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!”

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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?

an auspicious occasion.

16 Aug

there really weren’t many things that i had on my indian bucket list for the year. this is probably because, as you may recall, i put about 2 seconds of pre-thinking into this whole india thing before i actually stepped foot on the airplane. so it goes.

but poor planning aside, i did know that all i really wanted was to attend an indian marriage in some shape or form.

well kittens, tonight i am proud to say that item 1 of 1 on my bucket list is now accomplished! so i guess i can come home now. not.

don’t be mad, you little vipers, but i have been keeping the deep dark wedding invite a secret from you now for few weeks. just for fun, really. my colleague went around the office at the end of july handing out the invites and spreading the news of his impending nuptials.

it was all a very dropping-off-valentines-into-shoeboxes-circa-grade-3 kinda thing.

so fancy

an invite

and while i have been looking forward to the wedding, i have been super stressed about the dress code. so i sought outfit advice from the wonderful brenna d. and ended up pulling together this little number yesterday.

long chemise + leggings (typical style here) and VERY blinggy earrings borrowed from a friend

although i was invited to the full marriage, i only attended the reception with the rest of my co-workers. it was held at the groom’s home and everything was done up pretty intensely: layers of cloth in red and gold, exotic-seeming flowers and about a bajillion sparkles. man, indians love them some bling.

overall, it was a quiet affair. everyone was sitting around talking calmly and eating – definitely no ‘don’t stop beleiving’ sing-a-longs breaking out at this wedding. not that i was really waiting around for one. ahem.

the bride was quite done up, as i guess the bride usually is. basically she was sitting on the top floor of the house in a big ol fancy chair wearing garlands, layers of rich fabric, head dresses and tons of jewelry. frankly, she looked like a christmas ornament – but totally don’t tell her i said that m’kay?

the bride was just kind of awkwardly receiving guests, while the groom ran around greeting people and making sure everyone was pleased with the spread.

kindly taking a bit of a detour here, i will tell you that as i’ve poked around the issue of marriage celebrations with a few bengali friends, i’ve heard  many say that while they hate the meaning of the wedding rituals, they love the tradition of it all.

in other words, they fully get the wildly sexist undertones (such as making the bride sit around like an inanimate object, the least of the examples really) but still they find comfort in them as a rite of passage.  i can totally understand this mentality: being stuck somewhere between the past and present as we all are really.

anyway, let’s put a pin in all that talk for now.

so, after admiring the bride we all went to eat. bengalis are literally all food, all the time so there was a 10 course feast of fish, mutton, more fish and tons of desserts.

i haven’t mentioned this as of yet but im a practicing select-a-tarianism here – meaning i very very rarely eat any meat.  gross cuts, gross preparation, gross bird murder – end scene.

and well, because i’m delightfully anaphylactic with fish, it really bums the bengalis out when i attend their dinner parties. they fret and freak out over my eating habits and it’s generally very tiresome for everyone involved.

(tiresome in particular tonight for me because i was video-taped whilst eating the food with my hands in the traditional bengali style.  sigh, i guess it’s  a strange deal to have the tall blonde canadian girl at a wedding, so i tried to keep my cool with their crazy antics. but thanks to my newfound temper, this wasn’t easy.)

after seeing the christmas-bride, complimenting the house/food/dress to the groom and eating tons of grub – that was it. we went home.

generally, everyone was happy, warm and really welcoming at the marriage reception. small annoyances aside, it was nice to be a part of this special time in my colleague’s life.

that being said, i’m glad i didn’t attend the other days (yes, days) of the marriage. i feel satisfied that after tonight i have a good sense of what the full monty would be like: hopeful, beautiful and undoubtably exhausting.

in the end, i think the word auspicious about sums er right up.

thumbs up for bucket lists.

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 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

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?

he’s a good egg.

2 Aug

i have no idea what the phase ‘a good egg’ really means or where it originates from, but in my almost-asleep-dom i think it refers to someone or something being kind of awesome.

so tonight as i fall into my advil cold and flu slumber, (because apparently food poisoning has morphed into a cold? yeah, i said what the f*&k too.) i am using it to describe my husband.

because man, he’s a good egg.

i really won’t regale you with all the exact reasons, because there are lots and that could get boring really fast for everyone involved, but basically today he said all the right things at all the right moments – and i just really appreciated that.

