Friday, May 28, 2010

Approved (a bit too late)

Well, it's not really too late, it seems we are going to benefit from this after all, I'll explain in a second.

On K's birthday (this past Wednesday) our mortgage renegotiation was approved. We learned yesterday. First, when K called the bank to ask about the payoff of the loan for the closing and they told him it had been approved, and then, when an overnight package arrived with the contract to be signed and mailed back.

Initially I was upset about it because it took so long and we were thinking that this approval wouldn't interfere with the payoff (i.e. it would still be higher than it would have been had the renegotiation been finalized earlier). Then, we were doubly upset because the bank told K that they might not be able to provide the title company (or the settlement company, I don't know exactly who) with a payoff amount by the date of the closing (which is in 6 days) -- they said it might take more than a week. WTH?

Today, however, our agent called to let us know that the bank has sent the payoff amount and... surprise! It i lower than we had anticipated it would be (back in March we'd asked for this figure and it was higher b/c of the accumulation what hadn't been paid). We're suspecting that they lowered the interest for this past year or something -- already part of the renegotiation.

We're not about to go argue with the bank and ask whether this is the actual figure or not, but we'll wait until the closing passes and the money is wired to believe that we are indeed going to make a few more thousand dollars on this sale. Phew!

Hardcover Books Dust Covers -- A Question for Book Lovers

Book people out there, what in the world do you do with your dust paper covers for hardcover books?

For those children's books or coffee table books whose hardcovers are in color, it's no big deal to just to toss them, but what about those books whose covers are not in color? Do you ever tape the colorful paper covers on like they do in libraries?

I'm just curious. Pack rat that I am, I've saved all of our dust covers and maybe now it's a good idea to throw them all out. What do y'all say?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Life 10 X Academic Pursuits 0

It's slightly unnerving to be "talking" (or blogging) to myself, but I've seen fewer comments in other people's blogs too, so maybe it's just that people are really busy this time of the year.

Anyway, that's not what I wanted to quickly write about today. I just wanted to register here that I should have been in Montreal tonight for the opening of the first conference in my dissertation subject area that I'd be attending in my sorry academic career.

I've been to many conferences, some of them big and fancy, but none in the small subject area I "dissertated" about (that's probably why I get lots of blank stares when I present my work, I guess I've been going to the wrong conferences).

I would be presenting my paper on Sunday afternoon, meeting other researchers from all over the world and re-connecting with one of my undergraduate professors from Brazil (he's actually from England, but taught me at the Universidade de Sao Paulo), but I'll be here packing our stuff into the truck instead.

Life. It intervenes. It did the same last year when I gave the lamest presentation ever at Harvard. We were getting ready to put the house on the market and I was unable to write a paper. I felt so pathetic and ashamed (I was co-chairing the panel too).

It's not like I haven't chosen life over academia, no, it is a conscious choice of mine to put "life" and family first. Sometimes, however, like in the situations of the conference last year and this year, I make an effort to try an academic pursuit, but life just gets in the way.

I'm at peace with all this (too bad we're also missing my sister- and brother-in-law's baby shower), but I hope that someday I'll be able to make my way back to academia somehow. Meanwhile, I'll go on "living."

Cars, or, the (ever) Shining Lights

Long story. Hopefully interesting. ;-)

We're not car people. Or, maybe I should say that K is not a "car guy." Our cars are merely utilitarian things in our lives (like a lot of other things such as furniture).

We did own a brand new car once -- which we later regretted having bought, but which served us well for many years -- but more on that in a minute, first, let's backtrack.

When we lived in Brazil -- we came to the U.S. when we were both 25 -- we never owned a car. First, we couldn't afford it, second, we didn't need it. We lived in São Paulo, a huge metropolis, and used public transportation to go to the university. Then, after we got married, we lived walking distance from the place where we taught. A year and a half later, we moved to the U.S.

K had a driver's license and drove my parents' car once in a while in Brazil (oh, and he once almost had a terrible accident with his dad's car, but that's another story), but I didn't get a license until I was 24, months before coming to the U.S.

