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Expat Life .... with a heavy emphasis on the "EEK" factor!



Updated: 2017-11-29T06:32:29.540-06:00

 



A little bit of London

2016-01-15T10:00:12.074-06:00

I've been laughing out loud at this great new Adele video. Let's see if I still remember how to embed a link!

allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Nck6BZga7TQ/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Nck6BZga7TQ?feature=player_embedded" width="320">

I've been an Adele fan for a couple of years, listening to "25" on repeat with a friend of mine until we knew every song inside and out. It's impossible to be "Adele-ed out" but we almost got there. Fortunately, not quite.

So here's a great way to start out your morning. Hysterically funny, plus Adele's amazing eyeliner!

And even better, a nostalgic tour of London. The double decker buses! The park! Curry's and CarphoneWarehouse! (Carphones? What?) Royal Albert Hall!

And of course, a rainy grey day. Adele worries about the weather -- "it'll make Americans think that Britain is rubbish".

As if.

And just in case, here's another link if you want to learn how to do eyeliner. I have no use for this, with my wrinkly old-lady eyes, but you might. It's all about geometry and Scotch tape.

allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/n1VxobAGZXQ/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/n1VxobAGZXQ?feature=player_embedded" width="320">

Have fun.







Stealing books again, or not

2010-06-27T19:23:28.894-05:00

I had time to read while on my long sojourn, but the pickings were slim. Hotels often have a little library in an out-of-the-way spot, consisting of all the books previous guests have read and discarded. It stands to reason that for the most part, these books were the ones not worth bringing home.

Jonathan Kellerman's horrid psychological thrillers, Ruth Rendell's dark and nauseating mysteries, Patricia Cornwall's forensic tomes that are stuffed full of fulminating dead and bloated bodies covered in maggots. *shudder* What choices! Yet one does come across the odd treasure.

The pool cabana at the hotel in Bali had its own weary and water-stained collection, but this was a bit more varied than the usual fare. Mainly because half the books were Dutch translations of best-sellers, a third were Chinese, and the rest a smattering of German, French, and Japanese books. In the end, there were only four books in English, so I worked my way through three of them. The fourth, an Anita Shreve novel, I couldn't force myself to pick up.

Patricia Cornwall's Trace was hideous, and I vowed on my sadly-only-imaginary Chinese-translation Bible to never read another of hers. Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl was amusing and entertaining -- perfect beach reading. But the last one, My Invented Country, by Isabelle Allende, was the best.

I'd tried to read Allende's fiction before, but apparently one magical realism book per lifetime is my personal quota. (Perhaps because I overdid it and read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude either two or three times.) Yet Allende's autobiographical book, about her experiences as a writer, a Chilean, and an expat, was compelling and fascinating. The sensation of feeling oneself "different" or "other" -- and of finding everything in the world quite curious and strange -- she describes it beautifully.

So beautifully and so truthfully that I desperately wanted to steal that book.

Yet once again, I resisted the temptation, because how cruel would it be to reduce the Bali pool cabana's English catalogue by 25%? Really not on. Even I could not bring myself to be so unkind to future reading guests.

Thought of it later: I should have left my copy of Eat, Pray, Love there! But that would have been equally mean. And I'm just not that kind of girl.



Lost my bloggin' mojo somewhere in China

2010-06-26T15:40:47.022-05:00

I know, I know. I left you there, hanging on tenterhooks, in India of all places. When I fell off the Blogger/Facebook grid, some worried that I'd taken the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love too seriously and had run off on a real spiritual quest, to an ashram or something.Hardly. First, the quality of the bedsheets at ashrams is -- and I'm just guessing here -- abysmal. And second, there's the risk that you'd run into someone just as exhausting and as self-absorbed as author Elizabeth Gilbert whilst there, and voilà, holiday ruined.With traveling companions, better the devil you know...Pros: Pays all the billsLots of energyAdventurousFunny (ha ha) much of the timeCons:Extremely picky about customer service at hotelsAlways has to be holding the map or he gets crankythan the devil you don't...Pros: Wealthy, famous and published authorAdventurousCons:Seems like kind of a divaPrettier than meYounger than meMore famous than me?? Anyway, perhaps I didn't "get" the book enough, but all I could think while reading it was, "I'm glad I wasn't her BFF, listening to all that blubbing". I know. Terrible friend, you can say it.But I'm upset with China as a country, because I found THIS in the hotel room in Shanghai...and I didn't even get to blog about it, or post it on Facebook, because guess what? No Facebook or Blogger in China! It was a blow, to be sure. I had a zillion things to say, and I was going to catch up on my blogging once I arrived in Shanghai, and NO DICE! It was especially odd because I was under the mistaken impression that Bibles were illegal in China, but apparently my info is years out of date, because there they were, in every hotel room.Sadly, I did not steal THIS Bible either, because I was having some serious baggage heft issues, and the zip on my rolling duffel was already terribly strained. I will make Mr D bring one home next time he's in Shanghai. Why? I don't know. It has become a rather strange compulsion, I admit.[And the world record holder for largest collection of stolen dual-translation Bibles is... expateek!][...]



Temptation

2010-05-13T01:22:33.452-05:00

Many people come to India on spiritual quests. I've come along simply as company for my hardworking husband. Yet I sense a slight progress in my spiritual development, even though I certainly didn't come here seeking it.

Could it be because I'm reading the mega-best-seller, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert? Possibly. It's certainly an appropriate book for this trip, as one third of the book details her search for spiritual enlightenment in India. She was at an ashram, I'm at Le Royal Meridien (with less opportunity for sacrifice and self-denial, obviously).

And yet... Look what appeared before my eyes when I opened the drawer in my room.

(image)


Yes, indeed. Temptation in the form of two books. And one, a Gideon Bible! In the past I've had a little bit of a problem with liberating these babies from hotel rooms.

Yet, this time? Not so much. Is it because I am becoming a more honest and virtuous person? Probably not.

Is it because the Bible was not translated into Hindi? Perhaps.

Is it because I have still four weeks of travel ahead of me, and already my suitcase is bulging? Yes, absolutely yes.



