Friday, April 30, 2010

Flashback Friday: In the newspaper

As far as I can remember, I've only had my picture in the paper two times. Once was in fourth grade, when a picture of me with some friends at the elementary school science fair showed up in the local paper.

The other time was when Jeremy and I lived in American Fork in 2004. I was working at a translation company in Provo at the time and a reporter and photographer from The Daily Herald came in to do a piece on the company for the business section. The photographer took a lot of pictures around the office and even sat in on a teleconference training session I was conducting with a translation team in Spain. Gee, THAT didn't increase my nervousness level at all. Later, I got to show the reporter how our translation software worked so she could have a better grasp on the company when she wrote her article.

Nothing came of it for a few days, and since I didn't subscribe to that paper myself I figured I'd see the article, if it ever appeared, at work some day. Then one Sunday I went to church and several people in the congregation told me they'd seen my picture in the paper that morning, in the Business section. On the front page.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Getting ready for Alexandria

We leave for Alexandria in 2.5 weeks. Even though this isn't my first time moving overseas with a child, it IS my first time with two children, and my first time to Alexandria, so the preparation isn't as streamlined as maybe it could be. Here are the concerns that are bouncing around inside my mind these days.

1. How can we finagle ourselves the bulkhead seats on at least the transatlantic leg of our flights? Every other time we've flown overseas with a small child, the airline has just given it to us. I can't remember if we had to ask for it, though, and when we bought our tickets for this trip the bulkhead seating was not available. The reason we want the bulkhead is because they have these awesome snap-on bassinets to put your baby in (see Miriam, below). It's just nice to get your kid off your lap for at least a couple of the 894 hours you're spending in the airplane, you know?

2. What, exactly, should I pack? We are strict "less is more" people, but there are some things you don't want to skimp on too much. When we went to Jordan in 2007 I think I brought two pairs of pants and four shirts, and ONE skirt. By the end of that summer I wanted to burn those clothes, I was so sick of them. Which means I have two options this year: bring clothes I am ready to dispose of so I can just leave them there/burn them at the end of the summer, or pack more clothes. Let me tell you, I'm leaning toward the former.

3. Thanks to Project Gutenberg I don't have to worry about books for myself, but what about books for the girls? And toys? I had barely gotten started stressing about this when our friends in Cairo said they'd share some of their kid swag with us, which was such a relief, especially since said swag includes a My Little Pony castle (!!!!). Now the stress is about how many and which of her 27 My Little Ponies Miriam will choose to bring to play with it.

4. One of the things that concerns me the most is how disorganized all our stuff is, and I hate to leave it that way all summer long. You'd think that since we move so much, we'd run a tight ship when it comes to packing and storing our belongings. But in reality, everything just gets more jumbled and spread around since we're always taking things from various boxes, packing them up, and then unpacking them into completely different boxes months later. What a mess. I need to start a new storage classification system that embraces some of the weird stuff we own. It's hard to put things away in the right place when there IS no right place for something like, say, a Who Wants to be a Millionaire? board game in Arabic. Or travel pillows decorated like the Lebanese flag. Or a deck of Most Wanted Iraqi playing cards we bought in Jordan. Or a bottle of Fulla hand sanitizer that is empty but the container has serious cultural kitsch value so I can't seem to throw it away. Sigh.

Other than that, things are coming together nicely for a summer in Egypt!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Great Apartment Complex Toy Purge

The lawns that surround our apartment complex are littered with barbecue grills, bikes, and outdoor toys. I mean "littered" in the sense that these items are strewn about in a not entirely orderly fashion, not that the things themselves are trash.

Except actually, some of the things ARE trash. But nobody ever throws anything away on the off chance that it still belongs to someone. I don't want my neighbor getting mad at me for throwing out his rusted-through barbecue even though it's been there for so long it's half sunk into the grass (see above).

That's why I was so excited to receive a notice from the property managers that next week, they will be doing a purge of the apartment lawns. Any item that does not have a tag (which you can obtain in advance from the office) will be thrown away. HALLELUJAH. Now it's like a super suspenseful waiting game to see what will get tagged and what will not. I'm rooting for some of the toys to stay, even though they're not mine, because they are awesome and my kids play with them all the time. Others, if they do get tagged, I might just have to sneak out in the night and remove the tag so they are thrown away ONCE AND FOR ALL.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Flashback Friday: Things in Jordan that made me laugh

See Syria version here.

1. A weird thing happens in Amman around June and July: a lot of Jordanians who live in the US return to their native countries for the summer. As a result, there are a bunch of completely Americanized Jordanian teenagers running around for a few months. We once met a few of them skateboarding in Shmeisani. I don't know. It just seems like an interesting contrast.

