Tag Archives: blogging

Staying Happy at Post

By marrying into the Foreign Service, I had to take a 90 degree turn on my career goals and sense of who I was as an individual. I couldn’t really be a travelling philosophy professor. While it worked for Plato and Socrates to stand out in the agora and teach the hoi polloi, my lack of language skills at our Asian posts would leave my audience laughing at best. College teaching is just not something you can pick up and start anew in a foreign country every few years.

Like many diplo spouses, taking that turn left me feeling somewhat bereft. Who was I? What was the point? Seasoned spouses have found their happiness and identity (or they’ve left the service), I’m not there yet. Instead, I seek happiness in moments and dreams, and wrestle with my sense of self on the side.

One of my favorite dreams is planning things. I love to plan things. Give me a goal and I will work on all the possible scenarios to make it happen. I’ll rearrange your furniture, consider how best to coordinate a vacation, evaluate the features of various products…

So I spend a lot of my time planning.

Sometimes you have to make use of your plans, of course, so we occasionally take trips or organize things.

I also keep myself happy by working. My job is relatively piecemeal and low-engagement (because I mostly fill in for people when they’re out, so I don’t have any projects to call my own) but it gets me out of the house, and moving. I also get to spend time with adults, some days.

I read a lot, which has always been a source of enjoyment.

I eat, because exploring new foods is always fun. Unless it’s squid.

I take online courses.

I imagine an alterative career as a trendy crafter. Then I remember that the kids are into everything, and I don’t have a craft space that I can keep them out of while still spending time with them.

Nothing terribly innovative, but I am finding myself growing slightly more content with these little things. Contentment will be a good place to find.

One of the things I did in Dhaka to stay happy at post was blog. It gave me a project to work on, a little legacy to leave behind as a resource to future visitors to the city. Here in Seoul, there are so many expat blogs and resources in English that my blog didn’t really have that niche any more. However, I’ve joined a Foreign Service bloggers challenge this month, and plan to blog along with them as much as I can.

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…A Foreign Service Mixtape

I tried to create an online playlist, but the copyright regulators prevent me from doing that outside the US, so instead… youtube!

I was listening to “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros the other day, and thought it was a pretty awesome song to describe family life in the Foreign Service. Looking through my music directory, there are lots of songs that seem to speak to me as an expat. I thought I’d share them with you, but asked the FS blogger community if they had any input first. Strangely, they picked many of my favorites too. I’ll give each of them credit below. 

I’ll totally add in your suggestions if you have some that aren’t yet on the list. Leave them in the comments.

Overcoming the challenges of expat life, both expected and unexpected

 

Melissa at Just US

Lydia at Here, There and Everywhere

 

Lydia at Here, There and Everywhere

Lydia at Here, There and Everywhere (thinking specifically of being judged by the folks back home for employing domestic staff, and all the times life in the host country just gets to you)

 

Songs about family, when you’re far from family, or you’re family is living in 2 or more places, like on an unaccompanied tour.

 

K. at There is Fun to be Done

Sara at Our Yuppie Life

 

Songs about travel, experiencing new places and leaving others behind.

 

Shannon at Cyberbones

Stephanie at Where in the World Am I?

Stephanie at Where in the World Am I?

The Supreme Globetrotter at Four Globetrotters

Chelsea at A Fisher Out of Water

Memories of America

 

Digger at Life After Jerusalem

Stephanie at Where in the World Am I?

Z. at Something Edited This Way Comes

Nicole at Where in the World at Luca and Juliana?

Erica at Navigating Wonderland

The troupe of young ladies at Our Yuppie Life

Memories of Particular Posts

 

The mom at Moms2Nomads

TulipGirl at Tulip Girl (So many posts make us feel like we’re back in the USSR!)

…Solidarity and Honesty

The theme of the upcoming FS Blog Round-up is honesty. This is written in response to the theme.

My readers, predominantly my friends and family who know me in real life (as well as a strangely large number of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), sometimes ask me why I haven’t written on X, Y, or Z. There are a couple of reasons.

Re: X

I don’t like to take pictures of strangers. I especially don’t like to include pictures of people on my blog who I have not obtained permission, particularly of people who don’t know they’re being illustrated here. Thus, I don’t have many photos of local clothes, local people doing daily things, etc. Sometimes when I pass a particularly colorful, or particularly odd, or particularly pathetic (using pathos in its strictest sense) person or event, I think… mmm… this would be interesting on the blog. But, to me, it would just be a kind of surrogate voyeurism, so I don’t.  Other bloggers are braver, and willing to approach people to request a photo, but not me.

