Saturday, November 29, 2008

Adjusting Myself

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Moving to any new country as an expat is a lot like the Serenity Prayer – you have to accept the craziness that is inherent in your new home. Try to participate in the local culture, and maybe help change things for the better. But you also have to have the wisdom to recognize when the craziness is so ingrained in the culture that no amount of hours spent volunteering for the best cause or railing at the gods will fix anything.

Egypt is the third foreign country I have lived in for a significant period of time. (The US doesn’t count because it’s basically just a big southern Canadian province.) Prior to arriving in any new country, Hubby and I always purchase books on the local culture, language, and touristy hotspots. We spend hours online researching neighborhoods, local restaurants, and expat haunts in preparation for the everydayness that is sure to confront us once we get past the “ohhhing and awwwing stage.”

When Bluefish asked how I was adjusting to life in Egypt I realized that “adjusting” was more than figuring out how Cairo worked -- it was about figuring out how this expat thing works. By virtue of the fact that Hubby’s job keeps us on the move, I have been (more or less) able to adjust to life on two different continents and three very different societies. Thus, adjusting is more than figuring out who has the best take away pizza, it is learning how to say “please and thank you” in the local language, it is also about learning how to cope with seemingly simple tasks in a place where making dinner requires a visit to more than five different shops.

I like to think that I have learned to adjust myself to my surroundings fairly quickly and efficiently. I know that the “ohhing and awwwing” phase is followed very quickly by the “get me the hell out of here” stage. Luckily, eventually the adjustment phase kicks in and you realize that you’re stuck in that place for however long your spouse’s job/contract lasts and that it is up to you to make the best of it. These stages are cyclical and are usually revisited multiple times per move.

Adjusting to Egypt has meant getting used to occasional blasts of verbal abuse rained down on me by local men, learning the language so I can abuse them in return, and eventually learning to block it all out. After only three months, I barely notice the catcalls that so aggravated me when we first arrived.

I haven’t been here long enough to make a difference to anyone other than my dry cleaner who is currently erecting a statue to me and my ironing phobia. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not trying: I’ve joined all my usual groups and associations. I’m trying to “get out there,” meet people, and find causes that are meaningful to me.

We are now several months into our new Egyptian lives and are quite content with many aspects of life here. Thanks to some dogged determination and a lot of nesting, we survived our initial “I hate it here” moments. And I have learned to fine-tune my actions and reactions to suit Egypt’s many changing faces. So long as we call Cairo “home,” I will learn to adapt to Her moods and hope that she will learn to eventually accept me.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Four Foods On Friday 57

This week’s Four Foods posed an array of questions to get us thinking about a variety of subjects. But the first question sparked a debate in the Typ0/Hubby household. You see I grew up in Canada so I call it “pop” but California boy, Hubby, calls it “soda.” How do you refer to carbonated bevies?

1. What’s your favorite carbonated beverage?
Since I’m addicted to pop but am supposed to stick to the “diet” varieties my latest soda addiction is Coke Zero: all the yumminess of Coke and none of the calories.

2. What’s your favorite spicy food?
I love spicy food! Hubby has a slightly higher tolerance for heat than I do but we both like to test the bounds of our taste buds. I don’t like hot for the sake hot, though. Flavour is too important to waste on drowning your meal in hot sauce, habanera peppers, or chili powder.

Long story short: I like just about all spicy foods. Heck, we even make our pasta salad spicy!

3. How do you handle hot dishes? Oven mitt, potholder, towel?
Strictly speaking I prefer to let Hubby remove any hot trays from the oven. But if he isn’t available I use a potholder. I find that my dexterity is inhibited when I use oven mitts.

4. Ice cream. How do you like yours?
If I’m stuck with vanilla I’ll drown it in chocolate sauce, marachino cherries, and chocolate shavings. But I’m a big fan of pure ice cream yumminess. Give me a pint of Heavenly Hash or Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie and I’m a happy girl.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Last night, Black Beard and Adelpha joined Hubby and I for a pleasant evening of Mexican food and drinking. We chatted and drank well into the night. Shortly after they headed home, Adelpha sent me a message to turn on CNN. It seemed the world was once again being held hostage by the evil actions of a few men.

We watched the Taj Hotel seemingly being enveloped by flames. We listened as one of our other favorite hotels – the Oberoi – also tried to survive the siege of terror.

Hubby and I looked at each other and fell back in time to the Indian train bombings two years ago, to the bombing in Nairobi in 1998, to 9/11. We started at the television fearful for our friends in the region and terrified for those people still trapped inside the two hotels.

On this day of Thanksgiving and celebration let all our thoughts and prayers are with people of Mumbai.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Capturing Life

I love when I walk around the city and see something that screams out to me, “Take my photo.” So today, I thought I would share a few random photos I’ve taken over the past few months here in Cairo. And as a bonus, I include one photo from South Africa I meant to post earlier but never got around to it.

Sometimes, marriage means being dragged to the Khan Khalili carrying your wife’s purchases and being seen in public in a bright pink shirt. Thankfully, the vows said nothing about being happy about it.

