Friday, June 28, 2013

Durian flavored Guacamole

There’s a fruit that’s simultaneously famous and infamous. Some people love it, some people hate it. It’s called durian.


It’s popular here in the Philippines, and it reeks. It has such a pungent odor that it fills the stores that cut them up. Even though the fruits are wrapped after being cut, you can still smell it. Even in the warehouse store where the ceilings are sky high and air movement is great, you can still smell them when they’re near.

Yesterday someone gave me some durian candy to try. Even though the smell is horrible, many people love the taste. I’ve been avoiding durian for over eleven months, but I thought, “if there’s a way to try it, this is it.” So I took a small bite of the candy; just enough to taste it. And I didn’t like it. I thought it tasted a bit oniony, and like that horrible smell in the grocery stores that used to make me gag.

I was happy that I was done tasting durian. I felt satisfied that I’d done it, but I had no desire to taste it, in any form, again.

I’m currently in the process of making dinner for tonight. I’m making chicken tortilla soup, and I was going to make a salad (which I can’t make because the store didn’t have enough beans for the soup, let alone a salad on the side), and guacamole. I also bought mangos for John and our friend to enjoy (I don’t like mangos either).

I bought local avocados at S&R to save on cost. We had tomatoes and I had my helper go out later and buy red onions and look for jalapenos (no dice – they’re rare here). After my soup looked deliciously glorious and was simmering I started in on the guacamole. I did the tomatoes and the onions in the little food processor and mashed the guacamole (2 out of 3 avocados were good – woot!), mixed them together, added salt and lemon juice (also – limes aren’t common here, sigh. it’s not a great post for making Tex-Mex) and tried it on a home made corn tortilla (found only at the restaurant El Chupicabra near Makati Ave and Kalayaan) chip that I just had finished for the soup.

And it didn’t taste right. It tasted rather funny. I thought, maybe it needed more onion. I couldn’t taste it at all. There was a powerful taste that I couldn’t place that I thought must be the avocado because I hadn’t had local avocados here before and every other ingredient tastes “normal” to me when I cook with them. I added more red onion, salt and lemon and tasted it again.

And then it hit me. It tasted like durian. And I was sad. Not to the point of tears, but close. If my kitchen hadn’t been full with three helpers and four kids, I might have cried. I’d been looking forward to guacamole all day. I love guacamole. I love Tex-Mex in general, but I especially love guacamole. The fact that I haven’t had it in almost a year is depressing.

I hope that it’s the local avocados. I hope that if I want to splurge on the imported ones from America I will find the taste I’m looking for. I really, really, really hope that I can have some good guacamole soon. Because this durian flavored guacamole will not fly in this house. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013


I had the privilege of going last night to the annual reception for LGBT Pride Month at the Ambassador’s Residence.

I met some wonderful people and was able to discuss with them the difficulties of growing up or being Transgender and Lesbian in the Philippines. Unfortunately I didn’t speak with many gay men last night. Though I think I’ve gleaned that it’s easiest for them in the Philippines. From my perspective, I think that’s probably true in the U.S. as well. 

I also spoke to a Dutch man and his partner who are here through work. They said that they are safer in Asia than at home. The violence toward LGBT from Muslims (especially adolescent Muslim boys) is worsening. In Holland! I had such a hard time picturing anywhere in Europe being hostile to LGBT. It was eye opening for me.

I have had very little exposure to Transgender people, so it was nice to spend some time with Trans Women (born men – this was one of my confusions until last night). To hear stories of the difficulties in being accepted growing up was so sad. Happily there were stories also of women whose parents were accepting. I had thought that wouldn’t happen in a country where there are still so many prejudices against the LGBT community. Granted, there’s not as much violence as in other countries. Granted, it was the first country in SEA to celebrate Pride. None the less, the happy stories were to nice to hear.

I was talking to John this morning, and though our kids are young, I still worry about their future. I told him that while I will celebrate my children no matter who they are, part of me wants them to be just…normal (I use that word loosely since normal is so different than it used to be). I fear the bullying and teasing they would go through for being different. I’m encouraged that LGBT’s are accepted now and I think that it will only get better.

However, I know that there’s still hate. There’s still fear of people who are different. There’s still an alarming rate of teen suicides in the U.S. because of bullying and teasing. I want to put my kids in bubble wrap and keep them safe from harm. Unfortunately, I can’t do that.

Instead, I hope to raise them as strong, confident people. Also, kind and caring for their peers. Someone who will stick up for their friends, and show others who a real person is.

This…I think, is not too much to hope for. This…is something I can accomplish. This…I have hope for.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I believe…and so could you.

Some people don’t believe in therapy. They think that you should just deal with your problem and move on.

