Monday, July 30, 2012

Sherlock, the Amish, cave diving, mysteries, old favorites, and some YA

So, um, I read a LOT of books in July (you may recall that I spent half the month all by myself) (and the other half spending time with extended family members who were often playing with my kids) (also, a few of these were audiobooks that I listened to while traveling, which I also did a lot of this month). Here goes.

A Study in SherlockA Study in Sherlock by Laurie R. King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very nice. I don't read a lot of mystery novels in general (Alan Bradley and Neil Gaiman were the only two authors in this compilation who I had heard of before) so I missed out on some of the inside jokes or previously established characters in a few of these short stories by famous mystery authors. Still, it was nice to sit down of an evening and read a Sherlock Holmes-ish story in one sitting like I used to do (with the real thing) when I was a kid.

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. Audiobook.

Consider this a re-imagining of the X-Men construct, for a YA audience, and you'll enjoy it a lot more. I wasn't expecting the sharp turn toward Professor Xavier-ville near the end of the book and so I was surprised and disappointed by the seeming lack of originality. Really, though, this book is quite exciting and engrossing, even if the prose gets ever so slightly (ok, maybe a lot) purple at times. Weird cover, though. I think the person who designed the cover maybe didn't read the book.

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27th, outsourced

The idea of a parent not taking any break from work for the birth of a baby makes me nervous, but that's the way things are moving for some executive women who can afford to hire the help they need to do just that.

I read the article referenced in this BCC post some months ago and it was deeply disturbing to me. I appreciated the BCC post for giving additional insight and context.

Crys got me started on a never-ending chain of watching YouTube videos from The Piano Guys. This is my current favorite.

Can you figure out the books from these one-sentence synopses?

Even though The Muppets would have us believe that "a celebrity is not a people,"...here are celebrities as real people. [HT Jen]

The rise of the grocery store "man aisle." I love how the article suggested (facetiously) a "woman aisle" filled with "laxatives, tampons, bonbons, tea, pregnancy tests, Luna bars, and Advil." Ha ha.


Here's a hidden side of Ramadan. And another (spoiler: more food is consumed during Ramadan - the month of fasting - than any other month of the year).

Just like when I was a kid?

I've been taking the girls around to a lot of places I went when I was young. I find myself saying out loud, "Oh, this is just like when I was a kid!" Except it's not. Not really.

The Multnomah County Library in downtown Portland, for example. My memories of that place center around the ornate interior staircase and its busy urban setting. Yesterday when I was there with the girls, the staircase was still really grand but not as awe-inspiring as it was when I was tagging along with my mom back in the day. It's a really nice library, but it's still just a library, you know?

As for downtown Portland, that used to be the craziest, most diverse hub of human activity I knew. One way streets, can you imagine? And the MAX trains zipping in and out of traffic, wow. Now, it's a city, and a busy city, and a nice city, but it's no longer the urbanest jungle I've ever seen. Not just like when I was a kid.

We went to the Washington County fair today and I had all kinds of ideas about how it was going to be. My idea of the county fair from childhood was that it was a massive event that everyone in the region looked forward to, just like me. There was a huge stadium for the rodeo events and there were wonderful rides and expansive grounds and the whole fair went on for weeks and weeks. Well, turns out it's more of just a long weekend thing and the huge stadium I remember is more like a few sets of really big bleachers. The grounds are large but really, you could walk from one end to the other in not too terribly long. I miss the sense of wonder I experienced at the county fair as a child, but it was almost as fun to observe said feelings of wonder in the faces of my own kids today.

Finally, I cannot get over the number of four-way stop sign intersections near my home that have been converted into major thoroughfares with left-turn lanes and stoplights and everything. Tonight, we drove by the intersection of Cornelius Pass and West Union roads and my head automatically looked to the right to look at, and remark out loud about, "the Grover trees." When I was a kid, there was a big field of trees there that my family called a grove of trees, but my kid self picked it up as Grover trees. But guess what? The Grover trees are gone. There are houses there now.

It may not be "just like when I was a kid." But that's OK. As I get bigger and grow older, the things that seemed so grand and permanent when I was young are bound to lose their luster. It's bittersweet to revisit these childhood impressions and have to adjust them for reality.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

PTFC

Tonight we went to a Portland Timbers football/soccer game. It was overwhelming to be in a stadium full of right-minded Oregonians (because they are from Oregon, and because they are fans of football/soccer) and overwhelming to be sitting so close to the field for an exciting game.

