Our Latest Cultural Blooper

Before I let you gasp in horror over what we did last night, let me give you some background on our side of the story. Before we moved to Tunisia, I read someone’s list of things she liked and disliked about living here. I can’t remember most of them, but one of the things she said she disliked was the “garbage everywhere.” I just laughed, certain she must be exaggerating. Living among the ultra-tidy Piemontese, I had nearly forgotten that the world was not one big well-tended, immaculate garden. In the part of Italy where we lived, there was barely a dirt clod out of place.… Read more

Blogging About Blogging

An expat blogger friend of mine remarked the other day that she’s still not sure blogging from America isn’t pretentious. I’d have to agree. In fact, I’d expand it to say that blogging from anywhere is fairly pretentious. I mean, who am I to think that my journal would make interesting reading for acquaintances, or even friends? Let alone strangers!

The blogs that stick to one topic, like recipes, fashion, or politics, make more sense. They’re kind of like books published in serial form. That’s normal. Even Dickens made it big publishing serially. But what about those of us like me, who are more or less publishing our memoirs as they happen?… Read more

I Thought I Could Organize Freedom

It’s that time of the year when Tony and I start thinking about what we like to refer to as “the Northern countries.” This first began when we were living in Saluzzo, Italy three years ago. As in most of Italy, summers there get quite hot. And just when it gets so sweltering that it’s barely possible to even move outside without a gelato in one hand and an Italian ice in the other, the downtown travel agencies start putting up large, tempting photos of gloriously icy blue Norwegian fjords. It had never occurred to me that I might like to visit Northern Europe, but all of a sudden, countries that bordered the North Pole or had names containing “ice” began to sound incredibly appealing.… Read more

Italians and their food

As far as I know, all Italians love good food. However, what seems to set Sicilians apart is the sheer quantity of food they love. In Sicily last week, we went to a restaurant in Agrigento, ordered what we thought was a normal meal, and received four plates, each one containing enough pasta to feed our entire family. Tony’s is pictured above. It was tasty, although I just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a gigantic insect sitting next to his tagliatelle. We also ate gelato four times in the six days we spent there, as well as sundry other sweets.… Read more

How to keep strange men from following you on the beach

I like to go out walking on the beach in the mornings, and then find a quiet place on the sand to sit and write poetry. Tony was initially a little concerned about me going by myself. And really, so was I. Fortunately, I have a guardian angel. Named Rambo. No, really. We met him when Alistair took us out for strawberry milkshakes. He works at a café that belongs to a nice little hotel around the corner from our house. It’s called Les Citronniers, and is heartily recommended by everyone (in case any of you are looking for accommodation in Hammamet and (gasp!)… Read more

Success (and a little embarrassment) at the Turkish Bath

Photo credit

I’ve only been once to a Turkish bath, or hammam as they are called in Arabic. I don’t know that I’ll ever go again, but it was certainly an experience. The hammam I attended was the Hammam al-Nasri, located in a 14th century building in the charming old city of Aleppo, Syria. I don’t remember every single detail, but there are certain parts that really stick out. After disrobing and putting on a special towel, I was ushered into the steam room, where I was soon surrounded by billowing white clouds, which rendered it impossible to see anything more than a few feet away.… Read more

In the Arms of the Angel

As of today, we are officially out of olive oil. Whatever our failings, we are at least Italian enough to be unable to cook for even one day without some good extra virgin olive oil. We’ve been trying to buy it for a couple of days now. There’s no chance of getting it in our neighborhood. The abundance of little corner shops where we can get our normal staples (butter, yoghurt, fruits/veggies, fresh bread, etc.) only have various kinds of gross vegetable oil. I haven’t used vegetable oil in years. So it was off to the grocery store in downtown Hammamet, just across the street from the medina.… Read more

Female and Foreign in the Middle East

Today I had been planning to write a funny, lighthearted, slightly mushy late-Valentine’s Day post about my most useful accoutrement these days: my husband. I’ve been noticing lately that the difference between walking around as a single young woman in the Middle East and walking around on the arm of your husband is pretty significant. I have to say that I vastly prefer the latter. But my playful mood evaporated when Bridget’s blog alerted me to something truly stomach-churning that happened last week.

If you are female and foreign in the Middle East, regular harassment by the opposite gender is a fact of life.… Read more

Philippines, Part 14: Trouble in Paradise (Malapascua)

Good morning, and welcome back to our Friday in the Philippines. I hope you’ve enjoyed the new header photos, which come from the Philippines. I’ve noticed a lot of extra pageviews, and I suspect my faithful readers of refreshing the page to look at the pictures rather than to read my clever words. Shame! Last week we kissed neither tarsiers nor bats during the Bohol Choco Tour. If you missed that episode (or any others), links can be found here:

Philippines, Part 1: Have Baby, Will Travel
Philippines, Part 2: Do You Know How to XOOM?
Philippines, Part 3: Confessions of a Carseatless Baby (Vigan)

Philippines, Part 4: Strawberries and Cotton Candy (Baguio)

Philippines, Part 5: Hanging Coffins!
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Pavane for a Dead Phone Charger

I once had a wonderful, simple, practical, brilliant device that made my life serene, beautiful, and carefree. I still remember the day that I opened the box to my new Blackberry 8830. I slowly extended my hand, touched it gently with my fingers, and then carefully lifted it out. No, not the phone, which was a phone like any other phone, without even the distinction of being an iPhone. The CORD. The incredible, fantastic, never-seen-before-or-since phone charger cord. It looked simple enough. On one end was a mini-USB to fit into the neat little matching slot on my phone. But the other end.… Read more