happy birthday!

25 Jun

I fly out of India tomorrow night, and I don’t want to leave. It’s too hard! I thought I would be ready, and only weeks ago I swore that this was the right timing. But spending so much time thinking and talking about what my past year has been made me acutely aware of all the deep friendships I’ve made here, the work I’ve done and been so lucky to be a part of, and the way God has entered my life so much more visibly. There are a million reasons I am sad to leave, but my coworkers are #1. My admin team is so full of joy and so willing to accept me as part of their team even when they would certainly prefer and feel more comfortable talking in Tamil, and my Tamil is almost non-existent. So many people in the office mean so much to me and it is hard leaving not knowing when I will see them again.

Every person who leaves the office has an hour-long “farewell,” a time centered around that person that sends them off with some sharing and closure. Farewells can be awkward. They can be downright painful. Some feel a bit too much like a funeral. I was nervous. But I should have known better, because my boss is nothing if not fun-loving, and my friends a) know me so well and b) are hilarious and know that I love a good laugh. So instead of having a typical farewell, unbeknownst to me, they threw me a birthday party. I was unable to celebrate my birthday in India because I wasn’t here yet last July, and a birthday is the best way to celebrate with all of your friends, so I was bummed I would miss it this year, too. In fact, the night before, I had my own not-birthday party that I planned with the other interns.

But thankfully, I got the best present of all – a fun (and funny) celebration from some dear friends. When the slideshow began, set to 2pac’s “Changes,” I knew the whole thing would be a riot. Next came a game of guessing ridiculous quotes that I have said, both whether I actually said them, and what they were about. All made possible by my friend who annoyingly kept a list of insane things I said all year. And here it was made public. Thanks to some ingenious fake answers, I can’t even begin to convey how funny it was. Two coworkers presented me with a fantastically funny song about CO that one had shared with me earlier this year: watch the vid here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyTi9m5PRTA . Guitar and ukulele. It happened.

Each department sang “Happy Birthday,” changing the words of the lyrics. The results were so unique – some Tamil, some zoo sounds, and an amazing “Happy law school to you” by the legal team about how I’m entering the greatest profession ever. After words from some of my sweet friends and coworkers, I was given beautifully wrapped gifts, and as I prepared to cut the cake, my sneaky coworkers unleashed confetti poppers and sprayed silly string-like mousse all over me. It was a great un-birthday, and the best way to go out.

My boss explained to me afterward that even though leaving can be sad, it should be done with joy and celebration of moving to the next steps. And I was all too thankful that all the laughter kept me from crying in public – for now. The past nine months have been incredible and I have learned so much about myself and the people who I have spent time with. I don’t want to leave, but I know it’s time. I just wish I could bring everyone home with me.

miracles happen

4 Jun
They really do. A few weeks ago, our team went into a brick chamber to rescue one laborer who we knew was bonded and needed help. With an exceedingly helpful government team in the lead, IJM arrived at the facility and found hundreds of people, working for far below minimum wage to pay an advance taken from the owner and only permitted to leave on Sunday afternoons when one family member could go purchase vegetables. With go-ahead from his supervisor, this brave government official planned to release all the bonded laborers in the brick kiln. When the people learned they were able to leave the facility, they ran to pack their few belongings.

Brick kiln where the labourers worked

And when they began to board the trucks prepared to take them to an off-site inquiry station, the four trucks there weren’t enough. In fact, they needed eight trucks; the brick kiln owner’s own vehicle even transported his slaves out of his facility. The government prepared for these laborers at a nearby high school, setting up a medical station to care for people’s wounds and sicknesses, and fed everyone three meals per day. The official even brought a water tank to the school so no one would go thirsty in the sweltering heat. The officials and IJM staff worked through the night to inquire each family and determine that they were, indeed, bonded. And after the shortest sleep, they were up again to take passport pictures of all the people working in the facility – a whopping 371 laborers, 23 of whom were children. Working together, IJM and the government team continued to care for these laborers while preparing their journey to return to their native place in northern India. In total, 514 people (those working and their dependents) came out of the facility that day and are now free. They were trapped by an abusive, powerful owner and denied their basic liberties, but they can now live as they choose.
Basically, this team of government officials was legendary. Their work went above and beyond their “duties” and they did everything they could to help these fellow human beings regain their rights and start new lives. Now that the laborers are back in their home villages, a long-term aftercare partner will be following up with them. This rescue is at least 5 times the largest rescue IJM has ever assisted with, and it marks quite a milestone in our work – not only in the sheer numbers, but in the determination shown by these officials that they should act to eradicate bonded labor.
The office is still reeling from the excitement and wonder of this rescue, and continuing to remember how this echoes the rescue of God’s chosen people from the Egyptians in Exodus. Uh-mazing.
For more details, check out the story written by a fellow intern on the IJM website: http://www.ijm.org/newsfromthefield/more-than-500-free-from-slavery-in-ijms-largest-operation-ever
AND see this awesome piece on NDTV (an Indian news channel): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk_QDA_9gOE&feature=share
And finally, thanks to the amazing CNN Freedom Project, here’s an article that provides a great description of bonded labor and why it’s such a problem: http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/02/a-110-loan-then-20-years-of-debt-bondage/ 