I haven't watched a big-time football/soccer game on anything except a TV since my days at the BYU, so this was a real treat. Plus, we had seats in the "club" section (thanks, brother Blair's boss!), and every once in a while a friendly young person would come by and ask if we wanted a (free) hot dog, or some (free) chips, or some (free) pop, or (free) red ropes. When they asked if we wanted (free) ice cream bars I decided I really was in heaven. Plus, when that food is free, you aren't allowed to say no, am I right? Near the end of the game, my SIL Emily pointed to a nearby row of seats that had a bunch of food wrappings beneath it and we both laughed at those people's gluttony. Then we took a look at the ground under our own seats, and, well, it was just about the same. So we laughed some more. And then enjoyed a (free) Voodoo Donut.

The game itself was fairly straightforward during the first half, but ended with a thrilling second half. The Timbers scored twice and each time the crowd went crazy wild. Also each time they scored, the mascot, someone named Timber Joey, sawed a piece off an actual log with a chainsaw. When he wasn't busy doing that, he was roaming the stands and randomly revving his chainsaw near unsuspecting spectators.

Tom Hanks was there (don't ask me why because I don't know). A woman did a great job singing the British national anthem (for the visiting team) and then the American national anthem (for the Timbers), and that was an interesting experience, too. It still feels strange to be among so many Americans. And football/soccer fans, to boot!

The following sentiment isn't emerging only from my experience at a Timbers game, but it is certainly reinforced by it: I used to wonder if I only loved Portland because this is where I grew up, so it was the embodiment of how I imagined everything was supposed to look, and run, and be. Now, coming back after years away, I can see it with fresh eyes: the beauty of the mountains, large and small, that surround the city. The green and green and more green. The quirky ways people think and behave here. The beautiful downtown. You guys, this is a wonderful place, and I say that being completely informed and having lived elsewhere so I have something to compare it to. The Timbers game brought this all home. So this blog post is a love letter to Portland. And also just a way to say that I really enjoyed watching some great football/soccer. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Dirty Dash

Two years ago, I ran the Warrior Dash and it was AWESOME. I was hoping to do another adventure run on this trip to the US, and I got my chance on Saturday at the Dirty Dash in Eugene. Once again, it was Jeremy and my brother Blair and me...with all our kids and a spare cousin thrown in the mix. The adults did a 4-mile course with lots of obstacles. The kids did a separate "Piglet Plunge" that was mostly mud pits and hay bales and was only about one mile long. For an idea of what the Dirty Dash is like, check out:


The Dirty Dash was very similar to the Warrior Dash, but the atmosphere was a little different. The Warrior Dash was more serious - you had to jump over fire at the end, for starters - and the Warrior Dash didn't have any kids' component so it was more of a moms-and-dads-only event. The obstacles were very different, too. The Warrior Dash obstacles were random and thrilling and challenging and yet very do-able. At the Dirty Dash, the obstacles seemed more manufactured - here is a wall which you must jump over. And now here is another wall, which you must also jump over - and honestly, I couldn't do all of them. Lame, I know. I could fling myself over huge floating logs in a river during the Warrior Dash but I had trouble making my way across two sets of monkey bars (in part because I had dry-ish mud caked all over my hands - doesn't make for good traction. Also, have you tried monkey bars lately? It's not nearly as easy as when you were a kid). Another problem was that we ran a later heat of the Dirty Dash and the course was clogged with slower runners from earlier heats. That meant that we actually had to wait in line at some of the obstacles, which was jovial and fun and all but rather less like a race. At the Warrior Dash, it was possible to try hard to run fast and maybe get a good time while completing all the obstacles. At the Dirty Dash, there was a beer/root beer pit stop halfway through the race. Definitely a different ambiance.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Music tourists

We drove from Idaho to Oregon on Friday and since we didn't have any CDs to listen to in the rental car (except for the non-skipping half of The Man From Snowy River soundtrack), we decided to be music tourists. The only time I ever hear popular music in the UAE is when I'm in H&M or at spinning class, so...yeah. Twelve hours in the car was the perfect opportunity to listen to some American radio. At one point near Boise, we actually said to the girls, "Listen, girls! This is the kind of music that Americans listen to!" Like I said: music tourists.