(appreciated it in general, yes, but also appreciated it more specifically because my day consisted of breaking down in uncontrollable tears-o-rage in a hospital parking lot during a rainstorm. a story for another time, perhaps? then again, maybe not.)

whether it’s listening as i gab about my coworkers, the people who are disappointing, the people who are uplifting, the ever-plotting diabolical dog or our high maintenance house – he just mixes a mean cocktail of 1 part support, 1 part humor and 1 part love.

so as i literally drift off i am, more than anything, just really grateful for him today. as my friend and my more-than-a-friend.

(cause forget all the marriage crap, what’s obviously most important is that he’s totally dreamy.)

‘night bitches!

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

the best days of my (indian) life.

19 Jul

for the first two months that i was at work, miss j had bryan adams’ “summer of 69” as her cell phone ringer.  and like, not the whole song – no no – just the first guitar riff – you know bah, bah bah. bah, bah bah.

it was awesome – the first 3 times.

anyway, when i sat down to write this after a 14 hour day of traipsing around one of our branches – this little bryan adams memory popped into my head and i thought to myself: “f*&k that was an annoying ringtone – but the song is damn appropriate for today!”

today was one of the best days i’ve had here so far – and i’m going to walk you through these best moments right now! because like a flipping genius – i have photo documented all of them!!!

cue my standing ovation, please. no? ok. onward then.

moment 1: a roadside pick-me-up.

i was pretty conservative on roadside anything for my first couple months here, understandably of course. but since i seem to be have a new-found stomach of steel, the last six weeks i’ve been testing the roadside food waters. and man, the waters are delicious.

hack hack

today it was coconut milk, freshly hacked, followed by eating the soft coconut on the inside. it was the perfect morning pick-me-up. and as shown by this truly hideous picture of me, i needed a pick-me-up.

this is what 5.30 am and not caring looks like.

moment 2: the kids are alright.

as previously shown here, the indian kidlets are pretty cute – but capturing them on camera is not always easy. i usually have to go through several rounds of open-mouthed gawking (guess they don’t get a lot of white folks round their way), sometimes rude comments (“are you a man?” – really happened today thanks to an 8-year old) and genuine fear of the unknown.

but i have prevailed – mainly by dive-bombing them and taking their picture anyway. (like a minx.) i make sure to show the kidlets their pictures right away, because experience has shown me that they love love love seeing themselves on camera. and as soon as they see the shots they generally ham it up big time.

all except this girl – who i tried to capture several times, to no avail:

a last minute turn around from the camera - shy!

ironically, it’s my favorite shot of the day because in the end it captured her so completely perfectly as she moved away from me at the last second.

this motley crew was also a tough nut to crack. they were all watching me intently from afar and i totally camera dive-bombed them after being rejected a few times for a picture. (they literally scattered like flies at the sight of my camera but then slowly crept back to check me out)

completely un-posed. completely skeptical of me.

happily, this photo is completely un-posed. this is literally how they stood watching me, looking wonderfully skeptical as hell.

moment 3: monkey-ing around.

monkeys are preeeeetty much right up there with birds and fish for me – they’re just a little too unpredictable for my taste. so i’ll keep my monkeys in the zoo, thanks.

anyway, today i saw my first indian monkey. my colleague, we’ll call him mr ss, decided to taunt him by practicing his monkey calls – great! sadly for us though, the attempt ended with the monkey calling his monkey buddies to come kick our asses. we ran. the end.

little bastard

moment 4: and speaking of zoos.

we often get spectators during our repayment (photo documented here!) but today i was definitely the main attraction as we conducted the meeting. check it out:

checking me out through the window

they kids et al. were clamouring to get a peek at me, which struck me both as uncomfortable and endearing. and a bit zoo-ish.

moment 5: don’t go around it, go through it.

it’s the monsoon season here, as i have noted a few times now, and what this means is it’s all rain, all the time. a lot of the communities where we work have terrible drainage, so even when it’s not raining there are giant puddles of water.

