In the Rainey Street District of Austin, Texas, a stranger approached my dog, hand extended. “Puppy!” she shrieked weirdly, a piercing decibel, especially for the hour of day. My first thought is that she closed the bars and is drunk, but, she’s not. She and her friend are in fashionable workout gear, probably all ginned up on coffee and ready for some speed-walking.
Otherwise, relative calm prevails early mornings in my neighborhood when I slip out the door to take Ezzy for her walk.
My neighborhood is a trendy downtown bar district, home to live music, food trucks, drinking holes and raucous partying. But early mornings, it’s even better, with neighbor brushing against neighbor and work crews quietly coming and going, cleaning up what was left behind from the previous night’s revelries. I stop to put a beer glass on an outdoor table that someone has left on the sidewalk outside of Bangers and exchange hellos with the manager.
“How’s the girl?” Brian says. My daughter worked for him the summer before college. He wrote a warm reference letter on her behalf for a volunteer program she’s now involved with at university. When my husband and I stop in for drinks, Brian sometimes says they’re on the house and we trade stories about vacation and raising teenagers.
In the early 2000s I read Jane Jacobs’ magnum opus, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, on the workings of a great city. This 585-page hardback enjoys a prominent place on my shelf, standing proud though dozens of fuchsia post-it-notes marking the best of the best sections from my first read protrude like a child’s unruly tufts of hair. Jacobs was a long-time resident of Greenwich Village and she starts her book at the beginning, with the humble sidewalk, the fundamental building block of a city.
Read in full on StrongTowns.org
I published a personal essay about my childhood in the Philippines in Story|Houston a few years ago. But recently after moving to Washington, DC, I found myself frequently walking past the well-positioned Embassy of the Philippines. It got me thinking about the Filipino-Americans living around me. Although I grew up in the Philippines, I later lived the expat life with my husband (and eventually, kids) in Germany, Dubai and London. Did Filipino-Americans in Washington, DC feel lonely like I sometimes felt as an expat? Did they long to be with others who ‘get it’? Maybe they’d been away from the Philippines so long, immersed in American culture, that they felt detached from their homeland and longed to refresh their understanding of Filipino customs and culture. If so, how did they find each other to reconnect and enjoy mutual refreshment?
The point is, it takes a long time to carve out a place in another country enough to call it home. When you are with others to learn from, to commiserate with, to exchange stories and experiences with, it’s going to be a little bit easier. Gathering with others who share the same ethnic background could set things right.
This article I wrote for Taste.Company shows where this line of thinking took me. Special thanks to Editor Jenny Dorsey and Executive Director Jason Tengco of National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). Read in full here.
With great excitement I present Once Upon An Expat now available in paperback on Amazon. Connecting with this talented, fascinating group of writers from all across the globe under the leadership of Editor Lisa Webb has provided me a singular writing high point for 2016.
Go to Amazon for your Kindle or paperback copy and while you’re at it, check out my author page!
If you can get through this, you can get through anything.
If you consider your family life healthy don’t test it by going to IKEA for the day, especially if you have recently moved overseas to an unfamiliar city such as London, with previous stops along the way in exotic-but-foreign places.
I’ve recently recovered from a family outing to a London IKEA after making just such a protracted international move. I’d prepared for our journey to IKEA well in advance, measuring every potential living and storage arrangement possible in our 900-square-foot flat.
Except for clothing and personal effects, we’d moved with nothing. Our flat was empty and a robust shopping trip was needed for items such as tomorrow morning’s cup for my American cup-of-coffee.
Read in full on YourTango.
The earth was cracked and troubled in Washington, D.C. If only you’d been listening, you would have decoded the garbled whisperings of Auntie Kay’s rapid decline, a sampaguita wilting, just like your bleeding hearts in summer, hot as morning mouth. Instead, you obsessed over perennials, especially your bleeding hearts. And, you stupidly pinned your success on them. Now their decline signaled a mocking failure.
Formerly a burned out parking lot, your skinny 15×45 patch of manufactured grass served as an urban backyard. Belying appearances, this defiled earth hid scars of the past that now threatened to slice up your hands. Your gardening gloves mostly shielded you from the harmful objects—glass, rusty metal, bullet casings, and ground-up concrete. Undaunted, you imagined Eden could be realized in one growing season under your coaxing, a remarkable, almost impossible, feat for a veteran gardener. Unluckily, you were an amateur. Unluckily, there was a drought that year. Unluckily, it was Auntie Kay’s final summer.
On the surface it was the bleeding hearts that filled you with a pitiful, throat-catching anxiety. Running parallel, deeper, viciously circling in your gut, was the once unflappable Auntie Kay now wasting away in Chicago. Be honest. Pull back the curtain: that was the throat-catching anxiety.
Read in full at Santa Fe Writers Project: http://sfwp.com/resurrection-by-kathryn-streeter/
Love City, Love Bike
In downtown Austin, the clerk helps me with my groceries: wine, chocolate, tea, pepperoni and eggs.
“Is a double-bag fine?”
Uh-huh, I nod and add to please pack things tightly.
I load my sturdy basket behind the seat of my old lady’s bike, as my teens call it. I’m mostly worried the eggs won’t make it home on the path that leads to our downtown high-rise apartment.
When we moved to Austin not only did we downsize to fit our family of four into an apartment in the heart of the city, we freed ourselves of our second car. Between bikes, Uber and car-sharing options, having one car was completely rational. Biking around town is our preference, whether to the store, doctor or coffee shop.
Go to Austin American-Statesman for the full story.
Published today on The Good Men Project.
I wrote this story to further contribute to a larger conversation going on about how IKEA affects relationships. My essay “The One Trip Guaranteed to Stretch Your Marriage” published in February. I was amused when just recently The Wall Street Journal published the highly-popular piece “Can Your Marriage Handle a Trip to IKEA?”
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think 🙂
Raw square-footage was less important than PLACE for this family. Want a simple family life? Go urban. Go small. Be free.