So what did I think? Well, a lot of the songs sound the same to me. And I'm not the only one who's noticed.


Apparently, you have to overproduce everything these days. You can't just, oh I don't know, play the guitar and sing? Or xylophone, as the case may be. The last thing that song needed was jazzing up.

The most-heard song was Call Me Maybe, by far. Call Me Maybe is the almost-perfect Best/Worst Song: the song that you love but also hate but also LOVE. My personal favorite Best/Worst Song like that is Party in the USA (and I found out a few weeks ago that Ira Glass agrees with me). We also heard a lot of Payphone by Maroon 5, and that song about "the sun goes down, the stars come out." That and the other songs sure are catchy, and it made for fun - if a bit homogeneous - road-trip listening. And now I feel like I know a little bit more about American music than I did before.

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20th, outsourced

Those of you still in the throes of writing final papers may find this academic sentence generator useful. Because "the emergence of history as such clarifies the position of the discourse of power/knowledge."

I swear this same thing happened a few years ago with an SUV social media ad campaign. Here we go again with people wrecking Shell's make-your-own ad campaign in hilarious ways. [HT Scotty]

I have no idea what induced them to poke such respectful fun, but it sure is a good time: Fab or Drab at the Hill Cumorah Pageant. [HT Jeremy]

If Apple sold bottled water... [HT Scotty]

If you get tired of reading about bad baby names, you should stay away from my blog. Here is a wonderful update on the world of parents who give horrible names to their kids.

This is a real thing that happened at the 1976 Miss America pageant. There are no words. Except that I wish there was a closeup at 1:29-1:30. [HT Eric D. Snider]

Thursday, July 19, 2012

American culture shock

The overwhelming feeling that I've had in my first three days here in the US is I don't belong. I feel like everywhere I go I am unknowingly flouting social norms and creating awkwardness. At the grocery store, I'm the one ooh-ing and ah-ing at the yogurt selection. When it comes to produce, I stand there in a daze, looking for the scale where you ask the dude to weigh your fruits and vegetables before you take them to the check-out. My American ATM card is expired so I can't get cash except then a bank teller reminded me that, well, you can just withdraw cash from your own account in person. Ooooohhhh yeaaaaaahhhh. Now I remember.

Remember Left Turn Yields on Green? Or how the walk signal guy is white? The sidewalks are made from slabs of gray concrete instead of red bricks with black-and-white striped curbs. The speedometer is in mph, not kph, which threw me for a loop at first. There are lots of bumper stickers here, and many of them disparage Obama (I'm in Idaho, ok?). There is also a lot of English around here, on billboards and signs and businesses. There's a lot of English in the UAE, too, but here I am finding myself fascinated with all the ads and slogans and other English-language bids for my attention.

And the food. THE FOOD. It's so cheap it's practically free! I bought a container of parmesan cheese for $2.50 and it made my heart cry. I ate some bacon yesterday and it was so. good. The weather is lovely and even though I hear people talking about how hot it is, it isn't hot at all, not to me.

I'm used to hearing all kinds of different languages when I'm out and about in the UAE. The other day when I was walking into the grocery store in Idaho Falls, I overheard some language I wasn't familiar with. I stepped a little closer to hear better so I could figure out what it was...and it turns out it was just a teenage girl talking really fast, in English.

Did you know that in America, white people work in jobs that do not require the presence of a desk in front of them? Weird. In fact, there are white people everywhere here. And they all speak English with an American accent! And they dress very differently from what I'm used to seeing in the UAE. I forget: are Utah/Idaho women very fashion-forward or fashion-backward? Or just an island unto themselves?

American public libraries are AMAZING. I can't believe there is this place where you can pick out any books and DVDs you want and just take them home for a while, for free. I took the girls to Storytime, too. Opportunities like that are something that I really miss about the US.

Jet lag is fading and I'm feeling more like myself. I grew up in the US, after all, and my memories of how to do things here are slowly coming back.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

16 hours on a plane

I left my house in Sharjah at 9.30pm on Saturday. I walked in the door of my MIL's house in Idaho Falls at 5pm on Sunday. Considering the 10-hour time difference, I was on the road for...30ish hours? I was only able to sleep for three 45-minute shifts on the airplane so I was a bit loopy for a lot of the trip. However, I do remember a few things.

