Friday, July 12, 2019

No one calls it SFO anymore

This morning V and I went back to Mama’s San Francisco, a breakfast joint on the corner of Washington Square (Filbert and Stockton). The last time we were here it was a cold winters morning and unbeknownst to us I was pregnant with our one and only Kid. Now my child is 10, I’m nearing my mid 40s. 

Breakfast was excellent and the line out the door completely valid. Mama’s looks exactly as it did over a decade ago, a new lick of pale yellow paint and a few more knickknacks on its shelves the only minor changes. In addition to breakfast V and I shared a slice of crumb cake to celebrate our vacation and all the birthdays this week. 

There are many highlights of our week but only 2 I want to mention right now. One is the weather - really really cold and foggy but utterly enjoyable. I want prepared enough for this and a GAP run has been made to ensure we don’t freeze. Second is the wonderful Exploratorium - a Science based tinkering space with 6 different areas of games and tinkering opportunities. Forget about Kid, we were mesmerized and despite spending an entire day there we could have spent another few. 

Today we are enjoying a boat cruise in the Bay. Fog is almost but not quite obscuring the grand Golden Gate Bridge and rocky Alcatraz . The water is calm and the swirls of clouds around us just add to the atmosphere. As we approach the last part of our American vacation I am reminded that I need to be a better recorder of life. Better than an Instagram posts paragraph that is. 

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Home is where your folks are

I’m such a lucky girl. It was my mums 70th birthday last week and I got to go to Delhi and spend a few days with her and my dad. The other key birthday guy was my brother who plays the role of perpetual birthday present by sharing her birthday. My dads sister and my mums brother & sil all flew in to spend those few days with us. My sister in law, her mum and my absolutely adorable nephew made up the pack. It was a fluid few days with lazy meals and impromptu plans and a lot of laughter and reminiscing. Caught a Hindi movie, went to a book store and drank a lot of cold coffees along the way. I didn’t manage to pierce my nose (something I have been talking about for over 2 decades) or get my act together for a meal with friends. I did manage a morning of chatty catch ups with one of my favourite cousins and a dear friend though so felt I’d redeemed myself.

The 4 days flew by. My mum loved her birthday presents of hand drawn Ganesha’s from Kid and I. We had a wonderful birthday lunch for them both. My brother had to settle for a cheesy Kung Fu T-shirt and a hug. My mother with her youthful outlook on life seemed to enjoy her day, the company, the food and the pretty perfect early March temperature. 

Then I had 5 friends arrive from HK and we began a whirlwind, packed 5 day trip around Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. Long road trips and questions about monuments, startling historical facts and early starts to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise and without many people, shopping and stitching and interesting meals in wonderful locations. It all went like a dream, so very fast after the many slow months of planning. 

For me it was absolutely fascinating to see India through their eyes and lens. I hadn’t thought about it how to explain that everyday Indian life before - the many things I take for granted and do not really even see anymore. We had of course in the run up to this talked about practical things like transport and sightseeing and guides and food but I had forgotten to explain the minutiae of that everyday life. It was interesting to realise the sheer amount of things I know about Indian daily life and various systems, clothing, ties and bonds but haven’t ever had to explain to someone for whom this is a new experience. The sheer sensory overload of color, smells, people, animals and textures for a new person was interesting to watch. They were excellent visitors - respectful and curious without trying to judge. We had some amazing experiences and I was most delighted to share the always smiling and positive faces of people - from workers on a farm to small children selling trinkets by the road. It went swimmingly well and all too soon the trip was nearly over.

We had a big meal with my folks and my bestie and a dear ex-HK friend. The next day we had a chance to look at Delhi in full spring bloom - and what a shownit is in dappled winter sunlight, Lutyens Delhi is always a delight that makes me nostalgic for my childhood. A last minute dash to buy up as much as we could fit in our groaning suitcases and then a last stop at my home and that’s where I saw it: how much my mum and dad are my home. The way she delegates looking after the house, her pride in it and it’s contents and how welcoming she is to all who cross its threshold. And how even nearly 20 years later she makes me feel like that is my home. A place I can totally let go and be the kid. My mum, with her youthful heart of a 25 year old, she is my home. I’m so incredibly lucky. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Small steps

Like many I am fascinated by Planet Earth style programs. Watching a pod of dolphins frolick or snow leopards in the wild, they have me in awe. Wildlife safaris for real, shows about once in a lifetime sightings of snow leopards, things we wouldn’t naturally see in our everyday life, these things are my things. 

Last year the environmental news was either rhetoric that global warning is fake news or the many ways in which global warming was manifesting on our fragile planet. I’m a firm seat owner on the ‘it’s real and we should be very afraid’ bandwagon and big on how small changes can have large impacts. The buzz on how we should use less plastic straws and toothbrushes and plastic bags - my take is that every little helps. While there is lots of ‘plastic island in the ocean’ or ‘our fish are made of plastic’ type of scaremongering there is one view that it’s all a crapshoot at this point. 

