Cell Phones and Tattoos

Oh Internets, help me problem solve.

My kiddos (6 and just-turned-8) were invited out to a friend’s house yesterday.  Said friend lives in the country, on the beach, about a 30-minute bus ride from here.  It was suggested that we put the kids on the bus at this end, and the friends would collect them at that end.  Return trip would be the same (except, you know, opposite).

So we packed them a backpack.  Gave them their bus fare cards.  Told them to bite anyone who tries to fuck with them and off they went.  Without incident.  When I got the call that they were back on the bus, at 6:45 at night, I brought a book and went to sit at the bus terminus to wait for them.  They should’ve been off the bus somewhere around 7:15-ish.  From 6:50 onwards, I was actively looking for them.  Getting up and wandering around to make sure they weren’t somewhere I didn’t expect, etc.  At 7:23, I heard my son’s tearful voice saying, “Can I please use your phone to call my mom?”

Found them!

Apparently, because it was the last bus of the day, the bus didn’t pull into the line from which it departs.  It pulled a few lines over, next to the curb.  (We’re talking a difference here of maybe 20 feet?)  They got off and when they didn’t immediately see me waving at them, because I was waiting 20 feet away and couldn’t see them, they kind of froze up.  According to them, they waited patiently for a few minutes and then the girl child started crying and the boy child went to find a phone.

Yes, they were upset when I found them.  The girl was way more upset than I’d have thought.  It broke my heart.  But I wiped them off, praised them for their bravery and their problem-solving abilities, and we walked home.  As we walked, we discussed other options for getting out of aforementioned pickle.  My son said that he felt pretty in control about everything and then said, “Well, I guess this is what big brothers are for.”

Why was he so calm?  Not because he’s 18 months older than she is.  Because he’s been in that situation before.  He once rode the public bus home from another friend’s house and got off at the wrong stop.  When his little feet hit the ground, he realized it, freaked out and walked home.  The minute after he found me, he felt like a freaking super hero for surviving the arduous three-minute walk across the street.

My kids were never in danger.  I was standing, literally, 20 feet away from them the whole time.  We just didn’t see each other.  Worst case scenario: they could’ve walked home by themselves and waited for us there.  They could’ve called the police.  They could’ve called me from a borrowed cell phone, as they were starting to do.  Hong Kong is ridiculously safe.  Violent crime is almost nonexistent.  This is not Compton.  This is a sleepy fishing village in one of the safest countries in the world.  They were fine, or else I wouldn’t have sent them in the first place.

Hubs was a little stressed out about the whole thing.  He said they should have a basic cell phone for the next time they venture out without us.  I kinda agreed without thinking and we haven’t talked about it since, but I woke up strongly disagreeing.

I didn’t have a cell phone when I rode my bike all over hell and creation as a kid.  You know how I got myself out of a jam?  I figured it out.  You know how I felt when I did?  Like a freaking rock star.  Did I cry sometimes?  Almost definitely.  Was I scarred?  Ask my therapists.  Just kidding.

One of the most defining moments of my adult life was when I got lost in Sicily.  Nobody speaks English in Sicily.  I swear to god, nobody.  I, like my dear son, got off the bus at the wrong stop.  Shit happens.  I had no idea where I was, where to go, how to get there, or what to do.  Foreign country, yo.  Day 1.  By myself.  I was 21.

I stumbled around for a few minutes, looking lost, feeling tired.  Then I went over to a good-looking Italian male around my age, busted out my guide book and pointed to the phrases I wanted him to hear.  We pointed at sentences back and forth for a few minutes and then he brought me over to his car.  I kinda just had to trust him on this one, so I got in.  He drove me to the driveway of where I needed to be.  The next day he came by again to check on me.

Potentially dangerous?  Yes.  Obvi.  But also the first moment I felt invincible.  I’d done it!  I mean, he’d done it.  But really, I’d gotten myself out of a problem situation, and I grew exponentially from it.  I later got a tattoo to commemorate the experience.  (I stopped this practice.  Thankfully.)

I don’t want my kids to have a cell phone.  I want them to problem solve.  I want to put them into situations that are just one tiny step out of their reach, and I want them to grow and get that tattoo-inspiring feeling that comes with said growth.

What do you think, Internets?

Fill ‘er Up, Yo

About a week ago I decided I was giving up hootch.  Like, beer, wine, pretty mojitos, refreshing G&Ts.  Gone.  I know it’s only been a week, so I can’t really preach from the pulpit or anything.  I’m not, like, leading recovery groups on field trips to the Himalayas or the one that people call when they’ve ‘hit rock bottom’ and they’re lying in their own puke in jail.

But my commitment is there.  I’m done.

I was never an alcoholic.  This ain’t like that.  At the same time, moderation is not my strong suit.  I’m the kind of gal who thinks, “Wow.  If ONE of these feels this good, imagine what ten of them would feel like?”  (I think most of us are like that.)  So it got to be that the occasional drink was turning into an every day drink.  And the drink was turning into drinks.  And, I suppose, the tipping point was when my kids started talking a lot about beer and wine.  It was becoming just a part of their every day discourse.  They’d be playing restaurant and be all, “Hey!  It’s happy hour!  Buy one, get one!  Ladies night!”  (I made up the Ladies Night thing.)