The scent of sandalwood, the sound of bells

2010-05-11T10:41:19.913-05:00

Next stop on the Mumbai city tour was the Jain Temple, situated in an old building on Ridge Road ascending Malabar Hill. We crossed the road, dodging traffic, and entered this sacred place.When we came in, we slipped off our shoes on the porch and put them on shelves to the right. Many simply step out of their sandals and leave them lying right there on the floor.Worshippers and pilgrims come from all over, and go about anointing the colorful statues with sandalwood paste, ringing the bells, and circumnavigating the premises in a clockwise fashion. The atmosphere is reverent and serene, yet sings with energy. Every sense is a delight. Monks crush sandalwood into a paste on a small balcony that looks out over the sea. The scent is divine. Visitors carry little pots of this paste around the temple in small trays also filled with flowers, and using the middle finger of the right hand, dab the paste on designated spots on various icons. As they move from room to room, worshippers reach up and give hanging bells a sharp pull. The chimes and gongs reverberate continually through the ornate marble rooms.And every surface is painted or carved or engraved or inlaid. Polychromatic marble inlay on the floors, brilliant colorful paintings on the walls and ceilings. Even the blackboard schedule of events is exquisitely written.Here's our guide, Freni, showing us the view of the sea from the upper balcony.She pointed out that one thing that is special about the place is how many young worshippers are there, just stopping in. Because there is no organized worship service, people are there "just because they want to be"... Families, small children, older folks, white-robed monks and sisters -- the place is buzzing.In this photo, you can see small low red tables placed about the floor. Visitors pour out a tiny cupful of rice on the surface, and trace symbols into the rice grains, as a kind of prayerful meditation. It's really lovely.Years ago, when I was about 10 years old, I spent hours poring over The World Book encyclopaedia, choosing my religion. I figured that since my parents weren't churchgoers at the time, I was pretty much free to choose my own faith based on my personal beliefs. Oddly, I remember that at that time the religion that stood out was Jainism. The vegetarian diet would be a trial to my mother, certainly, but the rest of the principles made perfect sense to a pacifistic kid who was into enlightenment, and right knowledge, right faith, and right conduct. Strangely, when I presented my findings to my mother, she was unconvinced. "I don't think you'll find many Jains around here. It might be kind of lonely for you."A few weeks later, we were off to the Unitarian Fellowship. Oddly enough, lessons from Sunday school concentrated much more on eastern religions than on Unitarianism's Judeo-Christian heritage, so by high school I found myself profoundly ignorant of expressions like "pearls before swine" and "the prodigal son" but satisfyingly up-to-speed on Native American smudge sticks and Hinduism's karmic fulfillment. You have to take what you can get when your mom's still driving you places..[...]



Wait, Gandhi? Again?

2010-05-11T00:39:12.184-05:00

(image)

I was telling you yesterday that it's such a huge, huge world. But other days it doesn't seem so big after all. That's how I felt during the first stop of our city tour in Mumbai, where we visited Mani Bhavan, the house associated with Gandhi.

(image)

Here, he learned to card and spin, he developed much of his philosophy of social activism, non-violence, and self-sacrifice, and he initiated many effective and insightful political moves that changed India forever. The place is now a museum, research institute, library, and memorial to Gandhi's life and work.

(image)

Interestingly, we'd already encountered various exhibitions on Gandhi's life and work during our time in South Africa, as he spent 21 years in exile there, working to overcome racism directed at Indians and "coloureds". Yet, as usual, after encountering this giant on two different continents, my knowledge and understanding of his work is still miniscule.

Guides and teachers must wonder what on earth is going on inside their students' heads as we listeners "listen" but don't absorb nearly enough information. [Homework, six weeks from now: read a biography of Gandhi.] For now, I'll also give you a little hint -- Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi were not related... just so you don't fall into the error of my ways. How could I have gotten to my advanced age and not learned that?

This also serves to remind how egocentric and unintentionally parochial we all are. I remember whilst living in England, an American friend was aghast that English school children had no idea who Paul Revere was. But why should they? An American folk hero, yes, but hardly world renowned. And yet American schoolkids bumble along with hardly an inkling about India, or its past and present leaders. Though it's halfway round the world, India is destined to become so much more important in the global economy and in all of our lives as a result.

Time to hit the books and learn something, y'all!

Meanwhile, I'm going to hit the chaise longue out by the pool for a bit. It was already 86F as of 8am (the paper said it "feels like 99F"), and the weather services predict temperatures of 104F by this afternoon. Wonder what that will feel like? Melty, I bet.

I'm off to the markets and bazaar in the late afternoon when it cools off, and shall let you know what bargains I come up with. Perhaps a peacock feather fan would be advisable. I turned one down on the street on Sunday. Now I'm regretting that move, fo' sho'.



India -- so much to see and learn!

2010-05-10T08:12:45.825-05:00

When I travel, two things are revealed to me again and again.The first thing is, there's so much I don't know. It boggles my mind. I (sometimes) think I have a reasonably good handle on technology, world politics, current events, and so on. But all I had to do was show up on a blazingly hot and humid morning in Mumbai for a city tour to realize that I've only made the very feeblest of starts at understanding the geography, religions, history, and politics of southern Asia. In fact, it was immediately clear to me that I'd slept through the entire Social Studies unit on India in 7th grade. And, it being the American educational system, that was both the first and the last 6-week unit on India in twelve years of schooling. (No need for you to point out that things have changed in the four decades since. I got that part.)The second thing that always knocks me for a loop is just how blinking huge the world is. What an astonishingly populous and endlessly varied place! And honestly, if you think you're overwhelmed by the number of people in O'Hare, or by flying through London Heathrow, then you might as well go on and land in Mumbai. It will put you over the top. At half-past midnight on Sunday morning, we stepped out of the warm airport terminal into the even more hot and humid night. Masses and masses of people were standing lined up along the railings separating new arrivals (us) from greeters and drivers (them). Hundreds of placards everywhere, for hotels, for groups, for individuals. We made the circuit twice, each of us, before finding our name on a card and thus our taxi. Good thing Mr D could still remember his own moniker at that point. We were pretty tired after 22 hours of traveling; I wasn't any help at all. Then again, it isn't my name, really. If it had said "expateek" I'd have found it in a heartbeat.After stopping at an ATM for cash (a quest in its own right), we arrived at the hotel in one piece. Sweaty, tired, and already alarmed by the driving in India. Fortunately we only had to cope with about 15 minutes of roadway at that point. Any more would have been seriously harrowing for the nerves.Oh, you think I exaggerate, but the roads are everything you've heard about, and more. What you and I would consider a normal taxi is the largest thing on the road, excepting lorries. Everything else is smaller, and probably slower. Motorbikes, tuk-tuks, animal-drawn carts. You name it, it's on the road and probably in your way.Honking and swerving are de rigeur. Yet after a second day in a driven car, it begins to make sense, and one has the feeling of being flotsam carried along in a river of motorcars, as the stream of traffic burbles and madly hurtles along, lanes sliding this way and that, cars slipping past inches away yet not touching. Of course it was Sunday.So there was actually "no" traffic, according to Freni, our guide..[...]



