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a beginning, a middle and an end.

25 Nov

i have been putting off this post for weeks.

instead, i’ve been rightly filling my time chasing the mouse-maybe-rat (thanks for nothing, 120 year old house), consuming oaked white wines and nourishing my deeply committed relationship with cheese.

and while i’d like to think of myself as almost a seasoned professional in my procrastination abilities, the time has come to face the inevitable. to walk the metaphorical plank, so to speak, to put my head on the guillotine whilst violently screaming: “vive la france!”

no? too far? anyway, point is – i need to wrap this shit up. and well, kittens, it’s been a real ride, hasn’t it?

like most things i do, you may recall that i was wildly unprepared to write this blog linked to my rando move to india.  in the beginning, i knew that i didn’t want to write about, like, all the creepy-ass goats i was seeing on the street and so on, highlighting 24/7 how completely different life was in calcutta. i mean – it’s a scooch implied that life is different in india – it’s f*&king india.

so i quickly realized that the best way to your wonderfully weird little hearts was by telling you some of my best secrets, trash talking the laundry list of jerks i’ve known in my 28 years and enlightening you on exactly how two bone fide crazy newlyweds make it through their first year of marriage -while 12,952 km apart.

and so it was: one long, swear-word encrusted (bedazzled, really) teenage telephone conversation – that sometimes referred to india.

but by the middle of it all, finally finding my voice simply wasn’t enough – it had turned out that randomly moving to india wasn’t so easy afterall. work became difficult, the thrill of living in the country of dust-turned-mud-turned-dust-again and spice had quickly worn off. basically, it blew. hardcore.

and frankly it was you, kind readers, who came to the rescue in so many ways. your mostly-insane comments, your revelations of devotion to this humble teenaged telephone conversation of a blog, your personal messages and – in some cases – your packages filled with booty (pirate, not ass – here and here too!) helped me get over my self-imposed exile.

(and let’s be honest here, the americans filled in the rest of the blanks with their exceptional taste in imported wine, unwavering devotion to western tv shows and propensity for hosting mexcian-themed murder mysteries. ole indeed, bitches.)

then just as quickly as i began this craziness, got over the fact that india – yes, all 1.2 billion of it – was a jerk, things were over. because for the many oh-so-complicated reasons, i left my work early for the homeland where the nachos are free range and the sewers are closed.

but doing as i have done leaves you different. even now – and probs for a while to come –  i am struggling to figure out what it all meant. working to convince myself that it’s ok to let this experience change me – even if it’s maybe not for the best.

this has been our journey together. and this is where it ends – for now.

listen, you don’t realize it, but you owe me. i’ve rarely preached to you about crap like “politics” and the “economic crisis” etc and so on. i’ve kept it to the interesting stuff  – like how i ditched my now husband while dressed like a pirate-hooker . the truly important discussions, ya know?

so now, you must listen to me as i take my moment to preach atop the metaphorical soapbox.

whoever, wherever and whatever you are – i am telling you that we are all able to do almost anything we want in this life. the path that is defined for us – whatever that path looks like in your world – isn’t always the way we have to play it.

it’s totes ok to take b.f.r’s (big f&*king risks) because not only do they give you mad street cred (“well when i was living in calcutta…” = kind of bad ass) but they are often the ones that are the most worthwhile. remember i told you once that nothing worth fighting for is ever easy? well it’s true.

i leave you with this: sometimes when it’s a bajillion degrees celcius during a 2 hour black out and you’ve just frantically stepped in a sewer that reaches your almost-knee-cap, whilst skinning your arm trying to protect your face from the garbage which you will surely fall into because of the whole leg-in-sewer thang, you enjoy a good old fashioned motivational quote.

this is the one that i repeated to myself that night, covered in shit, while being laughed at by probably 50 + indians:  “at any given moment you have the power to say ‘this is not how the story is going to end’.” and that’s a fact.

fact.

thank you, everyone. for everything.

xo al

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the trouble with al.

9 Nov

the last few weeks in india were some of the best, as it often goes when one chapter of your life comes to a quick and dirty close. the americans said: “al,  you are going out with a bang!”

so, there was copious amounts of shopping, chilled chardy (champers, pinot and sauv blanc oh my!), high heeled shoes at inappropriate times, tacky 90’s tv, un-inhibited dancing in public places, street food and other such poor life choices that may or may not have involved flavoured vodka. and tequilla. and whiskey.

whiskey? sweet baby jesus. well, there you have it folks….bang.

and the funny thing about all of this coming-to-a-close stuff, is that when things have finally closed, you remember these ‘bang up’ times and not the times you were walking around with shit on your foot from stepping in a sewer during a black out.

fact.

so, as much as i didn’t think it would happen, i am sitting here today watching the last few leaves fall from the trees outside, and wishing i could get a nice moist hug from calcutta’s unreasonably hot-air climate.

you know, the climate that i bitched about for 7 months. yep, that one.

nostalgia aside, india feels like a dream now that i’m back to everything oh-so-familiar. and besides trying to figure out how to process my experiences for a canadian context, i can’t help but continually think “heyyyyyyyy, so what’s next?”

and really, i  have no f*&king idea. which is not a great thing, let’s be real with each other here.

(no idea, that is, unless we’re talking short term. because i can pretty much guarantee you of a few things i will be enjoying later…things which i figure that after several months together you can probs fill in the ‘ol blanks about.)

the way forward.

anyway,  i do know, that nothing seems quite as valuable or interesting as what i was doing just last week. and i do know that, even though i’m craving unadulterated normalcy, this thing inside that always pushes me to chase-the-crazy, won’t let normal define my choices for too long. which is really annoying.

and you see…this is the trouble with being me, al.

the big return.

