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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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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

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.

the arrival of an infamous box.

10 Aug

the favorite family is so-called for many reasons: some of them do things like make the babe who calls me auntie al and create perfectly perfect wedding dresses.  others teach me the value of appropriately timed ‘friends’ quotes for almost any social situation – a skill i take seriously.

but more than anything, the favorite family is favorite because when they’re around i know that, no matter what happens, i will never be alone. it’s kinda like a never-ending hug.

so you can understand my excitement when i learned that they were sending a box – a box of love, if you will – all the way to india! (lord knows i love to stock-pile me some love – and chardonnay – for the crappiest of days here.)

but after successfully leaving canada the box-o-love went POOF and disappeared.

panic ensued.  hair was frantically pulled out. a few tears were shed. dramatic scenes took place with postal workers named wendy. (man, poor wendy)

but then something strange happened. just as curiously as the box vanished, today it showed at my apartment! sure, it was mostly bottomless and looked as if a ferret had rifled through the contents seeking out tiny top hats for an all-ferret production of ‘chicago’, but it was here – and that was all that mattered.

wowsers! the fav fam certainly delivered on their promise of love in a box.

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so tonight i spent the whole evening casually rearranging my new tokens and singing along to adele. it was beyond stellar.

i can almost 100% guarantee that thanks to the love box, this weekend i will be dancing around my apartment  wearing a canada t-shirt and an eye-sleep-cover thing whilst drinking chilled chardy and licking what was a bag of chocolate chips and is now just one giant chip. thank you heat.

so with that mental picture in mind, consider your mission accomplished fav fam. xo

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

conehead.

7 Jul

if this blog really were one long teenaged telephone conversation, like i aspire to make it, today’s post would start something like this:

ohmygosh – i have so much to tell you heather! but i can’t now cause mom just called me for dins – that wench – and if i don’t go right now she’s totally going to take away my croquet set. again. but i’ll call you later – m’kay? loves ya! [blows double kiss to the phone receiver]”

this dramatic monologue, other than attempting to loosely recreate the 80’s cult classic ‘heathers’ with a pinch of ‘mean girls’, is to inform you that i do have so have so much to tell you, but i don’t have time to divulge it now.

i’m on the first day of what has turned out to be 3 days in the field and i just can’t end my fight with india right now to fill you in.

actually, i guess i could have spent 3 hours filling you in tonight but instead i decided to continue my ‘arrested development’ season 2 and 3 marathon. (i realized on tuesday that i had actually been lying for several years when i said i’d seen, and subsequently loved, the entire ‘arrested development’ series.)

but something did happen yesterday evening that i couldn’t keep from you all, my fine loyalists….or some other less political, less 1837, less creepy sounding nickname.

may i present to you our formerly-fancy-turned-slightly-handicapped conehead dog:

now accepting cuddles and other outpourings of sympathy.

well, there was an incident mid-ball throw at the park yesterday and the furry member of our little family cut his right leg (as evidenced above) quite severely on some mysterious object.  blood everywhere. husband highly panicked. white carpet ruined. several stitches. gigantic vet bill we can’t afford. tempers flared. it’s all very lame really.

and while i am obviously gutted by this turn of events, i can’t help but chuckle just a smidge. there is something so wonderfully ironic about a dog wearing a red doggie car seatbelt and a cone at the same time.

so apparently car safety was covered, but we never thought to get him protective leg warmers and moon boots for the park – dammit!

so please send le husband and le conehead good vibes (i suggest working in the use of a carrier pigeon for dramatic effect) – because they’re feeling the pain this week. the no-al pain that is.

my imperfectly perfect sidekick.