Back in 1996 when we got here our first car was an 11 year old Honda Prelude that we paid $700 for. We bought that car with the help of K's uncle who had just bought a brand new Honda Civic (important detail for later in the story). A year later we upgraded to a Nissan Sentra that cost us 2K (I don't remember how old it was). Then, in 1999 we were foolish enough to buy a brand new Honda Civic and we became a "fancy" two car couple. The Sentra even "died" (broken transmission) and we decided to pay 1K for a new engine because we thought it was worth keeping it for a few more years.*

When we were expecting our second son in 2004 we needed a minivan (my parents visited for extended periods of time and we all needed to fit in the car) and K decided he wanted the old model Honda Odyssey (the smaller one with regular doors). We checked out cars on eBay and K even sent K3 out to look at a car down in Texas once.

Then, one day, after teaching my class, I sat down at the bus stop to go back home. I was heavily pregnant and taking the bus right in front of the building where I taught was way more convenient than finding parking and walking to and from the car. I looked down and saw a campus newspaper on the ground and picked it up. Lo and behold! There was an ad for a Honda Civic there, precisely the kind we were looking for (a 1997 one). We bought it and sold the Civic.

A few months later we relocated from Massachusetts to Philadelphia and sold the Nissan too and became a one car family again (K took the train to the city). Then, in 2007 K got the fateful big pharma job and we needed a new car. Not being a car person and hating to go shopping for anything (particularly for cars), K took his brother K3's advice and bought his brother's friend's brand new Mazda 3 with a nice break in the price ('cause the friend wanted to sell quickly).

This car, which, you may remember I hit with the old Odyssey a while back -- NO!! That's crazy! This happened precisely two years ago. Eerie!! -- is the car that we needed to have sold two years ago when K decided to walk away from big pharma and/or last year so we could pay ne of our credit cards, but we never got around to it. We really NEED to do that now, though, both sell the car and then pay the card. So, the car is for sale, let me know if you're interested. ;-)

OK, there's more to this story. Do you remember I mentioned that K's uncle had bought a new Honda Civic back in 1996? This was the car that he put over 30 thousand miles a year on and he owned it for nearly ten years. Yes. You guessed it, the car has over 300 thousand miles on it!! Well, back in 2006 when K's parents moved to the U.S. they bought the uncle's car. They subsequently bought a new Corolla (later regretted), but kept the Civic. They were going to "sell" it back to uncle this year after we borrowed it for a few months, but, GUESS WHAT?! Father-in-law decided to give us the car since we need to sell the other car.

Bottom line. After the Mazda is sold, we'll be the proud owners of two crumbling Hondas (I was going to subtitle the post "the two dying Hondas"), one with over 300K miles and the other with 200K+. That means that any day now we'll be on the road and the car will die on us. Or maybe not. These Japanese cars seem to have a thousand lives!

I was going to end the story here, but Laura at 11D just wrote this post about engine lights (the comment section is fun!) which reminded me not only to write this post, but also to disclose that the engine lights are on in both cars (sigh). Both cars have been checked out a few times and nothing was found (they obviously have countless other problems, but nothing can keep those lights from shining, apparently! -- HA!! I've got me a subtitle right there!). So, yeah... fun times.

Last, but not least, the Odyssey is burning oil (there's no leak) and now we need to have several gallons of oil in the car at all times because the oil light comes on unexpectedly and we have to stop (as we did 1 am on Monday night) to refill the oil or the car can die right then.

Yeah, what adventurous lives we lead! And I guess we're going to have to start renting cars for most of our long trips now. I don't know how long we'll be able to hold off until we have to buy a newer car. Sigh. Keep your fingers crossed on our behalf!

OH, and please do tell us now, what are you car stories?

