Showing posts with label Cultural differences. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cultural differences. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Halloween 2021

 Things felt relatively normal this year - fewer than half the kids wearing masks and a sense that kids weren't being kept at home due to COVID.  This was also the first year we let the kids go off alone (albeit together). We thought we had a good grasp of what the neighborhood would hold, trick or treat-wise. We bought candy like we still lived in NE Philly. I advised kids grasping at whole handfuls that they really needed to take only one so other kids could be sure to get some candy.


We overbought by about 100.

Other interesting tidbits are the two different business cards we got from two very different businesses - one was handed out at a house and the other was actually taped to the treat. That was something new! And the candy the kids discussed not liking that we discovered were Baileys Irish Cream truffles.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Ballad of Broken Glass

We'd been warned before heading to Calgary to save up for a new windshield or two. Chips, cracks, hairline fractures, the traffic kicked up a lot of rock and every single Consulate vehicle ended up with broken windshields. It wasn't whether, but rather when.  One overachiever managed to crack his windshield on his drive to post.

The first crack appeared in November or so. It seemed enormous and dangerous to me at first, starting several inches from the bottom left and moving toward the north/northeast. We called around for quotes and discussed our work schedules to see who could bring the car in, and when.

We marked where the crack ended and tracked how much, and whether, it grew each day. Some days it did, others not so much. We stalled and hesitated. We noted the seeming proliferation in cars driving around with cracks in their windshields. Of the six cars parked closest to us in the Consulate garage, four of them had cracks - and two of them were very nice cars (I don't pay attention to cars much, maybe they were Lexus or Beemers or Audis?) Walking around our neighborhood one day we noticed more than half the cars on one block had such damage. Apparently this is a thing.

We discussed further and reasoned that we were likely to sustain further damage and how many times did we really want to pay for new windshields? The crack did not impede vision, and there didn't seem to be any laws against it like there are for broken headlights.

Some cracks we've seen reach from one side of the car to the other. I think when we get there we may look into a replacement. Or whenever we depart Calgary.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Lockdown Passover

Calgary surprised me with the dearth of Hanukkah candles in December, so I was prepared to expect nothing in any store in the way of matzah come spring. Calgary did not disappoint.  Mails shut down before I could ask my mom to ship me  few boxes from the USA, so I called up the old recipe I used back in Russia to make my own matzah! No rabbi would bless this stuff for a number of reasons, but it did get from water-touches-flour to out-of-the-oven in 18 minutes or less so I am calling it a win and moving on.

We have been able to find some lamb, and after searching our bookshelves I have discovered about seven different Haggadot. I first debated between the "30 minute Seder" and whatever we have the most copies of, and it turned out we had the most copies of the "30 minute Seder". Another win.

The kids had a huge fight that left one child refusing to come down when it was time to Seder ... until Terry worked his magic. Wine and grape juice were drunk, matzah was eaten with horseradish and charoset (although I keep telling Terry he isn't doing it right because he likes the horseradish), and yes we opened the door for Elijah. He didn't touch anything.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I wrote a book!

Well, OK, not exactly. What I did do was write a chapter in a book. Still a pretty big deal to me (and, I'm sure, to my mom).

A Cup of Culture and a Pinch of Crisis is a compilation of stories about travel, foreign countries, and food - topics that many foreign service officers (myself firmly in this camp) sometimes get a little obsessive about.  I am so incredibly grateful to Tales From a Small Planet editors who invited me to join this group of much more accomplished writers, and give my my first, and perhaps not only, taste of publishing.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Breaking up is Hard to Do

... no, no, don't worry, Terry and I are fine.

With 5 weeks to go in my tour things are winding down. Many of my kids' friends - whose parents are often our friends - have started leaving for their summer holidays, only to return after we've left.  My kids spent the last couple of weeks bickering with their friends more often and some friendships ended on such terms that there was no goodbye. Cultural differences I used to think enriched out experiences, and even found endearing at times, are grating on my nerves and offending my sensibilities. We're starting a lot of sentences with "When we are in the USA..." and "When we get to Germany..."

We all know the end is nearing, and it is easier to say goodbye if we are also saying "good riddance."

It isn't you, Astana. It's us. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016


I had a business trip this week that required me to overnight in a hotel. 

This was sitting on a shelf above the mini-bar, right next to the complimentary bottle of water.

While this was not my room, my room's door was strikingly similar.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

No such thing as too cold

There is a Russian saying "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." Between four years in St Petersburg and two in Astana, we have acclimatized to the cold.  Washington DC school and government closings are a source of humor while overseas and frustration when home.

For those who don't fully understand, here is an example from yesterday.  In the courtyard of our apartment complex exists an enormous snow mound, with peaks and valleys, with the highest points  being 10-15 feet high. The kids wanted to play on it.  It was about -8 Celsius, or about 17 Fahrenheit.  We stayed out for about one and a half hours.  At one point, I watched two men walk outside a cafe to smoke and talk. They were out for about 20 minutes.  No coat, no hat, no scarf, no gloves.  One man even had his sleeves rolled up.

Now that's what I'm talking about!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

He's turning British

Within 24 hours of beginning school at his British school, this was the conversation I had with my son:

Me: Zoltan, did you leave your sweatshirt at school?
Zoltan: My what?
Me: Your sweatshirt.
Zoltan: Yes mommy, I left my jumper in my locker.

Of all the Britishisms I love, and there are many, jumper is the solitary one I can't stand. It gives me scary flashbacks of that unfortunate skirt/overalls combo wardrobe item too many poor little girls had to wear in the 1970s.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Polite society

Kazakhstanis are known for kindness, generosity and tolerance.  Here's something I am really getting used to and will miss when we move on.  When you let someone into traffic, or quite frankly even when they cut you off, they put on their hazard lights for a few blinks to say "thank you."  It turns out that being acknowledged for doing something for someone, even if they forced you to do it, reduces stress and road rage by 50% (using my very non-scientific method of asking Terry and mentally rating how I feel.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

USA vs. Russia

When we were researching St Petersburg before moving to post, we read one random piece of advice to the effect that it's better to buy your laundry detergent in Russia rather than bring a favorite brand, because only Russian detergent can get rid of Russian strength dirt and grime.  This put firmly into our minds the idea of "extra strength" Russian dirt and grime, and by corollary, Russian germs.

Fast forward to now. Last month Alex has her very first ever tummy bug. This week she couldn't enjoy the two snow days with her 102 fever, headache and exhaustion. Again, very first time to be sick like this. She's 6 years old.

I say American germs win.