Archive for the ‘Expat Living’ Category

In my last post, I promised to share more information about a couple of the books that are in this photo.

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Going to the neighborhood library and appreciating your tax dollars at work was #5 on Mary’s “Wintry Mix” list.

In that same vein (sort of) I respectfully piggy back on the reading theme in this post for #6.

Go local.

Okay, I really wanted to type “Go loco” above instead of Go local. But I didn’t.

Support not just your local library but the local authors and bookstores. And authors who write about your locale or community.

Honestly, not sure why but I always feel like I’ve got some skin in the game when I’ve got one of those books in my hands.

Like I get all, “That’s my neighborhood. My town. My state. My people.” You can just imagine me with a puffed out chest. And not a puffed out post menopausal belly. Full of pride.

About two months ago I met Jeanne Mc Williams Blasberg at this literary event in Providence. She was on her own so there were a couple of extra chairs begging for middle-aged occupants. Jeanne was kind enough to allow me (and a friend) to sit at her table.

Got chatting, as one does, and I absolutely did the whole Rhode Island thing. That is to relentlessly dig until you find out what or who we have in common. I usually have the energy for it. That night was no exception.

Well, we are both mothers, both lived in California and both did the expat overseas gig. Okay, sure, that could be enough to keep a semi-decent conversation going between people who just met- before the event and during intermission.

Then I found out she was an author.

Wait, what?

She has a book “Eden” floating out there and a new one being published soon.

Truthfully, between you and me, I think I might be an authorphile. You could put me in a room with Tom Brady and a writer and I be like, “Tom, I will totally hook up with you in a few. I swear. Just gotta catch up with Jeanne here.”

Tom Brady dropped like a hot potato by JBM. True story. Ain’t gonna lie.

I’m always curious about every human being but now I have questions galore for this stranger at my table. Her table. She was there first.

“Wait, how do you spell your name? Plasberg? Is that with a P? What’s it about? Where does it take place?”

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I might have been a little loud because, well, I am loud. That’s who I am. And it was in a dark bistro (I know that dark should not matter for sound but neither should immediate radio music turn down when looking for a house number while driving) with a crowd of other ladies all excited to be at a watering hole with their ilk. So their noise level didn’t help mine.

“Eden” is set in my home state of Rhode Island. A fictional coastal town many natives might recognize. A novel about a family and secrets. How the lens might originally be black and white but gets a little grainy and gray (Thank you, Jesus!) with each new generation.

I really enjoyed it. Jeanne incorporates historical events-whether economic collapse or a world war-as a back drop to give the reader a feel for the time and its social mores.

Okay, Jeanne is not native to Rhode Island but she has a place with us now. Not everyone can be born here. We just don’t have the room. But as people leave or the older folks depart then spaces open up and we need to be welcoming. And then supportive.

When I was at the library poking around I noticed they had a section, by the check out desk, that had books written by local authors or about the area.

Well, why wouldn’t I read them?

I brought home Mary Cantwell’s “American Girl: Scenes from a Small-Town Childhood.” Mary was an editor and columnist for the New York Times but grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island. This book is filled with lovely memories of her childhood in this seaside town during the 1940s and 1950s. It’s like finding someone’s diary. I feel like everyone has a story. Hers was a pleasant one. Added bonus was I had a better understanding of the town’s history after reading this simple, old-fashioned memoir.

As you can see in the photo I had also grabbed Bernie Mulligan’s, “I Made It.” A story set in the town of East Providence where I was raised. I didn’t read it yet but I will. I had too many open books at the time.

This book is about a woman who was fully paralyzed from polio. She also had four sons under the age of seven when it happened! Can you even imagine?

I am so surprised I never knew about this. It’s a story of family love and commitment. Her husband fixed up an old bus so that she and her family could travel. When he passed away the neighborhood kids collected 6000 books of Green Stamps to buy a Winnebago. Or a caravan for my European readers. The newly licensed young neighbors all took turns driving her across the country to the Pacific Ocean. Oh my gosh. That’s God’s work right there. Makes me proud to be a Townie. I definitely have to read this.

Couple of books from Ann Leary in that photo. Northeast girl living in New England. I love her books. She just gets me. LOL I mean, I just get her. She’s married to comedian Denis Leary but I feel like she actually might be the funny one in that relationship. These two books (in the photo) were good but I loved, “The Good House.” I remember laughing out loud while reading it. Very few authors make me LOL. I also really liked her book “The Children.”

