sweet and wonderful person who kindly and thoughtfully bought me this gift which I truly and sincerely appreciated) was that I sold it for $10 before we moved to India.

It was that wonderful country that Hubby and I reveled in the joys of cheap door-to-door service dry-cleaning. But all good things, I’ve heard it told, must come to an end and we left that dry cleaning heaven for Nairobi. Which brings us, my friends, to that fateful moment when I had to figure out how to fill, turn on and use our new Black and Decker iron.

Savant that I am, those hurdles were overcome with only a minimal amount of cursing. Approximately an hour and a half later I presented my empty apartment with the fruits of my labor: five (more or less) perfectly ironed dress shirts!!

This story does have a happy ending for both our lonely iron and, more importantly, me. I am happy to report that pressing our laundry will be one of the jobs that the new maid will takeover in December. THANK GOD!

Why She Ate a Fly

The following comes to us from Extra-Special Guest Blogger Queen E who wrote this shortly after serenading her saintly husband and your favorite blogger (me) with a song about an old woman who ate a fly but no one knew why.

Queen E enters Typ0’s blog.

If ever you should attend a pub quiz, or for that matter any quiz where you need a team name, then surely you should always use this name: “Norfolk Enway.” When said aloud, to the right mentality of peoples, a few titters will be heard. No doubt Typ0 will titter the loudest!

Thank you,

Queen E


PS2: Typ0 will laugh five minutes after everyone, as she is stupid.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Choco This

Saturday dawned oppressively in our newly settled Claridges suite. Despite having been reunited for only a few hours, Hubby was back to work for a daylong conference in Pusa. The duvet-covered, king-sized bed was cold comfort as he left for day of… well… whatever it is he actually does all day.

Hours passed as I chatted on the phone, watched Power Rangers and plowed through my current literary tome: “The Historian.” After passing a half hour under the pleasantly brutal pounding of the scalding shower I decided to face the day. It was, after all, almost 2 p.m.

I played with lunch venues in my mind, trying to determine the perfect culinary destination. That was when the PMS hit me with a gunshot of clarity. There was only choice here: Choko La. It was finally time for my Delhi chocolate fix.

After a quick taxi ride (150 rps) to Basant Lok, I tormented myself with temporary denial and prowled the local bookshops before finally giving into the addict-like pangs that were wracking my body. I ducked down the alley in front of me and ignored the large Sony store to my left. The familiar orange awning before me was all that mattered.

I gave the menu only the barest of glances and ordered a plate of mini bruchetta and a steaming cup of Papua. This rich nectar of the hot chocolate gods danced past my tongue and into each chocolate deprived cell of my body. This, I was certain, was what true nirvana was like.

I will now share with you what I wrote to Hubby via test message upon my first sip of this familiar ambrosia:

“This is truly the finest hot choco in all of Christendom. Sweet heaven this is reason enough to live in this hell town.”
I realize, Dearest Readers, that many of you will never know this ecstasy of chocolate perfection and for that I pity you. For those of you share my joyous knowledge, I can only say this: we are the lucky few who have tasted heaven and returned to share the tale with the mere mortals who will never know the perfection of chocolate truth.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Twisted Minds

When we lived in Delhi my Friday mornings, as I have mentioned previously, were often spent in Gurgaon at the home of one of the ladies of Twisted Thread: a craft group. Several of the women cross-stitch, I knitted, and still others worked on various projects like patchwork or sewing. What we all seemed to have in common was that we were all women who were rather twisted. Mentally that is.

The greatest evidence of this mutual insanity may be that they let me into the group in the first place. Exhibit B would be that they were often brave enough to be seen with yours truly in public for lunch after our industrious work at Craft Group. Luckily for me that bravely and craziness hasn’t changed much since I left back in June.

On Friday the group changed its usual venue and gathered in Delhi at Princess MK’s house. The group arrived at the usual 10 a.m. with a promptness and comfortable familiarity that made me feel as if I had never left. Some of the regulars like Queen E, who was busy painting sets (an endeavor from which I was busy playing hooky), were unable to join us. On this particular Friday, our klatch consisted of myself and the Princess, the Ladies J, Doc Quilt, and Crafty C.

Discussions were underway about where we would spend our well-earned lunch hour when C’s phone suddenly rang. The voice at the other end of the line spoke rushed Hindi to which C, in her very proper British accent, replied that she didn’t speak Hindi and that they had the wrong number. The call was one that we had all received at some point or other. It seemed; however, that C had better than average skills at convincing people of their lack of dialing success as her phone continued to lay silent for several minutes.

Just as we were about to give up the wrong number discussion the Newest Lady J pulled out her now ringing phone. There was a similar urgent Hindi message on the other end to which Lady J politely replied before hanging up. About thirty seconds later the phone rang again and, shockingly, it was the same person.

That, Dearest Reader, is how the mayhem and laughter began.

Lady J’s phone sang out a third time and was welcomed with a communal groan as we all shook our heads at this guy’s inability to take a hint. This time; however, Lady J had a trick up her sleeve.

“Hola! Cómo éstas?” The one one-sided, now Spanish, conversation, continued in this vein with the non-Spanish speaking and frustrated Indian on the other side being the one to hang up. We all laughed and applauded Lady J’s ingenuity. The group also agreed that this was the best and soon to be official way to get rid of the wrong number callers. Our gaiety was, naturally, stopped short when the phone rang again a few minutes later.

Deciding that it was now my turn to torment a local, I had Lady J throw me her phone. Grinning, I answered it with my most nails-on-a-chalkboard-inducing Quebecois accent. “Bonjour! Comment je peux vous aider? Parlez-vous français?” The ladies cackled gleefully and then triumphantly when our erstwhile caller finally gave up the ghost.

Our rather anilingual room quickly realized that we had no more languages among us in case our friend called back. This led to a litany of accents and voices worthy of a Saturday-morning cartoon that we could use in lieu of language torture. In deference to the Christmas album that Princess had been playing, I offered to be Alvin complete with helium sounding tones and demands for a new hula-hoop. Aussies, cheerleaders, southerners and others were all offered up with increasing levels of guffaws. Then brilliance struck and, thankfully, so did our phone stalker.

After Crafty C confirmed the identity of our mystery caller, Lady J took custody of her phone back. “Yo! Yo! Yo! Why you be hasslin’ my ho? You ‘bin callin’ my hizzle getting’ up in my grill? Ah’s goin’ ta cap yo ass if you keep this up! Fo shizzle!” By this time my hands were both securely clapped over my mouth to prevent any sudden giggle from bursting free.

With a final “fo shizzle my hizzle” that Snoop himself would have been impressed with, the line disconnected and the sounds of hilarity echoed as our laughter rose and we all doubled over with the combined glory of certain success with our erstwhile phone friend, and the full blooded joy of warriors who had defeated, with the mighty rapier humor, our common enemy.

Fo shizzle!

Friday, December 01, 2006

An Unconnected String of Notes

For the period of time that Hubby has been in Agra, my lovely, kind (obviously reading over my shoulder), and wonderful friend Princess MK has being playing host to me, my militia of suitcases, and Fuzz the bunny. This has been wonderful as it gave me a chance to catch up with friends without having Mr. Cheap… err… Hubby, complain about the outrageously overpriced cost of hotels here in Delhi.

During this brief sojourn at the Princess MK’s home, both Fuzz and I have been having a lovely time. Fuzz, of course, has been hanging out with M. Lapin who belongs to the Princess’s son, the Squire. I on the other hand have been jaunting off to lunches, craft groups, shopping, and enjoying all the lovely things that made Delhi a great place to live.

On Thursday, after buying several hundred dollars worth of medicine at Khan Market for about $50 USD, MK and I headed off to ACSA: aka home of the only burger made from actual beef to be found in Delhi.

As many of know (and some of you have witnessed) the Group 4 guards at the American Embassy in Delhi hate me. Sadly, I am not overstating things or exaggerating: in the past they have dropped my purse on the floor repeatedly, emptied my purse when other people walked through with hardly a glance, had me sign and then resign the book when the didn’t like my printing and several other indignities that I loathe to recall. Although I have never seen it, I often believed when we lived here, that they had my photo behind their desk at the ACSA gate and had instructions to torment me on sight.

