today i dreamed of sundowner

as many of you already know, i recently left rwanda.  it’s true.  and i am now residing stateside.  

but not JUST stateside! indeed i have forsaken the non-US world for none other than the very heart of statedom- the beating, pulsing metropolis of the united states government, the district of columbia, our nation’s capitol…  which ironically enough, is actually a non-state territory with only shadow (non-voting) congress members and a citizenry deeply embittered by the sting of taxation without representation..

Image 

and as i write this now from my kitchen table, my computer is sitting next to a plate of german chocolate cake i made last night with exotic ingredients like coconut flakes, semi-sweet chocolate, and evaporated milk- all purchased at a store 4 blocks from my house.  i can hear the soothing voice of a cnn correspondent in the next room. and as i type, my boyfriend is preparing to make juice cocktails with a kitchen appliance specifically designed for that purpose (and that purpose alone).  … first world. 

in a few short weeks, my world was transformed- in ways so numerous, and -often times- subtle- that no doubt my friends and loved ones still don’t entirely appreciate them all.  for example- doing laundry- which used to fill me with angst as I tried to plan for a full week without the use of my dirtiest items- is complete – like, COMPLETE, yall – in less than two hours.  mail comes to my house.. there is ALWAYS hot water.. and while i still can’t shake that uncomfortable “this is wrong” feeling when i pack up my purse with my computer and charger and no power converter, i remind myself that in fact my life IS compatible with every outlet i come across… and it is truly marvelous.

it is marvelous.  but every once in a while, i wake to feeling of unease.  a feeling i can’t always explain..

Image

 

but this afternoon as boyfriend and i returned from the hardware store with a trunk full of planter boxes and organic dirt (i know. i know.) and a familiar song came on the playlist..

sawa sawa sawale…. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh 
(this is the best version i could find online)

people, i swooned. and then repeated it over and over again (until i was asked very sweetly to surrender the ipod).  this song – which filled the kigali airwaves almost exclusively for 7 months or so, immediately filled me with memories of playing volleyball on sunday afternoons. of dancing – badly- with the laughing friday night masses.  of driving around the city with my girlfriends, laughing about work or boys or government oppression.. just your normal girl-talk..

and for the first time, in a long time, my longing for africa took shape.

the shape of a divey, noisy, crowded bar- where everyone drinks too much and no one remembers how their phone got stolen..  in an inexplicable feeling somewhere between joy and heartache, i thought of sundowner. 

Image

of dirty, dirty sundowner.  

and… well, it’s hard to write about a place like sundowner- at least in a way that might make anyone care. because sundowner is not special. and has no compelling story i can tell to make it interesting..  

and in fact, it is really just a terrible place.  they shake you down at the door, the wait and bar staff is infamously inattentive, there is literally no end to the seediness of the clientele.. and yet, thinking of it now puts a smile on my face.  like that incompetent secretary you can’t help missing, or the former student who took a glue stick to the bathroom and covered the walls in irremovable goo and yet you still think fondly of..  nostalgia is just really stupid like that.

but from days so wonderful that friday night zeal turns into a dancing, laughing, saturday morning, to days so awful that your friends can only just manage to drag you to dinner wearing leggings and nightshirt… sundowner is always there for you.

and i today i spent some time remembering it.

i was on the dance floor, jumping and screaming and laughing to a song that always made my girlfriends jump and scream and laugh.  i was sitting across the table from a serious friend with a serious beer, having a serious conversation about serious things.  i was swaying arm in arm with everyone at the bar, who had stopped their conversations to emphatically sing along to “i bless the rains down in africa”… or watching a waitress lie to me about the order she clearly forgot to put in an hour and a half ago..

to dive bars of the world, i raise my glass (seriously. like, i’m doing it now. there’s wine in it!) 

and i’d like to know.. where’s your sundowner?

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

lessons learned, too soon forgotten

“i LOVE playing monopoly!!”

have you ever heard yourself say this? i’m sure you have. it is a puzzling inevitability that everyone over the age of 20 will, at some point, think back to the joys of childhood and focus in on this old family favorite.  It’s puzzling, because it is a lie.

nobody loves playing monopoly.

why? because monopoly is easily the most heart wrenching, anxiety building, emotionally and morally debilitating (don’t tell me you’ve never cheated at monopoly. that would make you a dirty, dirty liar), painfully suspenseful game ever created.