Not in the above photo but here is another book I recently enjoyed. Staying with the local vibe.

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When I was born my parents lived in a tenement. I get it. When my husband and I bought our first home it was in Providence. A condo on the East Side. In a freaking tenement! I still haven’t heard the end of that one. But when I walked in, after the Boston group that owned it did their rehab and tagged the three floors as condos, I fell in love with the original wood floors gleaming on a sunny day. I coveted the fireplace that had been there for ages.

We’ll take it!

What I didn’t consider was that the bathroom had no heating. At all. That original, like the drafty windows we could barely open, wasn’t always a good thing.

Still. So many fabulous memories in that place. No regrets.

Anyway.

I consider the purchase of this book a trifecta. I supported a local book store Twenty Stories, a Providence author and really enjoyed this memoir. Filled with quirky tenants, boyfriends and lore.

That’s it for my #6 on getting through winter! Enough about books already. I’ll lay off bookspeak for awhile. I’m exhausted. Yes, it has to do with books. I will tell you why in another blog posting. Not the next one. But someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I missed Autumn in New England when I was away.

Leaf peepers visit from all over the country and the world to experience the changing foliage. It’s so beautiful.

And who doesn’t love bright orange pumpkins?

I remember, when we lived in Kuala Lumpur, my neighbor Jean’s husband got very creative one Halloween night. There weren’t any orange pumpkins available in our tropical environs so he got his hands on a watermelon and carved it accordingly. Made me chuckle but also realize how humans acclimate.

When our children were young it was always fun to visit the pumpkin patch and pick out the perfect pumpkin. We’d bring it home to decorate and/or carve it. Scooped out the innards, rinsed the stringy seeds, dried them and later roasted them in the oven.

Here is an old photo of Hannie and her carved pumpkin when we lived in California. 25 was our house number at the time. Placed by the front door to greet trick or treaters. Snagged the idea from my old friend, Betsy. Visit her site Farmhouse Wares for cool home and garden items.

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Hannie is a bit older now and in her second year of university. She came home for a weekend in October to celebrate my birthday. So appreciated! Of course, we went to find the perfect pumpkins.

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Some things have changed since then. Like the number of our house. But some things remain the same. Like our happiness while decorating pumpkins.

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Consider this as #2 on my previously mentioned “cheerful list.” The things that add a bit of brightness to my day once the days of summer have passed. Even though it really is more than just pumpkins. It is time spent outdoors. Togetherness. Creativity. And yes, eating pumpkin seeds.

 

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I have said it more than once.

Autumn came so quickly.

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Seemed like I was just sitting on the shore, drink in hand and watching the evening sunset.

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Then this. Wham! My youngest was heading back to university.

Once the kid left it seemed there were changes every place I looked. Of course, I found some sadness in this. It was like a scorecard I was keeping. Yup, check off one more not-so-happy thing.

Keep in mind, I was also experiencing a New England autumn after being away twenty-four years during this very season. Lot of transitioning. On many different levels.

Leaves on the trees turned glorious, riotous shades and then fluttered to the ground. Skeletons in their wake.

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The ice cream shops were now sporting signs like “Closed For The Season” and “See You In The Spring!”

Del’s, an extremely popular Rhode Island frozen lemonade business, shuttered their stands and trucks instantly went into hibernation.

The birds, who were annoyingly loud outside our bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning, silenced overnight.

All of the neat little nests dotting our yard and stuffed under the eaves had “vacancy” signs on them.

No more pleasure boats zipping down the bay. Now they are white, shrink wrapped objects perched on steel stands and peppering boatyards all over the state.

The sun setting just minutes after my afternoon tea. Okay, I don’t have an afternoon tea but it sounded so good. My point is the sunset was no longer an evening thing.

Even our compost bin eventually went quiet. Crickets. Anyone who composts food and plant scraps knows you practically need a pair of goggles or a gas mask when you open the lid in the summer. Especially if it wasn’t recently turned. Smells and a million, billion fruit flies make a fruit-line to your face. No activity, at all, once temperatures drop.

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But there was one thing that really made me realize the wonderful summer season came to an end and it sort of made me sad. Not as sad as the youngest leaving or as sad as losing and missing our loved ones. But still. Like it was the last and final straw of summer.

The osprey left.

