France · Life · Life On The Road · Lost In Translation · love · Short Notes

Lost In Translation, Yet Again

Once in a while the strangest blonde moment creeps up — no offense to the blondes, just using it as a cliche — that truly embarrasses me. We were driving along the dusty backroads of the French countryside (Normandie!) when the Hubby looks skywards sharply, points a finger, and says “Hawk!”.

Me (puzzled and looking up): PORK?  (I swear I heard him say “Pawk”, as in the British pronunciation for “Pork”)

Hubby (even more puzzled): HAWK! Big bird. Hawk!

Me (realizing the absurdity of a high-flying piece of meat, and trying to be cool about the sudden drop of IQ): Oh, HAWK, right. ok.

Hubby: Pork?  Why would I say “Pork”?  I was pointing at the sky….

Me: I don’t know.  That’s what I thought I heard.  But hey, you never know. You know what they say —  “when pigs fly….”

Nonstop shaking of head and laughing between us. You’d think by now these lost-in-translation moments would long have banished.  Oy vey.

Wall Art in Nottingham, UK
Wall Art in Nottingham, UK
Life · love · Photography · Travel

Year in Perspective

MMXI is due in 3 hours.  Hubby and I still hem and haw whether or not to hop on the bus (it’s free anyway) to Navy Pier to watch the midnight fireworks.  We’re hearing the 8:15 fireworks (the “family bash” session) from our apartment and can see little flashes towards the east of our mainly south view directly at the city.  Another bigger display is due at midnight.  Meanwhile, I cannot let the month and year past without a last post so here, a quick look back at the year that was.

1.  The year started with the passing away of my father– and this means that from here on, Life is changed in a significant way and it will just never be totally complete.  But it is true how when the rug is pulled from under your feet you realize who your true friends are:  classmates from high school and university many long lost and suddenly rediscovered, colleagues, former assistants who made themselves on call for errands, cousins who are almost our siblings.  And most importantly, it has made me treasure my mother even more, as I know I have much to catch up with her.

2.  Adjusting to Life in the UK is ongoing, slowly but surely.  I’ve long been able to move around on public transport on my own.  I am doing my share to put our new home together.  I am meeting C’s friends and carrying on longer conversations with them, with sharper ears now keener to their accents.   I have favorite restaurants and favorite shops now.  And I have met my first friend on my own, a wonderful American expat who is uber-smart, funny, and fun to hang around with. I have yet to get that driver’s license (but let me get over “the big switch” from the wrong side of the road to the right and proper one ;p), and take time to sit for the England & Wales Bar Exam.  But the hope is that this year I will not use the transitoriness of my stays on either side of the pond as excuse not to get things done.

3.  I visited Paris for the first time in my life.  :)  In celebration of our first year of marriage.  E-tickets for our paper anniversary.

4.  I’ve joined a group of 4 other enthusiasts to put up a daily photoblog. I’m learning to tinker more with the camera, often taking long solitary drives to the strangest places for a photo op.  And the hubby has been supportive by supplying me, unasked, with gadgetry and accessories to go with the camera (haha).  More than that, when I suggest to him that I want to take a picture in this or that place, he almost always goes along with my crazy ideas, drives me to the destination, and helps me set up the camera.  It’s only when he starts to direct me how to do the picture (he being a former photography enthusiast) that the battle of wills between us rears its head.  Did I ever tell you of that time we tried to catch the August moon?  Good that I didn’t.  Let me just say that I was told in no uncertain terms to read the manual first next time we set out on a cold, dark night for a photo shoot.

5.  In March, on the very day I was driving back to Chicago from CowTown having concluded my work with a major client, I learn that the file room and accounting office burned down (about 40% of the office space).  What to do but to make a U-turn and head back?  My own office was water-damaged.  There was no power for the duration of the restoration.  Operations were done in the big conference room, public-library style.  My laptop did its bit with a big-time sympathy crash (blue screen of death) and I had to delay return to the UK for quite a bit until things were put together, records reconstituted as best as able, systems put back in place and the life of the company can go on as normally as possible.  As with most major trials, everyone pulled together and worked doubly hard with the most limited resources.   All this during a peak busy period.  Today, the stitches don’t even seem to show.