I'm off!

2010-05-07T16:14:23.418-05:00

We're at O'Hare, in the American Airlines Admiral's Lounge, having a scotch neat to calm the nerves and watching the planes come and go. All the last minute things got done -- I paid the bills, I played my last tennis for a while, I packed, and I furiously uploaded software to enable blogging and picture taking from afar.

First stop, London Heathrow, and then on to Mumbai. If you want to see what I'm going to do in my first few days in India, check out Mumbai Magic for some gorgeous photographs and great tours.

I'll keep you posted. xxx



On the road again...

2010-05-05T22:17:32.022-05:00

I'm off to the far reaches of the planet on Friday.To London Heathrow first. That's not so far.Then on to Mumbai, Delhi, and Agra and then back through Heathrow after eleven days. I'm really hoping that dratted Icelandic volcano behaves itself.Best Icelandic volcano images so far..., originally uploaded by mccannta.What a pathetic show off. Puleeze. Some volcanoes just don't know when to cool it. Sheesh.For me, it's onward, after, to Shanghai and Beijing, and I'll finally end up in Bali, for a fortnight's R&R.It should be lots of fun. Even if Mr D snores and I don't have a hope of a good night's rest for weeks and weeks and weeks. Worth it, really.Right now, with a day and a half to go before departure, I'm trying to sort out my electronics, I'm finishing prophylactic immunizations and meds, I'm paying my bills, and I'm saying my prayers. Also writing belated thank you notes and telling those I love how much I love them.Because you can never say "I love you" often enough.Unfortunately, my prophylactic house-cleaning regime doesn't enter into the mix, so I've made a set-in-stone agreement with my friend Kim -- if anything happens to me, she's coming over to burn my house down. Believe me, it'll be easier on everyone.Of course, it won't come to "that" -- with "that" being a shoddy Chinese aeroplane diving into a desolate mountainous hillside, or my fevered body shuddering and expiring of malaria in a rural Indian hospital, or Ebola or Avian flu, or a fried chicken foot stuck in my throat or a scorpion stuck in my foot or...What's your worst travel nightmare?It won't be that. I promise.Blogging continues... I swear!Yet I'm planning to do some experimental eating, so....Unusual street food, originally uploaded by slack13.Silk Worm Larvae on a skewer, originally uploaded by diggydog.100 Year Old Eggs, Appetizer anyone?, originally uploaded by brad.jenkins.who in the heck knows??_[...]



Sunday afternoon at the Tattoo and Ink festival -- because Tiger Woods and I are soooooo over, Masters or not

2010-04-15T18:36:43.283-05:00

The money I took out of the ATM in Albuquerque during my little weekend away didn't entirely get spent at the New Mexico "Immersed in Ink" Tattoo Festival. Can you believe it? Me neither. That dough was burning a hole in my pocket, fo' sho'.I did drop a lot of dosh in restaurants in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, even though I've been diligently trying to lose weight for the last four months. Yet after eating out non-stop for five days and having some of the best Mexican I've enjoyed in ages, I weighed in even another pound lighter. Big surprise. Maybe all those refried beans and beers had some kind of catalytic effect? Kind of like red wine plus anything.I'm so pleased, though, because I can finally fit into my trousers from two summers ago; last year I couldn't even pull them up one leg! Pretty embarrassing. This dieting has allowed me to enjoy a 200-fold increase in my wardrobe, as I drag out things that haven't seen the light of day for ages. Of course, there are also two hundred folds in all those squirreled-away trousers because they haven't been ironed for two years either.*sigh*Looks like Mr D has some housework to do when he gets home!One of the things I miss about South Africa is Oscar. He was a master ironer. He ironed shirts, he ironed sheets, he ironed blouses with pleats and cargo pants with all their little ties and bunches. He even ironed my underwear, which was strange, because thongs generally don't get very wrinkly. I used to laugh about how unnecessary it is to iron sheets, but I stopped because Mr D always gets wistful and makes a little sad face, which makes me feel kind of guilty. And who wants a wife to feel bad and guilty? Of course he knows I have other good qualities, and would never dream of requiring me to do the ironing. I have blog posts to write! Midget wrestling expos to attend! Tennis matches to play!And yes, indeed, my sister and I did attend the Tattoo Festival on Sunday. We saw the signIMG_9960, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.and we had to go. I forced my posse to pull over so I could steal this sign; I plan to plant it in my garden for my next outdoor barbeque. Who knows what hi-jinks will ensue when people see they're given permission to wrestle on my lawn??And yes, of course you're invited! Did you even think you needed to ask?Tragically, we missed the midget wrestling, which was just about the whole reason for going, but I did get this great shirt and a new pair of knickers.IMG_0128, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.The knickers are a bit mystifying, as they're cut the same front and back, and I can't decide which way the motto is meant to sit. They fit equally badly either way, so perhaps I'll refashion them into some kind of goth hat.At the show I also got even more propositions than I usually do. I figured that I might be tapped as a tattoo model...IMG_0132, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.but, no. Apparently you need to have some tattoos to qualify. Feh! Details, details! No, all the handsome young tattoo artists were just interested in drumming up business. People were being tattooed at every booth, and the line of the day was, "Hey, ready to get inked?"I think they sensed my vast expanses of virgin skin, and each one wanted to be the very first. Typical males, really.I vacillated for a moment...IMG_9970, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.IMG_9971, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.but then opted to wait. Sitting on a fresh tattoo on that long plane ride home?No thanks.Yet the Ink Expo raised more questions than it answered. For example:what's the difference between hard-core midget wrestling and plain old vanilla midget wrestling?are you even allowed to say midget anymore?and where the heck were the midgets, anyway? Obviously we missed 'em, but then friends pointed out that maybe we weren't looking low enough, and that we should have als[...]



New Mexico -- is it REALLY part of the USA?

