Archive for December, 2011

Holiday traditions

They get talked about so much. On APW they talk about respecting your mutual customs, while also making time for your own ‘baby family’, on other blogs they talk about interfaith families and their celebrations. And then of course there are plenty of bloggers who simply list their own traditions, give etiquette advice about conflicts or write about tangential topics.

I figured I’d chime in. Coming from a mildly Christian background, there have never been presents associated with the holiday. We did have lots of decorations, because my mom loves to do fun things to the house. No light-filled reindeer though. That trend is way too recent for my parents to have adopted it. There would be two church services, one in Christmas eve and one on Christmas morning. The rest of the holidays would be filled with hanging out with grandparents, reading inspirational stories (not (necessarily) religious or biblical) and making and eating tasty food.

Christmas eve, after the evening’s church visit, had meat pastries and mulled wine.

Christmas morning had a fancy breakfast with sweet pastries and croissants.

The big Christmas dinner could be anything – we’ve had potlucks, one pot meals, buffets, fingerfood, and five course sit down happenings. We’ve had fruit soup (really), venison, brussels sprouts..

When I left my parents house, I toned down the celebration. Often I worked during Christmas, church was too far away and no fun on your own and who decorates a place they hardly spend time in anyway? Now that I have a partner who grew up with the more extravagant celebrations of frantic gift-unwrapping and whole turkeys roasted, I’m trying to get back into the swing of it. We still haven’t really decorated, although I bought some candles. However, Beloved and I are hosting this year. But not for family. Many of our friends are international. Not all of them have the time, money or opportunity to fly out to see their families. Other people are perhaps local, but their families are far away or more permanently gone. These are the people we’ve invited. I’ve named the event the ” dinner of the displaced”.

We’re even doing a very small Secret Santa. There are two people coming who I don’t know. We’ll have three Americans, a Scotsman, a half-Englishwoman, three locals, an Iraqi-with-another-passport and someone of whom we don’t know where she’s from (but probably not from around here). We’ll have Iraqi (halal) pastries, biological chicken parmesan and eggplant parmesan, vegan red sauce, banana bread and loads more tasty things. No one has to wear fancy clothes. It’s bound to be fun.

Let’s see if we can do this more often 🙂



We received the first half of our wedding pictures this weekend. They’re awesome. Some are very pretty and sweet, some are downright silly.

I haven’t yet agreed on a publicity policy with Beloved, so I’m not going to post anything recognizable just yet. Better talk those things through, eh?  In the mean time, just to show off the mad skills of our sweet photographer Patrick Moran (he’s from VA, by the way, and he is a splendid photographer as well as an awesome guy), here are some safe pictures:

a living room detail

our grumpy old cat

Beloved’s necklace helped us keep the rings together

my bridal do – love was clearly on my mind.

Also, dear visitor, please do not use or publish these pictures elsewhere. They’re ours. If you want pictures as pretty as these, go hire Patrick – I’m sure he’ll shoot you something fantastic.

There once was this dude from New York,

to whom I gave food and a fork.

We then smoked some weed,

but ne’er did the deed.

He must’ve thought I was a dork.

If he did think that, he’s kind of right. It’s okay. He may have thought I was too fat, too. Last thing I heard he had a fling with a professional ballet dancer, right? Anyway, he’s another of those people I met up with on a whim. And I can’t remember what we were talking about (it may have been ‘online dating’), but at some point he said something along the lines of “I decided not to do that, because that’s not the story I want to tell to people.”

I stil haven’t decided if I think that’s the silliest argument I ever heard, or the best one. We humans thrive on story telling. We depend on narrative so much. We can’t even remember our dreams well due to their lack of narrative. I think blogging took off because it allows people to construct larger parts of their lives into the narrative they’d like to see themselves in. I know it’s one of the reasons why I like it, in any case :).