Who knows how much of a crapshoot it is? No one does, is my firm answer. Figures can be manipulated and pictures are the same - they only tell one side of any story. However, for a few years now, my philosophy has been to minimise my own effects as far as possible. Who knows if every drop makes the ocean etc? And so I do a few very small things very consistently and which may have only a negligible effect:
  1. I only ever use my own take away cup for coffee/ tea if I’m getting a takeaway. If I don’t have my own cup I will not buy a coffee outside but skip it. Helps to not drink as much coffee/ tea as I normally would. Same for water. Always carry my own bottle and never buy plastic bottles. 
  2. I will only use my own reusable bag(s) to shop. Again, if I don’t have it with me I won’t buy anything. This greatly helps the ‘reduce’ in purchasing impulsively.
  3. Try and use local producers and buy package free produce when I can - this is harder said than done especially here but I’ve managed to find milk, greens, fruit all with low carbon footprints, recyclable or compostable packaging, minimal transportation required. 
  4. Stopped the use of cling film to cover anything/ store stuff. Reshaped my kitchen habits quite a bit. 

There are still many many areas where our household can improve. We are trying - lots of discussion about ‘waste not, want not’, ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ - all to influence our own wastefulness and our Kid to grow into a more conscientious individual. We are better at some things than others but aiming for greater consistency this year. I try and read and keep informed of what the various environmental impact areas are in our daily lives and see what could work for us. It’s often quite hard and I fail miserably in many areas but it is not for lack of trying. In the face of unending marketing  and consumerism it’s very hard to make good choices and it’s definitely an uphill and often unpopular battle. No idea what the effect might be and if ever anyone alive today will actually see the benefits but I can safely see it calms me to know that I didn’t give up trying. All advice welcome.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Tea light, anyone?

If I ever ask my friend M to join me for lunch because I’m headed ‘into town’ she laughs and asks what I need at IKEA. For as long as we have both lived in HK this is a running joke between us. According to her I’m always dashing to IKEA for something or the other or to accompany a friend looking for something in its expanse. I’ll admit that I’m in IKEA every few months - I’m partial to ironing board covers (which both I and my helper are guilty of burning holes in), teaspoons (which ‘magically’ get eaten by the bin) and random stationary that I do not need. I particularly like their food hall for smoked salmon and lately their fresh bakery goods. I’m such a domestic goddess 🙄

Looks like my first IKEA trip of 2019 is imminent. In irony of ironies I actually ran out IKEA tea lights. I always feel like I need them and usually I come home with a pack of 100 only to find a box stuffed to the gills with tea lights. I groan and stuff the new 100 pack in, shut the box and forget all about them. 

Last night we hosted 8 friends for a post dinner, post New Year holiday catch-up drinks and snacks. In an effort to create ‘ambience’ I pulled out our bigger box of glass tea light holders and told Kid to get this organised. He decided 20 would be plenty so 20 assorted glass and ceramic minis. I then pointed him in the direction of the tea light box while I continued to prep mango salsa and guacamole. Next I hear we only have 6 white tea lights. Of course this cannot be true. We should, in theory, have at least 250 tea lights if not more. I abandon all chopping and mixing and join him to check the box. What do you know? 6 white and 8 assorted green and yellow tea  lights is all that is left. 

So we began the year with 14 tea lights, 8 friends, 4 snacks and peals of laughter. The evening ended with 3 of us making plans to go to IKEA next week. Turns out this is how middle-aged homebodies celebrate New Years. 

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Pillow fluffer

I was achey and nauseous before the flight and so V, who was given an impromptu upgrade at the check-in counter, offered to swap seats with me. Normally I would have protested as he is the one heading into work after the horrid red eye but I felt unwell enough to need the rest and so I gratefully took it.

I waited just off the ramp this morning and as Kid walked off the flight he told me all about how he ate a portion of chicken and pasta (so he could stay awake and look at the screen) and didn’t sleep very well. Why? ‘Because normally you are there to adjust my pillow while I sleep.’ I asked him if he had missed me and he stated categorically ‘NO, NOT AT ALL’. I think an admission of dereliction of pillow fluffling duties is as much of an ‘I missed you’ as I’m going to get. 

Sleeping the first day away

What a first day! Sat at the airport now waiting for our flight back. 

Last night we hung out at V’s brothers home in Mumbai eating Indian Chinese food, chatting nineteen to the dozen and sipping drinks - and shortly after midnight we all repaired to bed. I woke up at 5am and let’s just say the tummy was not happy. A fair few hours of digestive issues followed - with accompanying puking 🤮 interspersed with mini naps to stave off the dizziness. Spent the day laying on my sis in law’s bed - both she and I had the bad food apparently - lots of napping, eating probiotics and starving the bug away. Better this evening - enough to catch this flight. Hopefully the worst day of the year is behind me. 