Some people weren’t taught how to do that. I didn’t live in circles that taught you just had to suck it up and live with what ever situation is your life. I some times have a hard time processing every emotion that I’m going through, and I seem to go through a lot of emotions most of the time.

I also get angry and impatient easily, as part of my personality. I blame it on the English in me, but I also have German in me. Maybe it’s both, maybe it’s neither. 

I don’t think it’s right to dump all my problems on my husband or friends, and I enjoy having an objective third party who is there specifically for me to “dump” on. It’s also great to have someone who’s understanding of the fact that I’m going through things.

So today I went to therapy. For the first time in almost two years.

There’s no judgment by my counselor of the fact that I want to change how I react and need help in doing so. In fact, there’s praise for being self aware and taking the proper steps to ensure my own mental and emotional health and that of my children as well (because I sure as hell don’t want to teach them that it’s ok to react so angrily).

During my time of transition here in the Philippines I was in survival mode and had lost the tools I learned from my last stint in therapy. I was a bit nervous, but it was all very encouraging.

I know that I will need to follow through with my assignments and participate at all times instead of just the sessions. This is not something I have a history of being great at, but it will make my money even more worth it and I’ll gain so much more out of my sessions.

I’m taking a healthy approach to a problem that I have. I want to encourage you out there to do it to. You don’t have to be open about it, like I am. It’s scary telling everyone that I’m doing this. But I hope to give encouragement to people who might be nervous about going to therapy. Or don’t want to go because they’ll be judged or ridiculed. While that’s possible, you must realize that it’s more important for you to get the help you need. The people that are mean to you about it, should be forgiven. Maybe they’re in need of therapy and are scared. Or maybe they’re a$$holes. Either way, please know that therapy works. It’s liberating, and so helpful.

If you’re in the Foreign Service, and know you want to get help MED can help you. They’ll refer you to someone in your area. If there isn’t anyone in your area, they’ll refer you to the RMOP who can help you or help you decide how badly you need help. I may be wrong, but medevac might be an option.

Evolution of a Chocolate Smile


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Friday, June 21, 2013


I have a girlfriend who has a blog with a purpose. She loves to travel, and she loves to do it often. She likes to stay at nice places and do nice things. She likes to do those things and stay at those places and not always pay those prices. So she tries to do those things and stay at those places and not pay those prices and then blogs about it. She’s a good writer, and I enjoy her blog.

We were discussing blogs one night over tacos and margaritas. She asked what the purpose was of my blog. I couldn’t give her much of a straight answer. Finally I told her that it started as a way to give updates and pictures to family and friends (which I found out was not true. To quote my first blog entry, “I'm really just doing it so I can stop posting as anonymous on other people's blogs.”) about six years ago when we lived in Dallas. Then when John passed the Foreign Service Exam it also became about our adventure getting into the FS. And now it’s just about what ever I want it to be about.

I do wish that I had a fancy blog, that I updated daily, and had a big following. Things get in the way of that though…my laziness being the biggest thing. In the morning I’ll think, “maybe I’ll blog today!” Then later I’m all:

I’ve thought about carving out an hour a day to sit down and write. I did do a year of school last year, and one semester I did English. There were some good ideas in class about writing, and how to get topics to write about. Sure, they were talking about academic papers, but I don’t see why I couldn’t use those ideas to figure out what to write about. I digress.

I look at some of the fancy blogs that I know and love and wonder what it’s like to be known for your blog (quoted in the big papers, famous in the Foreign Service blogosphere, etc). I’ve always wanted to be famous, this could be a way to fame for me, right?

Well, sure! If I had a fancy blog that I updated more and some kind of niche to fill.

I got an invitation in my email this morning for Bloggy Conference this September. It would be the perfect conference to find out how to make my blog a hit blog. How to make myself famous! The tickets are only $73 for the whole conference! Alas, it’s in Sandusky, OH. Just a quick check on Expedia shows that the cheapest plane ticket right now is $1,345, raising the cost from $73 to way more than I’m willing to pay, and that isn’t including hotel and food and all the shopping that I would do if I was in the States.

So maybe I’ll start updating more often (not likely), and maybe I’ll fancy up my blog (probably not), but I’ll be happy with what I have right now. Because it’s better than nothing.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I forgot

some important information about Coen being 2.

For instance, he knows some colors. Well…he knows the colors of his plates and cups. He is also starting to become opinionated in which color he wants at a certain time. Yesterday at one meal he climbed onto the table and switched with one of his brothers. Luckily the brothers weren’t in the room yet, so there wasn’t a fight over plates.

I realized that his color knowledge is limited to his plates when he took the red crayon yesterday and called it orange.

He counts to 10 and then goes beyond, although I think 14 makes it in about 5 times between 10 and 20.

