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.