Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Working Through the Time Zones

It is six in the morning, and I am writing this post. That isn't so unusual - I normally get up at four-fifteen these days. But I am nine time zones away from my usual morning coffee on the couch with Erik, and my body hasn't caught up yet.

The girls and I arrived home after three days of travel. All in all it was pretty painless; the kids are so big now that they only need me around to navigate them through Customs and Immigration and pay for the odd sandwich. One flight after another we ate, we watched movies, we squirmed in our seats, we dozed, and we inched ever closer to home.

Our rule, learned from hard experience, is you have to forget your old time zone. (Flying from Toronto to Europe is the worst, because the flight is only eight hours and you land at about seven in the morning, meaning you have to force yourself to stay up for another twelve hours.) Naps are a trap best avoided unless you like waking up for the day at 2am.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Weekend Water Fun

You would think that moving off the boat would mean less time spent in the water. That hasn´t been the case. Our lives still revolve around beaches, snorkelling, cyclones and storms; our focus is just a little different. Instead of wondering: "Do we need to reef the main before that squall hits?" now we ask: "Do the girls need to take an umbrella to school today?"

Saturday dawned on our second swim meet of this term. The girls do Swim Squad every Tuesday after school. They were good swimmers before, but now that they are mastering the actual strokes, they are amazing. It is a strict-but-fair program run on the official Australian rules for the sport, and the girls are eating it with a spoon.

The swim meets of my youth were a sad affair in comparison. No humid indoor rec centre, no chlorine stench, no grey walls and the echos of overeager parents. Instead, we have a lovely 25 m outdoor pool with the tropical breezes blowing and a view of the neighbouring islands. (Someday my girls are going to give me grief about their upbringing, because we have clearly spoiled them rotten.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

At the Fishing Competition

When I was eleven years old, a friend invited me up to her cottage one summer weekend. We had a great time - swimming in the lake, riding around in her dad´s motorboat, running around in the sunshine. And fishing. I´d never been fishing before, but I understood the basics: add worm to hook, drop in water, wait for bite then reel in. Pretty easy.

So my friend and I took our bait and our rods and plonked ourselves down at the end of the dock. The wooden boards were pleasantly warm beneath us. We dangled our feet over the edge, wormed up and threw in our lines.

It didn´t take long to get a nibble. Proud of my great accomplishment, I reeled in my line. There was a sunfish on the end of my hook. I grabbed the fishing glove - a studded green plastic thing that let me hold the fish without getting sliced on its spines. Out came the hook, and I threw my sunfish back in the water.

My friend and I kept fishing. She caught one, and back it went. I got another nibble. I reeled in another sunfish. I peered at it closely.
"I think this is the same fish," I said. "Yes, look, you can see where the hook went through last time." I threw my fish back in. Stupid fish. You would think getting a hook through the face twice in a row would take some of the fun away from eating a delicious worm.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Curse of the Dried Beans

I'm a fan of tinned beans. If I had to guess, I'd say I've mentioned tinned beans on this blog more than any other food. Mostly because dried beans hate me. That's life. But I have a two-part problem: a) they don't sell tinned beans here, and b) I like to cook with beans. This leaves me with the dried bean option.

I like hummus, and they don't sell that here, either. So I broke down and bought a bag of chickpeas. Every few days I would think about making hummus. I'd look at the chickpeas in their plastic package, and recall they had to be soaked overnight. "Oh, well, it is only one o'clock; I'll do that later." And then forget.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Costumes, Hats and Other Odd Traditions

Let's start today with a quiz. Complete the following sentence: Tuesday was ________.

Most of you will have finished that off with phrases like "rainy" or "a pretty good day". But if you are Australian, you definitely said: Tuesday was Melbourne Cup. Still lost? It's a horse race. More accurately, it is the horse race that brings the nation to a standstill.

For a race that lasts less than 200 seconds, that is a pretty impressive feat. Not only is it a public holiday in Melbourne, but the rest of the country shuts down (officially or not) from about noon onwards in order to drink champagne, watch pop stars perform, and wear funny hats.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Preparing for Tropical Hallowe'en


Sorry, no time to talk. It's Hallowe'en, and I am trying to get ready. I have a very busy schedule of ordering/receiving proper treats from North America (check), making decorations (check), and explaining what Hallowe'en is to people who run the gamut from "oh, yeah, that's an American thing," to "never heard of it and why are you torturing that watermelon?" (ongoing).