2. Speaking of interesting contrasts: Mecca Mall. I never did get over it. I still haven't gotten over Mecca Cola either, now that I think about it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Literary heroines who ended up with the wrong man

I touched on this issue briefly in my review of New Moon (the movie), and it got me thinking: what other literary heroines ended up with the wrong man? And yes, that means I'm including Bella Swan on the list.

I decided that to truly qualify as a Literary Heroine Who Ended Up With The Wrong Man, the girl has to have a happy ending according to the book, and I just disagree with it. I mean, nobody would argue that Marie really belonged with Frank in O Pioneers. The book agrees with me on that point so I can't claim she would have been better off with Emil. OF COURSE she would have.

Moving on, in no particular order:

1. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. I'm cheating and going by the movie version of this one. My mature self realizes that Gilbert Blythe is the right choice but when I watched that movie growing up I thought Morgan Harris was the better match. I guess I still haven't forgiven Gilbert for pulling Anne's hair when they first met. And Anne could have done so much good as Morgan's wife! I'm just sayin'.

2. Jo March from Little Women. I don't care if they shared the most awkward kiss of all time in the movie version: Jo and Laurie belong together. Period. I think most of humanity agrees with me. Professor Baer is so BORING.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My petite, chubby baby

Magdalena has always been full of surprises. She surprised us with her weight when she was born (8/7, compared to Miriam's 7/5). I was caught completely off guard by her red hair, which has since strawberry-blonded up quite nicely. And now I've finally accepted the fact that she has wide feet.

It's the weirdest thing. She is very petite, usually falling in the 4th percentile for weight. So what little chub she does have seems to collect in her feet. They are so fat! When she first started wearing shoes - all of Miriam's hand-me-downs, of course -  I thought maybe her feet were just bigger than Miriam's had been at the same age because Magdalena seemed to grow out of them faster than her sister had. But then I realized that her feet weren't too long for the shoes, they were just too fat. I got out a pair of sandals that Miriam wore until she was 2.5 years old that were technically Magdalena's size but when she tried them on, the front of her foot was so fat it couldn't fit under the vamp.

Last weekend, we finally embraced Magdalena's awkward feet and bought her her very own pair of brand-new shoes, size 5W. The W is for WIDE.

She loves them. They fit her so much better than any other old shoe I was trying to squish her feet into. I can't help but laugh when I look at her wearing them because they look so...orthopedic. But it warms my heart to see her run and play in comfort and in all her chub-footed glory. I just wonder what other surprises she's got up her sleeve.

Monday, April 19, 2010

While I was vacuuming

I usually like to get the entire floor picked up at one time so I can get the vacuuming done all in one go. Otherwise I end up doing it piecemeal and it seems like I have the vacuum out every day.

However, when I vacuum the whole house at once it takes longer and gives Magdalena more time to undo my hard work. These pictures were taken about 30 seconds after I finished vacuuming.


and:

I especially like the crackers all over the floor, just waiting to be crunched and ground into the carpet. And remember when I organized my bookshelves by color? Well, obviously that system is only working on the shelves that Magdalena can't reach. Sigh.

See also: While I was showering.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Flashback Friday: Memories of the Moscow Metro

The Moscow Metro system is the second most heavily used subway system in the world (Tokyo's is the first). It deals with more than 7 million passengers per day, on weekdays. When we lived in Moscow, Jeremy and I were two of those seven million.

I already told you what my very first ride on the metro was like. I ended up getting to be quite the pro at using the metro simply because I did it so often, far more often than Jeremy did. He was stuck in an office in the embassy all day every day, while my jobs required me to travel all over the city. So I got to know the metro system very well. You might even say I knew it as well as the back of my hand (really). It got to the point where I could plot the fastest route with the minimum amount of the most convenient transfers without even looking at a map.

Then, within the station itself, I could often predict which car on the train we'd need to be in to be deposited near the right exit/transfer hall at our destination station. This was especially true for routes I traveled often. And of course I wasn't the only one. It seemed to be a routine for many of the metro passengers. You'd see a group of people huddled at one seemingly random spot on the platform, and then realize they knew which car would get them to where they needed to go the fastest. It was just common sense.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The suicide bridges of Cornell

You may have heard that three Cornell students committed suicide in as many weeks recently, each jumping off a campus bridge into one of Ithaca's famed gorges. Cornell responded immediately and earnestly, producing (and strongly encouraging faculty to watch) videos about suicide prevention, reaching out to the shaken and unnerved student body, and even posting guards on campus bridges.

