World


My lips, this cricket

This is a post designed exactly so that people can weigh in on the most exotic foodstuff they’ve consumed.  It’s going to fall heavily on the side of carnivores, for which I apologize in advance, but if you have tasted fresh rowan from the Himalayas, by all means, speak up.

I’ve dined twice at this restaurant in London, Archipelago, which specializes in exotic cuisine.  The first time I went, I was too embarrassed to take photographs of our meal, because this is desperately uncool.  The second time I had no such compunction and snapped away, as I was truly regretful I had not documented the first time I ate crickets.

While by no means cheap, it is reasonably priced for the quality and rarity on offer, and a great place to bring out-of-towners looking for a bit of a treat.  My first visit, I had the ostrich starter (ostrich is always amazing – thready and flavorful) and the zebra steak.  (more…)

Dear Blog Diary,

Today was a pretty good day.  We had friends stay over last night and got up this morning to make a Sunday breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, beans, and hash browns, served with milk or orange juice.  I put roasted red peppers and goat cheese in with the eggs, and it was all really tasty, if I do say so myself!  Everyone remarked how fancy the gold napkins are that I used to set the table, and I think they offset the pale green placemats very nicely.  We put the BBC news on the television in the background, so that we could all learn about the Basque Separatists and watch video evidence of that cop in Wiltshire who assaulted some lady in custody, and I guess forgot that CCTV would capture him flinging her across a jail cell and busting her face open.  And now we all get to watch it, over and over again!  How silly!  There was also some tech piece about new trends in shopping, but it seemed pretty dumb so I didn’t pay much attention.

After breakfast, our friends went home, and I settled in to watch Gladiators in my nightgown and eat some ice cream.  Boy, that “Spartan” Gladiator is really sexy, but I wish they wouldn’t let him talk!  I like watching him perform muscle-bound feats, though, especially when he was wrestling with that cute teacher on the Pyramid.  Their shorts are so tight, I had to cross my legs and eat more ice cream to cool down!

Anyway, I was sort of annoyed because Boyfriend was using my computer to play his chess games, while I got stuck washing all the dishes.  That was so dumb!  I was scrubbing out a pan and not really listening to the TV, when the opening credits of this cool show came on, and we both stopped everything we were doing to watch!

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Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic is reporting on Al Qaeda’s first English-language magazine.  It’s based out of the Arabian Peninsula, called “Inspire,” and is aimed at the millions of Muslims who speak English as a first or second language.  A U.S. official has confirmed that it appears to be authentic.  And we all thought publishing was dead! (more…)

It’s only a game-deciding goal in the World Cup.  A reasonable venue for the worst call of all freakin’ time.  There are about three American players being fouled, and yet the ref somehow managed to see something no one else in the entire stadium world could.  Amazing.

A week ago I had an appointment with the British Home Office in Croydon to upgrade my immigration status from a sponsored Work Permit to Tier 1 Visa as a Highly-Skilled Worker, for which I am newly qualified.  My reasons for this are two-fold:  for one, I am job-hunting, and this grants me the ability to work for any employer in any industry within the UK, rather than relying on new sponsorship within my current profession; secondly, although I still have over two years remaining on my Work Permit, I thought it best to get in there fast to take advantage of the recently relaxed requirements for Tier 1 qualification before the new Tory coalition government clamps down on immigration policy.  It means that I can continue to live and work in the UK without dependence on a company or a partner, which is a pretty sweet deal, even if it does cost £1095 for the privilege.

Like anyone would, I jumped at the opportunity to combine my passion for navigating bureaucratic red tape with the thrilling roller-coaster ride that is the uncertainty of employment and immigration status.  It’s like visiting the DMV, but with your livelihood on the line!  Already a “highly-strung” personage, I’ve found the experience to be nerve-wracking, especially on top of the dozen job interviews I’ve had over the last couple of months.  I feel like I’ve been living in an uneasy state of limbo and have been hopeful that at least settling this aspect of my existence here in London would bring some clarity.

Alas, it was not to be.  Here’s what’s happened so far. (more…)

I take great pleasure in helping out people looking for directions or guidance, in so far as I am able.  Here in London, exasperated tourists will approach me with varying  degrees of English competency on the regular, looking for assistance in locating their destination; I am always delighted to point them in the right direction, when I can, drawing maps on a notepad or even walking them partway if I have nowhere important to be.  Even though this is not my home country, this is just good hospitality, and I like to do my best to send folk on their way with a positive impression, just as I rely on fellow Londoners to help me out when I’m in an unfamiliar part of town.  I am a big believer in asking for, and offering, directions.

So this is, as I said, just good hospitality, and ultimately good karma.  It’s not a big city, but it is a busy and twisting one, and we all need a little help from time to time.  I was recently thinking, however, about the people I call Travel Angels.  These are the people you meet in the course of your journey who go far out of their way to assist you, and leave you with a warm feeling in the pit of your belly, the people who replenish your basic faith in humanity, however grand or small the gesture.  These gestures are always poignant, but especially so in a foreign setting when you are wary of your vulnerability.

This is more than essential kindness, and more than giving directions.  These acts require the Angel to take time away from themselves to see you safely to your destination, or extend their welcome to the point of invitation into their own lives.  It’s the person who sees you on your own in an unfamiliar place and invites you to a Lebanese family supper, or offers to drive you 30 miles out of their way (both experiences from my own life).  With that thought, I wanted to detail four instances of Travel Angels and invite you to share your own.