6.  Health is alright.  The eyesight has reached that interesting stage where I have to take my glasses off when I read.  Meanwhile, hubby and I are contemplating whether adoption is something for us (the social worker will not be very impressed with our travelling lifestyle though).  On matters like this, I often wish there was some wise sage who can just tell me what the correct answer is.  Just tell me, I’ll do it.  This is one of those tough essay questions Life has hurled at us; and it’s constantly whirling in my mind on those long drives, or when I wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep.   I shampooed my hair thrice in the shower once, lost in thought over this, and that’s when I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to set reflecting aside for a while.  Result that day:  dry Medusa hair.

7.  Career is alright.  I now have contract work with an American firm in London, in addition to my busy little independent practice in the US.  Hubby is busier than ever working in power plants.  I still cannot answer for sure when people ask me what EXACTLY he does.  It’s too narrow and specialized a field to describe.  Most of the time it’s just easier to say he works in a power plant much like Homer Simpson.

8.  Relationship with hubby is wonderful and edifying.  Our families are safe and well.  If just for these, I already cannot be thankful enough.  And thus bittersweet as the year has been I will say 2010 has been good.

Asian · Birthday · Food · Life · love · People

“I’m A Celebrity. Get Me Out of Your Camera”

Ever had one of those panic-filled, embarassing moments when you wished you could instantaneously burrow a hole into the ground and hide in it?  Happened to me right on my recent birthday.  And it involved a “celebrity” of sorts.  So read on.

To celebrate the day, C and I decided to cap it with dinner at a Japanese restaurant.  C picked Sapporo Teppanyaki at the Castlefield Centre (Manchester).  He had been to the one on Duke Street in Liverpool a year ago and had raved about some of the “tenderest beef” he has ever tasted.    We arrived around 7.  The place was sparsely filled, with only one group seating full.*   We sat next to a newly dating, couple,**  them to my left, and C to my right.  We had the spicy tuna for starters, and I ordered the lobster teppanyaki and C got the beef fillet in teriyaki sauce.***

While into our starters, another couple came in and were seated next to us.  The woman sat next to Craig while her husband (hereinafter referred to as “Mystery Man“) was further over to her other side.  They pored over the menu for a while and the woman occasionally turned to C with polite conversation (e.g., have we ever been to this place before, were we celebrating something, pointers how/what to order, etc..).  Later, C quietly turned to me and whispered that he thought Mystery Man looked familiar and that he might be in some program on TV.  He couldn’t remember his name though and said he had a funny feeling it was “Nick Something“.  In attempt to quench his curiosity though, C took out his spankin’-new Android phone (which he hates) and began his Google-sleuthing, angling the phone away from the woman beside to avoid detection.  Every now and then, we turned back to polite chit-chat with our seat-mates and “oooohed” and “aaaahed” along at the chef’s knife- and flame-throwing maneuvers.****  After some time though, C frustratingly complained that the dang Android phone wasn’t coming up with answers.   In the tone of a mastermind to his accomplice, C told me to “look closely at the guy, and remember what he looks like.  When we get home, we can google again and see if he is who I think he is.”  Hmmmm….  The thing is, I really am not very good at this.  C had given me a similar assignment a couple of months earlier.  We were visiting Fountains Abbey when he told me that one of the women in our group might be an actress in a daytime soap, whose name he could not recall.  He had then told me to “memorize her face” so that we can do our google- and wiki-research when we got home.  The problem is, I had not quite developed “English eyes” yet (still haven’t) :  i.e., Every platinum haired, skinny, put-together English, stylish, middle-aged woman looked like Helen Mirren to me.  So when we got home then, the Google “identify-the-mystery-person” project failed largely because none of the possible results matched the image in my head — which was … Helen Mirren, and of course, we weren’t looking for Helen Mirren.

But back from the tangent, back to earth, back to Sapporo Teppanyaki. I groaned back to the Godfather :  “Not again!  I can’t do this!  I don’t know who he is.  I can’t tell him from Adam, and I don’t think I can remember his face”.   The guy, FYI, looked the typical pale, slim, British nerdy/geeky cute, — which is every third or fourth male person you see on the street.   But still, wanting to be helpful, I thought of the next best thing.  I pulled out my ol’ reliable iPhone, and pretended to be taking pictures of C, when in fact, the camera was trained beyond him…. right onto Mystery Man.  And so while a commotion was going on as the Chef danced on the next table, I clicked and clicked on Mystery Man.  Now how’s that for “documentation”?  Pat on the back, Miss Chicago.  Well done.

