Archive for the 'Musings' Category

Len’s USA Road Trip…Huh?

Posted by len on 20th May 2008

Manassas to Littleton Map

How’s this possible? Well, I was in the good ole U.S. of A for 2.5 weeks and just got back!

I went for business, pleasure, and something strangely in between called “3 day road trip with my Mom and her dog across 7 states”. We traveled for 27 hours, slept two nights in bizarre sheds and broke 12 laws (see map above). Am I lying? Perhaps. Probably.

But you just NEVER WILL KNOW until you click on the following incredible VIDEO ADVENTURE TAGALONG! 8 blindingly fun minutes of watchabilly good times!

If video doesn’t show above in the box please let me know! It’s supposed ta’!

I also saw my brothers, their kids, and more! My brother Mike and his wife just got back from Ethiopia where they adopted a cutie little baby girl named Frances.You can read their adventures in Ethiopia HERE!

Posted in Musings, Photos, Uncategorized | 26 Comments »

The Stages of Culture Shock

Posted by sue on 17th November 2007

So, it turns out that, psychologically, moving abroad isn’t all that unlike dealing with a death, or the end of a significant relationship, or other event in which grieving is the natural response.

The stages of culture shock, evidently, begin with the Tourist Phase, when you first get there and everything is new and interesting and fun. It’s the “that building isn’t run-down, it’s Quaint and Historic!” phase, so it shares a little with the Denial phase of grief, though it’s more up-beat. Next is the Emptiness Phase, where the difficulty of everyday transactions and the, well, “differentness” of everything makes you feel annoyed and alienated and certainly not hopeful that you’ll ever like it in such a God-forsaken place. But then, thankfully, comes the Recovery Phase, where you start to find ways to cope and places to hang out that you like, and you’ve met a few people who are nice to you, and you start to carve out a little niche for yourself. You certainly haven’t mastered everything yet (and the language acquisition still has a long way to go), but you start to have hope. Finally, there’s the Acceptance Stage, when life starts to feel normal (or at least as normal as life ever feels) and you can appreciate the culture you’re living in and regain your sense of humor.

Our experience of Portugal has been strange because our Tourist Phase was very short. We arrived already a bit weary from travel, and I started a pretty intense course of study within days of arriving. By the time my course ended (June 1), I was already in Emptiness Phase, and honestly, I’ve been there pretty much ever since. Until the past couple of weeks, that is, when I’ve started to feel really happy.

The weather has turned cool and a little wintry (wintry enough for spoiled Californians like us), which I love. They’re putting up Christmas lights all over the city. My classes are going well and I like the people I work for and the people I work with. The Portuguese that I hear is only 80% gibberish rather than entirely gibberish (understanding a little is far better than understanding nothing). We’ve been going out more to fun and interesting places. We’re far from “integrated”, because we still haven’t befriended any Portuguese people, just Americans and Brazilians. But, there’s hope.

Posted in Musings, Portugal | 31 Comments »

Payback for flashing 12:00

Posted by len on 30th October 2007

Crazy Modern RemoteRemember when you were a kid and the new VCR (or DVD player) arrived at your parents house?
Remember the flashing 12:00 on the built-in timer/clock that your parents could never figure out how to set to the current time but it annoyed and harassed them on a daily basis for being too out of touch with the crazy techno-doo-dads of the day?
Well, not that I ever wished my parents that aggravation but I must admit a bit of “oh those old-timers than can’t grasp modern technology” going on in my mind.
Well, my mother struck back today, as I sit here in Virginia (on a business trip), writing this post, unable to turn on the television (beyond the weak LED glow of the power switch) or listen to some nice satellite music through the tube.
What’s the point of an “ALL ON” button if it doesn’t turn everything on!? The “Help” button does nothing and I can’t even imagine how many more wires I’d need to connect to make the “My DVR” button do something! Just blackness.

My mom’s off walking the dog, and I sit dumbly looking at the pictured remote, just feeling a bit out of touch.

Posted in Musings | 44 Comments »

One Year pEur-Africa party

Posted by sue on 21st October 2007

It was one year ago today that we arrived in Fez, Morocco, to kick off the crazy overseas adventure that has brought us to Morocco, Spain, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, France and Portugal.

We are now Masters of the Mediterranean(TM)! We’re adventurous enough to want to live in different places, but, evidently we still insist on good, California-like weather!

We sort of doubt any of you exist, but if you do happen to be one of those who has been following our story from the beginning, take a look back to the very first post from Morocco: Morocco First Post.

When we left, we decided that we would live overseas for at least one year, no matter what happened. (Of course, we HOPED we’d find some place that we’d fall in love with and want to stay forever.) But now, we have permission from our one-year-ago selves to fly back to the U.S. tomorrow. As it happens, Len is flying back to the U.S. tomorrow, back to his childhood home state of Massachusetts (for 10 days, on business), and I’m staying here, with a full teaching schedule through the middle of December.