2010-04-13T21:00:12.130-05:00

You know, as an ex-expat, one can become pretty jaded.Been there, done that. Seen it, saw it, did it, done it, and what else could possibly be new?I'm here to tell you that traveling in the US of A can be just as exciting as pottering about in the tombs of Egypt's Valley of the Kings, or struggling along with my execrable (non-existent) Polish in forest towns rather too near the border of Belarus.Because, yes! Albuquerque NM offers new and thrilling thrills for those who seek such things.On a weekend jaunt away, intent on spending quality time with my lovely sister, I came across some amazing sights.The first came about on Sunday morning.Albuquerque, home of the magnificent balloon fiesta every October, also offers tourists the opportunity at any time to experience the thrill of floating up up up and away, into the ether, in a hot-air balloon.IMG_9931, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.Here's a balloon, floating away past us, off to the southwest.Sunday, about 7am, I was sitting enjoying a cup of joe in M's living room, when I heard outside the deep and resonant whoooooooooaaaashhhhhhh of a nearby balloon. These silken beauties rise up into the clear cold sky from the desert floor, powered only by flaming heaters. The gondolier fires up the heater, and the bursts of propane explode in fiery blasts, heating the air and keeping the balloon aloft.Yet if the temperature is not quite right, or the winds go wrong, it can all go awry.My sister and I had discussed this on Saturday."Oh yeah," she said. "Sometimes there's an accident. They hit power lines, and the balloon catches fire and dissolves in flames, and the gondola breaks off and tips over. People fall off, and out.""OMG, no!""Oh sure," she continued. "Sometimes people are taking pictures on their cell phones -- people plunging to their deaths, or whatever. Broken bones, you know. Broken necks. It happens. All over the internet the next day."I sighed. God, the horror.Whoooooooooaaaashhhhhhh. It was so close now! Impossibly loud, like a dragon sitting right above on the roof, belching out sulphurous, fiery breaths.I went outside to see.The balloon that had earlier flown past, high above,IMG_9931, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.was now coming in for a landing.IMG_9941, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.I looked up and saw the horrified faces of the gondola passengers as they floated barely 15 feet above the roof next door, IMG_9943, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.as their gondola was dragged through the center of a young tree at the edge of the property, IMG_9944, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.as they frantically pushed branches away IMG_9946, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.and as the balloon descended too rapidly toward the street behind M's garden wall.Lord, was I going to be the one taking the photos of the last living moments of these poor souls?No, thank God. They landed without incident, and as they were Texans they seemed to take it all in stride."Yawwww, that wuz excitin'! Betcha y'all see this kinda thang all th' time.""Actually, no," said M, in her quietest librarian-type voice. And we went inside for another cup of coffee.IMG_9947, originally uploaded by ehdindigo..[...]



When everything finally shifts, just a little bit...

2010-03-05T16:15:55.815-06:00

Many of you will be surprised when I tell you that I have not always been the glamorous, fashionable and worldly sophisticate you see before you today. No, far from it. Instead, I was the whipping girl of the 7th and 8th grade at Madison West Junior High. Mocked, laughed at, and reviled.I had the misfortune of having two popular but rather witless friends in junior high school, named Heidi and Cyndy. They began to torment me early in 7th grade, by befriending me, and then turning on me the next instant. In my misguided attempt to be liked, I gullibly took their suggestions and followed their orders, only to be ridiculed for doing so. Cyndy would suggest I go to Gimbel's department store, to buy the latest frock; I would badger my mother into letting me go, spending the last pennies of my allowance on said dress, and would then show up at school in it, only to be hooted out of the room. "Look, she bought that? Gaw!!!! I took Heidi's advice, getting my long and beautiful hair cut very short, and was met with, "It looked better before. I shouldn't have said to cut it!"This went on for months. I tried to find other friends, I tried to ignore them. Then one of the two would make some peaceful kind of overture, and I would think, "There! It's all over! They've gotten it out of their systems!" And I would be sucked in once more, only to be washed up on the shores of despair again a few weeks later.I finally hardened myself to their tricks, but they upped their game.In general science class, midway through 8th grade, I received a folded up piece of paper, passed to me. I'd heard rustling and giggles all through the science hour, and thought it was kids laughing about the "drug education" we were supposed to be getting. It being Madison, I think most of the kids could have taught the class, but there you are.I unfolded the paper, and saw written, in Heidi's dreadfully hideous schoolgirly handwriting, a long letter detailing all my flaws. I was ugly. I wore stupid and dorky clothes. My skin was disgusting. My purse was out of fashion. My hair was terrible, poorly cut and greasy (not true, I promise you!). I was too smart. I was a suck-up. I was good in Home Ec (!), nobody liked me. My few friends were queer and nincompoopy, just like me.And then, as I turned over the paper to read page two of this amazing opus, I realized, "It's a flippin' petition!" It was signed by most of the people in my science class! One girl signed her name, and then wrote "sort of" after, which either meant that she "sort of" agreed, or that she was only "sort of" herself. I think she was high most of the time by 7th period science, so maybe the latter.Heidi and Cyndy were besides themselves with giggles, and I was shocked to death.I'd vowed not to care about what they thought of me anymore, but this was very hard to take....Fast forward.... I spent the next 33 years worrying, even obsessing about what people thought of me. Was I rude? Polite? Fashionable? Geeky? Nice? Mean? Friendly? Cold? Everything was an exercise in self-analysis. Who are all those people and what do they think of me? It was tiring and pointless and a waste of time, really. As a friend said to me today, "You can't control what other people think, or how they react to you. You're just responsible for your own thoughts and feelings." EXACTLY.And then there was the truly freeing moment, when everything shifted, just over four years ago. (If you want to, you can read about it here.) I had the refreshing and life-changing experience of having a heavy black handgun held, just touching my chest, just where my heart was hammering wildly inside. And then again, a few moments later, the gun was touching me again, at the back of my head, just behind my left ear, where all my conflicting thoughts were [...]



Oh, your cleaning lady knows EVERYTHING....

