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November 2005 Archives

November 30, 2005

Selling Christmas Cheer

For four out of the last five days, I've found myself at the German Market. It's been an unusual experience for me, since I keep expecting Christmas to involve more snow and cold. Being able to spend an evening wandering around brightly lit stalls, looking at handmade Christmas decorations, various types of candles, some pirate ships, and the occasional breadzel is exciting and new. Yay for warmer weather!

Two nights ago, gleefully giggling over my latest cookie cutter (a camel, to go with the elephant and the giraffe-that-looks-like-a-llama from last week), I sat and drank mulled apple wine, enjoying the Christmas lights, the press of people, and the sound of many languages. German, French, English, Spanish, some Chinese, probably a lot of others I don't know the sound of. It was so incredibly pleasant, the sort of experience I always wanted when living overseas. Something just a bit like home, but not too much.

Tonight I may go back again. I've run out of reindeer sausage, and I haven't tried any of the yummy smelling crepes filled with brown sugar. And there's always room for more mulled wine...

November 29, 2005

Only in my life would this be a problem

So, yeah.

I just had handed to me on a silver platter an opportunity I want to have in about... oh, five years. And it's here, right now.

So, I could take it, and not go to Australia, not go to New Zealand. Or I could not take it, and not get this opportunity again.

*sigh* Oh look, it's that cornacopia of choices again.

November 28, 2005

Carnival of Expats IV: Rockin' Festivals Expat Style

That is, in fact, the lamest title I could come up with.

Expat Carnival IV is now closed, and the entries, as usual, are as varied as the people who write them.

Phil, our participant who has moved the most and who thinks Christmas needs more BBQs, writes about Rock at Angkor Wat. There are pictures galore, and even a video you should watch.

A rock festival next door to the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat sounded just what I needed. (Rock at Angkor Wat 2003). Great company, good music, bad dancing styles, cold gin and tonics, it sounded like Schoolies Week/ Spring Break in an exotic location.

{Sheepdip}

Our participant in France, Pumpkin Pie, talks about the beauty and wonder of a Christmas spent in the Christmas Capital of the World, Strasbourg.

That is why it is so wonderful to buy a warm crepe to snack on and a hot cup of wine to sip slowly as you stroll from one Christmas stall to the next admiring handcrafted toys and decorations. Last year there was a stall that had beautifully handcrafted wooden boxes containing secret compartments that the salesman had to reveal. Otherwise, you may never have found the secret technique to open the secret hiding place inside the box.

{From my French Window}

One of our two participants in Scotland, Don, talks about how Christmas in Scotland is so different than icicles and braving dangerous packs of mallrats back in Canada.

It may just be the novelty but there seems to be more excitement in the air than I’ve felt from Edmonton in a long while. Christmas lost its splendour a long time ago for me. For the first time in many years I feel a certain childish excitement that Christmas is on the way.

{Ponderings from Afar}

And the other participant from Scotland (that would be me) writes about Spring Festival in China.

I don't remember anymore what I expected. Fireworks, certainly, but fireworks were a nightly event in China, so it went without saying. Something involving a dragon, maybe. Something exciting and new, that much I know.

{Anna Overseas}

Thanks again for everyone who got a chance to participate this week! It's been a lot of fun reading these, and I can't wait till next Thursday!

Spring Festival

Year of the Monkey Spring Festival is a family holiday, much more so than Christmas. At least in sleepy little Jiangyan.

I don't remember anymore what I expected. Fireworks, certainly, but fireworks were a nightly event in China, so it went without saying. Something involving a dragon, maybe. Something exciting and new, that much I know.

I got something entirely different.

Paul, who was also teaching English in a sleepy little town, had joined me for Spring Festival. We cleaned every corner of my way too big flat, moved furniture around, and even put up the big wooden pictures with the man that's supposed to protect everyone from the demons on the door to the place. We put the paper scrolls around all the doors, and talked the whole time about what it would be like.

The night of, the whole city was quiet.

Understand, when I say a Chinese city was quiet, you better believe it was. Paul and I walked downtown and didn't see another soul. There was no noise except the incessant blaring of the canned music on the speakers that are liberally placed around the downtown. We didn't see another car. There were no fireworks.

We finally got to the only sign of life we saw all evening - the KFC. Jiangyan's KFC had opened up to huge long lines and excited fanfare. Every day my students were excited about the place, asking questions and when they could go, as though I could take them. It was always crowded, always packed, and that night, it was completely empty, except for a few disgruntled staff and two laowei, ordering hot chocolate because Paul was cold.

We sat in there, watching the complete lack of people on the busiest street in Jiangyan, and talked about Christmas (he was from New Zealand - like Phil, he went to BBQs and played in the hot hot ocean for Christmas, while I thought anything that didn't include three feet of snow and more coming down was surreal) and family and feeling excluded.

I think that conversation was the first time Paul mentioned leaving China.

We finished our hot chocolate and headed back a different way. We went through the streets to tiny you couldn't get a car through them, past houses that didn't have running water. The smell of incense was heavy in the air, and there were little altars set up near various houses. There were people here, and laughter, and lots of strange looks at the two pale people walking through the area like ghosts.

We got back to the school, and at midnight we sat alone on the school playground and lit our small supply of fireworks into the completely empty sky.

November 27, 2005

Missing that Certain Feeling

It's taken me a few days to quite put my finger on it.

I've been not really feeling very Christmasy. I could say it's because it's not snowing here, but I've experienced more than one brown Christmas, and had Christmases that were positively green. So, I don't think it's that.

I could say it's because of a lack of family around, but really, not likely. I haven't lived at home in something close to a million years, and I've actually only been home for Christmas... gee, once in 7 years. Must do something about that.

I could say it's even lack of Christmasy baking, but that would be a total fabrication as I've been baking cookies and pies all weekend. And eating them. Gotta test them lots before you let other people try em, right?

No, I finally figured out why I'm not feeling the Christmas rush I usually feel.

There's no Christmas music.

I haven't heard "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" once this year. Nor have I been subjected to way too much Elvis singing "Blue Christmas". There's been no "White Christmas", either.