2019, you better be good. 

Friday, December 28, 2018


These are snippets I wrote on my phone and in my Filofax this year. Hurried, sometimes awful scribbles. Here they are in no particular order and with no reason as to why I wrote any of them or what any of them mean.

Part 1:
What are some of the things I want to say but don’t: The thing I most often want to say to people is ‘get your shit together’. Others are ‘you are not the first person this happened to but I get that it’s your only experience’, ‘ask for help, goddammit’, ‘stop being so utterly selfish’, ‘I hope this comes back to bite you in the ass’ and ‘I’m too old for your bullshit’. I say nothing because it’s not my place and they are probably thinking that exact thing about me...

Altogether separate:
I fear something is happening here. And I have no control over it. I feel like I am staring through a glass plate window but all I can see outside is absolute darkness. Not the green grass or the pool or the people on the lawn chairs I know for a fact are right there. It’s unsettling, this feeling. It feels irreversible, like morning will not appear to bring those things back into their rightful view. 

Another aside:
I’m always always ALWAYS the bad cop. From poking his fingers into sockets to making sure meals consist of more than white bread. From insisting on clean teeth before a bedtime to marshaling screen time. And it doesn’t matter if we begin on a good note. If we both re-affirm that we must have a good attitude and smile and try and use our words to solve our problems. At the end of the day it has all dissolved, that good will and intention, in the face of me being the Fun Police. 

More tangent:
I feel like I have all this awful anger inside me. An anger that doesn’t know it’s own strength. But equally an anger that will never see the light of day. And an anger borne of bad choices, lack of time, an innate selfishness that I have to be the centre of everyone’s universe. It lives in a duck blue box and is held together with a ribbon and is so very pretty it can never be opened. 

I’m happiest with:
A good podcast in my ears
A good book in my hands
A bar of Toblerone by my side
Feet in the sand
Idli - podi on my plate
Kadhi - chawal on the plate next to it
In WhatsApp land with my friends and family
My sketchbook of indecipherable doodles 
The understanding that life is weird and so many things are not true choices anymore.

‘I don’t know what I want’ seems to be my real problem because in actual fact there is nothing stopping me from achieving any of the things on my random list of ‘wants’. I’m just tootling through life I suppose, hoping I get it or It falls in my lap. I’m the laziest human being I know. 

OMG, I think I need a shrink. I’ve typed some of this out from my Filofax and copied the rest from my notes. And when read back, frankly, it makes me sounds cray cray. Maybe I am. 

I’m closing out this year and hoping that 2019 will be better. Be kind. It’s the only currency that brings us even a modicum of happiness. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

The 2018 wash

It has become obvious that having one child means I have a clean house, a perfect child with perfect manners, perfection in every way, time for exercise, a job where I don’t have to worry or feel guilty about the ‘children’, all the time in the world to collect information and organise things for people who chose to have more than one child. End of sarcastic rant. 

If only I got to play the ‘if I had a nickel for every time someone said’ game! I would use ‘life must be so much easier with one kid’ as the tag line where I accumulate the moolah. Give me the mon-eh!!!! In 2018 I’d have finally hit my million bucks and been able to clone my ONEperfect child and have 10 of him around the house to fulfil all my dreams. Happy?! 

But really, 2018 was a wash in so many many ways. Ok yes I don’t have much to complain about but my emotional health was not the greatest. Lots of different streams of self doubt (which will not be magically cured by getting a job or becoming thin lol), heaps of loss and grief, angst about all the stupid people who constantly vie to find ways to remind me I have one child and hope to somehow make me regret that choice. I’ve had some brilliant moments of quiet thought, so all is not lost. 

These moments of quiet thought, deeper than normal thought, came on holidays (yes yes ironic are the points of privilege - ‘you can travel so much because you only have ONE child’) in wild places where nature lets you know how insignificant these people and all our conjured up problems are. Where looking at the wild grasslands and endless desert makes one understand the futility of mean thought, the minute-ness of life, the sheer stupidity and magic of our material existence amongst everything in the universe. For those brief moments I wanted to be in a philosophy class, for someone to explain the ‘Who am I/ what is my purpose?’ type of thoughts that flood the mind. Of course the thud to reality is near instant, far longer and harder. I am this person. These are my choices, made of free will. These are the people in my orbit. And these are the consequences I choose to live with. 

This blog was possibly my biggest failure in 2018. In real life I did ok. I swatted away some of the thoughts of doubt. I found peace with eliminating/ shape shifting relationships where people made me feel small/ user. I had grand holidays (with the ONE child) knocking things off my bucket list at a faster pace than I imagined. I still have the love of my life right here, present in my every day. I mastered some bits of technology that had eluded me. I opened my ears to some new music. I decided not to sweat the very small stuff, loosen control on the everyday - although that personality trait is built way deeper than I thought. 