This day; however, was different. The guards smiled and laughed at me in a friendly and pleasant manner. Then one of them said he recognized me and said he had wondered what had happened to me over the last few months. Then the two guards both said they hoped I enjoyed my stay in Delhi and would come back to ACSA for a visit soon.

I found the entire experience was rather Twilight Zone-ish. Positively freaky!!

The burger; however, was lovely as always!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Taxi Driver Man

Getting a taxi or rickshaw in Delhi can be as much a test of your knowledge of the city as it is your willingness to take a chance the honesty of your driver. I should begin by explaining that there are two ways to get a price on your taxi ride here: you can go by the meter or you can negotiate the price in advance. No matter which method you choose to follow you have about a 50/50 chance of having overpaid for your journey.

To demonstrate the mark of a local, I will begin by telling you of when I knew I was officially back in Delhi. During my first week here, I asked a taxi driver to take me to Shanti Niketan where I would be enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with friends. Having been to the neighborhood dozens upon dozens of times in the last dozen or so months I could well have driven there myself from the hotel - blindfolded.

When my driver pronounced that the trip would cost 200 rupees I couldn’t help but laugh aloud. I gently explained that I was not a stupid white tourist and I knew exactly where I was going: the payment would be 100. “Ahh but madam this is much too less!” No, I explained to him, it wasn’t as the fare would less than even my 100 rupees on his meter when the trip was done. He bowed his head in defeat and drove off – the long scenic way naturally.

Upon our arrival in front of Lady Bird’s house, the driver sheepishly flipped over the cloth the he (and all the taxi drivers in Delhi) kept over the meter. I read it and grinned at him. “Two hundred rupees, huh?” I laughed. Based on the slightly higher than negotiated meter price, I handed him Rps 110 (which also included a tip for his circuitous route) and he returned my friendly laugh. “I’m sorry that I was not the tourist you were looking for. Have a good evening.” With that, he shook his head at the crazy white lady and sped off in search of his next fare.

In contrast, when Boss Man B, Hubby and I went to the Oberoi on Saturday night, my fatigue at constantly negotiating fares and the driver’s round about directions *cost* us an extra 50 rupees. I naively agreed to go by the meter and failed to pay attention to where we were going when I suddenly noticed that we had driven for about 4 minutes into a dead end would have to double back past the Taj Hotel. Then, rather than taking the route I would have chosen past our old apartment and the golf club; the taxi driver went the back way to the hotel thus ringing up a higher price.

But even a combination of good negotiating and knowing the city doesn’t always pay off as I discovered on my way to visit Kiwi and her baby Prince in GK2. Having never taken a taxi to that area I foolishly negotiated and agreed to *double* what I ended up paying on the meter to return to the hotel. Even if you know the rules, I learned, you can’t always win at this game.

(An aside here, if you will allow me Dearest Reader, as I note that Prince Kiwi is adorable. He was so sweet and cute and well behaved I *almost*, but not quite, wanted one of my own. I will have to visit them both again soon before I depart and he forgets how to correctly pronounce zebra.)

A rare instance of beating the system occurred on Sunday during a ride that Hubby and I took to the Metropolitan Niko. (Please! You knew we were going to end up at the sushi and sparkling wine brunch at some point!) Based on what we had paid to get to the hotel from Golflinks, we (I) told the driver we would pay 100 rupees to his offer of 150 rupees.

What neither the driver nor we had realized, was that it was the first Sunday of Advent and the local Catholic churches were parading through Caunnaught Place blocking several of the roads we required to reach our destination. In the end, he drove around aimlessly for an extra ten minutes trying in vain to find a back entrance to the road we needed and then we had to walk the final kilometer to brunch.

Hubby handed the driver our agreed upon 100 rupee note and he became incensed. “I drive more than rupees 100. You must pay meter.” We (I) pointed out that we had already settled upon 100 and that he had not even gotten us to our final destination. With that we walked off with a throng of local nuns who seemed headed in the right direction.

I’m not sure, my Beloved Readers, if you actually learned anything about obtaining a taxi here in Delhi from this monologue but I hope at least I have managed to amuse you slightly with the tales of trips in the back of green and black Ambassador cars. Just remember that if you negotiate in advance you will likely overpay. If you chose to go by the meter, you’ll have a good tour of the city and still probably pay too much. And if you want to go to CP on the first Sunday in Advent: Don’t!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Return of the Expat Jedi

As the plane flew through the hazy layers of smog that seem to perpetually enshroud Delhi, I knew I was home. Even the air as we debarked tasted different yet not entirely or unpleasantly unfamiliar.

The crushing reality of not going through the Diplomat line at the airport was my first dose of “visitor” reality. I wasn’t a Delhi Expat returning from leave or even a regular Delhite headed home. I was a visitor in this familiar land that seemed to have an odd ache of home and ease.

As we drove past the Niketans on the way to the Hotel I messaged Princess MK and told her the good news: the Queen Diva was back in town! Moments later she rang me and filled me in on the plans for lunch. I had been back in Delhi less than an hour and my date book as filling up rather nicely.

Queen E, the Ladies J, and the Princess met me at the hotel for what would be a marathon of a lunch. After demanding hugs from my friends, they immediately set to catching me up on the latest gossip, chat and dirt that I, being Internet-less in Nairobi, had been denied.

As the craziness reached its zenith I voice the despair we were all feeling, “Girls we need alcohol.” I could see the look of fear in the eyes of the waiter clearing our table. I don’t think he had realized or even dreamed that the insanity at the corner table was the work of sober people. Of course the Vodka Bar wouldn’t be open for another hour (42 minutes and 26 seconds, not that we were counting), so we needed to kill time.

We agreed to split up and run our respective errands and regroup for at 4:30 for drinks. We synchronized Swatches and set out. Princess MK and I piled into her car and headed for Khan Market so I could get refill cards for my prepaid SIM card. After a quick stop my old phone guy I made a beeline to Hidesign for a new a wallet.

This, I feel the need to point out in my own defense, was actually a necessary purchase as I had been using a small cloth change purse for the last year that barely fit my credit cards let alone money. After a few minutes of debate I left the store with not only a lovely leather wallet and even a small change purse to match. The whole deal (which coincidently matched my lovely Roots bag from Toronto) came to a total of less than Rps1200. And they say I don’t know how to bargain shop.

Having exhausted ourselves shopping, we headed back to Aura for refreshments. As I sat sipping a Pink Cucumber (aka Spa Drink) I smiled at the waiter who always served us back in our hey day and realized that while Delhi wasn’t home anymore but it was a really pretty darned close… for a week or three.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Missing But Not Forgotten

Rumor has it that I’ve been a wee bit lax in my blogger B!tch duties of late. *blush* Emails, text messages, phone calls, and blog comments attempting to track me down have found me hale, hearty, and, alas, internet-less. That’s right: I have a semi-decent excuse for slacking off for a change! Go fig!

When last we blogged, I was about to head off to visit my family in Toronto for some much needed R&R. Three weeks of eating my parent’s awesome cooking, shopping, and not so secret trips to Harvey’s did their thing and I eventually left several pounds heavier (not to mention with an extra suitcase full of goodies that put me way over my airline baggage weight limit). But more about that trip in a later installment... Suffice to say, for now, that the trip was so good that I even discovered that the brother I thought my father made up was actually real! Freaky yet true, my Devoted Readers.

I eventually returned to the fair lands of Kenya, which I have finally started to call home without cringing. Within days of landing in Nairobi I was whisked off of the Kenya-traz™ grounds to my very own too-awesome-for-words apartment. The movers didn’t even break anything (including us) when they saw our 4th floor walk-up complete with an additional loft (accessible only via a vaguely rickety metal winding staircase), which we had decided would be our bedroom. In a few weeks I’ll post pics of our new humble abode including the beyond kick-arse kitchen that neither Hubby nor I can stop raving about.

