2

Make a Dragon Wanna Retire, Man…

It’s Too Hot.

With a apologies to Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars…but…it’s that time of year in Thailand.  April marks the beginning of the end of the long dry season.  I trick myself every “winter” into thinking we don’t really have seasons here.  It’s just hot and hotter.  The rain isn’t cool at all, it’s just wet and annoying and it makes traffic a bummer.  But there are actual seasons.  December & January are cool, and fresh and dry.  Mornings are distinctively cooler than the afternoon and when the sun goes down you can actually perceive a difference in temperature.  February starts to warm up a bit, with occasional high humidity days, but it’s still only around 80 degrees and it’s nice to be outside.  March starts to ramp up…there are days when you sweat just stepping outside, but I’d argue that most days are lovely and punctuated by the very occasional rainstorm-not the monsoon kind, just some lightning and thunder and a squall that doesn’t cool anything down at all, but rather, just takes the humidity up a notch.  Rainy season doesn’t technically start until late May, but something discernible changes every year this first week of April.  It’s HOT.  It’s like somebody turned on the furnace in the sky and there is no escaping.  We’ve all noticed even the locusts seem to be protesting-instead of 6am and 6pm they seem to be crying out in agony at all times of the day and night.  And  when one locust has a moment-they all go up in arms.  It’s both awesome and rather frightening.

I have this app on my phone, Timehop, that captures every post I’ve ever made on this date in Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram, or in your Cloud) and organizes them chronologically and with lovely graphics on one scrollable page.  I love this app-it makes me happy to see the fun things we have done in the past 8 years I’ve been on Facebook (what?!) and since I’m off Facebook (as far as you know), it gives me a tiny little “fix”.  Starting this week, there is a distinctive trend over the past 3 years that did not exist the 5 previous years.  I have a habit of posting the temperature snapshots from my time & temp function on my phone.  The taglines on all of the posts were something about it being too hot, or bursting into flames, or spontaneously combusting.  I suspect I will see al lot more of these on Timehop for the next month.

Because,Boy Howdy-it is just ridiculously hot outside.  For those of you living in temperate or cold climates, I imagine you are rolling your eyes and thinking “Oh, poor you…get another umbrella drink and go sit by the pool, already”.  But here’s the thing-it’s too hot to sit outside.  The water in the pool is dangerously warm and we’re all chronically dehydrated.  One of my friends’ daughter passed out from heat exposure and fell UP the concrete stairs at school and chipped her front tooth.  She had been outside and hadn’t had enough to drink.  It is so easy to get overheated here, it’s scary.

There is one more week left to Songkran, the Thai New Year. A holiday marked by throwing/shooting/pouring/attacking other people with water, water guns, hoses, buckets, trash cans full of water, etc.  It’s crazy and fun and dangerous and I totally get it.  I pretty much want to get in the pool all the time.  Only it’s too hot.  And there’s almost no point taking a shower because you won’t ever get dry and then you can’t differentiate the sweat from the clean.  It’s just replacing one kind of water for the other.  Eeew.

I drank 24oz of water with my breakfast smoothie (also 24oz) and then followed up with a Starbucks grande iced spearmint tea this morning.  I’ve since had 24 more oz of water and an iced coffee.  I have not visited the washroom at all, all day.  It’s really not good.

The rains will come in May-and though it doesn’t cool off much, it changes the punishing intensity of the heat.  Brings it down just enough to quell the gasp and “OMG” that I cannot help but utter every time I step outside in April.

We’re taking a trip to Cambodia for the girls’ Songkran break.  We will tour Angkor Wat by bicycle and enjoy the beauty of the countryside but part of me is terrified that we are going to be roasted alive, because I ran a half marathon in Angkor Wat in December once-at it started at 6am and I ponder whether I might spontaneously combust along the way.  I’ve arranged a follow-car because I’m scared that we’ll all shrivel up and just be our casings by the end of the day!  Luckily-we’re headed to an island afterward where I plan to sit in or on or near the water for a full 5 days.

Once we return it shouldn’t be long before the rainy season comes, and with it, a respite.  Until then I will continue to sing the TOO HOT part of Uptown Funk and force-feed my children water from Camelback Eddy bottles so I can strictly regulate their water intake.

Remind me of this when I’m whining about being cold next Christmas.  Hot is worse-you can’t escape it!

