Wednesday 25 February 2015

Me vs The Churidar Kurta or How I Got Stuck in a Shirt

Once in a while it’s nice to dress up. You get all fancy and glamourous, and pretend for a night that having crackers ground into your sweater isn’t the status quo. But I think I like the idea of getting dressed up far more than the reality of it….especially when the dressing up comes at the cost of my dignity.

I was invited to the wedding of one of my coworkers, and I intrigued because it was going to be a big (ludicrously big) traditional Indian wedding, and I had never been to one of those before. Suffice to say that the event itself was not quite what I had imagined, but I’ll leave the trauma of the actual wedding for another day. Getting dressed for it was tragedy enough on its own.

Because it was a traditional wedding, we (my co-workers and I) were all asked to wear traditional Indian clothing. Right, because I have a ton of saris just waiting for the opportunity to be worn. To be fair, I was kind of excited because I find saris beautiful, and I (misguidedly) figured that if I had to dress up, it might as well be something different. I tend to be one of those people who has one black dress that makes its way to all the parties. I change shoes. Sometimes.

My dreams of sweeping fabrics, and intricately dangerous fabric tuck jobs just waiting to come undone were quickly dashed. You don’t wear a sari to the temple. Why? No idea. I was just told not to. Apparently I needed to find myself a churidar kurta.

I could not properly pronounce the word, let alone be trusted to accurately select something that represents whatever that was supposed to be.

After having the word written down for me…my hooked-on-phonics version was not correct…I hit up google for help. It was very little help. The variety of styles and colours was staggering and I really wanted to avoid committing a cultural taboo by showing up dressed like an unknowing bar wench.

I kept trying to ask my co-worker for direction, but she looked at me as if I was asking about the differences between a ball gown and a bath towel, and the conversation would inevitably end with “don’t worry about it”. Right. I’ll be the white girl at the Indian wedding accidentally dressed as a prostitute. 

Luckily, my daughter’s daycare provider was an amazing Iranian woman who loaned me a couple of traditional outfits to try on for the event. She told me that I would not look like a hooker. This was reassuring.

I took the stuff home, got kids into bed, and decided to see how the outfits looked. I put the first one on; it was a sack. Actually it was a white and green whale-like sack. Next.

There were a couple of contenders, but the one I really liked was a cute little burgundy number. It was a bit smaller than the others, and I had my fingers crossed that it would be flattering. 

The pants fit as well as could be expected I guess. I can best describe them as ballooning silk pyjama pants that taper in to your ankle with a drawstring for a belt. Not something I would normally go in for, but hey, try something new.

The shirt on the other hand fit much better. It was awkward to get into, as it had one of those hateful side zippers that doesn’t allow the shirt to come fully apart, but just gives you the illusion that you’ll fit into it. There was beautiful gold embroidery, sequins, and a hint of shimmer. It really was beautiful. And it fit. More or less.

Actually less.

Really, really less.

I tried to take it off.

It wouldn’t come off.

I couldn’t get my arms above my head to get out of it. I struggled, tried to use gravity to my advantage….nothing. The churidar kurta had me in its vice-like grasp.

If you’ve ever been in a changing room and had this happen, you know the panic that accompanies being stuck in clothing. It wasn’t my outfit, I couldn’t just cut it off (though I seriously considered it anyway), and I didn’t really want to live in it. To make matters worse, Husband was working out of town so I had no one at home to help extract me from the silk nightmare.

I tend towards claustrophobia, and yes, this totally counted. I panicked. And then I panicked some more. None of that helped. The shirt didn't give a fuck about how much I wanted out of it.

So I called my mom.

Please understand I hate this
picture and am sharing with you
only so you can grasp the unflattering horror
of the whale sack
After she stopped laughing at me, she agreed to come over to help rescue me from the shirt that felt far more like a Chinese finger trap than an article of clothing. When she showed up at my door, it took her a solid 15 minutes of laughing at me some more before she ACTUALLY helped release me from shirt-prison. Thank God she didn’t have her camera with her, or I’m sure she would have created some sort of photo documentary about it.  

I’m also sure she laughed all the way back home.

On the day of the wedding I wore the unflattering whale sack. The picture here doesn't do it's terrible-ness the justice it deserves, but this photo was the only one I had....probably because I ran screaming every time a camera was brought out. 