Towards the end of the meal, at that the uneasy lull between wrapping up the main courses and the dessert menu came chit-chat again.  C feebly toyed with his Android phone, and we decided to snap a picture of ourselves.  But the Android was new, and C fumbled through the menus to get to the camera.  So I, being the fabulous techie that I am, puledl out my iPhone and clumsily tried to take shots from the front facing camera.   And this is where the drama/action begins. Suddenly, Mystery Man gallantly comes to the rescue… when he volunteers to take the pictures for us.  UH-OH.  Anyone with an iPhone would know that the camera always displays at the bottom left corner, the last picture taken.  And in this case, it would precisely be that one of MR. MYSTERY MAN himself.  Once he held the iPhone, he would see that I had surreptitiously taken shots of him! Flustered, I tried to “clue” the hubby into the situation we were in.  He was, of course, blissfully clueless.  At this point, I tried to take any — any — random shot with the camera just to block the last shot recorded and jabbered something about setting the camera up (as delaying tactic).  But I fumbled and failed.  Mystery Man assured us not to worry —    “I am familiar with this, ” says he, “I know how to work it.”  Wow, ok.  Off from my hands and into Mystery Man’s…. the camera with Mystery Man’s own picture as the last shot.  I’ll never know if Mystery Man caught the photo that I took.  Most likely he did.  But he was nonchalant enough, or polite enough, to not say nothing of it.   When he left to go to the rest rooms, C finally asked the wife point if he was the host of some regional (Northwest) TV show.  She said yes, but clarified that he worked for national television.  He was with the BBC Breakfast show.  Apparently, the BBC is relocating some of his studios out of London and into Salford (in the case of the Breakfast Show).  And thus Mr. and Mrs. ________’s look-see into Manchester.  Below is the picture.  Can you guess who he is?  (Clue:  No, his first name is not Nick.  But it has one syllable.)

Final Notes:  The food was excellent.  The couples on either side of us were very nice.  The day was perfect.  Happy, funny, birthday to me.

_____________________________

FOOTNOTES:

*Usual Japanese teppnayaki style : 4 long tables connected on the ends to form a big square.  One-sided bar-style seating, with the chef(s) performing in the middle in front of a modern gas-powered teppanyaki griddle.

** Of course, I knew they were newly dating.  Women can “sense” these things.  And sometimes we overhear conversations.  Accidentally, of course.  :)

***  Wow, did I really just list down what we ordered/ate?  Can’t believe I did that.

****Ok, so I am slightly more blase in general but let it not be said that I could not feign enthusiasm enthusiastically.

POST POSTSCRIPT:  04/21/2011.  Mr. Turnbull will be staying on with the BBC Breakfast show and will be making the move up north.  Go Manchestah!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12920382

CowTown · Life · Lost In Translation · love

Wii Don’t Need That

From my desk in Chicago.

A chunk of my time when I am in the US is spent outside of Chicago. In “CowTown” as I call it, — a busy little city at a corner of a state that shares a border with Illinois. The reason for the prolonged stop here is one of my major clients. I drive down from Chicago to do practically what an in-house counsel does: make sure everything is in order from ongoing litigation, to their labor, tax, immigration, contract, and business matters. Often I collaborate with local practitioners (by “local” I mean those licensed to appear in court in that state), which often makes me wonder whether or not I should just make life simpler and apply for reciprocity in this little state to add to my New York one. But that would mean less fraternizing with other practitioners (the banter can be fun), and more work for me (bad). Better not. And anyway, the travel to CowTown is but fair. The client pays for my plane fare to and from. Who am I to complain? Until I slow down and prepare to sit for the QLTT, and qualify myself as a solicitor in jolly olde England and Wales, Life will continue to be bi-coastal. Or maybe I should reinvent myself and do something other than lawyering. Maybe tight-rope walking or aeronautic engineering. Did I go on a tangent? Back to the topic. Small towns/cities. Ah yes, small towns and cities, such as good ol’ CowTown, DO have their charm. Life is slower. Streets have no sidewalks. Food is greasy. Walmart is busy (at night it also becomes Meth Central). People take time to smile and chat. People behind the counters are sunshiney and chirpy, and… can we just cut the crap and get the lines moving quicker please!?