Is it a cultural thing? I mean, granted, I haven't been in the malls once, but I've been buying baking stuff in the grocery store, I've been in and out of all sorts of little shops buying Christmas presents, I've even looked at Christmas Trees a time or two. But, still, no Chrismas music.

I never thought I'd say that I missed it... but I kinda do. I mean, I'm glad it hasn't been running since pre-Halloween, but we're almost on December here.

I want me some "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire", damn it!

Snow Day

I love living in places where panic ensues because of snow.

On some level I can understand it - if you're not ready or warned, snow can be dangerous and unpredictable. Sorta like swans. But there were snow alerts and warnings all week, so having Friday turn into a snow day shouldn't have really surprised anyone.

Snow Day Tree 3
But, by the time the snow got to this point (had been snowing for less than an hour) we got an email alert.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE BELOW SEMINAR, SCHEDULED FOR TODAY AT 1300 AT THE EMPLOYMENT RESEARCH INSTITUTE, HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO SEVERE WEATHER - APOLOGIES FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE CAUSED

It was all in bright red, too.

By the end of the day, when the snow was melting so loudy you can actually *hear* it melt, we'd received another email telling us that, due to the severe weather, there would be no afternoon pickup of the mail. (Just to clarify, that's internal pickup - I'm sure the Royal Mail went just fine.)

I got plenty of pictures, which is good, because by Saturday morning it was all gone, and I was sad.

Watch the day unfold...

November 25, 2005

YAY!!!

It's SNOWING! Right now! I'm so HAPPY!

November 24, 2005

Another Carnival!!

So, in related news:

There's a Winter Carnival here! I'm so excited... no one told me they had Winter Carnival's in Edinburgh. I mean, I knew about Hogmanay, which is their New Year's Eve thingy, but this is great! There's a Ferris Wheel and a Carousel and a Skating Rink. But, no snow.

Tonight is the lighting of the Big Tree in the Princes Street Gardens, which I'm also very excited about, and then I'm going to shop at the German Marketplace that opens up tonight, too.

I know, I'm six years old, but still. It's all nice and wonderful, right?

In kinda related news... I'm really looking forward to being in Australia at this time next year. I'm trying to decide if the shorter days are what makes me down at this time of year, or if it's the run-up to Christmas, but lately I just have no energy.

And at least in Australia I won't be hearing "Oh, it's so cold!" at +5 celcius. Because last time I checked, it was +36.

I'm gonna die.

Carnival of Expats IV

Yay! It's Thursday, and that means Carnival Day!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.

This week's topic: It's Winter, and that means the world is full of interesting and different festivals and holidays. It seems every culture and country tries to beat back the darkness at this time of year, and thus, I pass along to all of you: Tell us about interesting festivals and holidays you've attended while living abroad. Be it a different take on an old favorite (turnips at Halloween, anyone?) or a festival that your native land hasn't even dreamed of (Hogmanany? Huh?), tell us all about it!

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

November 23, 2005

Hooked on Phonics

When I was in China, and valiantly attempting to learn Chinese, the students would teach me to say something, and I'd write it phonetically on a scrap of paper. Which is why I can remember how to sing "Are you Sleeping?" in Mandarin, but can't remember how to say "My name is Anna."

Some days, though, it feels like being in China all over again.

"Okay, so how do I say this?"

"Leiceshire," says Fiona. Lester-shire, I dutifully write down.

"And this one?"

"Gloucestershire." She sighs. "It's like Leiceshire."

Gloster-shire, I write, and look at it critically. "That's an awful lot of letters. This one?"

"That's just Southampton! It's nothing special!"

English into English, indeed.

November 22, 2005

Don

Don's beloved dog, Luke, passed away sometime earlier today.

I mention this because a lot of his friends cycle through here, and I thought they'd like to know. He's pretty upset, as I'm sure you can imagine. He'd had Luke for a long time, and I think he felt better about his mom being in Camrose because Luke was with her.

If you want to contact Don, his email is don@annaoverseas.com.

November 21, 2005

Canrival of Expats III: Homesick

Once again a bit late - this new job is not making it possible for me to post at 7:30 in the morning, as that's when I have to be on the bus!

Between packing for Singapore and getting hangovers, Phil writes this touching and very true missive:

There seems to be two basic personality types that love being an expat. 1) Those who run towards the future. 2) Those who run away from past. There is certain freedoms that being expat automatically gives you. The odd benefit being, nobody knows you. Let me repeat that in the personal form. Nobody here knows me. Nobody here knows ME.

{Sheepdip}

While Don, over in Scotland, writes about what makes him homesick, as well as how he chooses to deal with it.

I find that homesickness and loneliness go hand in hand for me. The times when homesickness strikes are invariably when I am feeling most isolated. Usually this is tied closely to having too much time on my hands. If I’m too busy to think about it then I probably won’t notice being homesick.

{Ponderings from Afar}

In France, Pumpkin Pie writes on how Homesickness Has No Cure, and how keeping in touch and accepting that can be helpful.

Because of my past experience with homesickness I knew it would visit me soon when I moved to France but no person can prepare themselves for what it will feel like or what you will miss. The first time it hit me so hard I sat in the car sobbing and my husband just held me. He understood because he had lived in America for over two years and I had witnessed his bouts of homesickness.

{From My French Window}

And, on this side of the Chunnel, I write about catching that glimpse of someone who isn't really your friend, but looks like it, and how that throws off your whole day, sometimes.

Dealing with it varies, and depends. Some days I shrug it off, reminding myself that I'm experiencing things that my friends back home envy, that I'm going to see new and exciting things, that I can see a freaking castle from my window at work. I remember these things and I smile. You gotta concentrate on the good things.

{Anna Overseas}

Thanks again for all the responses, I hope Amber reads them and it helps her in her experiences!

As of December 16th, Phil will take over hosting duties for a while.

November 20, 2005

Why Nutcracker Made Me Happy

Why Nutcracker Made Me Happy, a list, by jo

1. It was a great excuse to get dressed up. But my definition of dressed up involved knee high stripey rainbow socks.

2. It was a great excuse to go out for a nice dinner right across the street from the playhouse. Not enough time to go home and then come all the way back. Yummy!