For the low, low price of $400 million, you too can buy a comfy place to take a nap between classes.

Inspired by Ali in Egypt, this is today’s entry in “Caution Tape ‘Round the World!”

I knew that’s how they built the pyramids!

I’m dreaming of a sandy Christmas. Just like the ones I used to know. With the mummies walking and hieroglyphs talking, and smoking shisha ‘round the fire!

That’s nice but I need a freaking spoon!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Storm Passes

Today is a sad day that Hubby and I have lived through numerous times in the last few years. Despite having to go through the wrenching pain of separation and saying good-bye, we hope that our decisions are for the best and that those we left behind will remember us with affection if and when we see them again. I am, of course, talking about our cars.

The first, and probably most difficult parting took place in the Midwest back in 2005 when we left the flat, brown prairies for the sweltering heat of New Delhi. Trinity, our 2004 Toyota Matrix XRS, was a beauty of engineering – a six speed manual transmission with all the bells and whistles deserving of a first true love. (Not that we didn’t love our first car, a Ford Contour named Sporty, but deep down I loved Trinity more.) Trinity was purchased back by the dealer and all we have left of her are our tear-stained memories.

Perhaps that’s why we made a promise to ourselves not to become too emotionally attached to Red, the Honda City we drove in Delhi. Technically, Red belonged to the Organization that Hubby worked for but since he lived with us, we considered him ours for the year we lived there. (Yes, we not only give names but also assign sexes to our cars. Sporty, in case you were wondering, was also a boy.)

Upon our arrival in Nairobi, we discovered that taxis were stupid expensive, which meant that we needed to purchase a car post haste. We took into account the pot holed roads and our budget and eventually decided that a Nissan X-Trail was the car for us. The station wagon-like SUV had great clearance, got good mileage, and fit in our budget. As my father would say, it was a done deal.

We purchased our X-Trail several months after the release of the debacle that was “X-Men the Last Stand.” As a longtime comic book geek and given the X-Name, I immediately decided that our new car would be named after an X-Man, preferably Storm or Rogue. The latter has always been my favorite X-Man but the former, whose real name is Ororo Munroe, is Kenyan. I explained my thought process to several men in the transportation department of Hubby’s office and they voted to name her Storm.

After two great years together, Hubby’s new job took us away from Kenya to Egypt where cars drive on the American side of the road. Sadly, this meant that we would have to say good-bye to Storm. We posted notices in newsletters, bulletin boards, and even with random strangers hoping to find her a good home. Unfortunately, we were unable to do so before we left East Africa.

Earlier this week, Hubby called me from work and told me that the deed was done. We had finally sold Storm to a friend of a friend, of a friend. Even though I haven’t seen the grey X-Trail in months, I am still somewhat vaklempt about the break.

Several people have asked us why we don’t have a car here in Cairo and we’ve given them the usual answers about the insanity of driving in this city, the utter lack of parking in our neighborhood, and the cost of buying a car without the duty free privileges we have become used to in recent years. But when all is said and done, I think that Hubby and I are simply afraid to love again.

Goodbye Storm. We knew you when.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One Word

The other day, the lovely and talented Brenda from Brenda’s Blog in Paraguay tagged me for a fun meme. The most difficult part of this meme, however, is that you can only answer the questions with a single word. You people have read my blog, I’m not exactly known for my lack conciseness. Newcomers to Wandering the World might well think that my moto here is: “Why say in two words what you can say in twenty?”

Since I am never one to turn away a challenge, here goes:

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse

2. Where is your significant other? Work

3. Your hair color? Black

4. Your mother? Busy

5. Your father? Retired

6. Your favorite thing?

7. Your dream last night?

8. Your dream/goal?

9. The room you're in?

10. Your hobby?

11. Your fear? Numerous

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Earth

13. Where were you last night? Friend’s

14. What you're not? Employed

15. One of your wish-list items? ipod

16. Where you grew up? Canada

17. The last thing you did? Comment

18. What are you wearing? Clothing

19. Your TV? Sony

20. Your pet? Someday

21. Your computer? MacBook

22. Your mood? Sleepy

23. Missing someone? Always

24. Your car? Taxi

25. Something you're not wearing? Socks

26. Favorite store? Roots

27. Your summer? Busy

28. Love someone? Yes

29. Your favorite color? Blue

30. When is the last time you laughed? Today

31. Last time you cried? Recently

The other part of the challenge is to nominate five people to take up the challenge on their own blogs. With NaBloPoMo drawing to a close I have chosen to nominate a few of my fellow NaBlo’ers because if they are anything like me they are running out of truly interesting content and counting down the hours until this month is over and they can take a day off.

Ms. Four of We Four in Egypt
Nicole of NicoleB Photography
Illahee of My Life in Japan
Christine of Strange Pilgram
Cripkitty of A Place for the Crutches to Fly

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Count on Me

I haven’t blogged about my reading obsession in at least three weeks so it seemed like as good a day as ever to ask a question that has bothered me for quite some time. How much is enough when it comes to reading?

