Friday, January 13, 2012

Reflections on Diversity: Ew, I'm such an American snob!

While I was home for the holidays people kept asking me why I haven’t posted on my blog in a long while.  I guess when I first got here I was 1) bored, and 2) having a difficult time adjusting to my new life as an islander.   This blog is like my non-private journal that I share with everyone who cares to read it.  It’s really kind of nice to be able to write something out and then send it off into oblivion, and it’s just me and my thoughts.  It really helped me release some frustrations and get through the difficult times.  For that I am grateful.
            One of my favorite things about traveling is observing the different cultures, although usually it’s only for a short vacation.  There is something special when you LIVE amongst a different culture for an extended period of time, you see things within the culture that you wouldn’t have learned at first glance.  I didn’t realize it at the time but living in Spain for a semester at the age of 20 changed me profoundly in ways I didn’t fully understand until much later and I’m sure altered the course of my life in many ways.  Now that I’m here 10 years later going through a very similar experience, I’m thinking about how living on this island has changed me after 8 months….
            The diversity on this island has changed me.  In my classroom of 23 kids there is a pretty equal split between cultures; some are islander, English, American, French, Canadian, Indian, and Dutch.  We speak English in the classroom but I hear most children speaking with their parents in another language as well.  These are parents from different countries who have relocated here, and many of the children spend significant amounts of time abroad in their parent’s country of origin. The thing that stands out to me is the whole-hearted tolerance everyone seems to have for others of a different culture.  It is embraced, it is a non-issue, it is friendly, it is open, it is inclusive.  It feels different than the states.  I’m not saying American is racist, but it feels much more segregated and judgmental back home.  I’m using the word “feels” specifically because I think everyone talks as though they are cool with diversity but there is a feeling I get that contradicts that.  And I know I’m not alone.  I’ve had conversations where non-Americans have told me they feel judged when visiting the US because of their accent or also noticed the segregation.  Growing up in “progressive”, “liberal” California I experienced issues with race.  I went to a mostly white school, racial groups stuck together in the quad during lunch and I was called a “traitor”, and “a “coconut” by the Mexican girls because most of my friends were white.  That doesn’t seem to happen here.
            I love America and in many ways I think it’s the best country to live in.  However, I’m very aware here that we as a whole are viewed as snobby and intolerant by other cultures.  And I understand why.  I hear other Americans constantly talking about how everything is better in the states (I admit I am sometimes guilty of this too).  I hear other Americans judging and even teasing kids who have accents.  It makes me sad that this is the way we are viewed.  It makes me sad that if I dig deep down there is a little of that judgment inside me too.  I think it’s engrained in us at a young age that being different is bad.  And I’m embarrassed by that.  Especially seeing that that is not how the kids here are being raised.
            Being here is opening my eyes a little bit, and I’m working towards being more tolerant and not automatically thinking how much better America is.  Hopefully I won’t lose all of that when I get home.  But I doubt it because even though I realize it and I don’t like it, I really am just another American snob.  And when I went home over the break I felt it felt rich and wonderful and I didn’t want to come back. So I’m a work-in-progress J

Monday, September 5, 2011

My new job

Ok, I know it’s been a long time since my last post….the thing is when a lot of stuff is going on I seem to have nooooo motivation to write, enuf said! Forgiven?