6

Expat-iversary

This month marks the 10-year anniversary of my “retirement”.  I never actually set out to retire.  In fact, I thought I was embarking on a romantic adventure to raise my daughter bi-lingual in a charming and provincial Swiss winemaking village.  We knew that we were “localizing” in Switzerland.  We knew that it would be up to us to find a road back to the US, but it seemed like such a ripe and exciting adventure that we didn’t stop to consider my career at all.  It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t hold any paying position of any kind for a decade.  When Bookworm was born, it wasn’t a reasonable option for either of us to consider staying home…and to be honest, I really loved my job.  I liked having a career identity.  The 80s were a magical breeding ground for bright little girls-we all saw Melanie Griffith take over in Working Girl.  We wanted giant shoulder pads, big hair, and the corner office.  Well I did, anyway.  I got a degree in Business because I wanted to wear suits to work and tell everybody what to do.  So-imagine my surprise when I had my first child and I began to wish I could be home with her.  I hated missing her first words, her first tooth, snuggling with her when she woke up from her afternoon nap.  When the opportunity arose to move halfway across the world and live a “storybook” stay-at-home life in a quaint European village-I didn’t just go willingly…I leapt joyfully.

I remember thinking, right around the 4-year mark, that I would find a job when the girls were both in school full-time.  My French was passable, with some effort somebody would hire me.  And then we moved to Hong Kong.  Job opportunities were actually abundant.  I signed up for Linked In and received at least a dozen different inquiries about my willingness to work or consult or come in for an interview.  But I didn’t want to work in Hong Kong.  For the first time in five years, I had time to myself.  I was able to be a part of my kids’ lives..but my life wasn’t ONLY my kids’ lives.  I had friends, and places to go and see…and let’s face it.  Hong Kong is awesome.  I only got 18 months there!  I sometimes think I would have eventually gotten tired of working out and hanging out and gotten a job if we were still in Hong Kong.

But, the truth is…I could probably get a job in Bangkok.  I’ve been contacted via Linked In in the last year.  Despite the fact that my profile is 5 years old.  I haven’t had a job in a decade.  I realize that means if I do decide I’d like a career (not a job), I will be learning something entirely new.  Because my field has changed so much I wouldn’t  recognize it.  I worked in media before social media existed.  I’d be working for a 20-year old.  My ego can’t take that.  She probably wouldn’t even know who Melanie Griffith is.  Wait-she might…she’d ask me if she was the MOM of the chick in the 50 Shades of Grey movie.  And then I would start to cry and run out of the office.

See?  This is why I cannot think seriously about working again.  I have a few friends that re-entered the workplace after 5 or 8 or 10 years.  They are all smart, and successful and capable and clearly less prideful.  The truth is this-I wouldn’t hire me.  The reality is this: I’m a mom.  As much as I lambast myself for being a sucky mom-I’m doing my best and that is, actually, enough.

As I was pondering this fact, I also realized that next month is our Expat-iversary.  It’s also been a decade since we left our home country and went out on the road.  Greener pastures, as it were…

I can’t remember that actual date-but I do know I quit my job in March, spent some time visiting our family in Colorado and then moved to Switzerland in April.  I know for a fact we were well-settled and jetlag-free for bookworm’s First Birthday.

I wonder sometimes if it’s weird that I mentally acknowledge (if not celebrate outright) these little milestones.  I do know the date we were asked to move to Hong Kong (July 4th) and the date we were asked to move to Thailand (June 11th).  And I know when my family arrived in Asia (December 27th).  But I think it’s not.  I think these are the dates I hold on to because they mark significant moments in our personal story.  I don’t have career milestones.  I stopped wondering if I’d be a Director or a VP “by now” a long time ago.  I don’t have a “normal” life.   My kids won’t have one wall where their heights were marked for their entire childhood.  They won’t be able to easily go back to visit the playground they went to with their nursery school friends.  We won’t visit their kindergarten teachers when they are in High School.  Instead, I mark these dates and talk with them about where we have lived, and what that was like and I try to show them photos and remind them of our friends and what the vineyard road smelled like during the vindage in our tiny Swiss village.  I talk to Bookworm about the boulangerie in the village above ours and how they didn’t have a door but a giant velvet blanket keeping out the cold on frigid January mornings.  I remind the Bean of what it felt like to be the only pale face in her nursery school in Hong Kong, and how she explained, deadpan, to her grandmother that she likes rice because “I am Chinese”.  We talk about how every Thursday after I picked her up from nursery school, we walked to the Deli France in Stanley Market and shared a mini-quiche  (who seeks out French fast-food in Asia, you ask?  One whose 2 year old was born in Switzerland and raised on tea-room quiche and pain-au-chocolate).  I try to hold on to these little things because Expat-iversarys are weird but real.  They are moments that matter for my kids.

And then I wonder.  If (when) it’s time for us to roll on from Thailand…what will I remind them of?  At the moment, I think it will be the heat that makes your eyeballs sweat.  But it might be the call of the locusts at 6am and 6pm.  It might be the call to prayer that we can hear from Bookworm’s bedroom at 6pm from the muslim community out our back gate.  It will definitely be the taste of ripe mango mixed with creamy coconut milk and chewy sticky rice.  It will be riding their bicycles to school-alone-at age 7 and 10.  It will be the safety and the freedom.

