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Yes, you’ve read that correctly! The reason I’ve been so absent here on Shantiwallah is that I have been away in Thailand collecting my 20 month old son.
It hasn’t been easy as we don’t have a very good system for adoption here in New Zealand. We tried to start the process back in 2007 when we were still in Japan but the NZ government won’t work with citizens abroad, so we came back. From January 2008 we have been working with the authorities to get a mound of paperwork the size of Mount Taranaki completed and verified by all the right people. It was finallly sent off to Thailand last year where things were set in motion for us to go and collect our wee lad. We left Auckland for Bangkok on the 10th of July and visited the orphanage, coming away with a special little package, on the 14th and have been getting to know Mr. Poom* ever since.
It’s been a long journey with lots of bumps, but we are so happy to have him home in New Zealand, even if he does resent the New Zealand cold as much as I do!
*Not his real name as we are not allowed to identify him on the internet. We only have guardianship for now until the adoption process is complete sometime next year.
I haven’t done an “I Love Mondays” in a while, but I’m inspired because I’ve been doing fun things in the kitchen using kim-chee as an ingredient. Normally I just scoff it down with rice or noodles, but just think of the spicy salads. And it’s a great probiotic, too. Those clever Koreans!
I am fascinated by how people act in different circumstances. There is nothing like a celebrity event to bring out the lovers and the haters. Of all the street parties mentioned on TV that day, one was a group of anti-royalists who were claiming that, “You don’t need a Royal Wedding to get together with the people on your steet and have fun.”. Is this not irony? It was BECAUSE of the Royal Wedding that they were having their party, even if it was an anti-event. Why didn’t they just have it on a different day?
Anyway, I have been busy with other things (I know, selfish me) like typing like a frenzied, typing thing in order to take advantage of an incentive at one of my jobs. The need for money has both made my typing quicker, and worse at the same time. You’d think I’d get better with practice. I should really take some lessons. Or is “the writer who can’t type properly” part of my identity now? Speaking of identity, another thing I’ve been doing was being interviewed by the lovely MaryAnne over at A Totally Impractical Guide to Living in Shanghai. It was quite fun and very self-reflecting for me. I don’t know if anyone else got anything out of it, but I enjoyed it and I got to be up there with a bunch of other cool people. Check out her whole series on expats. Cool stuff.
There have also been a lot of cool things happening over at Pocketcultures. The team is really big now, so the sun never sets on us! Something I love are the collaborative posts that the team is putting out now. This recent one about Naming Traditions in 13 Different Countries is really packed full of interesting information. I’ve had a couple of teacher friends say they will use it in the classroom and, indeed, it is a good resource.
Auckland is now being thrashed by winter wind and rain, boo! But that’s OK. I’m spending a lot of time chained to my dear computer. I have been working on a massive project that I hope comes to fruition in just a few more short weeks. I am not ready to divulge the details yet but it’s going to be exciting and will be of interest to lots of you (I hope!). I am so impatient, I really want to get this thing going. But I want it to start off well so, alas, I must carry on tweeking. Hmmm, perhaps I will start dropping hints soon. Or was that one?
In my three and a half years in Japan I spent some time in Tokyo and Osaka, but the majority of it was spent in a small rural community very much like some of the ones affected by the recent earthquakes and tsunami. Farming communities which, like farming communities around the world, are struggling to survive against cheap imported food and a young generation who no longer wants to be stuck out in the inaka (countryside). Communities of people who do not represent what the neon, high-tech, modern image of Japan portrays to the world. People who live in beautiful old farm houses that have been in families for generations but have heavy tiled roofs which are prone to collapse during seismic activity.
As I watched the videos streaming of the tsunami engulfing the patchwork countryside of Japan I thought of all the people I used to cycle past on my way to work. I thought about how people who were too shy to speak to me would leave bundles of vegetables, still covered in soil, on my doorstep. And I thought about the day I went for a cycle ride, but ended up stopping to watch an old rice machine plant up a tiny (by New Zealand standards, at least) field. I vowed to stop complaining about the shocking price of rice in Japan after that.
I feel fortunate that the only person I knew personally who lived in that area was OK. But I have friends who are in pain over lost friends and relatives. I hate this. I have friends in Tokyo who are enduring blackouts and can’t drink tap water (not even boiled) or even buy bottled water because all the shops have been stripped of just about everything. I worry about radiation and aftershocks as they do. It changes how you watch the news when you have a connection. I am learning to scan the sensationalism to find answers about what’s really happening.
As with Christchurch, what is needed is money. It’s important that that money is not allocated to one place and one type of aid so that it does not become tied up with bureaucracy. Within a few months there have been life-altering earthquakes in half a dozen places. Some of these places get media attention and some, sadly, do not. If you can give to the Red Cross in your own country or another large organisation that you trust and which does not allocate its collections *, please do.
*After the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka it became apparent that funds collected specifically ‘for housing’ or ‘for food’, for example, became problematic. If one allocation had leftover funds, those funds could not be used in other areas where they were needed because they had been labelled for just the one, specific use. Money was wasted. There are rumours that oversized houses were built along the coast in Sri Lanka, because leftover money raised for housing could not be used for other situations.
It is Auckland Day. Each city in New Zealand has its own day and nobody has to go to work. I love that. I’ve been so busy with work (Hooray for work!) and having parents-in-law to visit from England that I haven’t had time to write on my blogs or read other people’s. Rest assured I’ll be back!
I am un-Buddhistly attached to my cookbooks. I rarely even use them properly As you might imagine I’m not the best rule follower. But I can sit and get lost in them for hours, gaining inspiration. And then it’s not safe to be in the kitchen with me as I fling things to and fro trying to create my conceptualisation of the atmosphere in the kitchen or pavement restaurants I’ve just read about. Or I’ll take off to the relevant shop and spend far too long (according to my husband) deliberating over what I could do with some of the unidentifiable items in the sun-dried foods section of the Asian supermarket. “I’m sure there is a recipe in that one book that calls for astragalus”, I’ll think to myself. Or I’ll talk myself into the idea that I really need to make something with rose water or sour cherries at the Persian shop. Often I’m inspired by something in my cookbooks and then by the time I get to the shop, I’ve already had six other ideas and then get distracted by the ingredients on the shelves for six more. I’ll come to when my husband is dragging me towards the door by the elbow with a bag of dried soba in one hand and a tin of Szchewan pickled vegetables in the other.
“But, I haven’t been to the herbal soups aisle yet”, I’ll insist like someone who needs a 12-step programme.
“I need to go there for the stuff for that soup in the book.”
“Which soup”, he’ll ask.
The other teachers and I stuffing down some lunch in between building sessions on the Habitat house in Pak Chong, Thailand. The students are sitting at their own tables because, well, it would be uncool for them to sit with us now wouldn’t it? Yeah, whatever. We all know who the cool people REALLY are.
tea on the waterfront with my husband.
I don’t even eat lollies except for chocolate, but something about the design of Japanese sweets sucks me in every time. Then I open the packet, eat one, and pass the rest to my husband. Kawaii desu yo!