And quite unlike it is in Chi-Town, people here in CowTown have their gym in a box. Yup. The handful that I know have a common denominator : a Wii console with all the bells and whistles, which they use for exercise. What a beauty. Recently, I even got to run a virtual bike race at “Wii Resort” against a 4-year old with pigtails. I need not tell you who between us got to the finish line first, and who pointed her little finger upwards and laughed a hearty “hahahha you lose!”. Suffice it to say that, well… it wasn’t me, and mostly it was because I didn’t quite know the rules of the game which included, inter alia, that I had to go slow on the pedalling once in a while, to manage my energy level lest I get disabled and dizzy and faint. At least onscreen. Which is precisely what happened. Ceteris paribus therefore not knowing the rules caused me to lose to someone 1/10th my age. I do not care if you’re thinking the lady protests too much. It’s always good defense: I-didn’t-know-the-rules-and-that-I-could-slash-could-not-do-that. Good faith always accounts for something. Even in Wii matches. And believe it or not, all the humiliation of losing actually made me more interested to get my hands on one of those gadgets. I checked out Best Buy. A “bundled” set for 2 players would cost $260 at Best Buy (with sales taxes a third lower than Chicago), and the basic set for a single player is a $199 special at Target. I asked the guy at Best Buy if the baby will work in the UK, and he assured me that I only need an “adaptor” to plug into the electric socket. But otherwise, the toy is, for all intents and purposes, multi-jurisdictional.

And so that afternoon over the phone, as the 6-hours-ahead hubby called to say good night, I deliver the important news: “Sweetheart (*you need a term of endearment in these times), we really, really need to get a Wii.” NEED. Not just want. We need it for exercise. As flab-buster. To maintain good health and wellbeing. The other end of the line is quiet. The hubby is appalled. He is a non-believer of virtual life. Methuselah thinks exercise should entail gym equipment, a racket, a ball, wheels, or at least REAL sunshine. He tells me he can’t believe I am going the way of the young and misguided who type before they can write, and who live full lives in the Non-Real realm. And then he throws me this punch: “And what will they think of next? Wii sex?” Then it was my turn to be quiet. — NOW WHERE ON EARTH IS MY BADMINTON RACKET?

Some shots from the weekend (scroll pointer over photos for description):

(c) smallbatteryball photography
Life · Life On The Road · love · UK · Wedding

Home Finally

Threat of more Icelandic ashes notwithstanding, I arrived in Manchester early this morning, UK time.  The 2 months that I’ve been in the US while C is in the UK is the longest we’ve been apart since we got married a year ago.  The length of time apart is part collective decision, but it also had to do with a seeming series of unfortunate events that sprouted one after the other in this trip:  A key client’s file/records room and accounting room (i.e., yup the one in CowTown) burned down requiring tedious reconstitution of lost documents.  The volcanic eruption in Iceland that closed the skies from air transport, and the skyrocketing of ticket prices once flight resumed.  A settlement proposal that went awry in an admin case now headed the direction of a heated trial, among other things = which of course translates to even more heated preps.  Admittedly, after Dad passed away, I suddenly left everything behind in the US for a month.  Imagine the backlog of work I came back to. And that’s just MY side of the situation.  But all’s well and ended.  Nothing beats the priceless feeling of gratefulness and happiness running into those welcoming arms at the airport.

I’ve often been asked how C and I manage our marriage where we often have to be apart.   I can give the sacchariferous, syrupy answer that others may tend to give about how Love having no bounds in time or space.  But in reality, I know it’s not all about Love.  At least, not solely.  It’s only that we are aware and accepting that our married life together defies convention.  We married in our 40’s — both our first, and none of us having kids previously.  Each of us having ongoing busy careers (both professions, actually) which we are passionate about.  C having projects (power plant projects) tied up for the next coming years.  My own expat life extending even before the US.  My transitioning to practicing law in the UK requiring yet another Bar exam to hurdle; and in the meanwhile a US client willing to shoulder all costs relating to travel and stay in the US for work every 2 months.  For now, maintaining the best of both options on either side of the Atlantic seems the prudent way to go.  Particularly given our plans that at some point in the future we will be moving back to the US.  It also seems in C’s nature from the start to be encouraging of my practice as an attorney.  He has always said that my personal and professional growth works to my happiness, and that that happiness translates to a happier relationship altogether.  Makes sense, I must admit.  Even if it may sound more scientific and rational than romantic.  :)  So being determined and committed to make the unconventional circumstances work is really key.

Nonetheless, I am not taking from the important underlying ingredients:  trust, and love, and faithfulness should be there.  But more than words is action.  And a man who immediately puts a new kitchen together for me while I am away in the US, and takes all the heat (oooh, a pun!) so that I do not have to worry about “joiners” (English for “carpenters”), sawdust everywhere, and hanging electrical guts; and who happily announces my return home in his Facebook (which I secretly peeked today — No, we are not each other’s “friends”) — yeah there’s substance to the unspoken there.

And so I am “home” now, where he is, in a truly meaningful way than a mere cliche.  And happy.  Here is to more adventurous in Little England in the coming days. :)

Fitting In · Life · love · Uncategorized · Weather

Don’t Try This At Home

An overcast day in a beautiful semi-rural village on the outskirts of Manchester (England).

Outside, the leaves begin to fall, with a big chunk of burnt orange and yellows defiantly clinging to the branches, — thanks to a lingering Indian summer.

Inside, the house is too quiet and still.  And here I am by myself in the study looking out as Geoff*, (*that’s how what sounds like “Jeff” usually turns out to be spelt here), the English farmer, and his German Sherpherd do their routine back-and-forth walk on the field beyond our fence. 

In the background, iTunes randomly and perhaps coincidentally plays the perfect setback:  Elgar’s “Nimrod”.  And, being that time, It hit me.  I felt It creep in softly.  That which I knew would surreptitiously and very treacherously come one day.  I just did not think it would be today.  — “What the frick am I doing here in this part of the world, by myself, forcing myself into a very particular jigsaw puzzle shape to fit in?”  “What wind possessed me to marry in my 40s, to move away, and to exchange the familiar for constant second-guessing?”

Luckily, there was a  faithful box of tissues beside.  And between sobs I nagged myself to stop this silliness.  And you have an appeal due for filing in Cali on Tuesday.  Stop now and starting working.  Thankfully the clouds — I mean the ones hovering inside my head — did not tarry.  I blew my nose, took a deep breath, exhaled, and fired up the laptop. 

Moments later the hubby walks in, clueless to that bit of internal struggle, and I say:  “I really would like to have blueberries with my coffee.”

“Did they have it in the Co-Op?”

“Yes, they did.  2.89 for an itty-bitty pack.  But I want some.”

“Let’s go get you some then.”

“Ok.”

“You go get dressed.  I’ll wait in the car.”

And so it came to pass.  I have my two little boxes of blueberries.  And no more tears.  And I think to myself, “THIS boy — who always put priority to what makes you happy — is why you are here.” 

In a different life, this morning could’ve continued with me blueberry-less and still questions-ful.  In a different life, I could be sad, for real and not just because of the weather’s sleight-of-hand, or Sir Edward’s tendency to the melodramatic.  And so again, I exhaled.

Take it from me.  Stay away from Elgar, and the Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” on gloomy, lonely, quiet, autumn mornings.

Saved the day
Saved the day

 

"The View"
"The View"

 

Outside the British Consulate in Chicago.
Outside the British Consulate in Chicago.

 Postscript :  In any case, Carried Bradshaw, too, married in her 40s.  All in the name of love, and closet space.

Cooking · Home · Life · love

Little Housewife-rly Insights

Interestingly enough, C thanks me every time for making lunch or dinner, usually at the end of the meal as we’re clearing up the table. It makes me happy that he does — this feeling that what I do is (so far) not taken for granted. As a long practicing attorney whose Indian name could well be “Bhinder Dhandat”, and who ergo has lived life sometimes vicariously through the mistakes of others, I am jaded enough to know that appreciative spousal gestures of this nature may not last forever. But until that day comes, altho I hope it doesn’t, I will simmer in the thrill of being thankful for having someone who is thankful for having me.

3697266286_8a5f0d3ea5
"how wonderful life is now you're in the world...."
Chicago · Life · love · Travel

Somewhere Up There

In a few hours, The Boy will be here and I am excited to pick him at the airport. There is a website I visit where you can actually track a flight in more or less real time for free. And yes, we love anything free. The site informs you if a flight is up in the air, at the gate, boarded, waiting to disembarck, etc.. I use it religiously to track flights of visiting friends and family. It’s a secret I’ve happily kept. So if you’d chance upon this blog and did not know about the site — you’re in luck. That is of course assuming you’re interested to track flights. :) Visit www.flightstats.com. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas.

“Journeys end in lovers meeting.”
– William Shakespeare-