With regards to life, I like taking an approach I sort of stole from Lord of the Rings. Sam and Frodo talk about it on their way to Mordor when Frodo loses hope. They talk about listening to those stories of old. The ones about heroism, bravery and love. And then they talk about them maybe being in those stories. They reach this metaplane on which the characters reflect on their lives as story characters.

I wonder if people will ever say, ‘Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring.’ And they’ll say ‘Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. — Samwise Gamgee

It’s interesting to look at life that way. As if you’re the main protagonist, the author, but also (yay) the editor. The task of the editor is to leave the bits out that don’t make the narrative any better. To just cherry pick which things you’ll tell and which things you won’t. My inner editor has determined that it works better to view my life as a book of short stories than as an epic. If my life were an epic, no one would read it. They would all blame the author for writing a protagonist who is floundering and a little indecisive. They would moan over the endless periods in which the character is stuck. In jobs, relationships, depression, whatever.

However, if I think of life as an anthology and I present my narrative as “the best of The Smitten Immigrant” then all of a sudden it could work. I can let my brain do the sorting, just let it pick the stories that are fun, sad or educational. Maybe thats why diaries have never worked for me. They require daily upkeep, and there’s no use writing your life story of you can’t at least pretend that someone may read it. *waves into the daunting vastness of the internet*

Maybe this is an informal foreword to said anthology then, even if I started “writing”  the moment I was born. I like that.

By candle light and over coffee

Kaarsjesnacht in Gouda – Photo by Jeroen Mul (WindwalkerNLD) under a Creative Commons License.

It had been a while, but I met up with a new “Internet person”, this week. I did it regularly as a teen, full of “well, whatever. if it doesn’t kill me, it’ll make me stronger and if it does kill me, at least I won’t be bothered by it..” I was pretty sure this internet person was not going to kill me, though. (Really, poppies and ice-cream, does that sound like the name of a serial killer’s blog? Didn’t think so.)

So, I traveled for a while and we met up in Gouda, the Netherlands. We had a good time. Also a windy and cold time, but a pretty time. We ended up in Gouda out of convenience, and at the celebration of Kaarsjesnacht because of the strong pull of curiosity. We had no idea that this was what was going on, but the whole town was in an uproar.

It’s an interesting thing to realize that this meeting had a different feel to it that any other “new person meeting” I’d ever gone to before. I mean, there was the one time I met up with a Russian girl who told me that she had been stalking me for a few months on different sites and was intrigued by the written tracks I was leaving on the internet, but it was different. Here, the reading of each others writing is at least mutual (whereas I had no idea that this girl even existed until I received a message from her). Also, while I was dating Beloved when I met her, just meeting her as me. I was very consciously, trying not to be anything else but me.

I was not, in part, meeting her as ‘wife’. The idea to consciously find people for a private social life these days seems odd. Because it’s virtually unlikely that anyone will ever be able to really get to know me, to really become a friend, without getting a decent dose of my husband as a bonus. It changes the getting to know someone in a way that I can’t put my finger on.

Or maybe it didn’t feel any different. Maybe it wasn’t different at all. Maybe I’ve just been asked ” So, how does it feel, being married?”  that I’m now frantically overanalyzing every single thing I do in order to find a satisfactory answer for the ever-inquisitive aquaintances? It’s a possibility, right? Heh.

Regardless, Amanda is a fun lady, so go take a look at her blog! She makes tasty things, too.

I’m off to laundry and bedsheets and groceries and cooking.. Good wifey – have a cookie!

On a quiet..

.. Sunday morning, we’ve taken to scholastic pursuits. Beloved is clicking his way through a first practice GRE. I’m upstairs, procrastinating a little before diving into a college level math book.

The last time I did any actual math was eleven years ago. Let’s hope I won’t get eaten by a disgruntled fraction or beat up by a moody median.

Enjoy your Sunday, reader-folk 🙂

Story time

Because we’ve mailed the forms for Beloved to take the right exam, and now we’re waiting, I figured I had time to tell you a story.

It’s the story of how we met. And also how we didn’t meet (and how I’m very happy we didn’t).