Image

we create a beautiful scene in our minds when we set out to play this friendly board game, don’t we?

Image

here is what actually happens.

monopoly violence

but for some reason, the reality is very easy to forget. and being a person who really loves board games, every few months or so, i put myself through a night of misery when i forget the lessons i’ve learned and engage this self-destructive behavior.  the family-fun equivalent of a drinking binge- followed by the hangover, too quickly forgotten…

the last time i played was in south africa, following a particularly long day of driving along the garden trail.  it was the end of a week long holiday and having returned to cape town to find everything of interest closed, my friend and i decided to pass the evening in some friendly competition.

so we started playing south african monopoly- which is the same as classic monopoly, expect that the cards are named  things like “bloemfonteinstasie” and “inkomstebelasting” and you play with rand instead of dollars (“pay your inkomstebelasting (income tax) for 63,000 rand”… and so on.  exchange rates and fake money aside- in the heat of the action, these amounts feel stressfully exorbitant.)

things started off well.  and 25 minutes in, i definitely felt i had the upper hand.  i had been purchasing strategic properties, while my friend had been playing it fast and loose, buying up everything he landed on.  feeling quite superior, i watched his bank balance dwindle  while i sat on a pile of money and high value real estate, as he carelessly agreed to purchase things like “wilderness” (smallest town in the world, comprised of approximately 2 streets, 3 restaurants, 1 beach, and 92 bed and breakfasts.)

but then… as they do… things started to change.  my command of the board was wavering. i owned all the choice cards.. but he seemed to own everything else! what was this!? some kind of class war!? i was the powerless bourgeoisie, and i. was. furious.

everytime i rolled the dice, i owed him money! what the hell!? i mean, small potatoes still, but it was adding up.  before i knew it, he had bought up all the property on the second leg of the board and most of the property on the third.  my reserves were running lower and lower with every pass around the board and each time around, the closer my little dog got to jail, the more my heart would begin to pound.

and i hardly know how it happened, but before long i found myself in the deepest depths of desperation. i was in jail- and LOVING it. 3 turns without having to move, i could breathe easy for the first time in 45 minutes.  each time he concluded a turn, i’d take the dice, toss them in my hands for a bit… take a sip of my beer… try out a topic or two of conversation.. before he’d bring me back to the task at hand i’d finally be forced to roll.

“no doubles, still in jail, ah well, want to go down and see if any thing’s happening at the bar?”

but then… something magical happened. i DID roll doubles!  i rolled THE doubles!! double 5’s!! perfect 10!!!  FREE PARKING!!!!

IN YOUR FACE! CHAAAA-CHIIINNNNGGGGG!!!!!

at this moment, i quite literally LEPT into the air and shrieked with excitement.

and as i settled back into my chair, i watched as my friend’s demeanor visibly shifted from elation to complete despair as he processed the reality of the power shift.

this was the first free parking win so far and the amount was nothing to sneeze at.  the omnipresent tax-happy monopoly warlord had shown no mercy right from the outset, a fact that had embittered us both.  but in this moment, i abandoned my hatred of oppressive government and, cradled to its fickle bosom,  gloried in my new found favor.

my turn wasn’t over yet, and as i settled back into my seat, i looked my companion dead in the eyes and said “i think i’m ready to buy some hotels…”

monopoly win

though this didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things as when the game concluded, 7 hours later, i was deep in debt, with some of the money having transferred into reality and much of the resentment.  and that is just the way it goes in this game. one minute you’re on top, and the next you are telling a friend you actually like quite a lot that they are a dirty cheater and fighting back tears while your houses are foreclosed and you sell your monopoly children (the top hat and automobile) as day laborers in the johannesburg airport…

***important author’s note: i know a place where interested parties can score an evening of monopoly.  *cough-mylivingroom-coughcough*. but please be advised i will crush you. and/or call you a cheater and cry.***


“how do you like living in rwanda?”

people are very polite.  and as a result, tend to ask me this question a lot. constantly. daily. it is the most obvious and seemingly innocuous question to ask in order to show interest in my life and i appreciate it. i do.  it’s just that… i don’t know how to answer it!  because..

i like rwanda.