3. It was a great excuse to look longingly at fairy wings and tiaras. Because I don't have enough sets of wings (2) or shinies to put on my head (5).

4. It was a great excuse to feel cultured. I went to the ballet! In Edinburgh! In stripey socks!

5. It was a great excuse to realize that I really do like the ballet.

The whole experience was a lot of fun. I was in awe of the dancers, and the music was fun and outstanding. My favorite bits were the individual doll dances near the end. I am madly in love with the couple who did the "Indian Doll" dances... so exotic and graceful!

But the true bit that awed me were the girls in the chorus that stood absolutely and completely still, in complicated looking poses, while the dancer doing Maria did this beautiful dance. How did the girls stand so still? They didn't even blink!

I'd never been the ballet. I did take ballet for a year when I was a wee lass, but that stopped when we moved. I have some recollection of some of the posisitons (first, second, and fifth), and the memory of being the tallest girl in the class, but nothing else. So, I wasn't sure what to expect.

It was interesting to me how they managed to tell this story entirely through movement and music. I knew what was going on without checking the program, and for the most part I was right. (I thought the godfather was a doting uncle, but really, does it matter?)

The costumes... my, the costumes.

I am planning on going again. They're doing Swan Lake, and Cinderella, in February. Sounds like a good time to go - when the February blues hit. (I get sick every February. It's how I tell it's February. Screw Valentine's day, it's Super Sick Anna Month.)

NoNoNoNo Day 19 or something

Window

Unicorn

The Corner of My Eye

It happens most often when I think I see Kris out of the corner of my eye.

Of all my friends, I believe Kris is the one most likely to just... show up in Edinburgh one day, or China, or anywhere else I end up, without warning or really even planning. When I see someone who looks like him walking down the street, carrying a large dufflebag over his shoulder, I imagine the conversation we'd have, if it were him.

"Oh, yeah, hi. I meant to call, but I forgot. So, here I am... I was just looking for your apartment, or flat, or whatever they call it. Streets are different here, aren't they?" And I'd laugh, and we'd get on the next bus down to my flat, and there he'd be, standing in my living room, making comments about the rubber ducks on the bookshelf.

See, I believe, truly, that this could happen, and so every time I see him out of the corner of my eye, I get that nasty dash of hope, followed by reality setting in. That I am a million miles away from anyone I've shared the common experiences with for the past five or so years. That the people who get the jokes, who know why certain songs make me tear up, who understand why I collect rubber ducks, aren't here.

Dealing with it varies, and depends. Some days I shrug it off, reminding myself that I'm experiencing things that my friends back home envy, that I'm going to see new and exciting things, that I can see a freaking castle from my window at work. I remember these things and I smile. You gotta concentrate on the good things.

Other times it harder, and sometimes you just need to indulge yourself, I think, in a good "I'm upset and want to cry". I've been known to just curl up on my bed and sob, or call home and sob, or write tearful emails and sob, until I feel better. You can get a lot of waves of sympathy from home, and that helps. "Of course we miss you! How could we not?" There's really nothing wrong with indulging yourself in a bit of self-pity, as long as it doesn't become a constant thing. The advice I got most often in China was "Go out, go eat something!" You'd be amazed how often that helps.

A lot of times, though, dealing with missing home just comes down to remembering why you left. I was miserable. I was unhappy. I don't like to dwell on that, because Edmonton is a great place full of great people, but that doesn't mean I was happy every day there. Or, I can focus on how much I wanted, needed to have these sorts of adventures. I want to see the world, and you can't really do that in Edmonton. Not the way I wanted to, at least. So, I remember what I'll be doing next week, next month, next year, I remember that I got to go to Paris for a weekend, that I'll go to Italy for my birthday in 2006, and that really, it's only miles.

Miles aren't really that hard to surmount, when you put your mind to it.

{Dealing with Culture Shock in China, Fear and Loathing}

November 19, 2005

Here Puppy!

Hmm... Flickr is acting up, so I should post something before you notice what may be the big red X of doom in the boxes below this post....

I am not a dog person. I'm all happy that there are other people out there that are dog people, that like big dogs and little dogs and happy dogs and sad dogs and all that, but me? I think dogs should live out in the country some place, running free and being doggie and happy, not in the city.

I am definately in the minority here.

Fundamental Difference Between UK and Canada this week: The reactions to dogs.

Here, big dogs are all over the place in the city. Being walked without leashes. On the bus. In the stores. In the pubs. Everywhere. They're so obviously doted upon and well cared for and appreciated, and it's very strange. Back home, dogs are little, and are mostly kept indoors and out of sight, except in a few areas. I cannot imagine seeing a dog on the bus in Edmonton, except seeing eye dogs. Here, I've shared seats on the train with them.

Every once in a while, you'll pass a pub that has a sign on the door: "No dogs or children". They don't seem very busy, though.

NoNoNoNo Day 18 or something

Shades of Orange

I Dream of Red

November 17, 2005

Right Here, Right Now

As a collection of random thoughts:

1) I made a post about the connections between Scotland and Winnipeg over on the Canadian Expats Blog.

2) I'm having issues with NoNoNoNo. I'm working high on a hill, near nothing that qualifies for what I want to take photos of. Thus, the lack of pictures. I have something in mind for when I get home from work, though. Damn that Time Change!

3) I got a postcard in the mail yesterday from Living in the South Pacific! It's of Australia! It's purty! It is now by my computer at work, so I can bliss out about it.

Which leads me, of course, to pondering. I seem incapable of living in the now. I'm already planning and plotting for Australia, with thoughts about New Zealand afterwards. It's like I forgot to enjoy where I am, and why I'm here. It's an awful habit, and I'm constantly reminding myself that this isn't always necessary, and to enjoy where I am.

Carnival Three: Homesick?

The second Carnival of Expats is ready to begin!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.


This week's topic: Over on Sheepdip, Amber asked Phil how he deals with homesickness and missing his family. So, I pass it along to the Carnival: How do you deal with it? How does it affect you?

