31 May 2010

Off Leash

Gratuitous Cody/Layla photo

Dogs have been on my mind a lot lately.  When we first learned that Chris' job would send him to Australia for 8 months, I knew, I just knew, that we couldn't bring Layla and Cody with us.  For one thing, the Australian quarantine period is six months.  For another thing, it is ridiculously expensive to get one dog overseas, let alone two.  So it was with a very heavy heart that I shipped Layla to my parents in Boston and drove Cody down to Denver to live with her new temporary family (Amy, Adam, Diesel, and assorted felines - who were probably not fully prepared for "The Full Cody", and for that I say, bless you for what you've done to help us out).  I might have shed a tear or two.  I tried not to dwell on them too much, because it made me sad.

Then, when I got to Melbourne, I saw dogs everywhere!  Trotting down Chapel Street, romping with children in Victoria Gardens, guarding baby carriages, lazing next to their owners' chairs at outdoor cafe tables... it was like a kind of torture.  A very adorable torture.  I have tried to resist the smiling doggy faces - I can't really bear to pet them.  Chris takes the opposite approach and fondles every dog that crosses his path (it's getting a little disturbing, actually).  Basically, it's been difficult to avoid them.  If something's on your mind, then you tend to see it all the time.  Like when I bought a Jeep a few years back (the Cherokee, NOT the Grand Cherokee, thank you very much), I suddenly started noticing how many Jeeps there were in Boulder.  Same thing, only furrier.

So, despite my best efforts, since we found out that we're moving to Singapore, I've been forced to think about our own dog situation: like, how are we going to get them to Singapore?  Is it too expensive?  Would it be cruel to make them travel that distance?  Would their quality of life be better with us in Singapore or with friends/family in the states?  These are tough questions that I've struggled with.  I feel a little selfish in admitting that, yes, I want them to come with us - whatever it takes.  So we've started that process. 

Although not quite as stringent as Australia's, Singapore's quarantine rules are still pretty strict - it's an island, after all.  I've been doing a ton of research on import rules, figuring out the timing of getting the dogs vaccinated and blood-tested, scoping out pet-moving companies, etc.  There's a lot of red tape involved.  Picture Lady Gaga in the "Telephone" video - only except for yellow police tape, it's red.  And instead of her being naked and strategically bandaged with said tape, writhing around sexily in a jail cell, picture me wearing pajamas and screaming silently at the computer while trying to Skype at 1am Melbourne time with unhelpful and cranky Masshole veterinarians.  OK, maybe that analogy doesn't work.  But it's the same general experience: profoundly weird, kind of demented, and mostly just confusing.

One thing I quickly learned about Singapore is that it is not the most dog-friendly city.  Although there are many parks and beaches, they don't all allow dogs, and they all require dogs to be leashed (there are dog parks around, but they seem few and far between).  Most cabs will not allow dogs, so you have to either (1) have a car; (2) walk everywhere; or (3) hire a special "pet taxi" to deliver you and your dog to your destination (yes, they have pet taxis).  Not only that, but certain breeds have to be muzzled when they're out in public, even if they are on a leash.  Then there's the cobras.  Shudder.  Anyway, bottom line: leashes will be mandatory about 99% of the time for Cody and Layla.  The good news is that there is a beach where they can play in the water (that's the rumor, anyway).  They (read: Cody) should like that.

The funny thing about all this leash business (and btw, are leashes really a metaphor here for a lack of freedom or feeling somehow prevented from doing what you actually want?  Discuss!) is that here in Australia, leashes don't really seem to exist.  I mean, I've seen them in pet stores, but it's actually pretty rare here to see a dog actually attached to a leash.  Those touching scenes I described earlier?  All those dogs were off-leash.  As in, trotting down the sidewalk of a busy street with no leash.  And sometimes, apparently, with no owner.  I'll see a dog wandering aimlessly and look around for its owner: nowhere to be found.  Then a block later someone (the owner?) will stop and look back to make sure the dog is still following.  Or there will be a dog waiting patiently just outside a 7-Eleven, staring intently inside, so close to the entrance that the automatic doors don't close.  It was a little strange at first, but now I'm used to it.  It's extremely entertaining to see a Pomeranian and a Pitbull wandering down a sidewalk, the smaller dog taking about 8 steps to match the bigger one, both following some phantom master like lost baby ducks.