2010-01-29T19:37:21.082-06:00

I was going to start by saying that most bad behavior occurs at the weekend, but maybe that's only me. Certainly this weekend it's going to be true for all of us, since those of you who watch the Aussie Open and snack whilst doing so will get into big trouble if you're still trying to stick to your New Year's resolutions. Me, I probably won't have much time to watch any television at all, because Mr D returns home late tonight after two weeks away and he rules the remote control with an iron fist. Still, I have a feeling that TV won't be first thing on his agenda. Guess I'll have to put on my running shoes if I want to stay out of his clutches.And yet.... This girl does love a good cardio workout at home.And that, my friends -- the idea of running shoes in the bedroom -- reminds me of a saucy tale.In England, at the Royal Berkshire Health and Racquets club, I played lots of tennis on various teams. The Americans amongst us were noted for being better trained in general, and for coming into the net and being ... yes... rather aggressive. What, me? Well, the English roses, proper and polite as they were, sighed and raised their eyebrows when we Americans were lauded by the tennis pros for our assertiveness.There was one American (we'll call her Karen) who was roundly despised for being over-the-top in the aggressiveness department. She was a fairly quick player, about my height and weight, and she had the most terrifying overhead smash you've ever seen. She'd race in to the net, and any high ball was furiously slammed down the opposing team's throats. That was bad enough, the bald-faced glee with which she traumatised her victims, but she also had an awful tendency to sometimes let out a kind of Sioux Indian war-whoop at her moment of impact. It was pretty off-putting and frightfully not English. Not done, really.Too, she was a tiny bit butch, so tongues wagged and people made entirely inappropriate comments when they'd been pasted by yet another Karen overhead and were feeling mightily affronted.As it happened, all of us expats tended to share household help, trading tips on good repairmen, butchers, and cleaning ladies. Even I, slattern that I am, sprang for a cleaning lady every other week. Three teenagers at home meant I really couldn't keep up. It was expensive, but there were extra benefits that I only realised after some time.Terri, my cleaning lady, was really the talker. She was very fair, very blond and very plump, and once she got to work her cheeks went bright pink with effort. Yet the house looked sparkling after four hours; I could never believe what a hard worker she was. You know you're paying a lot of money for the service when your cleaning lady has her own horses. She told me that in her younger days, she'd ridden side-saddle professionally, and even been in a lot of BBC (Masterpiece Theatre) dramas as a stunt horsewoman, as side-riding is a fairly uncommon skill. So she was full of interesting tidbits. You couldn't help but learn more than you ever intended to, about whatever she was on about that day.One day she came in, and fixed her light blue eyes on me, and breathed, "Ellie!"I looked up."Ellie. You won't believe whot I seen!""Ummm. G'morning, Terri! How've you been?""Oooooo, Ellie. Not so good. Not so good at all. I'll ask ye now, is that Karen a good friend o' yers?""Mmm, not really. I hardly know her.""Ah, Ellie, that's a very good thing. I've just started over at hers, and you'll never imagine whot's in her master bedroom.""Ummm... gosh, what?""Ellie, it's a portrait of her! She had it done fer her husband, and he paid for it! He must ha' liked it, I guess, then.""Well, that sounds okay. I might like a portrait painted of myself, I suppose...""But Ellie, not like this 'un. [...]



RIP David Evans

2010-01-12T18:32:55.993-06:00

If you've been following this blog for a long time, you might remember this post, from early days in South Africa, July 2005. David and Tuppy Evans walked us through much of our acclimatization to South Africa, helping us negotiate household staffing and a plethora of security issues, smoothing corporate workplace transitions, and making us feel at home early on.

It was with such sadness that we learned today that David was killed in a road accident on September 1st, whilst returning to Johannesburg. He was hit head-on by a truck. South African roadways are so bloody dangerous. It's carnage all the time and it seems damned unfair that such a wonderful, great guy should meet this end.

Rest in Peace, David. I hope the golf is really good upstairs.


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Rebranding needed, or When good art supplies go bad

2010-01-10T14:31:51.140-06:00

Mr D, slave-driver that he is, made me open a few more packing boxes in my office this weekend. He's doing me a favor, really, because we have to make room for even more boxes to be delivered this Wednesday.

Yes, it's true. The moving company somehow misplaced a portion of our stored goods. Seven long years, these 20 tonnes of items were stored, and in May, upon our return to the states, they were delivered back to our house. (Along with the 18 tonnes of stuff we'd dragged all over the globe with us.) When one of the large crates (6' x 6' x 8') turned up empty, the moving guys shrugged and said, "Awww, it was probably just an administrative error. Ya got all yer stuff, right?"

And we looked around our house and figured, "Yup, we sure did." Because there wasn't another free inch to shoehorn even one more thing into the house at that point.

A month or so later, I remembered we'd had two filing cabinets. And another bookcase or two. And a little table. And ... gosh, what else? I called the movers, and the admin guy said, "Fill out a claim, but really, if the label fell off the crate, we have no way of locating it."

Mentally, I kissed it all goodbye.

And then two days before Christmas, Steve the Admin guy rang saying, "I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is, we found your crate. The bad news is, I don't think you have any room left in your house."

Ho ho ho, Steve. How right you are. Merry Christmas.

Anyhow, in the mad rush to finish unpacking the first and second shipments to make way for the third, I unpacked a box of art supplies and old art projects.

"Mom, what are you doing?" shrieked Tarquin Jr, as he looked at the kit strewn about the place.
"Uh... speedballing?"

Artists. So decadent.


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Procrastination is an Art Form. Really!

2009-12-19T12:28:56.949-06:00

Well. So far I have bought all of two Christmas ornaments and a gift card. There are 6 shopping days left until Christmas, including today, so I have to say, I’m not doing very well.

(image)

Not on the Christmas shopping, dummy. On my performance art piece!

As you know, I’m tremendously interested in contemporary art, and especially conceptual art pieces. The concept behind my current work-in-progress is this: procrastination is an art form, and the less one does, the more conceptual and high-falutin’ one’s own life becomes. So if I do nothing at all for Christmas, my non-participation in the cultural and commercial Christmas as it’s observed in the Western world will make an artistic statement about everything having to do with holiday rituals, the ephemeral nature of material objects in 21st century society, and the importance of cultural heritage.

Wait. I finished that Museum Studies dissertation, so why am I still spouting academic claptrap?

No, my non-participation in things of Christmas spirit will simply prove that I am an incredibly slack housewife, who can’t be bothered to put up a tree. Yet.

Unfortunately, Mr D is totally unaware of my very important artistic endeavors. He arrived home from Paris at 3:25 am yesterday morning, after suffering through a 12-hour flight delay caused by Parisian snow. He then woke me from my delicious slumber with his thoughtless blundering about in the dark. Sigh. What can one do? And since then, today, he’s made every mistake in the book. Brought up the tree from the basement, which he’s now puzzling over. Put on Christmas music. Ornament boxes are appearing right and left. He’s trying to scotch my great art plan, and aggravatingly, there’s not even any Scotch involved.

Because frankly, this current artwork of mine cannot be successfully realized if I do not in some way equal the exquisitely poignant Christmas 1996 performance described here. [click here to read] The drama! The passion! The lack of initiative! The selfish slothfulness! The uncaring poor parenting disguised as exhaustion!