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

Extra Note: Next week will mark the first full month of the Expat Carnival, and I'd like it to rotate monthly in hosts. If you're interested in hosting, drop me an email and I'll get you set up.

November 16, 2005

Fear and Loathing

I'm having one of those days where I really really loathe Edinburgh. I mean, really loathe it.

These days are very few and far between for me, which is why I make mention of it. I mean, usually I think Edinburgh is perfect and wonderful and lovely, but today the buildings are too brown and dull, the wind too biting, the Scottish accent grates on my ears and the city smells awful. I want colour and snow and people who know what a Timbit is.

I think the common thread through all my days like this is the bus system. I get very impatient waiting. I hate 'rush hour'. I hate noisy obnoxious people on buses, and I get bus sick when the traffic is going poorly. I get miserable, and it just blossoms out to cover everything around me. Stupid buses, stupid traffic, stupid people... I want the North Sea to rise up and swallow it all, like Atlantis on a bad day.

So, I cope. Because really, who actually wants to spend the day being miserable and hating a city like Scotland? I don't do the whole "Let's count our blessings!" thing, but I do remind myself about the things I do like about Edinburgh.

When I wait for my second bus in the morning, I have an amazing view down the city straight to the North Sea. I keep forgetting that I'm right on the ocean, and every time I see it, I'm captured by its stark beauty.

At my current job, which is on a high hill, I have the most amazing view. I can see both the castle and Arthur's Seat. On a clear day, you can see for miles.

There is snow in Edmonton. There are still leaves that are green here.

Last week, I saw Stonehenge. This week, I see Nutcracker.

If I really, really think about it, I can remmeber why I love this city.

I don't know how other expats (or really other people, as I assume that everyone has days like this) copes with the desire for the world to open up and swallow the place your in, just happening to leave behind the three or four people that you couldn't live without, and all of your nice stuff, but for me, it's remembering that I have a nice flat, I have a nice city, and really, without Edinburgh, where would I put all my stuff?

November 15, 2005

Stonehenge

Henge

I want to write about how moving Stonehenge was.

I want to write that I felt the energy of the earth, that I felt something when I walked there, that I saw something unique and wonderful in this world. I want to write that the angels wept, and that I am forever changed.

Sadly, none of this happened, so I can't.

Please, don't for one moment get me wrong. I loved it there. It was a lovely day for it, too. Cold and windy, so there weren't a lot of people out. The sky had that hint that it could rain, but it didn't. And just seeing something I've read about, I've thought about, for so much of my life... that was an experience I'll treasure.

But, no faeries carried me away for a night of dancing that lasted a hundred years, and nothing strange happened when I looked through the stones. You can't get close, except on the Solstice, and even then only if you line up for days ahead of time. They keep you on a far away trail, to the point where it's hard to really appreciate the size of the stones. And they are quite massive, of that I am certain. It was difficult to imagine how the stones would have been brought there.

Don't tell anyone this... but it was smaller than I thought it would be. Not the stones. The circle. It's not very big at all.

I've been told to go to Avesbury and see the standing stones there. You can walk through them, get close to them, and the size of the circle is what I was thinking of every time I thought of Stonehenge.

Ah well. I'll have this. And memories, and thougths, and dreams.

Tourist

NoNoNoNo Day 11 (delayed)

Pointed

Viscount

November 14, 2005

Carnival 2: All About Food

This week's carnival asked expats to write about their most interesting food experience while living overseas.

From My French Window cried "I Ate Bunny!", in a post full of explanations and grief about accidently eating rabbit meat in the hospital.

His response to my confession to having unknowingly eaten an adorable bunny was that he knew about the lapin (rabbit) but he thought if he told me I would not eat. HE HAD READ THE DOOR and did not warn me! Fine. Fine. Fine. NO...NOT FINE! Then why in the world did you not bring me McDonald's! You know I have no problem eating adorable cows!

{From my French Window}

Akr, one half of DNA, writes about being a vegetarian in a restaurant called Carnivore. (I must admit - my mouth is watering at the descriptions of the restaurant, although any place that will run out and get a vegetarian a suitable meal from another restaurant would get top marks in my book anyway.)

One of the waiters in particular- he looked more like a butcher- seemed particularly disappointed by the inevitable rejections that second and third round offerings received. The strapping fellow either went back and hacked something in despair or bawled his guts out. I guess we will never know.

Meanwhile, the other half of DNA writes about being brave enough to try something other than chicken.

So a few months or so ago I decided to start experimenting. I decided that I would go beyond just the fried fish and try other sea food preparations as well… and so a seasoned meat-eater who loves all things that swim took me (us!) to the Newton food stalls at about 1 night (was it 1am??) he ordered Cray fish, Prawns and Sting Ray.

{Singapore Ahoy!}

On the other side of the world, Don writes about the joys of living in a place with a cornacopia of choices for Indian food, as well as the oddities of a new country's food choices.

Poutine involves to foods that I very much enjoy, french fries and cheese, with one that makes me shudder, gravy. In Scotland they would look at you strangely if you asked for such a dish. Instead they serve Chips and Cheese, the parts I want without the scary gravy stuff.

{Ponderings from Afar}

And I go on at length about attempting to learn how to make Chinese dumplings with a language barrier.

It was an interesting evening, to say the least. Wei's father would mix up some... stuff... that was black... in with some meat... that was not black. And added some white stuff. Then he fried it up, in some other stuff that wasn't cooking oil.

{Anna Overseas}

Thank you again to everyone who participated this week! Remember: any expat can join us at any time, and if you write something suitable later than the due date, just let me know and I'll add it to our links.

{Carnival of Expats}

November 13, 2005

Quick Carnival Update

It's late, I'm tired, and I have to leave for work early tomorrow. The Carnival might not be up till tomorrow evening, UK time. Depends on whether I can get up at 6:30 after climbing up a really tall tor today....

