Roughly two years ago, we had left our apartment in Singapore behind. We’d moved into a hotel for a week while we said good-bye to Singapore. I oversaw the apartment turnover. The kids were finishing up their last week of school. Ravi ended his employment with GNB. Six weeks short of our seven year anniversary in Singapore, we left it.
I’ve given a lot of thought to what should happen to Expat Bostonians. I’m not an expat, for all that the Bay Area in California is very different from Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve struggled to find content that would appeal to my audience. Honestly, it’s been a bigger source of stress now than it ever was in Singapore.
In the end I’ve decided to leave it up, but as far as I know, this is my last post. However, I’ll still occasionally post on the EB Facebook page. I need to focus my time and effort on other things.
You can still keep up with me, though.
Email me — expatbostonians at gmail dot com forwards to my personal email.
Any of my readers who are also writers are probably familiar with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month in which participants try to write a 50k novel in thirty days. Putting aside the fact that 50k is either a very long novella or the bare minimum to be considered a novel by a publisher (some publishers have a higher minimum word count to be considered a novel), it’s an ambitious goal and one that many people burn out on.
I’m doing it this year mostly as a tracking tool. I don’t think I’ll hit 50k words, but it will be interesting to see how much I can write when I actually make a point of prioritizing it, something I don’t do often enough. That said, it’s hard not to get sucked into the metrics and the graph of how you’re writing word count compares to the “goal” of writing 1667 words per day for 30 days.
I’m in the final editing process with my novel Plunder before starting to send it out to publishers. I’ve started the next book, which is a contemporary romance set at a video game company, and I was already about 22k into it when November 1st rolls around. I have no idea if the story will need 72k words (22k plus the goal of writing 50k), but I want to focus on it the way I often struggled with Plunder because of life getting in the way. I’d like to be publishing a book a year or more, and the only way to do that is to become more disciplined and to prioritize my work–and it is work–over shallow things.
(Of course, life may have already gotten in the way of my writing as yesterday Ravi fell and may have a stress fracture in one of his feet (or such a bad sprain that he might as well have a stress fracture) and can’t co-parent until he’s better.)
If you are doing it, please do add me as a buddy–I’m Delilah Night (my pen name)
Because I do want to put a focus on my work, I’m going on hiatus until Dec 1. I’ll be updating Be Quiet, Mommy’s Reading and Delilah Night on a limited schedule, but I think a full hiatus from Expat Bostonians is the right move for me.
In honor of my 40th birthday, here are 40 random things about me. This is stream of consciousness.
1-I’m actually really excited for my 40’s (minus perimenopause–that sounds like a bitch) because with each year I’ve stopped caring about what other people think so much. I’ve become a more authentic version of myself, and I’m happy to see where that goes in my 40’s.
2-If my thirties were about raising young children, my forties will be about parenting tweens and teens. When I turn 50, Elanor will be a few days away from turning 20 and Rhi will have just turned 17. Some people find the idea of this terrifying, but I’m actually excited because I’m more comfortable around older children.
3-I’m also hoping to see my writing pick up in my 40’s. I became a professionally published author in my 30’s. I was in fifteen anthologies (one of which I also edited) and my first solo work, Capturing the Moment, was published. I wrote my first novel, and it’s in right now. I’ll be shopping it as well as continuing to write new books. I’d like to get my writing speed up a bit, though. Not having young children will help with that, I think.
4-Right now I’m sitting at my kitchen table and I have a nice candle going–Strawberry Lemon Ice from Yankee Candle
5-I don’t mind that today is very low key. We went to New Orleans for my birthday, and I feel very loved.
6-In fact today is so low key that I’m waiting on a fridge repair person and am taking the kids to gymnastics kind of day.
7-I have my playlist for my next book playing on my Google Home and the song that’s currently playing is “I touch myself” by the Divinyls because there is masturbation (I write romance).
8-I always have a playlist for my books. Or at very least a song that captures the essence of the book.
