Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carrying watermelons

I first saw the movie Finding Nemo in French. It was at a cinema in Strasbourg known for showing movies in their original version with subtitles, so when we went to see Nemo I didn't think anything of it. Of course, being a children's movie it had been dubbed into French. Not that this was a problem in terms of comprehension for me, but in case you're wondering, no. It wasn't the same as it would have been in its original version. I remember whispering to my friend over halfway through, "Oh! I get it. The turtles are supposed to be Australian surfer dudes!" This was not conveyed very well in French, and it doesn't surprise me in the least.

Movies are always better in their original version, so you can hear the inflections of the voice. I'm not saying subtitles don't make a mockery of the dialogue, though. When my husband and I watch a French movie with English subtitles, I can't help but notice that someone will say something like, "Get out of here you limaceous endomorph! You make me sick!" and the subtitles will read "Leave now." At least they're not as bad as dubbed voiceovers though.

I was discussing this just today with a friend who informed me the plot of Dirty Dancing was subtly differerent when dubbed in French. When Baby delivers the classic line "I carried a watermelon" and then repeats it afterwards as though she can't believe how dumb she sounded, it's clear that she's already fallen hard for Johnny. But dubbed in French, she replies "Is it a crime to carry a watermelon?!" Not only have the words and the delivery changed, but with the change in language comes cultural imposition. French Baby doesn't go around making a fool of herself because she's madly in love with some unobtainable crush. French Baby is rather feisty.

To be honest, as a character I probably prefer French Baby, but she changes the original story. Anyway, I know I had my share of 'watermelon moments', and the original line at least makes me feel like a member of the 'I've just said something so pathetic I want to die' club, and I think we can all relate to that on some level.
* * *
I am very glad NaBloPoMo is over for another year. Hurray!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In sight of the finish line

I'm almost finished with NaBloPoMo, and I've got to say it's a bit of a relief. This year hasn't been an exercise in good writing (I freely admit some of my posts have been terrible) so much as an exercise in discipline. If you knew me outside of my professional life, you'd think this was the funniest thing you'd ever heard.

I'm not known for having great discipline or stamina. I've always been more of a sprinter in all things. Combine this with my competitive streak and you can understand why my father was greatly disappointed in my failure to love cross-country running. I knew I'd never be the winner. I wasn't built for long runs, and just finishing the race was not enough motivation in my eight year old mind. Often I'd stop and walk just as the finish line came into sight. It must have frustrated the spectators, but I didn't care. I was almost there and the hard part was over, so I deserved a little break, right?

This was how it was in school, too. Catch me at the beginning of the school year and I'd have a binder painstakingly labeled for every subject, my agenda constantly updated, and my notes clearly legible. By April I would be shoving outlines haphazardly into my backpack, and handing in assignments just in time - or sometimes late. At least I taught myself how to charm my teachers into accepting the late assignments, and to argue for better grades - two skills that actually have had bearing on my success as an introvert living in an extrovert world.

Plus I've managed to convince you you're reading a bona fide post, when really I'm just rambling about my brinksmanship. I WIN!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Moving on

Today we went and checked out a flat in the suburbs, as we're unsure if we'll stay in our current building next school year. This other flat isn't really any nicer than what we're currently in, but it has the undeniable advantage of being about half of what we're paying now. Still, it's a world away from inner London, and I think we both found it a little foreign.

"Smell that. I think it's what they call clean air."
"Shh! It's too quiet here to talk in a normal voice. We'd better whisper."

The area is nice, though, with wide, leafy streets. The high street seems lively(ish), and it has earned bonus points from me for having a Vietnamese restaurant. So we'll see. It's not the only place in contention for next year, but so far we like what we've seen.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Top 10 things to do in London

The other day a friend kindly sent me this article listing the top 10 things to do in London. I'm sorry, but whoever wrote this article has probably never been to London. The list is terrible, poorly researched (the bridge in the photo is actually called Tower Bridge), and definitely not the top 10 of things to see in London. While I appreciate that some items like the aquarium were added for the benefit of families with children, places like that are hardly unique enough to London to qualify in the top 10. If you must travel with your children, and frankly I don't see how that could ever be considered a vacation, take them to the Tower of London for pete's sake! There's enough gory history there to appease even the eye-rollingest of teenagers.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 things to do in London - catered to my own interests of course, but noteworthy nonetheless.