so it goes

29 May

There are moments when you’re an expat living in a foreign place that cause you to stop, and in the middle of the life that now seems absolutely normal, think, “That would so not happen back home.” And then you carry on with life. I’m reminded of the oft-used phrase in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, “So it goes.” There are no better words. Here are a few such moments from the last few weeks:

I look down at someone’s pair of shoes and realize they’re Teva-like velcro sandals. In fact, everyone around is wearing some variation of the same. Oh, right, because here velcro is not only tolerated, or just accepted, but fully embraced.

One morning I stood, as usual, in the dirt road outside my house trying to catch an auto to go to work with a Faulkner novel under one arm and a mug of steaming oatmeal in the other hand on a day the heat index would easily reach 105 F; in the real world, people would call this picture insanity. I call it life.

Having a hard time distinguishing between someone being helpful and friendly or creepy. I’m often a little too skeptical.

I taught a few coworkers how to use a combination lock – the kind i learned in 6th grade to open my school locker. I forgot how hard it is to learn that “spin right, left, right.” We decided it would be far easier to buy a different kind of lock than try to teach the whole office that trick.

On my walk across the street from the grocery store, a grown man walked by drinking out of a juice box. They aren’t just for children here.

On an auto ride home, the driver pulled over to the side of the road and said, “One minute!” He sprinted across both directions of traffic and trotted back with another man: “Your driver!” Our new driver drove us the rest of the way home. No explanation. No one batted an eye.

For Cinco de Mayo, we went to a restaurant called Texas Fiesta and had to explain to our English friends, our Indian coworkers, and the people working at this “Tex-mex” restaurant why Americans celebrate this Mexican holiday, and in the spirit of commercialism, probably care more about it than most Mexicans. That’s globalization.

Having power cuts at the office from 5-6pm every day, praying the computer’s back-up battery will last a while, and trying to find non-computer work to do. And monthly “maintenance days” when the power is cut all day. Hot.

Last week, I went to the tailor. Proud of myself for finding the house-turned-store down an unassuming alley, I tried to show the man working there the pictures of dresses I wanted made on my laptop. He spoke no English, so another man translated in gestures/broken English, telling me that he needed the pictures printed out. I took an auto to the office and the printer would not connect to the computer. I walked a few shops over where a sign advertised printing services, and popped my head inside a four-foot wide space lined with computers on one side. On the floor, two men sat eating mangos, rice and sambar. “Um, hi. Can I print something?” They scurried to bring me a chair and turn on the Windows 1995 computer. When I finished printing, I paid the equivalent of 35¢ and took an auto back to the tailor.  The two men there spoke rapidly in Tamil and then handed me a cell phone. On the other line is their boss, who tells me in impeccable English that she is booked for the next month – can I come back in a few weeks? Just your average Saturday afternoon.

So it goes.

calcutta living

28 Apr

I flew north to Calcutta to visit my friend Laurel over Easter, and had a lovely time exploring, relaxing and enjoying good food (Caesar salad – yum). I reunited with a few people I met back in September at IJM’s Training Week, and meeting up at this point in our time here, now that we’ve finished seven months (!) in India, was great; we shared our ups and downs, our thoughts on life and work, our both hilarious and trying stories. Just to be with people outside those I live with every day and know so well, but with whom I have so much in common, was refreshing. We got henna ‘sleeves’ on the street, drank something very similar to a caramel macchiato in a coffee shop, and shared recent fav songs. And as usual, I couldn’t keep myself from making comparisons between this new place and my Indian home.