To the whale sack's credit, at least it allowed me to move. Had I let vanity win and wore the burgundy outfit...which sadly I almost did...I don't think I would have been able to survive the duration of the wedding. I imagine it would have been like sitting for two hours in the cuddly embrace of a hungry boa constrictor. 

That said, dying in the loving embrace of said boa-shirt may have been preferable to attending the wedding itself. If only I'd known that beforehand, I could have saved myself one hell of a headache...

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Me vs Crossing the Border

I’ve always lived within driving distance of the USA border. Not, like, spitting distance, but close enough that I can drive down there and make poor financial decisions when it comes to how many pairs of shoes I “need” to buy from the discount store.

I like shoes. Piss off.

I like going cross border shopping because it’s cheap, and I can get more for my money down there. I know this doesn’t help our economy, but realistically when I can get the identical product for $73 less, I’m going to do that.

But these savings don’t come for free. There are obstacles. Most notably: the border crossing.

Every time I cross the US/Canada border, I feel like I’m a criminal. There is no rational reason for this; I’m not, nor have ever been, involved in criminal activity. I can’t begin to imagine the set of balls you would need to even consider smuggling something like drugs across the border.  To me, this seems like a completely insane thing to do.

Regardless of my lack of criminal history, every time I come to a border crossing I am convinced that they will search my vehicle and find 2 kilos of coke that was snuck into my car when I wasn’t looking.  This will inevitably land me in jail, I will have to become a prison wife to afford myself some protection, and I will be forced to get a prison tattoo and learn to make moonshine in the toilet using old ketchup. This is what goes through my head as I wait 35 minutes to meet with the border guard. Every time. It sounds terrible. I blame Hollywood movies about unsuspecting drug mules.

All of this paranoia is particularly bizarre because it’s not as if I’ve ever had an even remotely bad experience crossing the border. In fact, just the opposite, my crossings have been good, if not a little weird.

My first odd crossing came when I went to Seattle with friends. We were heading down for a rock climbing competition, and a girlfriend and I were in one car, and the guys we were with were in the car ahead of us. They went through with no problems, and when the guard came up to us he started out friendly, asking normal, guard-y questions. He was surprisingly cheerful and started joking with us about what was in the trunk. Hahaha, dead bodies? Hahaha, fresh food (because apparently that’s a thing). Hahaha, endangered animals? Yes, I totally have an elephant back there, it’s doing nothing good for my gas mileage.  Hahaha, drugs? Um, nope. Hahaha….are you sure you don’t have any drugs back there, because if I were the guys in the car up there, I would have given them to you girls, hahaha. Um, still no.

We were pretty sure joking about having drugs in our car was not a good tactic, but this guy was really into what he obviously thought was an extremely funny line of questioning. I had a bit of an internal struggle….do I deadpan the situation and risk offending the guy who apparently thinks he’s some kind of comedian, pissing him off, and getting searched, or do I play to his joke and risk getting pulled over and searched anyway if he suddenly didn’t think my admitting to carrying drugs was amusing.  

I aimed for middle ground….uncomfortable laughter (oh border guard, you’re so clever, tee hee), 
mixed with denial (no sir, no drugs here….which was actually true, btw). I think that joking about drugs at the border is about as safe as joking about bombs in an airport. Just don’t.  We made it to Seattle.

Coming back up into Canada through the border is another joy. Please declare everything. Fine, I have no immediate issue with that, but when they stare at you accusingly as you it’s a bit disconcerting. A friend of mine has a method for avoiding that which actually seems to work. She knits.

Apparently there is some unspoken rule that people who are in the middle of knitting a scarf will not lie to a border guard. Seems legit. Everything she said to the guard was acknowledged politely and accepted without question. She didn’t even need to produce receipts. I don’t knit, but I will make it look like I can next time.

The most recent and most absurd crossing is what I’ve come to refer to as my “Next Time” expedition.

To complete our new house, I’d purchased all of our lighting from the US, and unfortunately this meant I would have to make a trip across the border to pick it up from the delivery depot. I asked a friend if she would like to come along for the ride, so the two of us and my 1 year old piled into the van and off we went.

When we got there, we realized that my friend had forgotten her passport. She had a birth certificate but no secondary picture id with her. The guard, who was really intrigued by my right-hand drive van, decided that her birth certificate plus her Costco membership would suffice. Ok.  He looked at her very seriously and said Next Time make sure you have your passport. Of course officer.