Since the day we moved in we’ve been cooking up a storm, Hubby has been traveling (Botswana and Ethiopia), we obtained a car, and (brace yourselves) I was even seen ironing shirts. The latter will, no doubt, be a blog unto itself as those who know me well likely don’t believe the rumor of my pressing prowess. The downside to all of this, I must lament, is that we still don’t have Internet. This last issue will hopefully (please cross your fingers and toes for me here my Friends) be resolved shortly upon our return from our current jaunt.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that? I’ve been jaunting again. As I type this, Hubby and I are sitting in the Emirates Business Class Lounge in the Dubai airport. (Note to BBS: this place is wicked swinging and worth the price of an upgrade.) In exchange for my foregoing a trip to Ethiopia, Hubby agreed to upgrade our tickets on this trip to India. Poor thing doesn’t even seem to fully realize that his days of passing off trips in Economy Class are so yesterday. Business Class Rules!!

Where was I? Oh yeah….

So, I spent a year complaining about India; months telling you how happy I was to leave, and even contemplated adding a count down icon to the blog to mark the occasion. And now I am not only voluntarily heading back but am even beyond thrilled to be doing so. So while Hubby toils away for the next three weeks, I will be enjoying myself at all of my old haunts with my Delhi Expat Friends, and reliving the heyday that was all of six months ago.

I am , in my most naïve way, trusting that Internet will be fairly available to me while I visiting land of my Grandfather. That, as I’m sure you are thrilled beyond words to realize, means that I will be blogging!

So watch out world, Delhi Typ0 is back and she is ready to party!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pondering Not Whining

I wasn’t really sure what I’d blog about today until I read the today’s entry over at Squawk Radio. The blogger of the day asked what would be your idea home if money were no object. It’s a tough question for someone like me who has no real home, a fact that has been brought home (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the last year as we’ve moved from the Illinois to DC to Delhi to Nairobi. But that begs the question what is home?

My father always calls Ireland home although he hasn’t lived there in almost forty years. Hubby refers to San Diego as home even though he hasn’t lived there full time since before I met him. I myself often have difficulty with this question when asked. Although Hubby’s family is in the States and that’s where we head first on home leave, is that home? Is Canada home since that’s where I grew up?

In a few days I will be headed to that most holy of all homes: my childhood home. But that is neither here nor there because one’s childhood home is always a perfectly faded sepia photograph of perfection, even the parts that you stuffed into the crawl space with the spiders and other gross things.

Obviously, my real home is wherever Hubby is. Ok that may have been both too easy and too cheesy an answer to be wholly true. Don’t get me wrong, it is true, it just isn’t the entire truth.

After all, everyone has traveled and stayed in hotels and at the end of a long day of doing touristy stuff said that they were ready to go “home” even though home was a hotel room. That would suggest that home is simply where we stow our gear. But if it were that easy I wouldn’t mind our current suitcase lifestyle and I wouldn’t be craving permanency like a meth addict on a binge.

In Delhi, Hubby and I had the first part licked fairly quickly. Within a week of arriving full time in Delhi we had moved into our apartment in Golflinks and even bought a few new pieces of furniture. But it still didn’t feel like home and, as my long term Devoted Readers may remember, I was slightly mopey. But the brooding ended on the day my “stuff” finally arrived the movers helped me unpack.

(HINT TO FUTURE EXPATS: If you can only bring one piece of furniture with you from home, make it your bed complete with mattress and linens. You can buy tables and couches and stoves but you simply cannot buy a good night’s sleep.)

I live for that day a few weeks for now when I can truly call Nairobi Home (complete with a capital H). I’ll apply to our landlord to hang pictures on the walls. I’ll alphabetize, organize and obsess. Moreover you will, I’m quite sure, be able to read about the entire process as I put the finishing touches on our new Kenyan lives.

Maybe where I stow my gear, where my husband lays his head and where I feel comfortable unpacking my things are all part of Home. Is it more than a place? Is it simply a feeling of contentedness and happiness? Who knows! Either way, I’m headed to one home on Monday and will be flying back to another in three weeks. And there’s room in my heart for both.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I Should Be In Bed

You know what the worst part of Hubby going away on business is? There’s no one around to tell me that it is well past time I was in bed. It is almost midnight here in Nairobi and yet here I am, surfing the Internet, reading, and attempting to resist a bag of chocolate cookies.

Now then my Devoted Readers: all as one and in as loud a voice as you can to reach my sleepy but not tired self here in Nairobi,
“Go to bed, Typ0!!!”

*Yawn* Thanks. I think that did it.

Good night. Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wandering Again

As you know, last week marked my much-ignored birthday and tomorrow will be my much to be ignored, fake but totally legal wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion of these events, Hubby has given me the coolest gift: a trip home.

Last week, we went to dinner at a great Italian eatery here in town called Mediteraneo and tomorrow we will be headed for a restaurant neither us has ever tried before: Tamarind. The former dinner is best recalled as the day I got eaten alive by the evil bloodsucking mosquitoes who thought my nicely shaved legs looked yummy. Damn them for having good taste!

But, as usual, I digress. This weekend Hubby presented me with a lovely combo gift: he’s kicking me out Kenya-traz™ for three weeks and I’m flying, in part, First Class! The bad news (for my parents anyways) is that I’m headed to Toronto for that time period to recuperate from my stressful life of doing nothing.

Hubby was kind enough to remember that that this blog is devoted to traveling so I’ll be spending one evening in Amsterdam that I promise to blog all about! For those Devoted Readers who are also key members of the Peanut Gallery no I will not be visiting the Red Light District or any stores selling funny tasting brownies. Best of all this is a new pin in my world map of traveling that Hubby doesn’t have yet. Yay! (Of course, he’s off to Ethiopia in two days and I’ve never been there but I’m ignoring that injustice for the purposes of self-delusion.)

So here’s to fabulous gifts funded with air miles, dropping in on family while bearing gifts, and Wandering the World in general. See y’all in the First Class lounge!

Monday, September 11, 2006


I’ve been trying for hours to write something deep and meaningful in this space. I tried looking up deep quotes about peace and hope but nothing seemed quite right. Then I tried, several times, writing about what happened to me on September 11, 2001. But that seemed too personal and, at the same time, far too impersonal because although we lived in DC at the time we weren’t victims. I felt that telling my tale would take from the real stories of that day.

Instead I’ll tell you a story that followed that horrible day: the way I woke up on September 12th. Hubby, as always, woke up before me and made his way to the living room. I remember hearing the coffee grinder start and then him switching on the TV, which was still set to CNN from the night before.

All of a sudden, I heard “Oh damn. Oh sh!t! Oh my God!” I lay still in the bed for a full thirty seconds doing nothing but thinking about his words. The world had all but ended a few hours ago and now Hubby was making sounds like it was all about to horrifically start all over again.

“Baby?” I called. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?” I started to get out of bed in slow motion because although I wanted to know what was happening, the smarter part of my brain knew that it didn’t want to know anything of the sort.

“Stay in the bedroom!” He commanded. Well that actually kind of worked for me but I still needed to know what was going on and told him as much.

“There’s a mouse in the apartment, dammit!” A mouse. There was a mouse in the apartment. My darling husband had terrified me beyond words because Mickey freaking Mouse was paying us a visit?

I stalked to the door that bordered the living room and master bedroom. “Don’t you ever do that again! You scared me! I thought something horrible had happened again and it’s a damned mouse! Don’t you ever dare do that again!” I screamed this and variations of it at him for several minutes stopping only when Hubby came into the room and held me long enough to convince me that he felt bad about scaring me. He also promised he would take care of find and disposing of the mouse immediately.

That was the morning after 9/11. It was a sequence of events I probably would have forgotten by now if it hadn’t been preceded by the nightmare of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. So next time something happens that you believe is disastrous, think again: it could be the end of the world, or it could just be a mouse.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Finding Typ0

On Thursday night Hubby and I had dinner and drinks with a potential new inmate, Dane. Dane is in town interviewing for a job of some sort with Hubby’s Organization and was suitably pessimistic about his chances while we dined. His biggest concern wasn’t an offer letter but rather if his wife would want to uproot herself and the kids to move to a foreign country just so her husband could take this job.