1) Tower of London - I have been several times, and each time I learn something new. The beefeaters are charming guides, there are numerous towers to explore, crown jewels to covet, and you get to see the place where Anne Boleyn had her head chopped off. WIN!

2) Westminster Abbey - This made it onto the list in the article, but I would give it the edge over St Paul's Cathedral. Both are beautiful, but the Abbey has lots of dead monarchs buried inside, plus the trend factor of being the church in which Will and Kate got married last year.

3) Borough Market - foodie heaven. Need I say more?

4) Regent's Park - gets my vote every spring for the most beautiful park in London.

5) The V&A museum - this has fast become my favourite museum. Excellent permanent collection, cool special exhibits, and much less crowded than the British Museum.

6) London's West End and other theatres - do yourself a favour and don't see a popular musical. Opt instead for a play like Pygmalion, or some Agatha Christie or Shakespear. The audience will consist of real Londoners and chances are there will be someone famous in the cast.

7) Westminster Palace and the riverbank - the houses of parliament are a must-see, and strolling along the river at night can't be beat.

8) Buckingham Palace - you'll have to get there early to beat the crowds before the changing of the guard, but like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Empire State Building in New York, it's one of those things you have to tick off your list.

9) The Churchill War Rooms - left as they were at the end of the 2nd World War (though I'm pretty sure the mannequins were placed there afterwards). Very cool history.

10) The bus - no need to take the underground, it's just full of disgruntled commuters like me. Take the bus instead and enjoy the scenery. Okay, I guess this one is pretty self-serving, but the bus does give you a better idea of where you are in the city.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tiny dinner party

I'm having two friends over for dinner tonight, which in our tiny studio qualifies as a dinner party. It's sort of in honour of American Thanksgiving, but since three of us are Canadian, it's probably not the best substitute. Suffice to say it has motivated me to scrub toilets and wipe off counters and actually put my clothes in the closet. And if you know me at all, you know I don't do that sort of thing very often, especially with such a dutiful husband to do them for me. He's at the library right now, though, so I'm braving the lysol alone. Wish me luck!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Variety - the spice of food

Let's continue with this food theme, shall we? Mostly because I deny myself dinner until my obligatory daily post is finished, and at this point I'm so hungry I think I'm hallucinating. Computer screens can look like a leg of jamon iberico, right? Okay, maybe not...

Yesterday I confessed to using a popular cooking shortcut, the no-cook lasagne noodle, and the fact that though it always fails to delight my tastebuds I keep going back to it. I think this happens to a lot of people, with a variety of products designed to make life in the kitchen easier. Lots of them do work, of course, but some of them don't - or at least not to the extent that the time saved is worth the inferior result.

I can't think of any more time-savers offhand, but I do know that I am almost always disappointed with substitute products for authentic exotic ingredients. If you don't live in a huge, cosmopolitan city like I do, you probably don't have a choice but to buy Mr Woo's Generic Stirfry Sauce (or some other subsitute product from the tiny 'foreign foods' section). That's unfortunate for you, but so long as you've never tasted the real thing I suppose you don't notice the difference.

When I first moved from my the city where I grew up to a small town in the Maritimes, I was shocked at how little choice there was at the supermarket. No bok choy in the produce, no fresh jalapenos, no spices more exotic than dried basil. I suppose there was an Oriental section - if Mr Noodle pots count as Oriental. Other than that, it was a pretty meat 'n' potatoes kind of place. Which is great if you like meat and potatoes. Every day. But I don't and I don't think it's too dramatic to say I nearly died from lack of variety. Yes, I'm sure that was the cause of my walking pneumonia, and not, you know, life at university.