P.S. Let me know if you're interested in buying the Mazda. Seriously, it's a good car! ;-)

* We didn't regret that decision, but poor K3 (K's younger brother) maybe did because years later he used the Sentra for a couple of months and it gave him a lot of trouble -- the battery was bad. That pushed K3 over the edge and he bought his own brand new Honda Civic (same green color as ours, but a 2 door hatchback). Now I'm curious to know whether K3 ever regretted buying a brand new car like his older brother and dad did.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Birthday Smorgasbord

K thought of the post's title and told me to write it after we went (quite late at night! 9:30) to eat here [site with sound] with the boys to celebrate his birthday. phew! what a long sentence! I'm not going back to edit though, it's just too late at night (3 am, actually! but I want the post to have yesterday's date).

We went there for the first time last November, on an impromptu date one Saturday night (we left the boys with friends) and we didn't have reservations, so we had to eat at the bar. It was my first cheese fondue ever -- I the one who was accidentally born in Switzerland and who grew up looking at a fondue recipe (in French) printed on a decorative kitchen towel tacked to the wall. We loved the chocolate fondue best, though, and we thought that it was a fun way to eat and that the boys would love it. We vowed to come back if he got a job and if we sold the house.

Both were accomplished and tonight, because there was his birthday to celebrate, we went back. They had a $35 special (Ladies' night out or something), so K and I had it and shared with the boys. Fondue (spinach artichoke, yum!), a salad, the "entree" (no meats for us, only veggies and pasta) and the chocolate fondue. It was lovely, and it felt very healthy afterwards!

So, here's the post happy birthday K! In precisely a month and 2 weeks I'll catch up!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hacking the Academy -- 3 more days to contribute

Laura at 11D twitted & blogged about this intriguing project today -- a book to be "crowdsourced" in one week.

The idea is novel and, perhaps, under-publicized, so much so that a Google search of "Hacking the Academy" didn't take me to the website. I didn't have time to check it out until now, but I think it's a fascinating idea. My only problem with it is that one week may be too short a period to get a meaningful discussion going -- particularly because they said they'd publish the comments to the selected posts/ essays. Those I checked out didn't have any comments (yet). I wish I had time to contribute somehow, but I think I won't, maybe you do.

Life Repeating Itself

I've been thinking a lot about the past three years, the period we've lived in this house. I want to blog some about it and I really want to find the time to post some photos. I was thinking about when we moved here in 2007 and while taking a look at the archives I found an interesting post.

Journaling is important for me primarily because I can take a peek at the past and see how things turned out, how they changed (or not), so I can then look forward to the future and wonder what will take place then. I haven't used the blog for this purpose as much as I should (I regularly re-read old journals), but I guess that moving is making me feel like doing that.

When I read the title of this old post and thought about one of my recent posts, I had to laugh out loud. Well, and also lament our "fate" or "bad luck" for a bit and think "how life repeats itself, no?" And posts on my blog too -- sorry!

Let's keep our fingers crossed that maybe the next time there will be movers! ;-)

We've got a new address

After a last-minute trip to Virginia we finally have a new address. We'll be moving in on the 4th.

Downsizing is an understatement for what we're doing, but I guess we'll survive. We're moving from 2500 square feet + half basement + double garage + two sheds + storage on top of main floor and garage to around 1000 sq ft & no basement. At least there's a garage. That's where we plan to store whatever needs to be stored.

I'm happy with the place, but it's only because we're not renting from the rental company. After K had already signed the lease with them (he didn't want to come home without having decided and secured a place for us to move to), we drove to look at some "For Rent" signs and we saw one for a townhome that looked exactly the same as the one we were going to rent, but in a much better location. We called and left a message, but the owner only got back to us after we'd driven 1h15 minutes North.

We drove back and although we got home only at 2 am as a result, it was the best decision. Not only is this house in a better location, it's meticulously taken care of. It has much better (stainless steel) appliances, great choice of paint colors and we can use our own washer and drier! (at the other rental they had a pair of old ones). The owner is getting married on the 5th, so she's happy the house will be rented even before that (too bad we added a bit of stress to the week before her wedding since she's going to have to empty the house).