This is the question that confronts many of we so-called “trailing spouses” (or TS for short). I won’t comment on the male trailing spouses because I sincerely think that it is, in so many subtle ways, harder on them than we women but I don’t know their story: I only know mine. The difficulties facing the trailing spouse are summed up rather nicely in the pre-moving for the first time for Hubby book The Expert Expatriate.” And once you’ve been in the life for a while the next absolute must read is “Diplomatic Baggage” by Brigid Keenan, which I now rank among my favorite books. (Props to the Twisted Threads Ladies back in Delhi for turning me on to it last May.)

But I digress…

Dane felt that his wife wouldn’t mind the move -- it was the giving up her job part she was having troubles with. I looked at him and Hubby each for about a minute while they commiserated and then let into them. “Of course that’s hard! Look at you two. You identify yourselves as Nuclear Underwater Basket Weavers but you expect your wives to give up that part of their identities so that you can pursue your latest whim of a job!” They made jokes about their jobs being their identities and ignored the fact that I made have actually had a point.

I don’t for a minute regret giving up my job so that Hubby could pursue his dreams. When I met him, he was talking about living and working in developing countries; so I knew going in that this would be part of the deal eventually. But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t difficult to be seen as someone who came with him, much like the TV, the books, and the fridge with an importance found somewhere in the middle of that list. Not by him, mind you, but by the people we meet.

We often go out for dinners or drinks and meet people who pay attention to me for a few moments and ask what I do. I must then explain that I currently am setting up house, volunteering and keeping busy with various clubs, organizations and board duties. (Back in Delhi this was true and will eventually be true here in Nairobi.) The strangers then smile at me blandly and talk about their incredibly amazing job that brought them to this part of the world and, after a few moments, turn to the next person in the conversation line.

The trailing spouse has no identity past that of her husband. Never mind that some of the ladies I know were once teachers, nurses, doctors, or call center gurus; they are now Mrs. Husband. They are seen as extensions of the man who brought them to the expat party rather than individuals unto themselves. I would, I realize, be granted a few extra points if I could say I was raising our children: then I’d be a Mother (capital M applies). Instead I’m just Useless wife (capital U applies).

Before you get on me, yes I realize that I could get a job and hope to do so in the new year. But it isn’t that easy: many companies won’t hire the TS because they know we’re going to leave, we probably don’t have the correct visas, and they feel we won’t agree to local wages which is likely what we’d have to accept. People attached to embassies have it slightly easier as the embassies will often hire the wives in a myriad of positions that aren’t open to the public. By the same measure, I also know wives who simply and flat out aren’t permitted to work by virtue of their husband’s contracts.

I always thought it would be a dream come true to not have to work and be able to sit around and have time to myself. Be careful what you wish for, young Jedi, lest that dream turn into reality. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great lifestyle and I enjoy traveling around the world and experiencing different cultures. I wouldn’t trade what Hubby and I have been through and will go through over the next many years of living abroad for anything. But some day I’d like to have the chance to figure out what I’m doing here other than supporting him and his dreams.

It’s like a line from a song whose title I don’t remember, “I’ve been paradise but I’ve never been to me.”

Friday, September 08, 2006

Getting My Hopes Up

As you may recall, in the last month Hubby and I have found a new home, been kicked out of our current one, lost the home we wanted and been welcomed back (however reluctantly) to the one that didn’t want us. You may also recall that after being somewhat whingey and pouty about the whole thing I found philosophy and decided that these mess-ups were meant to be. As Rolf the Dog once (more or less) said we hoped that something better would come along.

We returned to the agent who had showed us apartments before the Housing Crisis and we quickly remembered why we thought he was an idiot. After showing us several apartments we wouldn’t have lived in if you paid us (please pause for that moment of irony) he told us he had one last long shot.

Located on the fourth floor of an elevator-less building we trudged up the stairs to see what Lazy Agent had in store for us this time. It was, surprisingly, stunning and perfect. The main feature I have to point out is the gorgeous kitchen that would make people in the Real World, let alone Kenya-traz, die from culinary happiness. It was a big modern kitchen with tons of counter space, cupboards and room to move. For those familiar with our old place in Delhi: it is the exact opposite of that kitchen.

In other news, it has four bedrooms; at least one that we may never be able to furnish due to the fact that it’s in the attic and the only way up there is via a set of wobbly, spiral stairs. The other downside is that the delightfully large balcony currently looks onto a construction site and will eventually look into someone else’s living room. Dang it! But other than those two details it really is the ideal place for us.

I don’t really know why I’m getting excited about all this. Or why I’m even bothering to tell all of you. This being my life, I think that we can pretty much guarantee that something will go wrong with the apartment and we won’t get it. In the mean time, I’ll mentally decorate, figure out ways to get furniture up to the loft and, naively, hope for the best.

Some Typ0s never learn their lessons.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fair Vanity

Tom and Katie’s non-existent baby has made her way to the cover of the current issue of Vanity Fair. For a baby that no one believed was real for the last several months she’s actually pretty cute.

But poor Hubby… Five-month-old Suri has more hair on her head than he does.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

To Me

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Saga Continues

As Avril Lavigne once famously asked: Why does life have to be so damned complicated!! I know that Friday harkened the return of the Funny to the blog but today I have further developments in the saga of “Where Do Typ0 and her Hubby Live, for Pete’s Sake?”

Let me take you back to Friday morning when Hubby unexpectedly popped by the room. "I have some good news. And I have some bad news. Which one do you want first?" There was no other preamble to this. He just walked in and ignored my observation that it was too early in the day for him to come home for a dose of afternoon delight.

I always take the bad news first so that I’ll have something to cheer me up later. "We're not getting the apartment." Surprisingly this news didn’t make me cry as, I think, both Hubby I believed it would. I was sort of nonplussed; partially stressed out because this was yet another change in the plan. At the same time though I was sort of relieved: the landlord had been a bit difficult from the onset and had made several questionable moves that, even though we had ignored them, spooked us. Now Mr. Less Than Above Board was saying that we either accepted the lease “as is” or he was going to walk away.

It wasn’t like we wanted to rewrite the entire contract at this late date. (In truth we had made that request last week.) But this current iteration had spelling errors not to mention tiny little things that needed to be fixed: missing “nots” and “shoulds” that make a huge difference in legalese. These weren’t major things -- just small things that were really to the benefit of both parties. But evidently the landlord’s moronic lawyer told him not to go any further with us.

He gave us until yesterday to make up our minds. Since he said he absolutely had to have the money by Tuesday, we waited until the very last minute to tell him the bad news. Lest you think that we’re horrible people, it is our collective our hunch that he had someone waiting in the wings to take the apartment. When we called him with the allegedly ill tidings he didn’t protest or even try to change our minds.

So be it.

After posting here Thursday and talking to my mum (doesn't it always come down to mommy settling us down?) I was more or less ok with moving out. I was going to move on with my life outside of here. Make friends who weren't attached to Hubby's office. Start buying furniture etc. I wasn't thrilled. But I was definitely ok with life.

As I mentioned, deep down we were never sure about him. So this was really fate's way of saying, "Take a hint!" I'm upset because I had already mentally decorated and whatnot. But I really do feel like something was wrong and this is for the best. (Did anyone buy that? Me neither. *sigh*)

Oh well, staying put works too and involves much less work. So that works for me too!

Now for the good news: They're not kicking us out of the Hostel after all. Hubby went and spoke with the head of housing that said that they're not having a conference (as we had been told) but were planning some renovations and can work around us. Yay!

So that's my life right now. Sorry to be so whiney. The saga will, I’m sure, continue on Monday when we start looking for apartments again, but for now that's it. I have no apartment but I do have a place to live. Not bad for a day's work.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A Story I Can’t Tell

I have this incredibly funny story I want to tell you about my first trip to Kenya, Hubby, and a pepper grinder. It’s a hilarious story that, everyone who has heard it thus far finds frightfully amusing. Moreover, it embarrasses Hubby to no end which is always a plus. But, due to one evil brother by the name of BBA, I cannot share this rib-busting tale.