It’s not the end of the world that an eight year old knows about beer and wine.  I get that.  But my kids have plenty of people in their family who can display to them the less savory aspects of alcohol.  What they don’t have is a ton of people who can show them that you don’t have to drink at every get  together.  That dinner can be dinner without wine.  That brunch doesn’t have to equal bloody mary.    The research is there on what leads people to drink unhealthily.  Parental influence is huge.  This is part of my job, yo.  I take my job seriously.  (Note: if you are a parent who drinks, I am not judging you.  At all.  In my head, I imagine that everyone else is less psychotic than I am, so the things that are problems for me are simply handled with more grace by the rest of the world.)

That plus I have an appointment for a CT scan of my noggin this week, in an attempt to get to the bottom of my chronic sinus infections and suddenly blurry vision.  It occurred to me only as I left the doctor’s office armed with MORE steroids, decongestants, antihistamines, sprays, poultices (I made up the poultice part), that it made no sense to put myself and my insurance company through the hassle of CT scans if I wasn’t already doing everything I could to be the healthiest I can be.  Drinking just about every day is not being the healthiest I can be.  I am not getting any younger, folks.  This body has simply got to last me quite a bit longer.

Add in there the fact that I sleep like shit after I’ve had a few drinks.  (Research says we all do, even if we don’t register it.)  And I wake up feeling like shit–if the feeling isn’t physical, it’s mental.  I got tired of waking up every day thinking, “Shit.  I probably shouldn’t have had that other glass of wine.  TODAY Imma do better.”  Then, five o’clock rolls around, I’m tired of being with children, I have a glass of wine.  Rinse.  Repeat.

I’ve tried lots of cutting back.  I’m not great at it, and it stresses me out unnecessarily.  So, for now, I’m stopping.

I can’t tell you how big of a thing this is.  Alcohol is firmly entrenched as, like, an activity in my husband’s world.  When I first met him, I was shocked at how big of a role alcohol played in his family’s functions.  Now it doesn’t register.  This is another reason why I need to stop.

But since I’m only at 580 words here, I’m going to tell you, already, what the downside is.  Boredom.  When you’re accustomed to having a glass of wine with dinner and then having a few more after, the evening flows.  Time passes without notice.  Now?  I’m bored, y’all.  BORED.  I hate that.  I feel boring and uninspired.  I try to read but it’s not always what I want to be doing.  I don’t want to watch TV.  I’ve made every healthy baked good I can think of for the kids.  I’ve cleaned EVERYTHING.  These things aren’t rewarding.  They don’t fill you up.  I need something to fill me up.

I didn’t realize that when I was drinking.  I guess drinking WAS the activity.  Take it away and I’m bored?  That’s probably the best reason to give up drinking.  Time to find something to fill me up.


The international teaching world is a small one, spread out over a large one.  The so-few-degrees of separation thing is one of my favorite parts about this expat gig.  A friend I knew in Caracas, for instance, later worked with a friend I knew from Kenya.  After they both moved to Tanzania.  A friend I knew from Kenya later hooked up with another friend I knew in Kenya, but not until after they both moved to South Africa.  Some people we worked with in Caracas showed up in Abu Dhabi a few years later.  Now they live in India.  You kinda keep track, mostly through Facebook, and you’re not surprised when lives intertwine.  Most of these folks seem to move every few years, so the circles get smaller and smaller.  Everyone knows everyone else, it seems.

So it kind of makes sense that when something happens that affects an expat teacher in one country, the ripple is kind of felt around the world.

I don’t know how big of a news story it is outside of the expat teaching circles, but yesterday a Canadian expat teacher working in Indonesia was sentenced to 10 years in (Indonesian) prison for allegedly raping kindergarten boys.  He was convicted along with a teacher’s assistant and five cleaners who worked at the school.  (A sixth cleaner was initially charged but was found dead in his cell before being tried.)

There was no evidence linking the teacher to the crime.  In the end, the prosecution seemed to ‘prove’ their case by saying that the teacher in question was only having sex once a week with his wife.  Therefore, he must’ve been sexually frustrated.  Therefore, it would make sense that he would rape a five-year-old boy.  The list of reasons why this doesn’t make a bit of sense is long.  Pedophilia isn’t typically about sexual frustration.  In fact, recent research suggests it might have more to do with prenatal development.  Upping the handjobs to twice a week isn’t going to change what happened in utero.  Besides, once a week is just about the national average in the States.  Once a week probably sounds pretty damn good to a lot of people, actually.  And, of course, the obvious: you can’t put someone away for ten years on such shaky reasoning.

Here’s a lot more information, if you’re interested: http://time.com/3768538/jakarta-teacher-jis-neil-bantleman/?xid=fbshare  and http://www.smh.com.au/world/teachers-found-guilty-of-raping-three-preschool-students-at-prestigious-jakarta-international-school-in-controversial-case-20150403-1mdxv2.html  Don’t skip the bit about how the little boy didn’t feel any pain from his anal rape due to the insertion of a magical stone.  That was a key part of the prosecution.

