Archive | Pirate Life RSS feed for this section

Life in (my garden in )Guadeloupe

9 May

Yeah, there are still some good things happening. Stuff grows really fast here. Choose the right plants with the help of a good pépiniériste and you can create an impressive garden with almost zero know-how. I have almost zero know-how. And almost zero garden, but that’s because I’m lazy, not because it’s impossible. Wait, could that be a theme to my life’s failures? Hmmm.

Some pretty cool things are blooming in our garden. We haven’t bought tomatoes in about three months thanks to the plants that just keep on giving us awesome red juicy grape tomatoes. It’s so satisfying to walk out to the garden and cut me some basil. (Ok I planted dwarf basil and it took me several weeks to realize that the plant wasn’t shitty, it was dwarf basil. Sigh) So let’s be positive (my new silent in my head mantra) and look at some pictures of life! Nature is clever, she is. From top to bottom: banana tree finally flowered! Awesome flowering bushes, awesome flowers from flowering bushes, hibiscus flower, tiny garden at the bottom of banana tree with tomatoes, chives, parsley, and some flowers. The big stick is holding up the banana tree. Who knew – they fall over due to the weight of the bananas.



A strange phase…

2 Sep

So I’m all adjusted now, no more need to write this silly blog. Just kidding. The narcissist in me likes to hear myself write. Thing is, I’m feeling a bit different now here in Guadeloupe. Since I tied Pirate to a very uncomfortable chair and made him sign a marriage contract married Pirate in a lovely city hall ceremony where a kind man called us by the wrong family name numerous times throughout the ceremony, things have taken a turn for me…

Here’s what’s happening:

1. I’ll have my spousal visa in two weeks time, normalement. Kudos to the French consulate in Boston, MA for being more up to date on the French laws than the officials in Guadeloupe, otherwise I might still be in my plastic chair in the crowded, not air-conditioned sous-prefecture with my little paper ticket waiting….

2. I’ll be able to work again. Yeah, I’m going to regret it but I’ll go ahead and say it – not working is totally overrated. I will go ahead and be all judgy and say that ‘those women’ who say (and yes this is a direct quote from someone I will never identify) “All I want is for someone to take care of me, I just want to have my baby and stay at home” – those women- they are freaking nutso crazy. But that’s just me. Ask me again when I’m working and whining about it and ‘those women’ have it all.

3. I’ve made it over some sort of mountain in terms of culture shock and management.  There are still a few good things that get my panties all in a bunch but you know, for the most part, I’ve become accustomed to a number of things that I really didn’t get/care for in the beginning. It’s a long list, and a good idea for a post now that I think about it…But let’s just say I can kill mutant cockroaches all by myself now (of course I leave them under the shoe with which they were killed for Pirate to throw away..) and scolos have been known to crawl across my foot, not sting me, and I just let them walk away. meme pas peur.

4. The locals accept me as a local. AHHAAHHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH …..not exactly. That’s an entirely different post.

5. I use less stuff. It’s true. Just…less. Less water in the shower, less a/c, less clothes dryer(read:sun),less ice. I’ve definitely learned that we don’t really need all the stuff we have to live and be happy. Thanks for that valuable lesson Guadeloupe, sincerely one of the best I’ve learned.

So here’s a bunch of random shots from life in Gwada up until now…just because.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

11 Aug

There are things I learn in my French life that I am sure exist in my American life but that I just didn’t happen upon until I was in version francais. For example: this tiny grater that comes in the tiny bottle of muscade (nutmeg). How freaking adorable is that?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Two MONTHS…and a housewife.