Any products you love that save you time? Any decent substitutes? Any products the rest of us should avoid? Comment please. Especially you people from Russia who are on this site 10 times a day (who are you?) - though with my moniker you probably think I'm some sort of 'special bride service'. I'm not.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Delicious Detroit

We are getting close to the end, people, so close! I have found this year's NaBloPoMo to be much more difficult than last year for the obvious reason that this year I get up and go to work every day. It's not that I struggle for inspiration, or for topics to write about. There are loads I can think of each and every day. But I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and many of these are topics I'd like to fully cover. Topics like feminism, Latin American politics, food and music. Topics that require fact-checking, photos and links to various sources, or just more than a couple of paragraphs, and when I get home at the end of a 9 hour work day (because I'm also a keener at work) I just don't feel I can give them the writing prowess they deserve.

Plus I usually have to make dinner... and before you accuse me of domesticity, I'll confess that it's really my only chore. My husband doesn't like to cook. It's not that he can't, it's that he'd rather have a salad and bread than spend 2 hours fiddling with no-cook lasagne noodles only to have the result be crunchy and unpleasant (which is what happens when I decide to make lasagne, because I am always foolishly seduced by the no-cook noodles).

Last night I made honey-mustard chicken, though, and it turned out much better than I'd expected. I really do love food. I think I spend most of my day thinking up what I might eat next. One of my favourite things about the Portuguese language is that you can use the word 'delicious' to describe a good-looking guy or gal. So given my obsession with food, I was stoked to see this article in the Guardian today. I have been to Detroit on more than one occasion. Much of my husband's family is from that area, and yet I have never been to the food market mentioned, or eaten one of those delicious-looking hot dogs. Why haven't I? I would have been much more excited to visit the city if I'd known how delicious it was. Not that I wasn't excited to visit my husband's birthplace, of course, but this just puts it on a whole new level.

Next time, I'm going to demand
ask politely to go to these food joints. The in-laws have been holding out on me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You know you're a Londoner when you...

1) Routinely go to places like Paris, Malaga, or Rome on vacation, but never go to Glasgow.

2) Use pointy elbows to get past slow-walking tourists.

3) Defend your neighbourhood pub above all others.

4) Subscribe to various 'what's going on in London' emails... then only attend a handful of events.

5) Constantly feel guilty for not going to more events/museums/galleries, and so sign up for more newsletters.

6) Know that it's faster to walk most places downtown... the tube map is not to scale, oh foolish tourists clogging up the underground.

7) Understand the term 'Boris bike'.

8) Feel smug and superior every time you save money with the Taste Card.

9) Complain about the ridiculously high cost of living...

10) ...but refuse to live anywhere else.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

London limerick

I'm sitting here writing at work,
'Cause the trains had to go all beserk.
I have to work late
When I don't want to wait
London transport, I think you're a jerk!

Okay, admittedly not my best effort on the poetry front, but I wrote it in 8 minutes so cut me some slack.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Crazytown

I think the city's going a little squirrelly. Christmas is just over a month away and the annual scramble has commenced at work to get everything done before people go on holidays. It's making commuters (me) grumpier than ever, because fellow commuters (you know who you are) have been struck down with Christmasitis - the disease all Brits get when it becomes clear they must drink from morning 'til night if they are to train their livers for the multitude of Christmas parties ahead.

Okay, I don't know if any of them are actually drunk in the morning, but I was definitely forced to bring out the pointy elbows this morning. One fellow had the nerve to stand on the left on an extremely long escalator so he could talk to his friend on the right. I came up behind him and tutted loudly (oh, yes I did, and I'm not the least ashamed). I'm sure I greatly embarrassed my husband, but it got me results. Commuter's friend said to him 'You're being tutted at,' and as the offender moved out of the way I gave him my most charming smile laced with disapproval.

Another fellow thought the pole in the middle of the carriage was his to lean against, leaving me with nothing to hold on to (as I am far too short to comfortably reach the bars above the seats). I rectified that by jabbing my thumb into his back. 'Sorry!' I singsonged as he jumped away, 'just trying to hold on'.