The Dubai Airport's Terminal 3 is right out of the future. When you check in downstairs, everything seems lazy and calm and ho-hum, but once you go upstairs on the super fancy shiny escalator, the world comes alive. There are a ton of shops and people and everyone is kind of jet-lagged so even though it's 2am there are people drinking smoothies and doing some grocery shopping in the awesome duty free grocery store thing there.

On the DXB-LAX plane, I sat next to an Iranian man and his wife. As I approached my seat next to them, I witnessed the following conversation take place between them:

Iranian Husband, to wife: Do you want to switch seats so you are sitting next to the woman?
Iranian Wife (kind of heavyset): I can if you prefer, but I would like to stay here because I am kind of heavyset and I would feel awkward spilling into her personal space. If I stay here, I can feel comfortable knowing that I am spilling only into your personal space, and we are married, so that is OK.

I SWEAR to you that, even though I don't speak Farsi, this is what they said to each other. It was so clear from their body language. So yes, they were very considerate seatmates even if it was sometimes awkward to be crammed into a small sliver of space next to a dude. I felt like I could only try to sleep with my face turned away from him, because I was terrified of falling asleep the other way and waking up with my head on his shoulder or something. Thus the lack of sleep on the plane. It's all right. I had movies to keep me company. When I was not awkwardly trying to sleep, I chatted with my Iranian friends and they were super interesting. The guy was an F-14 pilot for the Shah back in the day, at least if I understood his halting English.

Meanwhile, I became BFFs with a very aged Indian lady across the aisle from me, who was possibly on her first airplane flight ever. I helped her buckle in her seat. I helped her recline her seat. I helped her put down her tray table. I helped her open her packet of crackers. I helped her operate her video screen. I helped her adjust her bra to make sure it wasn't showing under the back of her sari - I am not joking. Then I helped her fill out her immigration card, and by "help," I mean I did it for her, referencing her passport, because she didn't really speak English. The form asks all kinds of questions, including if you've been around farm animals recently. So I got to ask her, "Have you been on a farm recently? A farm? FARM. Animals. Cow, chicken, horse. MOO." It was great fun. And I did such a good job (and possibly made such a spectacle of myself) that a few other non-English-speaking passengers asked me to fill out their immigration forms, too. I hope I did a good job. There was basically no accountability, because when we arrived in the US, I got to go in the citizens line and basically said, "Good luck with that!" to all my plane friends. I saw them later at baggage claim so I think they got through OK.

I'll write more about impressions of the US tomorrow, but let me just say that upon arrival in the LAX airport, it SMELLED like America. I have no idea what this smell is, but it was very distinct.

As for how my children greeted me after two weeks of absence, Magdalena saw me walk in the kitchen and said, "hey mama, look at this!" and showed me some project she was working on. Miriam gave me a proper hug and also some welcome home signs. So no big deal, I guess. It's good to be here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A review of movies I watched on the plane

I'm in the US! More about that later. First, a quick review of the FIVE movies I watched during my 16 hours on an airplane equipped with personal video screens.

I never watch romantic comedies except on airplanes. I can't stand them unless I'm a captive audience. I saw Leap Year, Dear John, Letters to Juliet (or whatever that was called), Made of Honor, etc. on airplanes. So on this trip, I took on:

This Means War. Fun concept, great chemistry between the two male leads (and of course Reese Witherspoon was delightful as always), but also kind of dumb. Just what I expected, in other words!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Discovering the song after the cover

I mentioned last week that I've been listening to a lot of music lately. Some of that music has been songs that I knew previously only in their covered versions. I took the opportunity to get to know the original songs a little better.

For example: Dust in the Wind. I heard the Sarah Brightman version first:


and now I enjoy the original Kansas, too.


Go Your Own Way I heard first from The Cranberries:


but it's even more awesome from Fleetwood Mac themselves. SUCH A GOOD SONG. Turn it up loud.


It was a long time before I figured out that Landslide was not a Smashing Pumpkins original,


but another Fleetwood Mac gem.


