soaking up the rest of summer

For good or ill, my life thus far has existed on the academic calendar.  Some people function on a fiscal-year calendar, others (most people) function on the Gregorian, and then there are whole bunch of other calendars that I am vaguely aware of, which are really only useful when playing trivial pursuit – Hellenic and Julian come to mind, but I don’t recall the cycles of those at all (which goes to show what was not covered in my many years of education).

Still, for me, as August marches forward, I already envision the turning of the leaves, the smell of the autumn air in the early morning, and the feeling of the point of a newly sharpened #2 pencil against the tip of my index finger.  Oh yes, soon the school year shall commence.

For now, however, I am committing myself to enjoying what summer has to offer before I go back to work.  Really, even if it was the dead of January, I would be committed to enjoying these remaining days of freedom.  But it so happens to be the beginning of August, so summer stuff it is.

Today part of my mission was to be outside.  This is also part of Operation Get Out of the Funk.

Gasworks Park

Gasworks Park

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The view from Gasworks. Lovely day to be out on the water if you aren’t afraid of what in under the water.

Going out to the park to read was also critically important because I recently invested in a picnic blanket.  I say “invested in” because it was more than I usually would have paid for a picnic blanket.  But since my year in Singapore and living by all of the malls (five Hermes stores within a 1 km radius = insanity), I have been very focused on buying quality not quantity.  The gross consumerism in that part of SE Asia left me with a very bad taste in my mouth.  Now that I am back in the US, I want to buy pieces that will hold up for the long haul.  I want to buy things I am proud of and enjoy.  Yes, some may be a stretch and I may not buy all that many things, but I think of that and seem to value them more each time I reach for them.

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Pendleton Picnic Blanket

I saw this blanket at the Pendleton Woolen Mills when I visited Pendleton, OR back in late May.  I really liked the nylon-backed wool blanket and the roll-up feature, but did not give it much of a thought then.  Certainly I was not going to spend a good bit of money on it.  Yet between my trip out there in May and my trip to Pendleton in August, I found myself reading in the park a good bit and was getting tired of a damp and grassy bottom.

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Enjoying the blanket and the park

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Reading Bossypants because I found it at Goodwill for $2.99. Score!

While I am not a big fan of spending lots of money on items (see above book that purchased at Goodwill), I really do believe in buying high quality items and getting the best price that I can.  That said, spending more than I normally would on a picnic blanket has motivated me to get out of the house, head to the parks, and use it.  That alone may make the purchase totally worth it.  This indulgence of a blanket is helping me to get out of my funk and soak up as much of these relaxing summer days as I can.

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Funk

No, this is not a post about music; rather, it is a post about a state of being.  The state of my being. I am in a funk.  Well, more truthfully I am clawing my way out of this funk, which is why I can actually write about it.  When in the funk there is not a lot of writing that can be done.  Breathing is a chore when in the funk and my whole physical and existential self hurts.

I have learned over the last two years that being in a funk while married is a totally different thing then when alone.  You can’t hide. You can’t not talk about it.  You can’t avoid life completely and just be in your funk.

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Only when really upset do I feel like vomiting (or that time I gave myself food poisoning and ended up vomiting in the bathroom while my husband was showering. Sorry about that one, dearest). Being in a funk generally does not coincide with being really upset, but somehow this picture of a vomit bowl which took in Singapore seemed appropriate. Plus I just found it today and it amused me. Amusing things while stuck in the middle of funk happen to be good.

 

Truthfully things aren’t that bad.  I am no longer in Singapore –  major plus.  However my darling husband is still there – GIGANTIC minus.  Next week I will be starting a new job – currently feeling neutral on this.  Super happy to be working, getting paid, and once again having benefits in the US, but this job is definitely not quite what I want to be doing a year post-Ph.D.  Still, getting paid counts for a lot, so I am lucky to have a job.  This job will allow us to once again purchase a home in a city we love.  So yes, this job does count and I am lucky.

But still, I wrestle with things. I am trying to figure out how to move forward professionally.  I love being an academic.  The balance of teaching and research is ideal for me.  I find the classroom to be an inspiring place, and I find research work to be like slipping into a really thick mud-bath.  It is viscous and heavy and you sink in and settle there for a while.  And when you finally emerge something has been pulled from you.  It is refreshing but also messy beyond belief.