Before I go get all sentimental on you, I will also remind them that the internet doesn’t work.  There are always rats in the ceiling and they have to go to bed with an electric bug-zapping tennis racquet next to their bedside or they will be eaten alive in the night.

Just keeping it real, folks.

3

Bad Motherblogger

Well, then.

I told you I was all or nothing.  I take a few days off writing and then, suddenly, it’s been a month.

The thing is, if I don’t stick with a habit, I tend to forget it.  I like writing and I love getting all of the crazy brain palooza organized by putting my words on the page, but I find myself plagued with self doubt and an overwhelming sense of self-consciousness.  I really can’t write using my authentic voice if I’m self-editing or worrying about what other people are thinking when I write.

Anyway.

In the past month I’ve not only been a Bad Motherblogger.  I’ve pretty securely cemented my place in the running for the Bad Mommy Award (if they gave out such things).  Here is just a short list of what I’ve managed to accomplish.

  1. After our lovely moment bonding over her trauma/discovery/awakening re: The Tooth Fairy, I enlisted Bookworm’s help as the Official Tooth Fairy Assistant.  She has since lost 2 more teeth and did a bang-up job selling her belief and excitement to her little sister.  Until said baby sister lost a tooth and, well…the Tooth Fairy forgot to come.  Uh Huh.  That’s right.  Somehow I got it pretty much right for nearly 11 years and brought Bookworm into adolescence believing and then I completely blow it for the 7 year old.  I think The Tooth Fairy’s Assistant covered like a boss, but I cannot believe we did it.  The worst part is that I wasn’t home the next night and Circus Dad followed my instructions to use the My Tooth Fairy App (check it out if you have little ones!) and leave the photo for her.  The Assistant wrote a note in glitter pen and left “fairy dust” all over her pillow…but both of them forgot to leave her the MONEY.  #facepalm
  2. The girls wear school uniforms, which I love, and which eliminates so much drama for Girl Moms.  The only real area the girls have for self-expression is their footwear and hairstyles.  Thank GOD my girls have lost interest in fancy hairdos, so we have a ponytail assembly line in the morning and we’re out the door.  But shoe selection can take upward of 10 minutes.  A couple of weeks ago, The Bean found a box of shoes I had saved for her from when Bookworm was younger.  She hated most of the shoes and we donated them or passed them on.  But she did rescue a couple of pairs of ballet flats and one really obnoxious pair of Sketchers that light up and have some bizarre Justice-style graffiti pattern on them.  The only real rule I have for them re: shoes is that they must wear proper trainers for PE days.  Sketchers do not count.  So on regular uniform days, my girls can wear any shoe that conforms to the uniform code.  A couple of weeks ago, The Bean decided that her sister’s old (very old…I’m thinking Kindergarten?  And definitely made and bought in China) red ballet slippers were her fashion statement for the day.  We hadn’t even gotten her IN her classroom for the morning when one sole completely came off.  I’m not sure if it was the Chinese manufacture or the Thai climate that rendered the shoes useless, but it didn’t matter.  The situation was such that the kid was literally sporting one shoe-and that one was precarious.  I told her I’d swing by after Boot Camp and bring her replacement shoes.  No later than 9am,  I promised.  And then I got busy. Doing what, you ask?  Well, drinking coffee.  And paying bills.  And then getting cleaned up and dressed and to my nail appointment.  At 11am I get a phone call from an unknown number and The Bean explains that she has borrowed her Teacher Assistant’s mobile phone to ask if I could please bring some shoes because she had to stay in for first recess and was going to have to miss lunch recess, too, if she doesn’t have shoes.  Blink.  Gulp.  Worst.  Mom.  Ever.  Shoeless Kid.  Almost all day.  The shame.
  3. For being such a sensitive person, I’m strangely unsentimental about objects.  I save almost nothing.  Maybe it’s because we’ve been so nomadic?  But I think it’s not that.  I just abhor clutter and I don’t see why I need to save junk.  It’s not like I will ever go through the box of artwork the kids made starting in Pre-K.  But my lack of sentimentality when it comes to the girls’ little projects is not a good thing.  Each year, a the end of the school year  the kids come home with the giant bag full of their work and art, and projects and 7000 worksheets with gold stars and smiley faces on them.  I immediately take out the giant bin that they each have that is full of what they have deemed necessary to save from their previous years of work.  I make them sort through, keep what still matters and toss the rest.  Then they sort through what they brought home and put it all back in the box and we shove it back on the top shelf of their closets.  Only to see the light of day again on the last day of school the subsequent school year.  Bookworm is a hoarder-she will probably need a second box this year because she saves giant projects and notebooks.  The Bean is like me and saves almost nothing.  Whatever.  I have a folder in my filing cabinet where I save little notes, and cards and pictures they have made that were especially sweet or had some kind of meaning.  I also have teeth, but not because I’m saving them.  More because I truly do not know what to do with them.  I digress.  What I do not save are the paper placemat masterpieces that the girls make me when we go to Chilis.  Or the macaroni necklace we made together in Girl Scouts.  That is not to say I don’t save the homemade gifts they have made me-macaroni included.  I just don’t keep things that are every day.  I probably should.  It would provide me with more of a day to day snapshot of them growing up.  That way, my Timehop flashback photos wouldn’t give me such a permanent heart attack.  But I don’t.  Last week we were having mommy-Beanie time and my little one asked me if I would save the picture she made me of me looking suspiciously like Elsa from Frozen.  I said sure!  I would even put it up on my bulletin board next to my desk!  She looked at me askance.  Just then, the Bookworm popped her head up over the side of the sofa and emerged from her literary fugue.  “No you won’t.  You don’t save anything we make you.”  She asserted.  Thus ensued a whole conversation about how they know I don’t really care about their artwork and the things they make me.  OMG.  I’m such a bad mom!  I think this transgression puts me over the edge and into the inescapable lead for the Bad Mommy Award.  I went straight upstairs and hung up Bean’s artwork.  That evening, Bookworm glanced over at me and raised one cynical little eyebrow and then directed her attention to my bulletin board (which did have other artwork by the girls-admittedly mostly at least 3 years old).  “Nice, mom.  That’ll show us”.  The inscription at the bottom of the picture says “Dear: Mom  I love you so much can you plecs pleas keep this picher then you will never forget me.  Love: Kiki”.  (Let us not get into the spelling, lack of grammar and the hilarious attempt to correct said atrocious spelling with yet another misspelling…this will only set me off on a rant about school.)
Portrait of a Bad Mommy