London, you're going soft. Christmas may be the time for goodwill, but that time has not yet come. In the meantime, my commute had better be filled with people like me. We may be ill-tempered and ruthless, but at least we all obey the same rules.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Two years

Another year of marriage has come and gone, and we have not killed each other in this tiny flat - yay! Yes, yes, I know marriage is more than just not strangling one another, but I refuse to get all gushy in this blog. Suffice to say we're pretty darn happy. And to avoid last year's anniversary fiasco, I am taking off my apron and we are celebrating in style at our favourite restaurant.

Also, this afternoon we are going to Spitalfields market and I am very excited. Though I am having trouble deciding what to wear. Michael loves the area, with its air of industrial chic, and though I quite like it, I am definitely more of a chic chic girl. I always feel I'm not cool enough for the East end, and I have a feeling my usual weekend uniform of pearls and cashmere doesn't really fit in with all the hipsters and their vintage tees and urban frocks.

Plus, I totally don't have enough piercings or tattoos. Hey, that's what I can do to show my love for my husband on this, our 2nd anniversary. I'll get a pair of those hideous earrings that make your piercing holes bigger. Nothing says love like an earlobe you can stick your finger through!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

London love




I set out to accomplish nothing today, and I was well on my way to achieving my goal when I remembered it was still NaBloPoMo. I could wax poetic about why I love London, but I figure the view out my window can explain it better than I can.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving, ABC style

People, this year I actually remembered American thanksgiving even without the help of various American sit-com Thanksgiving specials to remind me. Am I on the ball, or what? It's next week, right? I think it's supposed to be on a Thursday, but that will go out the window as I don't have the day off. Nor Friday. So Saturday it is! I'm thinking of doing a turbaconducken with a cherpumple cake for dessert. Michael will be so pleased, right? Okay, maybe a roast chicken, maybe some mashed potatoes, a veg, and something pumpkinny would be better.

We can pretend we've got the whole family coming over, and watch football, and Michael can shout out things like 'Go team!' and 'Get me another beer, woman!' whereupon I will pretend to be mad at him, but eventually go get his beer because I love the rascal. I wonder if there are any children we can borrow to perform a pageant for us, and make us hideous centrepieces... It will be exactly as American TV has told me it would be all these years.

Then, fat on feast and drunk on pumpkin punch, we'll walk down to the Thames and throw a box of Twinnings English Breakfast in the river, as a symbolic gesture of patriotism toward America the beautiful - and then I will even sing America the Beautiful (even though I don't know the words), and we will declare it to have been the best Thanksgiving ever!

Sometimes I kind of wish I were a character in an American sit-com because all of that actually sounds pretty fun, minus the mysoginistic husband bit. He'll never agree to say sexist things to me, though, so my dream of the perfect TV American Thanksgiving is ruined. We'll have to do what real American families do on this, their most blessed of holidays. Which reminds me, what does a non-TV American Thanksgiving consist of? I hope people play scrabble. I love scrabble.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Edwina and the dreaded homework

I had been staring at my computer screen for the last fifteen minutes wondering what to write when the answer came to me: I'll get my mummy to help me out - thanks mum!

When I was a little girl my mother would often tell me stories about another little girl named Edwina. Edwina was just like me. She had blond hair, she liked hot buttered toast, and she lived with her family in a nice neighbourhood that was just like our neighbourhood. The following is a story my mother wrote about an older and wiser Edwina when I was in my final year of undergraduate uni, finishing up my thesis, and looking forward to the real world (I was so foolish then).

Once upon a time there was a girl named Edwina who lived with her mother
and father, and her little brother and sister, and her beloved dog named
Whim.

Edwina liked to do a lot of different things. She liked to play soccer,
she liked to read, she liked to play tag with her dog, she liked to hang
out with her friends, she liked to watch TV. What she did not like to
do was her homework.