well, mr. ss and the branch head decided to wear their fanciest dress shoes today (i wore my uniform of flip-flops – win) and they paid for it handsomely.

standing at a fairly substantial lake of water that separated us from our clients’ home, with no hope of tip-toeing around it in sight, i screamed: “shoes and socks off boys! we’re going through it!”

and while i was 50% joking, they actually obliged.

i thought that this was pretty awesome – considering the water was highly putrid. since something so hardcore would never happen at home, i was smiling the whole time – ankle-deep in shit and piss water for 1/2 a kilometer.

so, while i am sure you will draw your own conclusions about the overall greatness of my day, there is no better way to end this than with mr. adams:

“when i look back now, that summer seemed to last forever. and if i had the choice, yeah, id always wanna be there – those were the best days of my life.”

the things i wanted to ask you.

15 Jul

the husband told me not too long ago: “i love the blog posts that are funny. the other ones are ok too, but the funny ones are the best.”

and while i, more than anyone, appreciate the hilarity of an uncomfortable story at my expense,  i’ll tell you in advance husband (et al.) the following is sort of long and not really all that funny.

but you should read it anyway.

so i spent yesterday in the field not too far away from our office. the day started with two repayments in the morning – where we go to the ‘center’ (a pre-agreed client’s home) and collect their weekly loan installment.  i’ve seen probably fifty to sixty repayments so far, but yesterday morning’s was particularly amazing.

we turned off the bustling semi-urban street into an alley about 1.5 meters wide and maybe 1 km long. being a self-proclaimed giant, i had to crouch a good part of the time we were walking to save my head from being taken off by the roofs (rooves? who knows.)

well it may have been a tight space, but man was there ever life happening.

the water taps had just turned on so everyone was carting fresh water back to their houses. brightly colored and buckets were stacked outside almost every door. women, wearing their day dresses that look like nighties, were washing clothes and dishes in their kitchens and kids, cats and dogs were roaming around looking for trouble.

it amazed me how life can carry on, and carry on so vibrantly, in a confined space such as this one. it was like its own self-contained  world.

the alley

after finishing repayment and eating some lunch, we hosted 20 clients in the branch for their loan disbursement. with the indian microfinance crisis still affecting our business, disbursement is few and far between these days. t’s a real treat to see it go down.

the women arrived dressed to the nines  – quite a contrast from their housework attire in the morning. they had on brightly colored sarees with gold edging and they talked quietly among themselves while they waited.

disbursement day is an exciting time for them – one that has the potential to make things a little easier for their families in the coming year.

waiting for their loans

as i was sitting in the room with these women, i couldn’t stop staring. something about the contrast between the morning’s living conditions and the well-coiffed people sitting in the office really hit me more than usual.  so many things were running through my mind:

are you nice to your friends? do you ever bully your loan group members? do you treat your children with respect? do you worry if they will always take care of you? what will this money do for you? will you respect the process and repay? have you been truthful, or will you do anything to get money?

when the branch head eventually gave them their money about 30 minutes later they were beyond elated. they got almost giddy, but then tried to tone it down when they thought i was watching them. (which i was, like a jc-esque creeper)

with huge smiles on their faces, a quick goodbye “namaskar” (pronounced namoushkar) and carrying their purses filled with cash, the women left the branch. we then rushed off to facilitate a loan test.

these tests are administered to sanction a loan so that we can be confident that they understand the process and terms.  this is one of the realities of dealing with often uneducated clients who are – at times – desperate for money.

we meet the group in a community that is quite possibly the most active i have seen so far. it’s an urban slum located, almost ironically, across the street from a new crop of luxury apartments and a big shopping mall. 

kids and dogs were running everywhere,  rickshaw and motorbikes were trying to squeeze through the lanes, cooking, laundry and baths were happening by the pond – all in a small space like you could never imagine. the houses themselves had thatched walls and clay tile roofs – like most i’ve seen so far – and were finished off with tarps or garbage bags to protect the structures from the rain.

once you enter inside these homes you almost forget that they aren’t made of much more than bamboo.