Then there's Someone Like You, which I heard first from Kyle Landry:


and then on another cover:


and finally in the original. But actually, I prefer the covers.

What is it about a good cover? I think it's like getting to read your favorite book again, for the first time. A cover is everything you love, but different somehow. So you can handle a few more additional listens...or a LOT more additional listens, as the case may be.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Thoughts on the prospect of returning to America

I'll be on my way to the USA tonight. Here are some scattered thoughts about returning to the motherland.

It's been almost two years since I've been in the United States, and all of these two years away have been spent in the Middle East. The closest I got to the West was Istanbul in August 2011. I know some things about the US are going to freak me out at first. In the past, after a long time away, it's been the sheer enormity of the grocery stores and the American style of dress. What will it be this time? The sight of price tags in dollars? The high cost of gas? The sight of non-Filipino service staff at restaurants? The complete lack of dudes hanging out in shalwar kameez or kandura? So many white people in one place? Nobody staring at me or my kids? No call to prayer? I can't wait to find out.

I may have to adjust my driving habits. Jeremy always laughs at me because I never stop at stop signs anymore (there is a real possibility of getting rear-ended if you do) and I have learned to drive so aggressively here. And will I miss roundabouts? I might. Stoplights are so uncommon here. I find that when I do encounter them I hardly have the patience to just sit there and wait instead of exercising my brain trying to find a gap in three lanes of roundabout traffic.

Friday, July 13, 2012

July 13th, outsourced

I hear the US had/is having a heat wave. Just be glad you're not in one of the 10 hottest places on earth.

Dora the Explorer: The Movie. Hilarious.

A swimmer and a journalist prove to be the making of each other. Awwwwww.

The Consumerist asks, at what age is it appropriate to market professional waxing to girls? I...hate that ad.

Here's a delightfully negative, snarky look at the worst thing about summer in eight American cities.

I love everything about the fact that a girl meant to email her resume and cover letter to a prospective employer but accidentally sent a photo of crazy Nic Cage instead. LOVE.

The Real Housewives of the Syrian Revolution (plus more photos).

What do you think of the US Olympics uniforms?

You know, sometimes it is interesting to think of how brands have such a presence in social media these days.

Articles like this (about the US gymnastics team) make perfect use of GIFs.

Here's another perfect use of a GIF (Magdalena dancing!). Thanks, Andrew!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Alone

A little-known fact about me is that I've been here in Sharjah by myself for almost two weeks. Jeremy and the girls left for the US at the beginning of July. Needless to say, this Me Party is pretty epic.

It's not all fun and games, of course. Or rather, it's not all novel-reading and BBC-miniseries-watching (but there is a lot of that). The whole reason I stayed behind was to finish up this summer course I'm taking. The grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins in the US have been slavering to see the girls - and, to a lesser extent, us - so we decided that Jeremy would take Miriam and Magdalena to Utah/Idaho to visit his family and bask in all the familial reunionness while I am busy with my class work.

By the time I see my husband and kids again, it will have been two weeks - our longest separation ever, by far. Here are some reflections on being all by my lonesome for two weeks.

I went three whole days without touching anyone. You either get why this is a big deal, or you don't. If you don't get it, ask the next mother of small children you see to remember the last 24-hour period in which she did not touch anyone. She will not be able to recall such a period. I had mixed feelings about not touching anyone for so long. In a way, it was wonderfully restorative. In another way, it was unsettling. Humans need touch. (It would have been a much longer period of no-touchy, by the way, if I hadn't attended that Arabian wake.)

I haven't listened to so much music in YEARS. The house was so silent that I found myself seeking out opportunities to listen to music, and to sing along out loud. I eventually settled on opera music. Did you know you can listen to/watch the entirety of Tosca on YouTube? I also listened to pretty much everything Kyle Landry has ever uploaded on YouTube, except for the weird anime stuff. And then I cycled through the Recommended Videos sidebar trap on YouTube, going through endless permutations of Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac, Chicago, Kansas, Boston, Glee covers, etc.

I became semi-nocturnal. I hate being alone at night. So I started staying up until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning doing projects or working or reading. Just because I could. During the day, if I got tired from my late hours, I took a nap. Can you imagine?

I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I got hungry. This is another mom fantasy, probably.

