Saturday, April 11, 2015

An ordinary Saturday

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I feel like I’ve spent the winter empty-nesting in Dorset.  Four months in the big house, all to myself after the girls moved on to their own places in December.  Now, it’s nice to have company again, the young Greek couple and the Italian cardiologist.  We took an outing to Ashley Cross to introduce folks to the butcher, the grinder, the baker, and the green-grocer – I’m starting to feel like the Porter for our local college.

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I drove the kids to work this morning and made a quick pass along Poole Quay to pick up some coffee and baked goods.  Rowers were out along the inner docks, foreshadowing today’s Oxford/Cambridge boat race. 

Sunseeker’s newly-christened yachts are lined up for delivery – but the rumor is that the new Chinese owners, Dalian Wanda, may close the shipyards soon.  I spoke with a local businessman standing for Poole’s MP position in the upcoming election – he plans a campaign to grow the service sector around tourism and sailing instead.

It seems a pity.

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DSC00188 (864x1300)House-share means sharing the house-cleaning, and this is my week.  It takes an hour to get through the posted list: vac ‘n mop, oven and sinks, bathrooms up and down.  There was probably a time when rooming-house arrangements were common in cities across the US, but it feels like a throwback to my grandparent’s age now. 

‘back yard, sunshine, milky-coffee and reading before settling into finishing the marking for the Cambridge class term papers:

  • DSC00191 (1300x1064)I’m intrigued by Jared Spool’s suggestion that every meeting should end with the group answering three questions:
    1. What was the big idea? (What was the most important thing you heard at the meeting?)
    2. What was your big surprise? (What was the thing you saw or heard that surprised you the most?)
    3. What’s your big question? (What’s the biggest unanswered question you have at this time?)
  • DSC00204 (1300x867)WSJ Expat asks whether Expat Bubbles, enclaves offering the simple comforts of home in a foreign land, are good or bad.  I have tended to ‘go local’, preferring to mingle with locals, wrestle with finding and using service providers, and eschewing Starbucks or McDonalds (unless I need the WiFi stop). 

Living abroad can be hard and … after a day of wrestling with the city, it feels good to return to a pad that has sitting (not squatting) toilets that don’t clog, power that stays , Living abroad is hard and expats learn to celebrate small victories, like correctly telling a cabbie where to go in Mandarin or deciphering salt from sugar at a grocery store where labels are in the local language.

After a day of wrestling with the city, it feels good to return to a pad that has sitting (not squatting) toilets that don’t clog, power that stays on  a unique clustering of nationalities, and maybe, just maybe, an oven (but that’s really pushing it in terms of amenities, at least in Beijing).

Expat life sounds harsher in Asia than in Europe…

  • DSC00219 (1300x813)David Brooks writes about two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace; The eulogy virtues are those related to character, like kindness, bravery, honesty or faithfulness.  I agree with him that we develop these traits by meeting life with self-criticizing humility, honest openness, and love for others.  But I don’t agree that we each have to find and confront  a core sin, motivating all other negative traits.  A confederation of lesser sins, pesky and disconnected, is my experience (I’m currently subduing Carelessness: In my rush to achieve the Big Goals, I mustn’t overlook the small acts that matter to myself and others).

Next week, back to the Netherlands: Lese car, taxes, finances, and legal challenges to be sorted.  It will be good to get back along the Maas, back among my things, again.

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