In both 2006 and 2007, I read 59 books during each year. I know this because one of the boards I belong to has us record such things as part of an annual “Reading Contest.” I know from my fellow contestants on the Board that I read slightly more than the average person but a lot of people also forget to update their lists. The nicest thing about this contest is that it is an accurate accounting of my reading adventures – everything from the biographies and memoirs to trashy romances and historical fiction. My tastes, I have come to realize, are somewhat eclectic.

This year, I am on track to beat that number depending upon how the next month or so pans out. My Arabic studies have greatly cut into my reading time. (Blogging and watching TV all night have nothing to do with it!) No matter how many books I may have read in the past, or will end up reading this year it simply doesn’t feel like that much – I always think I should be reading more.

Hubby believes that my reading addiction borders on the edge of gluttony. I like to counter that reading keeps me sane and is therefore a good investment in both time and money. But maybe I do read – not too much since that isn’t possible. But maybe I read like a woman drowning, desperately gulping words to stay alive. Or maybe I just like reading and I should leave it at that!

Which brings us back to my initial question: So how much do you honestly read? And for the sake of curiosity, what do you read?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Truth Time

I have a question for all the bloggers out there. How often do you check your stats throughout the day? How many times per hour do you look at your email to see if someone has left you a comment? Am I the only pathetic loser who peeks at these things constantly in hope for electronic validation of my cyber (and therefore actual) existence?

Come on, I know I’m not the only comment whore out there! I hope…

Friday, November 21, 2008

Four Foods On Friday 56

This week’s meme had me trying to remember all my worst kitchen nightmares. Since my usual modus operandi with these events is to pretend they never happened it took a while to come up those rare times when I seriously messed up dinner.

1. What’s the worst tasting food you’ve ever eaten?
I happen to love - or at least enjoy – a lot of foods that other people find distasteful so it took me a while to come up with an answer for this one. I have never prepared this item myself but I am not a fan of crocodile. There was a great restaurant in Nairobi Hubby and I frequented that had this on its menu and we would occasionally decide to give the crocodile yet another try. But it always tasted rubbery and fishy. Nothing should taste that fishy. *shudder*

I should note for the record that I had lovely grilled crocodile at a restaurant in Cairns, Australia a few years ago, so I do know what it is supposed to taste like.

2. Share a funny or embarrassing story about a meal you’re made.
This one actually deserves an entire blog entry of its very own. I’m going to save the best story of my kitchen ineptitude for another day and instead tell you about the time I made my world famous salsa for a potluck lunch at my office in Maryland. I over processed the salsa the night before and by the time we opened up the container at lunchtime it had become a rather flavourful tomato paste. From that day onwards, my job on potluck day was to pick up bagels and cream cheese for breakfast.

It should be noted for the record that I have since perfected salsa perfection.

3. What food do you burn or have problems cooking most often?
I can never seem to make brownies correctly. Betty Crocker is no problem but as soon as I start melting expensive chocolate, my oven decides to hate me. I have a recipe for white chocolate brownies that may taste good but I’ll never know since I always char them. I’ve tried different methods of greasing the pan, and I’ve tried lining the pan with parchment paper, but nothing seems to work. Brownies are obviously meant to be boxed or bought.

4. Name two foods you’ll be eating on this Thanksgiving.
This year we will be attending a potluck Thanksgiving so I am not yet sure what everyone is bringing. I am, however, positive but we will be having turkey and stuffing. I can’t wait!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Soaking in the View

Last week, Miss Four asked me what I didn’t miss about Kenya and I immediately knew the answer – the sense of awareness I had to have at all times. Or, more succinctly – I don’t miss the safety issues involved with living in a city whose nickname is NaiRobbery.

Don’t get me wrong: I always played down the safety issues when we lived there because it made my sanity easier to live with. Truth be told, eventually you get used to living behind 10 foot walls with barbed wire, topped with another few feet of electric fencing. I got used to not wearing certain pieces of jewelry, always being aware of my surroundings, how closely other cars were following us, or if someone appeared to be taking too much notice of my trip to the ATM. It became second nature to always be vigilant to the point where it seemed normal.

I realized a few weeks ago that despite having left Kenya in July, it had still made its mark on me. Hubby and I had been invited to a department picnic at the home of a colleague outside of Cairo. The colleague’s beautiful home was only surpassed by the
incredibly breathtaking view from his back garden. This weekend home had a completely unobstructed and beautiful view of the Red Sea. As soon as we walked outside Hubby and I joked that we would never get any work done if we lived here since we would likely spend our entire day staring out at the water.

Shortly after arriving, I walked to the end of the garden to get a closer look at the Sea in all its splendor. I looked down at the granite rock immediately beneath the garden wall and then further to the road below. I barely noticed the undulating waves in front of me.

“This place isn’t safe,” I said to Adelpha who was standing next to me. “A criminal could easily scale these rocks and climb over this fence. This house is just waiting to be invaded and robbed.”

Adelpha looked at me with mouth agape. “You didn’t even notice the view,” she said sadly.