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I guess I’m going to get used to looking at this man’s forehead because David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party here in the UK, has just left Buckingham Palace as new Prime Minister following Gordon Brown’s resignation.  The Liberal Democrats have formed a coalition with the Tories to take the Labour Party out of power for the first time since Tony Blair’s historic election in 1994.

I’d love to offer some devastating and insightful analysis of this development, but even after attempting to follow the debates and news programs for the last two weeks, I’m still scratching my head.  Since I can’t vote here, I spend much more time and energy keeping up with US politics, but here’s the wee bit that I’ve gleaned: (more…)

I went to Malta for five nights over the Easter holiday and have subsequently shifted through the 200+ photos from the trip trying to determine what might be worth sharing with my family or possibly posting about.  Although I know next to nothing about automobiles, I am an appreciator of classic vehicular aesthetics, and so writing about the buses in Malta is an imperative – I’ve never come back from a holiday with 10+ pictures of buses before, but this was exceptional.

The Boy and I stayed in Qawra on the northern part of the island, which we quickly discovered was not as happenin’ as more central areas like Saint Julian’s Bay, Sliema/Paceville, or even Valletta, the capital.  Fortunately, the bus service was cheap, accessible, and charming (for the most part).

The buses in Malta are, in a word, supercool.  They reminded me of the Weinermobile, as they are painted mustard yellow and hotdog orange and have excellent chrome detailing.  We took six or seven different buses during our stay there and while they ranged in vintage, every one displayed prominent Catholic iconography on the interior, which was actually more appealing than it sounds.  Several of the older buses featured a thrilling hop-on door that didn’t close, so we could see the countryside whizzing past as we barreled down the exceptionally well-maintained roads: (more…)

I am an attractive young woman.  Evaluations of my level of attractiveness and the relativity of my youth will vary from person to person (not to mention day-to-day), but generically speaking, this is a fair statement.  I am also a professional in an industry populated mpstly by men.  As such, I am largely at a disadvantage, but retain one *unique* advantage based on my personal presentation, if I choose to cultivate it.

This is a song familiar to a lot of you.

My office wear is carefully calculated to appear appropriate in the service of my own physical and mental comfort.  Any aspect that could be challenged as “alluring” or “radical” is studiously balanced out.  If my pants or skirt are form-fitting, my sweater or blouse is loose or non-confrontational.  If my shirt is vee-necked and tight, my trousers are wide-legged and paired with a blazer.  My hair, which is highlighted red and blonde, is subject to much comment by male colleagues (usually that it is too red and they prefer me blonder).  I take it into consideration, but still wear silver-hooped earrings every day, because I like them, and their size and shape belies how much my ears stick out (I hate my ears).  Every day, I wear an extremely high-quality, fake silver Rolex and a tasteful silver ring I bought on the street in Barcelona.  I take pride in the fact that people who have worked with me for years are surprised to find out I have a tongue stud, because I chose a subtle one ten years ago.

Pantsuits and pearls are for client meetings, with discreet pearl-drop earrings and straightened hair.  I have one gray suit and one black pinstriped suit.  I wear them with shined, heeled black boots for external meetings, or burgundy Franco Sarto heels for meetings in the office.  I bought both suits half-priced in a sale for $300, and then spent $100 in alterations.  I don’t own a skirtsuit because I haven’t found one that fits me well enough to merit alterations, although I have a gorgeous turquoise shift that my mother bought me from M&S when she visited me last year, which is very professional without looking matronly.  I keep it in the coat closet at work with a spare set of pantyhose, in case of an emergency client meeting.

Having been compared to a librarian, a schoolgirl, and a flight attendant at the office, I am careful to ensure I don’t look too costumey.  I once wore a tight black sweater over a crisp white shirt, with a black skirt and buckled leather boots and realized, mirthfully, that I looked like a Pilgrim, but no one noticed. I wore that outfit again for Thanksgiving, for my own private tribute, because I am an American in the UK. (more…)

There is a video after the jump that will save your life, but first, I have to introduce it.

Do you remember when you were a kid, and you would pretend to speak Spanish (or French or Swahili or Mandarin), and approximate a bunch of sounds that seemed suitably foreign and, to your ear, could passably compare to the language you were imitating?  Heck, I practiced this at a bar recently when a dude I didn’t really want to talk to approached me and I pretended to be Russian, and quickly mentioned that I “no speeek Eeengleesh” (I thought it was a reasonably muddy Eastern Bloc accent at the time).

My mistake.  “Как поживаешь?” He asked with enthusiasm.  “Ahahaha!”  I said, nervously.  “Yur agzent… bery gud.”  Then I hightailed it to the bathroom to hide.

Anyway, if you have ever been a child, you know what I’m talking about: the pleasures of gibberish and linguistic imitation.  When I attempt the broken, ungrammatical Spanish I sometimes inflict on folk today, I can’t help but give it a little extra UMMPH, a little rrrrroll of the “r” – una pequeña mas pasión! – than I would making the same ungrammatical statement in English.  “I no go… THE BED!” for example.  My Spanish is slightly less sophisticated than that of a very emphatic toddler, but just as intense.

In the same vein, I have wondered before what The English sounds like as a gibberish language to foreigners.  Surely kids in Mexico and Spain and Chile were pretending to speak English in the same insane-o manner I was pretending (still do!) to speak Español.  Turns out, I was right, and there exists a grown-up person music video from Italy (very close to Spain) from 1972 that nicely illustrates the point.

I can’t possibly list all the reasons you should watch this video, but I will start with: (more…)

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