Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Latest Diet Trend

Since we moved here, I’ve lost a lot of weight. It’s weight I gained while pregnant with Gertrude Bell and then with Arthur Dent and just hung on to. Most of you mommies can relate, right? Well, it turns out my days of wearing those pre-kid clothes in the closet aren’t so far off. Jealous? Don’t be. You can do it too. I’m thinking of turning my success into a series of sure to be bestselling books and dvd’s. Working title: The Third World Developing Nation Diet. Lucky for you, Fellow Adventurers, I’m going to let you in on the basics. Ready?

1.Cut back on dining out.

Most restaurants here don’t open until 7 or 8 pm and that includes delivery and takeout. Since The Little Explorers go to bed at 7ish, the last time we loaded the family up and went out to dinner was…oh…never.

There’s not really any fast food here, either. No mouth watering Chipotle, no controversial Chik-Fil-A, no cool In-N-Out Burger. There is McDonalds. I find it very meh, though, so there is no temptation whatsoever there. As a matter of fact, on more than one occasion The International Man of Intrigue has offered to go pick it up and I’ve said, “Nah, I’d rather cook dinner in our unairconditioned kitchen. How do tacos sound?”

Speaking of our unairconditioned kitchen, that is my next secret:

2.No evening snacking (or not much).

See, that hot kitchen does, in fact, cool down once it gets dark outside, but it’s s-c-c-aaarry! I’m not much of a fraidy cat. I actually feel quite comfortable in our house alone, except for the kitchen, and especially that kitchen after dark. The kitchen is connected to the rest of the house, but it’s really more or less a separate building. I’m sure it was open at one time. There are still a lot of spots where I can see daylight coming in and the windows really don’t keep much out. I’m not entirely sure the roof does, either. Before we knew we were infested with squirrels, squirrels, and more squirrels I’d hear scratching up on the roof, like zombies trying to get in. Then there was the first visiting squirrel—he came in through the kitchen. There are also at least four different species of ants living there. I know there are roaches and spiders too. When I slam that door between the kitchen and the rest of the house after dinner, it stays closed until morning. I’m still kind of scared of what I’ll find in the morning, but at least it’s light outside and the monsters (or ninja monkeys) have probably clocked out for the day. Even going through the dining room to get water is scary. There are these huge reddish brown ants that only come out at night. When you turn on the light, there are always one or two walking across the table. I don’t see them do it during the day. Are they vampire ants? I can’t be sure. So, every evening after dinner, I load up my arms with a pitcher of water, a clean glass, a sippy cup for Arthur Dent, and anything else I think I might need. Once I balance a beer or a Pimm’s Cup on that, there isn’t much room for snacks.

3. I work out, kind of.

If there is one thing I hate more than working out, it’s working out while Jillian Michaels tells me what to do. I don’t like her one bit, but girlfriend knows how to get results fast. I love/hate the 30 Day Shred
because I saw results almost immediately, although I had to look at Jillian Michaels to see them. Granted, yelling at Ms. Michaels from the other side of the TV probably ramps up the cardio of the workout a bit.

When I can’t be at home to shout at my television in the evening, I find other, more insane ways to burn calories. One time I strapped 30 lb Arthur Dent to my back and climbed up around 1,000 steps to the top of the ancient ruins of Sigiriyia, mostly without the assistance of handrails, because there weren’t any. Unfortunately, I didn’t think through the part where I had to climb back down 1,000 stairs with almost no handrails and a 30 lb Little Explorer strapped to my back. It all worked out in the end, but my legs were sore for days afterward.

I admit, that is not the first or last time I’ve used Arthur Dent as a workout. He helped me sweat off several inches at the ridiculously hot Taj Mahal and was more scared than I was climbing the eighty or so stairs and in and out of passages of the Bara Imambara labrynth in India. Even here at home, I often jog up and down the stairs with him more often than I’d like, but my arm muscles do look seriously fine. Too bad no one sees them since it's considered improper in this country to show one's shoulders in public, but not to show one's midriff. True (but another) story.

4.Get sick. Really sick.

I got a touch of a stomach parasite in Dhaka, but recovered easily. Then, there was that trip to Nepal…I loved Nepal. I’d go back in a heartbeat. However, I hope that intestinal parasite that came home with me has been permanently deported from the country. I was pretty close to getting an IV on the floor of an airport in Pokhara at one point. As a testament to just how sick I was, I actually was looking forward to the idea of it. My face was numb and I was giving thoughtful consideration to the idea of just laying face down on the floor of the airport in a third world country. The stream of consciousness in my head went something like, “Oh, God, I am so dehydrated that this water isn’t even helping. I wonder if there is an IV around here? That would really hit the spot. No, probably no IV, but this is a great place for altitude sickness. There has to be an oxygen tank and mask somewhere. Who could I get to give me one of those? Would they make me pass out first? I wonder if I look sick enough. The International Man of Intrigue just looked at me from the ticket desk. Yes, based on his expression I clearly look sick enough for oxygen. My face feels funny. I can’t feel my hands. I really would like some oxygen. If I put my face on the floor would it feel better? Then I wouldn’t have to sit up either. OH, GOD! I MIGHT DIE! I AM SO SICK I’M THINKING ABOUT LAYING ON A 3RD WORLD AIRPORT FLOOR, AND IT SOUNDS GOOD! Somebody just get me a freaking Diet Coke and some oxygen. Why is there no Diet Coke or oxygen in this country?”

