Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Freezing in the Snow

Yesterday I promised to explain my recent absence from the blogosphere and now I’m ready to confess the truth. For those of you wondering if I am pregnant – you people have sick imaginations! Stop wishing such horrible fates on me! No, the truth is far less scary than the image of me changing diapers: I’m in Toronto!

Last week, I hopped aboard an Emirates flight in Cairo and found myself in Canada by dinner the next day. Luckily, my parents are well used to my erratic ways and didn’t seem too put out by my sudden arrival at their front door. After all, March is the perfect time to visit Toronto when you don’t own a winter coat and 90% of your shoes are sandals.

Ok, so I didn’t put a lot of forethought into my trip home but I’m here and I’m ready to put as much effort into blogging as I will into shopping! Sadly, I have do have important jobs to complete during my time here in the Real World but I promise to put those off for as long as possible so that I can spend my free time catching up on all your wonderful blogs!

Bienvenue au Canada, mes amies!

Monday, March 09, 2009

My Type of Person

You always hear about people being “morning people” or “night owls.” I’ve never really understood either creature. The former enjoys getting up at the crack of dawn and is immediately chipper and human to all whom they see. My response to these freaks of nature is, in the infamous words of Gabrielle, “I will rise, but I refuse to shine!”

Then you have the types of people who are awake at 5 a.m. because they still haven’t gone to bed from the night before. They are worse than morning people because they look disdainfully at you when you ask to bow out for the night at the reasonable hour of 1 a.m. Most people go through their 20s as night owls. I have never been a night owl because I enjoy sleeping too much.

Given that I don’t fall into either of these well known categories you are likely thinking that I am one of those rare “day creatures” who is chipper and productive during normal daylight hours. Day creatures enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning, go to work, eat lunch, finish work for the day, and then go home full of vim and vigor for their families. They don’t start yawning at the dinner table are perfectly happy to snuggle with their sweetie and watch a movie before heading to bed.

I’m not one of those people either.

I am a new breed of person: I am a “between 1:00 and 2:00 person.” Allow me to explain. I don’t like mornings because they remind me that I could be asleep or at least curled up under my duvet reading a good book. Around lunch I perk up because I am being fed – and I like being fed. After lunch and the rush of nutrients has worn off the only thing to get me through my day is thoughts of the wonderful things waiting for me at home like cookies, the shrimp I’m preparing for dinner, or ice cream. Oh and Hubby, he’s important too! But after a long day of working, blogging, and being cheerful I’m exhausted when I get home.

I don’t like waking up early. I am physically incapable of staying up late. Yet being a day person means having to put far more effort into life than I am willing exert. Instead I’m going to stick with my one hour of bliss a day. Sure, everyone else has to live with my crabby tired morning self, and my crabby tired night self. But for those people lucky enough to find me during my one hour of non-crabbiness each day – well, I’m sure they’re counting their blessings and hoping they’re not invited over later tonight.

PS: Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been visiting around the blogosphere for the last few days. Stay tuned for visits and news in a few days!

Thursday, March 05, 2009


I have lived in fairly conservative countries for almost four years now. During those four years now I have made an effort to dress in such a way as to not cause any raised eyebrows. I hadn’t realized how much “covered up” had come to be my definition of normal until last week when I saw this photo on DRL’s blog Daily Life in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

My first thought at looking as I gazed at the people in the photo was, “These people are naked!” I know they were there to celebrate Carnival but that sort of attire – or lack thereof – hardly seemed appropriate.

That’s when I realized they were all wearing shorts and tank tops. Everyone was dressed in perfectly respectable clothing. No one was naked.

A few years ago I would have thought nothing of seeing men and women dressed like that. Heck, most people I know dress like that – just not here. Here everyone tends to cover up a little more.

I think I need time away from the Middle East for a few weeks so can get my perspective back. People wearing shorts aren’t naked. I’m almost positive of that.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I Almost Forgot

When people get older, they are allowed to blame their advanced age on random slips of the memory. Children can get away with it because they’re young and don’t know any better. So what excuse can a not quite middle-aged hottie blogger use when she looks back on her life and realizes that the old adage, “If you head wasn’t screwed on, you’d probably lose it” should be embroidered, framed, and hung around her conveniently attached neck.

Once when I was fourteen, I forgot my incredibly spectacular black purse on a TTC bus. Moron that I am, I didn’t realize it for another 15 minutes at which point I ran to my brother, BBA, in tears begging him to resolve this latest crisis in my life. BBA may have been a pain when I was 16, and he’s probably a bigger pain now but that day he was world’s most awesome brother. We piled into my parents’ 1981 Toyota Celica and chased the bus looking for my purse.

