make here home

I stumbled upon an opening for an essayist for a newspaper. I wrote two personal essays. Despite having had blogs before, I found the challenge — the word count limit, the audience, the purpose — well, challenging. But I thought it was a good exercise, an eye-opener to what it might be like to write semi-professionally.

Here is one of the essays I wrote for submission:

My current country of residence is infamously austere. There are few festivals and practically no holidays. For expats, this drab environment makes celebrating our holidays even more important than it would be if we were in, for example, Japan.

The reality of my situation really dawned on me this past Christmas season. When I lived in Matsuyama, Japan, I bought a mini Christmas tree one year, but one year I didn’t. When I lived in Korea, again, I bought a palm and decorated it like a fir one year, but another year, didn’t. When I lived in the States, my native country, I could choose whether or not to have a tree, and it wasn’t a big deal.

And then I moved here, where it is a big deal. A very, very big deal. And yet…

The first year, I didn’t consider getting a tree, for whatever reason. But last December, you would have thought my world hinged on having My Very Own Christmas Tree. I became dedicated to the cause. I daydreamed about the color palette, schemed how I’d import the trimmings, told all my friends to come over for a “Tree Trimming Party.” And I hadn’t even found a tree yet! But then I did, and in the most unlikely of places. But there it was, waiting for me to take it home.

This fiasco over a tree got me thinking about the lengths to which we go just to find familiarity and comfort. To be sure, I crave the expat lifestyle. Living abroad feels natural to me. But once in a while, I crave something particular to my state or country, something unique to my race or culture, something odd and rare that takes me back… I’ve yearned desperately for any number of random things — from bacon to high-thread-count sheets to a karaoke machine.

Sometimes, when I come home, I want (and need) that natsukashii feeling. To remember who I am and where I’m from and the beautiful experiences I’ve had. This isn’t just about personal style or home decor. It’s that thing that took up too much space in your suitcase on the way here. It’s that item you had shipped because none of the local ones would do. But you’re glad you went through the effort because, when no one is looking, you smile.

I’m not a proponent of materialism or comfort shopping, but I think it’s possible to strike a balance. Whether we’ve lived where we are for one month or one decade, we’re always looking for ways to make here home.

egypt

I’m in love with it.

Just got back from a week-long trip to Cairo and Hurghada.

I managed to do everything I wanted to do in each location, although we had to give up the Nile cruise and Luxor. That just means I have to go back. I’m even not totally opposed to finding a job there. Eventually.

Here are a couple pictures to whet your appetite.

terrible tuesday

I’ve always had bad Tuesdays.

Most people have issues with Mondays. It’s gotten a bad rap because it has the honor of being the first day of the work week. People dread Mondays, or are at least highly annoyed that, despite the need for food and shelter, they have to begin work again on Monday. I sometimes wonder what actually ever happens on Mondays other than breaking the workfast. Do people usually have meetings? Or do they generally receive negative news? Is the only drawback to Monday simply that it exists between Sunday and Tuesday?

Because I apparently have problems with Tuesdays.

It almost feels as if my Monday blues arrive late. It’s like I power through Monday like a Winner — wondering why everyone else is so depressed — and then crash the day after. And I don’t even mean to feel “blue” but, through some odd cosmic mix-up, any problems that should have happened on the proverbial dreaded Monday always occurs on the actual innocuous Tuesday. This is the usually the day when, if I had a supervisor observe my class, she tells me it was mediocre at best, or maybe I have the observation on the Tuesday itself, and she admits that I was off my game.

“Well, you know, it’s Tuesday.”

I’ve never tried that explanation/excuse, but maybe I should?

Or an orbiting corona of crap happens at the same time. Take yesterday.

It started off alright enough. I have my best and worst class on this day, in terms of general language and document production abilities. Nothing felt amiss, and it was great that the week seemed to be going to quickly. But then…

Can you complete the attached spreadsheet [with a zillion information fields] and return it to me today please”

Oh, phooey. So on top of the 5 hours of teaching, I get to attempt to track down my homeroom class, who I don’t teach this day, get them to help me manually fill in a zillion information fields, all within 2 ish hours. Thankfully, I am a creative problem-solver, and I solved that crisis creatively (and am, in fact, quite pleased with myself for it), but that did eat away all of one of my planning periods.

Then…

I couldn’t find my keys.

The funny thing is, I had misplaced them earlier in the day, but I knew where to find them. I pretty much almost never lose keys, as in don’t know where they are. I might lock them away or something, but I don’t just fail to locate them. But this was a weird. It was the often-troublesome and lower-level class, so if someone were to think it funny to snatch my keys, it could have been someone in there. And the thing is, after having misplaced them earlier that day, I would have been very on top of where my keys were. Finally, my USB is on the keychain, and I was ALWAYS plugging and unplugging that thing, so the place I could have left it would have been in a computer or laptop. But I checked and double-checked and triple-checked every room and computer, to no avail. So I lost my building key, my flat key, my school desk key (where my wallet was locked safely away) and my USB with a slew of personal and professional stuff on it.

So I spent the late afternoon waiting for the maintenance crew to come and open my locked desk so that I could retrieve my money and ID cards. Then I came home to a locked apartment. I found a locksmith who charged an astronomical, immoral fee. That was insult and injury, and really, I didn’t have to comply, but the final stab in this Crap of All Days came a few hours earlier, leaving me weak in spirit and soul….

The person I considered my Bestest Best Friend in the Magical Kingdom called it quits.

No need to get into it here…yet…but it was the kind of intense friendship where observers aren’t sure what exactly it is. It really ruined my week, and the week isn’t even over yet. But I know that a few new blessings couldn’t overcome this disappointment and loneliness.

I’m not what I consider a superstitious person. Religious, yes; spiritual, sure; but superstitious, not really. But I don’t have much love for Tuesdays. I keep believing in them, and they key letting me down. I thought that by living in the Middle East, where the Western Tuesday is the second work day, that I might miss out on this perceived curse of a day, but no, Tuesday is adamant.
Terrible Tuesday is relentlessly terrible.