This blog was ignored, violently almost, because every time I began to write it seemed to be a complaint, a misery, an angst, something neither nice nor kind. I’d back off pretty quickly as my 1.8 readers were not the right audience for my misplaced ire. So I wrote a lot of posts, and I mean A LOT, in my phone notes and a small Filofax journal of yore and I never posted them. But they got out of my head leaving space only for the beauty and the idiot people who keep calling me out for having just one kid. In 2019 I’m going to skadoosh those people too. And hopefully write something cheerier or certainly more palatable. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Loss and memory

In the midst of our daily joys - the celebration of birthdays, the winning of sports, the reunion of families - there are large griefs. This year we have faced three. First, it was my sister in law’s beloved grandfather who passed earlier this year. For their home it’s the end of an era. He was a wonderful, charming, gentle man - full of affection and love for his family. Then my mother lost her very best friend - my Other Mother - who is mostly responsible for me and V meeting. She sang like a Bulbul (that was her pet name - and to me she will always be bulbulmashi) and taught me that kindness and family was everything. Her children, they are like my siblings and I know that even in the relief that her pain is gone is their (and our) immense pain at her loss. My mother, the strongest bravest person I know, her heart is hurting and there isn’t much that can quite help. And most recently my uncle, Eachan, the kindest, calmest, most wonderful of people in our family. A man of few words, a great love of sport, classical music and above all, his family and friends. He had eyes that twinkled and smiled and spoke volumes - and he loved us all fiercely. My aunt, my cousins, my father, all of us knew this moment was coming but I’d still say the loss was unexpected and utterly painful and in fact we are all reeling from this. If I could bear their pain for them I totally would. 

We are an age now where the losses are coming fast and furious. The parents of our friends succumbing to old age and illness and young people who have no business leaving us too soon. How do we reconcile the loss of these beloveds? I find that there is no ‘one fits all’ answer. It’s all intensely personal and creates holes that cannot be hastily, if ever, filled. I don’t imagine for a moment that those spaces in our hearts and minds will ever be full or smoothed. In time, they might become like knotty bumps, intertwined strands of grief and joy, joined by memory and connection with all those who knew that person. Some are us are very private in our grief, others less so; it’s all perfectly perfect. For me reminiscing, if only to myself, takes the process forward. I think of events or conversations or moments and they make me tear up but also smile. In time we will all talk about these people without breaking into tears or clenching our fists in pain but that time is in the distance. I only write this now because I want to mark this year, with its glaring imperfections and deep holes, to remind myself that even in our deepest losses we have so much to be grateful for. For having known these wonderful people, and being known by them.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Of a Saturday

The rhythm of the school week and it’s many activities changes a bit every year but usually settles into a satisfying pattern by this point, 6 weeks in. Everyone knows what is when, that is then and it’s all pencilled in to a big calendar for everyone to see. 

All I have to do now is get my act together. Here is an example of what needs doing. Today is Saturday. Despite a late night last night I knew Kid had basketball today so we were up, breakfasted and on time. I should be able to say my day is going swimmingly but frankly it is not. 

Forgot that school is full of elected council kids (20/ grade) here for training - and so totally didn’t talk about it on my way in. Of course seeing many of his friends here to learn to be better leaders, he is upset all over again that he didn’t win. Quick non-sugar coated advice of life is hard, someone has to win and someone has to lose has not gone down well. Just gone into basketball super grumpy and feeling hard done by. 

Also find I cannot really use last night as an excuse because the class is at 10 which is really mid- morning. Have left book, water bottle, snack, glasses and headphones at home. Using my coffee cup as a water cup and thankful for water fountains. Nothing to read, no headphones to listen to any podcasts, his grumpiness will not improve when he discovers there is no immediate snack after and no glasses so I’m sitting on the ground having to squint at 15 Basketball playing children for the next hour. One can only hope that I can get through the day without further such incompetence. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Long Summer

School opened 5 weeks ago and I had every intention of writing this as soon as he climbed that bus on day 1. My child is in the 4th grade. Yes, you read that right. I am o.l.d. And yes, I am making his joy of being an independent 9 year old into a story about me. What can I say beside it’s been a long long slow slow summer.

So 10 weeks - again, you read that right - that’s how long we had between grades. And while every. single. person I’ve met since we came back has told me how their summer in Hawaii/ Europe/ Wild West ranch was way too short, for us there were 2 not very long trips and both of those were filled with friends, family, shopping and eating. The rest of our time back here was s.l.o.w. to say the least. Lots of screen time, piles of books, sketchbooks of doodling, tense board games, marble runs, pretend maps, swims, pizza lunches and half heartedly trying to incorporate spelling and times tables into our daily lives. 