Portrait of a Bad Mommy

I have spent a good amount of time really thinking about my Bad Mommy moments.  And here’s the thing.  I’m so outrageously flawed it’s embarrassing.  I read at least one parenting or family improvement or self-help book a month.  I worry and agonize and fret and then…ultimately?  I let it go.  Because I totally suck.  I put pressure on them when I shouldn’t.  I push them to be more disciplined and better behaved and kinder and more thoughtful and to try harder.  I insist that they be polite, but I encourage them to stand up for what they want and to speak up.  I make absolutely no sense.  But I’m counting on one thing.  That my presence (omnipresence?) in their lives will overshadow and make up for my abundance of flaws.  My overwhelming and shameful mistakes.  My unintentional (but real) damaging of their tiny little egos.

My takeaway is this:  I will not muck up Tooth Fairy Duty again.  I really will not…and the Tooth Fairy Assistant will get a commission for her job in reminding me.    I will remember my kids when they need something during the day, because they really shouldn’t ever wonder if they are more important than my nail appointment.  I will replace the artwork on my bulletin board and do a better job of showing them the items I have saved.  Because my girls are my heart…and for all my lack of sentimentality…it kills me to think that they might not know that deep in their souls.  I will also forgive myself for my utter suckery.  And I will try harder.

4

Epilogue (Beans, Brownies, and Loving thy Neighbor-hood)

An epilogue to the Come Apart over the Bean Embargo.

It took me nearly 5 years to come back to writing a blog.  I spent a lot of time worrying about what people thought about what I was writing.  I was concerned with other’s perceptions and impressions to such a degree that I realized I wasn’t using my authentic voice (even in my own head) when I was trying to compose an essay.  It took going cold turkey off Facebook to force myself back inside to find my voice.  Truth be told, I’m frequently caught off guard when people come up and talk to me about my blog.  But 99% of the feedback I’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive…and I’m so happy that people actually read what I write!

People read my rants!  And either commiserate or laugh (at??) along with me.  It’s almost overwhelming to realize that it’s not just my 5 closest friends and my immediate family taking the time to read whatever daily brain soup I’ve regurgitated onto the blog.  It leaves me feeling a little bit guilty and indulgent sometimes.

Yet he most incredible thing happened this week.

Within an hour of my admittedly ridiculous bean-motivated come apart admission, I received a call from a friend that had seen some beans at a store downtown and picked them up for me.  I had this surge of gratitude that left me speechless (no small thing).   She’d actually purchased them BEFORE I’d posted my little rant.

