Tag Archives: friends

Lessons learned, December

I realized that I’m past the low point in the culture shock curve when I spent my whole time in Canada calling Amman “home,” and when I was hit with a powerful craving for Habiba’s kanafeh (that I haven’t been able to sate because downtown is still flooded with snow runoff) while describing the food to my friends. I don’t know that Amman will ever be my favourite place in the world, but it’s beginning to feel like my place. I know where to find my favourite falafel, I have a preferred brand of squeaky halloumi cheese, and I’m gradually replacing my broken standard arabic with broken Jordanian arabic.

Nevertheless, it was nice to take a breather. Some things I learned on this trip:

Do whatever it takes to get into the business class lounge at the airport, especially if you’re planning on sleeping there. Germans will not bend the rules, Jordanians will.

If you take 8 flights in less than 120 hours, your ankles will swell hideously. It’s temporary but alarming, a good reminder of why christmas cookies should not be a year-round event.

I grew up in the most secular family environment possible, a natural born atheist, although thankfully not the internet kind. At Eric’s grandmother’s funeral, I spent an inordinate amount of time frantically flipping through the program while his sisters laughed at me, wondering how everyone else knew the words already (as it turns out, the lord’s prayer is rather well-known). But first corinthians will make me cry every single time, most particularly when watching two of our lovely friends get married beside a nativity scene with camels in the manger.

Spending a week in familiar territory is restorative magic. Memories of trail runs in the snow, buttery prosciutto, and the sound of friends’ laughter (although they vary from peals to snorts, I love them all) can be stored up like water for a return to the desert.

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Back

it’s pomegranate season

Some people are able to pull together intricately planned yet effortless-seeming parties, whereas my attempts at decorations usually start and end with clearing the junk mail out of our salad bowl. When we decided to get married, the choice to forego wedding planning alongside an international move was easy, but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy weddings – I like the ritual, the gathering of such a varied assortment of people who all have at least two very happy things in common, and the fact that there’s cake.

One of the problems with moving abroad was that we knew we’d be missing milestones back home; the parties and concerts and latte flavours that mark a calendar like zodiac signs. Sure enough, we missed a real wingdinger less than two weeks after we left – allegedly, there was lobster and poetry and dancing till dawn, during which two of our closest friends promised to love each other always. I’ll forever resent the predecessor of my predecessor’s predecessor, or whoever it was who set off the domino effect of rotating foreign service officers all replacing each other – every year there must be one terrible individual who up and leaves post in June and ruins everything for the rest of us. I hope they get posted to Siberia.

The curse of working abroad is, unsurprisingly (to everyone but me), that you have to work. Abroad! So while we live somewhere exotic and far-off, I get the same amount of holidays as I did back in Ottawa, along with the same desk chair and black ruled notebooks. And what would be a weekend trip for a wedding requires plane tickets and precious vacation days. I may be a three hour drive from a wonder of the world, but I realize now that I was overly ambitious in the planning our vacations department.

This winter, our calendars, air miles, and holidays lined up to allow us to fly back home for another friend’s wedding (but sadly, not yet another that will happen just three weeks after). I wasn’t immediately sold on returning to Canada so shortly after we’d left – I’ve just spent the better part of 26 years there and felt that my time should be henceforth devoted to exploring other, warmer corners of the earth – but the siren song of my parent’s couch, runs along the lake, and all the oysters and pork I can eat is compelling, and now we’re booked in, prepping shopping lists and harebrained schemes to beat jet-lag.

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see you in the car

Eric and I thought that we could avoid a big to-do by eloping, but our mothers were not to be so easily deterred. Last weekend, our families and friends gathered in a barn in Southern Ontario to celebrate slash say goodbye. It was a beautiful day, and our moms prepared a lavish spread of way too much delicious food (so good that I’m only a tiny bit mad that my mom put the kibosh on my idea of having it catered by a middle eastern restaurant – “your grandmother won’t eat that stuff.” Fair point, mom).

some of our uni friends who made the trip

some of our uni friends who made the trip

My sole contribution was showing up with three trays of black-market baklava (I mean, I think it was on the up and up, but it did give me a delicious thrill to call a restaurant to inquire about baklava, and be told to call back in half an hour for a special price), and posing for some requisite cake-slicing-and-smearing-icing-on-Eric photos.

Sometimes I'm too predictable

Sometimes I’m too predictable

It was a fabulous time, and totally cemented my opinion that eloping and partying afterwards was 100% the right decision for me (but as a selfish lover of attending weddings, I do not recommend it for any of my friends).

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Brunch Party

I used to think I didn’t like brunch. All those overcooked eggs, cold toast, terrible coffee. It’s at a weird time of day so I’m guaranteed to be either grumpy-starving or not really hungry. And if you just want yogurt, it’s $12.

Then I realized that the problem was just terrible restaurants (I’m looking at you, Cora’s). Brunch at its best is a way to elevate humble breakfast dishes into something dinner worthy, but after you’re pleasantly ever-so-slightly-overfull you have the afternoon to walk or bike it off. It’s a meal to languish over, to eat a full plate of desserts, to drink coffee and mimosas at the same time.

So I decided to throw a brunch party to bring all of those wonderful qualities to our kitchen (err, well, common room of our building). I made what felt like too much food (but wasn’t), Eric mixed a big jug of caesars, and we had twenty-odd lovely people come  over and share a not-quite-breakfast, not-quite-lunch meal with us.