Edwina hated doing homework. She would rather do anything than her
homework. She would even prefer cleaning up the dog poop in the
backyard. Every day after school, her mother would come home to find
her watching reruns of sitcoms like "Full House", or nature shows like
"Lorne Greene's New Wilderness". Edwina preferred watching wildebeest
die violently to doing worksheets. She would rather look at obnoxious
little girls with side ponytails than at math equations.

"What is it about homework that you hate so much?" her mother asked
plaintively.
"It's the "work" part of it, Mom," Edwina answered loftily, "That's the
worst. Those tachers think I have nothing better to do with my time.
They've got some nerve!"

In desperation, Edwina's parents tried everything they could think of to
get her to do her homework. They bribed her with treats; they took away
privileges. They pleaded, cajoled and threatened. But every day the
struggle began anew. With the passage of time, as projects became more
complicated and deadlines loomed ever larger, the struggle over homework
took on epic proportions. But eventually, Edwina learned a valuable
lesson. She learned what was the absolute minimum amount of homework
required to both keep her grades at a respectable level, and prevent her
parents from a complete breakdown.

And so she skimmed along through school until one day when she decided
that it wasn't just the "work" part of of homework that she despised.
She wasn't keen on the "home" aspect of it, either. So Edwina packed up
her bags and moved to a school far, far away. Still she could not
escape the dreaded homework.

At her new school, the teachers were even more harsh, and the homework
assignments more time-consuming and cruelly complex. Edwina sometimes
had to work 10% harder than she had ever worked in her life! But she
reached deep into the core of her being, and with a tremendous effort,
she managed to complete almost every asssignment, most of them on time.

Soon, it was the very last week of school ever. The very last, biggest,
worst assignment was due. Would Edwina be able to summon enough courage
and energy to finish that assignment and be free forever from the
scourge of homework? Or would she succumb to fatigue and ennui, and
like the hapless wildebeest, be CRUSHED in the jaws of HOMEWORK? ...
... ... ...

I haven't written the ending yet, but I think Edwina found the strength
of ten Edwinas plus two, and just finished the damn thing so she could
fly off to Europe with a song in her heart.

And fly off I did!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Odd combos

Today is one of those days I wish I were back in Rio. Mostly because winter has finally arrived in London and it is stinkin' cold and dark. Sitting in my freezing office, I dreamed of hot beaches and cold juices. Also, I really, really wanted a grilled cheese and banana sandwich.

I know, it sounds crazy, right? But once you've tried one, you'll never go back to eating plain grilled cheese ever again. Don't think cheddar, because that would indeed be gross. The perfect grilled cheese and banana sandwich is made with soft white bread, firm bananas, and queijo de minas, a fresh and mild cheese with a tiny hint of saltiness - and a light sprinkling of cinnamon, if you're feeling creative.

When we were eight years old, my friend, Zoe, and I would draw up menus for 'disgusting sandwiches', and take turns trying to gross each other out. She was a much better artist, but I think I won extra points in the gross-out category. Still, we probably would have thought a grilled cheese and banana sandwich was weird (especially me, believing as I did that cheese was the root of all evil).

I think everyone's palate enjoys at least one odd combo. Michael eats raw broccoli with yellow mustard. I love Old Dutch jalapeño and cheddar chips with a cold glass of milk. Tell me about your weird but wonderful food combinations, I beg you. I can't find queijo de minas or Old Dutch here so I'm looking for the next great thing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finally home

My own neighbourhood is my favourite place these days. It's been just over a year since we moved back to London, and I finally feel like I belong here again. This neighbourhood is now mine, although I technically have to share it with loads of other residents, not to mention all the slow walking tourists, and I've never been much good at sharing. I like to think of it as mine and mine alone. I know its streets lined with buildings converted to hotels. I know that it takes us less than 10 minutes to get to Hyde Park, and less than 5 to get to our favourite pub. We have a favourite pub.