Sorry for any problems. But this just gives more people time to write something. *smile*

Following Directions

I like Chinese dumplings. What are they called.. bai jiu? No, that's the alcohol. Jao zi, that's it! (And bao zi, which are the breakfast dumplings, and I would move heaven and earth today to have a couple of warm bao zi next to the computer right now.) I loved them so much I wanted to learn how to cook them. I thought this would be easy... well, the finding someone to teach me, not the cooking itself. But it turned out to be more difficult than I thought.

See, the people that I knew in China were all youngish women, most of them living in households with their parents. (This seems very common in China. Lily, of whom the less we say the better, stilled live at home with her parents as a single woman of 25, whereas Bao Ing, her husband Wei, and her daughter all lived with Wei's parents, to help with child care and the like.) So, none of the women I knew actually knew how to cook the things. But, Bao Ing, being incredibly friendly and resourceful, agreed to find me a cooking teacher. And she did - her father-in-law.

I was very eager for my first cooking lesson, even though everyone else thought I was being strange. Who would want to learn how to cook dumplings, when I could far more easily just get them take out down the street. But, I liked them, and I liked the idea of being able to make a batch and eat them at 4 a.m. or something strange like that, and since the entire city of Jiangyan shut down at 9:30, I would need to know how to make them myself.

This might have been easier if either a) Wei's father had spoken English or b) Bao Ing or Wei had been around during the lesson to translate.

It was an interesting evening, to say the least. Wei's father would mix up some... stuff... that was black... in with some meat... that was not black. And added some white stuff. Then he fried it up, in some other stuff that wasn't cooking oil. Once it was ready, he grabbed a handful of the little sheaths that you make the dumplings in, put a bit of the dumpling mix in the sheath, and then did some complicated and interesting finger gymnastics with it in order to make the sheath-mix combination into a tasty dumpling. After he'd made a few, he'd fry them (or boil them, depending on some arcane thing I never determined). They never took long to cook, and then we'd eat them with vinegar and soy sauce and much yumminess would follow.

I did my fair share of mixing and adding and cooking, and although, for the most part, mine tasted fine, they looked like something your average 4 year old would make out of play-dough.

Bao Ing and Wei came along after I'd made my 15th or so, and Ing translated for me what most of the ingredients were. Soy sauce was in there, I can't remember what meat it was that first time, and the white stuff was untranslatable, but not salt. (I later realized this was MSG.) Since she and Wei had gotten to know me pretty well by that point, there was much mocking of my technique in folding the little dumplings into "flowers". (Flowers? I didn't see it, and still don't.) We talked a lot, and laughed a lot, and Ing confessed she hadn't a clue how to fold the things, either, so I shouldn't feel bad, and Wei just laughed a lot. He always laughed a lot - such a happy man. I miss them both.

The next day Wei's father escourted me to the open market, and we went around and bought all the things I would need to make the stuff myself. There was apparently some heated bargaining over prices, but I was peacefully oblivious and justed handed over how ever many quai I was asked for.

I did love making them, and I've found the little sheaths for sale here, frozen, in the Chinese supermarket. I should make some more, soon. Digs has a recipe for them which looks basically like what I did (complete with folding instructions!), but with more fillings and the like.

Mmmm... just thinking about this is making me crave proper Chinese food. Little dumplings (lots of little dumplings), some eggs and tomatoes mix together, some really good rice, and something I can't identify to drink. Oh, and something with egg plant, of course.

China is an amazingly good place to eat. I really need to get back there....

this just in...

Just got back from Glastonbury, Bath, Wells, Stonehenge, and probably a few other places that I'll be combing out of my hair for the next week. Had a wonderful time, wish you were here. Right now, I'm tired, sore, stressed from the plane, and generally looking forward to a yummy meal and a long hot shower. Very long. The only comment I have about the whole thing is that I am now the proud owner of a chicken umbrella and rainbow coloured knee high stripey-socks.

November 11, 2005

Remembrance

I feel I should write something about Remembrance Day.

Let me tell you about my paternal Grandfather. He did not fight in the war, but not for lack of trying. You see, when he was a child, he was involved in a buggy accent of some sort that lead to him losing his leg. It was replaced with a wooden one, and for the most part he went on with his life.

But then the war came, and my Grandfather wanted to fight in it. Unfortunately for him, with a wooden leg, he couldn't fight. Not to be deterred, he actually paid someone else to take the physical for him. He was absolutely determined that he was going to fight in this war.

They didn't actually find out the truth until he was about to get on the boat to go to Europe. I'm not sure how they found out, but he was turned away, and unable to fight.

My Grandfather passed away when I was in college, and I regret that I never really asked him a lot of the details about that, or about most of his life, really. I knew him, but not well, because I was young and foolish when we both lived in BC, and kept thinking that there would be time, plenty of time, to get around to asking him things.

ETA: My Auntie Linda just wrote me with this:

Just to finish Grandpa’s story….he did serve time in the war, but here in Canada. He was posted to Dundurn, Saskatchewan and became the “Quarter-Master” at the military training camp…taking care of young men and women’s clothing, armament and food needs while in basic training. His background as a storekeeper became his “ticket” to serve his country. His youngest brother, Doug, became a pilot and was killed over Holland in a reconnaissance mission near the end of the war. A lake in northern Saskatchewan has been named in his honour and family members have had a memorial erected on the shore to remember him …and the many who gave their lives in WWII.

I didn't actually know any of this. Thank you, Auntie Linda.

NoNoNoNo Day 10 (delayed)

House of Ill Repute

Remember

Christmas

November 10, 2005

Candy Candy Candy

Meanwhile, over on the Canadian Expat Blog, I'm trying to encourage people to tell me what they call the pink stuff...

I have been informed that Sinter Klaas is coming. It's a Dutch thing, and I don't really understand it, and it has somethig to do with cookies being made out of bad children. Which makes me wonder what would induce children to eat them, but I've had this peeping newton stuff (not how it's really spelled, yes, I know), and it's far too yummy to be made out of icky icky bad children who don't wash.

The point is that some kind woman (Hi Margery!) is sending me chocolate letters for Sinter Klaas because... um... that's what you do for Sinter Klaas, I guess.

And eat cookies made out of bad children, I suppose.

NoNoNoNo Day 9 (delayed)

Look...