Like all immigrants, I am appalled that my deeply cherished traditions are not immediately understood and embraced by my new land. It rocks me to my core that there are people out there who don't understand Hallowe'en, best of all the holidays, night of imagination and unlimited chocolate. I would have thought that Hallowe'en was about as high-concept as a holiday could be: children become actual monsters to rule the night. Where is the confusion? Plus, Hallowe'en boasts more apostrophes than any other holiday, and that is just plain fun.

I have put my shock and dismay behind me and have moved on to Phase II of the Immigrant Holiday Experience: how do I adapt the crucial parts of my traditions to suit this new place? For example, what to do about a jack o' lantern? (See, another apostrophe.) Pumpkins aren't exactly thick on the ground, here.

As a public service, I hereby present this handy primer on celebrating Hallowe'en in the tropics:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sickness and Children Running Free

There is something particularly galling about suffering a head cold in the tropics. All this warm weather is supposed to keep the germs away - isn't that what I told myself every miserable February as the kids stumbled home in -20 C weather, shooting phlegm out of every orifice? I was certain all this would be solved by a week in the sun.

Well, guess what. No. This head cold has swept through town like a hurricane, and now it is my turn to run through tissues and fight to keep the virus out of my lungs by sheer force of will.

All of which makes me cranky. And what is the lady about town to do with her crankiness when she wants to air it out? Why, lay it at the feet of her children, naturally! So let's see how I've done.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When I Wake Up

At 6:15 on Saturday morning, I found myself losing at Monopoly to Indy. This is noteworthy not because I was getting trounced by a six-year-old, but rather because I was up, dressed, fed and already losing a board game at quarter past six.

Truth is, I had been up for two hours already.

I have never been a morning person. I leave Disease J to those better suited to it. Still, if you do a thing long enough, you get used to it. Between Indy, sailing, and living in the tropics, I have learned to scroll back my wake-up time. But I really thought that waking at 5:45am every morning - as required to get the kids to school on time in New Caledonia - was my low-water mark. I should have known I could count on my dear husband, The Envelope Pusher, to take a job that required him at work at by sunrise.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Anything to Fix Today?

Last Christmas, Indy wanted two things: a disco ball, and a tool kit. (She also wanted a dragon, but I'm afraid that was never in the cards.) Indy got her disco ball. And she got her tool kit. And, boy, was she excited.



Ever since, Indy has been looking for projects. Her current career goal is to become a mechanical engineer, so the kid needs some practice. Admittedly, non-emergency repairs were thin on the ground while I was in charge of the boat. But she pulled out the ratchet set whenever she could, just to make sure the pieces were still in order.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Follow Me, SAILfeed Readers


As you know, the fine crew of Papillon is currently living ashore. Yes, we're still firmly tropical on a tiny island in Papua New Guinea, but still. We are temporarily parted from our beloved yawl - and this on our fourth anniversary aboard. Sniffles all around.

For the duration of our sabbatical-from-our-sabbatical, the blog will not be syndicated on SAILfeed. This makes sense, because we are not sailing. So, dear SAILfeed readers, you will have to bookmark the original Sailing Papillon if you would like to keep up with our adventures. Otherwise, I'll be back on SAILfeed circa April with cruising stories galore. (But, really, you don't want to wait that long for me to come back. Better just to keep reading. Off you go, now.)

See you there.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I'm Tired of Finding Plastic on the Beach

 
Imagine a desert island. Ocean breezes blowing, palm trees swaying, perhaps some decorative coconuts strewn about the place. Just you, your beach chair, the waves lapping your toes, and the gentle clink of plastic bottles washing up on shore.

Not quite what you pictured? After four years aboard, I am sorry to say that this is reality. Every windward beach has plastic. Unless someone works every day to clean it, flip flops and plastic bottles are the order of the day. Everywhere. And I am sick of it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

At Home in Papua New Guinea

I´ve unpacked the bags and stowed the suitcases. No more waiting around for visas, no more airplane rides - we´re home now, and I plan to be sessile for the foreseeable future. The island is beautiful, our neighbours are friendly, and I have no reason to move off my porch.

Except, a troop of kids are marching up my driveway. And we´ve been invited to the pool. And a barbecue. Disco in the park. Movies, neighborhood-wide hide-and-seek... complete fun overload. I think I need another cup of tea.
 
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