Those 6 kilos I lost in two days? I’m not going to lie, while they were totally not worth it, I’m not about to take them back after going through that, either! Oh, and for the record, I did not put my face (or anything other than the soles of my shoes) on the airport floor.

5. My deep, dark secret.

It was bound to come out sooner or later. The fact that I’m telling you makes me a little nervous. Please, don’t hold it against me. Don’t judge me or think crazy things about me. I know where I live. I knew how it was going to be before I moved here.

I hate curry. Not Ann Curry. I actually quite enjoy her (although I gather in my 7 months abroad that she has become as controversial as Chik-fil-a. What is going on over there, you guys?!??). I’m talking about the South Asian diet staple, curry. I hate curry. There. I said it. I am so embarrassed that telling you this is making my stomach hurt. I like naan. Rice is good. Tandoori anything is delicious. I had biryani in the city that claims to make the best biryani in the world, and it was really, really good. I could drink that green chutney stuff out of the dipping dish it’s served in. But curry? Ugh. I’ve tried lamb curry and chicken curry and cashew curry and chickpea curry and fish curry and lentil curry and vegetable curry and potato curry and just about any other kind of curry you can think of. I’ll always try new things. The problem with curry is, even though I’ve tried them all, I dislike them all almost equally. I’m not going to insult this part of the world by telling you all the reasons I don’t care for it, Fellow Adventurers, I’m just going to tell you that I don’t, and that, therefore, anywhere curry is served, I only eat a polite no-thank-you helping and hold out for the next meal, which is usually breakfast.

At breakfast in South Asia, there are donuts. They know how to make some delicious donuts over here, Fellow Adventurers. That’s one little tidbit that won’t be in the dvd or diet book. Now, the real question is, do you think anyone will buy my diet book?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'll have a beer...or a haircut.

Yet another guest post by the International Man of Intrigue. 1. He's funnier than I am at the moment, and 2. I've never gotten my hair cut in this country. (Yes, I look a bit frightful.) Enjoy!- Dorothy

Let’s face facts. A guy needs to have a hair cut every once in a while, especially when that guy is a member the world’s greatest military force. And living in country without fast and cheap military post barber shops can be problematic.

Let me back up a few years. Since going to college I cannot remember an instance where I paid more than $7 for a haircut. In fact, I would hazard to guess that I’ve spent about $5 on average per haircut over the last 17 years. Much of that average is driven down by the fact that my normal job has never necessitated anything other than a high and tight, and many times my hair could be cut by a) a cheap barber, b) a toddler, or c) myself, and few would know the difference.

But now I live on the pearl off the coast of India, and cheap barbers are not easily found. In fact, it took me a few weeks to even identify a barber shop. Part of the problem lies in the fact that barber shops here are not called “Barber Shops.” Instead, they are all called salons. Compounding my difficulty, however, is a strange linguistic quirk derived from British colonization and an accidental acceptance of the wrong word into colloquial Sri Lankan English. Consequently, many salons are not labeled as such at all. Instead, they are often labeled saloons! Now if that hasn’t made for some embarrassing circumstances in which I thought I’d get a beer, but instead left with an eyebrow wax and short side burns.

I finally decided to use the saloon (salon) on the ground floor of the hotel we stayed at during our first month on the island. The price is more than double what I was accustomed to paying in the states, but hey, when in Rome try not to get your hair cut in saloons…er, or something like that. At the end of my first experience I was pleasantly surprised to a) still have hair and b) to have left with my masculinity. After all, it was salon.

So, I’ve been going back to the same place and I think my experience is worth sharing. If for no other reason than posterity, I need the contradiction of my diverse haircut worlds to meet. I normally get my hair cut from the head hair dresser at my Colombo saloon. His name is Nimal and he is one of the shortest Sri Lankans I’ve met, but he has a Napoleon complex to give him height around the shop. He actually struts through the rows of chairs and the saloon, er, salon staff gracefully leap out of his way. He wears a strange little goatee and mustache and has the only Sri Lanka/French accent I’ve ever heard. When he needs something an apprentice runs throughout the shop and hands him whatever it is he needed. Outside the shop I’m not sure he has any social status, but inside he is a god among hair dressers. In their skin tight black matching shirts with the coolest number of buttons undone and freakishly skinny biceps, these lower hair dressers worship Nimal.