Striking

Carnival of Expats #2

The second Carnival of Expats is ready to begin!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.

To sum up:

Every week, a new topic will be chosen by the hosting blog on a Thursday. Over the course of the weekend, other expat bloggers will write on that topic, post it to their blog, and submit the permanent link (and trackback link if appropriate) to the host blog. On Monday morning (local time!), the host blog will round up the various posts into a cornacopia of links and commentary. It will be posted on both the host blog (in this case, mine), and on the primary blog of the Carnival (which is cunning called the Expat Carnival). Submitting blogs will then either link to the writeup, or copy and paste it into their own blog.

That was a longer sum up than I expected.

This week's topic: What has been your most interesting expat food experience?

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

NoNoNoNo Update

If you're curious as to why there's been no pictures... it's cuz my batteries died in my camera. Very annoyingly, right as I was recording Neil Gaiman reading from his new book. *sigh* Oh well.

Going to buy a million or so batteries today, so there will be more pictures.

November 9, 2005

Gaiman

... Neil... Gaiman... good.. funny.... books.

Presents for Everyone (kinda)

Work is very very dull today, and I've only been here for five minutes.

That aside. I am going to the Neil Gaiman book signing tonight. I have ticket number 98! I'm going to go meet Neil Gaiman, and stand there tongue tied like an idiot saying intelligent things like "gu...gu...gu...", just like last time I met a famous author.

By the end of the night, I will have in my hot little hands one *extra* copy of an autographed book of his. Anansi Boys, which I think I just spelled wrong.

If you would like that book, and are not Tom, who is getting something else, let me know. I would be very willing to ship it to you anywhere in the world.

Drop me an email: anna@annaoverseas.com. Include your name and address, please! And who you want the book signed to, in case it's not for you.

November 8, 2005

Polling

Well, unless something drastically changes in the middle of the night, I guess I'll be buying tickets to Nutcracker tomorrow. I'll admit, I'm excited. Nutcracker! Close up and all that! I've never been. (I'd blame my parents, but I can neither remember wanting to go as a child, nor the actual opportunity to go as a child. *sigh* Another day when I can't blame life's disappointments on my parents. How will I survive?)

It's funny, though, because every month that I think "A-hah! This'll be the month I make it to Stirling!", something comes up. And I put it off, becuase it's something like 20 minutes away from here, and it's not going anywhere, and really, it's just like little Edinburght, and... and... And it's like making plans to go to Jasper when I'm in Edmonton. I'll get around to it. Some day. Honest!

I continue to count down the minutes until Glastonbury, which is confusing everyone who hears about it. It's a constant "Why would you want to do that?" Well, because of the history and legends and stuff. "Legends? About Glastonbury?" I just shake my head. Trying to explain that sort of stuff to people who are surrounded by it all the time... it's like trying to explain to someone born in Edmonton why Edmonton, as a whole, isn't a crappy city. If you haven't lived anywhere else, you probably think it is.

NoNoNoNo Day 8

Through the Trees

Call to Arms

November 7, 2005

Poll!

That's right, following up on the idea of letting other people pick where my spontaneous travels will take me, I offer this poll:

Continue reading "Poll!" »

It's all Very Historical

Over on the Canadian Expat Blog, I've written a bit about the local reaction to my trip to Glastonbury.

I think I failed to mention the bit where at least one person thinks I've lost my mind for wanting to go out there at all.

Silly British people never know what they're missing out on, not being all excited all the freaking time about their heritage.

And yes, I was terribly bored in Canadian history, why do you ask?

NoNoNoNo Day 7

Shadows

Shades of Brown

George Porgie

Expat Carnival #1: Results

Welcome to the first Expat Carnival! Participants this week answered the question "Why did you decide to move? Would you do it again? Why or why not?".

From France, in a post titled "A Small Small World", Pumpkin Pie writes about how moving to France was a decision that was the best for her family, both financially and emotionally. She also talks about how unusual the decision is, and how it effects her relationship with her extended family.

For us to think of living in another country is like living on another planet. Or when we meet people from other countries it is a little like they are aliens.
{From My French Window}

Meanwhile, off in Asia, Phil writes about the woman and the experiences that lead him to jump at a chance to head overseas.

Then the gods decided to intervene. I went to work on a Friday morning and was called into a board meeting. Thinking that I was getting retrenched, I was ready to quitely pack up my office and jump off the Sydney Harbour Bridge but it was not to be.
{Sheepdip}

In Singapore, DNA together write about accepting a job offer, a decision they wouldn't take back.

We knew it would be more challenging than anything else in our (married) life till now....
{Singapore Ahoy!}

In Scotland, in a post titled "Leaving Town", Don writes about friends making choics to leave home, and how that changed the idea of 'home' for him.

Most of my closest friends were in the process of scattering and I had to face the realisation that those who weren’t already on that path were likely to, especially the ones who, like me, were not focussed on fledgling families. I started to realise that I needed to seriously focus on other parts of my life.
{Ponderings from Afar}

Also in Scotland, I wrote a post called "Never Go Home Again", where I bring up how being tired of being unhappy (and a 'small' loan) got me out of Canada and across to the UK, following a rather poorly thought out stint in China.

I could... could... become a new person, and then rush back to Canada, with all of my problems and issues solved, because no one would remember them! I'd just be that cool person who went off to China for a year! Yes! Wonderful plan!
{Anna Overseas}

Thank you to all the participants this week! I'd like to extend a special thank you to Living in the South Pacific, who not only suggested this week's topic, but emailed me moments before leaving for the airport to apologize for not writing this week. She's moving to Paupa New Guinea, you see, and got a bit busy. *grin*

Come back again Thursday for another topic, and remember: Anyone who is an expat can participate! {Expat Carnival}

November 6, 2005

Tor!

Ask me who's going to Glastonbury next weekend! Go on, ask!

I will spare you my singing. Going to Glastonbury! I'm gonna see a Tor! And a well! And... and... some stones and stuff!

*dances around like a crazy woman*

I am so excited! It was so worth not going out of the city this past month because now I can afford the trip I wanted to take. Yay! Glastonbury!