“i like rwanda. [convincing nod]… [thoughtful pause]…i mean, yesterday a boy spidermaned onto the side of my car as i was going around a round-about and my heart nearly stopped… but.. yeah, i like it.”

“i like rwanda. i think i have amoebas again and every 12 minutes, the house guard moves the patio furniture from one side of the house to the other and i don’t know why… but yeah. [smile] i really like it.”

and i do.  …most of it.  …usually.

there are aspects of living in kigali, rwanda  that are simply wonderful. first off, it is beautiful- everywhere- all over the country i am constantly stunned by the beauty of the landscape.  also, it is safe- incredibly so – and while, as with anywhere, you are wise to stay vigilant and protect your belongings, the chances of something very bad happening to you in this capital city are much much less than, say, washington dc or berlin.  
it is friendly, there are good restaurants, and while yeah- it’s quiet, and yeah- there is only 1 tv station, and yeah- you have to boil and filter your water..  generally life here is comfortable and very pleasant. it’s hard not to like it.

that being said…

life here makes me bat shit crazy.

but it’s just really hard to explain WHY

when you are in a place for a long time- long enough to feel that what you’re living there is real life- small things become very important.    people can put up with a lot of hardships- bosses they hate, 45 minute commutes.. rain…. – usually without letting it really attack their inner happiness.  they are okay because on that 45 minutes commute is their favorite little coffee shop.  and while getting rained on may be awful, wearing red galoshes is awesome.  we relish the small comforts and abhor the small irritations.  because small things are accessible, small things add up, and most importantly- small things represent big things.

for example..  you see, i REALLY love tuna fish.

canned or fresh, raw or seared, brilliantly presented tartar or straight out of the can w a fork… i like the tuna.

Image

you get me?

for my first 6 months or so in kigali, i never saw tuna anywhere.  and then, like a tiny miracle, there it was!  (i’ve learned over time that goods availability here tends to come in waves- and also that supply is never, in any way, dictated by demand.)  it was absent, then it was present, and over the last 6 months or so, it has progressively disappeared again.

you will, no doubt then, understand my joy last week when i went into the corner grocer looking for a fix and actually located a can. (FIND!)  it was dinner time and i was hungry and i was now in very high spirits.   i picked up the tuna from the shelf but then immediately- like a ton of bricks- i could feel it. the sense of impending doom.. the can wasn’t price-marked (as most things aren’t) and i braced myself for what i knew was coming…  i asked the grocer how much it cost.

2,500 francs. 2,500 FRANCS! that’s nearly $5, y’all. $5. for a can of tuna fish. GET BENT STORE MAN!

and while i know that prices in kigali do tend to be on the highly ridiculous side, this was too much to bear.

Image

AAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Image

*note- i didn’t do this.*

but i really wanted to. i wanted to because (well, mostly because i had a craving that burned with the intensity of 1000 suns. but also because..) the man wanted to charge me $5 for a can of tuna fish!!!!!!

and that is really frustrating.  but not simply because paying $5 for something i know should cost $.77 is simply impossible on my budget.. it is- and that is a bit defeating.  but because this is the norm in kigali- insanely inflated prices that nobody checks, no one understands, and everybody just accepts.

so-  of course i do understand that higher prices in rwanda are, to a point, obvious and unavoidable.  rwanda is a landlocked country and i do appreciate that importing goods here is truly VERY expensive.  most of the imported goods in our shops come in via mombasa or dar es salaam and travel over-land to get here.  shipping freight charges are just nothing in comparison to all of the other costs collected on the journey to our snuggled little country: the ridiculous fuel costs of land transport, absurdly high import duties, and the many many “miscellaneous taxes” that creep up along the way (this is a euphemism for bribing corrupt police in kenya, tanzania, and uganda- in case that wasn’t clear..) together, these mean that upon arriving in kigali, the cost of everything is blown completely out of proportion.  i know it’s a problem.  and no doubt poses a much greater issue for small store owners who cannot feasibly set up a stable business model when the price and availability of their goods is so unpredictable…

it is the way you will get very different information from officials within the same agency at different levels, pointing to the desperately inadequate communication and educational processes of the public sector,

it is the days when there is simply no connecting to the internet because the country’s infrastructure needs are completely beyond their ability to meet, yet infrastructure, even tech based, does not a sexy development project make..