22 Jul

Wow two months have gone by since my last post. That means that for two months I’ve been saying, “tomorrow I’ll write”.  Clearly, not a great approach. So here’s the excuse: I married the Pirate, we moved into a home we built, and we’ve been pretty much busy with happy yet exhausting stuff like that for a few months now. I’m typing this looking out at a huge muddy pit we call our garden. The birds are eating the grass seeds. The dog is tracking mud into the house constantly, laughing in my face as she tears by me at 100km/hour, paws packed with mud and poop, from mud-pit-yard to deck through living room to deck and back  to replenish her mud and poop supply in the mud-pit-yard. Grrrrrrrr

So now I’m officialement a housewife. Yep. That’s me. I’m in a house. Most of the time. And, I’m a wife.  We’ve planted some things in an attempt to produce some morsels of food for ourselves – banana trees, coconut trees, avocado tree, and on a smaller scale, tomatoes, basil, zucchini, lime tree. I’d love to eat from the garden but I’m fairly certain we won’t see anything from the fruit trees because we might not be here that long. It seems Mamman, les Monstres’s mom, is feeling like moving back to mainland France in a year or so. In a nutshell we’ll follow them. Pirate isn’t too keen on being a vacation dad. I get it, and I’m down with that.

So I guess I’ll have to take advantage of this rough around the edges place until I can’t any more!  Suddenly a teeny tiny bit of the bitterness I feel here slides away. Bitter? Yeah. Notice I have a category named ‘Bitter is better’. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a beautiful difficult learning experience here in Gwada. It’s not really an easy place to adapt to, at least that’s what I’ve found. It’s not so much the language, but the culture. I find it…..tough. Closed.  Many people I’ve spoken with have decided what it’s like in the states and have zero desire to go there. And their decision seems to be based on what they learn of the states in the news, movies, and from their friends. They’re afraid of racism. Fair enough. But is racism really limited to the states? And what does that have to do with me? Well, I come from there. So I’m included in this idea of something they really don’t care for. It doesn’t really matter, I mean, I’m ok if everyone doesn’t become my friend, or I can’t convince them that the states has a lot to offer. Still….
I have been blessed to have met really nice people here. I’ve learned that when I find a kind shop owner that I should stick with that shop. Closes my world perhaps even more but hey, the negative experiences I’ve had with certain people, I just don’t need to repeat them. It ruins my day. I’ve realized that I can accept a culture as it is but I don’t have to like it. And I don’t always like it. I’ve learned to tell the difference between a difference in culture where (from the other person’s view) it’s not rude, , and when there really is rudeness. That helps a lot.

I must admit, the quality of daily life is nice. The sea all year, the sun, the plants, the calm pace. But I miss more culture. I miss changing art exhibits. I miss a nice movie theater. I miss nightlife. I miss feeling like the people around me are interested in things outside of their personal bubble. So, while sticking to my self promise to take advantage of the limited time I’ll have here, I’m also happily looking forward to the future.

gazing out on the mudpit

Sure, make like you didn’t do anything.

>La Belle Mere

5 Oct

>So I’ve been poking around the interweb as I threatened. I am THRILLED to have found some very cool blogs by stepmoms who want that glass of wine at the end of the day (or by lunch) as much as I do!
I could not have possibly said it better than Stepmother’s Milk with this particular post. Which reminds me, why haven’t any of my friends thrown me a belle mere shower?

Here’s the post:

“Unlike the traditional baby shower, where mama-to-be receives gifts for the survival of the blessed babe, the stepmom shower honors the adult woman thrust into a scary and unknown world and like the infant, is similarly naïve and in need of care. We may have more years on the planet, but when it comes to stepmothering, many of us were born yesterday.

It’s time to start a new tradition.

I’ve been to countless baby showers and it seems that parenting inexperience is honored above more impressive qualities like daring or patience (Isn’t she adorable. She doesn’t even know how the Diaper Genie works. Dear, let me help you). If this is true, then who more deserves a kick-ass party with a bounty of presents, expert instruction and hard liquor than the stepmom, who gets no gestation period at all? No preparation. No handbook. If you’re like me, you just woke up one morning with half-grown kids sleeping down the hall.

It’s time to start a new tradition. There’s no reason why stepmoms shouldn’t be entitled to the same elevation and indulgence, if only for a long afternoon.

But, I’m hung up on one thing: the name. “Stepmom Shower” doesn’t sound all that fun. It’s got a dead ring to it, do you agree? Well, I don’t know about you, but if a party isn’t fun, then why did you waste your time cleaning the house and buying expensive cheese? So, I’m proposing a name change. A title that reflects the spirit and sentiment of the celebration.