29 Jun

you may or may not have noticed that india and i have been in a small fight for around three weeks now.  india has been hurling metaphorical dinner plates at me and i have been responding with snide and well-timed insults. like a minx.

how is it possible to be in a fight with a whole country, you ask? well if you take a gander at this, this and this – you may be able to read between the lines, and understand.

so i figured that india and i should have a temporary separation while i work on drawing up a peace treaty for the next eight months.

and because i can’t actually escape this crazy country of mud (formerly dust) and spice, i will do the next best thing: ignore it on my incredibly popular and widely read blog for a while.

take that india!

so today i will discuss my sister.  my beautiful, strange and unknowingly strong sister.

my mom tells these stories about how i was enamored with my little sister from the moment she waddled into our lives. while i feel like i was probably a skeptical and somewhat scheming child, one look from my chubby-as-hell baby sister – with her eyes that looked like 1/2 moons and giant smile – and i’m sure i was melted beurre. (that’s french for butter, i’m feeling fancy today, ok?)

what i remember from her as a kid was that she was always happy. you know, one of those kids to whom you could give a box and she’d be pleasantly mesmerized for hours? while she was never the most outgoing, she would almost always go along with whatever activity was the gout du jour with a spring in her step.

(cat fights between barbie and her bitch friend midge – check. swinging around on blankets on our basement floor – check. making a chalk city in our cul-de-sac – check. check checkity check check.)

but more than just happy-go-lucky, my sister was/is also wonderfully quirky. as a kid, she did awesome things like wear underpants on her head and play ‘office’ incessantly for days – days i tell you – on end.

and as an adult the tradition of quirkiness continues. while she has retired the underpants-on-head routine (as far as i know anyway), i have frequently caught her walking around wearing a garden bag engaged in controversial political discussions with my dog. (ok the latter is a lie, but it could happen. everyone knows my dog is very political. and sister does wear garden bags a lot.)

at this point, i’m sure you’re thinking: “al, so she’s a bloody ray of sunshine, we get it.”

alright, fine you caught me – while she is a ray of sunshine – there is a flip side: the girl has a temper. reddening face, semi-violent outbursts, screaming matches  – she’s probably the only person i am actually scared to see angry.  i like to call it her propensity to  ‘rule with an iron fist’  – or (the less politically correct) ‘stalin chic’.

she can be overbearing and outrageously irrational and she’s wildly stubborn and unwavering in many of her decisions. and sometimes, just sometimes,  i think she wears her hair too slicked back.

but hey, no one is perfect. like most things in life, my little sister comes with the good and the somewhat less good.

but what i want you to know about her, more than anything else really,  is that she’s got unquenchable inner strength.  she’s so strong, that she often doesn’t even know it.

and yet, she always finds a way to harness her power within and come out on top.  sure, the path to get there never seems to cut her any slack, but i am always amazed that she navigates it with a sense of humor, integrity and kindness. (she’s a much nicer person than me, let’s be honest.)

so sisters are weird. we love them, but they drive us crazy. they make great sidekicks, and the worst enemies.  and through it all we somehow can’t help but wonder if they’re not the most imperfectly perfect reflection of ourselves.

so i’m thinking about you sister, in the country-that-will-remain-nameless. because man, you’re pretty cool shit.

gangsters

i think she's fun

what would dad do?

19 Jun

if i think about the many things i have learned from my dad (e.g. how to drink wine out of fish-bowl sized glasses, why mushrooms must always be eaten with steak and pounds of garlic, how to love dirty southern rock and motown like your life depended on it), the thing that resonates the most is this: “al, always do the right thing.”

ya, it’s a mantra that is somewhat soap-box-ish, but it seems to have sunk into my sub-conscious and i just can’t get it out.

i’ve made my mistakes, but when it comes to the things that really matter i have always tried to think “what would dad do?” – usually knowing right away what his moral code would say.

and while the right thing is almost always the much more annoying and difficult thing –  in the end it’s usually the best choice. god, i hate it when my parents are right.

so when i thought about how to mark father’s day, you know, to say “thanks dad” for the moral compass and all, i knew that my usual embarrassing pictures en masse approach just wouldn’t work.