life in a developing country is full of big problems that affect we inhabitants in fairly small ways on a daily level. but those small irritations pile on top of each other until for what seems like no reason at all, you find yourself seething with anger and saying something quite rude to a local grocer, sure that his sole purpose in life is to ruin your day with his hateful tuna pricing- pricing you cannot help but take as extremely personal.

and yet… this is also a part of what makes the experience special.  there is something heartwarming in those little frustrations- and as I write, I am smiling thinking about the parking lot attendants who, drunk with power, will let you park your car and exit your vehicle, before insisting you return to it and move your car to some other spot for some imaginary reason.

there are many, many things about living in rwanda that are wonderfully lovely- but the things that really make it unique and funny and memorable, sometimes are these moments of maddening frustration and absurdity.  perhaps because these are the moments that you only experience as a resident- that change it in your heart from “strange city” to “home”- or at least “home for now”…


material overload

take out coffee, home brewed coffee, samples of chocolate decaf coffee. brown ale, pale ale, white ale, red ale.  tap water, bottled water, mint water, sweet tea. orange juice, mango juice, grape juice, kombucha…

i have been in the united states for less than 3 days and the above is only a smattering of the beverages i have busied myself consuming.

i have been outside the us of a for a full year now and while this is certainly my longest time away, my reaction to returning never fails to surprise me.  it is not the emotion of seeing my family after so long apart or the intense comfort of my parents’ house where i grew up that overwhelms me. it is not the luxury of speaking to all i meet in a common language or the fact that everything (the hot water- or running water for that matter, all the appliances, the internet.. etc) works perfectly and should it fail, a fix is conveniently around the corner.  these things are wonderful and i am absolutely filled to the brim with the pleasure of these comforts.

but the thing that really throws me back?  the feature of american life that tends to freeze me in my tracks as try in vain to conquer the anxiety and excitement that has gripped me to my very core?

it’s the stuff.

everywhere.

the sheer quantity of consumer goods available for a tiny fraction of the average person’s income! it BLOWS. MY. MIND.

and so, if you will allow me, i would like to take you now on a short shopping trip with my mother and me.  a shopping trip which began with my saying “let’s just get out of the house for a bit” and ended with me sitting on the floor of a grocery aisle holding 6 different kinds of beverages and whispering “mama… stop me…….”

in yet another example of things about western life that sound normal but i think are completely bizarre- my mother had a dentist appointment yesterday.  “just a cleaning”- as in you go to a dentist’s office and someone cleans your teeth for you and then tells you that despite having followed their every instruction for the past however long, your gum health is akin to that of someone brushing their teeth with sugar cane and bbq sauce and you should probably just accept your future as the toothless butt of the neighborhood children’s jokes.  what a pleasure.  i can’t imagine why this practice hasn’t caught on in kigali.

the result of this appointment was an off-handed comment that death by gingivitis is probably in store for all of us, but my mother was in better shape than most and she was very likely to escape the horrible fate of the american public if only she would purchase (and one would presume, use) a water pick.  this is a machine that costs between $40-$60 and essentially flosses your teeth for you with high-pressure water.  how fabulous.

feeling a bit stir crazy in my cocoon of high speed internet (honestly what do yall do with all the time you don’t spend staring at your computer screen waiting for things to load? sometimes (in kigali) i go to the kitchen and filter water while i’m waiting for my email to open. yet another time savings here that i don’t know what to do with)  i suggested we head out and look for one.

we arrived at a household item super store which will remain nameless (i am decidedly not into free advertising. paid advertising is a different story completely….  pause while i wonder why no one has seen fit to give me money to mention their brand names in a sparsely read travel blog…. shake it off kate!)

so, we arrived at nameless housewares store and my mom- not sensing my growing panic, walked confidently over to the water pick display, next to the 10×10 area dedicated to magnifying beauty mirrors and opposite the equally large section dedicated to things i couldn’t accurately identify, but which looked sort of like a cross between trashcans and fishing nets.  i attempted to follow her, but was drawn instead to the several large bins of assorted knickknacks set in the middle of the aisle (if this sounds frustrating, keep in mind this aisle is approximately the width of a 3 lane highway).

i stood there, baffled by a bin filled with water bottles and black plastic bands that could be affixed to the bottles to create a handle.  like this!