I was impressed by some differences I found in the “City of Joy:” 1) Autos are so cheap! 2) Cabs are available at all times, no argument necessary, and cost the same as our autos; 3) A metro; 4) Little vanilla yogurts that are most delicious frozen (must find them in Chennai); 5) Cheap housing; 6) Not a dry state

But a few aspects of the alternately named “City of Darkness” made me reassess my love for Chennai, because in Calcutta… 1) Poverty is truly in your face; slums line the streets; 2) Children beg much more often; 3) Trafficking, although an issue everywhere, is much more blatant and an overwhelming concern; 4) The roads are more congested; 5) There’s only one major grocery store

But in reality, the cities were more similar than I expected – they were crowded, Indian and equally hot – have I mentioned that the heat index (taking humidity into account) is between 105 and 110 degrees here every day?? And it was the same there.

On Saturday, I met up with a coworker’s sister and she began telling us about her work with a Muslim community a little over an hour outside the city. After a few minutes, we were spellbound by her story, and she invited us to join her family for Easter lunch at their home the following day. We accepted this generous offer of hospitality, and learned more about this community. This group of people keeps its girls out of the classroom and out of the public eye – most girls never leave the four walls of their house except to marry at the age of 14 or 15, often as the second or third wife of a man twice their age. As they grow up, these girls learn to cook, clean and care for children, but never to read. They are seen as a burden to their families, devoid of value because they will never bring in money. This woman we visited set up a center in the village where she invites girls (ages 6-20) to come spend time and learn to sign their names and sew. Many parents gave their daughters permission to spend time at the center, where they take off their burkas and are able to be children. They play games, which they were never before allowed to do, color pictures, practice writing the alphabet, and learn to sew. These skills are enabling some of the girls to earn a little money, which has impressed their parents, who are putting off arranging their marriages because they enjoy the income. Our new friend took some of the girls, whose parents consented, on a field trip into the city to see the Victoria Memorial. Never having left their village, they exclaimed, eyes wide, “Is this the world?” They even asked her if all the people they saw were hired actors. This glimpse of life outside their village opened their minds and vastly expanded their worldviews. Although they still may be expected to give birth to 8 or 9 children and remain in the home, their new perspective will prompt them to change the rules of the next generation, to let their daughters go to school and see the outside world. We were so touched and inspired by this one woman’s work to provide a light to the girls in this community and change their lives one by one. The joy she has instilled in them by communicating their inherent worth is lasting.

Hearing stories about communities so removed from the rest of society can be difficult as we struggle to know how to respond. How can we help girls in situations and cultures like this one when they’re all over the world? I was reminded of words spoken by someone else who struggled with this – Mother Teresa. I actually missed the commercialism/hype leading up to Easter a bit, but my coworkers replaced that by talking about attending church on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But what better way to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection than by also remembering the life of someone who followed His calling in the most difficult of circumstances? We visited Mother Teresa’s home in Calcutta, which has partly been turned into a museum, but also functions as a home for nuns furthering her work in the slums. As I walked through the museum, I was particularly struck by this quote from her:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

What inspiring words. Although she realized that she would never be able to help all the people in Calcutta’s slums, or eradicate poverty there, or maybe even visibly see a marked difference from her work, she persevered in the belief that the “drop” she was contributing would make a difference. If only we could all follow her lead.

cultural collisions

18 Apr

This past weekend, I traveled a few hours west to Bangalore to see friends and attend an Akon concert. Yes, we found out that Akon, whose hip hop tunes stream in every Cafe Coffee Day in India, would be gracing South India with his presence, so of course we had to be there. In a promo video, he called the city “Bungalore.” Twice. That’s when we knew it would be epic. So after a weekend savoring my first real Mexican food in 6 months (what will it take for Chennai to catch on?), embracing America at the Hard Rock Cafe, and shopping in the local markets (which put ours to shame), we went to the concert venue, a stage with a large dirt area that reminded me of the Fort Worth stockyards, minus cowboys and rednecks. We arrived when the doors were scheduled to open, which meant that we waited an hour to enter, and then lined up in the second row of our section to wait for another hour. Suddenly, a few people started squeezing through the side gates, which resulted in a mob rushing toward the front section. Security refused to open a wider gate, or to stop people from getting through. So we all pushed, shoved, and held onto each other for dear life as we were carried to the front section. For the next few hours (the show started two hours late), we endured bad singing and lip-syncing (while reading off the song sheet) by a contest winner who was booed off the stage and enjoyed a DJ who mixed great songs, but we were the only ones in the crowd that knew the words.