The state of things so far? Good, though I confess we haven’t found that place that begs us to stay forever. We’ll be in Lisbon till June ’08 because I’ve promised to teach at my school till then, but after that, who knows? We’re taking offers.

Thanks to our long-time, steady readers. And the occasional ones too. We thank you for your eyeballs and your comments (from which we can infer the number of eyeballs). Comment more!

Posted in General, Musings | 34 Comments »

The Challenge of Travel Writing

Posted by sue on 3rd October 2007

So, I’m reading The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa, one of Portugal’s most famous poets and authors (therefore, not famous at all. Ouch!). He was one depressed dude. He writes, “Everything wearies me, including what doesn’t weary me. My happiness is as painful as my pain.” Seriously, this is not a guy you want to invite to your next cocktail party (which is just as well, since he died in 1935).

But, he might just have a point about travel writing:
“[Travel books] are worth only as much as the imagination of the one who writes them, and if the writer has imagination, he can as easily enchant us with the detailed, photographic description…of scenes he imagined as he can with the necessarily less detailed description of the scenes he thought he saw.”

He points to the challenge we have here at Squid HQ. Communicating interesting tidbits about overseas living experiences has less to do with the inherent exoticism of living in Fez, or Cairo, or Lisbon, than it is about how good of writers we are. It turns out that we’re naturally rather boring people, and even worse writers. Sorry! We’ll work on it.

We’re going to the very north of Portugal this weekend, and also plan to visit Galicia, the area of Spain that’s north of Portugal. I have Thursday, Friday, and Monday off from teaching (a little break between terms) and we’re taking advantage of the long weekend to see more of the country. We’ll try to think of witty, observant things to say about it all. Or just drink lots of wine. One of the two.

Posted in General, Musings | 38 Comments »

…walk into this bar

Posted by len on 7th September 2007

“So a special effects artist, a professional photographer and a nun walk into this bar…
The photographer goes up to the counter and orders a gin and tonic. The VFX gal strips naked and says…”
(Comment and I’ll tell you the rest)
So my beautiful friend Jen is getting married TOMORROW: Saturday!
The Squid would like to make them honorary Heroes of the Expedition (TM) for their willingness to do the truly heroic: commit to a life together.
(Your Squid Logo briefs are in the mail).
Mark is not only easy on the eyes but can grill a serious mushroom! (he’s handy with bleu cheese too but that story’s not appropriate for a family blog like this)

Here’s the happy really, really, almost a couple:
Jen and Mark, the Soontobeweds

Posted in Musings, Photos | 24 Comments »

Life in Morocco, thus far

Posted by sue on 8th November 2006

While it’s too soon to come to any definitive conclusions, right now I don’t see staying here very long. The plan right now is to finish out my current term at ALIF (which ends December 8th), take a week or two to travel to Marrakesh and some other Moroccan points south, then go to Spain for a week or so around Christmas/New Year. The new term at ALIF runs from January 4 to February 15, and after that, I think we’re going to go to Egypt– we’ll let you know when plans firm up.

The best thing so far is that I’ve very much enjoyed the opportunity to study Arabic full time. Having class every day really speeds up the learning of new words and grammar. It’s been a little disappointing, though, because my particular class has only two students in it. More personal attention, yes, but not a particularly dynamic environment, and less opportunity to get to know other students. I’m counting on next term being better, with a new crop of students coming in.

I am happy to be free of all the work on the house that hounded me for months, but perhaps we took too extreme a turn away from our spacious and rather luxurious house. Our apartment is big enough, but it’s drafty and there’s no hot tap water in the kitchen, and yesterday, during a rain shower, we discovered that water leaks from the roof into the kitchen through a hole in the ceiling where a bare bulb hangs from bare wire. Perhaps we just need to find a new apartment, but from what I’ve heard such “features” are not all that unusual.

I think about the things that we didn’t like about L.A., and some things that came to mind were the huge numbers of people, the fact that much of the city is frankly ugly, and the crush of cars and the resulting pollution. Unfortunately, Fes has all those things in spades. It has a picturesquely medieval medina, but the streets are so narrow and maze-like that once I’ve been in there an hour or so, I start looking for a way out. Even though there are no cars in there (the streets are not nearly wide enough in most places), there is an incredible amount of foot traffic and some mule and hand-cart traffic, enough that you’re often being yelled at to get out of the way.

The Ville Nouvelle is more like a European city, but the cars and scooters run with very dirty engines, to the point that I can’t stand to sit in a cafe along a big street for very long, because of the fumes. There are way more pedestrians along the Ville Nouvelle streets than you find on L.A. streets, and that’s a good thing, but walking can be hard because of big construction zones and sidewalks in poor condition, and very aggressive drivers.

Perhaps I’ll learn to love the energy of a Moroccan city as I become more a part of it, but I mostly want a beautiful place to live. Outside of the cities Morocco has some beautiful country, but I don’t know if I’m up to rustic village living, either.

More on this later as thoughts develop….

Posted in Musings | 4 Comments »