6 Nov

well, it’s been a while. (or is it “awhile”? who knows.)

the first thing i want to tell you is that i have kicked jet lag’s ass. no seriously, i have taken jet lag out into the metaphorical back alley, roughed it up a bit, and left it there to be found by some sassy tv cop who will surely spend days pondering over what exactly happened to poor old jet lag.

no joke.

so yes, i am in fact home. i travelled 30 hours through 3 airports to come back to beautiful fall weather, clean streets and this:

top hats and everything!

well, this is what greeted me at the airport as i walked through those big scary doors to yet another new beginning. while there wasn’t much twirling on my part (30 hours on a plane will apparently curb that desire), i was highly entertained.

top hats indeed. indeed.

and as i drove back to the humble little abode to tear open my large suitcase of indian goodies (who needs clothes anyway, sarees and scarves it is!) i was greeted by yet another ah-mazing occurrence:

a big warm welcome from the fav family

the fav family, of course, welcoming me home in their own special way. these lovelies don’t mess around – they wrapped the entire humble abode in a friendly yellow ribbon. it was almost as good as the canoodle i got from the baby who calls me auntie al – but more on that later.

and so, i must stop here for now – although there are many things left to say, kind readers. just know that i have safely returned and i have already enjoyed a few lovely oaked bottles of chilled chardy in celebration. naturally.

some art.

27 Oct

well, the stupid camera that i was so excited about and on which i took all the awesome pictures from bihar totes decided it was just too good for india: that little f*&ker up and died on me.

(and noooooo, i did not drop it down the toilet like the ‘great blackberry incident’.)

the stupid battery just won’t charge – it’s criminal! ugh! so i’ve been left sans pictures for my last month here, which is really quite unfortunate if you think about it.

and the worst part is, because i literally have nothing left to say to you for the next few days other than “i’m so f&*king excited” and “hey bitches, did you hear i am going home? i’m so f&*king excited!” and “#$DF43#$%2r1JSF21LK!!!!!!!!”, i was going to depict  my journey through photography!

however, since my camera has failed, i have had to get a little creative. (where a door is shut – art is born. and a window is opened. or something.)

today i will represent my excitement through the gloriousness of microsoft-paint-on-canvas. capturing the rich detail and life-like-ness of my emotion. it’s moving. it’s prolific. it’s art!

enjoy al’s excitement from afar:

looking casual, enjoying the flora and fauna

now, please enjoy al’s excitement up close:

my face. fact.

see ya in a week, kittens!

the crazy dance.

18 Oct

a strange kind of thing hit me today as i was sipping too-sweet tea (india – god) from a too-small cup (double god) and listening to my tunage. as i often do to drown out the 40 bajillion decibels of bengali yelling that surround me each day. (as a further digression, how this country is not filled with deaf people, is literally beyond me.)

there is this line in a city and color song that goes: “i’ve seen a palace in london, i’ve seen a castle in wales – but i’d rather wake up beside you – and breathe that old familiar smell.”

it made me realize that, for probably the first time in my entire ridiculous life, i want complete and utter normalcy.

i know exactly what you’re going to say: “al, listen, you’ve been gone for a while and we all know you’re going kind of crazy. you’re totes homesick, so stop being so drama. lord.”

you’re perhaps right. and yet – while i am admittedly eager to get home for a number of reasons – i’m not sure you can sum up how i’m feeling to just missing the familiar.

i think i’m just really tired of being a complete wack-a-doo.

specifically, i’m tired of running around making exciting, exuberating, extreme choices that cause ripples – then big-ass waves – through my personal and professional life.

and this goes beyond the insane india factor, trust me. this is about the last 5 years chasing a  career path that, while super exotic, is consistently challenging from every possible angle. relentless, actually.  (blah blah blah – i know not the first person ever to feel this way, but hey, it’s about me al, remember?)

so yah, i can honestly say that for the first time in my entire life of always wanting things to be radically  non-standardized –  all i want right now is  unadulterated, inexplicable dullness.

frankly,  it’s making me kind of vomit in my mouth to admit all of this,  but what’s the point in holding back from you now? we’ve come so far together, kind readers.

within 2 weeks i’m going to be prancing around my kitchen at 11 am in a mink hat screaming at the top of my lungs to marvin gaye, drinking champagne (chardy after 12, where do you think i was raised – a barn?) while the diabolical dog perform his newest – and perhaps most highly anticipated – tap dance routine.

yup, normal.

eyes on the prize

you’d better bring a poster.

14 Oct

well, i will be back in just a few short weeks. yup, you can still giggle with excitement over this – i am, bitches.

it’s an exciting time! the babies who call me auntie al, plates upon plates of nachos, crisp fall weather, good wine, the diabolical tap-dancing dog and my car named veronica all await me. anxiously.

i’ve been trying to envision what it will be like to walk back onto canadian soil after almost 7 months living in this insane country of dust and spice, but i really can’t figure it out.

i play different scenarios in my head. i put varying forms of theme music to said scenarios –  as i do for all the important moments in my life, let’s be honest here. (often ending up on ac/dc’s ‘thunderstruck’ – obviously) but this is tough nut to crack – i can’t figure out what it’s going to be like.

brenna said something to me a few days ago that go me thinking. she said that  i would probably be feeling slightly nostalgic about india in the coming weeks. i kind of scoffed at this at first, but then the more i thought about it realized that my darling brenna was right.

i was riding in an auto the other night and i caught myself feeling sad that i would no longer have to risk my life to get from point a to point b. and then i started thinking about the heat, and how, while it sort of tries to suffocate you every time you step outside, it feels kinda like a big hug from mother earth.

yah, i know, it’s totally f*&ked up.

but i guess this is the way it works. while we have something, we aren’t fully satisfied with it. and when it’s gone, we realize that maybe it wasn’t so bad.

or maybe it was really that bad, but it was still mostly worth it. yes…that sounds better.

so i have no idea what it’s going to feel like to be back in canada.  but i do have a sense of what it’s going to be like to say goodbye to india. probably 37% sad and 63% happy. i feel like that’s a fair assessment given that i spent half of my time here being angry at 1 billion people. so it goes.

actually lovelies, i lied – i do know one thing about my return to canada. when i get to the airport and see you all standing there (because you will be, right?) you’d better be holding glitter-encrusted posters and putting forth your best twirling efforts.

all together now: “weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”

yahoo bitches!

t is for thanks. and turkey.