 I had a glorious week in California, which was filled with a whirlwind of friends, family, food, and P90X with my brother Michael.  YES, P90X ON MY VACATION!!!! I AM AMAZING!!!  Anywho, then I came home and it was Josh’s birthday so we had some fun, shortly after that I got a call and bam I was offered a last minute position as a teacher’s aid at LU….been working my arse off ever since.  Let me just say, I cannot believe how hard it is to work with little kids all day!  I make about 1/3 of my old salary and I work 10 times as hard ( wait those stats sounds somewhat familiar…”UCLA cost 1/3 of the price for 10x the education as USC”…that’s right, college.  Oh how I miss thee).  So yeah, now I get up at the ass crack of dawn (actual time 6am, but that IS early… back at home in research we had to be at work by 9:30 am and that was a GUIDELINE).  My entire day is spent telling 23 four-year-olds 100x/day things like “stay in your seat”, “raise your hand”, “stand in line”…I don’t get why they are all such little idiots, I mean this is common sense.  Today I was helping this very cute little annoying 4 year old how to spell his name, and it was taking a while, and all the while 6 other little kids at his table were like shaking me and interrupting “Ms Lyssa, Ms Lyssa, Ms Lyssa!”  WHAT?!!! “Umm, ummm, I like your dress”  Thank you, now color your fucking picture.  And stay in the lines!  “Umm, Ms Lyssa, Ms Lyssa!”  What?! “ Um, um, I like your nail polish”.  What are you fucking ignored at home and I’m your only chance for conversation???  I’ll tell ya it’s good birth control though!
Well, to be completely honest those little buggers are annoying as balls but they are really cute and I adore them (first thing in the morning before they have had a chance to annoy me).  J

                 Me taking shots with two of my coworkers from my new job, I understand why teachers must drink after work!

This was the fishbowl we drank for Josh's birthday!

 Awesome little place in Grande Case we went for Josh's birthday where you can have a drink with your feet in the water....must return.

 In California, eating steak with friends...nothing puts a smile on my face like steak!  And Bill and Raul!

 My little neice and I, awwwwww. Miss her!

This is how med students spend their time hard, play hard.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My girls

I am headed out to California shortly (YAY!)  and as soon as I get back I have a job interview at the American private school here on the island, Learning Unlimited or LU for short.  I’m very excited at the prospect of having a full-time job to keep me busy and to feel like I’m doing something meaningful.  I’ve always been interested in teaching and I would love the opportunity to take a stab at it!  However, I also feel a bit sad that if I take on a full-time job it will cut down on my social activities with the other spouses.  One thing that has made this whole transition one hundred times easier has been the other girls on this island that I have made friends with.  There is nothing like girlfriends to talk to, hang out with, and who understand exactly what you’re going through.  Also, it’s unique to have so many friends who live just 5 minutes away.  It’s a tight-knit community over here.  I love how I run into people I know constantly on the street, stop to chit-chat, gripe about the weather, etc, etc.  We hang out at each other’s houses, watch movies to pass the time, take group trips to the grocery store, swim at the pool, work out together, keep each other company in the Rotunda when the electricity is out, go out for coffee or lunch, and so forth.  There are a couple spouses who are pregnant, they help each other out going to appointments together and share lists of what they cannot eat.  There are spouses with small children, they help each other out with babysitting and finding baby stuff on the island.  There are spouses who like happy hours and they help each other out in that department too J  I’m so glad we chose to come to this school where there are so many spouses and support for us.  One of the main reasons Josh chose this school was because he felt I would have an easier time adjusting on a bigger island with more to do and at a school that took such good care of their spouses.  It has made a world of difference and I’m so glad to have a husband who puts my needs at such a high priority without even being asked.  I'm so lucky to have found such a wonderful man to spend my life with!
Here are some pictures of the girls and I...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy 51st

Today my dad would have turned 51.  I just randomly realized that just now.  It made me start thinking of what I remember about him.  I remember that he used to call me his little tadpole J  I remember he had a yellow mountain bike and when my brother Kash was a baby he had a little seat on the back of it….we would all take bike rides together around the neighborhood which I loved.  We would go get ice cream after dinner, his favorite flavor was strawberry and I liked to copy him.  He used to have me pluck the gray hairs out of his head while we watched TV because he didn’t want to look old.  Every time he called he would say “Can I please speak to the beautiful Lyssa Marie?” and I would say “Yeeeeees J”.  We used to have long talks about life, he would give me advice about my future career (I wanted to be a lawyer at the time) and the importance of networking…which came in handy later J  He got me a credit card when I was 13 and talked about building a good credit history. He would talk about how great it would be if I went to UCLA and I could come live with him in his new house while I attended college (that commute would have atrocious!).  When I told him I was trying out for the cheerleading squad he said “No, all the cheerleaders I knew in high school were sluts” (DAD!!!).  He took me to eat Chinese food for the first time. In general, he always encouraged me to try new things.  He first taught me the phrase “Let’s play it by ear”, I can remember asking him what it meant, and now I say it all the time. And he was absolutely HORRIFIED that I was beginning to date boys. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coq au Vin

