Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bajaj Adventure!

In one of my heart-to-heart talks with hubby, he asked me what was the greatest challenge for me living in Colombo (yeah I know it’s too Performance Management-ish).  Top of mind answer was mobility.  I’ve never been as dependent on somebody else to go around the city since I learned how to commute and drive (which were roughly more than 10 years ago).  Here in Colombo hubby and I depend on our driver.  Which is well and good – he is a good driver and committed to us.  Once I was doing the grocery and picked out a papaya (their papaya here is exquisite!).  He suddenly came up to me and said, “Madamme…” and took the papaya I chose and replaced it with a better one.  Why not?  His English is ok, there would be frustrating moments, he helps me with my Sinhala but on the whole we get by quite well.  But  the guy also has his life so he’s off on Sundays and I feel guilty keeping him late on weekdays.  We can drive but we still have yet to get our licenses (and for me learn how to drive on the right side! – thank God hubby had practice when he was assigned in Indonesia) so driving around on our own is pretty much limited as well.  Add to the fact that the Sri Lankans are quite fond of round-abouts (or rotundas).  Think QC circle diameter with other round-abouts on the side…  

So, I said to myself, I should take matters into my own hands.  And mentally listed 2 major objectives:

1)    Learn how to commute – for now, the Bajaj or Tuktuk or Tricycle (after that, bus and train)
2)    Get a driver’s license

Pimp My Ride
Today, I was able to accomplish the first part of #1.  The car had to be serviced and Wednesday is my mid-week grocery day.  There is a nearby mini-grocery (Cargills Food City) and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to practice commuting.

I did not attack the situation unprepared.  First my 2 closest friends in Sinhala class have taken the Bajaj.  Of course they’ve been in Colombo longer than I but they were Caucasians and prone to being ripped off in Asian countries.  I asked them how much they usually pay and what is their strategy.  I read in Lonely Planet that you have to agree on a rate first.  But my classmate has a different approach.  She just gets in and tells the driver where to go.  When she gets there, she pays the amount she thinks is reasonable.  And usually it gets accepted and transaction success!  Hubby pointed out that with this strategy she must pay more than the locals.  But as my classmate said, yes, but the stress of haggling is not worth the additional Rs. 50 (around Php 25).  Hmm… malaki rin yun! (That’s still quite an amount).  But my classmate is Brit and in Pounds it’s not even 1!  My other classmate has a different approach, she already has contracted a Bajaj and pays a certain amount for her to get to places.  Makes sense for her as she lives all the way in Mt. Lavinia.  Aside from consulting my foreign classmates, I also asked our driver for Bajaj rates for certain places I think I would be going to.  And I was able to get the local’s benchmark rates.

I was set with the information I need.  All I need now is to muster enough courage to actually try it out.  I dressed the part as to not to attract too much attention – specifically leaving my shades behind (even if the sun is up at 11:30 am!).  Walking out to the main road I was asking myself (albeit silently), “Kinakabahan ka ba?”  (Are you nervous?).  I was surprised to actually answer (again silently), “Actually, no.  Steady lang.”  As if it was the most natural thing on earth.  Well, it kind of is… back home.  Or when traveling abroad… but with a bunch of friends or my family.

First, apartment to grocery.  There were quite a few Bajaj waiting, I got into one, reached the grocery and paid the guy the amount our driver approximated.  No complaints.  Great, success!

Next, grocery to apartment.  Again, luckily there were a few Bajaj waiting as well, hopped into one, reached home and paid the guys the amount our driver approximated.  Again, no complaints… Success!

It was just that easy! I now can go around the city more freely! But I have to remember that the mode of transpo exposes you to more dirt.  I came home with my groceries and in one piece but with a mini-sore eye (as in it was really red and a bit painful) and allergies.  I never thought I was this weak!  Must load up on vitamins!  But nonetheless mission accomplished!  Here's to more Bajaj adventures!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Interview with the Housewives #2: The Academic Wife

Ayubowan! (A Sinhalese greeting) I now bring you my second interview this time with my cousin-in-law, Jen.  I will call her the Academic Wife (AW) as she embraced this so-called housewife life in support of her husband’s academic aspirations.  Jen, Donny (my husband’s cousin) and a then baby in the womb (Sammie pooh!) went to the US in pursuit of Donny’s MBA.  It is amazing how you could get to know better a person online.  Since Jen and her family have been in the US since 2008 and only been back for a few vacations here and there we would just “see” each other on Facebook – communicating mostly via comments on each other’s posts.  She has been a comforting presence and offering me words of wisdom here and there.  She has been kind enough to grant me this “interview” so here goes her (or our) story:

Hot Mama Jen with Sammie Pooh!
Number of Children: 2 going on 3 (the eldest of which is her hubby!)
Housewife Category: Somewhat – still doing “work” back home (she has her own marketing company back in the Philippines).

