Sunday, December 8, 2013

Making Salsa with a Soup Ladle

I’m half my mom and half my dad, maybe 60/40. Sixty percent rainbows and unicorns, creativity and eternal optimism and forty percent creative, No BS, “Will of Ox.” On a normal day I expend just about that and when one is used up, I break straight into the second like our backyard generator; sometimes you don’t even know the power went out, but suddenly you’re on reserves. Some days they are intermixed like a finely woven rug of magical ass kicking all of which is needed for survival in this sometimes uniquely challenging lifestyle.

I usually give you the rainbows here, because even though the water here is toxic as hell,  I'm still a "Glass is half-full" kind of girl. Also, because this blog is ultimately the diary of our family, and while I want to keep it real, I also want the kids to know that despite the bad stuff, the good always prevails.

What we are experiencing in our house right now is what I like to call “Survival Mode.” Survival Mode is when we are completely out of our family routine, we have none of our stuff and we are making salsa with a butter knife, both literally and figuratively. 

It’s like camping in a multimillion-dollar house, that has nothing practical in it.

“Here is your five bedroom house, filled with beautiful (albeit creatively dead furnishings) but please, go make a beautiful dinner for your family that makes your new home really feel like home, salsa perhaps, and chop all the ingredients with a soup ladle. Enjoy!”

I hear myself saying things like:

“I finished off the wine because I needed to use the bottle as a rolling pin.”

“Are you ok with eating soup off of plate, because our three bowls are dirty?”

“The cheese grater won’t grate cheese, but try the slotted spoon!”

We are in a country this time around that speaks English, or so I heard. It’s really more like “Tamlish” Sentences that are several minutes long will only include three English words, “Ladies” “Gentlemen” and “No problem.” When I do understand the things they are saying, I don’t quite believe the things they are saying:

“You won’t have snakes because you have a mongoose, but because you don’t have snakes you may have rats.”  

Which, yes, we did have. So I don’t know whether to get a snake or get rid of the mongoose.

"Green snakes are not poisonous, NO NO madam, don't worry, not poisonous. Green snakes, they only attack your eyeballs."

So I'm wearing lab goggles on a regular basis even though: Mongoose! So I think I'm safe.

I was also told yesterday “Don’t use your air conditioner because it uses a lot of energy, but don’t open your windows because you will have mosquitoes.”  To which I was unable to respond because I was still running on the power of the unicorn.

I think, sadly, people often fear that the people that will be the most dangerous and rude to them when they arrive in a new country are the locals. I've learned that often the most toxic people, though very few and far between are other Americans, or other disgruntled expats.

Tuesday was a battle of wills and I felt like I was losing. You see we are provided our travel and our housing, even some of our utilities, but the State Department does not tell us how to live, until yesterday that is. I was almost positive the rat problem had been solved, but apparently they come in through the front door, too.

The most important thing we do when we arrive in a new country is to make our home safe both physically and emotionally and when someone dares to mess with that, I trade my fuzzy unicorn spire for my ox horns like Superman, but I don't mess around with the phone booth. But, I was blindsided and out of respect for one of my husbands peers I took a beating that I later beat myself up so badly for  taking "Thank you ma'am may I have another condescending speech on how to live my life," that I vowed to not let it happen to another innocent newcomer again. May she regret tousling my magical mane forevermore.

I am certain that by now I could most likely win the new Food Network show, “Cutthroat Kitchen” making Beef Wellington with my hands tied behind my back, blindfolded, in bare feet, standing on a bed of coals, fired by cow dung. The show’s premise is that contestants are given a menu to cook, and the other competitors can use their cash to buy your knives, pans, stove, etc. They can buy it all, I'll still win.

"Tonight on Cutthroat Kitchen: Elise vs. The State Department."

Recreating our home is always headed up by cooking my favorite meals for my family, eventually even cooking those same meals that actually turn out like my favorite meals.

There is a learning curve in each new country and I have come to believe that part of the training to become a chef should include being dropped in an unfamiliar kitchen, ten-zillion miles from home and left to scour new markets in a foreign language and nothing but a dull butter knife to prepare the meal with.

I can now make you lasagna in three different languages on nearly any side of the world and mostly always with a smile on my face. I can make you corn muffins on a cookie sheet with whole corn kernels and a single wet match.

We’ve had our ups and our downs in the past few week. Rats, homesickness and the weight of millions of miles on our hearts..

But, we pull together, not apart. I go to bed on empty, but I always wake up again ready to fight, pixie dust or long horns.

1 comment:

st said...

beautiful beautiful post. Your honesty is amazing and your humor is infectious. Thank you for your blog and for providing some insight into your life in India as that may very well be on the 175th A-100 bid list in January. - Sarah