Last in Singapore my work was all research, and for a host of reasons really not related to the work at all I was miserable.  This year now back in the US is going to all teaching.  I am excited to be interacting with people again on a regular basis.  (I know, that may not sound like a big deal, but when you are cross eyed from data sets, it is.)

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going home, finding home, needing a friggin’ home

They say that you can’t go home again.  And yes, that is – at least in my case – very true. Before we moved overseas we sold our house (and our three cars, and two of our five couches. No, there is no good explanation for owning that many couches). We sold the house for a myriad of reasons, and all of those were and remain logical and perfectly reasonable.

Still, now that I am back in the US, I do find myself missing that house. It is the place where P and I first lived; it is where we first spent time together after so many years of not hanging out; it is where we set up our first x-mas tree (and launched it over the balcony after the holiday season had passed); and it is where P proposed to me, and it is where I said yes.

Oh yeah, full disclosure: it was not my house. Partner bought it and I moved in when I decided that I would take him up on his crazy ultimatum, move across the country, and truly see if a relationship could work between us. Thankfully that seems to have worked out mighty fine. But in truth, I did end up with the house through marriage.

Since returning to the US, I have been house hunting.  In fact, since returning I have spent ever weekend and the occasional Thursday house hunting.  There have been some gems out there.  There have also been some houses on the market in which I was scared to take a breath let alone open a closet to check for storage capacity for fear that some rotting carcass of something might fall out.  People, I know that the housing market is heating up again, but you can’t just toss your place on the market and hope you are going to get a good turn around on your “investment” if there is a dead cat in the litter box in the basement.

Note: not at all the house with the dead cat in the litter box in the basement. Not remotely that house.

Most places have not been that bad, but yes, more than a few have been.  And the more that I tour houses as I work on charting  this course forward, I have to do everything not to look back.  I have to think about the future and not get caught up in the images of our old home.  It was not perfect.  I need to remind myself of that.  It is in the past.  But there are moments when I really really do miss it.

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titles that come to mind

Sometimes there are book titles that just speak to me in various moments of life.  Perhaps just lingering over the title in the bookstore is enough.  Other times the book must be purchased.  Tonight on another sleepless night filled with anguish, angst, and worry the title Another Bullshit Night in Suck City comes to mind.

I don’t remember the gist of the book.  I could look it up; I could link to it; but where would be the fun in that. The reality would distort the moment. I don’t want the actual or real.  Right now I just want the imaginary.  I want the title.  I want to think about how, yes, this is just another bullshit sleepless night in suck city Singapore. I must linger on how that fits.  I envision the yellow lettering on the dark background like the glow of my computer screen in this otherwise darkened apartment.

I am not sure if thinking about my books calms me or riles me up.  I know that thinking about apartment hunting and future apartments alone back on the other side of the ocean fills me with excitement and wonderment, as well as worry and angst.  But I must calm down.  I must sleep. I must take better care of myself in all of this. I must sleep

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what comes when dreams will not

There is a fair amount of change afoot. The type of change that involves updating one’s CV and resume, scouring craigslist for apartments, and wondering just how much stuff really will fit in my suitcases.

The change that is coming is good.  It is exciting.  But it is also heart-wrenching.  It means really evaluating what I have been driving towards professionally for the last decade; understanding that higher education has become a messy, messy place with much of the magic sucked out of it; and being separated from P for a span of months.

Its no wonder I can’t sleep.  Thoughts of the future crowd me out of my own bed at night.  I flee to the couch to make some room hoping that those thoughts don’t linger in bed and disturb P as he soundly sleeps. Many of these thoughts I must wrestle with on my own in the wee hours of the night and morning in hopes that I can distill them into something that I can cogently articulate to P at a more polite hour.  Sometimes I can, but many times I cannot.

I don’t yet know what tonight will bring.  Maybe something; maybe nothing.  And perhaps an episode of House of Cards.

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walking to work

In the morning I take the bus to work.  It is a fairly straight shot from where we live to my office – although the bus drops me off a good distance from the office.  I’ve come to appreciate the walk in the mornings.  Often it is at that point – the transition from bus to walk – that I will stop listening to NPR streaming from a far away station back in the US or turn off whatever podcast I have been listening to and put on some music to help me set the tone for the day.