my dad, while clearly strong in morals, is weak in picture-taking abilities. and he totally does it on purpose, making a stupid face or talking while we’re all saying “cheese”, so as to sneakily ensure all shots are terrible.

where’s the fun in sharing those pictures, i ask you?

so after several minutes of procrastinating by hunting cockroaches and eating cheese slices, it hit me that what he would like, more than anything, are some shots of my charming neighborhood. monsoon season and all.

these are for you dad – happy father’s day from a land far, far away. xo

just around the corner - almost home!

i can't read bengali, but it's probably something political.

the construction site is looking a little swimming pool-esque.

it's raining. it's flooding. the view from my bedroom balcony.

walking to the main road, hoping the rain holds off.

no choice but to go through it.

eight if by sea.

10 Jun

tomorrow is the 2 month anniversary of my self-imposed indian exile. i know – time flies when you’re having fun, right?

i am a terrible packer, so as soon as i hit the ground in april i realized that i had forgotten some key items. things like bug spray, medication, mosquito net and so on. yes, i realize i’m an idiot – thanks.

my parents rushed to the rescue, and today – as a fitting marker of my 2 month milestone – i received the package they sent in april with these key items.

enjoy a peek into what they sent:

it's here! it's here!

oooooh excitement mounting...

the booty!

eye drops! thank jesus!

look at all this good stuff

how cute is my dad sending bug spray with a COMPASS?

i heart packages

hannah beat my parents out of the first package, so the lesson we learn here is the expediency of air mail.  one week by air- eight if by sea.

thanks family!

while she was sleeping.

29 May

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i have never been able to fall asleep easily.  when i was a little kid i would sit up at night rehashing the day and worrying about possible tornadoes, roaming serial killers and tiny murderous clowns on miniature motorbikes needless to say i spent many nights wishing sleep would find me.

and yet while i laid awake night after night, my sister would hop into bed and be out like a light.

finally one night enough was enough: wee al decided she wanted to find out how the heck her little sister was falling asleep so fast.

so i waited until my parents disappeared (to wherever parents disappear to when their young children are deemed asleep…) quietly slipped out of my bed and tip-toed across the gold shag carpet into my sister’s room. i inched closer to the edge of her bed and just watched, trying to discern her secret…

finally, i saw it: she was oh-so-subtly wiggling!

back and forth, to and fro the little minx was quietly shaking herself to sleep. brilliant, i thought! so i rushed back into my room, climbed up on my white metal bed and began shaking myself to sleep. shake shake shake….shake shake shake…shake. shake…

yah, it didn’t work.

now i was tired and angry. i had been cheated and i knew that my little sister had to pay for it.  so once again i quietly snuck back across the hall, peaked up over her bed and steadily began poking her. after a few minutes, upon realizing my prodding was yielding no reaction, i held her nose shut. (we have mouths for a reason people.)

but still nothing happened! the girl was so deeply asleep that even the most barbaric  of practices couldn’t wake her. so, i waved my white flag and shamefully crawled back to my room for another night of sleeplessness.

and gosh darn it, to this day i still have not found the secret to easy slumber while my sister continues forwad with no issues.  now, in my “more logical” adult-dom, i have decided that maybe her sleep secret goes a little deeper than just subtle shaking…

no one would argue that my sister is consistently giving, caring and kind, so, i truly believe that at the end of each day she just has less to worry about than i do.  she’s beyond good to everyone in her life and loves those around her to the fullest and it’s because of this that i know she finds peaceful sleep a cinch.

and really – despite my continued annoyance at laying awake night after night – who could ask for more than a sibling who reminds you to be better everyday.

so, dear sister, on this special day i wish you another 25 years of finding quick slumber. happy birthday!

welcome to your mid-twenties!

things your mom and i have learned.