and while i know there is a reason these items have found their way into the mass bins in the middle of the aisles near the register (i.e. nobody wants them) i stood puzzling for much too long over this strange product.  what is the purpose of producing something like this??  it’s maddening!

it is not the original designer that confuses me- i mean, i do wonder about the person who ever sat sipping coffee and thought, “you know what my favorite part of this mug is??  the handle!!”  truly if there is one thing i would do to improve all glasses and cups everywhere- it is remove all the handles.

it is the second person to see the design.  the one that said “YES!  this is what reusable water bottles need! HANDLES!”

and then it’s all the people that invested money and time and workers into producing it. and then the stores that saw it in a catalogue and said “YES!  this is what our customers want!” and then bought enough to fill a massive aisle bin full of them.

DOES THIS NOT BOTHER ANYONE ELSE!?  probably not, but this is what stores in my hometown do to me.

my mother finally noticed that i was not with her helping to compare the different features of the available water picks and attempted to draw me out of my confusion: “katie, what on earth are you doing over there?”

this was all i could muster..

“we’re not buying that. now stop being silly and lets go look at the colanders.”

(which we did. colanders are awesome.)

after this we made our way to a health food grocery store.  health food grocery store shopping is easily one of my favorite things to do in the world. i LOVE it.  there is literally nothing about being surrounded by nutritious whole foods, all natural cleaning supplies,  and in season fruits and veg that doesn’t make me swoon with joy.  the prices don’t even faze me. and NOR does the knowledge that processed organic foods are still processed so don’t go there today. it is my bliss and you won’t ruin it for me!!

but as generally happens when i come home after long periods of absence- i grossly underestimated my reaction to being thrust unprepared again into paradise.


for robert

i lost a very dear friend this week. it has shaken me quite intensely. and – as you do i suppose- i have spent the last couple of days looking at pictures, reading through emails, and replaying memories – mostly accompanied by continual weeping…
he wrote me once though that while it’s best not to obsess over unhappiness, sometimes the most natural and human thing one can do is indulge the sadness. remembering the great moments you’ve shared with people and trying to let the pain comfort you. i knew what he meant at the time and though he wasn’t talking about death, i’ve taken his advice to heart over this and have found such enormous comfort in thinking about him, crying over him, and finally laughing (out loud- heartily and honestly) about the times we spent together.

and here is one of my favorites:

terrible jazz, cs lewis, and the meaning of life- all mixed with tequila

there is a bar in fort worth (or at least there was once- with any hope it has been unceremoniously shut down in the past 2 years) that called itself a jazz/tapas bar. being a big fan of both, my friend organized an evening here with hopes of high caliber, cultured fun.

well… there were tapas- weird and unpleasant and extremely expensive ones, and there was jazz- poorly performed and frequently interrupted by a drunk man in a white fedora stumbling into the band. there was also a grumpy bartender, a prostitute in a red dress, and a homeless man in a baseball cap from a team i can’t remember now but who wanted very much to discuss a game that had recently passed, exchange phone numbers and get a little money for food. my friend gave him an apple.

this was clearly not the ideal evening he had planned, but not being the type to give up on a night of drinking no matter the hardships, he managed to keep us there for about 2 hours with hilarious conversation – albeit continually disrupted by the screech of the microphone in the badly set up sound system.  as this bar more or less only served mexican beer however we did manage to lure him away from this garbage dump of an establishment with an absolutely brilliant suggestion (since i can’t remember who actually came up with this- i will take credit for it!): go to the new sushi restaurant for edamame and sake bombs! (note: we returned to this place at least 3 more times. your guess is as good as mine..)

sake bombs at a nice japanese restaurant are generally greeted by the staff as a welcome way to increase revenue.. though by fellow patrons as highly deplorable and obnoxious. not least in our case because of the rogue sake bomb that –poorly executed- bounced uninvited onto a neighboring table splashing beer and sake all over our unamused neighbor’s dinner. …whoops…
and so after about 3, we decided it was time to retire to my friend’s apartment to continue the evening deep in conversation.. and so as not to tempt the patience of the public any longer.