I can tell you which restaurants to avoid (nearly all of them, tourist traps the lot) and which are gems (the tiny Malaysian cafe around the corner and the bustling 7£ pizza joint). On hot summer nights we can hear the music from the concerts in the park, the sound travelling straight through our open window. Though the traffic is quite heavy on the main street, we can sit on the benches in our beautifully tended square and never notice the fumes. On foggy winter mornings, a fox regularly frequents the square, sitting boldly out in the open.

But it's not just the neighbourhood itself that I love. It's the freedom it offers, opening doors to other parts of London. I can walk out the front door of our building and within minutes have access to five different underground lines. A 10 minute walk east and I'm on Edgware Rd, its smells of delicious grilled meat mingling with the sweet scent of the hookah pipes. A 10 minute walk west and I'm in Queensway with my choice of dim sum joints, and even a Brazilian imports store. Further on is Notting Hill, made famous by the movie and filled with throngs of tourists on the weekend, but also home to the Gate Cinema where we while away the occasional afternoon watching a movie while sitting on plush red velvet chairs.

It has taken a year of careful exploration, learning the quirks and foibles of this place, but I finally feel at home. Now every day I step out onto its streets, perfectly in synch with my surroundings.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rio and Rocinha



No one was less surprised than me (except maybe this gal, and this gal) to learn that Rio's police executed a swift takeover of Rocinha last weekend. It had been coming for a while now, and with previous raids on other favelas in the lead-up to the World Cup and the Olympics, it was only a matter of time before they went into Rocinha. In fact, I'm surprised it took them this long, considering the favela's position smack up against one of Rio's most affluent and touristy neighbourhoods.

Although I found the articles on the subject to be well-written overall, I thought it interesting that the tone of the media should indicate such surprise at the fact that the police were met with very little resistance. Yes, there were the drug lords, but what other resistance were they expecting, really? Whole families coming out of their homes with guns blazing? Anyone who's ever been inside Latin America's so-called biggest slum knows that many people who live there get up every morning and go to work to earn a living as cleaners, maids, security guards, and street vendors among others. Jobs like these pay precious little, and it's not for lack of hard work that many families can only afford to live in a favela. Indeed Rocinha is expensive by most favela standards, with electricity, running water and TV.

Having lived in almost a year in Rio de Janeiro, and been to Rocinha on more than one occasion, I know very well that the favela has its share of problems. And these problems aren't likely to disappear anytime soon, even with police presence. You can chic the favela up all you like, you can talk about favela de luiz, favela culture, favela fashion, favela funk. You can send tourists up the sprawling maze of precarious structures to see for themselves, so they can say they've seen the 'real Rio'. But until the government improves its infrastructure, builds schools, sets up community support, provides health centres, and teaches proper sex education, the problem is only going to get worse. What happens when, after the Olympics, the police withdraw from Rio's favelas? I can guarantee you, within twenty four hours, the drug lords will have taken it back, and business will be booming.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ahead of the game

Today I went Christmas shopping, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I know, I know, November 13 is ridiculously early to start. But London just gets so insane during the holidays that I don't dare set foot in a shop after December 1st. The Brits may be calm and orderly, queuing patiently for hours on end, but come December it's every girl for herself. You have to admire the British love of Christmas but must they bring their entire families of screaming children and dogs and strollers into the store? It's a scary Shopaholic meets James Harriot meets Supernanny scenario, and one that I hope to avoid this year.

Which is why I'm being proactive. I went and bought all of Michael's stocking stuffers, plus two cute but cheap stockings we could use this year. They even came with name plates you can insert into the top of the stocking, and though they actually had my name (proof of its rise in popularity since 1983), it was in purple, and what kind of a Christmassy colour is that? My friend kindly suggested I give my husband a heart attack and buy the plate that said 'Baby's 1st Christmas', but I didn't feel like becoming a young widow or sleeping on the couch for the next week - we don't even have a couch so you can imagine how uncomfortable that would be. In the end, I settled for a green 'M' and a red 'C'.