18 May

a note from al: i’ve had this post ready to go since may 11th – the original bean due date – and  i’m excited to say that i can now officially post it!

sweet one, you just have no idea how long we’ve all been waiting for you! it has been months – years even.  and some of us, i won’t say which ones, have been waiting a lifetime.

so after all this anticipation i’m sure you can see why today is just the best day.

while i can’t be there in person to welcome you, this doesn’t mean i don’t love you.  cause man, do i love you.

in my lingering absence i have spent hour after hour during these last few weeks thinking about how i could celebrate your arrival home – while i’m 12,000 kilometers away from home.

and then it hit me.

i’d be the robin to your batman! the watson to your holmes! i’d give you all the best things your mom and i have learned together from 27 1/2 + 28 1/2 years on this earth.

lesson 1: never ride alone.

steph + al horsing around

life is better with more than one: your troubles are easier and your joys are greater. (also…your pinot grigio is always colder. but this is a convo 19 years hence. 18 1/2 if you’re lucky.) build strong and enduring friendships – cause partner – the ride will get bumpy and you’ll want someone there who loves you to guide you home. giddy up.

lesson 2:  just go with the flow.

steph + al getting creative.

sometimes things don’t always work out how you planned. from bad haircuts (me) to broken noses (your mom) , you just gotta work with what you’re given.  embrace the unexpected early on babe, and you’ll always ride fast and high.

lesson 3: do your own thing, chicken wing.

steph + al looking smokin'

from this day forward people will tell you who to be – mostly with your best interests at heart of course! but if your mom and i have learned anything, it’s this: make your decisions for you and no one else. you may end up dressed to the nines in a room full of threes, but at least you will have worn what you wanted.

lesson 4: think not always of thyself but of others.

steph + al caring, sharing and daring.

it pains me to report that you will have bad days – very bad days. but always remember that  out in the mists there is someone having a worse day than you.  be compassionate, be kind and be sympathetic to those around you.  nothing feels as good as spreading the love.

lesson 5: love the ones you’re with.

wait...three? we're missing two.

while family comes in different shapes and forms, it is without a doubt the most important thing in life. embrace these (sometimes crazy) people – cause while family members can be the hardest to love – they will always love you the hardest.

so you see baby dearest, while i simply can’t be there shower you and your amazing parents with love,  i hope that for now you will accept these perfectly proven pearls via your ma and i as sort of a ‘hey! you’re here and i love you!’ thing. cause, let me say it again, man i love you.

welcome home,  sweet sienna. xo

family matters.

7 May

ok kittens, we’re taking a step back from the usual barrage of sarcasm and self-deprecation to do some real-live thinking about real-live topics.

but first, may i present you with a ridiculous picture for your enjoyment:

sister and sister's consort being themselves.

so family is a big deal here, a way bigger deal than at home.  sure, we all know the odd fam who is questionably close, stays mostly within themselves and truly enjoy each other’s company 24/7, but i feel comfortable publically stating that this is the exception and not the rule.

maybe i’m cynical. so sue me.

we're pretty decent. could we be better?

but in kolkata it’s a completely different story.  i’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this over the last month and my conclusion is that while at home we promote a sense of individualism (spread your wings! live your life! follow the yellow brick road!) within our family units, here that just doesn’t really happen.

people feel a collective sense of duty to their parents, siblings and extended family that, while it may arguably be an obligation, is quite touching.

life in india seems to be centered around family meals, vacations and outings and i genuinely think that the people here love it. sure it’s all they may know, but that’s not the point is it.

family really matters in their lives.

i want you to know that i’m not saying all this because my family is le shit – because they’re not. (well most of them aren’t anyway. annnnd the ones who are will never read this so moving on…) but i do know that as canadians, north americans, ‘westerners’ or whatever – we don’t value family the way they do here.  and i’ve decided that i think it’s a little sad.

so, while i have always tried to create strong bonds with my entire crazy fam-jamily, i am challenging myself to be better.  and like me, i know you all can be better too.

remember: family matters.

well it’s pushing sunday here, so i wanted to be the first to wish my maximus – along with all the wonderful  new and soon-to-be-new mothers in my life – a very happy mother’s day.

happy mother's day, maximus.

it’s a bird, it’s a plane.