Then it was my turn. I did have passports for myself and the baby, however I had neglected to bring a letter from Dad saying that it was ok to be taking the child across an international border. The border officer looked at me very seriously and said Next Time make sure you have a letter from the father. Of course officer.

Under no circumstances should we have been successful, and yet off we went. Drive, pick up $800 of lighting, drive some more. Back to the border to return to Canada.

The returning guard asked for the inevitable declaration of goods. Well officer, I have $800 of lighting fixtures for my new house. Great, please take your receipts inside to pay duty.

Wait, receipts? Shit.

What I had completely neglected to think about what the fact that all of it was bought online by my husband and all the receipts were safely locked away in his email, which I currently had no access to. 

Could I look more like I was trying to smuggle drugs into Canada????

I went inside to plead my case to the customs officer, who asked me to estimate the value. After looking me over, probably estimating my drug mule potential,  he looked at me and said Next Time make sure you have all your receipts with you.

Good lord.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Me vs Import Van Repairs

Get a neat little import van they said. It’ll be great they said. They neglected to mention that the magic would fade if we moved out of the major metropolitan area we bought it in….

Driving off road like a boss
The Delica seemed like a good idea at the time.  A van that is unique enough not to be a mini van, and has 4 wheel drive capabilities that would make a jeep blush.  It’s roomy, out of the ordinary, surprisingly capable, and has more cargo room than I would have expected. 

I don’t even mind the right hand drive. And for those of you who want to know, it isn’t that hard driving on the opposite side of the car. Takes about an hour to really get used to, and after a day or so, you don’t really notice. 

The only real difficulty is that the wipers and turn indicator are reversed, and I do still occasionally turn on the windshield wipers when trying to use my turn signal.

My wipers mean I’m turning left. Now you know.

The one major thing we may have forgotten to consider when we moved to a small town was that out here mechanics are good at fixing Fords, Toyotas, Chevys, etc.  They do not, for the most part, tackle the intricacies of my Mitsubishi Delica with its wheel on the “wrong side” of the van, or its Japanese instruction manual.  Seriously, there are buttons in there that we’re sure do something, but we may never know what, as my katakana translations are a bit rusty.

Within 2 months of buying the van and moving here, we needed new brakes. The whole thing still bothers me because when the van was imported, that should have been done. Moreover, we were told it was.

Apparently that was not the case. Either that, or somehow over a 2 month period, I developed NASCAR-like driving habits that required significant brake work shortly after taking possession of the vehicle.  Anything is possible, but this vehicle possesses the speed of a dying whale, so I think that’s unlikely.

In any case, 2 months in we were looking for a brake overhaul. Amazingly, the brake place in town was willing to have a go at it, but of course they didn’t have the parts. It took them a few days, but they were eventually able to track them down, but it would take a few days to have them couriered up. Oh yeah, and for those wondering, couriers cost a lot.

The worst part of this, at least up to this point of the story, was that I was now without a vehicle, in a foreign land (more or less), with no way to get anywhere or get anything done. The only solution to this was to get up extraordinarily early, rip sleeping kids out of bed, shove them in the back seat, and drive Husband to work. Grumpily.

Why not just put up with a few days of car-less-ness you ask? Well, I live near nothing. I am within walking distance to nothing (except cougars, I’m sure if I went walking I’d find cougars). It was either drive him to work or go stir crazy with 2 small children running feral around the house.

Plus, it wasn’t just a few days of tolerating captivity……

Why? Because rockslides are assholes. The only driving route to bring the parts necessary to grant me my freedom was blocked for 2 weeks by a rockslide. Yeah. Fixing this car is a bitch.

Then we had a reasonably quiet year. No major breakdowns or other catastrophic problems with the Deli.  This was the van’s way of lulling us into a false sense of security so we could make it to the holiday season feeling reasonable good about our choice in import vehicle.  

Until December.

Now, I realize that our road is hardly what you would call gentle on cars. It’s gravel, it has dips and bumps, and now it has ice. It’s not beyond comprehension to think that would be hard on a car.  You would hope, then, that your weird little off-road van would be somewhat prepared for the rigors of difficult roads, being that it is touted as an off-road capable vehicle. It’s not. 