About 2 hours later my doorbell rang.  Another incredibly thoughtful (and let’s be honest here, generous) friend had taken a detour on her nightly walk with her dog to bring me a to-go container full of home-made black beans.  She knows they’re not readily available, obviously.  She made the batch herself.  But she not only was willing to share them with me-she delivered them to my door.  There aren’t really words to describe the feeling of gratitude that comes when someone has done something so completely unexpected and kind.  I’m sure I was goofy and awkward in my thanks because I was, honestly, trying not to cry.

At school yesterday, at least a half-dozen people made some kind of reference or mention to me of the bean issue and either commiserated or offered me some kind of offering from their own personal stash.  I don’t even know how to accept that kind of kindness.  I can’t take their beans!  That’s madness.

At least three different people offered to mail me cans of beans from the USA.  It’s truly incredible to me-how these small kindnesses just take my breath away.  I’d love to say yes to the offer of bean shipments.  More than anybody can possibly know.  But as anybody who has dealt with customs and duty officers in places like Thailand knows…it’s never worth it.  IF the item makes it (which often, they do not), there is always a duty fee that completely negates the value of the shipment.  I once received a package that had been overnighted to arrive in time for Bookworm’s birthday.  It was mostly small things-all treasures to an 8-year-old but nothing valuable or precious.  It had a declared value of $50, but the shipping cost had been $100.  I was levied a duty cost of 60% of the value of the item as well as 60% of the value of the shipping.  That’s right.  I paid $90 to get the package from the customs office.  It’s madness.  And while my frustration with the lack of beans is pretty high-it’s just not that high.  I admit to my dose of crazy, but it’s not that extreme.  Yet.

Genius friend has a stockpile of black beans in their natural dried form.  She has kindly provided me with enough (cooked!) for one batch of black bean brownies during the long bean drought.  But I really don’t want to take advantage of her kindness.  Yesterday she found bags of dried beans at another grocery and picked me up a half-dozen.  Yes-you read that right, I am now officially one of those awful hoarders that I complain about.  That said, I will share if another Nichadonian wants some.  I’m just fed up and want my beans.

Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required

Later in the afternoon my doorbell rang and The Husband went outside to speak with whomever was at the gate.  He came inside with a big package (incidentally from my favorite perfume designer, so I was really intrigued) and a puzzled look on his face.  I asked him who had delivered the package and he said it was someone’s driver walking their big black dog.  They simply asked if Khun Andrea lived here and gave him the package.  He watched silently as I opened the box, unwrapped the ribbon and instead of pulling out bottles of perfume, I extracted 2 cans of beans.  One of my treasured Organic black beans and the other Amy’s organic refried beans (in a BPA-free can).  Speechless.  Truly.  I dug out the card, tore it open and read the inscription: “found these downtown and thought of you”.  Signed only “C”.  I have no idea who C is.  S/he (I’m guessing she because the handwriting was lovely) didn’t send me an advance warning and no follow-up.

Kindness Abounds

Kindness Abounds

I’m all aquiver.

I now am in possession of 3 cans of refried beans, 6 bags of dried black beans, one can of black beans and one (not entirely full because I had to eat some) container of homemade black beans.

Beans, Beans, the magical fruit...

Beans, Beans, the magical fruit…

my very favorite black beans...courtesy of the mystery "C"

my very favorite black beans…courtesy of the mystery “C”

Simply because of the kindness of my neighbors.

Hillary Clinton was right.  It does take a village.  In this particular case…not to raise a child, but to keep this mama from imploding over the lack of bean availability.

While the Bean Embargo and the Big Tease from the grocery store might have come dangerously close to becoming my undoing, it has been the unexpected kindness and generosity and completely overwhelming words of support and camaraderie that have made me love this community.

I just did a quick dictionary.com search of “Come Apart” to see if I could find a clever antonym.  It seems that everything that threatened to be my undoing (split, breach, crack, isolate, gape, burst) was countered by those amazing people who did what they could to remedy (mend, fix, reattach, unite, combine, anchor, moor, appropriate, fasten….CONNECT).

Connect.  Yep.  It’s what I’ve wanted from his blog.  I’m buoyed by all of the kindness, offers of gifts and really remarkable people who are in my universe.

Thank you for reminding me to be grateful.  And even without MY active Facebook participation, I’m feeling connected.

There are black bean brownies in my oven as I type this.  Again, do not scoff.  Follow the link and thank me later.  Only please do not hoard the black beans if you live in Nichada.  I will haunt you.

If you are one of those aforementioned kind people, please come over for either a cup of coffee and a brownie or a glass of wine and a brownie (yes-they are equally delicious together).   And since I wasn’t very funny today-take a moment to read this very funny post about why moms need Coffee and Wine.