After a seemingly never-ending reggae playlist, Akon burst on stage – in a suit. Mistake #1. Doesn’t he know that even in Bangalore, a city certainly cooler than Chennai, the temperature was 90 degrees? After a few songs, he came back out in a white v-neck. Good call. The screaming fans truly lost their minds when he came out, changed, in a giant hamster ball. He then walked (rolled?) his way out into the crowd as fans passed him along above their heads. In the manic desire to touch the hamster ball, people went crazy – they smashed into each other and rammed one another into a moving mass, losing shoes, bags and all semblance of sanity. But after inundating our section (yes, I helped pass the hamster ball), Akon made his way back to the stage. He performed loads of his most popular songs, and everyone was really loving him. But then he started to talk about how everyone in the second section (where we originally began) should come up to the first section because class barriers should be eliminated. Great theoretically and symbolically. But this was Mistake #2. Because no one told him that everyone from the second section had already joined the first section. So no one moved. Uncomfortable, but well-intentioned.

Akon in the Hamster Ball

And then he started to step over a few cultural lines. Which brings us to Mistake #3: Quote: “If you’re really an Akon fan, take off your shirt!” He pulls off his tee and waves it in the air. Silence. Stillness. Then Akon yells this statement four more times, with similar responses, and eventually about six guys follow suit. Awkward. Akon, do you understand the level of conservatism here? Guess not. In between each song, he asks the crowd to scream so that he can make sure we are louder than the crowd in Delhi, and says he’s going to “get the party started.” This never really changed the vibe, though. A few songs later, Akon leapt into the crowd in the middle of a song (clearly he’s lip-syncing at this point) in an attempt to crowd surf. Thirty seconds later, he resurfaces on stage and gives an instruction on crowd-surfing to the fans: “Guys, you have to lift me up! You can’t pull me down! Alright? Lift me up! Let’s try again!” Mistake #4. Tries again. Same result. And again. Same. But the man won’t give up. Clearly everyone wanted to pull him down and he wasn’t going to be able to transform mindsets right then. There needed to be time to practice. It became painful to watch, and I wanted to yell, “Akon, if you value your life, just give up. They are going to keep dropping you!” Eventually he did give up. But he was frustrated, and so was everyone else in the crowd.

One hit song later, he said, “See you next year!” and left the stage. No one applauded, and everyone flooded out of the arena. We laughed at them, saying, “Have they never been to a concert before?!” and moved to the front for a great view of the encore. Then we realized that the drum sets were being taking apart and carried offstage. There was definitely not going to be an encore. Some inside information told us that the after-party would be at the Westin hotel, so although we were disgustingly dirty, sweaty and tired by this point, we followed our lead to make sure we didn’t miss out on anything. The auto driver took us to the Taj “West End,” not the Westin, which really annoyed us until we realized that perhaps our friend has misheard “West End” as “Westin.” Accents can be so confusing. We entered the hotel and learned that there definitely is no Westin in the city, but we didn’t see any party people, and the concierge said nothing was happening there. Finally, we deduced that the after-party talked about was for the night before, after the Delhi concert, at a hotel there. So that one was our mistake. And we headed back to our friends’ apartments for a few hours of sleep before catching the early morning train back home.

Overall, we had a great time, and learned that someone should probably brief performers on cultural norms before they step onstage. Maybe that’s just another job created by globalization. But the crowd drawn by Akon, a mix of Indians from the South and Northeast and the rest of the subcontinent, the Africans, the handful of Europeans, and the monstrous number of languages spoken among these people, which I could not even begin to identify, attending a concert of an American hip hop artist originally from Senegal, provided for a truly intercultural experience. And those varying cultures’ inevitable collisions.