the house for the test had two rooms, a separate kitchen with tiles and a gas stove like my own – they even had a table for eating. the other room had a tv, fan and a giant family bed with plenty of floor space for sitting. (although these houses perpetually smell damp and musty, this one was among the better i’ve been in)

the group was made of four women ranging in ages from 25 – 50.  the youngest, and the most vocal, was absolutely beautiful. she had lovely white straight teeth (fairly uncommon) and a warm face at which i just couldn’t stop staring. i am fully aware that this sounds weird – but hey –  beauty is beauty.

and seeing as she was so enchanting – and close to my age – my mind started to once again race with questions:

are you married? is your husband good to you? do you have children already? do you enjoy life? do you want more than this? do you know that there is more than this? what do you hope for? what do you look forward to? what is your biggest fear?

and as we wrapped up the test, i found it oddly hard to say goodbye to this woman and walk out of the slum.  for the first time since i got here i felt really struck by the poverty juxtaposed with how life goes innocently – almost unknowingly – on. it’s a sort of beautiful thing really, if you think about it.

and with another day under my belt, the journey continues to understand our clients.  my mind is, and always will be, buzzing with things that in any other context i could somehow manage to strategically ask and understand. but not here.  here, i have to observe and make my best guesses – and in many cases – i have to keep wondering.

so to the women who i have met, and who i will meet, if you somehow read this in a distant time, please know that these are the things i wanted to ask.  these are the things i wanted to learn from your lives.

whats behind door #1?

what we do to get by.

13 Jul

hannah told me a while back that you gotta do what you can to cope while living in a developing – or in india’s case, a transition – country.

(in hannah’s case this meant flashing the florida gator’s flag to every tanzanian, singing disney to herself and sneaking into the congo. you know, the typical stuff.)

for me, coping sometimes means drinking a bottle (or 46) of chilled chardy and then dancing around my apartment to 60s rock and roll.  sometimes it is allowing myself to feel brave, even if it’s just for a moment.

but mostly it means relying on the  the man i married.

the husband and i got into several good habits as soon as i landed in this crazy country of mud and spice. right off the bat we both bought tiny computers (1/2 because it was practical and 1/2 because he likes things that make him feel like a giant) and brushed off our skype accounts.

we committed to talking at least 2 times a day – at the beginning of my day and end of his, and at the end of my day and the middle of his. confused? sure ya are.

just carry the 2 and divide by 54.3 and you’ll deduce that what i’m trying to tell you is that we’re basically conversational wizards.  even if it’s only for 10 minutes at a time.

he's my #1

another thing we started a few days after i arrived was the ‘nighttime picture’. now i know this sounds like some kind of creepy sexual reference, but it’s not.  because that would be really awkward. for everyone involved.

anyway, l’epouse simply takes a picture of himself as he is wrapping up his day and sends it to my email. i usually receive it when i’m just booting up my computer at the office, so i always feel a little more connected to what he’s up to.

you know, seeing his face is not a bad way to start the day.

and our modest strategies seem to be helping me (and him) get through each day.  sure, we have our fights – lordy we’re both far from perfect – but we always figure it out. because that’s kinda the deal with the rings, i think.

so maybe it’s weird to lump the husband in with chardonnay and shameless self promotion tactics as coping mechanisms – but what can i say – he’s always going to be the #1 way i get by here.

but wine is a close #2.  (sorry sweetie)

about 90 days.

11 Jul

when i was 18 i put a countdown up on my bedroom wall noting the days until i was free from the evil grasp of high school. because my brain is full of random shit, i distinctly remember that this countdown started at 87 days.

i guess that at that particular moment 87 seemed like a lot of freeking days to be stuck hating your life every moment – as you do at 18. (wait – or was that just me? awkward.)

but as time has a tendency to do, my countdown slowly wore out, i graduated and then moved away for a very long time to recover from 5 years of self-inflicted emotional distress. higher education, jobs and a wedding happened – and soon it was 3,650 days later and i was living in india.

as of today i’ve been in this crazy country of mud and spice 90 days. and just like i did after graduating high school, i’m feeling pretty proud that i’ve made it this far.