K had to call the rental company this morning to dissolve the lease (he'd given them a check for a thousand dollars too) and it worked out, we only have to pay a penalty of 100 dollars. So... we have a place to live for a year and that's a relief. I wish we were buying, but maybe renting really is the best option.

I'll post screenshots of the two prospective neighborhoods later, OK?

Friday, May 21, 2010

The "Do-It-Yourselvers"

Well, as Dooce would say it, our family is "the valedictorian of the do-it-yourself," so we had to go and "do-it-ourselves" all over again this time, contrary to what I thought might happen. The good thing is that it's going to save us between 1,500 and 2,000, depending on the company we would have hired for the move.

At the last minute, just before K decided to go with one of the companies he'd gotten quotes from, he called a friend, who told him about this company that he used when he moved from California to PA two years ago. The suggestion saved the day, erm, our pockets. We'll have up to five days to fill the truck and three days to empty it. Wish us luck!

We'll be enlisting the help of friends and family and taking advantage of the Memorial day holiday, so it should be fine. Now all we need to do is to sign a lease on Monday and we'll be all set for moving again.

Upcoming: photos of home renovation projects (it's now or never! ;-).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hiring Movers, Looking for Rentals

Time is running out and we're exploring our options. The "flexbox" (pod-like boxes) option seems to be too pricey right now, so we might as well hire movers, so we don't have to do all the packing ourselves, only of boxes. Problem is, you know we're broke and the university that has hired K does not pay for our moving expenses -- they're only going to provide us with a thousand dollars.

We've also put the plan of buying a house on indefinite hold and are looking at rentals in VA. We were thinking that since many moving companies seem to offer one month of storage free, we might wait to rent only in June, after the closing. That way we'd have some wiggle room if the other university invites K for an interview. (It's been three weeks and we haven't heard anything back -- maybe the search has been brought to a close without them hiring). However, K just got off the phone after talking to several movers and it looks like we may have to rent right away and get moved in soon after the closing because the monthly storage is not "free" after all. :-(

If we do use movers it'll be a "first" in our lives. Every time we move (and there have been five moves in the past 14 years) we say to ourselves that "next time we're hiring movers" and that never happens.* Maybe the first time is here! (gotta try to look at the bright side). Too bad it's so expensive.

*We didn't qualify for relocation when K got the job at big pharma b/c we lived less than 50 miles from there. He did get a fat bonus, but we ended up doing it all ourselves once more (with Flexbox) to save $. Ah... the thriftiness that seeps into one's very bones is here for life!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My "Baby" Will Need to Wear Glasses!

Not only that, but the vision on his left eye is so bad (3.5 both astigmatism and nearsightedness) that he may need to wear an eye-patch for a while so the eye can adjust to working again. I think we never suspected anything because vision on his right eye is nearly perfect, and it masked the problem.

I'm relieved that I decided to take them to the optometrist just to make sure everything was OK. The doctor has a sophisticated machine (he got it 2 weeks ago, he says) that can scan their eyes and come up with the prescription so he used that (twice, the second time after the pupil was dilated). It was hard, however for Linton to respond in the regular exam as to which lens was better, that's how the doctor concluded the his left eye is a bit "lazy" right now. I hope that doesn't bring problems for later. Any advice or stories from those of you whose children wear glasses will be appreciated! And please no horror stories about how many pairs of glasses will be lost or destroyed and how much we'll spend on this (just kidding! Bring 'em on!). I've got to get prepared for this.

Now, we know who the genetic "culprit" is for this -- daddy wore glasses since he was three and has very strong astigmatism. I'm a bit sad, but I think that Linton will handle it just fine. As long as we buy the glasses he picks. ;-) (he has already decided he wants a pair of blue ones we saw at BJ's. We'll see about that!)

P.S. I thought we might have a photo of very young K with glasses, but we don't, only of him at around 10 years old, and I'd have to ask his permission to post that, so, no photo of K for now.

Town Code Inspection -- Check!