Editor’s Note: “Work” back home… what a great idea!  Oh, I don’t have my own company back home… Haaay!

LLVL: How was the transition like for you shifting from your prior occupation to being a housewife?  

AW: It wasn't too hard.  I was pregnant when I moved so I took the time to rest and study up on the baby.  

Editor’s Note: I once told a friend (who was a mother of 2 boys) that I wish I was already pregnant so I could surely “do something” when I get to Colombo.  She just looked at me and half-mockingly said: “Oh, so you want to do something eh!?”  See?  See?  Pwede! (Can!)

LLVL: What was difficult? 

AW:  The most difficult part was accepting that I wasn't going to earn as much as I used to, and really being "dependent" on my husband for funds (or using my own savings to do things I wanted to do).

Editor’s Note:  Aye! Aye! Even as a kid, I prided myself in “saving” up for what I wanted (well somewhat) rather than just “asking” my parents for moolah.  And now, I am in a position where my life is totally dependent on someone and he is not even your “parent.”  It was a weird thing really.  And a major issue for me.  But after 2 weeks, I think I’m getting the hang of it ;-)  Except for those times when I just want to hang out in Barefoot (www.barefoot.lk) , sip an expensive cup of coffee and look around the shop… and eye a very, very nice kaftan and a lamp worth Php6,000…  Emotion # 2: GUILTY!

LLVL: What do you like best in being a housewife?  

AW: I love the independence and the autonomy.  That you can create your own schedule, plan what's going to happen to your home and your life (lives) and that you have time for yourself and time to just relax and catch up on leisurely things you want to do.  Here I love how everything works - that there's a dishwasher and all the cleaning tools...

And it's interesting to get to know where you're living a bit more.  A new culture, a new language, etc.  You get to enjoy it more than he would because he's in the office all the time, and you have all this time to research and learn.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes I wish I was in a place where you have all the cleaning tools.  After cleaning the house for the first time, I thought I went out for a 5k run.  It was great working out and doing something productive at the same time.  But sometimes I feel like I’ve been washing the dishes the whole day!  And frustrating how the washing machine’s limited to just “Spin.”  But I relish in the fact that I can outsource the task cheaply – for those we need to wash & iron, we bring it to a laundromat for just Php500/week!  Not bad!!! 

Learning about the country (well at least the city) and their language are my sources of consolation nowadays.  Since we’re having furnitures done I get to go to the outskirts and see interesting views.  Whereas hubby, although he still goes to the outskirts everyday (office is 45-mins away in Bigayama) it’s the same thing (except when he goes on field work and out of town meetings).  But as he commented on my last post, he knows I could kick his arse in Sinhala!  Puluan! (I can!)

LLVL:  What are the challenges?  

AW:  You in a new country, like me -- it's about putting yourself out there and making friends.  It's much easier to just hole up and wait for hubby and then your life revolves around his, but it puts a lot of pressure on him, plus it gets a little depressing for you.

Editor’s Note:  I know, right?  But how do I exactly put myself out there and make friends?  Well, I have my Sinhala class.  And hopefully I get to continue this yoga gig with the soshall ladies.  But making friends take time – something that I realized just now.  Because I’ve been in just one place forever and all my friends generally are brought about by the structures that I find myself in (like school and work) that I don’t exactly have right now.  For someone who is actually very friendly, it is a task!

LLVL:  What things you do that help you enjoy being a housewife?  

AW: I have my exercise time, pilates.  Of course, Sam and the things we do.

LLVL:  Any other tips to enjoy being a housewife?  

AW:  I guess you just shouldn't fight it and just go with it.  Don't think of chores as chores but as opportunities for doing things for yourself and for learning.

Editor’s Note: Going with the flow has not always been my strength but being where I am now, I totally have no choice!  And after 2 weeks, it’s actually quite nice.

LLVL:  Do you have plans of shifting to not being a housewife?

AW: I ask myself that all the time.  I honestly don't know.  I miss being the productive professional that made my own money, but at the same time, now with Sam and baby #2 on the way, I can't imagine leaving them in the care of someone else 8 hours a day.  It's amazing being able to see everything (including the not-so-good days).

Editor’s Note: Aww Jen, you just made me want to have babies now! Haha!

LLVL:  Any other words of wisdom?

AW: Find a hobby you'll love and won't let go of that's just for you.  And make the most out of the time you're there – don’t be afraid to get lost?  You learn so much by just exploring and immersing yourself in where you are.  Don't hold back! =)

Editor’s Note:  I guess that’s just it: DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET LOST.  I’ve been lost many number of times but I always get to see more, learn more and I always find my way home.

So there you are, two ladies who married into this family.  A family that seem to have happy feet and a knack for finding their footing in many different countries in the world!

Till our next conversation at Interview with the Housewives – where the real housewives talk!
  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Interview with the Housewives #1: The Diplomatic Wife

I want to start with the story of one of my best-est friends, The Diplomatic Wife.  We’ve been friends since 4th grade and have gone through the many twists and turns of life together.  And I’m happy and fortunate to have her as my housewife mentor!  I also wanted to start with her story because it was her who got me fascinated with this alternate universe of not being in the corporate field.  She was the quintessential corporate gal and a bundle of energy to boost! Yet totally embraced this special calling of being a housewife.  Here is her (or our) story: 

The Diplomatic Wife (or DW) became a housewife in November 2008.  She quit working a hectic marketing career because she was burned out and was getting sick left and right.  Add to the fact that her hubby’s foreign mission was looming.  They are now assigned in Jakarta, Indonesia.  No kids yet – except for the Diplo Dog (as in he was “shipped” from the Philippines!).

Me, Hubby, Diplo Dog and Diplo Wife
 
Livin’ La Vida Lanka (LLVL):  How was the transition like for you shifting from being a corporate girl to being a housewife?

DW:  It was easy because I needed the rest and my health was suffering from being overworked (14-hour days anyone?). The only thing that was difficult is the process of "rebranding" one's image.  Before when I meet and talk to people it's easy to say who you are and what you do. There's also that sense of importance in being part of something big (like a multi-national company or a company that is innovating the way people interact with technology). But when you first become a housewife, what do you say to people and how do you make yourself relevant and interesting becomes a challenge. The conversations would go like this: 

Me:  So what do you do? 
Stranger:  Oh I am a diplomat from the so and so embassy. And you?
Me:  I am the wife of X, who works with the so and so embassy.
Stranger:  Ahhh....
      Me:  So what exactly do you do? (Then we spend the entire conversation talking about what the other person does)

Do you see what I am getting at here? And there's also that annoying urge to say what you used to do, to show that you were once a person of substance. It's horrible I know, and I should feel like I have to do it, but it's only natural...

Editor’s Note: Argh, I super know how it feels!  For my first Sinhala class of course introductions were in order.  So you have to say your name (nama), your country (rata), your language (bashava) and your occupation (rassava).  So I go: "Mage nama Tala.  Mage rata Philippines.  Mage bashava Filipino.  Mama housewife-kenek."  For the first time, in public, I acknowledged that my occupation is such. I suddenly felt saying, Lord please let the ground eat me up.  But ok, maybe it was just birth pains.  Note to self: NO SHAME!  Emotion number 1: Denial.

LLVL: What are the difficulties of being a housewife?

DW:  Being a marketing executive that is used to high-levels of stress, I still have a tendency to be stressed about the little things and run my household like a marketing campaign, with Excel sheets, Powerpoints and all. I stick to my personal deadlines and get very upset and stressed when I fail to do so. I guess it's a habit of being used to having stress in my life. I have to reframe my way of thinking to reflect my current lifestyle of having no boss and more flexible deadlines. Also sometimes when you do the little things at home it can become a thankless task especially when people get used to it.

Editor’s Note: I’ve always thought that running a household is being your own General Manager.  There is Human Resources firstly – whether “managing” your help, your hubby or kids.  There is Operations – I now have a renewed appreciation for Inventory Planning after half our veggies got soiled… I bought for a week, the ref is tiny and I’ve been changing the temp.  Talk about poor storage practices.  Not to mention Finance – I have a monitoring sheet to track all our spending which I report to hubby (self-imposed).  Marketing – literally like going to the market but also marketing what the food is tonight!  Hubby has to have a reason to come home early right (food is one of his key drivers)?  And Sales – well I have to sell well enough what he has to eat, like it and come back for more ;-)  And even if managing the household is the only thing that keeps you occupied – yes, stressful!  It’s not because of the load but in my case because of the desire to be a high performer.   

LLVL:  How about what makes things easy?

DW:  An understanding husband that doesn't expect me to be a high performance housewife. And a group of fabulous friends to have ladies lunch with and talk to about the joys and pains of being an expat’s/diplomat’s wife.

Editor’s Note:  Understanding husband, check!  When oh when will I have fabulous friends to have ladies lunch with and talk about the woes of being an expat’s wife!?

LLVL: What do you like best in being a housewife? 

DW: I am learning things that my family never imagined I could do and I'm developing a different side to myself - like cooking, baking, sewing. And the possibilities are endless.  I'd also like to take up yoga, regain my health and build up my immune system, contribute to a lifestyle/expat magazine, and take interior design in the future.

LLVL:  Any other words of wisdom? 

DW: There is infinite joy to being a housewife if one is to explore all the other aspects of one's life and passions (aside from work).  Be creative: create food, create art, create crafts, create, create and create... Get a Filipina maid and fast internet.

Editor’s Note: I love it, I think this is the key - that there are other aspects to one's life and passions that may not be necessarily attached to an occupation.  But a Filipina maid all the way to Sri Lanka???  Sweetie, she would have more income than I do! Haha! But if and when the baby comes, surely I will ask for help.  But for now, I am The Filipina Maid!  Haha!

So there you are, the story of two friends who found themselves at 29, fabulous housewives to their diplo/expat hubbies.  Now only if they found themselves in the same country!

The Diplomatic Wife maintains a blog about life as a… (guess!)… Diplomatic Wife.  Check it out: http://thediplomaticwife.wordpress.com/     

Till our next conversation at Interview with the Housewives – where the real housewives talk!

Interview with the Housewives: An Introduction

In my attempt to make sense of this situation I got myself in (no hard feelings really!  Just going through the change curve!) I decided to tackle it the best way I know how.  Interview the experts.  I didn’t know it was “so HR” until my Diplo Wife best friend pointed it out!  I actually thought it was more the researcher in me!

Looking at my future housewifedom!
So let me tell you about my mini-project.  I wrote a couple of my friends who are/were housewives.  I figured it would be helpful for me to see how other women have done it and (hopefully) is enjoying (or have enjoyed) the so-called life of a housewife.  Basically I looked at how they transitioned, what helped them, their challenges, tips and of course their words of wisdom. 

I will present you their stories one by one as they come.  I will not attempt to consolidate data and present you quantitative summaries or analysis.  Rather I present to you their story and I present to you mine and how what they said resonated with where I am at the point of writing.  And that’s as much correlation you will get! 

So sit back, enjoy, relax and let’s get into the lives of our home divas and mga ilaw ng tahanan (light of the home) in Interview with the Housewives.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Art Therapy at No. 11

Last Tuesday I had a bad start to my day.  Right after preparing breakfast for hubby I decided to change the mineral water in the dispenser.  It was heavy and I always had trouble doing this task.  As I was fitting the spout of the bottle to the water dispenser, it slipped, the bottle came crashing down, the pressure pushed the cap out and water came gushing to the floor.  Waahhh, not this early in the morning!  So to avoid further accidents or damage I cleaned it up immediately.  The mess was gone just as hubby got out of the room all set for work.  I went on my day but my spirit was dampened, pardon the pun, by that early morning water disaster.  And as with any bad day, all of these questions just popped to my mind: how long will I be in this situation (no HR-related work)? Will my 2 years be just holed up in our house (well that’s an exaggeration)?  Will I ever get back to work again?  You know, questions of someone who is having withdrawal symptoms from the everyday grind of a working woman.

So in search of something beautiful in an otherwise crappy day, I decided to go and check out No. 11.  No. 11 33rd Lane is the former Colombo abode of one of architecture’s finest, Colombo-born Geoffrey Bawa (www.geoffreybawa.com).  His talent was harmonizing the indoors with the outdoors.  Like pockets of garden in the house where elements of nature come in – sunlight, water, birds chirping, etc. 





It was not difficult to find the house but it was unassuming – precisely because it’s a house like any other.  No signage or other marker except the No. 11.




