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Wednesday
Sep212011

So, Anyway, I Guess Life's Not All Doomy

I’m starting to wonder if living in Japan is bad for my child’s ego.

Stella is the only foreign kid for miles around, and in kawaii obsessed Japan, her genki smile, auburn curls, and predilection for waving have garnered this wee girl quite the following. 

Case in point: our weekly trip to the department store food shops wherein we set out in search of cilantro, good whole-grain bread, and our hebdomadal cheese ration, and return with a massively inflated conception of self-worth.

I tell you, people, walking through the food aisles with my daughter is like accompanying Oprah as she glides through her studio audience on the way to the stage (an outdated similie I know, but my cultural reference points have been severely narrowed by being on the other side of the world). As we walk down the aisles, strangers coo. Some whisper to each other and some call out to us, KAWAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII.  People wave, and initiate sly games of peekaboo. Strangers rush over to her and tap her cheek, hold her hand, or offer her candy. Grandmothers are Stella’s natural target market, but even business men, and most shockingly, teenaged boys are not immune to her charms. 

And does Stella ever love the attention. She walks along beside me, waving at all the people. I’m pretty sure she things she’s Kate Middleton. Or possibly Suri Cruise. And let’s not lie, it’s not like I’m suffering a great hardship here, by being told that my kid is adorable eleventy million times a day. 

It’s just that, when we go back to North America or Europe, and Stella is just one more snotty-nosed caucasian kid in a sea of snotty-nosed caucasian kids, well, poor wee lamb is going to be in for a rather rude awakening. 

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Monday
Sep192011

On Needles and Pins and Expats

The waiting has started. We've just sailed right past the two-year mark on this contract, leaving behind stability, security, and knowing what the future holds. Now is the season of anticipation and of speculation. Ears pressed firmly to the ground, listening for murmurs of rumors, suggestions of what might come next. Eyes glaze, and wild fancy takes over, painting a thousand and one imaginary tales of boxes and apartments and new cities and new countries and new foods and  new languages and new friends and and and. We're looking forward with vigour, but we don't know to what. Or when. Or how. Or where.

I suppose that as an serial expat, one never really know what the future holds, but cognitive dissonance allows one to overlook the gaping black hole in the imagined future. The expat starts a contract with an image of life progressing on a linear path of two or three years, and then suddenly: nothing. No concept, no daydreams, no mental construct with which to understand what lies ahead. The serial expat can successfully ignore this reality, happily marching along with time, until she is suddenly standing right on the edge of this gaping hole, with no idea what will fill it. 

Thus, grasping for unknowable answers to the question "what next" is consuming about 98 percent of my consciousness. 

Oh, and did I ever tell you about the time when we had to pack up a house and leave a country with 24 hours notice? That scene is currently headlining in my imagination.

The uncertainty is thrilling, but also, quite frankly, unnerving. We know that a move is on the horizon. There are rumblings and unofficial promises. Vague assurances of "soon" and  "gateway city" and "more exposure" offer hope, yet that hope is awfully slippery when we face the present reality of an incredibly stressful work environment, a poor to non-existent support network, and a country which, although it offers many pleasures, is just a poor fit for us.

Also: it appears as though our much anticipated October European Vacation Extravaganza will be canceled. We already have the tickets. Plans had been made. Concert tickets bought. The aforementioned work stress is a symptom of endemic organizational issues: they are deep. And Wide. And require attention. 

 Suffice to say: doom spirals over at Expatria, Baby. Come join the fun. 

 

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Thursday
Sep152011

Small Style, WALKING STYLE!!!

So, THIS is happening:

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TA DA!!!!!!

Stella took her first unassisted steps right before her first birthday. And then promptly refused to walk alone any more. This, despite the fact that while we were in North America, my father took it upon himself to engage Stella in a rigorous walker-in-training regime. He was operating under the assumption that late walking is a certain indicator of a future of sloth and un-industriousness, confiding in me that as a father, he fears he made many mistakes raising his three girls, one of which was, evidently, not pushing his kids hard enough to be early walkers. OH MAH LANDS! The things  could have achieved had I JUST WALKED THREE MONTHS SOONER!!!  Ergo, my father frets: HOW WILL SHE EVER BE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES IF SHE DOESN'T LEARN TO WALK IMMEDIATELY???? (BTW Dad, She's not even an American.)

So, anyway, two days ago, Stella decided that walking was actually pretty rad. And it is especially rad when I say, "Stella, time for bed" and she walks AWAY from me, giggling maniacally at her newly discovered ploy: "I'll never have to sleep again if I just keep walking away! You'll never catch me. No you won't. Sleep - I shake my tiny, vengeful fist at you." 