We passed the town's inspection today, so we're all set to sell the house. We're very relieved, too bad it cost us 800 bucks (100 for 5 minute inspection, 250 for metal door, 50 for other supplies, 400 for labor). Sigh. Everything comes at a cost in life, right? But I guess that in this respect this house has been our biggest mistake ever. It has cost us everything we ever made in the 9 years we've been home owners.

It's not fun to "lose everything" in this way, but we have to pick up and start from scratch again, and we'll do it! Thousands of people are having it all so much harder right now and the truth is: if we had bought any other house it would most certainly be a short sale, so we have to be very thankful that we're even coming out of this sale with something.
We've got to keep on looking at the bright side there! Especially because the tradeoff meant that we got to live on a lovely house for three years. We should be happy about that. And try to do our best not to be sad to leave it. I'll try to post more on that in the upcoming days.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Know Where I Come from, But I Don't Know Where I'm Going

I'm sure this (or something like it) must be an existing song title, too bad I don't know the song. (Yeah, pathetic joke, I know).

Anyhow, this is the truth about our lives right now. We know where we've come from and where we've been, but we have no idea where we're going to. We should be used to that by now, it's been nearly fifteen years of wandering for us, but I guess it's always an unsettling situation to be in. Particularly when you're just so close to finally "settling" down somewhere (or so we hope).

Problem is, in only 17 days we'll be out of this house and plans need to be made (we were able to agree to split the extra 11K evenly with the buyers, so the deal is up -- tomorrow's town inspection pending). So far we know we're getting things into boxes that can be stored and transported anywhere. And we know that from June 11-20 the boys and I will be living in a tent for "camp meeting." Other than that... we don't know. There are friends houses where we can stay, but one cannot (and want not) to do that indefinitely. So, yeah, that's that.

I'll keep you posted, all right?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

First Camping Trip

Yeah, the first and also the last here in Pennsylvania.

We spent the weekend at this State Park, with six other families from church and it was just an awesome and relaxing weekend. I hope to post some photos later, but right now I have to go to bed because I'm just indescribably tired. (We also went to Longwood Gardens this afternoon, we need to enjoy every last opportunity to enjoy it before we move).

This has been a year of firsts so far -- first time the boys went skiing (I also want/need to post photos), first time they went camping,* first academic job offer for K (totally unrelated this last one, no?).

Right now, though, we're trying to negotiate the countless "last things" that we'll experience from now on. Hopefully having a few "firsts" here and there can help us cope with the "lasts."

* I've obviously camped before, but mostly in my childhood with my parents and during our month-long backpacking trip in Europe in 2000.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On the perspective of not breaking even or worse

The answers are beginning to trickle in and the first one is not very good.

The house appraised only 2K over asking price. Not the 13K more the buyers anticipated and offered (so their closing costs would be included in the loan via seller's assist).

I had this nagging feeling when we accepted the offer that there needed to be a provision spelled out in the event the house didn't appraise. There wasn't anything there, though, but thankfully we're negotiating. The buyers are motivated to buy and we obviously don't have any choice but sell it. It doesn't look like we won't break even, but we won't make much either. Sigh. We kind of knew this would probably happen, so we shouldn't complain. Selling is the most important thing after all and thousands of other people simply lost their houses, so we're not in such a bad position.

It was a too good to be true offer after all.

Multilingual Living - Awesome Website for Multi-lingual Families

Years ago I was a columnist for the Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network for several months at the kind invitation of founder/editor Corey Heller. Then, I also contributed for a couple of issues of the online magazine Multilingual Living (a full color PDF magazine whose back issues are still available for your enjoyment for a very low payment of $12!). The magazine is no longer being published online, but I'm thrilled to introduce the gorgeous, brand new website, Multilingual Living!!
Go check it out because Multilingual Living is a wonderful resource not only for families who are already bi- or multi-lingual/ cultural, but also for those who plan on teaching their children a second/third language/culture. The site has been many years in the making. I still remember when we held a vote before the magazine was started to choose a name for the site and magazine. I was a big fan of Multilingual Living and was glad when it was chosen!