Introducing, La Belle-Mere Party!

What the hell is that? She had me up until this point, but now she’s throwing around a foreign language. I’m confused.

Is this what you are thinking? Well, let me explain. First, I blame my mother and so should you. She is convinced (and works very hard to sway others) that the French are far more sophisticated and appealing than Americans. I do agree with her that the French have much prettier words, so there’s that.

Second, and more importantly, La Belle-Mere is actually French street slang for stepmother, so I didn’t just make it up to sound fancy. And translated, it means the mother even more, all the more or more than ever.

Now, I’m no language expert, so the following interpretation is my own (I’m sure my college French professor would shake her head “tsk, tsk” and fail me again). But, when I think of myself as a “mother all the more,” I’m struck with a sense of relief and significance. I am not Mom, “the original” and I will never replace her, but instead of imagining myself as the awkward, shadow figure in the background, I’m standing right beside her with my head held high. The mother more than ever.

I think it’s important that we (myself included) start thinking of ourselves as more, not less. We all bring something to the blended family table. We belong. We have a place. It may take me a while (like years) to truly feel this way, but I’m going to keep repeating it under my breath until I do.

With that, a raise my glass to you, my step-ladies! Here’s to your friendship, good humor and grit. Let the 2008 La Belle-Mere Tour begin! Start clearing your calendars for a trip to Austin. Details to follow.”

>Oh, just ignore me. Right, you already did that.

4 Oct

>Yeah, my blog is about the mostly funny side of starting a new life, in a new country, with a new language, and a new family. I also like to talk about food. This morning however I must focus on one particular topic that is ever-present: my new quasi stepmother status.

To be blunt, it’s quite shocking even still to wake up some days and realize that I have responsibilities involving children. Two of them. Under the age of 8. I confess to daydreams of an apartment that had been listed as ‘great for one person or a couple without children’. I confess also to longing for a sofa that is free of cookie crumbs, a toilet seat that is always down when I get to it, and just. plain. silence.

Now, there is no way that I’d rather be anyplace else – in general. But at times, yes, I would like to be teleported away. I’m sure The Pirate feels the same way as he’s got a lot on his plate as well. But, I do protest that he’s had a few years to practice getting used to this. Pas moi. I’ve been feeling …well…it’s hard to say really as I’ve been feeling many things, but mostly frustrated, so I turned to the all knowing interweb to see if I could find anything interesting to read about being a stepmom who hasn’t had any previous experience with children. I did find LOTS of information. There seem to be a few general types of sites offering information about stepmother-hood. I find them to be in one of the following creepy categories:

a. Way too positive and chirpy and hopeful for me to even begin to relate to. I think these people are not really stepmoms, but rather friends of stepmoms giving the kind of advice only non stepmoms can give, ala ‘oooohhhh, it’s not so happy and set a great example!. Okay lady. Spend an afternoon trying to convince a five year old that you don’t have the snacks he wants in the house – in French – which you don’t speak very well, while he cries on the floor for his mother, and then tell me that again.

b. Just a plain bitch session, and mostly about the mother of the child or children. I just can’t get into that. My stress points are my own and they have nothing to do with the mother of my stepkids. Thankfully the relationship with her is good. I really don’t believe bitching about the mother makes anything easier for anyone, and really believe it’s a harmful thing to do to the children and the ex husband.

The one thing I haven’t found yet – and I’m hopeful – is information about how to deal with the normal stresses of being a new stepmom while you are also learning the kids language. Because for me, it comes down to being ignored and I detest that.

In general, it’s easier for a lot of people to keep limited conversation with me, or to not try to talk with me. I understand this: I can only get so far in conversation in French, and if you can only get so far in English, well, there you have it. Entirely understandable. The same goes for the kids. Pile on top of that the fact that I’m still a relatively new arrival on the scene that is their everyday life, the fact that I’m not their mom, and the fact that they are human and just simply don’t want another adult around who has the authority to tell them what to do, and well….yeah…the amount of ignoring that happens is large. I mean really, they literally just….watch me talk, and then walk away. Or don’t even turn their heads when I speak, or act as if The Pirate is the only one in the room.