Oh heck. I’m afraid the die is cast. I’ll be putting up the Christmas tree this afternoon. Thanks for volunteering to help. Oh, you didn’t? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Typical.

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Revelation(s) NSFW

2009-12-12T12:28:08.419-06:00

N.B. This might or might not be safe for work, depending on where you work, whether you're American or European, and how you define obscenity.

(image)
IMG_9176 kouros torso, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.



Well, very exciting week here at the ol' blog. We've established the following:

  1. We don't wipe our butts with torn up newspapers over here in Glen Ellyn, unlike those frat boys down in Peoria who do.
  2. We don't sit on our hands when we pee in furrin' terlets.
  3. Instead, we squat to do our business, or we don't do anything at all. (Definitely the most lady-like choice)
  4. Anything else? We don't break mirrors in ladies' bathrooms, we definitely don't touch the genitalia on Greek statues, and we don't post obscene photos to our Flickr accounts. Not ever.
Which brings me to the following point. I put up this photo of the Greek drinking cup -- I think it's called a kylix -- with its phallically enhanced satyr (now decorated with a holiday-themed modesty cap), and within a few minutes, Flickr had censored it.



So apparently, it's okay to fly halfway round the world to look at Greek vases in situ, or in the flesh, as it were, but if you want to photograph what you saw and share it with all your friends back home, you can just forget it. Because God forbid anyone should see this kind of ancient pornography unless they can pay round-trip airfare to do so. This is why art historians have such a bad reputation. They have all this great stuff lying around, but they selfishly want to keep it all to themselves.

Oddly, all the rest of the "naked men photos" from that batch I uploaded slid through. Or slipped in. Or something. Perhaps because their penises were in the small to normal range? I don't know. It's a good thing Flickr can't read my mind, because then they'd know the extent of my depravity, and my true and lusty intentions in regards to every single one of those photos. I've half a mind to post a nekkid man in every single post on this here blog. That'd show 'em. It's all art, ain't it?



* Oddly, the original photo now seems to be available again. A pity it's so out of focus.
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Are you kidding me? We paid rent for THIS dump?

2009-12-11T15:04:11.910-06:00

A day in the life... of a frat boy. Produced by my son, a college-going kid majoring in television and video. I was feeling all warm and fuzzy, and proud of his editing skills: look at what he can do with a videocam! Isn't his friend Blaise a stitch? Way to sync the music with the story!

(object) (embed)

But after the third or fourth viewing, I was like...

Have you EVER seen such a disgusting place to live?

It's no wonder he's living at home again with us. Food's better, and in this house we don't wipe our butts with torn up newspapers. Especially not The Wall Street Journal. Fer cryin' out loud!



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This is why you have children... so they can be creative when you're not

2009-12-11T13:53:29.453-06:00

I haven't taken the plunge into video yet, so I'm borrowing a short that my son made for his video editing class at college.

(object) (embed)

So glad we kept all that Playmobil stuff! Yay, Tarquin Junior! I'm going to have him do 50 more of these so I can give them away as Christmas presents. They're no work at all for me, and they don't even have to be wrapped!


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People actually DO that?

2009-12-07T06:46:28.669-06:00

Years ago, my sister and I were in the ladies, at some God-forsaken highway rest-stop out in South Dakota somewhere. It was after midnight, the lighting was terrible, and I was complaining about the poor quality of the mirror, which was a simple sheet of polished steel. The steel was wavy and kind of scratched, and its dull surface reflected only my general outline, rather than the exceedingly fine details of eyeliner, mascara, and lipgloss."What's up with that? Can't the South Dakota highway department afford real glass?" I asked. It was already obvious that they couldn't afford a real proofreader, because the largest toilet stall was labeled "handicaped only."Stifling giggles, Martha said, "Well, probably people break the glass ones.""Wait. You mean women? Breaking mirrors?" I was slack-jawed at the thought. Women breaking mirrors in rest-stop bathrooms in the middle of nowhere? How was that possible?"Well, it could be anyone, really. I mean, guys could come in here in the middle of the night, and have a fight and the mirrors could get broken.""Wait." My mind was reeling. First women breaking mirrors, vandalizing public property, perhaps even on purpose. Then, men in the ladies room. My God! What was the world coming to? And why had I never considered any of these exciting options for sh** to do in my spare time? Too much time reading Baudelaire and Ionesco for French V, obviously, and not enough time spent dreaming up acts of anarchic violence. Clearly, my bourgeois ordinariness was holding me back.I hadn't thought about vandalism for years, until my recent trip to Greece. Because apparently, female museum-goers in Greece are just as rowdy and destructive as those South Dakotans.IMG_9181 kouros head, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.Who knew?At the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, you can gaze on the Mask of Agamemnon...IMG_9233 mask agamemnon, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.and the golden treasures of Mycenae.IMG_9234 golden ox, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.You can look at Etruscan pottery...IMG_9174 etruscan pot, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.or you can contemplate statuary.IMG_9224 horse and boy, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.But, after all that, if you need to use the ladies, consider yourself forewarned. This is what you'll find if you go to use the loo at the museum.IMG_9335 not at the museum, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.The women have torn off all the toilet seats, apparently. Fits of rage over poorly interpreted exhibitions? Blind anger over lack of bargains in the museum shop? Apoplectic fits at the sight of inattentive security personnel?We will never know. But if you prefer to sit rather than squat, I suggest you use the toilet at your hotel before you go out touring. Because there's not a goddamn toilet seat to be found anywhere in Athens. Hope your quadriceps and hamstrings and glutes are fit, girls. You'll be needing 'em..[...]



Why be an art historian?