I plan on getting involved with the website again since the main reason I stopped contributing to the magazine was the fact that I moved and then needed to finish a dissertation and didn't have much time. Oh, that and the question of my semi-anonymity here. We'll see, I might just decide not to worry about this "anonymity" thing anymore! ;-)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Still Up in the Air

Things haven't changed a bit since I last updated on our house sale situation.

The appraisal was a week ago, but no word from the bank yet (this doesn't bode well, does it?), so we cannot proceed with the needed repairs from the inspection report.

We did schedule the town's inspection and we have a week to get things done in that front (we'll have to replace the door from the garage to the family room :-( among other things -- mostly replacing electric outlets). I don't know how those will get done either since K is away all day long with his 3h daily commute.

On the other front, nothing yet, but there will probably be an interview (inside informant warned K about that).

All this waiting is very unnerving. I hope things become clearer soon. Moving is difficult in and of itself, but it seems that since 2007 our lives have taken several turns in the direction of particularly difficult and long-winded resolutions.* Yeah, we're still on the roller-coaster.

* Summary for those who haven't been reading that long: 2007 was the year K got the unfortunate job offer from big pharma. We made an offer on a house, got it inspected, had to jump out of the deal because K's visa process took to long. Then after he started the new job and we bought this fixer-upper house he lost his job after less than two months there. He was readmitted, stayed for a year (I finally finished the phd), then decided to leave and go back to academia, regrets ensued, we could have lost the house, etc, etc... and here we are today. All things considered, we're doing GREAT, but I'm getting tired of the ups and downs and the surprising turns. Sigh.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Simple (Yet Complex) Wish

A while back when I talked to my friend Zee and read some of her posts about photography, I sadly realized that we don't have a "real" photo camera.

Back when film was the norm we did have a bare bones, but decent camera, a Pentax K1000 with a good lens and we took some great photos with it.

Then when we switched to digital back in the good old days of 2003, in spite of the fact that I was aware that digital photos couldn't compare to "real" ones, I didn't know that there could be better digital cameras, i.e. SLR (single lens reflex) cameras. We chose a model with a good lens and I thought that was it, but now that digital SLR cameras are easily available, I know that we really should have one so we can take "decent" photos. Sigh.

Too bad we can't afford one. I just hope our hand-me-down camera lasts until we can be able to get a new one. And I'm talking to K about not getting birthday presents so we can try and save until the end of the year, so hopefully we can get one for Christmas. (problem is, we haven't been giving each other birthday presents for years now, with some excuse or another that in the end never gets fulfilled. sigh).

I still love to take photos, even with my humble "point and shoot" camera.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Inspection and Appraisal

Right now we're anxiously awaiting the results of the appraisal. You may recall that the buyers offered 13K more than asking price so they could get that in sellers' assist and include the closing costs in their loan. I don't know how we're going to negotiate if the house doesn't appraise at the offered price.

As for the inspection, their response was OK, considering that this house is old and that the inspector found multiples things that need to be taken care of. We'll need to put a new lining in the furnace chimney (estimate of $1.8K) and make some changes to the electric system ($300 estimate). Then, because they cannot ask for any more money (due to the high sellers' assist) and the leaky downstairs bathroom needs to be completely redone, they asked us to provide them with them a new washer, drier and dishwasher (?!) instead. We were OK with the washer and drier, but were flabbergasted about the dishwasher since ours is less than 2 years old -- how can they ask us to replace a brand new appliance that works, right?

Fortunately, our realtor had a great idea. Instead of having the appliances delivered (they had requested to be present when the delivery took place on the morning of closing, no less -- a huge hassle for all of us), Roberta thought that we could just give them a home improvement store gift card after the closing. They loved the idea and said that in this case they would probably not replace the dishwasher and get something else they needed instead. And they also told us not to get offended by the suggestion of a new dishwasher -- they just need the money and it has to go towards something. That makes sense. After all, we chose not to redo the downstairs bathroom (we couldn't afford it!) and we were running the risk of that being an issue when selling.

We're praying that everything goes well. We cannot lose this sale and the buyers seem to like the house enough to overlook several small things in it. I hope they're happy here!