9–For Capturing the Moment, it was Teardrops on my Guitar by Taylor Swift because of the line “He’s the reason for the tear drops on my guitar/ the only one who’s got enough of me to break my heart”–Meg and RJ have only really loved each other. Because it is contemporary, my playlist was mostly contemporary music.
10-For Plunder, the song that captures the essence of the book is in Jolly Sailor Bold because of the line “My heart is pierced by Cupid/I disdain all glittering gold/there is nothing can console me/but my jolly sailor bold.” My playlist was this song and the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.
Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Medley - Peter Hollens & Gardiner Sisters (Devinsupertramp) - YouTube
11-My new book, which I’m only 20k words into, is about love and corporate espionage at a video game company. My playlist is a mix of Indian music I love (one of my mains is Indian British), geek rockers like Jonathan Coulton, and some contemporary music that is meaningful to me with regards to the story.
12-I got approved to get an ARC (advanced readers copy) of a new Mira Grant novel from Netgalley. I’m so excited to read it in advance.
13-My cat died nine years ago. I just saw updates from Facebook from her last few days. It’s kind of breaking my heart.
14-Lady was a black cat, and ironically Rhi has decided that she and I will be black cats for Halloween
15-Halloween here is very different than in Singapore. It’s quieter, but it’s also sweeter. And less overwhelming for the kiddos (with better candy).
16-I’m carving my pumpkin to say “vote” because we have an election the first Tuesday
17-I’m currently watching Xena: Warrior Princess along with a podcast called Xena: Warrior Business.
18-I also like watching The West Wing along with a podcast called West Wing Weekly
19-I like Alright, Mary‘s podcast to discuss RuPaul’s Drag Race
20-My favorite podcast about American politics is Hellbent
21-Another tv show podcast I listen to is Podland Drunkcast, which with the new Season of Outlander starting Nov 4, you may want to subscribe to immediately
22-Red All Over makes watching Hulu’s brutal The Handmaid’s Tale bearable. They also covered the Alias Grace Netflix adaptation.
23-Thinking of Margaret Atwood, I’m taking her Masterclass in writing from Masterclass.com. It’s been really interesting to get her perspective. Nothing she’s said thus far is earth shattering, but there have been many instances where the way she phrases something makes me rethink it in a whole new light.
24-Tonight I get to pick dinner. Which will cause drama because I like (American Southern) BBQ food and my kids hate it. But it’s my birthday and I won’t go to McDonald’s just because Rhi would be happier there.
25-Thinking of McDonald’s, the rest of my family misses fried apple pies (they’re baked here) and I miss Prosperity Fries from SG McDonald’s.
26-Some of my closest friends from Singapore have remained my closest friends. I will always love the ties that Singapore gave me–in fact, I took a break from this listicle to talk to someone I met in Singapore who now lives in the US.
27-Elanor and I were talking about Diwali last night, and I asked her why she never wears Indian clothes anymore. She told me it was about fitting in. I gently encouraged her to let her friends see every side of her, which includes the part that loved Indian dance and clothes.
28-I was really worried about the girls losing their culture by coming back to the US. In Singapore, we spent a lot of time in Little India. We celebrated the holidays. The girls had Indian friends. But now we’re fairly isolated, and I need to be putting in the leg work to find resources to give them community again.
29-We went to New Orleans as an early celebration. I’m thinking I might need to make beignets tonight to celebrate my real 40th.
30-My baseball team, the Boston Red Sox won game 1 of the World Series. They’re playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, and whoever wins four games first wins the World Series.
31-I just saw The Hate U Give. You should go. It’s fucking amazing. Bring tissues.
32–Thinking of movies, I’m doing the ten movies meme on Facebook. I decided to focus on movies that I think are underrated. So far, I’ve talked about Bride and Prejudice, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, and today’s pick is Dangerous Beauty.
33-Right now I’m reading Nate the Great, which is the third in a series of YA novels by Tim Federle. If you like Broadway, you’ll love these novels.