The conviction of these men, on these grounds, is disturbing on a humanitarian level and scary as hell on an expat level.  I am always aware of my role as guest in my host country.  I try really hard to appreciate the strengths of every place I visit, and I remind myself to be grateful for my own comparatively privileged upbringing when I go somewhere less developed.  But if someone were to take my husband and put him behind bars for ten years for a crime I was sure he didn’t commit, I think I might lose a little of my grace.

I just can’t get over the idea of this man, these men, sitting in an Indonesian prison for the next ten years.  They have wives.  That could be me.  That could be my family.  It’s scary, really.


one thing a guy needs to know about you before you get into a relationship I’m a 35 year old married mother of two

don’t you think that running around through revolving doors is fun? We don’t have those here.  But no.  It sounds awful.  What with all the running.

what’s something about other people that drives you crazy? Oh god, where do we start?  Chewing with your mouth open, interrupting, asking too many questions, not asking enough questions, laziness, compulsivity, stupidity, religiosity. . .

what are you thinking about? How in a few hours my house is going to be overrun with children, and how I like having a bunch of kids in my house, even though they make me nuts.

what are you wearing? Your boyfriend.  Pajamas.

baseball is the best sport hands down… right? All sports are created equal.  And they’re all pretty lame.  But if I had to choose one that is lamer than the others, it would probably be baseball.  My husband used to play somewhat seriously.  I’d go to his games (like, when I was 17 and had nothing better to do) and just kind of doze off til the ball looked like it might come my way.  Then I’d go full panic attack, duck and cover, until the threat had passed.

do you need to go see a counselor? Actually, no.  I don’t think I do.

it’s 3 in the morning… do your parents know where you are? When the tsunami of 2004 hit in SE Asia, I was living in South America.  My parents cried all day because they thought I was killed in the big wave.  So, no, there’s a good chance they don’t know where I am.

favorite flower? tulips

ideal date? handjob while watching Dance Moms and drinking a beer

ok let’s talk travel, do you like to travel? My passport has stamps from four different countries for 2014.

where have you been? I’ll go in order.  Jamaica, Mexico, Grand Cayman, Bahamas, Canada (do those even count?) Italy, Egypt, Turkey, India, the Netherlands, Venezuela, Ecuador, Thailand, Bolivia, Tobago, Kenya, Ethiopia, England, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Hong Kong, Vietnam.  It seems like a lot, til you consider that I’ve been living abroad for ten years.  It’s not much for ten years.  I blame the children.

next place you want to go? Apparently the next place we ARE going is Australia.  My son’s bestie moved back to Australia a year ago, and he’s been forlorn since then.  In a moment of weakness the other day, my husband made some promises that will be very expensive to keep.

what is something you MUST take with you when you travel? I don’t take much, but I’ll tell you what’s a necessity.  Some kind of sleep aid.  Benadryl or Melatonin.  I’m a god awful sleeper, and I’m an absolute bitch when I’m tired.  I try to spare everyone that experience by knocking myself out cold.

how do you like to travel? uhhhhh. . .hydofoil?  WTF does this mean?

with someone, or alone? Alone.  It’s a completely different experience.

do you dance in your car when there are other people with you? I don’t have a car.

say your having a bad day… what makes it better? Crystal meth.  I jest, I jest.  I’m a big fan of the following, in order: beer, trash tv, or a walk outside.

best feeling in the world? crystal meth.  I jest.  I jest.  (I’ve never done or seen crystal meth, btw.) hand job?

worst? In my experience, there’s nothing worse than having your feelings genuinely hurt.  That feeling you get, the physical feeling, in your chest?  Ugh.

if your quiet what does it mean? I’m not too loud of a person.  It could mean anything.

do you have trust issue? that’s an unequivocal yes.

do you mind watching chick flicks? that’s another unequivocal yes.  I don’t have the attention span or the life expectancy to sit through shitty movies.

what about … movies like…. gladiator or the last samurai? Ugh.  Just the sound of those makes me go a big rubbery one.

favorite store? I’m a big fan of stationery stores.

do you get embarrassed easily? I don’t think so.

what about feel awkward? In my experience, feeling awkward is a side effect of depression.  Depression eats self-confidence for dinner.  So, right now?  No.  I don’t feel awkward.

give me a song and a memory that goes with that song? Violent Femmes, Kiss Off.  I used to tell people I was going to play that song as I lost my virginity.  I didn’t.

song you turn the volume up all the way to listen to? if it’s worth listening to, it’s worth listening to loud

if you need a hug at 3 in the morning, who do you ask? DO you ask? Sleeping pills, yo.  I ask Benadryl.

something you do everyday that you wish you didn’t have to do? hustle

do you mind if people just show up at your house unannounced? our flat is locked at the ground floor.  There is no ‘showing up unannounced’

what do you do when you disagree with someone? try to see it from their perspective.  When that fails, quote some kind of shoddy research that backs up my point.

do you enjoy rain? no.  Rain is of the devil.

you love Jesus yes? if no.. why not? He seems like a nice enough guy.  His hair is tits.

who’s your favorite person in the whole world… besides me? Can I count my cat?


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