Cafe Du Monde (New Orleans)

Like I said in my last post, we were traveling and then had the double whammy of Ravi and Rhi’s birthdays, so I needed a break from blogging.

Our vacation was to celebrate my fortieth birthday a few weeks early (I’m not forty until the 24th). New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, and I was so happy to have a chance to go back. I’ve been looking forward to visiting New Orleans with the girls for a long time.

If you go to New Orleans, there is something you must do whether you’re there for business or pleasure, adults only or with kids in tow–Cafe Du Monde. Open 24/7 except for Christmas Eve and Christmas, they pump out beignets and chickory coffee at an astounding rate.

What is a beignet? It’s a fried donut covered in powered sugar. Like, drenched in powdered sugar.

Which of course means your face and clothes get covered in the powdered sugar. But that’s just part of the experience. Maybe avoid dark colored clothing though? It was no big deal, though.

In fact, follow our example and go multiple times. We got in after midnight, so it wasn’t until the next day that we made it to Cafe Du Monde, but it was among our first stops. We then popped back in twice more, including just before we left for our flight back to California.

The menu may be as simple as beignets and drinks (non-alcoholic), but it’s a formula that works.

If you make it to Cafe Du Monde, be sure to go over to where the line for takeout is. If you walk just past the line down the building, there is a window. If you watch, you’ll see the machines that roll out the dough and cut the dough. Then the employees just throw them into the boiling oil behind them. It’s hypnotizing to watch.

Posted in Back to the US, New Orleans, North America, Pictures, Travel by Continent, Country, US | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On Vacation

Hey all. I’ll be back on 10/17 with a bunch of posts about our trip to New Orleans and Ravi and Rhi’s birthdays.

But first I have to survive it all!

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What do you want to know about the US/CA/us

I know this started as an expat experience blog, but over the past eight years we’ve come to know one another, if you’re a long time reader. I’ve been fairly open about our lives and experiences. But I’m reaching a point where I feel like I’m struggling to find topics to write about.

I mean, if you’re here to learn about our lives in Singapore, you’re better off in the archives. If you want to hear about the US, as an American it’s hard to know what would interest you.

So I’m curious–what do you want to know about life in the US? You can leave a comment or email expatbostonians at gmail dot com

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I don’t miss haze

I was on Facebook on Monday and as I often do, I glanced at my timehop (the feature where you see what you’ve posted on that day years in the past). Three years ago the PSI was going up to dangerous levels. The picture above is not as bad as it got. That was possibly the year they canceled school because of haze.

Ravi is an asthmatic, and every year my anxiety would spike, fearing for his health. The good masks that block the right particle matter are only made for adult faces, and my little ones were being exposed to hazardous air. Then there were the migrant workers who were given little more than a bandana to put over their face to combat hazardous air and were expected to continue on their job as if the air were perfectly healthy.

I don’t miss that vague burning taste in the back of my throat.

The part of the West Coast I live in is very dry, though, and there are issues with big forest fires every year. Last October, I began to taste that too familiar tinge of smoke in the air. I immediate began to worry, and to wonder where I’d put all those extra high PSI masks. But we were lucky that our part of CA usually doesn’t get too bad. I have friends in LA who really suffered last year. Which is, of course, nothing compared to what the people living in or near those areas experienced.

Singapore, I miss you. I don’t miss the haze.

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Bi Visibility

So yesterday, Sunday the 23rd, was Bisexual Awareness Day. I identify more frequently as queer, as I feel like a big umbrella covers a multitude of identities. But I do also identify as bisexual, meaning I am attracted to men and women.

The thing about being bisexual is that you’re usually only identified as bi when you are single. The second you have a partner, everyone is in a rush to identify you as gay (because I was dating a girl) or straight (because my partner is male). When you’re with someone of the opposite gender, you pass to the point of being invisible. You’re seen as an ally of the community at best, and just as a breeder at worst.

I’ve been married for twelve years, so why should I care? I ended up with a dude, so that is the deciding factor, right?

No.

I care because my partner’s gender identity (whether they identify as male, female, or genderqueer) ends up defining me. I am the same person I was when I dated M, or made out with B, or slept with A–and they were all women. I am the same person I was when I dated J, or slept with F, or made out with K–and they were all men.

Yes, my husband is a man, and I do not wish to change that. Marrying him didn’t settle a bet, or make me “get off the fence.” It doesn’t change that I am attracted to women.

When I am open about my sexuality, I am generally several questions. This is by no means a comprehensive selection, nor is it questions I only get from straight people (although it’s mostly straight people).

I am asked to rate where I fall on the Kinsey scale. If zero is totally gay and ten is totally straight, what’s my number? Am I more attracted to men or women? If I’m a 7, doesn’t that really mean I’m straight. If I’m a 3, doesn’t that really mean I’m gay? Just pick a side already! This is a really toxic line of inquiry. The idea that bisexuality (or pansexuality) is just someone who is greedy is hurtful.

When was the last time I slept with a woman? If it’s been x amount of time, doesn’t that prove that I’m mostly over women? If I really was bi, I’d have to punch my card x times a year to prove that I’m actually attracted to women. It’s not like a driver’s license where you have to renew it or it becomes invalid.

But you’re married with two kids. Why do I want to horn in on gay pride? Because I’m queer, too, and I deserve to be part of the community, regardless of how many women I’ve slept with, when it last was, or who I married.

I struggled a lot with my identity in college. If I’d been gay, I could have handled that. I had no problem with the idea of being gay. But I’d listened to those toxic opinions, and the idea of being bi made me feel dirty. That I needed to pick a side. That I was greedy. That I was just a dirty slut. PICK A FUCKING SIDE.

You may laugh, but I ended up in therapy for a while as I processed something that had always been there, that I’d just excused away or denied. But it had always been there.

If I could say something to parents whose kids are going through dealing with their sexual identities, it’s to be supportive. Don’t tell them that it’s just a phase, or that they can just overcome it. Don’t kick them out of your house (SG parents, especially, I’m looking at you). Would you rather have a dead child because they committed suicide (suicide rates are very high for queer teens) or accept and love your child as they are? I would hope the latter–which is also a good lesson to apply to obsessions about grades, hair styles, or any other choices your child makes or things they do that might not be what you wanted.

Love matters.

So don’t erase or demean your bi kids. We just want to be loved, and to be defined as individuals, not as a reflection of our partner’s perceived gender identity.

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Learning to Read

One of the things you learn as an aspiring teacher in the US is that all of the research says that learning to read is a complex process and that the age that is “normal” to learn to read is in the 5-8 window.

In Singapore, children are expected to be fluent readers and writers by age 6. Day one of Primary 1 your child better already know how to read because next week their spelling test will have words like mountains.

In the US, we hope that kids start kindergarten knowing all 26 letters and their corresponding phoneme (sound a letter makes). But not all do. There is support for children who are behind, like reading specialists who will work either one on one or in a small group with children who are behind.

Elanor was a precocious reader. By the end of K1, she was reading simple readers and by the end of K2 she was reading chapter books (simple ones, but still). She was fine in the Singapore system.

But one size doesn’t fit all. And it didn’t fit Rhi.

We realized during K1/2 that Rhi just wasn’t ready to read. And you can’t force a child to read before they’re ready–all you’ll do is make them feel dumb and hate reading/books. Between that and some of her other challenges, like ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder.

When the job offer from the US came through, it was at a good time. Rhi was finishing K1, and stressing out at the pressure that even her low-key private K had. It was really unclear what we were going to do with her if we stayed. Public school was out. Heading to the US, where “normal” has a much larger range, seemed like a smart decision.

Rhi started Kindergarten this time last year. She started off in the reading specialist group because she was shaky on some of her phonemes. By the end of the school year, though, she was in the top group. It was the right time, in the right environment, and she continues to be in the top reading group in first grade, which started last month. But even the top group is only reading simple texts, less demanding than those read in Singapore.

When Elanor was young, I felt very arrogant about my decisions to enroll her in Singapore public. After all, she was thriving. High expectations equals high output. I’d never taught reading, only dealing with kids who already knew how to do it. I was a precocious reader. Ravi was a precocious reader. Elanor was a precocious reader.

Rhiannon isn’t a precocious reader. She’s right on schedule. And in a less stressful environment, she’s thriving. She loves reading. She feels smart.

Different kids need different solutions. I wish that Singapore offered more diversity and support for kids who don’t fit the mold, apart from making them feel stupid (something many of my friends have talked about).

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Laptop woes

Last night, I finished up editing a story and then went to my bedroom. I went to plug in my laptop, only to find out I couldn’t. Something in the connection between the two is broken. I have been reduced to using Elanor’s Chromebook, which can’t do most of what mine can do and which does not have Word. My laptop is currently at the shop and any sacrifices you’d like to suggest I make to the laptop gods is welcome.

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