She was right. I missed the beauty that was in front of me because my mind was still programmed to look for dangers that may or may not be there. I no longer lived behind walls that were guarded 24 hours a day but that sense of self-defense that Kenya had ingrained in my DNA was still there, forcing away the landscape and seeing only the threat that wasn’t there.

From my bi-weekly visits to the Massai market and attending Association meetings to the lush colour palate of the city and being a “regular” at my favorite lunch haunts – there are definitely things I still long for about Nairobi. What I don’t miss is having to dismiss the reality of a city that requires weekly security reports. I don’t miss locking the doors to my vehicle within seconds of getting into it. I don’t miss driving twice around the traffic circle to ensure that no one is following me home late at night. And I don’t miss hearing about my friends being mugged at ABC Plaza or being attacked and tied up in their homes. There are definitely some things I don’t miss at all about Kenya.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My List

Ever since the movie “The Bucket List” came out in 2007, people have been talking about their personal bucket or “to do” lists. In case you’re like me and didn’t see the movie, what they are talking about is the list of things they want to do before they die. Many might consider this type of checklist to be somewhat morbid or depressing. I think it’s good planning. Of course, I’m also the girl who picked out the music she wants played at her funeral, but that’s another story.

Growing up, my list would have included things like seeing the Taj Mahal, visiting the pyramids in Egypt, seeing pyramids on two different continents, or visiting all the continents. Life has made me wish I had made that list as a kid because, thanks to Hubby’s job and living overseas, I’ve done many of those things.

I have always been the kind of girl who sat down with a post-it as soon as she arrived at the office. I may be a year or so behind the trend, but I’m ready with my post-its. I’m ready to create new dreams to fulfill. So today, I’m going to share part of my bucket list. I say part because I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting, or things I haven’t dreamed about yet. What would be on your to do list?

Without further ado, this is “Part One of Typ0’s Bucket List.”

Visit Petra
Visit all the continents (I’m still missing South America and Antarctica)
Write a book
See Stonehenge
See a musical on Broadway
Lose enough weight to fit into a size 12
Go to Disney World
Go skydiving
Bungee jump
Swim with dolphins
Go to the dentist and get my root canals done
Attend an NFL game with Hubby
Take a cooking class with a famous chef
Get a tattoo
Visit every state in the US
Walk on the Great Wall of China
Attend the Oscars
Get my Masters degree
Fly first class
Have dinner at the White House
Visit more than 50 countries
See the Northern Lights
Ride in a hot air balloon
Live on every continent
Eat fugu (blowfish)
Bungee jump at Victoria Falls
Visit Israel
Take a trip on the Orient Express
Join the mile high club
Attend mass at the Vatican

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I am Not Obsessed

Yesterday, Lynda posted a picture of a fabulous pair of shoes that she knew would someday change her life for the better. I immediately understood her connection with these sparkly shoes because I too have a secret desire – a friend I would someday like to meet, cherish, and build a shrine to. But before I can introduce you to the object of my consumer driven desires, I need to tell you the sordid tale of how we met.

It was a day like any other: I was sitting at home on my ugly yellow couch in Nairobi, looking for nothing in particular when my browser found its way to Roots Canada. Since I am Canadian and a longtime devotee of all things Roots, this wasn’t terribly odd. I was perusing cute little T-shirts and yoga pants, when suddenly my mouse clicked over to the leather collection. And then I saw it: a purse big enough to hold all my crap. A purse worthy of my devotion.

Several months later, Hubby very reluctantly permitted me to go into five different Roots stores, five dozen times over the course of two weeks. A few of the locations took out restraining orders and thought I was a purse stalker but I would not be deterred. One location even went so far as to tell me the purse that had been haunting my dreams for three months didn’t exist!

Despite the fact that the evil sales person may have had a vague point, I quickly found the purse that I loved – a purse that I knew would love me in return. This girlie purse was black with a long adjustable strap, and lots of zippered compartments. Eventually, I brought her home and introduced the love of my life to my parents. I knew our love was real.

But Hubby grew jealous of my dark leather handbag and declared that she wasn’t worthy of me. “She isn’t good enough,” he swore. And so I let myself be swayed by my first love and kissed my new love goodbye.

I returned the bag to her home in the Roots store with tears sparkling in my eyes. Sensing I was wavering in my decision to separate from my purse forever, Hubby looked around and found someone new, someone he knew would make a better addition to our new family. He found the New York Messenger Bag in vintage tribe leather.
The NY Messenger Bag from Roots has a zipper pocket in back, which would be perfect for slipping plane tickets and other necessities when we travel. Under the flap are more pockets – one each for my cell phone, camera, and all the needless papers and books I haul around for both Hubby and myself on a daily basis. Better yet this oversized bag is big enough to fit my laptop so I could use it for school!
But it was not to be. Yet again I was thwarted: the store only had my new obsession in brown (tribe) and I already had a brown purse. So I ordered a black (jasper leather) one and I waited.

And I waited. And waited. And I’m still waiting.