(cause lord knows i never thought this whole “india” thing out very carefully – step 1: get a job, step 2: get on a plane, step 3: [crickets])

i am so proud of reaching day 90, in fact, that today when someone called me ‘brave’ – which i normally kind of hate – i secretly thought to myself: “dude, i am kind of f*&king brave! yeah! [insert end of the ‘breakfast club’ fist pump here please]”

but, admittedly, even with this perfectly fantastical 90-day milestone, i’m still counting the days – just like at 18. i’m really not trying to wish this year away, but i can’t help but be a pinch forward thinking.

it’s 51 days until le husband comes to hang out and 240 days until i will be toasting on canadian soil to my oh-so-super-brave year-long achievement. it’s 241 days until ill be driving around in my car named veronica to see the babies who call me auntie al. and it’s 241.5 days until i’ll be drinking a chilled chardy with said baby mamas. perfection.

my guess is that, much like my ridiculous tenure and subsequent escape from high school, on day 246-ish we will all be laughing about this whole crazy thing together.

me: “hey, remember that time i moved to india?”

you: “yeah…that was weird.”

july 11th is also 1/3 of team goodtimes - the italiana's - birthday. happy birthday darling girl! xox

the end of a really big fight.

10 Jul

well, its been almost 2 weeks since i took a break from india  prompted by the fact that the entire country (yes, entire) was acting like a bitch towards me. so i started talking about other important things, like my sister, minxeses (minkseses?) and my handicapped dog. as you do.

but now that’s all over. i am pleased to announce that after some heavy drinking, new earphones to listen to marvin gaye and an empathetic email from my friend josh – i am ready to end my really big fight with india.

i’m a little sad actually, because it was kind of fun being angry at 1.2 billion people for a while. sigh.

no, but realistically, i guess now is a good time to start an upswing because i had a good week. minus the fact that i caught the flu during the first half, i had a stellar few days visiting clients and their businesses in the field.

since my interest is primarily in financial services small businesses, it was wonderful to finally meet some truly amazing entrepreneurs who have literally pulled their family out of poverty.

at the risk of losing your easily-distracted interest (you’re basically cats, people), i will only tell you one story.

i met a  guy who takes old pants, pulls them apart and recycles them to make kicky shorts. he uses scraps of cloth from other garment vendors to add design detail to the new shorts and even resells the zippers from the original pants to make additional profit.

so not only is the guy running a highly environmentally-friendly social business, but he’s making a killing while doing it. he has been able to transform his family’s lifestyle.

it’s so f*&king badass!

on top of my field visits, work in general has been going suspiciously well.  i feel like i might be earning a smidge of respect from my colleagues and that my projects have a small hope of being successful.  don’t get me wrong, i’m still my perpetually cynical self – but at least there is a glimmer of hope now.

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so in celebration of the end of the big fight and my better-than-most week – i am currently drinking around 2 L of homemade sangria for which i trekked across the city this morning to procure the fixins.

now, i plan on getting completely belligerent and dancing around my apartment for the next 3 hours to 60’s rock and roll.

wish you were here yet?

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.

how to light a fire under your butt. like a minx.

5 Jul

as we previously discussed, india and i are on a break. so if you’re looking for pictures of cute babies and spices and other indian whatsits – move along for today okthankyouverymuch.

so i think i have finally pinpointed what’s been driving me bat-ass crazy about work for the last month: i’m completely and perfectly unmotivated.

i guess i never realized how much energy i derived from those around me until i came here. i mean, the days i’m in the field are obviously ripe with disney-song-esque inspiration, but as far as my day-to-day work environment goes it’s all very….meh.

at every job i’ve had so far i’ve had the pleasure of working with high-energy and ridiculously bananas people. so to experience less-than-bananas has been a real drain on my desire to do much of anything. (anything except eat sour cream and onion chips – because those little bastards have me hooked.)

my colleagues just don’t really seem to enjoy their work. personally, i don’t think they see how dynamic microfinance is in the big scheme of things. or they do, and they’re hiding it really well. either way, it’s meh.

so after weeks of moping around, depending on solely on the pounding of grape (real phrase) to make me happy – i am actively trying to find my groove. just call me stella, bitches.