It’s easier for them. I get it. But you know what? It really sucks.
What I realized just recently in an ‘aha’ moment that left me pretty bummed for the remainder of the afternoon is this: No matter what I do, no matter how fluent in French I become, no matter how much time, energy, and emotion I put into this situation, I will never reap the benefits of being the person these kids turn to for much of anything except a snack. No. It will always be a parent. I will never be the first person they think of when they panic, I won’t be an automatic consideration for parent teacher day or anything like that. I’ll always be just one step outside.
It’s normal. It’s par for the course. They have parents. I have no desire to replace or better any parent. It’s strictly a matter of realizing, wow, I’m doing all the things parents do, the shopping, the driving to sports, the feeding, the coddling, the book reading, I’ll do it all, because any other way just isn’t natural to me, I’m not going to hold back…but in spite of these clearly parental actions, I’ll always be, as they say in baseball, juuuuuust a bit outside.

I must confess, it’s …well…it’s a bummer. Like I said, it won’t change what I do, but it sure changes how I feel. I have moments of spitefulness: ‘I’m just a babysitter, and for what?’.
So, the question to ask is, what am I going to do about it? Well, I’m enrolling in French school for non French speakers for one thing. Learning on my own simply isn’t cutting it. I look forward to being able to understand more and talk back more, both in good situations and bad. That should help tremendously, but it will take time. I’m going to read more from other stepmoms so I don’t feel so isolated and/or crazy in this situation. I’m going to ask my cousins who have raised amazing boys what I should expect, because I realize that a lot of behavior is simply ‘kids’ and not necessarily ‘step kids’, but how would I know the difference?
Lastly, The Pirate. The coolest guy I know. What to do with him when it comes to all this? To be honest I’m not sure. I think two kids, and having to help me with many things since I’m French deficient, well it’s already a lot. That being said, there may be some things we can go over, things that may need to be adjusted now that he has a slightly different type of family. For me it’s scary ground to walk on. I mean, if I know nothing, who am I to tell him how things should go?

I’m just going to put on some Bob Marley now, ‘Please, don’t you rock ….my boat….” Hahahaa…

>How did I get here and where is the mall.

1 Apr

>I’m not serious about the mall. Well, okay a little. Here I am, on the island of Guadeloupe in the french west indies. It’s a laid back place filled with exciting little events, like coconuts falling from trees or having to kill an enormous cockroach with your flip flop. Yeah, it’s not always roses, especially when you become convinced that the roaches know who you are and are running at you, ensemble, in some form of attack. Despite my war with the roaches, life is pretty sweet.

Now in my mid thirties, (when do I say late thirties? I refuse to do so until I’ve hit at least 38) I have this amazing opportunity to learn a new language, a new culture, and how to live in a family that consists of more than just myself. I’m learning a lot more than that but those are the majors. All of this learning makes for what I think are some pretty funny/cool/touching/interesting moments. I had the urge to share the ones that gave me the biggest belly laugh, a tear in my eye, a devilish grin, or that left me looking like a dork, the latter probably being the most common.

I grew up in the northeast of United States. I spent the last ten years in California. How did I get to Guadeloupe? Let’s chalk it up to love. You just never know when it can hit, and all the major facets of your life seem to coordinate in a perfect performance, with you out in front, being pushed ahead in a way you never could have conceived of, until you are finally there, center stage. It’s a little stressful, admitedly. Love can bring you places, but you still have to make your own way when you get there.

Life is different here as compared to where I have lived before: a bit slower. In a new place, without your close friends, it’s easy to feel lonely even surrounded by people. I found myself thinking of walking around the mall here for many reasons, the first of which being that the mall is air conditioned. Heaven. The second reason is that well, sadly, I feel at ease there. I can just walk, look, listen, and if I so desire, pay for some goods. Easy. Easier than trying to keep up with french conversation moving at 100 miles an hour when you’re stuck on the first sentence that ended five minutes ago. Someday……at least the book I bought said I’d be speaking French in ‘just three months’!

…and so, this is the world of a suburban-raised, city loving, now island living girl who doesn’t surf.

%d bloggers like this: