22 August, 2019

Wait... It's STILL August?

It might not be the end of the month yet, but it feels like it. I have done more "big stuff" this month than most months. Big, but not uncommon for the life of an expat. It's just that everything came up at once! Not only that, but my closest expat friends are all leaving the country within the next week, so it's the end of a chapter, too.

Therefore, my list:
I stole this bullet point list from JZ at "A Reluctant Bitch".  

Relieved to Be Done With: Moving to a new house. AGAIN!

Inordinately Proud Of: Doing all my work with no air conditioner.

Happy to Have Survived: Multiple hangovers. I'll miss my Aussie friends when they leave, but holy drinking!

Glad To Be Done With: And extra, unexpected, tourist visa run to Laos because there was a delay with the work visa.

Grateful For: A 2-year lease, so maybe I can break my habit of moving every year!

Making Magnificent Progress: My first novel. Three out of four Beta-readers have submitted their notes. 

Looking Forward to: New passports. These are already full!

Reveling In: New friends and new hangouts. Also, finally being recognized as "a local" by the locals!

Latest Taste Obsession: Fresh garlic and soy sauce mixed into my melted butter to put on my popcorn. 

Filing Under “I Don’t Understand Men”: Our new neighbor, as he and his wife prepare to leave this week, offered to lend us books from their collection. The first one he pulled off the shelf to offer me was erotica. Because I'm a woman?

A Thing I Never Thought I’d Do: Appreciate a bathroom where the shower has no division from the rest of the room. But it's awesome. Cleaning the bathroom is much quicker now.

That's it. New home, new visas, new passports on the way, new friends leaving already - it's been a busy month!

16 August, 2019

Fiction Friday - Dancing With Fairies

Taalah fluttered to a rest in the cool waiting area. It was hot out today, even for a fairy. She sat on the torn seat between two men who couldn't see her, or wouldn't acknowledge her if they did. Adult humans were predictable like that.

She rested her wings and cooled off, watching the comings and goings of humans. Soon a young family came in - man, woman, and a small, blonde girl. Taalah's wings fluttered gently in anticipation. Would the girl see? If she did, would she play?

When the woman set the girl on the floor, she reached up for her mom's hand, and Taalah watched mom twirl daughter in a joyful dance, giggles floating like bubbles out of the girl's sweet face. Taalah grinned. She was playful. 

After twirling a few times, the woman faced the man and they spoke together as their daughter ran in a circle around them, watching each of her steps slap the floor in a clapping sound.

At last, as she came back around from behind her dad, she stopped dead, staring with wide eyes at Taalah, who elevated herself above the seat with a light flap of wings, as a greeting. The girl walked directly over to Taalah, smiled at the two older men flanking the fairy, and stared at the space between them. Her smile grew as she watched Taalah tiptoe around the seat, dancing and twirling, ending with a bow. 

The man seated to the left of Taalah blew a raspberry at the girl, thinking she had come over in curiosity at the two men. His raspberry garnered a brief glance from her, while the girl's incredulous smile lingered on her face. Both men laughed, not realizing she had no interest in them whatsoever.

The girl's parents watched the supposed interaction between their daughter and the two strange men, but remained on the far side of the room. Dad was called up to the counter for official business, leaving Mom to watch after her girl. After a quick glance at her mom, the little girl smiled at Taalah and raced with toddler speed over to tug on the scarf tied around Mom's purse handle.

Achieving her objective, she returned to the sofa, scarf in hand, and threw it onto the seat between the two men, who laughed at the thought that the little girl would only sit there on her own scarf. Taalah, however, jumped out of the way of the scarf in alarm: Was she trying to capture the fairy?

Just as the girl tried sitting on the scarf, Taalah changed the game and flew over to peek out from behind a pillar in the room. The girl gathered the scarf and ran over, peering around as Taalah floated just out of reach. They played "chase" around the pillar, and back over to the seating area, Taalah always careful to remain out of reach, and the men enjoying the sight of what appeared to be a little girl with too much energy to sit. She sat once, but when Taalah flitted out in front of the girl, she was off and running again.

It was only about 15 minutes while her dad finished his business, at which point, Mom tried to rally the girl back to her side. They were getting ready to leave. Taalah hovered near the door and waved farewell. The girl followed Taalah, and was followed in turn by her parents, who pushed open the door. 

Outside, Taalah quickly hid herself in a nearby tree, so that the girl would happily go with her parents. The girl went, but she was looking around the whole time, scanning for fairies everywhere.
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below.
Today's story was inspired by actual events that I observed while on a trip last week. (I do not know if any actual fairies were in attendance.)

10 August, 2019

In Absentia

I'm not really here.
I've been too social, too much, for several days in a row and my brain is rebelling against being alive. I look normal on the outside, but my brain is struggling to breathe through the drowning sensation.

I don't have severe social anxiety, but being social with groups of people exhausts me, and I really, deeply stress over groups of people when I can't communicate with many of them. 
I'm sorry to miss Fiction Friday. It wasn't my intention. I actually sort of wrote a story yesterday, inspired by events of Friday. We were on the road all day Friday, so the best I hoped for was to quickly write and post on Saturday. But then social-ness invaded my day.

The last three days have included, not just a group of 10 people on the trip Friday, and a little one-on-one time with a friend (which isn't stressful, but still takes some of my limited reserves of social energy), plus random, lengthy, conversations with neighbors - in English and broken English, occasionally requiring translation - culminating in an invitation to a group lunch today, at which I expect to be able to converse with about 4 people. Among I don't know how many. After which I have to come home and teach

I'm okay socializing in groups up to about 4 or 5. Assuming I can socialize.

This lunch is burying me in advance. I will be non-functional until it is over. Tomorrow I will be non-functional as my brain and soul try to recuperate. For now, I'm drowning in my brain. I hate it and it's terrible, and I would rather sink into the floor than go to this lunch, but the invitation was extended by our new landlords, so I feel obligated. 

Hopefully this will be the only time.
Or maybe once a year. I could manage that.

See you next Friday.

03 August, 2019

Fiction Friday - The Blizzard

Trey woke to light streaming in the window. He sat up in a flash. Sunlight! He tentatively lifted the edge of the curtain, as if seeing it would destroy the illusion. It didn't. A bright light was glowing, even through the frost crystals around the edges of the window. Rising, he flung open the drapes and stared out at the thick, white blanket covering the world in smothering cold, and blinding him in the morning light.

How long had it been? It was the winter storm to break all the records. Two days ago, he'd stopped watching the news and weather because it was all just more of the same and he was getting depressed.

As he watched out the window, Trey saw John across the street, emerge from his front door in just a bathrobe, hugging it tight to himself, but grinning broadly. Trey knocked on his window and caught John's eye, waving and gesturing to wait a minute. He grabbed his own terry robe and pulled the belt tight over his flannel pajama bottoms. 

Trey pushed his storm door open through the inches of snow that had blown across the porch up to the door. The cold took his breath away, and he tugged the robe tighter, yelping at the frigid air. John heard him and laughed from across the street. "Haha! So glad I live on the sunny side of the street!" John was standing in a halo of bright light, and icicles had formed on the edge of his porch as the early sun warmed the snow and ice above.

"You don't look that warm, but... SUN, huh?" Trey twisted his mouth furiously, trying to thaw the mucus that had frozen inside his nostrils.

"Oh yeah. We survived."

John turned and grabbed the shovel that had resided just inside the door for the past couple weeks, he pushed a path to the edge of the porch. The action helped warm him a little. At the edge of the porch, he realized how cold his feet were in his slippers, and decided to stop there for now.

"Hey, John, any word from Larry?" Larry was an older man who lived two doors down from John and Linda. It was a nice neighborhood and people generally checked on each other.

"I think Marv checked in on him the other day."

Trey's next door neighbor emerged and nodded at the two, before calling a "See you after coffee!" and ducking back inside.

"Yeah, me too, John. Enjoy the sunny side. I'm gonna get dressed and start shoveling."

Hours later, Trey and his neighbor met shoveling sidewalks from opposite ends. "Whew! It might be colder than Hoth out here, but I have worked up a sweat!" 

"You know what? Hang tight," said Trey as he hurried back along his shoveled path and into his house. Moments later he re-emerged with a sixpack of beer. He returned to his neighbor, leaning on his shovel, popped the tab on one and handed it over. He opened one for himself and stuck the others down in the three-feet of snow walling them into their spot on the sidewalk.

As John headed back to his porch, Trey called over, "Hey! If you can get across the street, I've got a beer with your name on it!"

"The perfect cure for cabin fever!" He turned his snow blower at a right angle and plowed through the mound of snow to meet his friends. As he popped his beer, he invited the others over for later. "Linda is stir-crazy. She has been baking whenever she can. You guys have to come over tonight and give purpose to her baking, or the boys and I are going to be FAT before spring!"

All the friends agreed to come over, and as the cold started seeping through their thick down coats, now that they were standing still, they parted ways until that night.

Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below.
Today's story was inspired by the prompt "Blizzard" given by Liz A. at "Laws of Gravity" on last week's Fiction Post. (For some reason I can't drop in links here today. Sorry!)

27 July, 2019

Fiction Friday - A Healthy Meal

“Just start from the beginning.” 

“I had a salad for dinner.” 

“I’m sorry?” 

“That’s the beginning.” 

“Really? No story begins with ‘I had a salad.’” 

Morris sighed and rolled his eyes. “The irony is not lost on me. Do you want to know what happened or not?” 

The detective raised his hands in surrender and leaned back. “Alright, go. Just remember you’ll have to sign a statement that what you tell us is the truth.” He motioned at the camera in the corner. 

Morris looked at the 2-way mirror on the wall behind the detective and rolled his eyes again. An exaggerated gesture this time, hoping he was being watched. 

“It was her idea. My girlf-“ 

“Carla…” Detective Klug consulted his pocket notepad. “…Weiniger?” 

“Yeah, Carla. That new salad-themed restaurant was opening and she said we should go. I didn’t want to. Salads? How can you base a restaurant on salads?” At least the detective had the humanity to scoff in agreement. “Freakin’ salads. That woman is always trying to change me. ‘Eat more vegetables,’ or ‘Throw out those hole-y underwear,’ or ‘we need to…’ do something that sucks and eats my soul.” He blew out air toward the ceiling. “So we went,” he said to the tube lights above him. “Grand opening.” He looked back to Klug across from him. “They must be hooked up, ‘cause there was press.” The detective made a note at that statement. Morris slit his eyes to him. “You know that already. Or you would as soon as you looked on the internet. Don’t be a tool. Let me talk.” 

Detective Klug laid down his pen and notepad. He wanted Morris to keep talking. A better idea, he picked them up and returned them to his breast pocket. They were recording the conversation, after all. He didn’t really need to take notes. It was just habit. “You have my undivided attention.” 

Morris nodded and closed his eyes, blocking out the annoying detective and his stupid actions. “So we went. To the grand opening. Reservations and everything. Carla knew someone or something. Whatever. I looked at the menu.” He opened his eyes and leaned in toward the detective. “Not bad, honestly."

Klug didn’t know what to do with that. His eyes widened and he sat stock-still, deer-in-headlights, waiting for Morris’ wild-eyed gleam to dissipate. “Yeah?” He offered, to keep him talking. 

“Man, there was bacon, or ‘Canadian’ bacon on half of them. They even have one called ‘Meat Lovers’!” Morris was excited now. His eyes were spastic, like a cat watching a laser-dot, as he relived the memory. “Man, my mouth was watering! Whoever these people are, they know, man! They know TONS of guys are gonna be dragged there by the women in their lives.” He settled back and nodded as if to confirm his own claim. “Man, that Meat Lovers looked so good…” He stopped talking for so long, Klug was ready to interject, but his eyes were closed again and he was wearing a wistful smile. The detective glanced over his shoulder into the observation room and shrugged. Finally, Morris roused himself. 

“The waiter came, and that’s what I ordered. Meat Lovers. It was the best looking thing on this crazy, girly, menu.” A shadow crossed his face as he leaned over the table. Klug saw raw rage in his eyes. “She said NO! That… how could… I was only there because she made me! She told me no and then ordered for both of us.” The distaste and anger was clear on his face. “Some stupid ‘double green salad’ whatever that is. Sounds gross. I couldn’t believe it.” His eyes were closed again as his head shook with the memory. 

“When the idiot waiter just walked off with her order, she started in, but didn’t hear anything. My head was on fire, man. And when the plates came - she has this thing that we needed to eat at the same time. So I was loading my fork while she did, but I wasn’t happy about it. She knew it too. But she thought it was ‘bonding’ or something? She reached over and put her hand on mine.” 

Eyes opened, he brandished the back of his left hand, which had a band-aid covering a nick in the middle. “I stabbed her hand with my knife. She screamed and I reached across and stabbed her in the throat.” Putting his hands palm-down on the table, he looked squarely, calmly into Klug’s eyes. “She won’t be telling me what I can and can’t eat again.” 
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below.

22 July, 2019

Another Year, Another Home

So, we're moving again.😲 I know, shocker, right? 
Not too far this time. We're staying in the same town.

Still. That'll make it an even 7 moves in 7 years for me.

Good news is, we have a 2-year lease this time! Woo-hoo! Of course, life changes so we'll see how that works. Vietnamese landlords have a habit (according to numerous expats who've lived here longer than we have) of changing terms mid-contract, or building on and changing their setup, or selling out. We think we have a new situation lined up that will preclude those things happening, but, well... "Stay Flexible!" is our motto.

I don't have decent pictures yet. I'll show the house when we actually take possession. This is a quick turnaround and my head is still spinning a bit. Our lease is up on August 15, so we were prepared to sit down and negotiate a new lease sometime soon anyway.

On Thursday, while Brett was teaching, he got a message from the landlord - the one building a nice, big homestay next to us - saying that, now that they are building a place with rooms to rent and a pool, they want to use our house for more rooms to rent. Since they like us, we can stay, but since we will now have access to a pool, the rent will be jacked up significantly.

After Brett was done with his classes, we talked about our options. We could still negotiate, but it wouldn't hurt to look and see what's on the market now.

Friday, he got up and went for a walk just to see if anything jumped out within our neighborhood, since we know the area and have relationships with the vendors here. By 10 a.m., he decided to contact a real estate agent recommended by a couple different people. By 11, that agent had two places lined up for us to look at. By noon, we had paid a deposit on one of those two. We sign the lease on Friday. WHAT!!

This has been the most painless house-hunting we have experienced. And we've done a lot of house-hunting in our five years of marriage! 

That's it, really.  I'm slowly packing things up, so that we can take a load over on Friday after signing the lease. We are very happy with this house. It's just one story, and we lose a bedroom, but things that stand out:
The view on entering. Sort of.
It's spacious.
The kitchen has functional cabinets - up AND down.
Bathroom sinks have counter space.
There's an outdoor shower.
Eye candy like the divider between living room and kitchen.

Space! I don't need a separate office, because I can just set up my desk next to that inside window to the bedroom. And the living room has a lovely window space that could be my yoga area. Who needs a balcony?

20 July, 2019

Fiction Friday - In Search of Silence

"Will you PLEASE keep it down?" M gripped her face, the fingers of each hand pressing into her forehead while her thumbs braced against her chin. The noise today was awful. Why were they fighting so much?

When the incessant buzz of infighting simmered down to an occasional hiss, she placed her hands on the table in front of her and took a deep breath. She had work to do and it required concentration. There was an orb on the table before her, but that wasn't her work at this moment.

She caressed the ancient tome sitting between her hands, feeling the throbbing energy of a long-forgotten wisdom. Elevating her hands millimeter by millimeter above the closed cover, a gentle smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. That magnetic force between the book and her hands was delicious. It was a rare treat, and all the sweeter for the long spans of time between the occasions she sought the guidance of the ages.

This was not a gift to be trifled with, so M exhausted her own wisdom and trickery before ever going back to the book. Only if a problem or disturbance proved too much for her own skills did she go into the depths of the hidden room to find another solution. She might be in here for days, consulting those who had gone before.

Especially if those restless... "SILENCE!" It never took very long for the noise to elevate, when they were in this kind of a mood.

Again, she waited for the rumble to subside before touching the book again. This time she opened the cover and began leafing through pages, watching the words transform as she paged through. Key words would show when she reached the answer she needed.

And the noise. Again. "CEASE! Or I will bind you," She cried, staring straight ahead of her at nothing. The hissing, screaming sound increased at hearing her threat. "Fine," she said, and went to a cabinet in the corner. In the cabinet she found the burlap binding that usually sufficed, and a lightweight chain.

Medusa moved to the mirror in the corner and captured all the snakes on her head, wrapping them in burlap and tying them down with the delicate chain. In moments, they were quiet, like birds with a cover dropped over the cage.

"Talk about your bad hair day," she muttered as she resumed her seat at the table and continued her work.
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments, when possible. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. I hope you liked that story, based on the prompt "bad hair day".

If you choose to join in for Fiction Fridays, post a link to your story below in the comments. I'm going to stop pre-selecting a writing prompt, but I'd love to read your story. Just share a link!