I had irrational thoughts about all the horrible trouble my kids could get into if I'm not with them. This led to me getting out of bed in the middle of the night to send Jeremy an email to remind him of that one staircase in his parents' house that doesn't have a railing on it and to make sure the girls stayed away from it. I also find myself worrying that Miriam is going to forget how to read, or Magdalena will become un-potty-trained, just because I'm not there.

I spent way too long on my assignments. It's amazing how much more time I will spend on class assignments, when I have the time. This is not entirely a good thing, because I'm not sure the quality is better. When the kids are around, it's pretty much "finish this assignment in the next three hours or finish it never." Since they've been gone, I can spend a few hours on it today, a couple more tomorrow, a few more the next day if I need to...It never ends!

Anyway, it's been kind of a surreal experience. I'd like to publicly thank Jeremy for going solo for two weeks, including an international plane journey. He's also been diligent about providing me with pictures and videos, including this one of Magdalena that I cannot stop watching.

Please someone who knows how to make those repeating animated gifs: 0:11-0:12, if you don't mind.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sharjah's Goodwill/Deseret Industries

The other day I organized a cabinet full of almost two years' worth of cast-off/grown-out clothes and shoes from Jeremy and me and the girls and some hand-me-downs that we didn't need. The items had been collecting there for months and months, simply because I did not know where to take them. There is no Goodwill or Deseret Industries here, at least as far as I know. I briefly considered throwing all the stuff in a suitcase and taking it to the US when I go, and dropping it off at Goodwill there. Really! I just didn't know what else to do with it.

Then, vaguely, I remembered that last year during Ramadan, collection booths sprung up around town for donations of clothing, shoes, and toys. That would be just the thing for my cabinet full of hand-me-downs! But Ramadan doesn't start for another 10 days, so I was sure I would miss the chance this year since I leave the country next week.

However, an Emirati friend tipped me off that at any time of year - not just during Ramadan - you can find collection bins for clothes/shoes/toys at most mosques. She told me what they looked like and I decided to keep a clear eye for them as I drove around time. And lucky me, look what I found:

These things are all over the place in Sharjah, not just in mosque parking lots. I think they put them out early for Ramadan use. You better believe I packed up the clothes and shoes in bags and then hauled them to this bin and donated away.

I'm so glad I found a place to donate gently used clothes and shoes in Sharjah. They may not have Goodwill or DI here, but there are donation bins in mosque parking lots and all over the place near Ramadan time - now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Other Bridget: an update

It's time to check in once again with Other Bridget, the imaginary person I've constructed from combining the details of misdirected emails that I receive. She's been busy lately.

As you know, she moved to Australia and enrolled in James Cook University. I got quite a few emails about that, and her work with "gellibaff."

She had some trouble with her unidentified Apple product earlier this year. Within the space of an hour, I received a barrage of about 12 emails confirming her appointment at an Apple Store Genius Bar to address the issue, and then an email saying they hadn't received an appointment confirmation from her. That's because I'm not Other Bridget.

I got an email from an old friend (of 25 years, as stated by the friend in the email) of Other Bridget asking if I had a 'd' in my name. I do. I guess Other Bri(d)get doesn't??

Other Bridget's daughter Lola was accepted at a preschool in Australia. I know the name of the preschool but it doesn't seem to be at all close to James Cook University. I wonder how Other Bridget is managing the commute.

The most troubling development in Other Bridget's life came last month when I received an email from one of her friends, saying how sorry he was about what had happened to "my" car, at a place called Cable Beach (also in Australia, by the way). The friend included this picture in the email:

I'm so sorry this happened to Other Bridget! It's even worse than the time one of her friends got put in jail.

I hope Other Bridget takes more care in her future Australian adventures. I'll keep you updated with any developments.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A missionary for The Man From Snowy River

I'm worried that the kids these days don't know about The Man From Snowy River. It would be a shame for this 1982 gem to be lost to current and future generations.