I was toured by a lovely lady in the premises and gave me a glimpse of what Geoffrey Bawa’s life was like.  His home was a museum of sorts – as he is in a creative field working with many creative minds like him and he was often gifted with their awesome creations!  He infused many different elements that are not necessarily symmetrical with everything else but in a way when you put them all together they create a stunning look (not created for the market i.e. Ikea but created as an expression of beauty overflowing from within).  And you know that this home took time to be what it is now.  At first he bought one townhouse, then as time when on and people started to sell their units, he bought all four of them.  The furnitures were also from different generations – some antique some modern.  It didn’t have any a “created” look but rather a “lived in” look.  One that spoke about the journey of a man and the man himself.







And a crappy day it no longer was.  To be engulfed in such beauty can turn any sour day into a better one.  My art therapy at No. 11.

That visit didn’t give me the answers I was seeking.  But made me think about this process I’m taking.  As my closest friends and family would know, I am an impatient person.  Always wanting things to be done now, to be achieved now, to be now.  But my mentor has taught me that I should respect the process.  And that it is what it is – a process.  My life can have all of these questions and days may be dampened by a spill or two.  It is a work in progress, something that takes a lot of twists and turns.  But like Mr. Bawa’s house, when you take a step back it always is a beautiful mosaic of people, experiences, places, moments and creations that speak about the journey of a woman and the woman herself.  It is ok not to be fixed, or not to be in symmetry or not “like” how I planned it.  It is ok to be a work in progress.  I just need open myself up to the experience and the possibilities that lay ahead.  And maybe let go of the past a little bit in order move forward to what life God wants for me now.  And for that, I had No. 11 to be thankful for.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Going Local!

Last Saturday for our lunch, hubby and I decided to try something local.  We went to Green Cabin (a local jaunt) initially planning to try their lunch buffet but as we found out it’s the usual medley of rice, beans, chillies and veggies.  In as much as I was a rice “monster”, the spread was not really our idea of a buffet. 







So instead we both decided to try the Lamprais.  The Lamprais is actually influenced by the Dutch Burghers, the country’s second western colonizers.  Lamprais is a complete meal wrapped in banana leaf (or called locally as Kehel Kole) much like a Binalot.  It consists of:

Lamprais Curry
Frikkadels (meatballs)
Brinjal (Egg fruit) paella
Chilli & Onion sambol
Pawn blachang
Ash Plantain fries
The Rice




I’m not really a fan of the cuisine here because as you can see it consists of many things that are specific to South Asia which I am not used to.  But it was still worth a try in the process of soaking up in this country’s culture and acclimatizing to their taste.



Green Cabin is at 453 Galle Road, Colombo 3.  Although you may also find a few outlets around the city mostly selling their baked goods.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bavaria in Sri Lanka

Who would have thought that there could be a really good German pub in the heart of Colombo?  You don’t have to think too hard, just think Bavarian.  In celebration of Oktoberfest or just to chill out on a Saturday night for dinner and drinks, off to the Bavarian hubby and I went.
 

First off, drinks!  Hubby went all-German (NOT!) and ordered Carlsberg (really Danish-owned) and I tried Passionfruit Mojito.  Such a wonderful discovery.  It was AWESOME!  I like it better than the original Mint.



Then for two hearty stomachs: the biggest burger in town and a good-old steak.  Both were so huge but so yummy!  We have enjoyed re-made leftovers by hubby.  ‘Nuff said!


That's how THICK the burger was!

The vibe was really chill, one of the places in Colombo that are frequented by mostly foreigners (at least during our visit).  Plus there was a local folk singer who could do a really good John Mayer cover!

It was like being transported to a different place.  Like Bavaria?

Bavarian is at 11 Sir Mohamed Macan Markar Mawatha, Colombo 3.  Just opposite Galle Face Hotel. 

 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Taste of Southeast Asia

Being this far away from home it seems that finding a South East Asian dig is finding “home.”  It’s such a familiar taste not to mention yummy!  On the way to hubby’s work just around the corner from our street he found a Thai restaurant called Jack Tree.  For our Friday night dinner, I took a break from cooking and we checked the place out!

It was actually packed but thank God no waiting (we had a mini incident on the way, our car got side swiped by a Bajaj or a tuk-tuk and I was starving)!  We were surprised to see quite a few locals as well!  The interior was cozy but a bit too dark for my taste.
 
Hubby happy to take a break from Wifey's cooking!
We started off with the ubiquitous Tom Yum Soup – superb!  Sweet, sour and spicy in perfect harmony!  Hubby is not a fan (of Tom Yum Soups in general) but took a sip nonetheless.