my friend was deeply christian and spoke beautifully about his faith. he loved to talk about religion, morals, life, love, society… he loved to discuss big topics and people loved discussing them with him. he was the type to have a conversation about the deterioration of the modern family through the misguided rejection of gender roles at a country dive bar over a game of shuffle board (true story.) he was fixed firmly in his beliefs and never doubted what he believed as truth, and yet always spoke with such an open minded, warm, and nonjudgmental manner. he was one of the few people i’ve ever known with whom i could discuss faith and religion openly and kindly- without trying to convince each other- without arguing – without feeling the other was wrong.  and that is what we did that evening.

he got his guitar and with a spirit of community and genuine interest, we all sat around discussing c.s. lewis’ till we have faces and the great divorce. (by the by- the great divorce is a masterpiece and religious affiliations and beliefs aside, i highly recommend it as one of the most thought-provoking books i’ve read on the concepts of heaven and hell.)

and as we discussed these books and this author, the conversation led inevitably to christianity and other world religions. and as something of a theological scholar (through self-pursuit, though he talked often of going back for a theology degree) this was a very enjoyable thing to do with him.  it was entrancing the way he spoke- not just about his own religion- but all religion- with so much knowledge and thoughtful consideration. he never dismissed anything, ever, without thinking about it carefully and fully. this was clear in the way he spoke and made everything he said that much more interesting.. but i digress.

as we discussed these topics and as the conversation inevitably led to world religions AND as we were already several drinks into the evening, my friend thought this was an excellent opportunity to finish off his (more than half-full) bottle of tequila he had been saving. and.. as intelligent conversation tends to go down hill when mixed with tequila…

i can only laugh when i think of the last words spoken that night by the last of our friends left standing at sunrise:
“kate. robert. you have been saying the same idiotic 6 sentences back and forth to each other for the past 2 hours. let me solve this mystery for you: you are not going to discover the meaning of life after 28 shots of tequila. i’m leaving this madness. go to sleep.”

___

for those of you who knew robert, you will undoubtedly agree that he was one of the best. hilarious and joyful, kind and generous, intimidatingly intelligent and stunningly honest.. reading through our hundreds of emails this week has been such a comfort to me and i want to tell you that he spoke of you all (our mutual friends, his family, and all his friends from florida) so often and with so much love and respect.

for those of you who didn’t know him- thank you for letting me indulge myself this way. he was truly one of the best people i’ve ever known and – though i know he knew how much i loved and admired and valued him- i can’t help but wish i could tell him.
just one more time.

**note- i didn’t take this picture. it is from a trip he took in paris years ago. i love it though and it reminds of how he loved architecture and used to speak so beautifully and interestingly about buildings. constantly.


the clumsiest fish in the bowl

i have written before about what i tend to mildly call my “lack of grace”.  i realize it has become something of a theme in my writing and while i would love, dear reader, to say that it is just exaggeration- that i highlight this quirky, but small aspect of my character to make my adventures seem more humorous than they actually are- sadly i cannot.
so starting with the small child i tripped over as i disembarked at heathrow airport to just now when i tried to give my friend an affectionate shoulder squeeze but only succeeded in knocking his glasses off his face, my trip to the UK has been- like all other things in my life- a whirlwind of bumbling encounters with people, objects (both moving and stationary), and social norms in general.

i set out for london 9 days ago, bag packed w borrowed winter clothing and mind stuffed with fantasies of art and culture. for, as glorious as the region is, after 8 straight months in east africa, i was beginning to grow a little anxious for the opportunity to visit museums and attend the theatre.  one morning i actually woke to realize I’d spent my unconscious hours singing the entire first act of les mis under my favorite monet weeping willow (which oddly enough, turns out to be located in kimihurura, kigali) with some people i went to college with and haven’t spoken to since. (sometimes I fall asleep w music playing..)

i was in need of a little break! a chance to do some shopping, drink some good wine, and sleep in a bed w no mosquito netting.  not that i mind mossy nets mind you- i quite like them actually. undeniably there something hauntingly romantic about laying in bed, encased in gauzy projection as the night birds and monkeys shriek in the distance. … but guys its been 8 months. shrieking monkeys and haunting romance is seriously old news. (“oh look-  there’s a mother and baby swinging in that fruiting avocado tree” **YAWN**)

so off i went, to cold and rainy london, heartily looking forward to scarves and tea and adorable old men in elbow-patched cardigans that say things like “do excuse me dear, but i seem to have dropped my umbrella”.