34-I recently read this complex slow burn romance called Big Fat Bitch by Ginger Voight which was great, and stayed with me. There’s no sex, but there are two really well-done love stories in the book. CW that there is a sexual assault scene that is part of a subplot on #metoo and how Hollywood looks the other way when the man is famous enough.
35-I spent a lot of my life not celebrating my birthday. I was lonely growing up, and didn’t have many friends. I actually had the experience of having a party that no one came to, and I cried for days. After that I didn’t want to give people the chance to disappoint me, so I pushed away the opportunity to celebrate. I started to relax around my 30th, and then I gave birth to Elanor ten days later. Then Rhi was born the day after Ravi’s birthday. Ours have tended to get lost in the shuffle. Recently there have been a lot of birthdays in my 30’s where I was too sick or whatever to celebrate. So I’m really glad that I spoke up and ensured that my 40th would be celebrated.
36-I’m so relieved to see that my kids fit in a lot easier than I did. I was socially awkward (still am), talk too much (same), a bookworm (yup), and an introvert (hey, that’s me!) and that was a problem in school growing up when fitting in is so important. The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve found community that loves me just as I am, quirks and all.
37-That said, having multiple birthday parties in close proximity can be overwhelming. All of us have birthdays in a 22 day period.
38-In the spirit of just loving what I love without worrying what other people will think, I put a picture of a mermaid in my bathroom, and some dragon artwork around the house.
39-I’m a little sad that while both of my kids like reading, they’re not bookworms in the same way that Ravi and I are were/are
40-I’ve read 114 books this year per Goodreads. It’s a roughly correct number. I couldn’t completely remove a book I started and abandoned, and there was a book that wasn’t on Goodreads, and I’m sure there’s a few books I’ve forgotten to add. I predict I’ll be somewhere between 125 and 150 books by the end of the year. If you want to be my friend on Goodreads, I’m Delilah Night, and the email it’s under should be email@example.com
If you like historic properties and luxury, I highly recommend the Roosevelt in New Orleans. It’s just off Canal on the opposite side from the French Quarter. That makes a place like Cafe Du Monde a ten to fifteen minute walk, which isn’t insurmountable. If you have accessibility issues, there is very little in the way of benches on the way to and in the quarter. If you use a cane or a walker, I encourage you to bring one of the ones that have a little seated bench, like this one.
The lobby is full of old world charm, including this gorgeous clock, which was shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1878. The staff of the Roosevelt have to hand wind this clock every eight days per the magazine in our room.
As you can see, there are lots of crystal chandeliers, paintings, a grand piano, and a massive floral display near other entrance.
There’s a gift shop, but it’s more of a boutique than a gift shop. If you needs snacks and such, there’s a Walgreens at the end of the block on Canal, where you’ll have more options at a much lower price.
There are famous murals from the 30’s in the Sazerac bar. It looked like a lovely place to rest, but I didn’t really spend any time there except to look at the murals, which several people recommended. Sazerac was the first bar in New Orleans to allow women in, in 1946, and every year there is a “storming the sazerac” event with women dressed in period gear.
There’s a restaurant where they serve breakfast among others, and you get a beignet with breakfast (although it’s not as good as the ones at Cafe du Monde). There’s also a high end restaurant that I never went into.
The spa is stupendous. I had a body scrub and a massage. The girls got mini-manicures (special for kids under 12). This pic is in the relaxation room.
There’s a pool and a rooftop bar. The pool is reasonably sized, and there’s a jacuzzi as well.
We got a one bedroom suite with a pull out couch in the living room section. It was cheaper than getting two rooms in another hotel. The rooms were relatively large (massive by Asian/Australian/European standards), the bathroom was great (our shower had the choice of a regular head, a hand held head and body jets–I never wanted to get out and being a one bedroom suite, it even had a half bath with a toilet).
If you like old world elegance, I highly recommend The Roosevelt New Orleans
Like I said in my last post, we were traveling and then had the double whammy of Ravi and Rhi’s birthdays, so I needed a break from blogging.