So, anyway. Stella's walking now. Which means that I can finally take Small Style pictures in a venue that is not my living room. Hooray!

Stella Wore:

Onsie - Joe Fresh

Skirt - Bobo Choses

Shoes - See Kai Run

Bow - AdornMeGirl  

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Thursday
Sep152011

Coyote Ugly

The expat life is one of adventure, discovery, glamour, and...bumbling social ineptitude. And so, for the September edition of NorthSouthEastWest: Expat Dispatches, our ongoing guest-post project, our four expat bloggers are divulging their most embarrassing expat moments. 

Linda of Adventures in Expatland (North) demonstrates that a small vowel can cause big problems. Russell, who blogs at In Search of a Life Less Ordinary (South), discovers that wherever you are in the world, people enjoy a good laugh at the newbie’s expense. Erica of Expatria, Baby (East) writes of disastrous first impression that last and last and last. And finally, Maria who blogs at I Was an Expat Wife, reveals how her expat mantra of “try new things” led her astray.

I hope that you enjoy this month’s post by Maria Foley of iwasanexpatwife.com and do check out all of the other posts. There are many, many lolz to be had. 

***

One night in Singapore, my friends and I went to a bar named Coyote Ugly.

 



That pretty much sums it up; that’s my embarrassing expat confession. Just typing the words makes my cheeks burn. As a fortysomething stay-at-home mom, if I’m going to write a sentence that starts with “I went” and ends with “a bar named Coyote Ugly,” the words “out of my way to avoid” had better be sandwiched in there somewhere.

  Coyote Ugly

 

For those of Erica’s readers who might not be familiar with the expression, “coyote ugly” is an adjective that describes a physically repulsive woman. Why, you ask? Well, a coyote caught in a trap will chew off its limb in order to escape. Apparently, a man who goes home from a bar with an unattractive woman and wakes up in the morning with his arm trapped beneath her sleeping body will chew that arm off to make sneak out without waking her. Delightful, no? 



The term spawned a New York City bar of the same name, and Elizabeth Gilbert — long before she hit the jackpot with Eat, Pray, Love — sang its seedy praises in GQ magazine with “The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon.” That article, in turn, became the inspiration for the movie Coyote Ugly. (I’ve never seen it, but its promos featured a scantily-clad Tyra Banks prancing around on a bar, dispensing body shots and getting her freak on in an extravaganza of questionable taste that made me want to poke my eyeballs out with a sharp pointy stick.)

 

I’m tempted to end my story right there, but I promised Erica 700 words on the subject and I’d hate to let her down, what with her being so nice and all. So here’s the rest:

 

We’d gone to see a show and had just left the theatre when Babs (definitely the Alpha Female in the group) declared that we were going clubbing. I hadn’t gone clubbing since my pre-stretchmark days, but loosen up and try new things was my expat mantra, so I agreed to give it a go. 

 

When I walked into the establishment Babs had chosen, I noticed two things simultaneously: the large sign that screamed COYOTE UGLY, and the Asian dominatrix cowgirls undulating on the bar. I almost walked out again. Not because dancing on bars was illegal in Singapore — it was, although I didn’t know it at the time — but because the whole cheesy scene was so determinedly louche I couldn’t bear to witness it.

 

I repeated my mantra through gritted teeth, and plodded on. We ended up having a great time — $18 margaritas will do that — and danced (on the floor) for hours. Sometime after midnight I declined the drink offered by a very polite British sailor named Charlie, but I desperately needed a glass of water so I went to the bar with him and let him do the ordering. 

 

I was either too naïve or too hopped up on overpriced cocktails to notice that the crush of people around me had mysteriously receded, rather like a modern-day reprise of that Moses + Red Sea incident. I became aware of the hushed air of expectancy a second too late. Time seemed to slow down as I watched the bartender reach under the bar and pull out something metallic, which she pointed directly at me. My brain screeched RUN, but after all that dancing my feet were too damn sore to obey.

 

And then she shot me. With a steady stream of ice-cold water. 

 

The place erupted in applause as I gasped for breath. I was horrified to discover I looked like an entry in a middle-aged wet t-shirt contest. But I had to admit, in the steamy atmosphere of the club, the cold shower felt good. So good, in fact, that when I did finally get my glass of water, I didn’t need it anymore. I dumped it over Charlie’s head instead. 

 

He stood motionless for a moment, dripping water onto the floor, before shaking himself all over like a Golden Retriever. Grinning from ear to ear, he asked, “Feel like dancing on the bar?”