2009-12-04T09:04:44.369-06:00

Why study art history? Really, such a difficult question to answer. Of course, there's the social and historical importance of art, there's the economic role of the art market and its influence on artists and patrons, and then there's the expression of religious sentiment and values through visual arts media. All fascinating topics, to be sure.But for me, the main reason to study art history was and continues to be a completely pure aesthetic motivation.For aren't we all admirers of the exquisite male physique?dont look back, originally uploaded by chascow.IMG_9280 greek guys, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.Of course we are.But as we learned from my last post, some people are sensitive about having their picture taken.IMG_9274_mask, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.Great biceps. Sexy slouch.IMG_9278 not hot, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.But as soon as he opens his mouth.... Not so appealing after all. All fantasy evaporates. Shame, really.It is precisely for this reason that museums were invented. Because at museums, we can contemplate the sublime, in the form of the male figure, and even take photographs of naked men. No clothes on! Whoopee! Even better, these naked men don't talk back. In fact, they can't talk at all. Refreshing, isn't it?So, yes. Naked men. You've got your old fashioned-y stone guys. IMG_9184 kouros, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.Your more new-fangled-y bronze ones. Although the beard leaves me cold. A bit unkempt-looking. He needs a trimmer for Christmas.IMG_9192 poseidon, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.You've got what appears to be an ancient cup holder? Or is it a TV stand? Hard to tell. Maybe that's why I only got a "pass" on my dissertation, eh?IMG_9154 naked cup holder, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.And then there's that decorative plate that will have all your guests chatting at your next Christmas cocktail party. Notice how huge I had to make the sticker. Those Greeks! Always exaggerating.IMG_9510 satyr plate, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.But my favorite thing, as it were, was halfway up the Acropolis, in a small sculpture garden. It's called a stele. I know. Boring, yeah?IMG_9093 stele at parthenon, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.But when you check out the close-up, just below.... Talk about artistic economy of expression! The artist has deconstructed the male figure and reduced it to its single important feature, and voilà,IMG_9092 stele detail, originally uploaded by ehdindigo. nothing more need be said..[...]



My Nigerian Problem

2009-11-30T21:51:42.186-06:00

IMG_9113 more acropolis, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.Well. You've been waiting to hear about my lovely holiday with Mr D in Athens, Greece, I know it. But it wouldn't be a story from me without that necessary frisson of danger, that oh shit, we're screwed here feeling. Because I can't just "go out to lunch in Athens," can I?No, not really, and not ever. You know it.Mr D and I took in the Parthenon,IMG_9121 parthenon, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.and the agora, and the amphitheatre, IMG_9094 amphitheatre, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.and the whatsis and the whatnot, IMG_9111 caryatids, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.with a couple of museums thrown in there for good measure. As usual, with Mr D running ops at 110%, all the resultant climbing and scaling of steep Greek acropolises meant that by 2 in the aft we were bushed and ready to have lunch and a long sit-down, with a glass or three of wine. At the very least I can assert that my glutes were well worked out. We don't need any bloody fitness room at a hotel, ever.IMG_9170 pedestrian avenue athens, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.Cut to a quiet pedestrian shopping avenue, where we sat down under shady umbrellas for ages while the waiters decided whether or not to bring us menus. As we waited, we watched the street scene. Here was a drama of Sisyphean proportions (how Greek!) unfolding before us.IMG_9273 street repairer, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.A curb repairer was trying to restore some concrete at two in the afternoon. Cars whizzed by, honking, pedestrians dodged past him or over him, his supply truck obstructed traffic, yet he gamely toiled on. IMG_9271 repairer's tough job, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.A few minutes after he completed his work, a motorcycle ran directly over the finished repair. And he stolidly began all over again, re-repairing the botched job.As I photo-ed this lonely concrete layer, (along with a rather handsome bunch of Greek men apparently hooking up for some later action), IMG_9280 greek guys, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.there was a sudden commotion. A group of 5 or 6 black guys, all carrying huge sacks, came careening, bounding, leaping over the paver, running past our restaurant's tables.IMG_9277 street sellers, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.They stopped a little way past, up the pedestrian avenue. I quietly took a couple of photos, and then returned to studying my menu, which had finally arrived.Then we had the motorcyclist running over the wet concrete, ruining it. IMG_9274_mask, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.Another photo or two.At that precise moment, there was a frantic outburst of yelling, and as I casually glanced up from my camera's viewfinder, I realised that the gang was shouting, pointing, and all coming straight for me. IMG_9278 about to go crazy_mask, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.The guy on the far left was suddenly in my face, screaming, "Why, why? Why take pictures? Why?"Aghast, I started to shut down, just like three years ago."Look," I laughed. "Look, here, I'm just taking pictures. It's nothing. Here, want to see?" and I showed him the photo on the camera's tiny screen. "Look, nothing! See?""Why? Why take pictures? WHY?" His face was inches from mine. I could only see his lips moving right in front of my eyes. His eyes were fierce and my world was slowing down."WHY? WHY? WHY?" He spat the words at me.A screek of metal as Mr D pushed back his chair and started to stand up from his seat. "Hey! Hey! Hey! We're only tourists[...]



Dear Mishiwaka....

2009-11-28T18:56:50.318-06:00

Class, please open your notebooks and get out your pens. Today we're going to discuss Longfellow's poems. I'll begin by reading aloud.IX. Hiawatha and the Pearl-Feather On the shores of Gitche Gumee,Of the shining Mishiwaka,Stood Nokomis, the old woman,Pointing with her finger westward,O'er the water pointing westward,To the purple clouds of sunset. Fiercely the red sun descendingBurned his way along the heavens,Sorry, yes, MLS? What is it? Could you please not interrupt? Just please wait until I've finished reading the poem.Set the sky on fire behind him,As war-parties, when retreating,Burn the prairies on their war-trail;And the moon, the Night-sun, eastward,...What on earth is your problem, MrLondonStreet? Just because you went to Oxford doesn't mean you know everything. Oh really? You do? Well, show me then.Oh. Ahem, I see. A typo in the poem. Hmm, I hate to admit it, but you're right. Well, class, I guess MrLondonStreet* has shown us that it's important to double-check our sources, even those on the internet. It's not Mishiwaka that Longfellow was writing about, it's Big-Sea-Water. Whatever and wherever that is.Yet, of Mishiwaka, I do know. Or rather, I do and I don't. Honestly, I take that back. I have no idea. Yet strangely, I have concocted a small story about you, my dear long-time follower from Mishiwaka....Mishiwaka. It's a small town in Indiana. A town near Warsaw, Indiana. Who knew? Who knew there was a Warsaw, Indiana? I'd guess it's a place where emigrating Poles resettled themselves years ago.What's it like now, Warsaw and Mishiwaka, Indiana? You know, I google-mapped you. Not YOU, per se. But your town, Mishiwaka. I think you found me because you googled "Warsaw" and strangely, my blog came up. I was still living in Warsaw, Poland at the time and I wrote in English on my blog... so you clicked on me. Then you subscribed, and God bless you, you still read what I write. But I'm sooooo curious. Who are you?I'm consumed with curiosity! Are my guesses right?* with sincere apologies to my excellent and intelligent friend MrLondonStreet, who is another constant reader, a great encourager, and an outstanding blog-pal. And actually, if you want to know the truth, he probably does know it all..[...]