This past December I was chugging down our driveway, as only an old diesel can, when I heard something clang and clunk up front. I hopped out but saw nothing on the road, and guessed/hoped that a rock had hit the skid plate under the van. Nothing on the road, van kept chugging, no obvious pressing issues…..keep driving.

A few weeks later, Husband took the skid plate off and a piece of van fell out. As the van had been running well to this point, we decided that 1994 Delicas have an ostensibly extraneous part in the engine. Seems legit.

The part was put on a shelf and about 4 days ago (when he finally cleaned the garage) Husband found it and put a picture of the part on a Delica forum to see if anyone could identify it.
Let's play a really high stakes game of Name That Part

Online panic ensued.

Apparently the nice little bit of metal holds all the engine belts in place, and we should get it fixed as soon as possible. Don’t drive it. It’s totally undrivable. How have you not simply just fallen off the road???

Well Delica forum experts, apparently I was the exception to the rule. I’d been driving it for the last 2000 kms without said critical piece and it hadn’t stranded me yet. But of course now that I knew this, I pretty much assumed it wouldn’t make the next trip into town without blowing up.

Luckily it appeared that we were just missing a bolt and Husband was able to order it from the city (couriers again, dammit) and blindly screw the part back in. So far so good, nothing has fallen off and the van hasn’t lost power,  steering capabilities, or erupted into a ball of fire.  

The advantage to not having a mechanic in town who specializes in foreign vehicles is that Husband has become fairly good at basic car repair and maintenance. This is good because the Deli does seem to possess some….um….personality. It’s incredibly picky about its oil, has a FOB that occasionally chooses to lock and unlock doors, and generally refuses to start in the cold if you don’t baby it a bit first.

I have BCAA for a reason.  

Sunday 1 February 2015

Me vs The Superbowl

I've frankly never really been into sports. Especially team sports. It's not that I don't like being a team player (well...sort of), but I've always really, really been shit at them.  

I can climb a rock face, stand on top of a mountain, and feel great, but under no circumstances should you hand me a ball and have any expectations that I will effectively achieve anything with it. There will be no passing, no proper form dribbling, and certainly no accurate shooting. 

My most common experience when playing team sports with balls is getting hit in the face. Like, frequently. Honestly, my hand eye coordination is akin to that of a toddler. I have been hit in the face by basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, and volley balls. I don't like sports. 

This dislike of team sports tends to extend to watching them on tv as well. Not that this is in any way terribly surprising....don't like playing them, don't really feel like spending time I can't get back watching them either. However, and this is a big 'however', I understand that other people DO like watching sports. Why, I can't quite fathom, but they do. And the Superbowl seems to be one of the more popular events. 

Now, yes, I realize this is a big game, but football? Seriously? I just can't wrap my head around it. Hockey moves quickly, and at times, can be tolerably exciting to watch. The rules are more or less easy to follow. 

Football not so much. It's a slow game with little bursts of activity here and there followed by interminable consultation and tv heads talking at each other. My favorite quote of the night came from the overexcited announcer who proudly told us that, among other things, one team would be leaving here a winner tonight. Well, you don't fucking say! It's not like they are going call it a draw at the end of the night and all go out for a tie beer. 

And then there is the problem with football's inability to adhere to a normal person's understanding of time. I can't tell you how excited I get when I see there is only 6 and a half minutes of play left before the game ends. For those of you who don't know, 6 minutes of football time is the equivalent of 32 hours of normal person time. Yes. That's right. 32 hours. 

There are also the ads. Some of them are slightly more entertaining than usual, and it's nice to see that the advertising companies manage to not just phone it in at least once a year, and actually create something that doesn't make you wonder if the focus group was sleeping when they were testing the ads.  That said, they are still just commercials. I don't need a clever ad to sell me toenail fungus medication. Really. It's fucking ridiculous. 

The only real perk I see to the Superbowl over any other average, mind numbing game, is that people throw big parties. I've only been to a couple, and the one we went to this year was a good time.  Good food, good friends, and enough other conversations going on that I didn't have to actually watch the game. It's also pretty entertaining to watch a room full of adults teach my one year old to boo the offending team.

And, as a pleasant surprise, I will even admit to enjoying the last 32 seconds* of the game (*read: 10 minutes in real person time). Plus the half time show didn't suck. 

Go Sports Team! Yay.