The purse of my dreams, without which I cannot properly function and with whom I could probably bring peace to the Middle East, has been on back order since July. I was even willing to order it in brown but then it went on back on back order. God doesn’t want me to have a pretty new purse, I realized.

I have justified the cost of this purse to myself countless times, but at this point I realize that it has simply become pure purse avarice. I know I don’t need a new purse (although I haven’t bought one in at least two years), but this purse has eluded me for so long that I have become obsessed. This purse is meant to be mine.

So now, I am reduced to visiting my purse daily on the Roots website and dreaming on what could have been. I’m sure, Devoted Readers, that there are those among you that pine for the perfect pair of shoes, a Prada bag, or that ideal little black dress that makes everyone look gorgeous. I also know there are those of you who, like me, dislike the consumer society in which we live but… This is different! The purse and I were meant to be! Really.

Monday, November 17, 2008

When the Developing World Attacks

There is nothing worse about living in the developing world than when the country you have chosen to call home decides to remind you who holds the upper hand in your relationship. It should be noted that these unpleasant reminders will only come at the most inconvenient times like when your guests arrive, your spouse’s boss is coming to dinner, or you made plans to go out and have lunch with new friends.

India liked to remind me that She was in charge by poisoning me. Don’t laugh; I spent my 8th wedding anniversary wishing I were dead thanks to an ill-timed bout of giardia. For those of you unfamiliar with this amoeba-based ailment, I have two words for you: both ends. Happy anniversary, baby!

Kenya, on other hand, liked to use the elements to torture me. Or rather, one element in particular – water. My big plans to have lunch with Sicky? The one-hour installation of my water pump took a week. My first set of guests arrives? Thanks to the rainy season and the wonderful building codes in Nairobi, it rained in my apartment, over my furniture, and on my last nerve. A year later, I thought I had finally come to an understanding with Kenya and that she and I were finally friends. I was wrong. Once again, guests arrived that I really wanted to impress and my water pump died shortly thereafter, with a complete drying up of all the water available to my apartment.

When we moved to Egypt, I thought I had left my developing country curse behind me. Sure, we had a few hiccups during our first two months but nothing had happened that truly made me feel that Egypt hated me. Yet again, I was wrong.

Last week, I was incredibly excited to attend a friend’s surprise party. I packed my purse, made taxi packets so I could get to the party venue, and I made salsa that I told Hubby he could have no part of. Although I cannot confirm this, there were even rumors that I had picked out an outfit in anticipation of my outing.

That is when She struck. First there were twinges of tummy trouble. But I was able to quell that first incursion with some light medication and the power of my cast iron stomach. But Egypt would not be thwarted because soon my sink started leaking and then the gurgling beneath my bathroom exploded into a smell so rank I was afraid it would seep into my clothing. The emergency plumber I requested naturally took his time arriving, investigating the problem, and eventually telling me that there was nothing to be done about the stench. It wasn’t the pipe, he explained, it was Egypt.

Yes, I have been defeated by developing countries before, but I thought that Egypt and I were going to be friends. I thought She liked me! But now I know Her true colours and will be ready the next time She tries to get the better of me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Last week, Christine asked about “the people in my neighborhood” and had me singing Sesame Street songs for about two days. Once the effects of my Oscar and Big Bird induced insanity had worn off, I started looking around for things I should tell you about my small corner of Cairo.

The moment I stepped outside my door, this cart passed by. I’m not sure about other Cairene neighborhoods but mine seems to have at least two or three delivery guys who travel this way. The gas cylinder guy is my favourite though since he tends to clang musically on the pressurized containers to get people’s attention.

A few steps down the road, I saw the sweet potato vendor sitting in front of one of our local mosques. This gentleman can usually be found somewhere along our street early in the morning so that people can purchase one of his yummy sweet potatoes for breakfast.

This is the intersection where I practice some of my very bad Arabic with our local policemen. (That’s them hiding behind the car, sitting down, and enjoying a break.) This corner is worked by the same few guys who always wave, say hello, and bravely endure my attempts to greet them in their local language. I’m not sure what use they would be if something actually went wrong, but at least they’re friendly!

A quick glance to my left, and I can see this cheese wedge building. It isn’t a person in my neighborhood but Hubby likes the architecture of this particular edifice.

He also likes the windows in this building. I’m not sure who lives on the other side of the glass but I always imagine them to be artsy types.

Like any neighborhood in Cairo, the stray cats here rule the streets. They can be found under cars in the shade during the day, and atop them in the early evenings. I even know several people who have adopted these street cats and brought them home. Given how adorable many of these cats are, it is probably only a matter of time before we open up our own flat to at least one of the local kittens. This particular feline was busy watching an empty building and wasn’t amused that I had disrupted its diligent study.

Our final picture is a local baladi dog named Alexander the Great who lives a few floors down from me. Although Alex’s humans are very nice people, he kindly adopted Hubby and I into his family and has been known to guard our flat whenever he visits. My favorite trick, however, can only be seen when Alex leaves – he opens the elevator door all by himself! That’s a great dog!