There haven't been any more incidents since. The guards are gone, but we're all left with a very visual reminder of what happened: Cornell recently put up extra-high chain link fences along all the bridges.

When the suicides were happening, I found myself getting mildly creeped out by Ithaca's tourism slogan, "Ithaca is Gorges." It brought to mind something very sad instead of something very beautiful. But over time, those feelings passed and I was able to pass the gorges while admiring the waterfalls and stunning vistas, and nothing else.

These new chain link fences have brought back all the negative gorge associations. I understand why they're there, and I hope they fulfill their purpose. I also hope Cornell and Ithaca come up with a more permanent solution soon that doesn't scream SUICIDE at me every time I see it. Ithaca's gorges aren't going away, after all. Surely there's a way to make the bridges safer while also not making us all feel like a chain-link fence is the only thing keeping us from leaping to our deaths?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mistaken identity: a life, observed.


HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are
39
people with my name in the U.S.A.
How many have your name?

My name isn't terribly common but I have certainly received my share of emails meant for a different Bridget Palmer. I like to piece them together into a life, to form one coherent picture of Other Bridget Palmer.

Other Bridget began to take shape when I started getting eCards for "my" birthday every year. In the intervening months, I sometimes received eCards personalized with messages from a specific someone saying she missed me. I assumed it was "my" mom. After the first few cards, I sent an email to this woman to tell her I was not her daughter, mostly because I felt bad that her real daughter, wherever she was, was not receiving these lovely eCards. I never heard back. And I kept getting the cards.

In March of 2007, I got a few emails from a group of "my" friends with details on planning a bachelorette party. I was really excited that Other Bridget was getting married. I just knew her mom would be proud of her. I sent an email to the group of friends to tell them they had the wrong person. I never heard back.

In August 2009, I was informed by a baby advice website email that "I" had given birth to a baby girl. Six pounds, five ounces, and 19 inches long. I suppose she might have been my actual child except that the email also informed me that the baby's name was Madisyn. Spelled like so. Every week for a few months, I got an email update on "my" baby's growth and learning progress. Until I logged in to the website (with the username and password the emails had provided me) and unsubscribed.

Other Bridget's life took a turn for the unexpected last month when I was invited, via email, by a prison inmate to correspond with her on the prison's secure communications website. I was concerned that one of Other Bridget's friends had fallen into a life of crime and been incarcerated, but also touched that she still wanted to keep up our friendship. I logged on to the prison's website system and agreed to be one of the inmate's approved pen pals. Sadly, a few days later I got an email saying the inmate had denied me. She must have realized she sent the email to the wrong person. It's just as well since the only reason I went through with logging onto the system was to tell her so.

I actually received an email from Other Bridget herself, once. She told me she often came across my blog while Googling her name and she wished me well in my adventures. I wish her well in hers, too.

And I look forward to being kept up to date on them.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Flashback Friday: Locked in

Today I bring you two stories of being locked in.

1. The first took place in Spišské, Slovakia. My parents had come to visit us in Moscow, and from there we went on a trip together to the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, and Slovakia (and almost Poland). One of the first sites we visited in Slovakia was Spiš Castle, a gorgeous, crumbling, 12th-century ruin set on a hilltop overlooking a picturesque modern-day village. It was early afternoon when we arrived there and we were all set for a pleasant few hours at the castle before continuing to travel deeper east into Slovakia.

The ticket booth lady at the entrance to the castle was in full-blown Soviet, "service with a snarl" mode. She reluctantly sold us tickets to enter the castle and mentioned something under her breath about the gates closing, eventually. None of us really paid any attention to what she said. Surely such information as the gates closing would be mentioned more prominently by her, or printed helpfully on our tickets, no?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

My favorite LOST moments

A few years ago, I shared with you the creepiest LOST moments, at least as far as I had viewed the series. Here are a few of my favorite moments.

1. The entire episode "Through the Looking Glass," AKA the Season 3 finale. I had a whole bunch of individual best moments and then I realized they all belonged to this episode. I thought every moment of it was brilliant. I didn't really like Charlie before that episode, but they made me love him by the time he SPOILER ALERT died. I may have actually cheered out loud when it turned out that Sayid and Jin hadn't died. And even though almost three years have passed, I'm still getting over the extreme paradigm shift from flashbacks to flash-forwards. Again, brilliant.