I can't tell you what else I bought, though, or it wouldn't be a surprise for Michael who actually reads my blog because he's supportive and loving and I get mad if he doesn't. Just take my word for it. I'm ahead of the game, and feeling pretty darn smug about it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Expat traditions

I've never been a fan of introspective blog writing. Probably because it's just too close to a journal or a diary, two things I've never kept because the idea of someone reading my innermost thoughts makes me very uncomfortable. That and the fact that I don't really like to emote hither and yon, which could be the WASP in me, and also the fact that I spent the majority of my teenage years with a sadistic trainer who berated anyone who dared so much as tear up after a bad round in competition.

My ice-queen veneer firmly intact, I have no desire to use any of the NaBlo prompts so far. I don't want to write about things like 'the time I was really sad for no reason', or 'things that make my heart brim with joy'. So I'm making up my own prompt: traditions.

We now apparently have a tradition of going to the fireworks at the Lord Mayor's Show every year. Though I guess it depends on when you can classify something as a tradition (after 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?). It's something we first went to as young(er) grad students, back when we were 'just friends'. Michael didn't have many friends (that I noticed), and I wanted a warm body to cuddle in case it got cold next to the Thames. It was good fun, that first year, and we've been every year since - minus the year we spent in Korea, and the year we spent in Canada. I suppose it's what you might call a tradition now, and when you've moved around as much as I have in the last 10 years, it's kind of nice to be able to form a routine.

This year was excellent. We got a prime spot right near the fireworks, and I wasn't stuck behind a tall person, or any ladies with big hair or big hats. Afterwards we went for dinner in Holborn, just like we did last year. While it's not as important a tradition as, say, making sure I get pampered on my birthday, I now believe it has firmly inserted itself into our yearly calendar. When I get homesick, I just remind myself to look forward to events like this - reasons to love my life abroad.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Don't forget your poppy

Last year I posted this about my great-great uncle and my grandfather - men who served in WWI and WWII, respectively. I'm not sure what else to write today, since it is Remembrance Day and I don't really feel like writing anything witty. I suppose I will just leave my international readers with this poem, written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. For my Canadian readers, it should all be old hat, but, I hope, meaningful nonetheless.

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cyber-you: on my nerves

Let's get one thing straight right now. I probably like you in real life. That being said, internet-you is driving me bonkers to the point where I often want to throw my laptop out our 4th floor window (a simple *headdesk* or *facepalm* not considered sufficient for your level of fail). Yes, you... oh, don't give me that innocent look. You know who you are.

Awareness Superhero: This is for my friend, Sally. So many women suffer from bunions, but they suffer in silence. Every year bunions destroy lives, and the worst part is, there is no cure! 99.999% of you won't re-post this because you are horrible people who obviously don't give a crap about bunion sufferers, but some of you will. Please re-post, because re-posting something will totally make a difference. I will be judging you on this.

Mr and Mrs LuvUBabe: Missing my hunny 2day while he's at work! I love you Mr LuvUBabe, you are the best and my life is so much better with u in it!!!! I want everyone on the internet to know how much I love you, and as soon as you get home we are going to go at it like rabbits, and I don't care who is traumatised by picturing it... they will know our true love for one another.

Pregnant TMI: This is a pic of me at 10 weeks, 11 weeks, 12 weeks... Ugh, I can't eat anything because I'm barfing all the time. Ew the barf smells gross and makes me want to barf more. Hey, we just did our scan so here are 15 pictures of a fetus in my ute. Uh oh, gotta go! I have to pee all the time! Lol!

The Activist: Now that the internet has been invented, there is no longer such thing as a secret ballot. I will be posting 8 articles a day on why my political views are better than yours. You're welcome in advance.

Cryptic Carl: Geez, when it rains, it pours. Worst day ever. p.s. If you ask me why, I won't tell you, because I am obviously using this to boost my self-esteem, and I will secretly delight in knowing how many internet friends 'care' about me, even though I have no intention of telling them via phone or face-to-face about my craptastic day.