 

I glanced up at the nymphets languidly swiveling their hips, shrugged, and said — 

 

Would you look at that: I finally reached the 700 word mark! Now that I’ve fulfilled my obligation to the charming Erica and the rest of the NSEW gang, I’m going to call it a day. That’s quite enough embarrassment for one blog post, thank you very much.

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: M. Foley | iwasanexpatwife.com

 

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Thursday
Sep152011

Housebound {Wordless Wednesday}

We staged a revolution today. We didn't leave the house. Not once. And it was glorious. 

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{PS: These photos are not, strictly speaking, from today. I was to lazy to even lift my camera. I did edit them today, if that counts. However, they are indicative of how we did actually spend our day.}

{PPS: Japanese apartments have terrible light. Gha. Noise noise noise. Top priorities as we look for housing in our next posting: double glazed windows and good, picture pretty light. Serious.}

 

{PPPS: Linking up with A Little King and I, & The Paper Mama}

and then, she {snapped}

 

 

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Tuesday
Sep132011

Just When You Think I'm Some Sort Of Enlightened Parental Being...

Yesterday was one of those days.

Stella and I were heading downtown, walking along the sidewalk when up ahead of us, an elderly woman came off her bike. Five or six people walked by, eyes everted, heads down, as she struggled to free herself from the pile of bike and shopping, get dusted off, and lift her bike.

(Smouldering. Why won’t anyone ever offer assistance. Polite. Yeah right. Only when when you want something.)

I held her bike while she found her shoe. Then we went on our way.

I had a recipe in mind. A curry. And I was on the hunt for cauliflower. I should have known, when I didn’t see it in any of the fruit and veg stands, that it wouldn’t come to me easily. But my heart was set on mixed veg curry. With leftovers for samosas. I wanted teh cauliflower.  When I found it, was monumentally expensive. Cheap, plentiful boring ‘ol cauliflower. Eight dollars for a tiny head.

(Seething. Why is everything in this country so effing expensive. Cauliflower. They practically give it away. Ridiculous. Who pays eight dollars for one serving of vegetables. Highway robbery, this is.) 

After errands, I thought we’d cool down in the park. The weather was gorgeous, it was right after kindergarten let out, and the park was practically brimming with children. Stella and I found our usual spot: a shady patch in the sandbox, next to a slide.

Two ladies approached. One asked if I spoke Japanese. Then she said, “maybe the sandbox is too dirty for your baby.” 

“Kids are dirty,” I said. “I think it’s fine. Thanks anyway.” 

“You should play over there. Your baby will get sick.” 

I asked why that sandbox was better than this one.

“This sandbox is closer to the path. The dogs and cats pee and poop in here. It’s too dirty for your baby.”

(Absolutely fuming. We always play in this sandbox. I always see other mothers playing with their kids in this sandbox all the time. What’s the big deal. And, I hate to brake it to you, lady, but if the stray cats are pooping in this sand, they’re pooping in that sand too. And who the hell are you, anyway, to tell me how to raise my kid. Holy effing hell. If she eats a bit of sand, it’s not the end of the world. And enough with your judgment. And, no, I don’t need a reminder to wash my kids hands after playing, thankyouverymuch. The degree of cleanliness of my child’s hands has no bearing on my parenting skills. And you know what, I DON’T GIVE HER A BATH EVERYDAY! SHOCKER! So THERE! fume. fume. fume fume. stew. fume.)   

 

So. It was one of those expat days. 

 

Now, internet, I need you to please talk me down from the ledge. Tell me that these things happen in North America as well. Tell me that it was an unhappy coincidence; a random constellation of annoyances. Tell me tales of kindness and neighbourly love. Because I’m pretty annoyed at Japan. And I need to be reminded. 

 

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Monday
Sep122011

Why I Blog

Sometimes it's eight o'clock in the morning, and you're making your third cup cup of coffee while checking your phone and the baby is right in front of you, but because you're distracted she capitalizes on an opportunity and grabs a full bottle of olive oil, unscrews the cap (hooray for new-found dexterity!) and pours the contents all over herself. And the floor. 

At this stage you could get angry, cursing the mess, the wasted oil, the clean-up which is added to your already massive mountain of chores. Or, you could realize that this slippery baby is really quite hilarious, and acknowledge that the best way to deal with the situation is to take pictures (your phone is out anyway) and post them on all your social networks, while mentally composing a blog post about your lovely, inquisitive, oily daughter's antics. And then let her play in the mess for a little while. The damage is already done and she's having so much fun.

This here, this is exactly why I blog. 

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