2. Because I'm a sucker for trips down memory lane (in case you haven't noticed), I appreciated the scenes where LOST characters visit places that were important to them in the past. Like when Kate sees herself delivering Claire's baby (Season 5, I think), or even when Sawyer found himself back at the cages just a few episodes ago. There's something about this show's ability to examine the self and provide a measure of progress or regression that I find very moving. Returning to those locations where early, key events took place also reminds me of the greater intrigue and novelty of those first few seasons.

3. Even though it was not as straightforward as it could have been, the return of the Oceanic Six, at least, to their homes and families was definitely one of my favorite moments. All the joy of the reunion was mitigated by the weird and frightening turn of events that brought them home, but it was still a precious scene and very well done.

4. I loved loved loved "Ab Aeterno," and not just because I could have showed the whole episode in Sunday School as an excellent good vs. evil morality play, with possible specific applications to The Fall. I was blown away by Richard Alpert's one-man show performance (or whatever his real name is - he IS Richard Alpert to me now). And of course it was nice to have, you know, some questions actually answered for once. As a side note - for a nerdy linguist like me, it is so refreshing that LOST is not afraid to utilize its actors' natural foreign language abilities to take the show up a notch.

I know I'm not the only one who still watches this show. What are some of your favorite LOST moments?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Alexandria, Egypt preview

Jeremy did some reconnaissance work while he was in Egypt, and even brought back pictures of things besides his hotel room at night. It looks like the Middle East is every bit as

romantic:


atmospheric:

random:

and quirky:

as I remember it.

As for Alexandria, my first impressions of it via pictures are that it is really...clean.

And just look at all those shebaab (dudes) hanging out on the Corniche, waiting to ogle me. Looks like I need to break out my stash of butt-covering shirts again.

I hope you've enjoyed this little taste of how awesome this blog is going to be, come summer 2010. I can just feel the adventures waiting to happen!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Diary of a husbandless housewife

Staving off cabin fever by playing with PhotoBooth.
Jeremy was out of town last week. For the whole week. Saturday to Saturday. IN EGYPT. I swear I wouldn't complain about him being gone and leaving me on my own with the girls except that an absent husband isn't what I signed up for. Some people walk into that kind of thing with their eyes wide open (military wives, for example, and my hat is off to them), but I didn't. So when he's gone, it is rather traumatic for me. Thank goodness it doesn't happen very often. Here's how it all went down.

Day 1. I am already overwhelmed and the week to come is stretching out in front of me without an end in sight. Also, I'm a little bit sick. What a wonderful beginning.

Day 2. The girls both slept in until 8 o'clock. Maybe this won't be so bad after all.

Day 3. The girls woke up at 6.30, after not going to bed until 9pm the night before, and they each threw in a few nighttime interruptions for good measure. THIS WILL BE BAD AFTER ALL.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Flashback Friday: Sent to the principal's office

Perhaps I should consider myself lucky that one of the more unjust things to ever happen to me in my entire life, happened in fourth grade. I was all of ten years old at the time and in one 24-hour period I had to take on my parents, my teacher, and the principal of the school, all by myself.

It all started one afternoon as I was walking home from school. There was a path through a little section of forest that separated my neighborhood from the elementary school. My friend "Cindy" and I were walking together, and a boy ("Rick") from school was walking some distance behind us. We were ten, and boys and girls tend to abhor one another at that age, and we were no different. This boy was teasing us, or bothering us, or maybe just existing in close proximity to us, so my friend and I decided we should throw a rock at him.

What a logical course of action, right? We concealed ourselves behind one of the trees on the forest path and when Rick walked by us, all unsuspecting, my friend stepped out and threw a rock at him. Not a big rock, mind you. It was just a piece of rock that had come loose from the rough asphalt paving of the forest path. I didn't even throw mine. I guess at the last minute I realized how stupid our little plan was, or maybe I was just chicken.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Rent w/utilities included, or pay them ourselves?

(This is another one of those posts that I'm writing to help the uninformed masses, who are as I once was.)

When we were looking at apartments in Ithaca, the complex we ended up settling on offered units with heat included, at a higher rent, or units in which we'd have to pay our own gas bill, but with a lower rent. I did a cursory search on the internet at the time to see if there was any general consensus out there on which was more cost-effective in the long run, but I didn't find anything. We took a leap of faith and went for an apartment with the heat not included.

The monthly rent discount for a pay-your-own-heat apartment is $100. So to break even on our "extra" utility costs, our gas bill would need to be less than $100/month, on average. But it wasn't that simple - gas costs during the summer would be close to nil because we'd only be paying for minor usage, like our oven. During the winter, however, we'd depend on gas to heat our house. We knew that the winter months were the ones that would make or break the success of our little gamble.

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