And then we jumped right back into elementary school like we had never been away. From day 1 of school it has been an absolute whirlwind. For him, homework, tests and growing into a new community of kids. For me, parent focussed activities and classroom/ library volunteering. He has a great teacher this year (again) and seems to be in a class of kind kids. Of all our years here this one looks to be shaping up best. 

I’ve been warned time and time again that he is 9 and if I don’t jump back in the job market soon I will be redundant and in the not far future he will have left home and I will have nothing to do except wallow in loneliness. I see only the flip side though: of him a.l.r.e.a.d.y being 9 (double digits next year mom) and such a (mostly) delightful age and how in no time at all he won’t want to have these conversations or teach me chess or snort-laugh milk out his nose while trying to explain a joke to me and will be gone from our nest. 

I guess the conundrum faces us all. What do we want for ourselves and what do we want our children to see? I hold every precious memory of my childhood right here in my heart. I wasn’t appreciative of it while I lived it (for who is?) but having my mom at home to chat with and oversee our daily lives is my most precious connection with her. That gift of time and being the centre of her universe gave me a core of stability and knowledge that nothing and no one else could have. It is helped by the fact that as soon as we were done with school my mom went to work and is now the coolest working grandma in town. There is, clearly, hope.

Similarly mums that work show their kids what it is to be a multi-tasker, what it looks like to be independent and in the work force. How balance between home and work priorities is often delicate. How perseverence and effort is everything. I strongly believe there is no singular answer and that one woman’s meat is another’s poison in this case. Personally, I love this gift of time and I’m grateful for the privilege to have it. I see the pitfalls and the unobtainable jobs on the road ahead but this job, this watching my 9 year old grow into the world, this gives me more than any job could at this point in my life. 

This opinion of who I am, who I want to be, what my child needs - it fluctuates daily in my mind - and I’m mostly held back by my own dwindling confidence of not having worked for 7 years. For now I have dusted off my CV and am contemplating a part time return to the working world. A balance between laughing over things Big Nate does and catching a shuttle to an office looms in my future. I’m using Fall break to contemplate this. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Summer of goodbyes

It’s one of two things. Either we are at the point in an expat cycle where people are finishing their 2 or 3 year stint and moving. Or it’s the end of 3 years and we know more people than before (and now many of them are moving). Or a combination of those things. Whatever the reason this has been a summer of goodbyes. 

Our Aussie friends repatriated in December, ahead of their shift in school year. And this summer our American friends moved back to the luxury of New York, Target and the joys of extended family. Today another family returned to their previous city of Tokyo. And with that it brings me to 15 goodbyes that we have had to say this year. 

‘Change is the only constant’ is a refrain I’ve drummed into my ears and heart for without it I would be a weeping mess. I’ve hosted farewell brunches, attended dinners and gone on lovely bucket list excursions this year. I’ve bought gifts for kids, mementos for family homes all over the world and written cards of connection. Who knows who will stay in touch. Even with technology at their fingertips people are often fickle and taken by surprise at how much effort staying in touch requires. 

As we get to the halfway point of the summer break I find myself looking forward to what will be another busy school year. It will have plenty to occupy my mind - with it all the new families that will join our community, our building and our school. Also a renewed effort for me to begin thinking about a return to work. I’m ambivalent about how my old skills will fit in with the new world but I’ve decided to at least give it a shot. At least I’ll have tried. 

It’s been a quiet summer. Beside a week away in old stomping grounds we’ve been wandering around the 852 in the heat and rain. Looking forward to a quick visit to see all the folks. And before we know it summer will be at its end and I will have to hunt for my welcoming smile for all the new people coming into our world. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

I dream of the Mara

As an Indian schoolgirl in the 80s the project that most made an impression on me was the study of the Masai people. I’m not even sure why we were studying the Masai - as Indian middle class school kids they were as far from our imagination as a possible trip to the moon. But the study of the peoples, their culture, traditions and clothing was in our curriculum and so study them we did. 

Ever since then I’ve wanted to visit Masai Mara, to see whether the bushmen actually wore the bright red clothes and herded their cows using long sticks. Added to the childhood projects are television wildlife programs such as BBCs Planet Earth and Nat Geo Wild which have shown us the great migration, the flora and fauna of this landscape and the wild animals that make it home. It holds mythical proportions in my mind and I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited by a vacation as this one.