You see, when I went to Toronto in June, Mum took BBA, Hubby, and I to lunch one day at Yorkdale. After we ordered I noticed the pepper grinder on the table and pointed it out to Hubby with an evil grin. He, naturally, gave me a sad and desperate look since he knew what was about to happen.

“You guys want to hear the funniest story about Hubby?” I asked with an innocent smile.

“No.” I paused for a moment thinking I had misheard. How could someone not want to hear my story about how Hubby had… “In fact,” BBA continued, interrupting my internal dialogue. “I don’t ever want to hear it. Because I don’t think that you can keep it to yourself.”

I don’t remember everything that was said, but he basically dared me to never tell the Leno worthy story of Hubby and the pepper grinder. He didn’t think I could keep it to myself since he was under the impression I was a big mouth. (At this junction, I ask all Devoted Readers to stop laughing at me and keep their opinions about my alleged big-mouthed-ness to themselves.) BBA didn’t even want to hear the moral of the story or the self-effacing anecdote that made up the final punch line.

So, here’s the story or rather, here isn’t the story. For you see, the story of Hubby, the pepper grinder, and how we’ve been expats too long has never been told since the day BBA dared me not to tell it. Being a bratty little sister, I can hardly give in at this juncture, even to share the witty Aesop-esque fable that would have, someday, become the highlight of my memoirs.

Now no one will ever know. Sorry, Devoted Readers, but I’m sure that by know you know I’m nothing if not stubborn. But between you, me, and the entire blogging world: you would have laughed until you cried.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

More Good News, Bad News

I realize that, of late, this blog has basically been me complaining about just about everything. I admit to feeling slightly bad about that since you, my Devoted Readers, come here to laugh at me not listen to bitch. That said, it is my blog and I’m grumpy (or as Hubby pronounces it PMS) and want to vent. So I thank you in advance for being wonderful friends and not giving up on me. I promise to bring back the funny. Just not today.

Remember all the way back to July when I swore they weren’t going to move us out of this damn hostel until we were good and ready to move into our own home? How I was sick and tired of all this moving? Well, the evil meanies here at Kenya-traz™ didn’t read my blog (how rude!), and (even more rudely) didn’t get the memo about the blog. They’re kicking us out in about a week. Evidently there is a conference or something going on here on campus and they want our room to house their guests. We’re their guests, dammit!!

In theory we have an apartment to move into. Barring anything unforeseen we should be signing a lease in a day or so for a rather nice 4-bedroom apartment not far from here. Which sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It would except that all of our things are still baking in a container in Delhi. Plus, this being my life, I’m sure something will go wrong and we won’t get the apartment.

Which brings us to our good news. Hubby came home early for lunch today to show me my passport with its lovely Kenyan visa. Yay! This is good news since it means that we can start the paperwork to get our stuff moved from India to here. Best of all I should have my own bed, books and other necessities in about a month or so. I distinctly remember that life in India got much better once we had our things around us and am pinning my hopes on the same being true here.

But that’s still a month away.

Let’s recap: Our visa is here. Our things should be here in about a month. And our hosts are kicking us out of our temporary digs in less than two weeks. Yup, that just about sums it up.

Isn’t life just dandy? Really freaking dandy.

PS: I realize that this entire episode of Blog was very whingey and pouty not to mention self-indulgent. I just needed to get it off my chest. I promise to bring you something more cheerful tomorrow or at least the day after that.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Random Aussie Comments

Here are few things that didn’t fit into any one blog entry but were still silly and important enough to share with you…

Growing up, whenever we traveled my Mum (aka merthyr) would bug me to keep a travel diary; she thought it would be something nice for me to look back on in the future. It wasn’t that I didn’t think that it wouldn’t be interesting; it was more that it required effort and horribly nightmarish things like that. Needless to say I never got much beyond day one or two of any travel journal. Fast-forward a few years and here I am blogging about my travels. I even went out and bought a gorgeous leather-bound notebook so that I’d have something to write in when my computer wasn’t available. So, Mum, it’s a little late but here’s the travel journal you wanted me to keep. I call it Blog!

This is one that needs feedback on please: Is it OK to wake up or nudge your neighbor on a plane if he or she is snoring? (I’m hoping for a yes on this one, please!)

This is a picture of a semi-typical Aussie Burger. See the weird purple looking layer in there? Well that is what makes this burger special – beetroot. Yup, the Australians put beet on their burgers. Other popular toppings include fried egg, pineapple and bacon. At least two of those are things that I don’t generally consume let alone put on my yummy cheeseburgers. Aussies are weird people. I will say this though, I had two Aussie burgers while in the Land of Oz and they were pretty good. The pineapple (which I don’t normally even like) and the beet add this really interesting sweet taste to the burger. Seriously, go try it at home!

Australian champagne is both good and, evidently rather inexpensive. Every single cocktail party that Hubby and I attended (and there were about three each week), gave us a choice of red or white wine, beer, something called non-alcoholic that confused me greatly, and champagne. I swear to you that I drank so much champers over those two weeks that even I was thinking I had almost OD’ed on this, my favorite of all bubbly beverages.

Lest you think I’m a total AA attending alckie (and we’ll pretend for a moment that you don’t already think so): One day I read on the menu that the restaurant we were at had lemonade. Realizing that I had a sudden craving for something nice and sweet I ordered one with vodka on the side. (Ok so this is only sort of a non-alcholic story. My bad.) Do you know what they brought me? They produced for me a glass of 7-Up. It would seem that 7-Up is referred to as lemonade here in the Land Down Under. If you would like actual lemonade to drink you need to request some old fashioned lemonade. A translation book from Aussie to English wouldn’t be totally uncalled for on future journeys.

Australians have such cool words in their regular vocabulary (Chook! Cooee!!!!!). Next time you’re stressed out or just want to relax with a smile on your face, I recommend you say the following town and city names in any sort of order you wish just for the fun of it. (I realize that Didgeridoo isn’t a place name but I just adore the sound of this word. DIDGER IIII DOOOOOO!)


Australian men are hot. Nope no story here, I just wanted to share my opinion on the incredible hotness of Aussie boys.

And on that note, I will end today’s episode of Blog with traditional Australian call to arms:

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Birthday Time!

Happy 8th Birthday
To my Wonderful Nephew!!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I’m Bored. Please Amuse Me.

I’m bored. There are a myriad of things I could be doing right now but I don’t feel like it. I suppose one could say that I’m in the doldrums but that sounds really pretentious so I won’t go there. (Of course it also sounds like somewhere the main character in “The Phantom Tollbooth” visited but I could just be projecting.) The truth of the matter is that I could escape from my semi-self-imposed boredom but I can’t get up the energy or desire to do so.

So here are the things I could and probably should be doing: finishing knitting my project that I’ve been working on the for last 8 months, writing the rest of the Australia blogs I have started but can’t be arsed to finish, I could read the book I started on Saturday night while Hubby ignored me in favour of the FFL Draft, I could work on my book that you, my Devoted Readers don’t know about, I could even clean the apartment. Or, in a moment of TMI for all of you, I could get out of bed, shower, and get dressed. But none of these things sound remotely interesting.

Were you guys interested I could tell you the fate the apartment we want and the hostel room we don’t. (The latter is in our lives for the foreseeable future and the latter is still iffy due to the fact that we’re not sure we can trust our landlord-to-be.) I could even share the details on the HUGE bug I killed last week. There are even photos of the killing process so that I’d have proof. But downloading the pictures and describing the flying insects scariness sounds like it might take too much effort.

If there were any energy powerful enough to get me to be creative, I would blog about the results of last night’s Emmys. But I haven’t seen them yet and based on what I’ve read (and can't be troubled to link to), I simply can’t get over my anger at 24 winning for Best Drama. I should note, for the sake of fairness or some such crap, that Conan was, by all reports, quite amusing. Hopefully I’ll know more tonight when the re-air the show for those of us in Kenya who didn’t want to wake up at 4 a.m.

