Monday, January 26, 2015

Finding and Fixing Dinghies

"Do you feel like checking out some sailing dinghies this weekend?" asked Erik.
"Sure," I said. "Sounds fun."
"Great. They're in an old container down at the dock; someone abandoned them years ago."
I looked up. "Abandoned" is usually a deadly adjective for a boat.
"It's all supposed to be in pretty bad shape." he continued. "The sails are probably going to be full of rat poop, and who knows if anything will still float."
"Boy, Erik, why didn't you lead with that? You know I can't resist a rusty old container full of broken boat parts."
"And rat poop," he added.
"Yes, don't forget the rat poop."

So off we went on Sunday morning. The container was better than I expected. Yes, the promised rat droppings were everywhere, but a neighbour has been storing his kayaks in there, too, so the place wasn't as sad and forsaken as previously advertised.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Walking On Thin Ice

 
It is -25 C with the wind chill today. I am sitting at my desk with an extra scarf over my sweater, and wishing I had gloves suitable for typing in. More hot tea is on the way. And yet, I can't adequately explain to my kids why they aren't allowed outside in just their socks.

Every time we leave the house, I have to remind the girls to wear hats and mitts. Not just carry them along, but actually use them. And it isn't like they are immune to the cold. I see them hunker into their jackets as the wind blows them sideways on departing the supermarket. Me, I don't set foot out of the house without my fur hat planted on my head. I suppose the kids just have a tropical mindset. Sunscreen and sunglasses they understand. Warm jackets, not so much.

Last week was my birthday, and, as everyone knows, you get to be The Boss of the Universe on your birthday. After a week (or three) of Christmas/New Year's/No-Excuse-Provided eating, I wanted to go for a walk. That may sound odd after I've just spent two paragraphs complaining about the cold, but it was a balmy -3 C that day, and I'm a walker. So Erik and I rounded up the girls and we headed off to the woods.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

On Ice

We're out reconnecting with our Canadian roots. Merry Christmas, everyone! See you in the new year.



Friday, December 19, 2014

Game Called on Account of Snow

Can't talk - too busy watching kids make snowballs.

Meanwhile, back in PNG, Erik has admitted to eating an entire box of chocolates meant for me. I no longer feel bad about eating all of my Grandmother's shortbread cookies without him.

Enjoy your week, everyone. I will post again when I'm not hiding under a fur hat or fighting food battles against my nearest and dearest.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Working Through the Time Zones

It is six in the morning, and I am writing this post. That isn't so unusual - I normally get up at four-fifteen these days. But I am nine time zones away from my usual morning coffee on the couch with Erik, and my body hasn't caught up yet.

The girls and I arrived home after three days of travel. All in all it was pretty painless; the kids are so big now that they only need me around to navigate them through Customs and Immigration and pay for the odd sandwich. One flight after another we ate, we watched movies, we squirmed in our seats, we dozed, and we inched ever closer to home.

Our rule, learned from hard experience, is you have to forget your old time zone. (Flying from Toronto to Europe is the worst, because the flight is only eight hours and you land at about seven in the morning, meaning you have to force yourself to stay up for another twelve hours.) Naps are a trap best avoided unless you like waking up for the day at 2am.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Weekend Water Fun

You would think that moving off the boat would mean less time spent in the water. That hasn´t been the case. Our lives still revolve around beaches, snorkelling, cyclones and storms; our focus is just a little different. Instead of wondering: "Do we need to reef the main before that squall hits?" now we ask: "Do the girls need to take an umbrella to school today?"

Saturday dawned on our second swim meet of this term. The girls do Swim Squad every Tuesday after school. They were good swimmers before, but now that they are mastering the actual strokes, they are amazing. It is a strict-but-fair program run on the official Australian rules for the sport, and the girls are eating it with a spoon.