Ospreys are magnificent birds of prey. Huge raptors. Looks like a big hawk or eagle. Moonlight as fishermen. Has a few young ones in the Spring. And then once autumn arrives it quickly flies off in the direction of South America. The ginormous nests, a convenient five minute walk from our house, are in the marshland and built on tall wooden roosts. Now totally empty.

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When I saw the empty nest my eyes filled up. Silly really. Because I know they are coming back in the Spring. I also realize it was some type of temporary Mommy transference phenomenon.

Summer was truly gone.

So, what to do?

The only thing is to shake if off and approach autumn with gusto. Enjoy every minute. Be glad of the different seasons because it is a continual promise. When one ends another beautiful season begins.

Sometimes that is easier said than done. Especially when the afternoon sky is dark and it gets cold. Autumn quickly becomes winter.

In the coming days I will share things that have enhanced and cheered my autumn and winter. I’m normally a happy sort and have been enjoying it. It does not have to be gloomy. It’s all up to me. It’s all up to you.

While we sit and wait for the osprey’s return.

 

 

 

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I just wanted to take a moment to wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful that you continue to read along while I share my thoughts and experiences. I appreciate you and your feedback.

Today I am also very thankful that my family is having a traditional Thanksgiving in our home country. The four of us are actually under one roof. It’s been six years. It’s like a Thanksgiving miracle.

I am super thankful for my family. Even if they drive me crazy. Or maybe it’s me driving them crazy. But there are no words to describe my love. It’s that special.

I don’t just have love for the husband, kids and dog. I have more in reserve. It extends to the entire clann.

And to friends. I am really grateful for my friends and I love them.

When I was a kid if I liked someone I thought they were just beautiful. Like literally. Sure, I got some sidelong glances, maybe some eye rolls, as a result of that thinking. But you know what? I still believe that.

I remember asking my mother a question when I was older and pregnant with my first. After, of course, I wished and prayed for a healthy little baby. Was along the lines of, “What if I give birth to an ugly little sucker?” LOL I’m just being honest.

My mom, with no hesitation, answered with, “How would you know?”

That’s the thing. I think my family and friends are just beautiful. All of them. How would I know any different?

Wishing you all the love of family and friends! I hope you are surrounded by beauty.

 

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This posting is self congratulatory.  Also hoping maybe a little helpful to someone out there.

One year ago (and seven days) my husband and I quit smoking cigarettes. We both smoked for decades. Both in our fifties. You can figure out the math.

I was only being a supportive friend to my husband. He said he didn’t want to smoke on this certain day. We were in Mumbai and flying back to Delhi.

I said, “I won’t either.”

And we didn’t smoke that day.

There is some irony here. When we landed in Delhi it was the first day of the country’s “bad air quality” season. Could hardly even see the signs outside the airport. The next day the newspaper reported that breathing this air was akin to smoking forty-five cigarettes. A gas chamber of sorts.

The other thing was that it was a sudden quit. Not planned. So that meant we still had a bunch of cigarette packs. That was bothering me. I don’t like to waste. But we didn’t smoke them and eventually gave them away.

We uploaded a free app on our phones. It’s called Smoke Free. I’d recommend it to anyone who is in process of quitting. Obviously, the smoker needs to make the decision to quit but the app provides constant and positive reinforcement. Shows how much money is saved. How health is improving each day. How many cigarettes NOT smoked. How many life days regained. How much time not spent smoking. That one is insane to think about because they mean actual time you were smoking. Mine is up to 25 days.

It has places to post triggers, cravings, set goals, badges, etc.

For those of you who don’t know. Smoking is powerfully addicting. Terrible.

Crowds of people wouldn’t be milling about the entrances of office buildings, restaurants or bars if it wasn’t.

We have been in many filthy international airport smoking rooms because not smoking during a layover was unthinkable. There is one lounge where you had to lean your face into this machine to light your cigarette. Similar to a car lighter. Looked like you were kissing a big silver machine. That many had previously kissed. Gross.

Of course, the duty free shop at the airport is where we would buy our cartons of cigarettes.

Weather would never be a deterrent.  Puffing away in all sorts of weather and every season.

Would have a cigarette outside airport before picking up bags at the luggage carousel.

Always ensured you didn’t run out of them. Or even ran low.

Nor’easter heading your way? Stock up on milk, bread and cigarettes.