I walk past a bunch of shops.  Few of them are open at this point in the day.  There is a really good bakery a block over, but I don’t head in that direction.  I listen to the music and march forward.

The overpass serves as a great refuge from the rain and the sun as I make my way closer to the office.

We all gather at various positions beneath the overpass impatiently waiting for the traffic light to turn.  It always interests me to see where people stand.  How close or far from the curb.  How much sunlight they are willing to tolerate and for how long in this tropical place.

Finally we are able to cross and the woman pulls out her umbrella to shield her from the morning sun.  We cross the street and she turns one way and I another.  I trudge up the hill to my office.  She is lost to the crowd.

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seven months of silence

I realize that it has been quiet here for a while now.  The silence in a way sort of stems from that adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say…”  Well, yeah, I have not had much that is nice to say about the experience of living in Singapore. I am feeling pretty darn beaten up by this adventure.   I love my husband, the apartment is good, but I am so over this country.

P and I are fine.  I love, love, love my husband.  In fact, I am really and truly wowed when I think about how much we have grown this year and all that we have experienced together.  It was at this time last year that we had just gotten back from our first trip to South East Asia — little did we know then that we would be moving to Singapore in a few short months.  P is awesome and I am so very glad that I was crazy enough to say yes to giving a relationship with him a chance when he issued me a crazy ultimatum.  But wow, Singapore has really done a number on me.

I am wanting to get back to writing, back to sharing, back to communicating with the outside world because I think and really truly hope that doing so will help me out a bit.  For many, many months now I’ve kept quiet hoping that the feelings would pass, hoping that I would come to like this place if I gave it more of a chance, but that just has not happened.

I try to think back to when I first moved to Seattle and what that adjustment was like, and yes it was an adjustment – it took some time for me to get used to that town.  But I knew going into that move that I was going to love Seattle.  I had been there before, I had checked it out, and I knew that it was going to be my kind of a town.  With my move to Columbus, Ohio before that I was less sure of that town, but over time I knew that I would be able to make it work.  And even if I could not, I had enough grad school work to keep me occupied.  And before Columbus, there was Concord, New Hampshire. And before Concord there was NYC.  And then there was that brief stint in the UK at Oxford.  And before NYC there was Oberlin, Ohio.  And before Oberlin…. well, you get the picture. I have moved a lot

I know what it takes for me to get comfortable in a place.  I also know that it takes me a really, really long time to get comfortable somewhere.  But I also know in my gut when a place is completely wrong for me — that horrible, miserable summer in Arizona, why I did not go to UCLA for grad school, and the reason why I just could not take that job in Virginia.  With Singapore I just did not know, and I really had no way of knowing.  We moved here without ever visting first.  And even if we had visited and I had had my doubts, I still probably would have said “okay, let’s give it a shot” because that is what you do when one of your partner’s dreams is to work overseas at some point in life.

My silence for seven months, my attempt at withholding judgement or at least not articulating my judgment, should be some indication that I have given Singapore a chance.  I am sure that some day in the future when I am far, far away from this tiny island I will look back on aspects of this adventure fondly.  Right now, however, I am just focused upon figuring out what will come next and how we will get there.

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progress, the bedroom: we aren’t in college any more

Yesterday, our delivery from Ikea arrived.  I can not tell you how terribly impatient I was all morning long as I suffered through the whole 10am-2pm delivery window because, of course, Ikea did not arrive with our purchases until after 2pm.  I should have learned by now.

As our place is only 624sqft, we weren’t in need of all that much stuff, especially because we had shipped some furniture items from the States.  But, we were in desperate need  of a bed.  The last two and a half weeks have felt like we were in college again: sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

For the record, my mattress in college was never on the floor.  In fact, I am pretty sure it was always on the tallest setting that those dorm room beds provided.  I can’t vouch for partner on this front other than for his room during our freshman year at Oberlin as he lived down the hall from me.  Yes, I am married to a man I met on our first day of freshman orientation at college.  I still remember what his room was like all those years ago.  In college, however, I was dating someone else — Partner and I did not start dating until more than a decade after we graduated from college — and his mattress in his first off-campus apartment was definitely on the floor!