10 Oct

thanksgiving is a special time – good food, copious amounts of chilled chardy and entertaining family drama.  but sookie sookie, i have another, more secret, reason for loving thanksgiving.

before we get to that though, you may recall that i have told you the story of the first time husband and i met (a ball + vodka + a disappearing act). what i neglected to mention in that little tale is that in between the first meeting and our official coupledom, there was about seven months. (when i said i ran away – i wasn’t kidding…)

well it was seven months of being just friends – seven months of learning about each other and of building to that moment. you know, the moment when you realize that hey – i’d like him to be my more-than-a-friend.

and well for us that moment came on a thanksgiving weekend. we had been talking a lot, and one night – in typical ‘him’ fashion – he randomly invited me to travel five hours to come and spend the holiday with him and his friends.

now, i’m a logical human girl, so i knew this was kind of odd. i knew that most people would probably have said he should be wooing me in more obvious ways, like say, with a giant panda bear and maybe a string quartet and champers on a picnic blanket.

so after making mental lists, pivot tables and several venn diagrams on my options –  i swiftly got on a bus and made my way into the vast unknown.

and yup, since we hadn’t really spent much time together since the epic first meeting, it was a little awkward at the beginning. i mean, what did i know about this guy other than the fact that he dances well when drunk and likes pizza kind of a lot?

but then something funny happened.

i was standing in his parents’ kitchen, freezing my tush off and looking out on the deck at him with his big group of friends. they were all talking and laughing and telling stories from 10 + years ago.

i just stood there thinking: “wow, this guy loves his friends. and they love him. and i love that. oh f*&k…”

and i feel like, honestly, that was the moment – simple as it was. i knew that in that instant i would probably never be a so-called logical human girl around him again.  if he wanted me to take a bus to the moon i totes would: c’est l’amour.

so thanksgiving is a wonderful time for all of the normal reasons – but it will always be just a little bit more perfectly perfect for me and him. i will simply never forget that feeling of standing in a freezing cold kitchen being insanely and irrationally thankful that he asked me to come visit.

happy turkey day, kind readers. (and happy non-wedding anniversary, kind husband.)

t is for thanks

a happy post.

1 Oct

i have always been one for feedback, because i think it helps us all become better versions of ourselves. versions 2.0, if you will.

so if you told me that my mink hat, half lit cigar and glass of chilled chardonnay made me look like a very fancy, yet clearly washed up, 1920s hooker, i would take your criticism and work incredibly hard to make improvements. (you know, by removing the hat and cigar, at least.)

and if you implied – ever so carefully of course – that my posts had perhaps become a pinch morose over the last little while – i would also accept this and type vigorously to incorporate your thoughts.

yup, i really am this obliging. it’s fun – right?  jazz hands everybody!

so, in the spirit of being happy, i should tell you that i have a big announcement.

but before i proceed, no, i am not with child. and nope, i have most definitely not found a real-life job yet, and no, for godsakes, i am not leaving the husband for a love affair with my awesome new camera, the tv or a bottle of wine…while those are all highly tempting items.

but i am coming home in december – for good. (um, at this point you are encouraged to jump around at your leisure while chanting: “al, al, al!“)

this decision was signed, sealed and delivered a few weeks ago and it’s just killed me not to reveal it until now.

frankly, my mum-ness on the issue has occurred because i’ve been trying to figure out how exactly to explain my reasons for leaving a few months early – without looking like i quit or gave up. although i am many strange and wonderful things, i do not throw my hands up and walk away when things get shitt-ay.

but after eating several packets of india’s fantastic version of the oreo (l’oreo, if you’d prefer to be fancy), consuming many pitchers of sangria and singing along to marvin gaye like a ferrel cat – i simply can’t figure out how to explain my reasons.

i guess they’re just too complicated for this ‘ol teenaged telephone convo of a blog.  and you know what – hey – that’s life.

bah, anyway, what’s truly important here is that i am coming and staying home in just 2 short months. home, where things are sometimes challenging, but where i can find the babies who call me auntie al, the good vino, the diabolical tap-dancing dog, my apartment pants and a good percentage of of you, kind readers. of course.

so you see – this really is a happy post. now come on everyone, let’s go twirl around our bedrooms with our arms open really wide screaming: “weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

the happiest looking picture for a happy post

the reasons we wake up.

16 Sep

i have been keeping a secret from you, oh loyal band of merry followers. well, many secrets actually, but now is not the time for all – just for one. a very special one, nonetheless. one that you can be a part of if you really wanted to.

my dirty secret is that i have lost a little of my gumption, my purpose, my what-for, if you will. yup, it’s the truth – this place has literally beat the shira out of me and i have started to wonder “why the f*&k am i here again?”

anyway, these days, in addition to going on a bear-hunt to rediscover my internal kick-ass-tastic warrior, i am working hard to find my inspiration in places other than my work. and one of these places is my sweet caroline.

now normally i try to avoid real-life names on this ‘ol teenage telephone conversation of a blog, um mostly because i like making up fake names and all, but this one is real. her name is caroline, and she is in fact very very sweet.

if you’ve been around for a while then you have heard me talk of the fav family – and sweet caroline would be one of them. they are well-known around these parts for many things: they brought the baby who calls me auntie al into the world, they got married in the most wonderful of ways and they sent an infamous box of love to india.

and well, they also got diagnosed with cancer.

sure, they didn’t collectively get the big ‘c’, but upon finding out that the fav daughter – aka caroline – was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer earlier this year at just 23, they may as well have all been diagnosed. that’s just the way they roll, and i love them for it.

a few weeks ago when i was thinking about my stories, you know, the ones that keep me up at night writing posts in my head -miss caroline came to mind. simply put: her story, and her, have helped inspire me to keep on keeping on despite feeling like i’ve lost my reasons for being.

when i asked her if she’d be interested in making an appearance on the blog, the much obliging caroline enthusiastically agreed to let me share her tale. and oh lordy, i had all these super grand plans to mould her story into a work of literary genius, using techniques like pathetic fallacy and foreshadowing. pulitzer quality stuff you guys, freeking pulitzer.

but in the end after a few tears and some failed attempts, i realized that caroline’s own words moved me more than anything i could ever write. so, here she is:

it all started in late october or early november 2010 when i found a lump in my left breast. i instantly panicked and asked my mom to check it out – she said that while it’s common for young girls to have cystic breasts, i should still get it looked at. so i went off to the doctor that evening.

my doctor assured me that since the lump was ‘shallow’ (i.e. close to the skin), was painful (breast cancer is most often not painful) and that it was close to the centre of my breast (breast cancer is usually under the armpit and deep to the ribcage), that it was not cancer.