I was pretty good about usually keeping the cigarettes at home when not traveling. If I was out and about during the day I didn’t bring them with me. We also didn’t smoke in the house or in our cars.

Here is the surprising thing. It was easier than I thought it would be.

Way easier. My husband agrees. I stated that we would only do it “cold turkey” and not vape or substitute something else. Because I thought that would make it more difficult.

I am not saying it’s easy. Cravings do occur. I sometimes missed it. But it truly was easier than I thought. You just distract yourself. I personally did a ton of walking. Outside in the polluted air. 🙂

I do believe anyone can quit. It is so liberating. No longer being held hostage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, hello there! I hope you are all well.

My apologies for being a slug and not writing sooner. Had a very busy summer. Not a moment to think! Don’t get me wrong. It was lovely and fun. Filled with family and friends. As well as new experiences. Just super busy.

I thought when I arrived here (in the U.S.) during the Spring that I would have all the time in the world.

Then I blinked and summer was gone. Just like that. Snap.

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The original plan was to head back to Delhi, India at the end of September, hang out with my husband and begin exploring the country again with my newfound friends.

tuktuk

But we all know about plans. I suppose we need a constant reminder to always view them as fluid. And go with the flow.

We are happily repatriating after seven years of overseas living.

Do I wish I had more time in India? Yes, I do. I swear a person could spend a lifetime in India and not fully see or appreciate that amazing country. So diverse. Language, terrain, people, food, climate and especially the colors!

chili

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Some folks complain about moving. I get it. Each person and circumstance is different.

Fortunately, I am not one of them. I view our past moves as experiences that continually added depth and a ton of beautiful people to our lives.

I counted thirteen moves in our nearly thirty-two years of marriage. No, of course it’s not always Skittles and beer. Each and every move created indelible memories. Some happy and some sad. Leaving beloved family and friends. The excitement of exploring new places. A clean slate. Missing important family occasions. Adding new friends to the list. Losing people along the way.

Knowing that each move means you’re a little bit older and so is the generation before you. Everything changes and time does not stand still. At all.

I still do not have any regrets or complaints. Not even sure if this is our last move!

Below was the view from our balcony. Enjoying the calm before the packers got busy.

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This last move was going according to plan. The fellas are punctual and ready to get cracking. I oversee the operation. Like they needed my assistance. 🙂

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At the end of this first day we are at the hotel. My husband is visiting with a friend by the pool and telephones me. He is cheerful and says, “Come join us.”

I replied, “Be down in a jiff.”

Two minutes later, I am heading down the stairs and my mobile rings again. I was thinking, “Why on earth is he calling me again? I’m on my way already.”

I could tell something was wrong by the way he said my name. It was. He just got word that his mother had died in Syria. 😦 I think losing your mom has got to be one of the saddest things. Like it’s your mom. The only one you ever get.

That was a Tuesday and we were leaving India on Saturday in the wee hours. Honestly? This move, in a weird way, provided a huge distraction during a very sad time. Because we were in the midst of decisions and a constant state of busyness we were able to get through each day of this week without despair.

So this particular move will always be associated with the death of my mother-in-law. His mom, a beloved grandmother, mother-in-law and someone who has been a part of my own life history for more than thirty years. Still seems a bit surreal. I thought she was going to live forever.

But like all of our moves it is never about just one thing or feeling. There is now also some excitement. Starting a new chapter in my home state. We haven’t lived here since we left in 1994! So while it’s still familiar it has been awhile since we permanently hung our hats here. A lot has changed but it feels like we have sort of come full circle.

We are enjoying this transition back to the U.S. and enjoying the great (and clean) outdoors. Our air shipment (14 moving boxes-clothes, linens and personal items) arrived last Monday. The sea shipment (furniture and rest of it) will follow in the middle of November. I don’t care too much about “things” but I will be glad to have our photo albums, framed pics, art, personal papers and family history back with us.

I feel so very fortunate. It’s like my being has absorbed all of the people and experiences on this twenty-four year journey through Texas, California, Malaysia and India. So that I can always carry these people and places with me. Ensuring that I will never forget any of them.

So that’s my news. This is where I am. You are officially updated.

I look forward to working on this blog with more frequency. Lots of writing to be done.

Enjoy the rest of your week.

 

 

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My dogs come to me.

That’s an expression I have used on occasion.  I picked it up from my friend, Mary Ann, years ago.