He loves to sing the ABC’s. He sings about 60% of the song clearly. He loves it so much and he gets so excited to sing it, it’s hard to not join in with him. He loves to sing about any song, really. He also loves to dance. I’ve gotten videos of him dancing lately and will have to make a compilation because he’ll dance for a couple of seconds to a song and then stop.

I’ve been more relaxed teaching the “academic” things to Coen. Probably because there isn’t as much time for he and I to sit down and read the books that Malachi and I could with the colors, and shapes, etc. But our helpers do teach them that stuff. John and I have such fun discovering them knowing things we didn’t teach them.

Sometimes, I get a little jealous that they’re not learning it from me, but mostly I’m just happy that I have awesome helpers.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My baby isn’t a baby

Coen recently turned 2.


It occurred to me the other day, that I don’t have any more babies. That’s weird to me, but at the same time liberating. By this time next year, we should (hopefully) be done with diapers (he actually started sitting on the toilet a couple of months ago and now recognizes when he needs to go potty) – and then life enters a whole new stage.


But for now he’s still in diapers, and I can hang on to his baby-ness for just a little bit longer.  He doesn’t make it easy though, because he’s developing at such a fast rate.


He has a vocabulary that I haven’t seen in any 2 year old. My favorite thing that he was recently saying was “Pachai” for Malachi. He took a while to say his own name, but he’s getting a hang of it. Simon is being said with more accuracy, too. He uses so many words, that I’m having a hard time actually thinking of the ones he uses.


He loves decorating my floors and furniture and interior doors with his and his brother’s stickers. It might be time to put them up out of reach.


He still eats almost anything you put in front of him, but his favorite foods is bananas. He’d eat three a day if we allowed it.


He loves to be with his nanny, Lucy. He’s such a lucky boy to have three adults in the house that love him so much. He’s always sad when she’s not in the house, and he asks for her on her days off.


He loves the pool! He’s wearing floaties and swimming around on his own. He “jumps (it’s more like throwing himself forward)” off the stairs, and sometimes off the side of the pool. He points at the pool and says “our pool” and asks for his “swim suit.” He doesn’t mind going under water, and sometimes even likes it. Whenever one of his brothers starts asking to go in the pool he starts saying “our pool? our pool?”


Not everything is super sunshiny in Coen’s world. His brothers really get on his nerves sometimes. The strength of his dislike for them equals the strength of his love at times. I think he’s teething his 2 year molars (early stages of teething). He gets frustrated with the inability to do things independently that his brothers can do.


But more so than not, he’s enjoying his world. He loves his family, the outdoors, swimming, food, dancing, singing, T.V., movies, music videos, and life in general. He’s a very happy boy.


I hope he’s ok with it, he’ll always be my baby.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

It's official

Yesterday's early release at the Embassy and the flooding confirm it: it's rainy season.

I thought maybe it was early, then I realized that we got here late July last year, so maybe I just arrived late. Then someone on facebook said it is early. Hopefully it doesn't just carry through like this. I think I would have a hard time being stuck in the house if it's flooding all the time.

On a happier note: I had a great visit with my sister! She was here for almost three weeks. Mostly it was just us relaxing (somehow I let her leave having only had one massage - how did that happen?!), but we did some touristy things too.

We went to: Ft. Santiago in Intramuros, Divisoria (think local market/bazaar), and Greenhills (pearls!). We tried to see the sunset at the bay, but unfortunately I picked a bad spot for it. She saw parts of the Embassy, and the school. And we traveled!

It was my first time traveling in the Philippines without John and it was weird to go to a beach resort without him. I had to get my mind out of romantic vacation mode and into sister vacation mode. Unfortunately I didn't do a good job explaining myself at the spa and I accidentally booked us a romantic cooling wrap treatment. It dawned on me after we were both laying on the tables having ice cold green mix that looked like guacamole put on us. "They think we're a couple!" I said. My sister agreed. They did think that. Oh well, it was still fun.

We went to Mactan Island which is connected to Cebu Island which is South East of here. It only was about an hour and a half flight to get there. The resort picked us up and brought us back to the airport when it was time to go. We ventured out to a restaurant that Anthony Bourdain said had the best pork ever. I didn't think so, I'd had better at home, but it wasn't bad. The resort itself, Bluewater Maribago, was a bit above average. I'd had worse, I'd had better. We went on a Deal Grocer deal, and I'd return with kids on a Deal Grocer deal. There were a lot of families there, actually. But there's a Shangri-La down the road that offers a government rate...we'll probably do that with the kids instead.

We ate out a ton while she was here. It's hard to get out of that habit, but I'm working on it.

She says she had a good time, and I think I believe her. I really hope it was a memorable trip. And I really hope she got the rest she deserves after her super hard school year. We loved having her here.

Oh and Steph - you were included in Malachi's family picture the other day. Thought you'd like to know.