Well, let me tell you: it was nearly exactly as I pictured it. M.a.g.i.c. - with plains as far as the eyes could see, its trees dotting the landscape, the view from above one of spots, giving it its name of ‘Mara’ (which means ‘spotted land’). We stayed at a tented camp at the base of the west wall of the Great Rift Valley and drove into the Mara each morning before sunrise. We would stop for a bush breakfast around 9am and our wonderful driver/ guide would find a scenic spot (with a rock or tree to mark our territory so to speak) and cook us eggs to go with bread. 6-7 hours later we would return to camp having seen herds of animals living their lives out in absolute freedom. From 4 lions seeking water right after a kill to the 30 strong herd of elephants, from the curious Masai giraffes to the wide hipped hippos wallowing in pools, from the ever watchful topis to the aggressive Cape buffalos every animal was in their home, living what could only be described as their lives within the circle of life. Families of warthogs, packs of hyenas, lines of gnus/ wildebeest, groups of rhinos, basking crocodiles, skittish Thompson gazelles, brothers mongoose, watchful Kopis, majestic Elans, bunches of Ostrich, stripy zebra. More animals than we could count. We would come back to camp for lunch and a rest and then head off again mid afternoon for another game drive. It was as far from a beach vacation of lounging that one could imagine and as wonderfully invigorating as it sounds. Also tiring! 

Beside the abundance of animals and the friendly, gentle people we met it was the landscape that blew me away. The sheer majesty of the plains and the walls of the Great Rift Valley sloping up from it. The acres of grasses and thickets of leopard and lion laden trees, all lit up with wide bright blue skies. I have so many excellent (even with just my iPhone) pictures of these landscapes that I’d be hard pressed to pick one I love more than the others. The light was bright and yet mellow and played with the clouds letting rays fall helter skelter, leaving shadows to play on the land. I don’t know how else to describe it but to say I felt at a loss for not being a poet or writer. I just didn’t have the words to accurately describe how it all felt. The wonderful freeing thought of the forces of nature being boss while all of us paled to insignificance. It’s been more than a month since we came back but the echoing sounds of lions roaring through the night and the sheer majesty of wild animals come to me in my dreams often. I will be an old doddering geriatric some day and I take joy in thinking these memories will light up my otherwise blank mind. I will ever forget this trip. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

We are here

This week we are in Kenya. A few days in the foothills of the Ngong Hills of Nairobi, home to the coffee plantations of Karen Blixen and setting of the movie ‘Out of Africa’. Today, we are on the equator - not far from Mt. Kenya and enjoying the game drives in a rhino conservancy. Tomorrow we head to Masai Mara. 

Kenya and specifically safaris have long been on V and my bucket lists. We visited Tanzania/ Zanzibar in our young married life and I’d still venture to say that was a defining vacation for us. We then visited Morocco just before we left London. That was another type of vacation with a small child and showed us a very different aspect of this vast continent. I’ve also grown up on stories from my dads travels and years of living in myriad places like Nigeria and Sudan. In some way I think a trip to Kenya has long been on our list but I imagined it was about 5 years away, in Kids teenage years. It was a magic moment, of the stars aligning,  of all things working out at the right time that has meant we are here, finally. Many years ahead of schedule.

So far Kenya is everything we imagined. Full of smiling, gracious people, vast blue skies and a lush green coat despite being dry and on the final countdown for the impending monsoons in March. I’m so very happy I am here. I ❤️ Kenya. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nellikka pickle FTW

When I first moved here I went to a very specific part of Kowloon to look at the recommended Indian grocers. Since that first trip I have never returned. I literally never go to the Indian store. Like every Hong Konger I know I call my preferred grocery guy with a list and he delivers for cash the next day. 

In 2008, in our pre-Kid days, we went to California on vacation. Our first 3 days were spent with my cousin B. We spent most of our time talking and eating. I kept falling asleep and when I was awake I devoured the dal and rice and nellikka (amla/ gooseberry) pickle in her house like I had not seen food before. I wanted that pickle at every meal I had there - including a meat heavy barbecue. I put it all down to jet lag and exhaustion from a super hectic job (the sleep), desperately missing my aunt (maker of the pickle) and the California air making me hungry (for dal of all things eughh). If that was not a clue I do not not know what was.

A few weeks later I discovered I had been pregnant for a lot of that trip and before - and it all made a bit more sense - craving the odd. The funny thing is I had never liked nellikka pickle before that moment and I still never connected the dots of odd. I don’t think I ever had it again. A few years ago I randomly thought about it and called my aunt whose first instruction was to get the frozen gooseberries from Trader Joes. I have never lived in a country with Trader Joes or it’s equivalent and I never thought to ask my Indian grocer or hunt for them in supermarket aisles. Totally dismissed and blanked it out. 

I forgot all about it and time went on. Till this week when I was calling in my list to my Indian grocer here and I couldn’t think of what other veggies to ask for. I told him to reel off a list of what he had available instead. When he said ‘nellikka’ I had sudden visions of the pickle from yore (haha) and decided to order a small amount and see what it could inspire (not babies, just magnificent pickle haha!)

Today I YouTube’d a recipe (it was too early to call my aunt for her recipe and I was too impatient to wait) and made a small bottle of pickle. It’s now sitting on my kitchen window sill providing me with a feeling of small accomplishment (for I am not a pickle or preserve maker) and a photograph for Instagram. I wonder if it will taste any good or will I have to bin it and start all over again with my next shopping list. 