Rather than show any effort to write a blog that you wonderfully Devoted Readers might actually read and comment about its hilarity, brilliance and insightfulness, I finally elected to write about the tedium in my life. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my ennui and will all write comments to break me out of my dreary melancholy.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Kidnapping Isn’t Always Bad

If meeting the girls on Sunday was the number one best part of going to Australia then Monday was definitely a close second. Monday was the day the EC Ladies and I were bound for Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary so I could pet a real live, incredibly cute, totally snuggly, and all around wonderful Koala. Oh, and I also had plans to kidnap him, name him Wawa Bob, and bring him home. But more on phase two of the day later.

Since some people have to work (a concept I’m not entirely grasping is more important than spending time with me) only four of us would be going to Lone Pine: Lois, Storm, Minnow, and myself. I prepared for the day by grabbing a large knapsack, dumping everything out of it, and leaving the hotel room. I needed to make sure that Bob would have plenty of room to move around and breathe.

Lois picked me up at the crack of dawn: 9:00 a.m. and we headed out to meet Storm and Minnow at the former’s home nearer to Brisbane. Once the team was all in place we piled into the car and headed off for what I began to refer to as Koala Land™.

I should point out that the sanctuary had tonnes of birds, kangaroos (kangas!), wombats, snakes, and other indigenous animals for us to see, touch, and feed. But the Koalas (or Wawas) were my favorite by far. People had been warning me that they would smell, urinate on me, claw me, or worse. The haters were all wrong. The Koalas loved me and several approached me to be part of my kidnapping plan. Really. I swear!

Upon entering Lone Pine, our first series of stops was to see the aviary of birds that lined the path. Minnow could tell you better than I what types they were but they were all really pretty. Their plumage was so colorful they looked like beautiful flying cartoon characters. My favorite two from this batch was the one that actually said hello to us and the kookaburra. The latter was mostly because I enjoyed singing that old campfire song about the kookaburra sitting in the old gum tree. (It’s in your head now isn’t it?)

And then it happened: I turned my head a little to the left and saw it: my very first Koala. I immediately ran over (pushing several stupidly gawking children out of the way) and, ignoring the fact that he was half asleep, started talking to my sweet Wawa. “Hi sweetie. How is my baby? Are you going to come with me? Yes you do because you love your Typ0 Mommy!”

Those of you Devoted Readers who know me well know that this is not only exactly what I said but can probably imagine the baby-talk voice I said it all in. Not once, mind you, but every single time I met up with a new batch of the cute, cuddly teddy bears. As Ladies can attest, I scared and traumatized several tourists who witnessed these Koala conversations.

The highlight of the day was soon to follow as we found the pavilion where Koala pictures were being taken. Hubby, upon seeing these pictures, was quite put out that he had been unable to join us as he thought the Koala handler was very pretty.

The Koala I hugged was named Brumby and he flat out told me that he wanted to come home with me. Sadly, the Sanctuary erased all video proof of this conversation for reasons they wouldn’t share with us. (I suspect that they didn’t want people to discover that their animals talked or that they were so willing to escape with gorgeous, talented, brilliant, and modest tourists like myself.)

After buying some Kanga food, we headed off to the kangaroo enclosures for some more Marsupial close encounters. Before we could reach the kangas; however, some hungry emus who wanted to taste the pellets we had brought for their kangaroo friends stopped us. One of them tried to eat Storm and then moved on Lois’s camera when we wouldn’t give them all of our food.

Finally freed from the greedy emus, we finally got to meet the playful kangaroos that lived in the large enclosure. Most of the large bouncing rats were lazy but we were able to see a few bouncing around which was quite amazing. Although I had seen videos of them doing this very thing before, it was very different to see it in person. Damn but Australia has the world’s cutest animals!

I couldn’t believe how soft the kangaroos and wallabies were. We quickly discovered that they liked to be scratched just behind the ears or on their necks. The four of us fed easily over a dozen and more still were looking at us with sad eyes. But since they were too lazy to get up off their hindquarters to come over and get some pellets, they were out of luck.

After our kanga adventures, we spent some time gazing lovingly at the overgrown hamsters that the locals refer to as wallabies. This sojourn of cute and snuggly animals was not to last long for Lois soon headed to see the snakes. Do I even need to tell you that I wasn’t there for that very brief portion of the day’s adventures? While Minnow and Storm watched Lois have a snake wrap itself around her, I headed off for a nice shady bench and some snake-free reading time.

Our glorious day of viewing the world’s most beautiful animals ended back at Storm’s house where we sat down to a feast of beetroot topped Aussie Burgers. After a quick but naughty chat online with Storm’s boyfriend Stray, we realized that the hour was growing late: it was time to leave. We shared a group hug and a group bounce before finally setting off back toward Surfer’s Paradise where I was staying.

The two days I spent with my lovely friends from ECFans were, bar none, the best I spent in Australia. Sure there were wine tours (plural), shopping, fancy dinners, and schmoozing yet to come but nothing ever quite reached the amazing high of meeting these wonderful women. Before my trip we had Ayla to bind us together – now we have wonderful memories of stolen Pavlova, kidnapped Koalas, and giddy champagne induced giggles to bind us.

PS: For those of you wondering if I ever got my Koala, I can neither confirm nor deny any kidnapping allegations. Let’s just say that I will soon be receiving a rather large shipment of Eucalypts leaves in the near future.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Pleased to Meet You

Our first Sunday in Gold Coast had finally arrived. Hubby may have flown all the way to Australia for a couple of stupid conferences but I was here for a completely different reason. I was going to finally get to meet some of the girls from EC Fans. Imagine if you will a young girl on Christmas morning excited to the point of bouncing around and squealing with anticipation at opening the gifts that Santa had brought. Well, that was me on Sunday morning.

I was waiting outside of our hotel for GirlyMum to arrive to pick me up. The plan was that we would drive to the nearby Cascade Gardens and meet up with the rest of the gang for a daylong picnic. I was slightly dubious that it would last all day as I was being picked up at 9:30 in the morning. I needn’t have worried, as I didn’t get home until almost dusk.

GM finally arrived with her two incredibly cute and well behaved daughters sitting in the backseat of her car. We awkwardly re-introduced ourselves using our real (aka non internet) names and hugged before heading off for the long three-minute drive to the Gardens.

Surprisingly we were the first to arrive. With the help of GM’s daughters we snagged the last available picnic table and started setting out the feast that GM had brought to feed us all. After a few minutes, we noticed a young woman dressed all in black looking around the park and then rather dejectedly turning around to head back to the car park. After a few beats we both realized that this had to be Ace!

I ran over and rather embarrassedly asked the girl about to climb atop a black motorcycle, “Are you Ace?” I sincerely hoped I was right. She turned to me with a grin and a yes. After another round of intros and hugs she and I headed back over the to picnic table ‘o food. In case you were wondering the motorcycle dude was not her boyfriend as I had surmised, but rather her father. Oops!

About a half hour later our group grew yet again as Storm, Lois and Minnow all climbed out of Lois’ blue rental car. The bouncing, hugging, introductions and giggling started up for a third time as the early birds greeted our three newcomers. The EC Summer Meeting was officially underway.

To honor the occasion, GM popped open (the first) bottle of bubbly and we toasted everything from Jean Auel (who we had to thank for brining us together) to friends who couldn’t be with us. Due to her new tongue stud, Ace decided to forgo the champers on the first round and joined the toast with some diet Coke. (Ok there was probably another reason she skipped the Champagne but this way I get to show a picture of her brand new tongue piercing! Tres cool!)

We must have terrified the poor old couple sitting at the table next to us as we joked about Jondalar’s many talents, Harley’s ego, my obsession with the world’s cutest animal: the Koala bear, and more. The poor dears finally left and we were finally able to really let go and be ourselves. That, I should point out, in my case meant being a good, demure and well-behaved young lady. No really, I am. I swear!

The day continued as we ate the once kidnapped Pavlova that Lois had saved from the clutches of an evil hotel maid. We also nibbled on cheese, crackers, chips, dips, incredibly yummy and addictive Cheesy-Mites and Tim Tams. GM had kindly provided enough food to feed the entire park of picnic-ers. Thank goodness we didn’t have to share with any of them!