Re: Y

Stephen King criticizes writing workshops for teaching that there are two kinds of writers: those who write for and from themselves, and those who write to create an audience. However, there is some merit to the distinction, even if it creates really horrid literature. Bloggers are stereotypically thought of as the first, navel gazers who publish their narcissist musings. (Ok, maybe this describes the MySpace teen blogger best). There are also those bloggers out there who have a giant following, and make a living off of their crowd-appeal. And then there are those, like me, who write something rather bland, neither self-absorbed ramblings nor really gripping literature.

Why? It’s a combination of fearfulness and pride, I suppose. There’s always the fear of sounding like an idiot, of course. I don’t want my friends and family to worry about me, so I don’t blog about how often I get giardia or other debilitating diseases. I don’t want to expose too much of ourselves to those readers who are not of our friends and family, because “you never know…” (And, boy does the State Dept. drill the fear of internet security into us, paranoia of who might be reading) And, speaking of paranoia, I don’t want to talk too much about Mr. Adventure’s job and life in the embassy, because I don’t want to kibosh his career. In a job where security clearances and corridor reputations matter, the internet persona you portray can have real effects on both advancement and even retaining your job.

Re: Z

I’m not sure why I don’t write more about Z. I am thinking of taking my current job free-lance/self-employed when we move later this year, so I may start a whole ‘nuther blog and website when I do. I think I don’t write about Z because it is truly quite dull, unless you’re in the market for it, and then you’s want to know how much I charge, what my background is, and whether I’m any good at what I do. I am. But you wouldn’t know it from this blog.

But what does all this alphabetic nonsense have to do with the subject of this post?

Essentially, as a blogger, I got all verklempt this morning. A bit of a crisis/amusing-if-it-weren’t-real censorship issue arose in relation to a fellow Foreign Service Blogger, and I was one of the pieces behind the scenes that enabled a quick response. A solidaristic response, for wont of a better adjective. About a year ago, I started a Facebook group for Foreign Service bloggers (send me your FB account name if you want to join), I’m the admin now, but I’m kind of a behind the scenes type, compared to some of the big names out there in blog-dom. The group has been the most active FB group I’ve ever been in, and people are constantly in contact with each other, coordinating themed posts, suggesting topics, giving each other support both blog-related and life-related. It’s a great experience. There are members who write family blogs, craft and work blogs, and members who write blogs that challenge the status quo, both IRL and pseudonymously.

The group is, in fact, a tool of virtual solidarity, a way in which we who are so far-flung can actually live in community. FS bloggers share a social identification which unites us, a shared work, a shared lifestyle. We have different jobs, different statuses, different roles in our families and posts, but in our on-line community we’ve found an interconnectedness and a support network that was unexpected to me when I began blogging. We are free to be bold, edgy or bland, and we are free to speak those things which we can’t share with others outside the community. Which brings me back to Z. Before I became what was once known as a “trailing spouse,” I was a community theorist, an occasional consultant on community, a PhD in democracy, religion and especially virtual communities. Which you wouldn’t necessarily know about me from here, or from what I do on a day to day basis.

But, in all honesty, I am really proud of myself this week, even though I didn’t take a stand, or even a leap, and don’t really deserve to be prideful in anyway. I’m proud that online communities are legitimately communities (Yeah for Dissertation affirmation!), and that I was the impetus in starting one. Hopefully karma won’t hunt me down and throw lightning bolts at me for my hubris (to mix metanarratives on you).

 

…Literary Allusion

It seems like it’s a Tale of Two Cities week. Last week, I started composing a blog post on that theme, and in Quiz Night this week, one of the clues featured the classic opening line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” In that line, Dickens captured the way I feel about most of my days here in Dhaka—simultaneously experiencing the extremes of wonder and horror, always a sense of both and rarely of the grey area in between.

It’s so different from my life in Oakland, where my days tripped by, one after the next, a haze of mellowness and gentle sunshine. Even the weather was moderate and mild. (Not to say I wasn’t beset by both good and bad happenings, but that it was never as visceral as it is here, in the land of endless sweltering heat).

The last few weeks in Dhaka have been the best of times: celebrations of life (weddings, babies, graduations, etc.), the advent of the annual rains (though some debate the joy in this, the locals and I both are very happy with the rain), welcomes, new jobs (mine!), etc. But, it’s also a bit of the worst of times: deaths, disease, departures, despair and, of course, the ever present haunting by South-Asian intestinal discomfort.