visit from appa

10 Apr

Dear friends,

Apologies for the looong silence.  It may take me a couple posts to get caught up, but I promise I’ll do my best! I’ll begin by telling y’all about a visit from my dear ol’ dad (“appa” in Tamil). Although he stubbornly insisted that he had no interest in ever visiting India and for months refused to consider the idea, I somehow wore him down and convinced him to fly out here to see what my life is all about. So a few weeks ago, he took the plunge, and left the continent for the first time in 25 years. He left snowy Denver, and three flights later, entered the muggy, humid, warm world of Chennai. I think his worst moment was probably his first moment, when he emerged from the airport into a tunnel of swarming people in the hot sun – I was stuck in traffic, and got a panicked call on a borrowed policeman’s phone – whoops! Vanakkam to India! Anyway, I swept him off to a continenal breakfast in an AC hotel and the India-shocked look began to wear off. Unfortunately, I then introduced him to his first auto ride. Because I take an auto every day, I don’t think twice about them, but my dad reminded me that they shake, jolt, spew pollution and drive like maniacs between cars. I think the horror from the craziness of traffic lasted, well, the whole time he was here. I guess it really is just something you adapt to.

To give you a better visual of an auto...

After a day hanging out in Chennai, I took him to the beach, which certainly presented a more positive face than the traffic of the city and the headache created trying to get anywhere. We had decided beforehand that to experience more of India, but outside of Chennai, we would take a trip to Kerala, the land Malyalees (people from Kerala) proclaim to be “God’s own country.” This state encompasses the West coast of the country, while I live on the East coast. Cochin, the capital, was cleaner and nicer than Chennai, but definitely fulfilled all the tenets of any Indian city – crowded, hot and devoid of real tourist attractions. For example, the lovely woman at our guesthouse (who cooked incredible Kerala food) organized tours of two old churches and an area where men use Chinese fishing nets. The number of touts at the tourist attractions combined with their run-down nature led to more quality father-daughter time than any real sightseeing. But that’s what we were there to do anyway, right? After a scarring experience watching a traditional dance performance (the cross-dressing man moving his eyebrows up and down at record speeds while sweat poured off his chin is forever seared into my memory), we took a trip a few hours east (up very windy roads) to the tea plantations of Munnar. I found the 70 F weather positively freezing, but my dad thought it was lovely. The tea plantations were beautiful, and our driver loved to point out interesting things as we wound along the road, such as birds, honey oozing from tree branches, and a whole lot of other things we weren’t sure how to get excited about. There, we were somehow convinced to go to a museum tour of a tea plantation. Let me advise anyone considering, even for a moment, the possibility of going to a museum in India, to “just say no,” and run away. As a general rule, you will be probably pack into a small room like sardines with a hundred other people while a man yells incoherent ramblings about the topic at hand in the heat and stench of closely pressed bodies, and then filter through the exhibit, which consists of strange artifacts largely without signs and unrelated to the subject at hand. Have low expectations. We also received a tour of a spice plantation and learned that just about every spice I’ve ever heard of (and many more) grow very well in Kerala.

Tea plantations in Munnar

From this hill station, we travelled south to Alleppey, where we participated in the most traditional of all activities in Kerala: stay on a houseboat on the backwaters. These houseboats navigate the narrow canals between strips of land and drift slowly past people’s homes, where amid the boats with tourists, locals continue with their daily washing and bathing and fishing in the river. The serenity of the backwaters stood in stark contrast to the hustle of the cities, and allowed us to really relax.

Houseboat in the Backwaters

I believe my dad’s overall impressions were that India is “insane,” “crazy,” and “different.” But it was really great to have someone experience my life here, for as much as I try to explain it, as my dad understood once he spent time here, it is really impossible to explain. Words cannot do justice to the madness of the crush of people, the potent smell of  masala in every food, the constant blare of horns, the sticky grime of the air – it is, as my dad said, “like visiting another planet.” I had forgotten just how different my life is here from that of people back home, and I think my dad’s insistence that I was crazy for living in this crazy place made me a) nervous to reenter the normal real world and b) excited about reentering a world of relative normalcy in the forseeable future. A great deal of the time he was here, my dad and I discussed my future plans in length; if I haven’t mentioned it before, I spent about a month telling everyone I was putting off law school for another year to volunteer with refugees on the Thai-Burma border (all the crazy people I hang out with right now fully supported this idea). But my family knew that spending more time in an insane place abroad might not be the greatest idea right now, and having someone who knows me so well and knows my strengths and can offer perspective is a really good thing. So yes, I’ve decided to go to law school in August, per original plan. I’m glad I had a time of questioning and reconsidering because now I’m really sure that this is what I want to do with my life. And one day, I will volunteer my time with Burmese refugees, but maybe by then I’ll have more skills to offer them. So I will be attending Washington & Lee, in Lexington, VA. A tiny school in a tiny town, but one genuinely focused on community; I think attending law school in a nurturing environment is the best path I could take after this year. It was great sharing India with my dad, although it certainly made me miss my mom and brother even more! I wish all of you could come see this crazy place!