So... who wants postcards?

Never Go Home Again

"Why did you decide to move? Would you do it again?"

I would have to divide this into two parts: China and Scotland.

To be perfectly frank, I moved to China to run away from home. It seemed like a very cunning plan at the time. I could live in a country far enough away from everyone that I would have a legitimate reason not to talk or communicate with people without feeling guilty about it. I could run away from my problems! I could... could... become a new person, and then rush back to Canada, with all of my problems and issues solved, because no one would remember them! I'd just be that cool person who went off to China for a year! Yes! Wonderful plan!

Needless to say, it didn't work out quite that way.

I returned from China a different person, of this I have no doubt. But instead of returning to a life where my problems were all gone with the passing of time, a lot of problems just got worse. Let me assure you: running away from home does little except give you a lot of time to think. Which I did, and I don't regret doing that thinking, and I don't regret the choices I made because of it. I do regret thinking I could toss myself back into my life in Canada, full tilt, and just pick everything up where I left off, with no consequences. It led to a lot of problems.

I got restless quickly. Very quickly. As in, within about a month. (Paul, who I had met in China and how had travelled a lot before that assured me this would happen. I thought he was wrong.) I had been toying with the idea of not coming home at all, or of leaving again right away, but hadn't followed through. I still had that idea that I would just be happy, like I had been in the first few years I had been in Edmonton.

When things didn't work out that way, I was devestated. I had managed to renew some good friendships, and started a few more, but it never seemed like enough. I couldn't find a way to fit in anymore. I wanted things that most of the people in my life either dreamed about in the 'never gonna happen anyway' kinda way, or couldn't understand why I'd want it. I had to deal with some jealousy from people who figured I had somehow lucked out to go to China, that I hadn't made sacfrices or choices to do so, or that those were just choices they couldn't make. More and more, things seemed pointless and meaningless. I couldn't stand how small Edmonton suddenly seemed.

I became incredibly miserable, and started completely isolating myself from my friends and social group. I'd never leave the house except to go to work. I stopped answering the phone. I stopped answering emails. I just... stopped. People became concerned, at least one friend almost called the police when he hadn't heard from me in weeks, and neither had anyone else. I spent most of my time awake staring at the ceiling.

I had linked the idea of being unhappy to the city of Edmonton so completely. Nothing would convince me that I could be happy and be in Edmonton. I couldn't even imagine it. I believed, totally, that getting out of the city, to anywhere, would make me happy. I started to seriously look at moving to BC, to live with friends for a bit, or my parents, until I got a job and a place of my own. Because even that would be preferably to another week in Edmonton.

Then I had a very long talk with a friend, about why I was unhappy, and what I wanted. He asked me, if I had the money, what would I do? What would make me happy?

"Getting a working holiday visa and going to the UK for two years. Then maybe a few other places... I don't know. I just want to see the world, I want to see it all before I die. But I can't. I don't have the money, I will never be able to earn the money, I am drowning in student loan debt."

He wrote me a cheque for the amount I was short. "I love you, get out of here. Watching you be so unhappy is the worst thing I've ever seen. It's only money. Go."

Three weeks after that, I was watching Canada disappear behind the plane. I didn't know what I would do in Edinburgh, but I knew what I wouldn't do: wallow in unhappiness. There's only so much of that you can do before you have to accept that you're the only thing holding yourself back. To paraphrase the saying, sometimes the only thing all your misery has in common in yourself.

I've been a much happier person in Edinburgh, to the point where sometimes I cannot believe how much I lost and gave up in Edmonton. I didn't give it a chance, really, when I got back from China, and I do regret that. But Edmonton had stopped being home for me. I wasn't willing to go to the effort of making it home again. I wanted a new home, one where I could follow my dreams. Here, I'm making plans for my masters degree, making plans for where to go next. I'm living again, and I don't think I would have done that in Vancouver, or Nanaimo, or Abbotsford. It's too easy, I think, to fall back into unhappiness when there's someone to catch you. Here, I have to be self-sufficient. I have to be able to support my own emotional self. And it's been a very good choice.

Would I do it again?

Well, I'm already planning what I'll bring to Australia, so yes, yes I would. In a heartbeat. But coming here, or going to Australia, is not running away from home. Home, I have realized, is something you choose. It's not thrust upon you anymore than unhappiness is.

I came here because I wanted to be here. It wasn't a choice I fell into, it was a choice I made. And that, as they say, has made all the difference.

November 5, 2005

Burn the witch!

I shall just sum up Bonfire night very briefly:

Bonfire!

They gave me seizure inducing blue sparkly antanae and Cotton Candy! This is the best holiday EVAR!

Now off to light someone on fire.

in effigy. *sigh*

Be back later!

NoNoNoNo Day 5

Churchyard

Victoria

November 4, 2005

Wedding Bells are Ringing

My friend Mel is getting married tommorrow!

Ah, my darling one, be safe and be well, be happy in the arms of your lover, and may everything you vow to each other today be what you mean in all your tomorrows.

Also... send pictures.

I write about my thoughts on friends getting married and citizenship tests at the Canadian Expat Blog.

ETA: Link fixed.

NoNoNoNo Day 4

Well Rounded

Do you have the time?

Alone

Firey Ash!

Before I do anything else, I will suggest you read this great post from Turkey Ahoy about the Hagia Sophia. I have toyed with the idea of going to Turkey in my head. This post, more than anything else, has finally decided for me that I will. The pictures are oustanding, and D & A really capture the place with their words.

I did have a fascinating conversation at work yesterday about Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Night, or whatever you want to call it. I asked what people really do for it, other than the obvious of lighting some guy on fire (in effigy, although there are days when for real would be fun, I'm sure), and watching lots and lots of fireworks.

I loved this bit, and I think it will sound very familiar to quite a few North Americans.

They dunk (or bob) for apples. They tie a piece of bread or an apple on a string from the ceiling, tie people's hands behind their backs, and make them eat at it.

I found this hilarious. These are all the things that, back in Canada as a kid, we did at Halloween. I still remember thinking Halloween wasn't complete until I'd bobbed for apples.