 

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Holinights

While I do enjoy the holidays, I find the speed at which December flies by rather disconcerting. It seems like seconds ago that I stepped off a plane from Haiti, and five minutes before that, we were eating cookies in sunny New York.

snow-free in the GTA

We spent about 5 days at my parent’s house, and Eric’s family came to celebrate with us on Christmas. Despite receiving nothing but raised eyebrows when I shared this plan with people (something about inlaws being crazy), we had a really great time. I did end up feeling a bit guilty when I realized that we see my family a lot more than his, but I suspect that this is because my family tends to be really pushy (in a well-intentioned way, of course) whereas Eric’s is more laissez-faire about things.

We were also able to see most of our friends in the region, and extract promises of visits to both Ottawa (in the short-term) and Jordan (in the long-term). Explaining to people that we’re moving to the Middle East for three years has not helped to solidify the idea in my mind; it still seems like we’re going on a very long vacation.

Although the current weather is making Amman very appealing, I’m nonetheless glad to be back in Ottawa for now. I want to appreciate the parts of winter that I enjoy, since I’m likely to pine for snow (at least a little bit) next year, or at least for soup.

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Foot in mouth disease

I’ve been having a horrible recurring thing happen lately. I’ll be talking with friends, and all of a sudden a part of my brain starts going “stop! Stop talking right now!” BUT I KEEP TALKING. And then pretty soon, my brain is smacking itself on the forehead and muttering “you’ve done it now, Meaghan.”

So I’m trying to remind myself that I should think, then speak, instead of attempting both simultaneously. And also that I don’t need to contribute to every. single. discussion going on within a 15 meter radius in order to stay relevant in people’s lives.

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No, I’ll not take half

It must come from being an only child, but I have trouble sharing. I count myself lucky that Eric doesn’t seem to mind that I’m always clambering for the corner piece, the latte with better foam, the window seat. I’m better about small things as I get older, but it still really irks me when I share a dream with a friend and they casually drop that they lived it last weekend because it sounded like a great idea.

Please share your immature behaviour in the comments so that I don’t feel like such a selfish jerk.

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flounce

our manic mugs

Every year when springtime finally rolls around I’m pleasantly shocked by how nice Ottawa is. Somehow the long winters are so effective in bleaching my memory of warm weather. I also forget how early the sun rises directly into our bedroom window, making for early weekend mornings. All the more time to drink coffee, I say.

We helped surprise a friend for his birthday brunch at our current favourite restaurant, which was masterminded by his awesome girlfriend. If we can stay up that late, we’re due to surprise him again at a not-as-local dancing establishment this evening – I think that she had 5 surprises planned for him overall.

Our summer is shaping up to be as busy as they always are, and fall even more so. If I may be cryptic (it is my blog, after all), plans are coming together nicely.

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Helicopter Family

This blog might be interesting to some of my friends. I’ll never know, though, because I can never share it on facebook (and I’m too embarrassed to outright email the address to them). Why can’t I share it? Because I made the mistake of adding my mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother back before the full consequences of that terrible decision were known.

Since then, some if not all of them (except my grandmother) have found me on twitter, on pinterest, on instagram… every form of social media. The worst part is that at least on facebook, I can control how much they see. On the rest (especially pinterest), I’m powerless to block them.

I like my family a lot. But I don’t think they understand how significant social media is for people my age. If they did, they’d surely realise that they’re doing the equivalent of tagging along to the mall with my friends and I, saying they need something at Pillows and Crap, only to “run into us” in the food court and pull up a stool for the latest gossip.

Now, my mother used to actually do that, so maybe she does realise. But it’s frustrating. I think that to them, it’s hurtful – why would I want to share more with total strangers on the internet than with them? Well, for the same reason that you sometimes open up to complete strangers – on the bus, at a party – there’s no context for people, so it’s easier to get a sympathetic ear, some unbiased judgement, a laugh. When you talk about a rough break-up to a near-stranger, they don’t say, “well you didn’t exactly treat him well either!” And when you pin cute short-shorts or a sparkly ring, nobody comments that you never would have fit into those in high school and just what, exactly, does that ring mean, hmmmm?

And I’m too invested to create new accounts on everything (except Pinterest – maybe I should do it now, while it’s early!). But facebook? I have over 6 years of photos, funny wall posts, and an inbox full of people’s addresses and cell phone numbers (JUST KIDDING, HACKERS!) that I’d face losing. What a bummer that would be!

I’m actually worried that my blog shows up in google now (but too vain to take it out). Maybe I should change the name to something much more vague – Hepzibah’s Corner? It’s not that I have anything embarrassing on here (precisely because it’s google-able, and uses my name) but I just don’t like sharing every single detail of my life with my family – considering that I’m stuck with them forever, it’s too much like handing over ammunition (I feel like I’m making my family sound awful, and they’re not – I love them and they’re all very sweet – but underneath my very open and loud exterior I’m quite private and shy. Nobody ever believes me).

So, I guess I’ll keep at it, and maybe one day I’ll get up the nerve to say something tactful – I’m a diplomat in training, right? Terrifying.

How do you draw the line with family on social media? Are they blocked out? Or are you an open book?

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Next Year’s Christmas Card?

If only we could photoshop Gatsby in somehow….

We had a great time in Kingston last weekend with friends from university, although I’ve been trying to catch up on sleep ever since. Apparently, I’m really old now, but between the (very) late night on Saturday and my super-busy work week, I’m exhausted.

Luckily, we’re spending tonight in our pjs, watching Home Alone, and we have the right kind of bread to make french toast.

What’s your favourite way to relax after a crazy week?

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