In our meeting and not-meeting, there is a shop that plays a central role. It’s a rather unassuming place with two floors and maybe 600 square feet surface area. It has had three sets of owners in the time I know it. As far as I can tell, the shop has always been a labour of love.

The first owner decided to sell the shop because he needed more time to spend on his wife, who was diagnosed with a serious illness. The second pair of owners were an international scholar and his girlfriend. The first time I met them we chatted and I decided to skip my class drink more coffee with the couple instead.

I came by somewhat regularly and occasionally brought my long term “sort-of-boyfriend”. At some point, when said man did not accompany me, I explained the nature of his relationship with me, as well as my acceptance of said nature. Soon after, the man of the couple took me aside and told me he knew of another nice guy – American – I could maybe try to date, if I were willing. I begged off, stating that I was way too busy for another “sort of”, let alone an actual relationship.

We never spoke of that again, and the relationship I was in slowly deteriorated into something that made me sick with worry and fear if we were not together and completely miserable and worthless if we were. In the mean time, the second pair of owners broke up and sold the store to another couple. An American woman had come over to join her partner here, and she started running the shop.

My by then abusive relationship ended, leaving me in a several months long fog of denial and absence of emotional balance. My lifeline were frequent phone calls with the members of an online community I was a part of. One lady in particular spoke with me often. She also worked at the shop, which I had declined to visit in a long time. As the darkest clouds receded and I stopped sleeping in order to catch up on the damage done to my life by my broken heart, she called. I’d spent the day at home, trying to fight my way through my Master’s thesis and was in no mood for joyful conversations.

“I met a man today. In the shop! He just came in to chat and obviously knows the owner.” she thrilled. “He’s really sweet and handsome, and I think you would really like him”. Met by my silence she continued: “I’d consider him myself, but he really is too young” . Still decidedly unimpressed, I told her I was trying to graduate university and was in no mood for things like men or dating. Besides, it had been eight months since the break up, did she think I was anywhere near relationship material again? She would hear none of it. Even when I admitted to a trip to the international scholar (and second owner of the shop) for a brief weekend of debauchery in his home country and a random one nighter  as my few first experiments with singlehood, she would not be denied. She kept calling, telling me to at least take a look at his profile on the internet.

I relented. Surfing was something I did way too much of, anyway, and looking at some (doubtlessly uninteresting) dude on the interwebs was at least a nice distraction.

I read the profile and enjoyed it. Very verbose, no well-recognizable pictures and – oh wow – he used a word I did not know. With my interest piqued and with absolutely nothing to lose and no serious interest whatsoever, I wrote a message describing my search for the word’s definition. I also included some critical questions about the possible contexts. He replied. We bantered somewhat.

Less than a week later I had consented to a drink in a local bar, thinking that it would maybe be interesting to take on an ‘introduce a foreigner to my country-project’ as a further distraction from my studies. As I picked him up from the train station, it rained cats and dogs. I felt a little guilty for the bad weather.

We’ve been smitten ever since.

After a few weeks of dating, I called the international scholar to tell him I was no longer interested in any trysts. I had, by then, learned that lover was a) not new to my country at all and b) him and international scholar were good friends when they both lived here. During that conversation I suddenly remembered international scholar’s remark about knowing a guy for me to date. Turns out that, had we let international scholar have his way, we would have met each other more than two years earlier.

I don’t know, of course, but I am pretty certain we wouldn’t be where we are now if that had happened. I, at least, had a few more lessons to learn.

Today is Meg’s day

Meg, from APW, (the best wedding blog out there) has started selling her book.

In private, I’ve been telling people about it for a while now. I’ve linked to posts and reviews in my small circle of engaged friends.

But today is The Day. It’s The Great APW Book Buy.

And for all the peace of mind I’ve gotten out of reading her blog, from the first expectation to the wanting to abandon it all and flee to the electric intensity of our wedding day, she more than deserves a shout out.

If you’re getting married at any one point, or need a present for someone who will, buy the book!

Link to Meg’s own post is here.