For the most part we were good about calling each other by our real names but occasionally a Typ0, GM or minnow would slip out. This of course happened more frequently the more champagne we drank and the more sugary Pavlova we ate. We also tried to climb trees, run off the annoying stork-like birds who kept trying to eat our food, discuss why each of us was or wasn’t good at scrabble, and even snuck in a few minutes to write post cards to those people who couldn’t make it for the Meet. Despite the many hours we were there the day literally flew by.

Evidently some of the local ladybugs got into the second bottle of champagne that GM opened. Naughty little buggies!

We even had a theme song for the day that the ladies kindly sang for me. It’s a real song and it’s called the Vegemite Song:

We're happy little Vegemites
As bright as bright can be.

We all enjoy our Vegemite

For breakfast, lunch, and tea.

Our mother says we're growing stronger every single week.
Because we love our Vegemite.

We all adore our Vegemite.

It puts a rose in every cheek!
And people call me weird…

I could honestly go on for pages and pages about everything we talked about and my very favorable impressions of these amazing ladies. This day of giggling, laughing and making friends was the single best part of my entire trip to Australia. From now on whenever I think of “The Land Down Under” I won’t be humming a song by Men at Work (ok maybe a little), I’ll be smiling and reflecting back on a perfect day spent with five other wonderful women and the memories we made together.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!
Oy! Oy! Oy!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

When Good Airlines Go Bad

It’s amazing how different airline personnel can be, whether we’re talking about different airlines or even the same airline but at different airports. Take the KLM staff in Amsterdam for example. We’ve dealt with this airline in several different countries and not had problems but their local staff in Amsterdam is beyond rude. Have a problem and need them to fix it? Hell no! It’s your own damn fault and had better have a darned good idea on how to rectify the situation yourself before you go and ask one of the kind blonde women behind the blue counter for assistance.

You’d prefer a more recent example? Fine. When we were getting ready to visit the Down Under we attempted to check-in online only to be told (after hours of trying) that Emirates online service was down that day. Ok not a problem. After all, despite the problems we had encountered at the Nairobi airport in the past, this time we were flying on a great airline and who are always wonderfully smooth running. Dang we were naïve; we should have remembered that the airport always trumps the airline.

The two people on duty there were busy checking in an A340 Airbus full of passengers eager to get the heck out of Dodge and wing their way to Cloud City (aka Dubai). Moving at a pace that even the snails thought was rather slow we edged our way closer to the check-in counter. By the time it was our turn to obtain boarding passes, Hubby and I had already had four fights, made up five times (an extra kiss never hurt anybody, thank you), found a cure for bird flu, and cobbled ourselves a pretty cool plan for world peace. (It involved kissing too!)

Once at the counter, we discovered that not only could the brilliant Emirates employee not provide us with boarding passes but also that she could barely figure out how to check our luggage in. We should have taken this as a sign of things to come. We were directed to sit in a corner with other Losers Without Passes (like Doctors Without Borders but less into healing and more into wreaking vengeance upon incompetent Emirates employees). We all watched as dozens of people in line after us walked away with passes and made their way toward the boarding area.

Hubby glowered at them menacingly for 30 minutes at which time they succumbed to his evil powers and called him over for ticketing. More stern and angry looks got us seats together on the first flight. We then politely asked for exit rows seats on our next flight. “Sure. No problem!”

You’d think we would have learned to stop being so darned naïve. Not only were the seats they gave us NOT in exit rows, they were directly behind an exit row filled with screaming babies. Flying out of Nairobi is just so much fun… or something.

All this, you see, is in direct contrast to the amazing service we received from Qantas last Friday as we departed Cairns for Brisbane.

The briskly moving line at the Domestic terminal quickly steered us to the good-looking Australian girl behind counter number five. We handed Aussie Lady our ID, tickets, and frequent flyer cards and smiled tiredly at her. After a few minutes of keying information into her computer she turned to me. “Where is your ticket for Brisbane to Sydney?” Say what?!

First of all, that wasn’t even the flight we were checking in for. And second of all: HUH?! She explained that it looked like someone had inadvertently torn it off already. (Picture, if you will, me starting to have a nervous breakdown as the tears started to well up and I looked fearfully at Hubby.) She verified that Hubby’s ticket hadn’t been kidnapped (doesn’t that just figure!), and smiled at us reassuringly.

Taking our tickets in hand, she jogged over to the ticketing counter a few yards behind us. Meanwhile at the check-in counter, Hubby and I were contemplating my new Aussie life since I was about to be stuck in Brisbane for the foreseeable future. Good Lord, I was going to have to get a job!

Moments before I fainted, Aussie Lady returned to us. She explained that she had noted in the computer system what had happened with the missing ticket. All we needed to do was go to a ticketing agent in Brisbane before we left and they’d give us a new ticket voucher and we wouldn’t have any problems. She even wrote these instructions onto the ticket envelope so we wouldn’t forget.

The moral of this story is that we’re naming our first-born child after Aussie Lady (not that we know her name), and we love the Qantas staff in Cairns. Oh and the next time Hubby tries to leave me behind in a foreign country, he’s going make sure that there are no kind hearted Qantas staff on hand to bail me out.

Post Script: On our way home we had to fly through Syndey and bug the local Emirates staff there for boarding passes. A woman at the information counter saw we had no baggage (it had been checked through already courtesy of the ever wonderful Qantas staff) and called us over. Dealing simultaneously with us and three other sets of passengers she stayed calm and sweet to all of us. Not only that but she hooked us up with exit row seats giving the seats we were supposed to get to a rude couple that pushed in front of us.

Emirates staff in Sydney: we love you!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

He Blogged. She Blogged.

Typ0: My desire to sleep in on Saturday was shot down by two things: the Australian sun and the completely useless venetian blinds hanging in the window of our bedroom. The damn things block out exactly zero sunlight which forced me awake somewhere around dawn. Which, I should point out, wouldn’t have been so bad except that the beach floodlights were on all night and illuminated my half of the room beautifully. I like my bedroom to be dark when I sleep – I know I’m such a freak. Arrrgh!

Hubby: Not like that quieted the snoring last night …

Typ0: Shortly after Hubby returned from registering for the conference (nice bag but way less cool than the one from Cairns), we restarted our debate about where to go for the day. Hubby, being a 12-year-old boy at heart, wanted to go to Wet and Wild Water World, the local water park. He kept referring to it as Monde D’eau and was determined that we not miss an opportunity to spend what was left of the day freezing our swimsuits off on the water slides. Admittedly, the park did advertise that all the water was warmed year ‘round and had at least one cool sounding laze around the lagoon type ride that sounded fun for lazy Typ0s.

Hubby: Monde D’eau! Monde D’eau!!

Typ0: Thank you for making my point for me, Sweetie.

After changing into the cute new swimsuits we bought back in Canada in June, we grabbed a beach towel, sunscreen, and money and headed out for Monde D’eau. As we neared the park, we were uncertain if it was even open because it looked virtually deserted. It turned out that the park was open; there simply weren’t a lot of people there since it was Australian winter and what not. The good news was that as we had killed half the day doing nothing, the park was due to close in a few hours so we got in for half price.

Hubby: Sweet!

Typ0: The bad news, however, was that the one ride I wanted to go on, the Lazy River, was closed for the winter. Further proof that God hates me. Yay. Other bad news for your out of shape Blogger B!tch was that every single waterslide was really high up and required that we walk up a zillion flights of stairs in order to enjoy the wet and wild fun.

Hubby: WEEeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Typ0: Despite the stairways from hell the slides themselves were wicked ass cool. Due to the slightly out of season date, not all of the rides were even open. But we made a point of going on every single one that was! Oh and on the good news front, there were literally no line-ups. Once you made up your mind to climb up to a slide there were no bratty or annoying kids standing in the way of your fun.

Hubby: Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Typ0: Exactly. On several of the rides we found ourselves screaming with equal parts fear and glee as the rafts we were on turned so high along the slide walls we thought we were going to flip over.

Hubby: Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Typ0: For half price plus the locker fee we spent less than $50 AUD which was a really good deal. Both Hubby and I agreed that if we lived in the area, we would totally have a seasons pass so we could come frequently.

Hubby: Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

FernGully: The Aussie Edition

On Thursday, whilst Hubby toiled the day away hard at work at the conference, I elected to go touristing. This meant making my way to the local rainforest and the tourist village of Kuranda. The forest has existed since long before Cairns became such a popular tourist Mecca. But that hasn’t stopped the locals from making it a modern marvel of fun and picture taking.

We drove from the hotel toward the undulating hills that border Cairns. Drawing ever nearer to our destination, I wondered in a rather Canuckian way if skiing would have possible had their been snow on the ground. I looked again at the hills and laughed at my whimsy ‘cause only a good slalom skier would have been able to negotiate around those thickly treed knolls.

There are three ways up the mountain to Kuranda – car, train or SkyRail. The latter is an ingenious gondola ride up and over the rainforest canopy. I had signed up to ascend on the SkyRail and come back on the train. A good idea I felt, as it would allow me to nap on the way home without fear of missing too much.

After a puzzling hour at the train station-ticketing counter, a group of us were shuttled to the SkyRail depot to begin our adventure. The smallish gondolas seat up to six people but the operators didn’t pack them up which allowed couples to ascend on their own. A sweet elderly couple (he from Tasmania or Tassie and she from Adelaide) saw that I was on my own and invited me to join them.

I learned during the first leg of the trip that the SkyRail had actually been privately built in the last decade or two. I forget exactly when but Tassie Guy claimed it was in the 80’s sometime. Or so he thought. Whoever did erect it did an amazing job. We climbed high and higher over the trees allowing us a bird’s eye view of both Cairns and the amazing eco-culture beneath us.

Unlike at Green Island the day before, Man and the local government (aka The Man) did interfere with the forest here to a certain degree. I spotted several trees that had been trimmed back to allow for the smooth passage of the SkyRail gondolas. Still others had inexplicably died into a beautiful silvery maze of braches.

The ride up to the town of Kuranda was done in three separate states and took a good 45 minutes to an hour. At each junction, we were able to disembark from our gondola to explore the rainforest firsthand along guided paths. At the second stop, we were also able to get some rather nice pictures of the 300-meter high Barron Falls. Sadly, since this was not the rainy season we didn’t get a terribly roaring falls to view but it was still very pretty. It brought to mind the rather picturesque one we saw in Mauritius at Christmas.

The nice couple opted not to join me for the final walk so I enjoyed a solitary ride up to Kuranda while sprawled across the gondola’s plastic seats.

Kuranda turned out to be a total tourist trap of a town – but in a good way. Small shops selling everything from boomerangs and didgeridoos (damn I love that word!) to magnets and opals dotted my path along the cobblestone streets. Eager tourists were flocking to these stores like bees to tchotchke heaven.

I was under strict instructions from the Aussie EC Crew™ not to buy anything. “No true Aussie would buy anything there,” I had been told rather sternly. I was one of the few people going home seemingly empty-handed. Yes, seemingly. I can hope that the Ladies will forgive me for, after an invigorating pint of cider I did buy a cute kanga-shaped magnet for the fridge. But nothing else - I swear!

A relaxing river cruise, Koala kidnapping… err… petting center, and butterfly sanctuary are all available once you arrive in Kuranda. I avoided the Koalas since I was due to visit a similar park in a few days with the Ladies. (*bounce*) All in all, I spent a rather relaxing day up there enjoying the typical and awesome Aussie hospitality. Plus, unlike the day before, I didn’t get seasick!

The ride down took a rather pleasant hour and a half, most of which I spent napping. I woke up long enough to see another waterfall and oogle a few Aussie tourists but that was it. I’ll say this for Cairns – everyone walks everywhere and it’s exhausting. I was more than ready for that fresh air nap as we headed back to town down the hills. I dreamt that I was a local Australian girl with my very own Koala for a pet and Kangaroo for transportation. *sigh*

Life is good mate!

PS with Irony: According to IMDB (the coolest place on the Internet), the rainforest depicted in the movie FernGully was actually based on rainforests here in Australia. Go fig!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Great Barrier Sea Sickness

Wednesday was the day Hubby and I were due to be bound for the Great Barrier Reef. The day dawned darkly; clouds loomed over Cairns in ominous warning of what was to come. The rain and wind soon took up battle for which would ruin everyone’s day the most. Although the rains had ceased by the time we lined up to board our boat to the Reef, the wind had yet to cede the competition.

Poetry about the nastiness of the day aside, I have come to a new conclusion that I need to share with you, my Dedicated Readers. I no longer hate airplanes. I loathe and detest boats. I hate the way they pitch from side to side: the waves battering the sides of the ship, the ever present wind whispering just loudly enough to mock any thought you may have had of your stomach settling down for so much as a minute. I’m nauseas again just typing this.

It was with great relief on the part of everyone but Sea Legs Hubby that the boat docked at Green Island. The small island was made by nature over the last eon or so and adopted by the Aussie government over the last few decades or so as an eco-tourist trap. This pit stop along the Outer Barrier was our afternoon destination.

Due to the frigid water and the freezing air temperatures, Hubby and I skipped the chance to snorkel with the tropical fishes and catch pneumonia. Instead, we hopped aboard a glass-bottomed boat to view the fish from the comfort of a dry, wooden bench. Due to the incredibly low tides we were unable to see all that many fish. The suckerfish; however, really seemed to like Hubby as it kept clinging to the glass under his sandaled feet.

Not wanting to miss out entirely on the ocean experience, Hubby and I then made our way over the beach where the snorkelers were wishing that they had joined us rather than opting for goggles and flippers. After shucking our shoes on the beach Hubby managed to get out almost to knee deep when he realized that my tender tootsies weren’t up to the task of traversing the coral-lined sand that edged the water. Luckily his sense of gallantry was not put to the test as the skies suddenly opened up and began spitting on us.

We wandered up toward the beach café and remained there only long enough to dry off and listen to an English woman flirt unsuccessfully with the Australian lifeguard who was lingering under the shelter.

This dreary day was, however, depressing Hubby so much that not even a plate of chips (fries) and gravy and a sausage roll could cheer him up. Seized by inspiration, and knowing that Hubby loves walking around somewhat aimlessly, I headed us in the direction of guided Eco-walk. [Hubby Edit: Please note that she did this only by accident] This wind-ridden tour took us around part of the island’s perimeter while we were told all sorts of cool factoids about the island and it came into being.

All of the flora and fauna on the island found its way there naturally. Whether they were seeds that floated there of their own accord or ones that arrived courtesy of one of the many birds (or rather, the bird’s digestive system) that called the Reef home, they all fought for space beneath the green canopy. Our guide explained that several plant varieties grew only during the monsoon season while others thrived during the drier weather.

The incredible variety of foliage the guide kept pointing out had me wishing that I had brought a notebook, or better yet, a waterproof tape recorder so that I could share his wisdom with you. One of tidbits I do remember is pretty cool, however, and has to with the coconut-like seeds that we kept seeing throughout our walk.

Although virtually inedible to humans, the Box Fruit is a useful thing to find when you’re starving on a deserted island. We were told that Aboriginals would use the unpalatable center of this seed to catch fish. They would spread it around in the shallow water where the fish swam and wait. The Box Fruit doesn’t kill the fish -- it simply and briefly de-oxygenates the water, stunning the fish temporarily. This allows the fisherdudes to select the victim they want, take it out of the water, and take it home to eat. The rest eventually shake off the effects and continue their daily swim. A perfect fish dinner without having to bait a hook. Cool, n’est ce pas?

With a half hour to kill before we had to reboard the Boat From Hell, we elected to mosey along the boardwalk that bordered the island. This turned into a curious adventure as Hubby decided that he was an eight year old and spent the entire time making car sounds (VROOM!) and racing along (VROOM!) instead of simply walking. This was fine except when he continued to do it in front of other people who were somewhat confused by his actions. But I couldn’t blame them really since I have been equally as confused by him for at least the last eleven or so years.

All in all, I wish our wonderful day at the Great Barrier Reef had never ended. But that has more to do with the bumpy ride back more than anything else…