I'm pretty sure Cody would never sit still (or follow) for that long.  She'd either be off playing in traffic or pop in to the local butcher shop (yes, they allow dogs in some of the markets).  Since Layla is perfect, I'm sure she'd do just fine.

I'm hoping we can get a house/apartment with a yard in Singapore (minus the cobras).  If not, i think the pet taxis are gonna be making a lot of money off us.  Maybe we should just start our own pet taxi/portable dog park business.  I need a business model, stat.

21 May 2010

On Pins and Needles, Part II

We've been waiting for MONTHS to find out where Chris would be placed for his third rotation.  On pins and needles, if you will.  First, we thought it might be Denmark.  Then it was Singapore.  Then it was Denmark again.  Then, Australia.  Then Tokyo.  And that's just in the space of one day!

Well, the verdict is in.  And the lucky city that will be hosting us for the next 8+ months is...

Singapore.  We're excited to live in a place that's pretty different from anything we're used to.  It's all part of having crazy fun adventures, right?  Here are some photos i snagged from the interwebs:

 Now, I know a total of five things about Singapore:

1. It is an island nation/city bordering Malaysia.
2. The weather is extremely hot.
3. It is home to the Equatorial Black Spitting Cobra, which resides in the forested areas (?) of Singapore.
    3a. We will not be living in the forested areas of Singapore.
4. Singapore Airlines is supposed to be awesome.
5. Vestas has an office there.

A little help, people?  Can anyone give me some more firsthand info about our wonderful new home?  As an incentive, I'm proposing a contest.  Whoever submits the best (a.k.a. most useful/fascinating) bit of Singapore intel will receive something of his/her choice knitted by me.  Because, really, what's the point of wearing knitwear in a place that never dips below 90 degrees?  Contest ends June 15.  Hurry!

On Pins and Needles, Part I

It's that time of year, folks. 

Nope, I'm not talking about May sweeps.  I'm talking about two (slightly less) significant events: (1) learning (finally!) the location of Chris' next rotation and (2) the inevitable annual disintegration of my right tibia (a.k.a. stress fracture).

It all started innocently enough.  I convinced Chris that, instead of just going to the gym and working out with no real purpose other than to burn off the excessive calories we consume whenever I have one of my emotional baking episodes, we should both train for a half marathon.  That way, we could eat whatever we wanted (including brownies made with two entire sticks of butter) and still stay in shape (more or less).  Plus, we'd have a GOAL.  Very important, these things.

Well, training went well for the first month or so.  Then, when i started hitting the 8-mile mark on long runs, I felt that old familiar feeling - a really annoying and persistent twinge in my right shin bone.  And all I could think was "Nooooooo!"  (Just like on Lost, when Jack looks out at the ocean after losing three of his beloved fellow castaways and weeps in frustration at the pointlessness of death, life, and the end of the series.  Curse you, Lost producers!  Curse you!  What am I going to DO with myself after this Sunday?) 

Anyway, the last time this stress fracture thingy happened, I was in the middle of training for the Boston Marathon.  Treatment involved hours of physical therapy, pointless bone scans, hours in the pool with a floatie around my waist "running" in the water and looking like an idiot, and stupid conversations with stupid doctors who really didn't know anything (for which I paid a $50 copay per visit, by the way), and a bone stimulator.  That's right.  A bone stimulator.  And at the end, when I'd finished the marathon without any pain, I thought, that's it.  I'm healed!  I ran 26.2 miles without pain in my right shin!  Granted, I won't be able to stand up from a seated position unassisted for weeks, but that's normal!

Guess I wasn't healed after all.  Oh well.  The good news is, after waffling for months about going to the doctor to get it looked at, I finally sucked it up and went last week and got a diagnosis.  This week I started going to PT.  And guess what they did?  The first day, they sucked me in by just doing a little massage and whatnot.  The second session - well, in the immortal words of Naughty by Nature, "that's not that simple."  Check it out:

They stuck pins in me!  I have officially been acupunctured.  Pretty cool.  I have no idea if it's going to work, but it sure looked impressive (and kinda hurt).  I'll keep you posted.

10 May 2010

Temptation, Thy Name Is Apple

This is really a story about two accidental city slickers going apple-picking. However, the following is an actual conversation that occurred during the car ride on the way to the "farm" in the "country."  Seemed to fit the theme.