Monday, January 08, 2018

The first week

Since we got back just after the new year I’ve been pottering around the house at a snails pace. And in a way it’s been good to not go rushing into life because it’s given me pause to reflect on a loss that’s just a year old. The loss of my nani on the 6th of January last year. I’ve been dreading the actual day for about a month but by the end of December I was over the most negative of my thoughts (mainly anger) and had a calm focus on my loveliest memories of her. It made the day bearable and me able to support my mum rather than need her to support me. 

What did however upset our balance this week was the news of loss of a child. An 8 year old, one of twins, to a rare form of leukaemia. Gone within a month of the diagnosis. I’ve never met the parents - but maybe it’s because my child is the same age I have had this awful reaction to this news. Losing a child is against the order of the universe and I can’t imagine it is like any other grief in the world. I imagine it never goes away and that a stabbing pain sits with his parents every moment of every day, especially at this very early stage. I’m heartbroken for them. Literally heartbroken. 

On the other hand I feel like the memories of a lifetime and a loved and lived life makes it so much easier to honour a persons memory. There is no right age or way and death is always sad but when a memory of my Nani comes to me it is with a smile to my lips before tears to my eyes. And in that moment I know that she is Ok and one day we will be too. 

Friday, January 05, 2018

64 dishes and a New Year

  1. Back from another whirlwind India trip. Not sure why I am a glutton for punishment and just push through telling myself ‘it will be fine, it will be fun’ like some mantra. It did turn out fine and mostly fun but of course 5 cities in 2 weeks with wedding festivities, family and friends, tourism and New Years celebrations is exhausting. I’m spending this last week of no school napping and making small forays to the local market but nothing more strenuous. In fact Kid slept 15 hours that first night back - catching up from all his late nights and the excitement of his cousin. V, he never ever stops.
  2. In December we hosted what is becoming a larger and larger holiday party each year. This year we invited 80 people and 68 or 72 (depending on who is doing the counting) showed up. We had a big and heaving drinks bar and a lot of snacks. So many snacks in fact that we are still eating down our freezer. Convenient but vaguely annoying. I’m up to my eye balls with spring rolls.
  3. All the paper products I ordered for the party failed to arrive on time. So in a last minute scramble my friend and I dashed to the wholesalers in Shanghai Street. Got entirely side tracked by a wholesale restaurant supplier and ended up buying 64 (yes you read that right multiple times) pieces of crockery. It was hilarious considering all I wanted was 100 paper plates. I was like a child in a toy store with a blank cheque. It’s not all one set but will work eclectically to dress our table when we need it. Can’t wait to be able to open it all - my restaurant quality hard wearing glazed ceramics that I am so so in love with it. I can safely say necklaces, earrings and ceramics are my weak spots. Ceramics more than anything. 
  4. As Murphy’s Law would have it all the paper products arrived shortly after the party and have now been stored away for next (no wait, this) year. 
  5. We need to purchase a sideboard for our crockery. We were running out of space anyway and this new sets of stuff has made a vague decision a firm one. We have the supplier and a few designs in mind but V and I must sit and decide which piece suits us. 
  6. Meanwhile, a Happy New Year my clutch of readers. May it snow or be sunny or whatever weather you are wishing for. I’m aiming to write 52 posts this year (so 1 a week) or more. Hold me to it. 
  7. Be kind. Be the kindest person in the room, in your group, in your family, in your city. Be kind.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mumsy me

It’s been an awesome few months of keeping myself occupied doing not very much. Not sure how to explain that other than to say I’ve been busy as a bee but have no financial output to show for my time. I do have some great memories of events and people and moments of sheer joy to hold and sometimes that is exactly what one needs to feel good about their place in the world.