Democracy is Fun!

A few days ago, I posted this embarrassing story from my childhood. Sure I had other stories I could have chosen from my more recent past (a certain trip to Gurgaun comes to mind), but I chose to humiliate myself by telling a story about how I was an eighth grade nothing.

In return for this bearing of my soul I would like to ask a favour, please visit Gutsy’s blog and vote for your favourite embarrassing tale. *cough*MINE*cough*

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Location, Location, Location

Writing about writer’s block the other day got me wondering about the craft of writing. The inspirations, desperations, and locations that make us writers fascinate me. So today’s question isn’t what makes you write. My question is: Where do you write?

For example, no matter how many times I promise myself that I will blog from Toronto while on home leave, we all know it isn’t going to happen. I adore going home but I just can’t write there. (And looking back, that must be why I never did my homework. Not laziness – location!)

On the other hand, I love writing in cafés and restaurants. I always have my leather notebook that I bought in Australia with me, and the moment I settle myself down in an eatery – I write. In fact, this blog was written in a café not far from my flat. Sitting in a corner seat with a sandwich, hot chocolate, and piano music in the background, I found myself unable to not write. It wasn’t even that the café was terribly inspirational but there I was, scribbling away, chewing on the end of my pen trying to find the perfect turn of phrase in between bites of a club sandwich.

Time and again, the café as a venue has mined blog gold for me. (Ok, bronze in this case. Work with me here!) Some people who visit cafés alone become embarrassed and self-conscious at their lack of company. I, on the other hand, bring my amusements with me – a good book to read and blank pages to fill.

Sure, I write at home on my laptop in front of the TV, but it has been cafés and restaurants around the world that have remained my most faithful muses. You see, for reasons I can’t explain, cafés feed me and every so often manage to inspire me. In the midst of a slice of Black Forest cake, or biting into a bowl of pasta perfection, my muses have been known to tear me away from culinary delights in order to pay them homage and do their bidding.

And so I continued to do so that day, sitting in a hotel café, writing down what they whispered in my ear. Thanks guys – I couldn’t do it with out you. Well, you and the yummy café food!

POST SCRIPT: It should be noted that in the midst of writing this blog ode to my café-bound muses (in a café no less), they abandoned me and left me without an ending or even a very good middle. I don’t know if they were upset that I “outed” them by sharing the source of my inspiration. Or maybe they were annoyed that my hand was painfully cramping making it difficult to hold a pen when words of adulation should have been dripping forth. Either way, I need to go and light some candles, make a sacrifice, and pray to the muses to fill my pages with words.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Four Foods On Friday 55

Questions about turkey can only mean one thing: American Thanksgiving is on the horizon. Thanks to some local expat friends we too will be celebrating this annual feast of gluttony in a few weeks time. After typing up the answers to this week’s meme, Thanksgiving and all its wondrously yummy foods cannot come soon enough!

1. Stuffing. Boxed or from scratch?
Hubby introduced me to the glories of Stove Top Stuffing shortly after we were married as it represents one of his favourite childhood memories. That said, nothing tastes as good as stuffing made from scratch and cooked in the bird.

2. If you were served the perfect Thanksgiving dinner what would it be?
In my prefect, pretend world we would start with my father’s curried pumpkin soup. From there we will move to the main course which will include a roasted turkey, two kinds of stuffing (chestnut and mushroom), gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, potatoes (any kind but roasted would be nice), peas, carrots, beans, and cauliflower with homemade cheese sauce. For dessert I would like pumpkin pie and orange pudding.

Please note that this meal may be served again in its entirety (with a few additions) next month for Christmas.

3. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving leftover?
Not there there’s any ever leftover, but I love a good stuffing sandwich!

4. Share a recipe using turkey.
Now that I’ve given myself a craving for all things turkey here is the perfect stuffing sandwich:

Slather leftover cranberry sauce on one side of two pieces of whole wheat bread. On top of the cranberry goodness place leftover slices of turkey. Finally, when no one is looking, steal the leftover stuffing and distribute it evenly over the turkey. Cap your sandwich with its twin slice of bread and eat.

Your sandwich should taste exactly Thanksgiving – only whole wheat-ier.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Praying for a Hole in the Earth

Gutsy Writer recently challenged her readers to remember their most embarrassing moment and then share it with the world. At first glance, this would seem like a simple task until you realize just how many times I have prayed for death so as to escape ultimate humiliation. I still have regular moments when I remember things I said and the exact looks on people’s faces as I said them and pray for a time machine so I can beat that younger, far more naïve version of me with a club.

Many people might erroneously assume that I can’t be embarrassed. After all, I’m the girl who refers to herself as “Fat Girl,” and thought that my “Footloose” solo in grade eight was cool. I am, when all is said and done, the girl who embarrasses herself just about every day without meaning to. Which only makes it more difficult to narrow down my list to this one earth swallowing moment.