Well, the countdown has started, we only have 27 more days in this house. Isn't that crazeeee!? And I have to pack and do cyberschooling at the same time. I don't know how that's going to get done, seriously. The boys will have to help us out by working more independently (not an option for the kindergartner, although he's the most independent of the two of them). It will all get done somehow. And strangely, I'm looking forward to it because I like moving. If we could only know where we're going... (doesn't that sound even crazier than having to move out in 27 days?). In any case, even if we made an offer on a house today, it would take around 45 days for us to be able to close on it. Something tells me we're going to have to rent instead :-(.

Monkey Wrench? or Opportunity?

How would you feel if this late in the game #2 contacted you out of the blue?

We don't think it's an alternative worth discarding without checking it out first although it's hard, very hard, to put everything on hold for it (we were about to put an offer on a house). Keep us in your thoughts and prayers, it'll be a tough decision to make.

P.S. There's nothing certain at this point, there may be an interview. The most important thing is that K has a job (#3 in our list too) and we're happy about it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Namesake (Film Version)

I already wrote briefly about the book and now it's time to comment on the the movie. I had to return it in a hurry, so I watched in installments over the course of the whole day yesterday. I know, not the best way to enjoy a movie. I guess this effectively prevented the phenomenon I've heard from several people -- that they began to cry at the beginning and didn't stop until the end. I just cried on and off ;-).

Some superficial musings...

Non-TV watcher that I am, I didn't know Kal Penn beforehand, but he was definitely the perfect actor for the part. I had to go check out all the actors here. I was particularly curious to find out whether the actress who portrayed Moushumi was really Indian and my suspicion was correct in a sense because she's just partly so. Hey, I just went there again to check on the actress who portrayed Sonia and I suppose she's Mira Nair's (the director's) daughter! Interesting. I thought that the actress they chose to portray Maxine was perfect.

Let's see what else. I loved the movie, in spite of the fact that I felt that it was much too rushed at times (understandably so, since a novel is much longer) and certain parts didn't tie in as well. E.g. I don't think it was effective to have Ashoke tell Gogol about the accident on that day when they went to pick up ice-cream. Of course it had to be then because this was to be their last conversation, but the timing wasn't very meaningful. The timing of the breakup with Maxine, on the other hand, was great.

I didn't mind the change of cities from Cambridge/Boston to Queens/NYC at all. Mira Nair's idea to treat Calcutta and New York as one city was great and worked really well visually, particularly with the bridges in both places. The change of names from Dimitri to Pierre was just a small detail, but I guess that in the book it's an interesting one because both men's names are Russian. I'm pretty sure that in the book Gogol didn't shave his hair in mourning, but it made for a great visual effect in the film, particularly with the flashbacks of young Gogol and his Baba.

Overall, I think that the feeling I got from the film about the expatriate experience is more positive somehow than the one conveyed in the book. I'm sure I'd have more to say, but you guys will have to excuse me because I'm going out on a rare date with K, courtesy of the in-laws (also rare) presence here today!

P.S. I think this is a film I'd like to own. I really want to watch it with Mira Nair's commentary someday.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


We're "waterless" in this house tonight, at least temporarily. Not a pleasant situation to be in when you've just spent 7 non-consecutive hours* of the day in the car traveling plus 4 hours house-hunting and all you want is to take a warm shower to relax. But you have, instead, to empty the contents of the under the sink kitchen cabinet to investigate a mysterious leak and to remove a thoroughly soaked ceiling panel in the basement which, fortunately, didn't drip into the precious photo albums stored directly below.

This is all great, though, compared to what could have been. Earlier today, while we were a couple of states South, the appraisal of this house took place. Can you imagine if the kitchen had been filled with water when the buyer's agent and the appraiser got here? Everything was or seemed dry and it was only later, when the agent came back for the termite inspection (no termites, only carpenter ants -- remind me to post about the inspection results tomorrow, OK?) that she noticed water in the basement ceiling panel. She called our agent, Roberta, but we had already been contacted about the issue by my parents-in-law, who drove down from Montreal today and had entered the house at 1:30 pm and noticed the water on the kitchen floor. K instructed his dad to shut down the water main, so things were under control.