regardless, he did a needle biopsy right then and there. he sent the sample away for testing and a week later it came back as a fibroadenoma – which is just like a cyst but fluid filled. to try and reduce the swelling – which was causing all the pain – he put me on a water pill and off i went. 

well, a few months later nothing had changed. i was not sleeping and could no longer wear a bra with underwire because the cyst was still so painful. so i went back to my doctor and begged, yes begged, him to remove the cyst. he was really reluctant because of the scarring potential, but on march 23rd of this year i finally had it removed.

on april 4th i was at sickkids hospital doing my work placement with the brain tumor research lab when i got a call from my mom saying i needed to get in touch with the doctor’s office right away. the office receptionist told me that i should come home immediately as the doctor wanted to check my incision. i found this weird because he had already checked it since the surgery – so naturally i ran to catch the next train home…stopping only to grab a mcflurry!

on the way to the doctor’s office my mom and i stayed calm, not speaking about what we thought the real reason for the visit might be. i cant quite remember what happened from the moment we got into the doctor’s office, only that i recall him saying: “well, it’s worse than we thought,” and “a very rare form of breast cancer”.

i cried very hard for what felt like an hour but was only really a few minutes. my mom hugged me and tried to stay calm, i really don’t remember much else about that appointment except for him telling me that i had a bone scan, mammogram, and ultrasound all booked within 2 days and that i should inform my university that i wouldn’t finish the semester.

honestly, the very first thing i thought after receiving the news was if my pregnant sister, who was 8 months along at this point, would be ok when she found out. i was so scared for her and the baby.

after finding out the news, we immediately called the whole family together and told them. everyone cried, asked questions and googled (obviously!) the disease and treatment processes.  from this point on, the whirlwind truly began. 

within a week i had MRIs, 9 biopsies, meetings with one of the most world famous breast cancer oncologists (due to the rarity of my case and my age), meetings with my new surgeon, and multiple family doctor visits to make sure mentally and emotionally stable.

originally it was thought that the doctors could just go in and do another lumpectomy to get the rest of the cancer – end scene! but as it often goes with cancer, nothing is ever quite as it seems. they decided to do a full mastectomy when the tests showed that the cancer, all 9 cm of it, was multi-focal (i.e many lumps all over the breast).

the big surgery was quickly set for april 27th. a week before the mastectomy my friends threw me an amazing “bye bye boobie party” and i made a mold of my breast with my sister and best friend. 

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the surgery went well, all things considered, and my whole family was at my side until i came home from the hospital on the afternoon of the 28th. i had home-care nurses for about 5 days to monitor healing, change dressings, and eventually take out the drains that were needed to get rid of all the fluid.

luckily my body healed ahead of schedule and i was up and moving just a few days later. i did many puzzles, took a whole lotta drugs and watched quite a few movies. i finally got a tv in my room because of this, hello bonus!

during the mastectomy they took out a number of lymph nodes from under my arm to test to see if the cancer was spreading through my body. we all waited anxiously for the results, which would help to decide next steps with the treatment. 

when the results came back clear a few days later, my mom, sister and i cried our eyes out and danced around to “sweet caroline” in the kitchen. ah-mazing!

so with this important information, i had appointments with my radiation oncologist and my regular oncologist to decide whether or not further treatment was necessary. it was determined that i would need preventative treatment, so nearing the end of the summer had a 28 day cycle (6 weeks) of daily radiation.

my mom drove me each and everyday to the hospital where i had my radiation treatment. to my surprise, the treatment didn’t hurt at all or anything. however, after heading home i was usually exhausted, so i would often sleep for the rest of the morning into early afternoon. when my treatment was over, my parents took me on a celebratory trip to the bahamas – a much-needed vacation!

and that brings us to today – cancer free.

while this whole thing has been difficult and painful, it has also been an empowering adventure. yes, i have been sad, but i did my best to not feel sorry for myself as it would not have accomplished anything. i didn’t cry very often and i didn’t whine very often – i just tried to get up every morning and smile and know that i’m going to be okay and that something good has to come from this.

my new saying is “ikigai” – it means “the reason you wake up in the morning”.  i just have to believe after all of this that my reason is to make a difference. i don’t know how, or when, or why right now – but one day i will know and i will take action.

although a life-event of this magnitude can often change people for the better, i can confidently tell you that caroline has just simply always been this pure of heart. and while i have long sat in admiration of her, sweet caroline’s story has reminded me that i must rise each day – the frustrations of kolkata or not – with a bone fide sense of purpose.

i am grateful to her for being so bad-ass and showing me the importance of being positive and proud – despite whatever real or metaphorical pile of shit you have stepped in that day.

so, with her story and general awesomeness in mind, those around caroline have rallied together to express their gratitude and support in the form of the ‘care bears’ – a brilliantly named team participating in the october 2 canadian breast cancer foundation ‘run for the cure’.

well, you may or may not have noticed, but i live in india. thus, i am not able to truly join in with the ‘care bears’.

instead, i am asking you, wonderful followers, to help turn my dirty-little-secret around by supporting one of caroline’s siblings – the fav family – in their fundraising pursuits as the ‘care bears’.  if not because you were moved by caroline’s story, but because you have a similar tale of strength you wish to celebrate. and celebrate it, you must.

donate now to a member of the fav family running on caroline’s ‘care bears’ team and support breast cancer research. to donate, choose a campaign page: fav brother, fav sister-in-law, fav sister or fav brother-in-law.

(huge high fives and thanks to those who can offer their support!)

well, i will soon start back at work after 2 weeks off. i can guarantee you that – while i may still be searching for my broader purpose – i will be applying “ikigai” in honor of caroline to rediscover my reasons for living here each day.

when skies are grey.