So quick updates for posterity and my 1.3 readers:
1. School stuff: I’m the boring mum that is at school all the time, that many a working mother detests because they think we are smarmy and trying to be an earth goddess - I’m nothing of the sort - just a mum with time on her hands and the point of view that time is speeding by and there is no one right answer. I’ve been volunteering at the library, working on some boards and events and generally enjoying the company of other mums. Having all this to do makes my days seem busy and I’ve stopped apologising for not having what many call a ‘proper job’. 
2. I think I’ve said before that we do a ‘Countdown to Christmas’ in place of an advent calendar. This year we did a mix of books, T-shirts and vouchers. For each book and T-shirt that he gets he must find one he has outgrown for the give away pile - this is less altruistic than you’d imagine; it’s the only way my mini hoarder is able to give things away. The vouchers are all homemade and redeemable good deeds and free feel good experiences (an hour later bedtime on a school night is his one request for a voucher!). This year I went for kraft brown paper and reusable labels. And since we don’t have an Elf for the shelf we hide each days present around the house with hot and cold clues. I can see the moment this excitement disappears- the future seems so close with the speed of growing that these children do. 
3. I have a hilarious crockery story to tell but this is not the time to tell it. Also I still can’t get blogger to accept my photographs and without them the story is a bit bland. In the new year I intend to get my head around it. 
4. Prepping to head off on a visit to India. Super hectic, 5 cities in 2 weeks - we never seem to learn from our mistakes where this will end in exhaustion. A wedding, a reunions, family (most excited about my gundu bajji nephew whose cheeks are all mine!), friends and an attempt at some downtime....
5. And finally we threw our annual holiday party last Friday - this has certainly scaled up from this old days of 14 people on a New Years Eve in London. Last year we had 30 people over for dinner but this year we had so many more people we wanted to celebrate with that we had 70+ people drop by for drinks and snacks.  There have been years we have skipped this for one reason or another but it seems to now be better established in our heads and I mostly enjoy all the planning that goes into making each year it’s own special experience. Beside a heaving bar this years snacks were:
Homemade: galouti kebabs, spring rolls, devilled eggs, garlic bread, taquitos, hummus, salsa, guacamole, vegetables with spinach dip
Purchased: samosas, tortilla chips, smoked salmon, capers and bagels with spread, mini quiches, meat platters with artichokes, peppers and olives, dark chocolate tart.
We had way too much food - we will be eating our way through the freezer for weeks to come....
It was a wonderful evening and it was so wonderful to be surrounded by people who are our everyday Hong Kong family. All that chatter and laughter was just music to my ears. 

Happy holidays, all!

Monday, October 30, 2017


It is so very interesting that after that post about cutting someone out a bunch of people have got in touch. Actually more than a bunch - more than a dozen even. Some called, some FaceTimed, some emailed and some messaged.

This gives me some ideas and thoughts:  
1. People may not leave comments but at least some people are reading this. 
2. A few of the persons from that group I was talking about got in touch. I did not admit it was them or our common friend at all. I’m not chicken but I feel like I don’t want to be talked back into something deeper that  can only end the same way months/ years down the line.
3. Un-surprising-ly the person I am cutting off did not get in touch any which way but I assume word will reach them soon enough. And then I expect a call/ fireworks/ silence.
4. I am so calm and collected about this I have surprised myself. 
5. I know I am in the right. For once I am sure sure sure about my position. And immovable about my opinion. Not even an apology (which will never come) is going to help me feel better. But as I said we move in similar circles and some of the people in it and I are so intertwined that I will be seeing them next year for sure. And I will be cool and calm and collected, not a bubbly jam mess. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

On sunrises and sunsets

I’ve been awake since 4am with my stuffy nose so took myself and a box of tissues to the guest room with its fluffy pillows and big windows. I read and dozed and read and waited somewhat patiently for sunrise. Ok I sighed a lot. The sunrise, it did not disappoint. 

As I lay here watching the bay glisten my phone pings and it’s my London pal. I’ve been waiting for someone to say something about this post of mine - ‘Been there, done with that’ -  the one where I am dithering over cutting off some people because you, my blog people, and most people who know me in real life know that if I am close enough to you I will say what’s on my mind and moving people from friend to acquaintance and back is a life job I take seriously. I pride myself in being a realist and not taking much s#*t. And here it is, that ping from a women who is always honest with me. And her comment - This always surprises me because you've always been so forthright with me.

True that. Although I will admit that with age it feels like I have mellowed a wee bit so even if it feels that I should say something immediately I tend to hold my tongue a lot more now and measure my words before doling them out. But invariably the thought chews at my brain and I always find a way, delicate or otherwise, to make my opinion/ thoughts come across. And this makes me often less popular but it’s a life choice I can live with. And so yes you are right to be surprised that I have held back this long and that I am not sharing my opinion with this friend of mine. 

The difference lies with this group of people - the person I’m sort of letting go, we have a history that runs just a decade or so deep - but some of the others in the group it’s DecadeS. With a capital D and a capital S. I guess it’s the history of some of our ties - it’s too deep and complex and complicated to explain but I assure you it’s intangible in many ways that mean they are the very few people that I end up holding my words/ taking shit from. I will be sad to lose them or rather loosen those ties but needs must for sanity and all that. We will still see each other for our lives are intertwined too close to not see them but I know what I am holding back is not imperceptible. It feels like a sunset, inevitable. It is an immeasurable loss - mine, all mine. And yet there is no turning back. I can only wait for another sunrise.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

When Saturday is pretty rubbish

Woke up with a vile cold and a light fever. And of course my aching knees. Look and feel pretty wretched. Falling apart at 42; I thought I’d have a few more years. Does not help that I am annoyed with someone and so my head is full of floating, unkind thoughts - have also given myself a headache. 

Going to have a cup of tea and put myself to bed and hope that Sunday turns out to be a bit less miserable than Saturday.