Can you imagine how disastrous it could have been but wasn't? It's still a tremendous hassle. The in-laws had to turn the water back on so they could take showers this evening and we couldn't sleep in Maryland and drive back tomorrow as we'd planned because we needed to take care of this. Sigh.

I think I know what might have caused the (very old) pipe to crack. When K installed the sprayer for the new sink -- a feature I use multiple times everyday to wash dishes, fill the water filter and fill pots for cooking -- he didn't realize that the hose got stuck to one of the pipe valves when it was pulled out. I'd already warned him of the problem and asked him to fix it because every time I used the sprayer, I tugged hard on that pipe. I remember clearly the last time I did it on Saturday night when I filled the water filter. I hope the pipe hadn't been leaking since that night, but apparently it started this morning (or got worse).

K put some type of epoxy adhesive that he found in his toolbox and we'll see if that will temporarily stop the leak and allow us at least to be able to shower, flush toilets and wash some dishes tomorrow morning before we can get a plumber to come over. I hope this small problems gets solved soon.

Aren't our lives just so unpredictably exciting? And I don't even know if I can/will tell you what else is going on right now. We'll see about that later. And now I have to sleep because it's really late or, early...

*2h in the morning, 2h early evening, 3h driving back home at night.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

"Permanently Pregnant" (this made me cry lots)

Post started on 4/22. I finished the book several days ago.

Finally, many years after first listening about the book in a Fresh Air interview with Jhumpa Lahiri (I remember clearly as if it were today, I was at a store parking lot in Massachusetts, probably with a sleeping baby, waiting for someone*), I am reading The Namesake (read an excerpt of the book here).**

Being an expatriate is not an easy thing. It's a "state of being" that is very hard to describe. I love it when my friend Aliki writes about her time or travels abroad and beautifully captures some of the feelings that consume my life daily, at times. I've been longing to read more about expatriate life and I knew this book would be just that. I have barely started, and I've already been reduced to tears by this passage:
For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy - a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that the previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.
I loved that the book begins with pregnancy and childbirth, but I wasn't expecting this great metaphor, expatriate life as a "lifelong pregnancy" without a due date and the relief and joy that come with birth.

ending the post today:
I enjoyed the book and the film arrived on Thursday from Netflix. I think my "closing thoughts" on The Nameseke are that it paints a slightly bitter picture of immigration and living as an expatriate and, particularly, the son of expatriates, torn between two countries and cultures. Although I live that "in-betweeness" every day in my life, I don't think of it so negatively. I don't think I long for my "home country" as much as Ashima did. Most importantly, I hope that the fact that I want my sons to be as "Brazilian" as they can possibly be going to Brazil only once a year at most and speaking Portuguese at home, make them feel torn later in life as Gogol/Nikhil did. (And I hope their names are different, but familiar enough not to cause them trouble!).

Of course this is only fiction, not real life, but the struggles of the book's characters did resonate with me in a profound way. When I was in graduate school, one of my closest friends was this Puerto Rican guy and when I got pregnant and had Kelvin he kept teasing me on an on about how I would have a "messed up" kid who would be asking me why he had to speak
Portuguese and be Brazilian. I hope he's wrong. I hope Kelvin and Linton can navigate well the sometimes choppy waters of being the children of expatriates.

* Thanks to Lahiri's website, I now know the exact date I listened to the interview, September 4, 2003. Kelvin was 18 months and he was probably napping in the car that day, or, alternately, I was so taken by the interview that I just sat in the car. In front of Whole Foods, I think.

**I wanted to have gotten the book through Paperback Swap, but couldn't find it the day I first checked, so I bought it for 99 cents from Alibris in the end and then immediately found it on the PB swap site. :-( I haven't joined the PB swap yet since they I couldn't find several of the (few) books I want to read.