Our vacation was to celebrate my fortieth birthday a few weeks early (I’m not forty until the 24th). New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, and I was so happy to have a chance to go back. I’ve been looking forward to visiting New Orleans with the girls for a long time.
If you go to New Orleans, there is something you must do whether you’re there for business or pleasure, adults only or with kids in tow–Cafe Du Monde. Open 24/7 except for Christmas Eve and Christmas, they pump out beignets and chickory coffee at an astounding rate.
What is a beignet? It’s a fried donut covered in powered sugar. Like, drenched in powdered sugar.
Which of course means your face and clothes get covered in the powdered sugar. But that’s just part of the experience. Maybe avoid dark colored clothing though? It was no big deal, though.
In fact, follow our example and go multiple times. We got in after midnight, so it wasn’t until the next day that we made it to Cafe Du Monde, but it was among our first stops. We then popped back in twice more, including just before we left for our flight back to California.
The menu may be as simple as beignets and drinks (non-alcoholic), but it’s a formula that works.
Making Beignets - YouTube
If you make it to Cafe Du Monde, be sure to go over to where the line for takeout is. If you walk just past the line down the building, there is a window. If you watch, you’ll see the machines that roll out the dough and cut the dough. Then the employees just throw them into the boiling oil behind them. It’s hypnotizing to watch.
I know this started as an expat experience blog, but over the past eight years we’ve come to know one another, if you’re a long time reader. I’ve been fairly open about our lives and experiences. But I’m reaching a point where I feel like I’m struggling to find topics to write about.
I mean, if you’re here to learn about our lives in Singapore, you’re better off in the archives. If you want to hear about the US, as an American it’s hard to know what would interest you.
So I’m curious–what do you want to know about life in the US? You can leave a comment or email expatbostonians at gmail dot com
I was on Facebook on Monday and as I often do, I glanced at my timehop (the feature where you see what you’ve posted on that day years in the past). Three years ago the PSI was going up to dangerous levels. The picture above is not as bad as it got. That was possibly the year they canceled school because of haze.
Ravi is an asthmatic, and every year my anxiety would spike, fearing for his health. The good masks that block the right particle matter are only made for adult faces, and my little ones were being exposed to hazardous air. Then there were the migrant workers who were given little more than a bandana to put over their face to combat hazardous air and were expected to continue on their job as if the air were perfectly healthy.
I don’t miss that vague burning taste in the back of my throat.
The part of the West Coast I live in is very dry, though, and there are issues with big forest fires every year. Last October, I began to taste that too familiar tinge of smoke in the air. I immediate began to worry, and to wonder where I’d put all those extra high PSI masks. But we were lucky that our part of CA usually doesn’t get too bad. I have friends in LA who really suffered last year. Which is, of course, nothing compared to what the people living in or near those areas experienced.
So yesterday, Sunday the 23rd, was Bisexual Awareness Day. I identify more frequently as queer, as I feel like a big umbrella covers a multitude of identities. But I do also identify as bisexual, meaning I am attracted to men and women.
The thing about being bisexual is that you’re usually only identified as bi when you are single. The second you have a partner, everyone is in a rush to identify you as gay (because I was dating a girl) or straight (because my partner is male). When you’re with someone of the opposite gender, you pass to the point of being invisible. You’re seen as an ally of the community at best, and just as a breeder at worst.
I’ve been married for twelve years, so why should I care? I ended up with a dude, so that is the deciding factor, right?
I care because my partner’s gender identity (whether they identify as male, female, or genderqueer) ends up defining me. I am the same person I was when I dated M, or made out with B, or slept with A–and they were all women. I am the same person I was when I dated J, or slept with F, or made out with K–and they were all men.
Yes, my husband is a man, and I do not wish to change that. Marrying him didn’t settle a bet, or make me “get off the fence.” It doesn’t change that I am attracted to women.
When I am open about my sexuality, I am generally several questions. This is by no means a comprehensive selection, nor is it questions I only get from straight people (although it’s mostly straight people).