 Coq au Vin--I found this recipe online a while back when I was searching for healthy recipes.  I've made it twice now and we really like it, however the second time I did not put enough salt.  It's always a good idea to taste your food while you are cooking and add seasonings as needed.  I'm horrible at this.  I don't know why but I never like to taste things while I'm cooking, a habit I'm trying to break.
This is a nice hearty meal and the only unhealthy thing about it really is the flour....and the garlic mashers I serve it with.  Enjoy!

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts or (about 12 ounces each), skin removed, trimmed or 4 thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, quartered (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, preferably Zinfandel
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. Place flour in a shallow dish. Cut each chicken breast in half on the diagonal to get 4 portions about equal in weight. (Two will be smaller but thicker, the other two larger but thinner.) Sprinkle the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and dredge in the flour. Whisk water with 2 tablespoons of the leftover flour in a small bowl; set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the chicken. Cook, turning once or twice, until lightly browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan; reduce heat to medium-low. Add mushrooms, carrots, onion and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add broth, wine, tomato paste and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir until the tomato paste is dissolved. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Return the chicken and any accumulated juice to the pan. Cover, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring once or twice, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate.
  5. Increase the heat under the sauce to medium-high. Stir the water-flour mixture, add it to the pan and cook (I do only about half and then see how thick it is, once you pour it all in you can take it out and I don't like it super thick), stirring, until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Serve the chicken with the sauce, sprinkled with parsley.
Nutrition: 288 calories per serving (yields approx 4 servings)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Jimbo's Mesquite Grill


We had a spouse's night out the other night at Jimbo's.  It was a lot of fun.  Jimbo's is in Simpson Bay in that same little complex as Zee Best.  The atmosphere was cute, all open with streams and ponds and plants everywhere.  The service was good, our waitress was friendly (a little slow paced but that's normal for the island), and at one point the owner came by to chat us up.  The food was meh.  This place is described as CaribMex food, so considering that I have very high standards when it comes to my mexican food I was thoughtful in my selection.  I decided it best to go with the combo fajitas (combo of steak, chicken, and shrimp) because they were labeled as "famous" and I figured who can really screw up fajitas.  They were MEH!  And expensive! $25!  Most of the choices I was considering were in the $25 range.  There were some dishes that were as low as $15 all the way up to the lobster/shrimp dishes closer to $40-50.  So this place is pretty expensive and definately not worth the quality (as are a lot of the restaurant choices here on the island).  I was with a big group of girls and this seemed to be the consensus.  On the plus side, they had two-for-one happy hour until 7pm and the margaritas were pretty good.  The Spouse's Organization paid for my dinner otherwise I probably would have never come here and I'll probably never be back.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Feeling more settled.

I think the “difficulty adjusting” period is coming to a close for me. Hopefully!  Actually, this is exactly what I anticipated…I predicted there would be a honeymoon period where it felt new and exciting, like being on vacation.  Then it would sink in that we are not going home, this is really going to be my new home.  That part is difficult, you mourn the old things you’re going to miss from home, simple American luxuries that you took for granted.  However, I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m getting used to the way things work here, and working around the obstacles.  The girls here are starting to feel more like friends and less like strangers.  I’m finding my routine.  I’m adapting to the heat. Not quite so bored.  Even those skeetos seem to have finally left me alone J   
We already have less than a year and a half left and I think about what I will miss when we leave. Surprisingly, I’m going to miss the sudden rainstorms.  I just love when out of nowhere it starts POURING, I love the sound of the rain.  Except for that one time I got caught in a downpour carrying tons of groceries, and when I finally made it up 3 flights of stairs I found my laptop soaked by the window…that caused a little bit of a freak-out for me. 
Although, I have not been through a hurricane yet, we will see how I feel about the rain then!  Yesterday the university sent out an email to all students saying “oh by the way, it’s hurricane season…make sure we know where you live, your island phone number and an emergency contact back home”.  I found it a little unsettling J