The swim meets of my youth were a sad affair in comparison. No humid indoor rec centre, no chlorine stench, no grey walls and the echos of overeager parents. Instead, we have a lovely 25 m outdoor pool with the tropical breezes blowing and a view of the neighbouring islands. (Someday my girls are going to give me grief about their upbringing, because we have clearly spoiled them rotten.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

At the Fishing Competition

When I was eleven years old, a friend invited me up to her cottage one summer weekend. We had a great time - swimming in the lake, riding around in her dad´s motorboat, running around in the sunshine. And fishing. I´d never been fishing before, but I understood the basics: add worm to hook, drop in water, wait for bite then reel in. Pretty easy.

So my friend and I took our bait and our rods and plonked ourselves down at the end of the dock. The wooden boards were pleasantly warm beneath us. We dangled our feet over the edge, wormed up and threw in our lines.

It didn´t take long to get a nibble. Proud of my great accomplishment, I reeled in my line. There was a sunfish on the end of my hook. I grabbed the fishing glove - a studded green plastic thing that let me hold the fish without getting sliced on its spines. Out came the hook, and I threw my sunfish back in the water.

My friend and I kept fishing. She caught one, and back it went. I got another nibble. I reeled in another sunfish. I peered at it closely.
"I think this is the same fish," I said. "Yes, look, you can see where the hook went through last time." I threw my fish back in. Stupid fish. You would think getting a hook through the face twice in a row would take some of the fun away from eating a delicious worm.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Curse of the Dried Beans

I'm a fan of tinned beans. If I had to guess, I'd say I've mentioned tinned beans on this blog more than any other food. Mostly because dried beans hate me. That's life. But I have a two-part problem: a) they don't sell tinned beans here, and b) I like to cook with beans. This leaves me with the dried bean option.

I like hummus, and they don't sell that here, either. So I broke down and bought a bag of chickpeas. Every few days I would think about making hummus. I'd look at the chickpeas in their plastic package, and recall they had to be soaked overnight. "Oh, well, it is only one o'clock; I'll do that later." And then forget.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Costumes, Hats and Other Odd Traditions

Let's start today with a quiz. Complete the following sentence: Tuesday was ________.

Most of you will have finished that off with phrases like "rainy" or "a pretty good day". But if you are Australian, you definitely said: Tuesday was Melbourne Cup. Still lost? It's a horse race. More accurately, it is the horse race that brings the nation to a standstill.

For a race that lasts less than 200 seconds, that is a pretty impressive feat. Not only is it a public holiday in Melbourne, but the rest of the country shuts down (officially or not) from about noon onwards in order to drink champagne, watch pop stars perform, and wear funny hats.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Preparing for Tropical Hallowe'en


Sorry, no time to talk. It's Hallowe'en, and I am trying to get ready. I have a very busy schedule of ordering/receiving proper treats from North America (check), making decorations (check), and explaining what Hallowe'en is to people who run the gamut from "oh, yeah, that's an American thing," to "never heard of it and why are you torturing that watermelon?" (ongoing).

Like all immigrants, I am appalled that my deeply cherished traditions are not immediately understood and embraced by my new land. It rocks me to my core that there are people out there who don't understand Hallowe'en, best of all the holidays, night of imagination and unlimited chocolate. I would have thought that Hallowe'en was about as high-concept as a holiday could be: children become actual monsters to rule the night. Where is the confusion? Plus, Hallowe'en boasts more apostrophes than any other holiday, and that is just plain fun.

I have put my shock and dismay behind me and have moved on to Phase II of the Immigrant Holiday Experience: how do I adapt the crucial parts of my traditions to suit this new place? For example, what to do about a jack o' lantern? (See, another apostrophe.) Pumpkins aren't exactly thick on the ground, here.

As a public service, I hereby present this handy primer on celebrating Hallowe'en in the tropics:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sickness and Children Running Free

There is something particularly galling about suffering a head cold in the tropics. All this warm weather is supposed to keep the germs away - isn't that what I told myself every miserable February as the kids stumbled home in -20 C weather, shooting phlegm out of every orifice? I was certain all this would be solved by a week in the sun.

Well, guess what. No. This head cold has swept through town like a hurricane, and now it is my turn to run through tissues and fight to keep the virus out of my lungs by sheer force of will.

All of which makes me cranky. And what is the lady about town to do with her crankiness when she wants to air it out? Why, lay it at the feet of her children, naturally! So let's see how I've done.
 
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