11 Sep

it’s 1 am and i am getting up in a few hours to leave for darjeeling (tea, mount everest, not kolkata) but had to tell you something i learned tonight about the husband.

we have this slideshow our wedding photographer put together of all the “best shots” from our tiny (well, miniature really) wedding in december. it’s a magical slideshow set to the beatles ‘here comes the sun’ and it makes me smile each time i watch it.

sometimes i watch it at work. sometimes i watch it while drinking chilled chardy and shedding an oh-so-tiny tear. sometimes i watch it with other people.

i thought that i was probably alone in this quiet little ritual. i mean, we’ve been married a while now, i figured the sheen of the day had somewhat worn off – especially for the husband.

but tonight, as i showed the slideshow to miss jp (aka the ringleader of the americans) the husband said: “i love this slideshow. i  love it. sometimes i watch it at work when i really miss you.”

my heart skipped about 34095 beats.

apparently the big man watches our little wedding slideshow at work when he misses me the mostest. in doing so he reflects on our special day, which in turn brings him just a little closer to me on the days when skies are grey.

what a revelation – i thought i was the only one sneaking a peek at this slideshow 7, 8 and 9 months out!

even though these drab and dreary days aren’t here right now, i just had to tell you that his tiny admission made me smile. and, if you haven’t already seen them, it made me want to share these very special wedding moments with you all.

if you are so inclined, you may view our small wedding slideshow here. (pictures courtesy of the brilliant andria lo of orange photography)

while we are off to darjeeling tomorrow to make new memories, i’ve realized that the moments of love and commitment from our wedding day will help carry us through trying times – no matter how many years pass. and this makes me think we did it right.

the thing about india.

1 Sep

so the funny thing about being thrust into this whole india situation is that i’ve come into contact with events almost everyday that have made me question life, my existence and the choices i’ve made.

frankly, it gets to be a bit exhausting.

but i think that, in addition to a deep appreciation for the more hilarious events in my life, what i’ve derived from all this is a true sense of”make it count“. (thank you jack dawson)

i’ve seen so much crazy stuff – kids getting hit by cars, animals taking their last breath, men having the shit kicked out of them and so on – that you know – i figure that if today is it, i want to go out feeling like i did it the right way.

so i’ve started saying what i want to say to those who need to hear it.

for me this has meant a simple “i love you” or “i am grateful for you” – to more complicated admissions like “i’m sorry i was a total see-you-next-tuesday”.

i think the latter is the more interesting of circumstances because it means having the guts to put yourself in a situation where you are likely to be told off. it hasn’t happened yet, but as i hit send last night on one of these “i’m sorry” notes to someone from a long time ago, i realized that i was opening myself up to a possible shit-storm of insults. so it goes i guess…maybe i’ll just avoid my inbox for a while.

(or only read emails whilst drinking chilled chardy. yes, this seems like the more reasonable option.)

the point is, that because of india i feel i truly understand how f*&king short life is. i think i get it now -and not just as a saying on a t-shirt or some shitty motivational cat poster – like i really get how fleeting our existences are. because i’ve seen it go down.

i kind of want to punch this cat in the face.

so i am trying to live my moments by being as honest as i can be. i want to know that when my time comes i can be confident that i left nothing unsaid that needed to be said, and nothing undone that should have been done.

so this is the thing about india: this insane – totally insane – country is teaching me to be humble and kind to those who have touched my life in a way i never imagined.

and i think that’s probably important.

the things we tell ourselves.

26 Aug

the moment i met the husband – in addition to thinking he was using pizza to get into my pants – i pretty much knew that he was for me.

(what can i say – the heart wants what it wants. and it wanted pizza, evidently.)

so after just 3 months of dating, when i made a big move to both be closer to him and get a better job, we had the hilarious task of sorting out our living arrangements and our oh-so-serious feelings.

would we move in together after just a short period of time as a couple – or would we bear the cost of two apartments? decisions , decisions.

well, even after a lot of casual side glances at each other and drunken professions of love (as you do), we decided to just find a place for me – he would continue living at his parents.  while there was no denying we were smitten, we weren’t ready to profess it to the world in the form of a shared apartment.

i mean, what would people say after all? my stars!

so we found the most perfectly perfect 1 bedroom place in an old converted century home for “me” to live in. the curved walls, warm paint colors and creeky floors were charming, and exactly what i’d hoped for.

except a funny thing happened on the way to not living together: we kinda started living together. despite the official party line being he was living at his parents, not-a-one night was spent apart in that small little pad. we cooked, ate, cleaned and cohabited as one – all in the name of living separately of course.

well, it took about 4 months of this fairly ridiculous charade before we finally threw our hands up, moved all of his shit over and started calling it “our” place.

after the admitted co-habitation.

it’s funny now looking back because i realize that while we both wanted to live together, we weren’t ready to face it.

so instead we put on a little show. we kept quietly saying stupid stuff like “oh you’re just staying over here a lot” and “your stuff is still at your parents so it’s not like you live here or anything!” to feel alright about what we really knew was going on.

these are the things we told ourselves. they may have been ridiculous lies that were fooling no one,  but they are what helped us get up each morning, put on our pantaloons and march firmly into the world feeling comfortable and calm. (tipping our tiny top hats along the way, of course.)

it’s not much different here in india. i often tell myself  what i need to hear  to live in a state of bliss (where the chilled chardonnay and sour cream n’ onion chips roam free), even if it’s just for a few moments.

and you know what – i’m totally 100% ok with this deal. india or no india – this is the way in which we sometimes face the un-face-able – no matter how big or small.

now when i tell people our story, they are still a little shocked by the fact that we actually moved in together after just 3 months.  so i always follow our beginnings, with:

“hey, you think that’s crazy – we got engaged, bought a house and got married within 6 months! and then i moved to india! that’s right, bitches!”

a good old fashioned bitch-fest.

19 Aug

true story.

so for me, the last three years have been one big  never-ending job hunt. while others have been climbing the corporate ladder,  i have been traipsing around from one thing to the next trying to build up a professional focus in economic development.

and alright, it’s going ok.  i have this gig  in india, i’m finally experiencing field-level microfinance operations and i am broadening my understanding of humankind. blah blah blah.

overall, i guess this crazy fellowship is removing some of the barriers to better economic development job opportunities.

despite what i am reaping from this year, it’s time once again to renew the perpetual job hunt in anticipation of my return home in six months.  so, over the last week i have been prowling the job boards looking for neat opportunities and exploring the qualifications.

all good in the hood right?

or not. holy f*&kballs – what i have sadly discovered with this new round of job hunting is that apparently a masters degree is the new bachelors degree! what a simply stellar turn of events!

not only did i have to spend a year away in the merde (that’s french for shit –god  i’m so fancy) to get a decent job at my current professional level,  i now have to go back to school for an mba or some other ridiculous business masters?

pretty sure that’s total crap.

because i can literally see some of your heads exploding (cough, hannah, cough), i will say that i see the value in higher education – obviously. actually, i hope to one day get an advanced degree.

but to have it so viciously imposed on me for non-executive, non-specialist roles is beyond annoying. i just honestly don’t buy it  that a masters is needed to realize success in these roles.

i am starting to think that this push for higher education qualifications is a conspiracy to get us to spend more money on degrees.

actually, right now i”m trying to work out the economics of how this would benefit the world’s rich – as the best conspiracies do – but a chorus line of dancing ferrel cats just plowed through my train of thought. and i’m now envisioning them in tiny little cabaret outfits. ohmygodyouguys they’re so cute. do do dah do do, heel toe, heel toe.

um, where was i?

ok while my conspiracy theory may be lacking real proof, the point is that i would just much rather pursue an advanced degree when i’m ready to sharpen my skills in an area i’m passionate about – and not just to satisfy a recruiter.

in the words of liz lemon: blerg.

the logic of fish and fear.