And have a marvelous day.  I know I will.

7

The Bean Embargo…and my little temper fit

I am having a WEEK.

Not a week where everything happens at once or where it’s bad news or bad luck or anything truly monumental is happening.  No, not that.

I’m having a week where despite my best efforts to be cheerful and look on the bright side…I just keep getting dealt teeny tiny little blows.  Individually, absolutely nothing that has happened is really even worth a proper complaint.  Truthfully, none of these little assaults would qualify for a blip on catastrophe scale.  But all on top of one another, I am feeling pummeled by incompetence, inconvenience, and frustration.

In brief: I’m suffering from a severe bout of First World Problems.  Only, I’m fully and completely not in the First World. Lest I forget, I live in a bizarre, deceptively disguised little bubble smack in the heart of a what I will generously call a Developing Country.  Despite (and probably because of) the best efforts of those who designed and erected our little island of Western Culture in the middle of a Bangkok suburb- I must never forget that even though it looks a heck of a lot like Southern California- I really have to stop expecting things to WORK.

I really and truly subscribe to the opinion that happiness is a choice and that in order to find the good in life, you not only have to choose to look for it, you sometimes have to really and truly search.  I think that being positive about what happens in your life has a tendency to change the way you think about everything in your life.  I think that positive people are more fun to be around and happy people attract other happy people.

After nearly four years here, I don’t really get my feathers ruffled by everyday inconveniences anymore.  I actually expect that if it rains, we will lose power for a few hours.  I know that by 7pm, the entire bandwidth allotted to our neighborhood will have been exhausted and my processing speed for all electronic devices in our home will run at approximately 72bps.  Regardless of the fact that we pay an exorbitant additional fee to True for “high-speed” internet.  I know that our property management contact will answer “yes” to everything I call and ask for.  And I know to be excited if a technician actually comes before I have to call the fourth time.  I know that the family of rats/squirrels/monitor lizards/gremlins(?) that lives in our backyard will migrate through one of the multitude of tiny holes in our foundation every evening at 8:30pm and have a wild game of tag in our air-conditioning ducts.  I also know that by 8am the following day (ha!) when a technician comes to “remove them”, they will have migrated back outside and left only their leptospirosis-ridden detritus behind.  I know all of this.  I don’t make a habit of complaining about it.  I really try to not freak out and I honestly only call the property manager once a day (MAX).  Sometimes I only text-because I know they will ignore 4 of those, but I can just copy and paste the last 4 texts and I can save my breath.

Here’s the rub.  Even though I’ve made a conscious choice to be happy and not bitch and whine about the little things-sometimes it’s something really tiny and crazy that pushes you over the top.  The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were.

This week, my straw wasn’t the Rat Poop Parade happening overhead, or the inability to watch the latest episode of The Americans on AppleTV because our internet was too slow to load even a basic webpage.  Nope.  What pushed me over the top was the Big Tease by our local grocery store.  It’s the Great Bean Embargo of 2015.

For anybody that hasn’t had the privilege of living in a Foreign Country, grocery shopping outside of the US is really and truly an entirely different process.  One has to accept (and quickly) that you cannot expect to find 700 choices of salad dressing, or cereal, or yogurt…or frankly anything American.  In Switzerland, the yogurt thing was blatantly untrue-we had an entire aisle, but we had only one choice for things like pasta sauce or salad dressing.  One quickly learns to deal with it or compensate.  I figured out how to make my own sausage-Seriously.

I actually think it’s easy enough to accept what you cannot have, so long as you understand what it is you can have.  I have found the Thai (ExPat) grocery store experience to be absolutely mind-boggling.  There is, much to my surprise, a wide variety of Western food options available.  There’s an entire aisle of breakfast cereal and a large selection of cheese.  Neither of these things are indigenous to the Asian diet.  I can buy gluten-free pasta and pre-packaged quinoa.  I can even get Kraft Macaroni & Cheese if I so desire (I do not).  It does bear stating that these foods that are abjectly Western come at a premium.  For example, a box of Honeycomb cereal will cost you about $10.  That box of Kraft Mac & Cheese??  It will run you a cool $7.  So, you can have it-you just have to want it enough to pay for it.  I once found fresh figs in the produce section and had 3 of them in my cart….dreaming of the gorgeous spread of cheese and wine I was going to have for aperitifs that evening.  Until I realized they were 1500 Baht per kilo.  That’s $50, folks.  Back went my gorgeous figs.  But I do pay $4 for a bar Lindt Sea Salt Chocolate.  Because…oh come on…it’s a necessity.