29 Apr

it’s actually neither – it’s my mom.

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so when i was a teenager i gave her a superhero name – maximus – because i thought it would be funny and potentially somewhat enraging to her. at 16 i figured that if she was going to act like she was in power all the time, she may as well have a name that fit.

although my (failed) teenage rebellion logic has mostly since left me – the nickname maximus has stuck to my mom. so much so that a few years ago she changed her license plate to read: “maximus1”. i’m not kidding.

(and as a sidenote, this year for my dad’s 60th birthday he got a matching license plate reading “grantus” – but that tomfoolery is a story for another day…)

all joking aside, i can clearly see now in my inifite adult-dom that maximus has always deserved her superhero name. she’s hardcore in eveything she does, just like a caped-crusader or man-in-black or green hornet thingy would be!

and i love her for this – because while it means shes stubborn and set in her ways –  it also means that she loves me harder than anyone else. uh… sorry darling husband, she birthed me. without drugs.

all of this is to say:

happy birthday maximus.  i’m loving you in india – where it’s now april 29th.

onion tartlet.

27 Apr
well chickens, there are times in your life when you feel like this:

feeling ready to party.

 and then, unfortunately for all, there are these times:

feeling (and looking) not so awesome.

sidenote: if you read the comments to this blog, you know that bra-head al is a little infamous around the team goodtimes family. in addition to being a stellar .jpg, bra-head al is a computer print-out popsicle-stick puppet that lives with hannah in florida. it usually makes an appearance in conjunction with one or 40 bottles of tequilla. ugh, sadly that’s not even my bra – just so you have the full effect.

anyway…

so weirdly enough today was a little of column a and a little of column b: feeling both like party dress al and like bra-on-head al. the good goes first.

starting early this morning i spent all day in the field experiencing microfinance in action for the first time ever.  what this meant is that i went to observe field officers collecting repayment from the clients at their homes or businesses well as visiting the microfinance institution’s branches.

at the risk of overdoing it (“the hills are alive with the sound of music…”), there really is no way to make anyone understand how amazing today was. and frankly i’m too lazy to try and you’re likely too lazy to read it, so let’s just call it mostly even for now.

ugh, on second thought since i can literally see my dad’s head exploding at my lack of detail, let me at least say the following. today i truly saw the depth of life here – the colors, smells and noises that define the people.  they were curious, warm, smart and really funny – which was wonderfully endearing.

today made my choice to come here seem that much more validated and i hope this is only the beginning.

but then…shit got sour.  “it’s like there’s rock bottom, then 50 feet of crap, and then me.” – well said, rachel greene. (although i’m maybe not at the below crap level quite yet…)

i’ve been feeling kind of funky the last 48 hours – and no, not jesus funky – as a weirdness creeped up on me. (and a further no, i’m not talking about juan carlo, although i should be because that bastard is one creepy creeper.) i’m talking about a round of homesickness.

this affliction many a traveller faces materialized today when mr. s called to say that because of the elections in west bengal tomorrow, i won’t be able to get my gas connection (read: cooking fuel) until thursday.  added onto this is the fact that both my bathrooms (read: toilets) are now not working – so i have no way to do my duties. doodies. doodles.

the alternative.

at home, people would care if i didn’t have access to a toilet 24/7 – here, not so much.

in the words of phoebe, perhaps this is : “part of, you know, the whole them-not-liking-you extravaganza!” really, is it possible they’ve figured me out already?

so i’m not sure where all this leaves things for today: feeling good or…not.

regardless, i do know this: my tv still works and i have 2 hours of syndicated “friends” episodes to look forward to each day before work. their lovable hijinks are always there to help me sort out all these complicated emotions.

and thank goodness, because seriously how else would i deal?