18 Aug

there are several things in this world that make me…for lack of a better phrase…highly suspicious. the first of these things are butterflies. the second are birds. and the third, oh the third, are fish.

while it is primarily by coincidence that these are all living things, my guess is it is not coincidental that each of these creatures has one unifying characteristic: unpredictability.

butterflies constantly flutter around getting all up in your business, birds can attack literally at any moment and fish – well for god sakes – they just slink around in a slimy state acting as if they own the joint. those bastards.

well, despite weeks of protest, the husband is about to embark on a 4 day fishing trip in northern bc where his primary goal will be to interact with most, if not all of the above. most terrifyingly of which are fish. more specifically, salmon.

have you ever actually seen a salmon? if not, well enjoy this visual feast:

evil bastards

they are really f*&king ugly! and what’s worse is that i’m almost positive they are the al capone’s of the ocean – ruling the seas with an iron fist (fish) looking for unsuspecting victims to maul.

this hardcore scientific reasoning is why i am completely and utterly beyond panicked about husband’s fishing trip.

i’m seriously not kidding when i say that for the last week i have been having these insane visions of le husband falling off a boat into seriously deep waters, freezing to death and/or being carried away by a band of salmon. which sounds sorta like fun, until you factor in their innate evil-dom.

was i scared about getting married? nope. moving 12,952 km away to india? nah. walking around seriously putrid kolkata slums day in and day out? come on now.

but am i – no joke – terrified for my husband’s safety as he takes those tiny putt-putt planes to no-cell reception no-internet northern bc to taunt salmon for 4 days. and narwhals. but don’t even get me started on narwhals.

so the things we fear are sometimes idiotic, but does that make them any less valid? probably not.

this being the case, today  – like many days come to think of it – i thank god for chilled chardonnay.

what the what?

your secret identities.

11 Aug

you know, blogging is kinda weird.

basically being a blogger means you push your heart and soul out into a public forum, only to be found, analyzed and probably severely mocked by your worst enemies. ok, and maybe a few others too.

(um, so more importantly, in my version of these events my enemies are smoking menthol cigarettes out of those cruella de ville cigarette holder thingys, drinking amaretto sours and wearing fur hats. what? i’m pretty sure this is the truth.)

i am perpetually curious, so i’m always wondering who is actually reading this crazy never-ending teenage telephone conversation. but because i can never truly know, i often just tell myself that other than maximus and the diabolical dog (he can totally read), not a lot of other people really care about these goings-on.

but it seems i was a scooch wrong. i mean, lord knows i’m no oprah, but it’s been nice to learn as of late that i do have a pack of friends along for this ride. having you reveal yourselves, kind readers, has been a treat.

but more than just your identities, it’s a pleasure to know that despite my ridiculous stories, endless swear words and habit of accusing 1.2 billion people of asshole-dom, you keep coming back for more.

(by the way – totally ask yourself what this says about you. god, you’re so weird.)

i’m officially 120 days in now, and while it may not seem like it, this post is all just to say thanks. thanks to those of you who i now know are with me, and thanks to those of you who have yet to show yourselves.

in closing, because they inspired this post by revealing their kind readership, and because i did spend their june wedding day mostly moping for lack of not-being-there-ness, i should say congrats to the fav family brother and sister-in-law. you are loved.

happy to be able to share this with you - what a beautiful couple!

 

the things that change us.

8 Aug

when i first interviewed for the fellowship in india everyone was all up in a huff-a-duff because i was about to get married. oddly, they seemed to accept that i was qualified for the job (which was mostly untrue), but could not understand that i was 2 seconds away from being someone’s wife.

the guy interviewing me said the following:

“there are two times in my life that i have significantly changed. the first was my freshman year of college and the second was my initial year in india. how will you deal with this as a couple?”

what-ever.

so apparently 2 past fellows who were married ended up divorced after spending the year apart from their respective spouses. fine, that’s sad stuff – but is that any reason to be all wackadoo and newlywedist? (kinda like racist…but for newlyweds. no? not good?)

sigh. despite how crazy i think it is that this fellowship could break up anyone’s marriage – the interview-guy’s words do subconsiously stick with me.

i often find myself wondering – how am i changing with each day that passes? am i changing so much that the husband won’t even recognize me? or worse, that the dog won’t recognize me? ohmysweetlord.

but i guess if i objectively float outside my body like a really attractive ghost, i can see that i am changing. just a smidge.

i am learning to just go with the flow. (“oh – is that a giant disgusting puddle that i must walk through – oh – did my sandal just break and now i have to go through it shoe-less? so it goes i guess. onward!”) it’s either go with the flow or cry 23 out of 24 hours. and that seems like a lot of work.

i am getting better at relinquishing control – although it is an ongoing challenge. (may i casually remind you of my month-long fight with india. ahem.)  despite my struggles, i have given up trying to have a mind-blowing impact on my company.  instead, i am just trying to make a few modest – yet still important -improvements that might help in future.

i’m also learning that i have a temper. literally kittens, i had to give myself a time out today because i was totally going to punch several faces after a shit-ton of idiocy ensued.  it was a real-live ‘supernanny’ time out too – one minute for each year of my age. that’s 27.5 minutes on the balcony watching cows eat grass. praise be to ‘supernanny’.

finally, i feel like i am truly internalizing – perhaps for the first time – the most important things in life: family, good friends and of course the diabolical dog. at the end of the day, these characters are really all that matters. (nachos excluded, of course.)

so yeah, there is likely some validity to the interview-guy’s cryptic speech on life change – india or no india.  but guess in the end it’s all about how we choose to change.

will you do it by fighting to bring those you love along for the ride, or will you just slowly become a person who kinda resembles this other dude who everyone used to know.

i’m opting for the former, mainly cause i like a good ‘ol fashioned challenge.

here for no other reason than i wish i lived inside it a little bit.

nothing that you are.