I have to say, it’s actually really great to have the ability to find an purchase so many things locally.  If we want to make something completely, outrageously American (Stove Top Stuffing) and want to pay for it ($10) we can.  I mostly do not.  But I have a few things that we do regularly buy despite them being ridiculously priced just to gouge the farangs.  We keep berries in our refrigerator year-round.  I know this is not proper seasonal eating behavior and that it is far too hot to grow berries in Thailand.  But my kids love them, they are good for us- and so I shell out between $5-$10 per little carton for the delicious little treats.  So, when our grocery store runs out of them, I find myself both puzzled and annoyed.  Obviously, the profit margin is sufficient to allow them to continue to purchase and stock them.

Having grown up in Colorado-in close proximity to the Southwest-I have a deep love of Mexican food.  I always have both black beans and refried beans in my cupboard.  And for the past 4 years, our Thai (expat) grocery has stocked a minimum of one brand and at times 2 or 3 different kinds.  I had a favorite Organic Black Bean, in fact.  Upon our return from the US after the winter break, I discovered that I had depleted our stockpile at home and went out to get more.  Only to find that the grocery store is out of beans.  Not just black beans.  Refried beans, too.  And all but one kind of cannellini beans.

Okay, no big deal.  I’ll just make some.   I’m a Girl Scout and a problem solver.  Just show me the dried beans and legumes and I’ll figure it out.  But, there are no dried beans, either.  Hmmm.

At this point, I’m just scratching my head.  They will get them back in stock.  They always do.  The Americans like to put runs on things.  I like to joke that you can always tell when an American holiday is coming because you’ll see the ladies in the grocery store with 10 cans of cranberry or pumpkin in their cart because they are afraid that the store will sell out.  Never mind that their hoarding of said specialty products is exactly why the store runs out.

Only, here we are.  It’s nearly March.  And there are no beans to be found.  I asked my girlfriend that orders food from the restaurant supply store to order me some a few weeks ago.  Guess what?  No beans.  WTH?  Is there some kind of a Bean Shortage?  A Bean Embargo?  Why the sudden lack of beans, people?

I did some google research.  it seems that in the summer of 2014, Costa Rica did have a black bean shortage.  But that should not have affected bean supply elsewhere.  And they don’t export, really.  I have no answer.

I also have no beans.

But, dammit.  I want some beans.  My girls have become accustomed to Taco Tuesdays.  We haven’t been able to have them since Christmas.  We go to the local “Mexican” restaurant…and they have beans.  (I tried to buy a few cans from the owner, incidentally…he thinks I’m insane now).  Did I mention that my girls perform a Taco Dance for me before Taco Night?  It’s really special and I miss that, too.  Bookworm would be a vegetarian if I would let her.  She would eat nothing but fruit, vegetables, cheese and pasta if that were allowed.  But she is skinny, and hungry and growing and that brain needs protein.  She won’t eat eggs.  I have to negotiate any meat consumption on a per-bite basis.  But my big girl loves legumes.  Beans, lentils, dal, chickpeas, etc.  I have a go-to after school snack that they both devour happily that requires a can of black beans.  (Black Bean Brownies-do not scoff-they are absolutely divine.) I cannot make them and I am noticing an uptick in hungry breakdowns just before dinnertime.

Why?  Because of the BEAN EMBARGO, which was my undoing this week.

It would be okay if they were never available here.  I’d have figured something out.  I’d have packed a Costco-sized bag of dried beans in my suitcase and have a regular schedule for making beans.  It’s the Big Tease.  The fact that the grocery stores sometimes have beans.  Or sometimes have bagels (that’s a whole other Oprah).  Don’t tease us!  Either carry it or don’t.  I can’t deal with the unpredictability.

So, I’ve had a little “moment”.  It’s been a long time since I had one.  One of those little fits where you stomp your feet a little?  Rant?  Unleash a torrent of obscenities directed at the powers that be?  Yes, one of those.

And I even said (just to The Husband), “I feel like the Bean Embargo will be the thing that makes me hate it here.”

To which he replied, in classic and entirely predictable fashion, “Suck it up, Buttercup”.

Good thing I have a bar of Sea Salt Dark Chocolate in the refrigerator.

0

Hungover

All outward signs point to one hell of a Hangover.

Glassy, unfocused eyes.  Matted hair.  Slow, deliberate movements…so as not to jar anything inside the noggin and cause a reverberation that might inflict unnecessary pain.

Inability to garner the motivation and harness the energy required to tackle even the mundane household tasks (or to brush the hair that is rapidly approaching the dreadlock zone.

But the things is I didn’t have a thing to drink yesterday.  Or today for that matter…you might think that’s a given-since it’s just past 1pm on a Monday.  However, it is Oscar Monday and I have just come from the American Women’s Club Oscar’s Breakfast at the Rembrandt Hotel.  Where the Expat Wives gather to sip champagne, ogle celebrities and bet on who will win the prizes.  So, it is actually rather surprising that I haven’t had anything to drink today.