Moment Number 732

When I was in grade eight, my class had 21 kids, most of whose names I can still recall to this day. I had known at least half of them since kindergarten, including Sven Rabbie on whom I had been crushing pretty much since the moment we had met. I briefly flirted with “like liking” other boys but my heart always returned, somewhat pathetically, to Sven.

By the time of our final school dance, Sven was dating Cathy for several months. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t moping about their handholding status – I wasn’t that lame! We were all friends and played foot hockey at recess and took the TTC home together. Dating was something done during school dances or on the weekends.

That day in the gym, I was being something of a wallflower and wasn’t keen to ask anyone to dance. After all, who would support the wall to the right of the stage if I didn’t stand there? (Yes, I actually remember exactly where I was standing.)

Groups danced together during the fast songs but no one was going to go out of their way to ask me to join them during the slow ones. I didn’t mind since there were good snacks and I was enjoying the music. No matter how I felt, I evidently looked fairly wretched because after an hour of fast dances and several handfuls of cheesies Sven approached me.

“Do you want to dance?” he asked carelessly. At the time, I failed to notice the looks he kept throwing over his shoulder. The desperation in his voice.

“Sure!” I replied hesitantly. “But won’t Cathy…”

“It’s cool,” he smiled.

I took his hand as we made our way to the dance floor. I put my hands around his neck and swayed in time with the music. A minute or so later, I noticed my friends Marie, Chrissie, and Jenny, standing together whispering. Pointing discreetly. The light dawned and I knew what was happening.

“Sven, did you want to dance with me?” I asked trying not to cry.

“Sure. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Did they ask you to ask me? Is this a pity thing?” By now I had stopped swaying and was embarrassingly close to tears.

“They just wanted you to smile.”

“Thanks. You’ve danced with me now. It’s done. Thank you for making me smile.”

I walked out of the gym. The girls probably followed me but I don’t remember. I just remember that I was the girl they pitied. These people whose names, faces, and families I still remember to this day pitied me. It was kind of them to care enough to ask someone to ask me to dance. But to this day, I remember where I stood in that gym, where they stood watching us, and the look in his eyes as he broke the truth to me.

I learned that day that I had good friends who were willing to do anything (or rather have someone else do anything) to make me “happy.” I was a lucky kid. And although I have since lost track of most of them, I still remember them all fondly. Even Sven – my crush who cared enough to dance with the fat girl he had known since he was four.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You’re in Charge

This NaBloPoMo thing is harder than it looks. Don’t get me wrong -- I 'm always ready to talk about myself but Hubby has accused me recently of recycling old material. I think we all know that while I’m not nearly environmentally friendly enough to do something as silly as recycling, he may have a vague point about my stretching certain issues to their 10th or 11th incarnation.

What all of this means is that I have a favour to ask you, Devoted Readers. Tell me what to do! Hold on. Knowing some of you, that might be too broad a request. Tell me what to write about. What would you like to see me discuss here on Wandering the World? Do you have questions you’d like to have answered about the meaning of life or other topics I might know something about?

Send in your suggestions and I will try to grant your wishes and answer any questions posed to the oracle in the coming days and weeks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Whither Words

A popular topic I have seen tackled in several blogs recently is the question of why people blog. The pundits would have us believe it is because we are narcissists who enjoy talking about ourselves to anyone who will listen. While this theory may have some degree of merit, I don’t think it tells the entire story.

I started this blog when I arrived in India and found myself further away from friends and family than I had ever been before. And let’s be honest: I’m not a very good correspondent - I still have unanswered emails from five years ago sitting in my inbox. A blog was my way of keeping in touch with people back home. It was my answer to the annoying form Christmas letter that people send to everyone - boring news that no one cares about but you felt needed to be shared anyways.

But the blog has become more. Orson Scott Card once said, “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” That describes how I feel about blogging.

I have always been that weird girl who stared at you on the subway. What you didn’t know was that I was secretly writing a story in my head about how you were a CIA agent who couldn’t tell his family the truth. You had just finished your latest assignment and realized that what little was left of your soul was dying – like the man you left on the stairs behind the dumpster at the Eaton Center. You wondered what your wife would think if she knew the truth but would never tell her since it was her innocence to your world that loved the most. Of course, what you didn’t know what was that she figured it out years ago – your dirt caked boots and the secret notes you never read because she put them in the briefcase that you only used as a prop.

I could go on – and often did on those subway rides. Everyone I saw was a potential target – everyone was a story yearning to be told. I have now turned my imagination in a different direction. Now, I share the seemingly everyday-ness of freezing libraries, language barriers, and how the best diet on the planet is living in a country where you sweat away five pounds per day walking to and from the shops. Of course, I just put my own spin on it and add a dash or two of literary license to protect the not so innocent, but at the end of the day, this blog is about me and my life.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I devote all this time to something that equates to an adult, online diary. (Hold on. That sounded dirty. Although it does give me an idea…) Despite what I may dream in those vodka infused moments between dusk and dawn, I know I won’t be “discovered” because of my blog. And I’m not in it for the money for fame. (Although I wouldn’t reject them if they were offered…)

I blog to meet new and cool bloggie friends. I blog to share bits and pieces of my life with family, friends and Devoted Readers all over the world. I blog because I see stories on the street that scream out to me that they want to be told. And when all is said and done, I blog because it makes me happy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Someday Girl

Despite what some of you may believe, I have frequently found myself without words – speechless if you will. While Hubby may enjoy my sporadic bouts of silence, I find them incredibly annoying. There are days that go by, you see, when I have nothing of interest to say even to myself. This wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t translate into silence on the blog.