On my own part, starting a new job has been the best and worst of times as well. I have the joys of occupation and companionship, but those are contrasted with extreme exhaustion and the cultural-shock of being in an office for the first time in many many many years. (Most of my work life I was my own boss, or someone else’s, hired by the project or the course, it is exceedingly strange to be reliant on the schedules of others, to attend staff meetings and to negotiate the whims of the mysterious bureaucracy which employs me.)

But, I digress… and so segue into an apology for my long absence from this blog. It’s partly due to being overwhelmed by the new job, and just general Dhaka-malaise, but I’ve stockpiled a few posts that will follow this one today, and hopefully be returning generally to the land of the living and blogging over the next weeks. After all, there are holidays, balls, and adventures to describe, and if I don’t, who will?

…Nouns and Gerunds

I have been seeing an increasing amount of traffic from (what I can only assume are) students searching for “lists of various nouns” or “various gerunds.”

I chose the blog title WAAAAAYYYYY back in the day, before any of the posts now visible were written, and it referred to the movie “Adventures in Babysitting.” All of my post titles fit into the “Adventures in (something or other)” style, and all are either a noun or a gerund. But, it’s really just a secret nerdy joy that I have, not anything else. I did spend several years as a copy-editor and reviser of other people’s writing.

So, while my blog is certainly not dedicated to grammar, nor is it 100% grammatically correct (I favor a conversational tone over an accurate grammar), I am posting a list of nouns and gerunds today… for the benefit of those few lost souls who stumbled here and found only posts about Dhaka.

Nouns Gerunds
House
Car
Potato
Aloe
Dog
Epilepsy
Hope
Notebook
Airplane
Sitcom
Candle
Student
Dragon
Movie
Dhaka
Government
Machine
Photograph
Integrity
Ficus
Snooker
Snookie
Nookie
California
Parliament
Restaurant
Running
Communicating
Revolving
Hoping
Decaying
Voting
Praying
Paying
Playing
Eating
Dreaming
Typing
Sitting
Working
Listening
Excreting
Smoldering
Beguiling
Spelling
Pontificating
Directing
Loving
Whetting
Wetting
Fretting
Bathing

But… these nouns are both concrete and abstract, and some used to be verbs but we use them as nouns. Yep. Oh well. It’s my list, I am including whatever strikes my fancy.

What is not a gerund? Lots of other things that end in -ing… but are used to describe nouns rather than act as non-finite verbs. Confusingly enough, you can use some of these gerunds as adjectives. If, however, they are followed by a noun, you’re probably not dealing with a gerund, so be wary. Sometimes gerunds are followed by nouns, but they’re never used as describing words. Not a very satisfying explanation, I know, but this is _not_ a grammar blog. Look for a real article if you want a real explanation.

To make this post even more exciting, I’ll update it with your own noun and gerund submissions, just send me your ideas below:

…Post Furniture (submit yours!)

The woman behind the FS Swap is also the editor of “At Post,” the photo blog of FS life. The theme of the moment is post-issued furnishings, so I submitted a truly boring picture of the couches in our house.

I am hoping everyone else can submit some more interesting shots. I know people with furniture that throws back to the Golden-Girls-Era, and people who have furniture so swanky, they must have an “in” in the GSO’s office. Someone  found out their furniture was on it’s last tour, so they recovered it in a frighteningly strange local fabric.

This was one of the things I wanted to know back when we were waiting, bidding and hoping, so I hope others will add their photos to the mix.

Submit your “at post” photos to kennedyas@yahoo.com in web-ready format. (I bet she’d prefer things at a 400×600 size or so.)

 

…Swap Boxes

You may remember that I was paired up with Becky at SmallBitsFS for the 2011 Foreign Service Swap Box exchange. She received my Bangladesh care package about a week ago, and gave me overmuch love on her blog post Valentine’s Day…

The box she sent me from Mexico arrived yesterday, slightly worse for wear, complete with the regulation holes and extra tape that many of our DPO shipments arrive with, but everything inside was fine, wrapped in bubble wrap and labeled with informative post-its.

She’d obviously read my blog, because she included a variety of strange candies for me to try, including some mysterious “fruit seasoning,” which looks like it’s just made for a tropical climate. Breadfruit, jackfruit and mangoes, WATCH OUT!

She also included some things for our china cabinet, where we currently display some rather questionable pieces of art. To replace those, we have a cool handpainted plate, a metal star and a pewter flower plate. And, of course, no box from Mexico would be complete without a dancing gourd animal. We can’t decide if this one is an armadillo, a deer-pig, a street dog (it looks like the local street dogs, but better fed), or the mythical cousin of the jackelope. However, he’s a cutie, and destined to sit in Mr. A’s birthday present from me, a display shelf for little critters and statues.