With the arrival of our Ikea delivery,  I was not only  looking forward to sleeping a few feet off the ground once again, but really, I was most looking forward to all of the additional storage space having our bed a few feet off the ground would give us.

I had glanced through the pdf of the assembly instructions before the bed arrived and it did not seem too complicated, so I figured I would try to tackle assembling the queen size bedframe all by myself.  Thankfully, it turned out to be even easier than I thought.  Otherwise I am sure Partner would gotten home from work last night to remind me of the time I managed to seriously gash my back on the banister in our Seattle house the time that I tried to move a flat-packed Expedit up to our third floor office alone, or what happened to my arm when I tried to clean my favorite 1970s vintage metal fan, or any other of a number of things on his ever growing list of things I tried to tackle on my own which I really should not have done.

We went to Ikea last weekend to pick out the bed together.  Admittedly, the Leirvik is not our taste, but we are only going to have it for a few years while we are living in Singapore.  Plus, for S$119 you really could not beat the price.

The bed is really quite solid. I am impressed with how well easily assembled and that it has no wiggle or wobble to it whatsoever.  Nice work, Ikea!  The Leirvik is a quality product.

In the store I was really not a fan of the white, and so I briefly mentioned something about spray painting it.  Yeah…. let just say that Partner quickly squashed that impulse of mine.  Living the high-rise life means that I am going to have to curb my creative, design, and DIY tendencies for a few years. Or, I will just need to limit my creative impulses to the organic veggie gardening happening on the balcony.  We will see how that goes.

One of the reasons I was not a fan of the white of the Leirvik bed frame has to do with the fact that I really did not want to bring anymore white into the great white box.  But upon assembling it, I was surprised with how well the bed works in the room.

I find the bed to be a bit on the girly side for my tastes, but the white tones it down and it really helps the bed to blend into the already white room.  The bed does not feel like it is making a statement in there because fades into the white walls and floor.  In a way it feels like the bed is just adding some texture to the room rather than screaming “I am a super girly bed.”  Note, my husband has fewer issues with the girly-ness of the bed than I do because he is awesome like that.

As I was putting together the Leirvik, I found myself thinking a lot about the transformations that John and Sherry have gone through with their own Ikea bed on Young House Love.  While they are working to make their bedframe stand out more, I am  just pleased with how well ours adds some texture to the room.

Once the bed was assembled and the mattress was happily perched on it a few feet above where it had previously been lain, I got to dive into our still packed bedding and finally properly make up the bed for us.   In celebration of having a bed and having assembled it on my own, I dressed our bed in our most colorful and celebratory bedding.  Plus, I figured that the great white box could use a major pop of color.

Sources:

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seasons in a seemingly seasonless place

Yesterday I had to deliver some devastating news to my husband: Thai mango season has ended.  Partner loves mangoes with a passion that rivals my own passion for the fruit.  I am pretty sure, deep down inside, one of the reasons he originally decided to seriously look into the job in Singapore was because it would put us closer to the source of amazing mangoes.

After scoring what were probably some of our best mangoes so far last Friday at the Fair Price Market in the basement of the building below our apartment, we must now wait until April 2013 to get our fill of the Thai Rainbow Mangoes and Thai Honey Mangoes.  I wish I had known that we were at the tail-end of the Thai mango season, for I would have purchased all of the remaining mangoes downstairs.  I only learned about the limited season today when I went and asked the produce manager at Fair Price about the mangoes and when they might be receiving more.  We are living in a tropical climate where it rarely dips below a heat index of 90!!!  What do you mean there is a mango season?!!?!?  There are no season here!!!

I am being very specific about the type of mango here because we have tried lots of others.  At present we do have some Malaysian Chukanlam Mangoes in the fridge.  These are new to us, so I shall report back.  But a few weeks ago when we went adventuring in Little India we picked up some Indian Mangoes – I believe they were of the Baneshan variety.  I will henceforth refer to these mangoes as soapy mangoes, because that is just how they tasted.  Truly, it was like biting into a really juicy bar of Ivory soap.  Ick.

I love fruit.  While I am certainly not about to run off and become a fruitarian, I can understand the appeal of that dietary choice.  And frankly, if one were to decide to become a fruitarian this would not be a bad part of the world to indulge in that lifestyle.  Mango season may have come and gone with me being none-the-wiser, but in its wake we have just started venturing into other new-to-us fruits.  Perhaps we are in their season now.