It’s meant to convey, with a sort of cocky bent, that one doesn’t go chasing after dogs. They should come to you.

When we use the phrase, though, we are not actually referring to dogs.

I think I have had this attitude toward making new friends in Delhi. Waiting for my dogs to come to me. Not really putting much effort into it. Not chasing anyone.

Sure, I sent a few emails to groups, organizations, etc.

When I didn’t receive any replies I just let it go. I’ll be in and out of Delhi so was sort of thinking exactly how much time/energy do I want to sink into this.

A friend, over dinner, said that maybe I just need to put myself out there a bit more.

Absolutely correct.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my own company. I’m so easy going. LOL

But I realized I do want to put energy into bonding with people while I am living here. I was thinking it sure would be nice to explore Delhi with friends.

So, the dinner, where the sage advice was offered, was on a Friday evening. The following day my husband and I were pulling into our neighborhood after running some errands. I spy a woman on the street strolling along with her little girl.

An expat neighbor perhaps?

I wave from the car. She waved back with a quizzical look.

Glance at my husband as I’m heading out of the car, with a determined expression on my face. Think of “I’m going in…” or “Here goes nothing!”

I actually say, “I am going to talk to that woman.”

And talk I did.

She was sooo lovely.

I fell in love with her right away. You know that feeling. When you immediately hit it off with someone.

Yay!!!!

Lives a couple of houses down from us. Works at the Swiss Embassy. Loves living in Delhi. Husband works for the Foreign Service.

But.

She was moving to the USA in two weeks.

Oh, rats! That is some dumb luck. Can’t be investing too much time there.

Anyway, it was nice to chat with her. She took us over to her house. Met her other kids. Asked if we wanted a drink. Very sweet. We declined but visited for just a little bit and then we went home.

Oh, well, I tried.

When we got back to the house my husband couldn’t find my US sim card. Because I had taken off the phone’s protective cover (where my sims roam happily about) so I could charge the phone with his case in the car. He thought it was in his pocket.

Maybe it was dropped while we were at our neighbor’s house.

So, I am in total Nancy Drew mode with eyes glued on the street. Looking for a needle in a haystack. Because those suckers are small. I retrace our steps back to neighbor’s house. Ask one of the kids to bring me to her mother. She is having tea with a woman named Nathalie who was picking up her child. Makes introductions.

I say, “So very sorry to intrude.”

Don’t find the sim card. On my way out of her home husband calls and says he found it. Great. I bid them a fond adieu and head back home.

I never saw the lovely Swiss lady again.

I continued to walk in the park each day for an hour. Got to keep my girlish figure. Or rather to find it again somewhere under the empty nest, smoking cessation, 0 friend list, twenty pound weight gain.

On one of my walks I saw a lady walking towards me. Figured she was an expat. I smile and say hello.

Side note: I had told my friend, Nancy, that I was going to say hi to every single lady/expat in the park as a way of putting myself out there. Just a little human experiment to pass the time. She was like okay, good luck with that.

The woman returns my smile with a cheerful one of her own. And we continue to walk in opposite directions.

A few days later I am huffing and puffing through the park when I see a woman who looks familiar. I think I know her. Can’t place her. Think she was woman I saw during a previous walk in the park.

She is heading toward me and smiles at me. I return the smile and say, “We should be walking together!!!”

The woman stops, does a turnabout, grabs my arm and we are now walking together in the same direction.

As we are walking, she says, “I thought I knew you!”

How does she know me???

She tells me that she remembered me from the day I was looking for the sim card at the Swiss lady’s home.

This was Nathalie!

Anyway, small world. We walked for an hour together. I heard all about her world. And she heard about mine.

She asks if I heard about this organization called Delhi Network. I told her I don’t think I had and I am a pretty good researcher. If I did, maybe the website wasn’t working when I checked.

She used to attend before she started working and said that expats (mostly women) meet each week for a coffee morning at a hotel. Almost in my own backyard. They have lectures, excursions, educational tours, etc.

Nathalie said I should just show up but she would double check which day the coffee was held.

That evening she texted me with the details.

I attended the next coffee, signed up with the group and started making pals. Went on a city tour, wine tasting in the country, frequented bazaars, etc.

I never saw Nathalie again. She was a teacher at the German school. Maybe she even moved by now.

But I might never have met her if I didn’t put myself out there and forced myself to talk to the young mother strolling on the street.

It was just making the effort.

A step in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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