There was also a beautiful glass jar that will be perfect for a candle, especially since we’ve got so many here, but not much to put them in!

All in all, a pretty amazing box, and full of a cool variety things… candy experiments, house decorating, and even somethings for the husband. I am so glad I participated in the Swap!

What a haul, it's amazing you can fit all of that in a flat-rate box.

…Cultural Forays

I was deliberately “exciting” this weekend, and attended all sorts of things that were going to be fodder for this narrative. But, sadly, they were mostly a bust. I did get a little bit of cultural immersion, but it wasn’t the stuff great travel narratives are made of.

Friday night we attended the district’s annual Pitha Utshab party, a celebration of sweet foods that are only traditionally available in the “winter” time. I thought I’d bring you back a review. While there were lots on display in cute saran-wrapped baskets, they weren’t for eating. There was only one kind of Pitha, a gummy rice cake that looked a bit like a pancake, but twice as thick, and half as tasty. It was kinda depressing. They served it with lots of other foods, but the line was CRAZY long, and people were cutting, shoving and generally chaotic in their efforts to get some. What made that especially odd was that they were all dressed in exquisite formal wear, and the event was held under a grand wedding tent in a flower garden, complete with fairy lights and linen table dressings. It was one of the loveliest things I’d been to in Dhaka, and yet there was still a food stampede.

On Saturday, I attended a CLO event that would take us to a part of town famous for it’s factory-seconds. Bangladesh is a major producer of clothes for international export, and the overruns and seconds get sold on the local market. Some of them get donated and sold in charity sales. (I’ve been to a few, full of H&M, Tesco, and Jones New York items.) The rest get sent to places like Bongo Bazaar, a large rambling market full of clothes. It seemed like the potential for shopping paradise, and I deliberately brought a relatively small amount of cash, to rein myself in. (When you buy in taka, the local currency, it feels like you’re shopping with Monopoly money.) The travel guides to Bangladesh highly recommend Bongo, as do blogs and local newspaper clippings. Perhaps we went on a bad day, but it seemed like a total scam. Most of the clothes were for small men, understandable, given the people who would typically shop there. Women around here wear saris or shalwar kameez, so there isn’t a demand for western women’s clothing. There were also several sections of children’s clothes, but not the glitzy stuff I was looking for. Many of the items were tagged falsely, with a Gap label, a M&S pricetag, but a DollarTree quality. There were a few stalls selling authentic stuff, but at High Street prices (to use a Britishism). The charity sales are flat price, all items are the same, whether they are 1st rate suiting, or cheap t-shirts that have holes and marker all over them. At Bongo, bargaining was required, and the resulting prices ended up about twice the charity sale price. Since the charities deliberately mark-up their rates to raise money, I can only imagine that the bargaining we were attempting at Bongo was pathetic, and completely related to our foreignness.

Oh well, I bought nothing. Several others got stuff they were looking for, but I was really only on the market for two things, and they had neither. Well, they had one thing, but were started the negotiations at 650t (a little under $10), and said final offer at 600t. Since the going rate at the charity sales is 150t, I refused.

I’m putting together a post on “crazy things foreigners do” (i.e. we Americans in Dhaka), so if you’ve ever done something that has elicited stares, “wows” or other general surprise from locals, send me a hint and I’ll include it on my list.

…Pen Pals

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the 2011 FS Swap, an opportunity for FS bloggers to get to know each other and get mail (the highlight of my week here, and a very sad week when nothing comes).

I was paired up with Becky, who is stationed waaaaaaayyyyyy over on the other side of the world, meaning she’s much closer to home than I am, but her experiences of life in the Western Hemisphere can be just as full of craziness (if not more) than mine here in Dhaka.

Her blog, SmallBits is at: http://smallbitsfs.blogspot.com/ and I am adding her to my blogroll. She set herself a resolution to post every day, and there are some great pics and anecdotes that she’s used to fulfill that goal. She’s also been a host of the RoundUp (including the massive round-up which was featured a couple of weeks ago), and does a lot to make the circle of FS bloggers feel like a community, by making comments and sending helpful notes.

I packed up a special box for her, and am sending it out in the mail. I can’t tell you what’s in it yet, because it’s a surprise, but it’s a little bit o’ Dhaka, without the traffic or the spitting (In case she was worried).