I am asked to rate where I fall on the Kinsey scale. If zero is totally gay and ten is totally straight, what’s my number? Am I more attracted to men or women? If I’m a 7, doesn’t that really mean I’m straight. If I’m a 3, doesn’t that really mean I’m gay? Just pick a side already! This is a really toxic line of inquiry. The idea that bisexuality (or pansexuality) is just someone who is greedy is hurtful.
When was the last time I slept with a woman? If it’s been x amount of time, doesn’t that prove that I’m mostly over women? If I really was bi, I’d have to punch my card x times a year to prove that I’m actually attracted to women. It’s not like a driver’s license where you have to renew it or it becomes invalid.
But you’re married with two kids. Why do I want to horn in on gay pride? Because I’m queer, too, and I deserve to be part of the community, regardless of how many women I’ve slept with, when it last was, or who I married.
I struggled a lot with my identity in college. If I’d been gay, I could have handled that. I had no problem with the idea of being gay. But I’d listened to those toxic opinions, and the idea of being bi made me feel dirty. That I needed to pick a side. That I was greedy. That I was just a dirty slut. PICK A FUCKING SIDE.
You may laugh, but I ended up in therapy for a while as I processed something that had always been there, that I’d just excused away or denied. But it had always been there.
If I could say something to parents whose kids are going through dealing with their sexual identities, it’s to be supportive. Don’t tell them that it’s just a phase, or that they can just overcome it. Don’t kick them out of your house (SG parents, especially, I’m looking at you). Would you rather have a dead child because they committed suicide (suicide rates are very high for queer teens) or accept and love your child as they are? I would hope the latter–which is also a good lesson to apply to obsessions about grades, hair styles, or any other choices your child makes or things they do that might not be what you wanted.
So don’t erase or demean your bi kids. We just want to be loved, and to be defined as individuals, not as a reflection of our partner’s perceived gender identity.
One of the things you learn as an aspiring teacher in the US is that all of the research says that learning to read is a complex process and that the age that is “normal” to learn to read is in the 5-8 window.
In Singapore, children are expected to be fluent readers and writers by age 6. Day one of Primary 1 your child better already know how to read because next week their spelling test will have words like mountains.
In the US, we hope that kids start kindergarten knowing all 26 letters and their corresponding phoneme (sound a letter makes). But not all do. There is support for children who are behind, like reading specialists who will work either one on one or in a small group with children who are behind.
Elanor was a precocious reader. By the end of K1, she was reading simple readers and by the end of K2 she was reading chapter books (simple ones, but still). She was fine in the Singapore system.
But one size doesn’t fit all. And it didn’t fit Rhi.
We realized during K1/2 that Rhi just wasn’t ready to read. And you can’t force a child to read before they’re ready–all you’ll do is make them feel dumb and hate reading/books. Between that and some of her other challenges, like ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder.
When the job offer from the US came through, it was at a good time. Rhi was finishing K1, and stressing out at the pressure that even her low-key private K had. It was really unclear what we were going to do with her if we stayed. Public school was out. Heading to the US, where “normal” has a much larger range, seemed like a smart decision.
Rhi started Kindergarten this time last year. She started off in the reading specialist group because she was shaky on some of her phonemes. By the end of the school year, though, she was in the top group. It was the right time, in the right environment, and she continues to be in the top reading group in first grade, which started last month. But even the top group is only reading simple texts, less demanding than those read in Singapore.
When Elanor was young, I felt very arrogant about my decisions to enroll her in Singapore public. After all, she was thriving. High expectations equals high output. I’d never taught reading, only dealing with kids who already knew how to do it. I was a precocious reader. Ravi was a precocious reader. Elanor was a precocious reader.
Rhiannon isn’t a precocious reader. She’s right on schedule. And in a less stressful environment, she’s thriving. She loves reading. She feels smart.
Different kids need different solutions. I wish that Singapore offered more diversity and support for kids who don’t fit the mold, apart from making them feel stupid (something many of my friends have talked about).