Suzy's Cave

2009-11-24T22:42:51.917-06:00

You can tell a story one way.Or you can tell it another way.One way, the central character shows herself to be a pest, a nudge, an 11 year old girl who can't see false advertising for what it is, a girl who forces her family to walk far longer than they'd planned, to see a sight not worth seeing.Another way, it's an 11 year old girl who gets her family to accompany her on a long and adventurous walk in cold quiet pine forests along the shores of a chilly northern lake. Needles crunch underfoot and fragrant soft beds of pine sink slightly under each footfall, the still air refreshes, the path winds forward and the cave awaits, as yet undiscovered.Ah yes, Suzy's Cave.I've always had a thorn in my heart over this one.We went on holiday to Lake Superior for a week. We stayed at a lodge, with its deer racks over the fireplaces, hot oatmeal with butter and maple syrup for breakfast, and the whole long day stretching ahead of us each morning -- only the dark and limitless pine forests out beyond, waiting to be explored. My family didn't believe in Caribbean holidays, with hot sun and coconut sunblock and raffia hats. No, not at all. We went for the more austere kind of trip. The kind where you dipped your toe in the crystal clear lake water, the water that was so deep and so green and so transparent and so fucking cold, that you said to yourself: "Heck, I'll maybe swim... tomorrow." And tomorrow it was, every single day.So not much swimming on that holiday. Instead, we spent time reading the local ghost stories and pioneer tales, the ones where husband and wife get snowed in late October, and in April only the wife shows up at the boat launch -- her clothes ragged, her hair uncombed and gray. She, gaunt and frail, and a healing axed gash on her forearm. But no husband. No, no husband.Yeah, that was the kind of mysterious fun our family went for. Creepy. Quiet. Introspective, I suppose.One morning, perhaps four or five mornings in, we decided to go hiking. And when I say "we decided" I mean something entirely different. I mean, I badgered them, endlessly, constantly, continually to go see Suzy's Cave. It was only 3 or 4, or perhaps 5 miles. Whatever it said on the signpost. It was on the lodge's map. A notable venue. And not so far.And when we got there? I'd imagined a huge, vast cavern. We'd walk in, our voices muffled at first. Then, our voices would suddenly begin to echo and bounce, and the sounds in the place would stop us in our tracks. As we then delved further into the depths of the cave, the walls would stretch away, and we'd shine our flashlights ahead and see... sparkling rock crystals, and slagtites dripping from the high arches of the roof above, with still pools of ageless water standing before us, and transluscent watered rocks surrounding us.I had a plan. A long hike to a transcendant place, where we'd all be transfixed, stilled, and utterly flummoxed by nature's incredible, wordless wonder.So we started out. We were not hikers. We walked. We walked. We walked. It was endless. We came to a signpost: "Suzy's Cave 4.5 miles." We walked on, the path twisting, turning. Up, down. On and on. My mother, "Jesus, Suzy's Cave had better be good!" The path continued. Up a seemingly sheer rock cliff. Grabbing onto scrub pines to pull ourselves up. On a new, higher elevation. Sweat, scratchy clothes. No one had brought water. "Suzy's Cave 2.8 miles."Holy Lord, how far was this cave, anyway? Every sign[...]



*yawns* ... *rubs eyes* ...

2009-11-09T18:27:00.820-06:00

Good lord, where in the world have I been? Yes, yes, I can hear you asking. People are begging, simply begging for a new post. I should have named the last post "National Poetry Month" so as to get a bit more mileage out of it.But mileage, my friends, is something I do know something about, seeing as how I logged in about a trillion airmiles over the last couple of weeks. I feel more at home in an airport than anywhere else these days. That in-transit feeling is so delicious, and the coffee shops and bookstores are so convenient and tantalizing. Not to mention the wine bars and the tasting of single-malt whiskeys in duty-free. And the trying on of perfumes. I usually smell like a French whore by the time I get to the boarding gate.Mr D and I had planned an exciting synchronized swimming of the air, where he flew round the world westward, via Bangkok, Hong Kong, Malmö and Copenhagen, and I flew eastward through... well, a lot of places actually... and we met in Athens. How romantic!And yet. My flights were done via frequent flyer miles, friends, so you know what THAT means.Yep. More legs on this trip than on a centipede.O'Hare to Toronto to London Heathrow.London Gatwick to Split, Croatia.[Water ferry to Supetar, Croatia.][Fast catamaran back, from Milna to Split.]Split to Zagreb to Frankfurt to Leipzig by air.Leipzig to Dusseldorf to Frankfurt to Athens.Athens to Istanbul to O'Hare. It's kind of in a straight line, right?Of course it was all very romantic after we'd slept off all the jet lag and had loads of ouzo and baklava (not at the same time, natch!) We saw the Parthenon and the squid and fish market and the oracle of Delphi and the mask of Agamemnon and you know, all those Greek things. I'll tell you about that another time.Because you don't want to hear about that, do you? No, you want to hear about my brief stay in a TURKISH prison! Because what would travel with me be, without some frisson of excitement for you? So you can shiver and quake in your boots, and think, "Thank God it wasn't me! Thank my lucky stars it was expateek instead!"So. I even have pictures.If you're in the airport in Istanbul, after you have some baklava and try all the flavors of Turkish delight in the Olde Bazaar, you should take a little walk past Burberry, Chopard, Longchamps, Boss and Fendi. Go past the duty-free, testing perfume samples as you wander through, and making sure that you spray each perfume on a different part of your wrists or the backs of your hands. Concentrate deeply to remember which perfume you sprayed where, and stare intently at the bottle of the one you like the most. You will remember the name of this perfume for maybe 2 minutes. Maybe less.Go through the food court, and take the escalator up. Turn left, and walk through the upstairs cafe, toward the far back left corner of the room. Up three steps, and voilà, you are in the very last smoking lounge remaining in a European airport!The Turkish government just recently outlawed smoking in many public places, and of course, Turkish restauranteurs, with their hookahs and fiendishly enthusiastic smoking Turkish clientele, were up in arms. Apparently, sales of outdoor patio heaters and cafe umbrellas are now through the roof. And yet, strangely, the government have kindly provided Turkish airport visitors the option of smoking al fresco on airport property. It's like a trip back in time!And see how appealing it is?Very priso[...]