Pretentious Expat: We are jetting off for our 3rd holiday this year! I love that Paris is so close! Brrr... winter back home sounds really cold. We are never moving back.

Yes, folks, I know you noticed that last one. I even hate internet-me sometimes. I should really work on not being so cyber-annoying. But I don't have the time right now because we have to plan our Christmas mini-break to York.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hump day blues

So the internet is all atwitter with the news that those child-hoarding fundies with the reality TV show are having their 20th kid (insert giant vagina jokes here... don't worry, there's lots of room for them!). I think it's fair to say I'm having quite the pessimistic day, and I'm pretty sure the world's going to hell in a handbasket. Here are my top reasons why:

1) Child hoarders who are single-handedly trying to increase the world's population to 8 billion.

2) Canadians who persist in hating Québec - why, people, why? Let's jump on a new bandwagon and hate Saskatchewan instead. I mean, it's all trapezoid and sh*t.

3) I am a grown woman who still fears her mother's wrath and therefore must write her swearwords with an asterisk.

4) Mincemeat pies don't actually have any meat in them. That is just false advertising and I am very disappointed!

5) Airport body scanners.

6) Day nine of NaBlo and already I've resorted to making lists.

7) Lists I can't even finish...

Lordy, I just hope this mood doesn't last all winter or I'll have to buy one of those hideous visors that shine UV light on your face.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Morning gems from the underground

I can't think of anyone in London who actually enjoys their morning commute, aside from those who work at home (whose morning commute is to go to the window and look down upon all the miserable souls running around). Sadly, I don't work from home. And while I try not to let it stress me out, there are a few things I can't stand. Namely the fact that I'm so short compared to everyone. I mean, my nose is a armpit height, people! And let me tell you, it can get pretty hot in those trains and not everyone wears deodorant like they should.

Luckily my morning is brightened occasionally by the fabulous transport worker on the southbound platform of the Bakerloo line at Paddington station. The workers on the platforms are there to make sure nobody gets stuck in the doors and that everyone makes space for each other, and that everyone stays behind the yellow line as they should so no accidents occur to inconvenience the rest of us. They make boring announcements on their bullhorns to this effect, but my dude takes it upon himself to say funny and interesting things. Here are a couple of his gems:

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It's Monday morning already, but don't worry, it only happens once a week."

"Please move right down inside the carriages... that's right. Pack yourselves in like sardines!"

It always makes me smile... which is no easy task given that I tend to wait until I'm at work to have my first coffee, before which I am about as charming as an angry rhino.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Things expats love: paid vacation



Expats love paid vacation because it is yet another opportunity to show friends and family that theirs is the superior way of life. Sure their friends may have houses, nice clothes, cars, and accessories in the form of tiny humans, but they do not have as much paid vacation time as the expat. The expat never misses an opportunity to mention such vacation time in conversation, provoking both envy and awe.

The easiest way to reach the most people and spread the word about superior expat life is via annoying facebook statuses like, "Thinking about the time off I have left this year. When am I even going to take these 2 weeks?" Of course, the expat will then rely on some hapless non-expat to comment something along the lines of "You saved up your 2 weeks until now?" so that the expat may respond, "well sure, I mean, I already took my other 3 weeks."

Of course, this may not work to well if the expat has friends with an even higher number of vacation days (teachers don't count as even though they have a lot of vacation time, they are underpaid, overworked and stuck in a room with children all day, and so do not threaten the expat's feeling of superiority). If the expat has friends in countries where the vacation time is even better, it's best to stay off facebook, twitter, and social media in general. The expat must also avoid emailing her French colleague to brag about her day off, lest she find out that the French colleague has almost a month's worth of bank holidays.

If social media is out of the question when it comes to bragging, the expat can then slip the topic casually into conversation. Something like, "I have to go home to renew my visa, and it could take up to a month. But even though I could take 4 of my 5 weeks to do this, it's best if I only take 2 and try to work from home."

Of course, the expat could also write about it in a blog. What are blogs for anyway, but to extol the virtues of one's own life?