Nonetheless. I have not.  Though I think I might have had too many lattes…I am a bit jittery and even spazzier than usual.

Hungover, I am not.

But I still feel slightly wonky.  It’s the post-major-project Hangover.  It’s happened to all of us at the completion of an all-encompassing project.  Something that takes over your life and truly occupies every empty space in your brain and your life for months on end?

The ES Musical costumes were that project for me..and now that the show is over, I’m feeling slightly bereft.  Barren.  Hungover.  It’s not really over, I still have to complete my accounting and turn it in to the Producer and Director.  I have to box up the costumes that weren’t sold as well as the leftover fabric and trimming.  And if I were really truly dedicated I would sit down and type up a few pages on how to do it next year for the benefit of whomever takes this project on next time.  Because, as you know… we never know where we will be and if I go, it will be in a whirlwind.  I won’t have time or thought to spend making sure that the next person knows what to do.

I will do it.  And I must shake off this feeling and move on to the list of projects and to-do’s that are sitting in front of me on the desktop.  Starting with the completing our taxes…which I should have done this morning instead of going to an Oscars Breakfast.  But, as I said…I’m unfocused and dreary and I just couldn’t do it.

I’m counting on a jolt of energy from a good Boot Camp session, a strong coffee, and the knowledge that if I don’t get the taxes done tomorrow-I’ll have The Husband asking what, exactly, it is that I do all day. If the answer comes back, Oscar Breakfast and/or champagne cocktails…I think I might lose some privileges .

Common knowledge is that you treat a hangover with the Hair of the Dog.  In this case, I obviously need another massive project….but I can’t handle that at the moment.  I’m only just getting mental function back after a weekend at the beach and the devouring of three books in quick succession.  I think I’ll download a few movies I seem to have missed (basically everything nominated for an Oscar) and see if that doesn’t give me an extra boost, too.

2

Dress Rehearsal

Brushing sticky purple glitter-coated strands of hair away from my face, I exhale fully for the first time since 2:05pm.  Said exhale caused more glitter to scatter through the air-resulting in an almost celebratory atmosphere.  It’s too early to celebrate.  We’ve only just survived the dress rehearsal.  It is 5:49pm and I need either a big glass of wine or a serious dose of caffeine.  But I’m too tired for either.

Costume making in and of itself is really a manageable proposal.  Especially when you’ve got a reasonable budget and access to (nearly) everything you might need to get them done.  We also had a tailor to do the lion’s share of the actual sewing.  One might wonder what it is, exactly, that we have been doing?  Glue-gunning, and bedazzling, and accessorizing and making them fabulous.  That is what we do.  I give myself credit here, but you all know it’s really Genius Friend.  I make the spreadsheets that make us seem very organized, and I follow her around with a glue-gun on the ready.  Nonetheless.

We add 43 sparkling gems and a glistening glitter-encrusted feather to The Sultan’s hat.  We add gold trim and gems to Prince Ali’s shoes.  We turn and old monkey head costume and an old pair of grey pants into an elephant head.   We cut 17 zillion strips of gauzy, flowy fabric to make skirts and bracelets for magical D’jinn.  We design, draw, cut and glue intricate designs out of felt to make a magic carpet.  We turn old burn-out costumes into cool upcycled new ones.  We make tiny little fez hats out of cardboard, felt and trim.  We turned a pile of fabric into a stage full of fabulous.  I’m not one to toot my own horn (or wait, maybe I’m tooting already?), but Genius Friend and I make some pretty darned amazing costumes.

The Sultan and two of his royal guards.

The Sultan and two of his royal guards.

Jafar

Jafar

Iago, the Lamp Vendors, The Magic Carpet, Aladdin, Jasmine and the Genie

Iago, the Lamp Vendors, The Tiger God, The Magic Carpet, Aladdin, Jasmine and the Genie

The Junior Djinn (minus hair & make-up)

The Junior Djinn (minus hair & make-up)

Skeletons

Skeletons

The female guards (Charlie's Angel Pose)

The female guards (Charlie’s Angel Pose)

Prince Ali's Menagerie (monkeys, peacocks, elephants)

Prince Ali’s Menagerie (monkeys, peacocks, elephants)

IMG_7597

The female villagers chorus

IMG_7615

It’s not time to celebrate-we have to see how the live performances go with an audience, but the kids are ready, the sets are ready and we will be ready with costumes and make-up and hairstyle fabulousness.

Immediately afterward, we will put our feet up and drink an adult beverage (or 3).   Stay tuned for photos of the final product (that is if I can find time to take photos!)