I was lucky that day: a Good Samaritan had handed my purse in to the bus driver and I had an awesome brother who was willing to chase random buses for thirty minutes through suburbia. The following year, proving that I never, ever learn my lesson, I lost my wallet on the bus. About a month or so later I received a package in the mail from another Good Samaritan.

Sadly, my teens were not the end of my stupid, forgetful years. Over the years I have forgotten jackets in restaurants, books on airplanes, and bags at the grocery store after I’ve paid for them.

Last week may have been the pinnacle of my forgetfulness. I was in the library reading various blogs and texting my friend Adelpha at the same time. Each time finished with the phone, I tucked it on the big comfy chair next to me and continued with my reading. At 4:30 p.m. I packed everything and walked leisurely to the bus stop, barely even pausing in front of the McDonald’s before boarding the bus.

Seated comfortably in a window seat, I reached into my purse for my cell phone to call Hubby. It was around this moment that I began hyperventilating. “Oh great freaked frak, I just lost my phone!” I whispered, my voice quivering.

I tore off the bus; terrified my phone was gone – stolen. Then became even more terrified because that meant I would have no way of keeping in touch with Hubby while he was in the UK. Then I realized I would have to tell Hubby I had lost my phone. “Crap!” I started to walk as quickly and with as much dignity as possible back to the library.

On my way, I saw Miss Four to whom I was embarrassingly rude in my quest to find my phone. By the time I reached my seat in the library I realized that the delay of finding my phone meant that I would probably miss my bus on top of everything else. That’s when I saw it sitting there looking all lonely and forlorn. “Thank God!” I said rather loudly. When several people looked at me I showed them the phone and they just smiled in sympathy.

I am fairly certain after all these years that I have a guardian angel whose sole job is to make sure I don’t lose anything important. I keep him employed fulltime and I’m fairly certain that he wants a day or two off from his duties of keeping me in line. I appreciate my Forgetfulness Angel more than you can imagine because I can’t blame age, pregnancy, or even disease on my bad memory. Maybe it’s part of my charm?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

How the Wandering Began

Last week, I received a comment from 3 Bay B Chicks asking, “How did this all start?” Since I’m assuming she understands the creation of the universe and how to make babies, I figured that she was curious about how Hubby and I got started on this life of Wandering. The story of how Hubby and I became Hubby and I is a tale for another day, so in the meantime I’ll tell the story of the how’s and why’s behind our nomadic existence.

Even before Hubby and I started “dating,” I knew he was interested in the developing world. The third foreign country he ever stuck a pin in (after Canada and Mexico) was Vietnam where he spent several weeks on a business trip. His Master’s thesis included research on the economic reform process in a few African countries, and the honeymoon he planned for us was in Thailand.

I obviously entered into this marriage with a vague idea that we would travel to far-flung places in our free time. I also understood that his work would take him all over Africa, Asia, and South America. In 2002, we left Washington, DC so that Hubby could start down the road of finally fulfilling a dream he always had: earning a PhD.

Hubby’s studies and research took him back to South America and steered him towards a career that would finally bring to fruition all his plans for the future. (Can I be more vague?) With his specialties, combined with his sincere interest in the developing world, it was only a matter of time before we finally packed up to leave the comforts of the Real World.

Our first choice was between Inverness, Scotland and New Delhi, India. I realize that Scotland isn’t actually a developing nation but the work they wanted him to do would still have dealt with that realm. We debated for ages over the pros and cons of each location before finally settling on India.

For me, India was a no brainier: my Irish grandmother married my Indian grandfather and lived in Wales; my Welsh-born mother married my Irish father and lived in Canada. It only seemed right that this Canuck and her Yankee husband should complete the circle and head back to India.

Shortly after arriving in Delhi, I decided to start this blog to tell people at home about what I was doing and what life in India was like. Back then I was lucky if I had three hits a day – my mother, and me checking twice to see if I had any hits. Despite the lack of a following, I realized that I loved blogging and loved writing about our weird adventures in this new expat life.

Sadly, India wasn’t the dream job Hubby had been hoping for. A year after unpacking, settling down, and making incredibly wonderful friends, we packed up our things and headed to Nairobi, Kenya where Hubby would work for the Organization. We spent two amazing years in Kenya before packing our things once again – this time for Cairo, Egypt, and a job with the Institution.