I find it interesting how we've carried so many of the traditions across the ocean, but we changed them just enough. Like pumpkins instead of turnips, and doing it all on a different day.

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow night. I have plan A, and backup plan B, so either way, at least I'll have a good vantage point for the fireworks. Of course, what I really want to do is light someone on fire (in effigy, of course... *sigh*), but then, I'm the girl that the "Judge" in the Edinburgh dungeon thought was kinda creepy because when they brought people forward to be judged, I kept screaming "Burn the witch! Burn him into firey ash!"

Yeah, I'm evil. But I like me that way, so it's okay.

November 3, 2005

NoNoNoNo Day 3

Well Lit

Darkneing Sky

As a note, that second picture is how dark it is now when I leave work. Must get myself out of the office during lunch hour if I want light in my photos.

Carnival of Expats #1

The first Carnival of Expats is ready to begin!

If you're curious as to what a Carnival of blogging is, check out my rather muddled explanation.

To sum up:

Every week, a new topic will be chosen by the hosting blog on a Thursday. Over the course of the weekend, other expat bloggers will write on that topic, post it to their blog, and submit the permanent link (and trackback link if appropriate) to the host blog. On Monday morning (local time!), the host blog will round up the various posts into a cornacopia of links and commentary. It will be posted on both the host blog (in this case, mine), and on the primary blog of the Carnival (which is cunning called the Expat Carnival). Submitting blogs will then either link to the writeup, or copy and paste it into their own blog.

That was a longer sum up than I expected.

This week's topic, in honour of the first edition, is "Why did you decide to move? Would you do it again? Why or why not?", as suggested by Living in the South Pacific.

I look forward to reading varied responses on Monday!

Note: Any expat can contribute a post and get linked. Don't feel obligated to respond to every Carnival! But, the more repsonses, the funner it will be!

November 2, 2005

I am Queen of Procrastination Techniques!

I have just joined up with the Canadian Expat Blog. It's a blog written by Canadians who live overseas, with various contributers.

My first post, where I talk about feeling out of place, is here.

English into English

Did anyone else watch the briefly-lived sitcom Cafe American?

The story in the pilot episode is that the main female character is wooed by a French businessman into coming across to France by the offer of a job to translate "English into English". As he explains it, the ins and out of English and slang are too difficult for him to learn as quickly as he needs to, and she can correct his English in writing and speaking so that he can better communicate with the Americans he deals with.

This is all, of course, a lie in an effort to get her into bed, but that's irrelevant to the rest of this blog post.

See, every time I get a new posting and start chatting with the people there, the issue of "Strange Scottish Words" comes up. Like knackered and the like. Today, Karen and Ann were drilling me on "stushi". Rhymes with sushi, for those keeping track at home.

So, I spent a bit of time later in the day with another Scot, and was mentioning this to him.

"Stushi?" he said, looking confused. "What's that mean? I've never heard it before."

I sighed. I don't think Ann and Karen are pulling my leg, so it's obviously in use somewhere. It was just a reminder that slang words tends to run in circles and groups, rather than in countries. Gotta keep that in mind more often.

Oh, you're probably wondering what stushi means.

Well, at the risk of defining slang with more slang (which I tend to do, for some reason), someone being in a stushi can mean one of two things: they are either in a tizzy, or having a tiff.

English into English indeed.

NoNoNoNo Day 2

Watched

Growth

November 1, 2005

Caerleon

Caerleon was not what I expected at all.

The day actually got off to a lousy start. I had a great deal of trouble sleeping, and ended up being awake until the wee hours of the morning. This meant I slept past the tour I had planned on taking, but decided to just go out to Caerleon instead. I knew it was Roman ruins, and I heard there was an amphitheatre. I'm not as much a fan of Roman ruins as some people I know, but I was fairly certain I would regret not seeing them.

They were... not as impressive as I could have hoped. But then, they are from something like 2000 years ago, so I really should be impressed with what's survived. (As a note, I have no really good photos of what I saw there - my camera batteries ran out and it took me most of the time I spent there to get around to buying new ones. Strangely, they didn't sell batteries at any of the shops I ducked into, only the post office.)

The first Museum type place I went to were the Roman Baths. That, I will admit, was an amazing thing to me, as someone who is fascinated both by history and the ways we find out about history. They had excavated a lot of the place because of an attempt at building something on the site, and the excavations found a lot of interesting stuff. I won't bore you with all the details, but I will say I'm interested in how much we learn just by what people lose. Rings and bath items and toys and milk teeth, all found in the drains.

After that, I went to the amphitheatre, or what remains of it. There really isn't a lot there - just a really sunken place in the middle with some remains of the stands around it. But, it had this great feeling. Probably having several groups of students sitting in the area where the stands would have been helped, so I had to go in the middle and stage a mock-gladitor battle. Because I am nothing if not strange that way.

I did a run through the little museum, but it was terribly underwhelming. I get frustrated with that sort of thing - I think museums should work hard to capture your imagination and create a sense of what you're seeing. A few stone fragments with "excavated at X" doesn't really do it.

To the PainBut, it was an interesting day that ended with a visit to a small courtyard that was full of fascinating art work. Most of it was carved from wood, with detail and skill that had me in awe. I spent almost an hour just walking around the place, taking photos and wishing I had a big enough suitcase to bring something home in. The pieces are amazing, and capture a great deal of the Welsh culture and history. There are wooden carvings of Roman soldiers, of maidens waiting for their lost loves, of dragons of various sizes, and even a bull head, advising that kissing him will bring you either Love or Fortune.

I ended the day by returning to Cardiff, and getting ready to get back on the plane. Sometimes it's hard to believe I was even there, being that I only stayed for one night. But then I can close my eyes and still see those lovely ruins, can remember the ocean and the green and the train, and I smile.

{All of the photos from Wales in one place}

NoNoNoNo #1

Night Rider

Church by the Sea

NaNoWriMo:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
2,329 / 50,000
(4.7%)

About November 2005

This page contains all entries posted to Anna Overseas in November 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

October 2005 is the previous archive.

December 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.