Until last month, I hadn't watched The Man From Snowy River since I was a kid. Then Jeremy brought it home from the library and we sat down with the girls for a family movie night. It was another "watching it again for the first time" moment, and it was wonderful. You guys, that movie is so awesome. It's the best kind of movie that you can watch with your kids and you're entertained and they're enthralled and all the weird, slightly freaky subplots go soaring right over their heads, creating vague memories for them to reflect on over the years until they finally watch the movie again as an adult and everything makes sense (see also: Amadeus, The Black Stallion, and Raiders of the Lost Ark). As an adult, The Man From Snowy River is this great story of growing up and becoming a man and forgiveness and redemption and a truly fabulous horse chase scene that takes up the final 20 minutes or so of the movie.

As a kid - as one of our kids, anyway - The Man From Snowy River is about wild horses ("brumbies") and ranch horses, and trying to tame the wild horses, and there's a bad guy and a good guy. And the final horse chase is pretty fabulous for the kids, too.

So if you haven't seen this movie, go watch it already. And then have your kids watch it. Keep in mind that on a first viewing, you will have to pause the movie approximately every 30 seconds to explain what's going on, but as soon as the kids settle in to the horses + good guys + bad guys motif, they're good to go. I should also mention that this movie was made in the 80s, and sometimes it shows (like in a freaky three-stage closeup of the main brumbie, which might have startled the kids a little but which had Jeremy and me laughing from the campiness). Also, there is one use of the word bull****, and also there's this one part where the dad slaps someone. But like I said, that stuff tends to sail over the heads of little ones, or if it doesn't, you just say, "Well, that's how they did it in the olden days," and that's a good enough answer.

And the music - the MUSIC. So lovely. When you're done watching the movie, go buy the soundtrack.

Have you ever seen this movie? If so, how long has it been since your last viewing? Perhaps it's time for another look.

Friday, July 06, 2012

July 6th, outsourced

I love clever people: Football minus balls.

If you've never read a birth plan, this will not be funny to you. If you have, well: Jamie and Jeff's Birth Plan. [HT Liz]

A look at the audition process for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It's amazing what these people put themselves through.

A while ago, we had some friends over for dinner and among the guests we had some food sensitivities, a vegetarian, and a diabetic. This kind of scenario is becoming more common, and the way people deal with it is changing.

Here's an interesting article about Russian (or former USSR) women who married Syrian men, and how they're dealing with the conflict there now.

Best obituary EVER. Or I should say, best LIFE ever. [HT Andrew]

I hope this doesn't ruin the new Spiderman movie for you, but, UM. [HT Eric D. Snider]

I enjoyed reading Forever Young Adult's post about their favorite YA books. Not the best books ever or the most literary or the most critically acclaimed, but their personal favorites. I was thrilled to see The Book Thief and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks show up. And then disturbed to see Jellicoe Road. But that's the fun of lists like these, isn't it?

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Arab PregnancyWatch

The only people in my personal acquaintance who are as vigilant about their PregnancyWatch duties as Mormons, are Arabs. And with the Arab version of PregnancyWatch, the speculation and hounding could conceivably (ha ha) continue even if you have four, five, six kids - if all of those kids happen to be girls, anyway. Off the top of my head, I can think of three Arab families I know who have had girl after girl after girl (after girl...) and then a boy, and they've openly admitted that they just kept having kids until they got a boy. It's a very commonly held goal around here. Recently, at a baby shower, I sat next to a fellow guest who cradled her eighth (!!!) baby in her arms, a boy, born after years of girl after girl after girl.... She was not shy about admitting that while she enjoyed her large family, she was relieved to be done having children at last. Because, you know, now she had a boy.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Into the lion's den

Sharjah Police Academy
I know it's Independence Day, but I've got nothin'. I did see one other American today, though, and I wished her a happy Fourth. So while this post is not about the celebration of America's birth, it does have policemen in it. Emirati policemen. It's the best I can do.

When we lived in Syria, and to a lesser extent Jordan, policemen were the bane of my existence. They were the most egregious offenders when it came to ogling and cat-calling female passersby on the streets, can you believe it? I guess the policemen's job was to stand around and look at people so maybe you can't blame them for trying to enjoy it (just kidding: you can totally blame them).