A: I want a new iPhone. And an iPad. And a MacBook Pro.

B: I'm pretty sure you don't actually need any of those things.

(Lengthy, heated debate ensues.)

A: ... So that's why I'm right.

B: What about when they all become obsolete in July and you end up as nothing but another early adopter? I know that's a dirty word to your kind.


A: Whatever, I'm getting them.

Aaaaaaand... scene.

Back to the original story...

It's autumn here.  Chris and I were about to unpack our sweaters, make some hot chocolate, wear scarves for other than pretentious fashion reasons, and go watch a Pats or CU game (or, in his case, an unholy, detestable Broncos game).  We got through the first three things OK, then remembered that football was out and that the Sox season had just started and... well, it kinda went downhill from there.  Not cool with the whole opposite-seasons thing, people.  I don't care how awesomely delicious it is to watch dozens of sweaty men in short-shorts chase each other around a big field in a seemingly random fashion (and believe me, Aussie Rules Football IS fun) - it simply can't compete with a New England autumn.  I've got a fever, and the only cure is...



Ha, I bet you thought I was gonna say cowbell.

Since it's officially fall here, and since we were both feeling a little homesick for fall things (no small feat when all your Northern-Hemisphere friends are getting psyched for summer), I decided that what we absolutely NEEDED to do was go pick apples.  At an actual orchard.  They taste so much better than the store-bought kind, or even the Prahran-Market kind.  Or so I tried to convince Chris.  He was very skeptical.  I got him to relent by promising to make him a pie.  Surely there's a joke in there somewhere about how easily men are swayed by the promise of food...

We don't have a car (oh, how I miss my wonderful, shiny Jeep).  So we had to rent a car to get out of the city.  Then we had to go to McDonald's (a McDonald's trip is a tacitly understood prerequisite for every road trip involving Person A (referenced above)).  But my McDonald's hatred is a subject for another day.

Without further ado, we drove to the orchard.  We acquired some buckets.  We learned the difference between Pink Lady and Granny Smith (hint: one's green).  And then we skipped down the rows of stunted-looking trees, giggling like children, picking apples, taking one bite, throwing the once-bitten apple in the dirt because the first bite is always the best, then picking another apple and repeating the process over and over in a glorious orgy of wasteful consumption and nostalgic fervor and... oh, no.  That was just me.  Chris stood there with his bucket and looked at me like I was insane and asked, "How do I pick these things?"

Gus was a quick study.

Yep, we went to Payne's Orchard.

High on apples.

So we picked.  It took a lot less time to fill up two buckets than I remembered from my sepia-tinted childhood days.  We were done in no time at all, and I have to admit I was a little sad about it.  To make up for it, we stopped at a strawberry farm on our way back and picked 2 kilos of those bad boys.  That made me feel slightly better, since the strawberry picking took much longer than the apple picking.  I felt that, combined, the two experiences created the perfect ratio of picking-time to end-result.  All in all, it was just extremely satisfying.  And a bit pricey (renting a car in Melbourne ain't cheap, kids!).  And we made pie.  Life was good, despite the conspicuous absence of Halloween and tailgate parties.

One week later, our apple harvest has dwindled to about ten percent of its former glory (Chris has developed an almost unhealthy obsession with "the green ones").  I asked Chris if he wanted to go pick some more next weekend to replenish our precious supply.  I even offered to make another pie.  His response: "Hell no.  Those were the world's most expensive apples."

Huh.  Apparently there ARE some things that men like more than food.

03 May 2010

The Evil Bean

Hooray for caffeine!  As part of our homework, my creative writing teacher asked us to write a poem about - wait for it - coffee.  Knowing a fair bit about the subject of expensive espresso, I had a bunch of ideas, and some extravagant (and, blessedly, fleeting) ideas about being the next Emily Dickinson.  Here's what stuck on the paper when I threw words at it.

Gleaming monster rattles
Comfort, it soothes.

Chatter clink
glass on china.
Drink the world
here's a den.

News rustles in impatient hands.
dinner plans
last week's meeting
first dates
then, of course,
the chairs scrape.

Foam hiss frothy peaks
electric hum
a hive.
Sounds like quiet.

A tethered dog whines 
lowers his head