I always feel as though I’ve walked into a weird cartoon or horrible sitcom: Due to Nimal’s lack of height, I’m forced to sit in the lowest possible position in the barber chair while Nimal climbs onto a high stool cut my hair. Underlings hover in the background just waiting for Nimal to say, “get me a #3” or “mirror!” I try not to engage in small talk, and perhaps this is why I like Nimal, because he doesn’t make chit chat either. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t regularly cut thin, fine red hair off of unusually handsome American dudes of Irish descent. Maybe it’s because he’s too cool. Maybe it’s because he’s glued to the strange piped in Sri Lankan cable network that is on each TV in front of every barber chair. Oh wait, that’s me!

While I wait for Nimal to figure out how or what he’s doing with my straight forward haircut, I watch some weird TV. Last time it was 1990s music videos. I saw Shania Twain, C&C Music Factory, and a Michael Jackson video I’m pretty sure never aired in the States. Between the throw back videos, the cable channel can’t decide whether to be sponsored by feminine hygiene products or contraceptives. It would not be so strange if I’d seen either of these products advertised anywhere else on the island.

And here I wait. I know that in just a couple weeks I will need another haircut. I am no longer embarrassed to walk into a salon and pay three times the amount I think I should pay for someone to cut my hair. No, next week I’ll call Nimal and ask if he has any openings, and I’ll look for uncomfortable foreigners and hope they enjoy the weird TV selections. Maybe I’ll see if Nimal wants to grab a beer. I wonder what they advertise at saloons, er, bars?

*Disclaimer. Nimal is my barber’s real name and he is incredibly short for someone who walks around like he’s about to punch you in the face. He gave me his card once and asked that I call him instead of the girls at the front desk because, “they’re idiots sometimes.” Yes, I’m going to miss Nimal.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cleanliness is Next to Craziness

Another guest blog by The International Man of Intrigue. I've been busy trying to see if Alice from The Brady Bunch is willing to relocate.

How can I say something like, “our full time housekeeper had the gall to ask me for a raise two days after I threatened to fire her unless she started coming to work on time,” without sounding like a pretentious douche?"

One might respond, “International Man of Intrigue, you cannot say something like, ‘our full time housekeeper had the gall to ask me for a raise two days after I threatened to fire her unless she started coming to work on time,’ without sounding like a pretentious douche.” I, however, beg to differ.

Six months ago we hired “Jasmine” as our housekeeper. It was as much an experiment for us as it was a necessity. We were moving into a huge house with more rooms than we knew what to do with and we had no idea what the daily upkeep would require. Had we known it would involve rodents, floods, and indoor scootering, we might have looked for someone with experience as an EMT.

In the beginning our arrangement worked pretty well. Jasmine speaks Sinhalese and translated for us when bribing the garbage men. And, it turns out that living with squirrels necessitates a full time housekeeper. On top of all that, she does a great job keeping the floors clean in a house where the outside often likes to come inside. Dorothy would add that Jasmine has some mean bed-making skills, too. Plus, she adores our kids and is very trustworthy.

Sure,she has her quirks, and many are endearing. She and Arthur Dent seem to share a common language. She brings treats for the girls after payday. She tells Dorothy CSI: Colombo crime stories in gory detail that she hears from her brother. Wait, that last thing isn’t endearing: It’s kind of scary.

However, as the weeks passed, reality started to surface in our domestic dream. Dorothy and I joked that Jasmine is actually a Cold War-era spy that never got the word it was over because no maid could actually be this bad. Jasmine had never used a washing machine (for clothes or dishes); she had never used a vaccuum; she hates to iron and hid unfinished laundry in the spare room; she used the underside of our spare bedroom mattress as a no-interest savings account; she often left daily tasks unfinished or put certain work off for days; she commonly exhibits a very regional opinion that when things go wrong it is never her fault (even when it clearly is, but a discussion of societal differences of guilt and personal responsibility is an entirely different topic) and she developed the horrible habit of coming to work later and later.

I can put up with a lot. I can even put up with a maid that is no good at maiding, especially in a country where there is a very limited social welfare system and people who want to work ought to be given the chance. Tardiness, however, seems to be my tipping point. And that brings us to the present. I told her last week that she needed to come on time or she couldn’t not-work here anymore. Among some other things that needed to change, I emphasized Dorothy’s continuing commentary that the house begins at a certain time, and Jasmine said, “yes.” However, two days later we were out of our norm and I was home in the morning instead of Dorothy when Jasmine popped the question: “I should get a raise, now, sir?”

A raise? Really? As much as I like the fact that Jasmine is trustworthy, I just can’t bring myself to pay her more money for crappy work. Call me crazy. Call me an educated economic student of Smith, Ricardo, Freeman, and believer in good old fashioned supply and demand. Call me anything, but please, call me after breakfast when I’m waiting for our housekeeper to show up and chasing squirrels from the dining room.