london-friend picked me up from the airport bright and early on saturday morning and no doubt assuming i was exhausted from my trip, offered me concerned apologies as i tripped on the airport escalators, bumped into people on the subway, and walked into his kitchen wall (twice).  but presumably at some point on the first day he realized that i was not just overly tired, but perhaps there was actually something very wrong with either 1)my equilibrium, or 2) my ability to think through an entire movement before initiating it (and he didn’t even see me bang my knee on his shower or fall down the stairs at the restaurant on the way to the bathroom.)

look people, this is who i AM! you just have to accept it!! though i don’t know why im yelling at you- in fact most of you are admirably tolerant of my extreme awkwardness. and he is no exception- he was gloriously patient and understanding with me for a whole marvelous week. a week i’m going to sum up with the following mishaps:

SUNDAY: feeling refreshed after my 18 hour journey, i mentioned that a little run would be nice.  and it was. or you know- cold and exhausting and full of horrible pigeons, but beautiful nevertheless. we ran through st. james, hyde, and green parks, and past buckingham palace. i was treated to priceless bits of information about the city like “this is called Hyde Park Corner. it’s named after it being in Hyde Park and this being the corner of it.”
all total i’m told we ran about 4 miles (before cutting it “short” because i “looked a little tired.”  which is a very nice way of saying that i had been complaining incessantly for about 3.5 miles and running companion was trying to avoid just leaving me behind in the park.)


TUESDAY: for my birthday, london-friend took me to jamie oliver’s restaurant/cafe to learn how to make south indian curry and bhajji. this is exactly my type of activity and area in which i genuinely had the potential to shine… except that i’ve spent my professional life in primary schools and struggle with adult forms of interaction.


and then i rubbed chili juice in my eyes.


WEDNESDAY
: one of the many wonderful people i met this week v kindly invited us to a dinner party and london-friend thoughtfully offered to bring desert (which the british collectively call “pudding” even though in this instance we actually prepared pie, cake, and ice cream. but i am absolutely not going into that absurd conversation again.. because honestly it doesn’t matter.
… pudding is soft y’all! .. and you know, puddingy! ..whatever, i’m over it.)

word to the wise: if you are making a pie crust and mixing ingredients with your hands, perhaps think about washing the butter off before picking up a giant knife. but then, of course you would..



and THURSDAY: a work day for both us, but substantially more so for london-friend as my day consisted of sleeping til 10, meeting my team for lunch at parliament, then chatting over coffee for several hours w a former colleague. i thought i’d do something nice for him as a thank you for his thoughtfulness and hospitality, so tidied the flat and did some laundry.

yes friend, a relaxing shower is a great idea.. in theory.  by the by… i washed all of your towels this morning and they didn’t dry like i thought they would so there is a good chance you’ll find they’re all still soaking wet.
…and by “chance”, i mean- they are definitely all soaking wet and i’m sorry.
oh… and your pants are all wet too.


no pictures of LONDON as i was much too enthralled with the being there to take any, but here are some from YORK:









conformity graph

there is a graph circulating on facebook this week comparing “american measurement”-i.e. the imperial system- and “the rest of the world”- i.e. metric.  it is clearly meant to make the imperial system look inferior

but for no explicable reason, has had the exact opposite effect on me.  which is odd, as under normal circumstances, i am actually no critic of the metric system.  living abroad, i long ago adopted liters and kilometers (though the centimeter is something i simply refuse to think in. seriously- centimeters!? why don’t we just measure things with ladybugs or rollypollys?
dear centimeter, this is how i think of you. like a bug, too adorable to be taken seriously.)

i hold a special place in my heart for celsius (for weather that is.  cooking will always be in farenheit. set it to 350 please!) and i secretly actually prefer the day-month-year date format over the month-day-year nonsense we use back home.

but when i looked at this picture- one side a perfectly level bar graph with mundane blue poles sticking up like a stupid smurf army, and the other- random heights of pink and yellow- like wildflowers… something in me snapped.  i read “arbitrary hysterical roller coaster” (or something like that) above our uneven graph and understood “individuality, sister. rock it out.”

and just like that, i was transformed… into a measurement rebel. a non-conformist ready to tell you all where to put your meter. (<– whoa! racy stuff y’all!)