and what i’ve decided is that i’ve been really afraid of moving projects forward without any clear support. while my projects are finally interesting, i know it’s going to be a complete disaster trying to make any of them successful based on how decisions are made and implemented here.

but that’s a totally lame reason to not try, right?

what popped into my head on saturday when i thought about this was the following experience:

about 13 years ago i was in muskoka visiting my most favorite family’s cottage. my most favorite auntie, being as sporty as she is, proposed going for a long distance swim in the lake.  now i have never been one to turn down a challenge, but i do not enjoy fish and other such lake-dwelling creatures. gag me with a spoon.

regardless,  i said something along the lines of “f*&k it” to myself and went for the swim anyway.  i was literally scared shitless the entire time – scared of touching logs in the water and of being slapped by fish fins. these are real-life fears, ok? god.

but despite how beyond panicked i was, i finished that swim like a champ.  and all these years later i still remember that it felt completely amazing – i was/am so proud.  there truly is nothing like taking something scary head on and saying: “nobody puts baby in a corner!”

(you’re thinking: “oh snap, she did not just quote patrick swayze!”- well i did. i freeking did.)

the aforementioned feat – no matter how seemingly small –  is actually motivating me today to not be paralyzed by all the failures that are surely about to rain down on me at work. while it’s sometimes ok to fail, it has never been ok in my books to give up trying.

so now what i’m going to do is say “f*&k it”, dive in and then keep swimming. like a minx. or is it mink?

this was a poorly thought out ending.

don't think that finding my groove = giving up pounding the grape. cause it doesn't. cheers friends!

that time i got lost on july 1st.

1 Jul

lots of things happened when i was 8. i distinctly remember that it was at 8 years old that i started thinking boys were ok (yes that young – get over it) and i learned the f-word. i  look back on the latter moment with a special fondness as the f-word has since become one of my most favorite words. it’s just so f*&king versatile.

anyway, something else happened when i was 8 – i got lost in the giant ottawa montreal canada day parade.

now i don’t remember a lot about this day other than the basic facts: i was chosen to be in the parade because i was a small blonde-haired blue eyed girl dressed in head-to-toe red (have i always been such a keener?). i held the canada flag in the parade. when the parade was over, i couldn’t find my parents in the maniacal crowds. i panicked. i panicked some more. i located a cop and cried. the cop located my parents.  the end.

after you have a semi-traumatizing childhood experience in a crowd of thousands of nutty canadian patriots – you sort of stop caring about canada day.  funny how that works…eh?

yes, i know that this event was almost 20 years ago (gasp) and i’ve had plenty of semi-traumatizing experiences since then to replace this one with. but brains are a tricky business – somehow they always choose to remember whatever they want. bastards.

(exhibit b: no matter how hard i try to forget that i ever did a dance routine by myself  to the hit 1993 c&c music factory song “gonna make you sweat (everybody dance now)” in a talent show in front the whole school, i just can’t. denim cut-offs and body suit included.)

lord i need a chilled glass of chardy.

anyway, the calendar tells me it’s canada day again.  and while i am generally unenthusiastic about this holiday, today i am mysteriously feeling a glimmer of national pride. all it took was 12,952 km between me and you!

as the americans told me a few weeks ago: “american and canadian passports are the only game in town here.” and they’re so right.

it seems like all my colleagues have talked about immigrating to canada at one point or another already. they know that we have  many of the things that india doesn’t – good infrastructure, job opportunities, better living conditions and decent health care. and niagara falls – we can’t forget niagara falls.

i say why shouldn’t they come to canada? india has too many people anyway – frankly it makes me suspicious.

so today, on the day we became a united people who watch hockey and drink beer, i feel proud to be from a country so highly regarded that others are willing to risk everything  to join it.  i guess for the first time in a while  my previously established canada day trauma hasn’t prevented me from appreciating this day of national pride. and that’s pretty cool.

but fear not – because if you haven’t figured it out already from this collection  of stories and swear words – i’ll find some new awesome canadian foible to bitch about soon.

in the words of regina george from “mean girls”:  love ya! [blows double kiss]

in an absence of canada-esque pictures, i thought this would amuse you. i know he looks angry, but really he loved this game.