This is a Thai Guava.  Much of our produce if purchased in a supermarket comes to us overly packaged, so I wanted to show you how we first encountered these fruits.

I should have put something in the shot to give you a sense of scale, but these guavas are bigger than a softball.  Our first sampling of them was not great – we had picked up some small ones and they were a bit tough and bitter.  These larger ones have been great.

Wash the outside of the guava really well, cut it up so as to remove the stem at the top and its fuzzy bottom (not pictured), and if you like, cut it again so that it is in manageable pieces.  You eat the whole thing – skin and all.  Guavas are more vitamin C rich than oranges!

While out earlier today I encountered pink guavas from Indonesia.  I don’t think that they taste much different from what are often referred to as Apple Guavas or the more conventional kind pictured above.  Still, they are lovely and yummy.

Back in January, when we were traveling in Thailand and Cambodia, I  really enjoyed our morning glass of fresh passion fruit juice – that is, when I was not violently ill.  Oh Cambodia, how I do not miss cholera!!!  Until recently, however, I had never actually encountered a passion fruit.  This week we managed to find two kinds.

On the left is the  Passion Fruit and the Golden Passion Fruit is on the right.  Of these fruits you eat the seeds and the membranes holding them in.  Avoid the white pith to which the membranes attach.

I could not help but take some fun shots of these.  They are delightful and tasty.

I guess I am going to have to do a bit more research about growing seasons here.  For me, I am used to growing seasons be demarcated by changes in actual seasons, so this may take some getting used to.

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workin’ it

Our pool and the view from our balcony

So, if all of my other posts about our apartment have not made it clear yet, I really, really like our new place.  We are still settling in.  As this place is quite small compared to our previous home, it is taking some time to get fully settled as creativity with organization is key to maximizing our space.  Also, we are still lacking a few pieces of furniture — furniture pieces which will help me to hide some items which are still looking for a place to be stored — an issue which I hope to remedy this week.

One thing that I have managed to settle into thus far is a decent workout routine.  Talk about not having an excuse to not be working out – the pool is practically right outside our window.  And while I have previously expounded on my dislike of swimming because I hate getting water in my ears, I still have no excuse not to get in a good workout because the gym is practically spitting distance from our balcony — that is, if I was really good at spitting, which I am not.

Our gym here is amazing!!!  Once I am in a routine, I have always enjoyed working out – yes, I know, I am a bit sick like that – but the simple, refined, elegance of this space makes it all the more enjoyable.  I will admit that it took me a moment or so to get back into working out, but thankfully Partner kicked me in the butt once or twice.  I am certainly a much happer person when I make that time for myself.

While running on the treadmill, I can keep an eye on our place.

In truth, the gym here is not all that big.  But, size really does not matter.  Three treadmills seems to be plenty for our building.  So far, it has not been crowded in the gym.  I think that during the times I have been working out there have been at most three other people in there.  Most of the time when I go to workout I am the only one in there.  Although this morning it did get a bit crowded around the free weights.

In the early mornings when I am half awake and lifting — yes, I know, probably not the smartest things — I still sometimes confuse myself with my pounds to kilograms conversions.  Also, the treadmills here, as opposed to the ones in the corporate apartment, are in kilometers rather than miles, so that threw me for a loop at first.

I am still a bit afraid of running outside Singapore.  No, I don’t have fears about personal safely or finding a decent running route; rather, I am totally afraid of the sun – sunburn, passing out from heat-exhaustion, or just simply dissolving into a puddle of sweat and sunblock-goo.  Partner has already gotten back into the saddle as he did a 40-mile bike ride this past weekend and a 20-mile ride the weekend before.  He rocks!  He really does.  I greatly respect his dedication to cycling, especially in this climate.  I have no desire to bike as far and as hard as he does, but I will be the first and the last person out there cheering him on.

Me, well, I am a wimp about the sun.  I have wanted to get back on my bike and ride here, and at some point I will, but like with running, what keeps me gym-bound for now is the sun.  The sun here is seriously strong and I burn badly. Thankfully we have an amazing gym which keeps me out of the sun.  And thankfully we have my mom back State-side to send me more sunblock!

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