Well, for the summer class I'm taking right now, one of my assignments was to investigate an English as a Foreign Language course on offer at the Sharjah Police Academy. So guess who got to walk into a building chock-a-block with young Arab male police officers, aka my old nemeses? ME.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

An Arabian wake

On Sunday morning, a professor here at AUS passed away very unexpectedly. Dr. Ibrahim Sadek was the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, which is the college in which Jeremy works and also the one I'm taking my master's classes in. I first met Dr. Sadek in a social capacity and then, when I started my MA, I dealt with him on a professional basis. He was a quiet man with such a nice way about him, and a smile that assured you he was always there to help. Since he has been with AUS since this university's establishment, he has quite the legacy among former and current AUS students and employees. As news of his passing spread, he quickly became a trending topic on Twitter for the UAE. It seems strange, but I think he (and we) can consider becoming a trend on Twitter a mark of honor in this case.

I wasn't brave enough to attend the funeral yesterday - heavily cultural events like funerals and weddings can be a minefield for foreigners like me. In my opinion, it's best not to go unless you are very sure of protocol or if you have a trusted native friend with you to show you the way things are done. Trust me - I once almost brought Jeremy with me to a women-only baby birth celebration here. I didn't realize it was for women only until I showed up at the door of my friend's house and was greeted by her unveiled self as well as the unveiled selves of all my female neighbors. That would have been such a train wreck, if I had showed up with Jeremy at my side as I had initially planned. I cringe just thinking about what a close call it was.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Sugar and spice and all that's nice...NOT

I think sometimes people assume that, unlike little boys, little girls are completely uninterested in the grosser side of bodily functions. In my own experience, this is absolutely not the case. I don't have any boys so I don't have a solid benchmark to refer to, but my kids (both girls) are plenty silly about the potty and what goes in it and the different ways that our bodies make noise while expelling air. It's shocking (and hilarious) sometimes.

For example, today I was going through a stack of the kids' drawings to see what was worth saving and I came across this gem, drawn by Miriam:

Then there was the time when Magdalena was all of one year old and we had guests over and someone was saying a prayer and Miriam passed gas and Magdalena announced, loud and clear during the prayer, while we had guests over, "TOOTS!" Also, one time Magdalena burped (she burps A LOT) and she thoughtfully said, "Hmm, a toot came out of my mouth!"

Another time Miriam could not stop talking about a particular BM she had and she even went to the whiteboard and drew a picture of it. (I actually have a photo of the drawing because it ended up in the background of another picture...but don't worry, I won't post it.)

And of course, the girls are endlessly fond of replacing key words of songs with "bum" or "toot" or "burp" or "poo-poo."

And you know, at this point in their lives I don't feel the need to curtail their behavior too much. Obviously there's a time and a place for this kind of joking around. But little kids are so in tune with their bodies and so aware of the processes that go on inside of it that I'd hate to stifle their outlet for figuring it all out through jokes and games and drawings.

So if this is what little girls are like, are little boys ten times more fascinated with poo and burps and toots, as I've been led to believe? Or perhaps has Jeremy been attending too well to his duties of encouraging potty humor in his kids?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

So you want to hire a nanny.

We are still in the process of hiring a live-in nanny/housekeeper. I guess I need to figure out which job title to use. For our purposes, I think "housekeeper" will be best, since we anticipate her focusing more on household stuff than kid stuff. I find that a lot of women here refer to their live-in household employees as "helpers." Whatever she is - nanny, housekeeper, helper, maid, or servant (as the UAE residence visa so tactfully labels her) - she is not here yet.

Because deciding you want to hire a live-in housekeeper and actually doing it are two very different things. There are so many little decisions that must be made before you can move forward with the process. For example, when choosing a housekeeper, which home country do you prefer? You can choose from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Philippines, or Sri Lanka. Any other nationality will require a lot of luck and paperwork to get approved. Some of these women will speak Arabic as a working language (Ethiopia and Indonesia, usually), while the rest will speak English, all to varying degrees of fluency. And certain nationalities get paid less than others, as a standard, semi-written rule (the different embassies have different minimum salary requirements). Ethiopia tends to be toward the lower end of the salary spectrum, while Philippines is at the higher end. Anyone with special skills - high fluency in Arabic/English, lots of experience, cooking prowess, education, etc. - can potentially earn more than average. And it must be said that some employers are more generous than others, as in any other business. I know people who pay their helpers less than 1000 dhs/month. I know people who pay their helpers three times that much. It all depends on the number of kids, and the size of the house, and the duties required, and the attitude of the employer toward the employee. There is no one-size-fits-all salary guide.

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