3 Aug

when i was about 13 i wrote a letter to my 30-year-old self that went something like this:

dear 30 year old al,

hey, how’s the future? well all’s good here i’m just kicking it in 1996 at my best friend trish’s* house and we’re totes planning what our lives are going to be like. she wants to be a dinosaur expert and marry ray* and live in australia.

as for me, i want to be an advertising executive, marry greg mcdaniels* and live in a 4 bedroom house with a terrier named irish.

so self, i hope that no matter where you are that you will find this letter one day and it will help you stay true to what you once really wanted.

love, al

*names have been changed to protect the guilty. and also because it’s fun to make up fake names for real a-hole people and talk about them  publicly. hey, just saying.

although i don’t have the letter in front of me, i give you a money-back guarantee that this is almost exactly what it contained – save a few details about being best friends for life with trish and wearing our broken heart be/fri  and st/ends necklaces to the grave. classic stuff.

bff 4 life. not.

so fast forward just 5 short years later my lost 18 year-old-self wrote yet another letter to future al.

this time it was an attempt to capture myself at 18 – because apparently i going through some kind of crisis like the plot of the 1991 movie “hook” where figured i’d grow up, become a yuppie jerk and forget how important it is to follow your dreams. or something.

i found this second letter shortly before leaving for india as i was rifling around looking for my travel neck pillow. i opened the letter, laughed hysterically, cried a little (both ironically and seriously) at how ridiculous i was and then 3-pointered it back into the box.

(i then watched the diabolical dog do a jaunty tap dance routine to “i got rhythm” for about 12 minutes. but that’s a whole other post.)

anyway, what made me think of these letters is our only-human propensity to sometimes be  so “in it” we can’t see “past it”.

ok sure, in my examples i was just a stupid angsty kid, but the phenomenon itself can be applied to about a bajillion (real number) things in this life: break ups, jobs, friendships, family, and yes, even moves around the world to countries comprised mostly of mud and spice.

something sneaky happens when we are blindly passionate, scared or committed – our rational thinking takes an indefinite caribbean vacay and we’re left romping around lost in the cold with no snowsuit having to pee.

basically, we lose our ability to see what really matters through all the other crap.

and really, the only way to find our way home, so to speak, is to surround ourselves with honest and hilarious people.  sometimes we all just need to be told to buck up, get our shit together and focus on the big goal. all in a way that doesn’t make us want to put our heads in the oven.

as evidenced by the above anecdotes, i could have probably used a few of those good people in my life over the years. but now, as i quietly and carefully “approach 30” (it’s not real if it’s in air quotes), i have several wonderful people helping me stay focused on what really matters.

and more than this, i’ve learned how to be one of these voices-of-sanity for others. most days, that is.

i didn’t become an advertising executive (do they even exist) and i didn’t marry greg mcdaniels, (he was always kind of a douche anyway) and i will never punish a dog with the name “irish”. so i guess, in the end, i am nothing like the person my younger self had so desperately hoped i would be.

but then again, what did she know?

you are not alone.

31 Jul

it’s been a crazy week.  i am literally  not joking when i say i haven’t found a good opportunity to hit up the b-log (real word) and tell you what’s truly going on.  basically, as i hinted in my last post, i got a bit of a life this week and basically chose that over you. get over it.

monday was a write off (cause it’s monday, and they suck), tuesday i was in the field, wednesday i was drunk off sangria, thursday i was drunk and then at harry potter 7 x 2, friday i got food poisoning, saturday was still poisoned and then sunday (i.e. today) was still poisoned but drunk.

(hey, doesn’t alcohol kill germs? no? bueller? bueller?)

basically the theme for all of these events has been the americans – as their kindness and excellent taste in wine has continued to make my life good.

for example, miss jp often lets me take advantage of her driver, comfortable beds and hot running water when i need it. she’s very considerate of my situation – which is much different than her own.

and today was no different, as i was invited to brunch with a whack of consulate workers. i was all thinking: “great, greasy bacon and eggs and maybe a little toasty-toast thrown in there – just what the doc ordered.”

oh but no. no no. no no no. i knew i was in trouble when mrs. a and mrs. b showed up in dresses and i was in boyfriend jeans and a white t-shit. f*&k.

in response to my obviously horrified face at their outfits miss jp’s exact words were: “i knew if i told you that we were going to a 5-star hotel you wouldn’t come. you look fine. this is on me.”

needless to say my glorious bacon-and-egg theory was shot to shit.

the hotel was super fancy-pants and the food was unquestionably deelish. everything was tiny versions of itself – tiny asparagus, tiny sangwiches and tiny tartlets – which is how i truly know it was 5-star.

when the yum brunch was over about 4.30, most everyone decided to head across to the hotel bar to continue the booze-fest. i was, of course, excited at this because as you may recall: girls just wanna have fun.

naturally, on the way over miss jp told me that: “rounds 1 through 3 are on us, so just enjoy.”

and while i was starting to feel like a bit of a charity case, i do enjoy beverages, so i figured i’d repay them all in hilarious jokes, early 90’s dance moves (you can’t touch this!) and snide remarks.

of course, i repaid in full.

three indian-cosmopolitans later i’m pretty sure the alcohol had killed all the food poisoning germs still living in my body and i was feeling good. like batman good.

but it was time to go, as all good things – even afternoons of drunken debauchery – must come to an end.  as we stepped back outside from the fancy lobbies-and-tiny-food of the 5-star hotel to get into the car i exclaimed: “wow, i almost forgot that i was in india there for a while.”

and i totes wasn’t kidding. i had actually forgotten for a while that i wasn’t at home, hanging out with a bunch of friends making jokes and dancing to mariah carey. as you do.

but then something really weird happened: mrs. a started to quietly cry.