Between the years in the Real World and the countries we’ve called home, Hubby and I have always made each other a priority. Luckily, two of our greatest loves (outside of each other, of course) have always been food and travel. We have always tried to combine these loves, which meant as many fantastic trips as our credit cards would allow.

We Wander the World together because seeing it any other way would be dull and lonely. Who knows when Hubby’s employment whims will take us to a new destination, or when my need to see more of the world will find us in an airplane heading off to goodness knows where. But rest assured no matter what we do, or where we do it, I will always share those stories with you.

Monday, March 02, 2009

My Portable Life

Like most women, I carry a rather large chunk of my life in my purse. In addition to my own essentials, I am required to carry things that Hubby might need. Despite the fact that I am his favorite pack animal, Hubby derides my need to carry a purse everywhere. This past fall, I decided that I needed a newer, bigger purse so that I could carry my essentials without having to burst the seams on my lovely Tribe leather Roots purse.

Hubby says that I own a “ridiculous” number of purses and am a “purse whore.” As I prepared this post I realized the truth: I don’t have a purse issue – he does! The gorgeous red silk creation in the middle of the above photo was a gift from Vietnam. The small hand tooled, brown leather purse was a gift from Argentina. The traditional woven purse in the back was a gift from Kenya on the occasion of his first trip there. His kind gifts account for three of the seven purses I own.

I’ve already mentioned my big brown purse, and I honestly don’t remember where the little brown one came from. The small black purse is probably my favorite and certainly oldest. I bought it on the spur of the moment during a trip to Minneapolis when I was 16. Behind the soft leather is an entire wallet complete with mirror and credit card slots. It is barely big enough to hold my cell phone and keys but has been my go-to purse for special occasions for over a decade now.

No discussion about my purses would be complete, however, without a mention of my current Roots bag. Back in the fall, I blogged about how much I coveted this purse. Thanks to Hubby, fate, and the fiancé of a friend of mine, I owned this purse a few short weeks later.

So I own seven purses, does that make me a bad purse-on? (Sorry couldn’t resist the pun.) Hubby owns more flash drives than that (Hubby Edit: At last count I own only five of those!)! Purses are more than a fashion accessory -- they are a life necessity for carrying around all the scraps of essentials that Hubby and I need on a daily basis. Anyone else buy that? No, I didn’t think so…

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Courage of My Convictions

Someone I know recently wrote some rather derogatory remarks about bloggers in general. When I read his comments, I wrote a rather scathing response and reminded him that bloggers often speak for those who cannot. And many of those people do so at great risk to not only their own lives but also those of their families and friends.

Even as I hit send on that response I wondered if I was really the right person to be saying them. A few months ago, this blog was criticized for not being more politically active and vocal. At the time, I defended my editorial right to live in a country more than a handful of months before I passed judgment on its regime. But now more months have passed and still my pen is still silent.

When elections were held in Kenya in December, 2007, I used this blog to share my views and observations with the world. In the days, weeks, and months that followed I tried to be the eyes and ears of people on the other side of the world to tell them what was going on from my rather narrow point of view. I didn’t pretend to know even a fraction of what was truly happening to Kenyans on the ground but I tried to report the truth as I saw it and to turn people onto local Kenyan bloggers whom I knew were doing the same. My blog wasn’t as widely read or heralded as some but I tried to keep up the stream of information as best possible.

I have now successfully lived in Egypt for over six months without ever once telling the world what I thought (or didn’t think) about the government here. Due to the fact that Hubby and I are guests in the countries we have chosen to call home for the last four years, I have always made it a policy not to ruffle feathers with this blog. The story of Phillip Rizk shines a light on my personal cowardice.

Phillip is a graduate student at one of the local universities here in Cairo and during his spare time is a freelance journalist, filmmaker, and maintains a blog. In recent months he has written about his opinion of, among other things, the Egyptian government and its stance during the recent bombings of Palestine by Israel. For putting thoughts like these out into the ether of the Internet, Phillip was taken by the police during a peaceful protest in early February. This German-Egyptian man was later released from custody but not before his family home in Maadi had been searched.

The case of this and other bloggers being taken by officials in Egypt due to the content and views expressed on their blogs is the reason I find myself unable to comment on political issues while we continue to live here. While I may wish to rush to print such stories I know that my place here is as an observer. Perhaps when we leave I will feel more comfortable expressing any such views but until then I must respect not only my husband but also his employers here in Egypt.

My silence has been paid for. My convictions have been rocked. My belief in myself that I would always do what was right has been tested. And I have failed.