While some blog-related silences are acceptable – like vacations or home leave – others drive me almost as crazy as they do you, my Devoted Readers.

Staring at a blank page that refuses to fill itself with words is annoying. Especially when I am forced to blog about that blank, writer’s block inspired page. Nothing witty or even amusing ever came from a blog about nothing. Or maybe that’s how Seinfeld started. Who knows? I’m not a millionaire stand-up comic with my own eponymous must see television show.

That, of course, brings up the sad dream of every blogger in the blogoverse. To be the one in a million with our own TV series or better yet a three book deal from Random House. The Waiter did it. That postcard guy in Germantown, Maryland did it. Heck, the Internet made Perez Hilton famous for Pete’s sake! That’s why deep down where no RSS feeder can see, every blogger wonders, “Why not me?”

Why can’t I have my blog turn into a #1 best seller, which would soon be optioned into a great movie starring Kate Winslet as me? I could go to the book launch wearing my Eileen Fisher sweater and later attend the premiere in a brand new Chanel dress that was designed especially for me. What can’t I be that blogger?

Instead, I’m the girl with writer’s block who spends her days staring at a blank page. I’m the girl with a big blog dreams and a small blog reality. And I’m okay with that. For now…

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Best Knit Plans

Last year during home leave, my mother and I went to her local knitting store and bought lots and lots and lots of yarn. Technically, there is nothing shocking about this since we have spent more than a few dollars at Mary’s Yarns over the years. Every time I go home, my mother and I return to this shop and plan big projects for me. This planning includes buying patterns, yarns, needles, and a few extra balls of yarn that looked soft and pretty on the shelves.

Knitters out there have probably guessed by now that what my mother and I, with the help of the kind ladies at Mary’s Yarns, have been doing is facilitating the world’s largest “stash.” For you non-knitters out there don’t worry – I’m not doing anything nefarious or illegal. What I have been doing is buying distracting and pretty yarns that I plan to someday use and, in the meantime, storing and hiding them in case inspiration strikes.

During the summer of 2007, Mum and I bought enough yarn to complete a Four Seasons Throw. This twelve-block blanket would test my knitting abilities without freaking me out with complicated
stitches, or boring me with row upon row of garter stitch. I even started the first strip of blocks while I was in Toronto and was both impressed and pleased with the results.

After several months of not knitting and then knitting again, I finished all twelve blocks. I sewed the strips together and showed Hubby the results of my determination. He was dutifully courteous and properly impressed with my skills. Then he said what I had been secretly thinking: “Is it a little small?” “Size doesn’t matter!” I wanted to scream. But I knew better – twelve 12” x 12” inch squares just don’t add up to an adult sized snuggle blankie.

After a brief discussion with my knitting guru/mother, I decided to knit an extra strip of four blocks. I folded up the blanket, checked my stash to ensure that I had sufficient yarn, and promised myself that I would start on that much needed strip tomorrow.

That was approximately a year ago.

For the last several days, I have been staring at the project bag I knew contained my Four Seasons Throw. I watched it mock me from its perch – a daily reminder that I was a lazy git who never finished what she started. Sick of the scorn that this inanimate object was casting my way, I stalked over to the bag last Saturday and dumped the contents out with determination. This blanket was going to be completed if it killed me!

First, I admired my handiwork. Then I pulled out the square I had started about five months ago and made sure that none of my stitches had dropped off their needles. My next step was supposed to be “turn to appropriate page in pattern booklet and start knitting.” My next step turned into “hyperventilate and run around the flat in a desperate search for said pattern booklet.”

Long story short, the booklet is gone. I can’t find it anywhere and I am not a good enough knitter to figure out the patterns from previously completed blocks. And since the pattern isn’t available for free online (Damn you capitalism!) I’m pretty much buggered in the “finish the blanket the way I planned” department.

The upside of losing the pattern book is that “I finished my Four Seasons Throw! Woo hoo!!" I have decided that all the days, weeks, and months that passed since the day I decided that it needed extra four blocks never happened. The blanket is exactly as I imagined it. Sure, it doesn’t have fringe since my crochet hook was loaned to a friend who forgot to return it. And sure it’s about the size of a baby blanket. But it’s mine. And I made it all by myself. And I’m rather keen on it.

Tomorrow, I will print these photos, tape them into my embarrassingly empty project book, and look forward to the next project. Or maybe I will use this as an impetus to finish the dozens of incomplete knitting projects that literally litter our living room. But more likely, I will look into my stash and see a new possibility in its depths. A new day, a new project, a new thing to procrastinate about. I’m so excited!!