shifting

28 Feb

Moving houses is called “shifting” here. Which makes sense, because really it entails transferring, or shifting, everything you have to a new location. A few weeks ago, I noticed a sign leading out to the roof of our apartment saying that the radiation was “too high for human exposure” – our landlord had added some cell phone and other miscellaneous towers recently to our roof, without asking our permission of course, and we decided that, being as our aparment was the top floor, this radiation could in no way be good for us (we also spent a significant amount of time on the roof). And the fact that some company actually spent the time and resources to put up a “Danger” sign was scary, because people aren’t so into signage or warnings about life-threatening things here. So we made a plan to move – pronto. Fortunately for us, a friend at work knew of an open flat in an area a bit further from the office, but much more residential and homey (or as Indians/English say, “homely” – try explaining the different connotations of those similar words). We looked at it, loved it, and moved out from the radiating “villa” (which sent us happily scurrying away with a gas leak our last day) in the span of 3 days.

So our lives were a little crazy arguing with the old landlord and living with friends until the new place was ready, but we are now officially living in the flat we have deemed “the Penthouse” (mostly because we just like it so much and have full access to a radiation-free roof). Our new neighborhood is a treasure trove of restaurants and stores and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer. Such a difference from the business-centered neighborhood we used to live in. We even have a park a few minutes’ walk away – with real grass and fountains and benches and an algae-covered pond! To inhale and breathe in tree-produced oxygen – am I in heaven?

The move was impulsive, exciting and insanity-inducing. I have learned how to install a washing machine in a kitchen (and secure a too-short drain pipe), wandered a furniture neighborhood and took 4 plastic chairs in an auto, tinkered with a gas tank regulator, and learned to use a few forms of public transportation. I’m becoming (and failing at being) a real handyman. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve thought, “Brady would be so good at this! What would my family do without him at home?!” Oh right. We’d call someone to fix whatever was broken. But it’s really okay – I’m learning all kinds of new life skills.

Any change in India comes with more than its share of challenges, but those just teach me how to look at the bright side, laugh, and keep laughing, because if I don’t laugh, I’m afraid I’ll cry. The only problem with laughing at every insane event or sequence of events is that pretty soon, the sanity you arrive with disappears. Seriously, any common sense or understanding of the world as I used to know it left me the minute I realized I loved eating with my hands (the other day, I found myself accidentally eating a bean burrito and salsa the way I would eat a chapatti and dahl fry – one-hanededly tearing off a bite-sized piece of tortilla and scooping up the salsa to pop into my mouth – whoops). For example: setting up internet involved no less than fifteen phone calls with different agents showing up at our house at unexpected times and rarely speaking English. Trying to communicate in my completely broken I-only-know-what-I-need-to-talk-to-an-auto-driver Tamil was absolutely ridiculous. Hand gestures just aren’t sufficient for choosing plans, deciding installation times and explaining scheduling conflicts! But miraculously we now have internet (after thinking that after a month without, we could just get by without it forever – false. We are not ready for that big of a lifestyle change yet). And getting locked out of the apartment because we only had one set of keys and happened to realize this in the middle of the night when a monsoon rain decided to randomly downpour for the first time in three months does not have to be the worst thing ever – it just shows you how good your friends are! We’re still in a period of transition, but settling. In fact, we had a housewarming party this weekend to celebrate. And it was nice to have a place we were really proud of. We were even able to provide our guests with drinking water. It’s the little things.

p.s. I have attained my life goal of enjoying all the perks of a dog – loyal, home to greet me after work, fierce watchdog – without the pains of responsibility, training and expenses by living in the same house as a dog (cleverly named “Puppy” haha) but in a different flat. Check.