i felt really awkward, seeing as i was sangwiched in between mrs. a and her wife in the car and i had no sweet f*&king idea what had upset her. so, like a minx,  i just tried to casually keep the conversation going so she could gather herself. (because for serious, there is nothing worse than being uncontrollably upset and having everyone ask you what’s wrong. i literally want to punch babies when that happens.)

as i got out of the car at miss jp’s i asked her what was wrong with mrs. a – honestly worried about her unexplained upset-ed-ness.

miss jp said, and i quote: “she just really hates india.”

oh, just that, eh? sure. no big deal. (!!!!!)

now don’t get me wrong, this place is the armpit of india: it’s dirty, crazy polluted, technologically-stunted, vulgar and just generally hard to live in. but for diplomats – with their giant apartments, huge salaries and drivers – i figured that hey, life wasn’t so bad here.

but no matter who you are, what you have or what you don’t – it’s just hard to be in this situation. mrs. a is here as a diplomatic spouse, she doesn’t have her family, great professional opportunities, good networking or the ability to do all the things she likely enjoys. so yah, it probably sucks for her.

and i guess before today i never really saw all of that. i just thought – what the frig do these jokers have to complain about?

but i was wrong. and in thinking about her tears i couldn’t help but tell myself: “al, you are not alone.”

while i feel for mrs. a more than anyone, it’s good to know that, upswing or downward funk, the bottom line is still the same: we all miss our lives at home.

now, i’m off to listen to some 60’s rock and think about the husband’s arrival in exactly 1 month…

hannah told me this was a nice picture (of me, duh). and even if it is old, im vain enough to believe her and put it on my blog.

girls just wanna have fun.

27 Jul

no joke, i am totally listening to ms. cyndi lauper whilst i compose this piece of literary genius. i kid, i kid.  we all know that nothing i write is genius.

anyway, i wanted to pop on and say “hey ya’ll” because it’s been almost a week since i’ve posted anything.

actually, now that i think about it, you’re all kind of bastards.

this is the longest i’ve gone without posting and not-a-one of you  has inquired as to where i’ve been.  what, do you have something better to do with your time? do you really?

hey mother, i’m talking to you. for shame.

bitterness aside, my silence is not stemming from a lack of interesting content. (because clearly i can pull interesting content out of my ass if i really wanted to.)

no, what’s been going on is much more exciting – i got a life!

not that sitting around drinking wine and listening to dirty southern rock is not fun, because lord knows it’s among my top 3 fav activities (behind making fun of strangers and having in depth socio-economic discussions with my diabolical dog), but it’s nice to actually be out of my apartment with real-life friends at real-life places.   like a real-life person!

and while i can’t fill you in on all the deets right now, mainly because i’m casually trying to post this while making every effort to hide what i’m doing from my overly inquisitive co-workers, i have so much to tell you.

so stay tuned, kitties.

and for now i leave you with this kicky movie poster the 80’s sjp and helen hunt classic ‘girls just wanna have fun’. god, i just love her arabesque in this picture.

that's all they really want bitches!

“..when the working day is done oh girls, they wanna have fun. girls just wanna have fun!”

who do you think you are.

22 Jul

i am a self-proclaimed nut in so many ways: i talk too much about things that happened a long time ago, i do things like get married and then move away and i’m in a very committed – and delicious – relationship with nachos.

all that aside, perhaps one of my nuttiest traits is that i just love all things old.

so while other kids were watching ‘90210′, i was locked in my room reading about the holocaust until 3 am. and when my (idiot) teenage compatriots were getting drunk and making out until their mouths exploded, i was learning about the russian revolution. yeah ok, it’s all very morbid and ridiculous, but it’s the truth: i love history.

but even more than just world history, i am fascinated by family history.

so when former ‘friends’ star lisa kudrow – or phoebe bouffay as i’d prefer we call her thankyouverymuch – produced a show this past winter called ‘who do you think you are?’ – i was immediately hooked.

i don’t know if you saw it, but basically it was all these fancy pants celebrities hunting down some aspect of their family’s history with the help of genealogists.  while i initially scoffed and quietly muttered: “oh phoebe, what are you up to now for god sakes…” – it was actually pretty cool!  most of the celebs learned about connections to major historical events and got a sense of who their ancestors actually were as people.

now i know you can’t believe everything the tv tells you (although i sort of do anyway…shhh), but phoebe bouffay’s show got me thinking – who do i think i am?

thanks to my brilliant grandfather i know a lot about my mother’s british family. he has kept – and more importantly shared – pictures, stories and family trees with me over the years which has painted a decent picture of who our family was.

but what has always been a complete mystery to me for 27 7/12 years is my dad’s family. it’s been on my bucket list for ages to talk to him about this stuff, but life happens and people move to india (as you do) and then you kind of forget to do things.

well, something interesting happened this week: i accidentally stumbled across my paternal grandmother’s family tree online – don’t ask how. and no joke with just those few clues, i have spent the last 48 hours falling down a veritable rabbit hole of my father’s family history – giddy as f&^k the whole time.

what i have learned (thanks to nova scotia’s amazing virtual records depository) is that on my father’s side  – both on my grandmother and grandfather – are among the earliest families to have settled in nova scotia in the 18th century.

my grandmother’s family lived in an archipelago off cape breton island called the isle de madame as far back as 1793, a part of the region’s hardcore acadian history. and on the other side, i learned that my grandfather’s family has been in lunenburg and the small hamlet of martin’s river since about 1750.

wowsers, i say.

isle de madame off cape breton island, nova scotia

honestly, i have always had suspicions about our maritime roots. but learning that we have significant history in the region is something different altogether – i never would have guessed our lineage is so rooted in canada’s early beginnings.

maybe, just maybe, the fact that we are from salt-of-the-earth maritime stock explains why i have always felt such an undeniable pull to nova scotia for as long as i can remember. it’s no secret really that this is where my heart lies.

anyway, all this jibber-jabber is just the beginning. now, armed with a few crudely constructed family trees, i want to know who these people were. what were they actually like. were they nice? did they struggle? what were their joys? what were their tragedies? you know, all the good stuff.

so, next summer – with husband and dog and dad in tow – i will make my annual pilgrimage to nova scotia. but this time we’ll head to the isle de madame and martin’s river to further explore our 5 + generations of history in the area.

and all because i’m a bit of a nut, bitches.

lunenburg, a unesco heritage site