Next we had Pomelo Salad – which was a disappointment.  The pomelo was too dry and the dish was too onion-y.  The red kind.

Entrée was Cuttlefish Curry of sorts.  It was a bit of a miss as well because it was more of a South Asian curry and not the Thai kind.  I think of the Thai curry to be more light.  This one was too rich and too sweet for my taste.  

A trip to a Thai restaurant is not enough without Mango Sticky Rice.  It was marvelous!  The mango was like the “Indian Mango” kind (well hello, we’re near India but I didn’t think Indian Mango was literal until now).  The Filipino mango is still the best in my humble opinion.  The sweetness is just right and texture is supple.  The rice in coconut milk emulsion was just heaven!  Yum, yum, yum!   

All in all it was a good break from our week’s menu and gave us a taste of “home” or at least what we’re used to.  Although it was both a hit and miss in one sitting it’s still not a bad place to get some decently-priced Thai fix.  Plus they’re near our place and they deliver!

Jack Tree (www.jacktree.com) is at No. 200 Park Road, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka. 


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Breathing New Vida

Did you notice the new design?  Now that I have more time in my hands I thought it would be a good opportunity to slightly re-design the blog and give it a more “Sri Lanka” look. 


The color palatte was inspired by the national flag.

The “dot” in the exclamation mark is the outline of this teardrop-shaped island.

The typeface I chose were free off the net (Thug and Jean-Claude’s Hand) and which I think embodied who I am and the energy I want people to feel off this blog.

I also wanted to maintain a cleaner look thus the white background.

I have hubby to thank as well for helping me navigate through Photoshop – this is actually my first creation using the software!

So there you go! 

What do you think?

Laundry Day!

I’ve never been so excited to do the laundry until the maintenance guy came and fixed our washing machine.  You see, on my 3rd day in Colombo, I set out to do the laundry.  But the washing machine has been untouched – it was not connected to the water source, not even to the electricity and the drain was still hooked to the body.  In short, in my husband’s one month in our apartment, he has NEVER used the washing machine!  There are numerous laundry places in Colombo and I guess it made sense for a single guy to have his stuff laundered here.  

Waiting to be Washed!


To get started on my first ever laundry day in Colombo, I spent an hour trying to figure out one major problem: how to get the water in.  It has to be connected to a water source (water faucet) for it to function effectively.  I couldn’t make the connection stick to the faucet.  And somehow when you put water manually (which I tried doing) the mechanism won’t work.  So instead of wasting the day away trying to figure it out, we just asked the help of the maintenance guy in the building. 

That's how it should work...

Efficiency at its finest: straight to drain!

And fix the problem he did.  The water comes in from the back of the machine going through the laundry powder source.  And I guess that was the reason why it only works when water comes in that way.
It's working already!

So after that, I didn’t have to do the laundry by hand (yippee!) – which is totally a chore.  And now I understand why the washing machine is a housewife’s best friend!

Hanging out to dry!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cooking Monster

One of the things that made me anxious prior to coming to Colombo is the fact that I would need to cook.  I do not hate cooking let me get that straight.  In fact when I was in high school I enjoyed baking and had a few signature dishes under my belt.  As time went on and I got a little busier with life in general, the love affair with cooking or baking fizzled.  So for years, I had no practice with cooking whatsoever other than the occasional pasta here and there.  And now I’m thrown to a situation where my most significant DAILY contribution would be to provide a meal everyday of the week. 

To add to the anxiety, my husband is some kind of a gourmand.  When he was on his own here, he would cook steak, calamari, complicated pastas, etc.  Plus he has a discriminating taste, not to mention the words he would use to describe something that is just plain wrong (or totally right).  To make matters more complicated, both my parents are awesome in the kitchen.  My younger brother is a culinary genius while my youngest bro has shown potential.  So imagine the pressure.  Of course this is all self-imposed.  My husband nor my family are not expressing great expectations (now is that a good thing or bad?).  Except for one question by my dad: “So, what will you feed your husband?” 

O.M.  (Oh my!)

So for my first week in Colombo I took the bull by it’s horns and transformed myself into a cooking monster.  And these are what I fed my hubby for dinner (which is his packed lunch for the day after):

4 Oct, Monday

Entrée
Sinigang na Baboy
A Filipino classic – much like the Thai’s Tom Yum only more sour than spicy



Dessert
Avocado Salad

Hubby said the Sinigang elements were cooked very well and just right (crunchy raddish, very green kangkong).  On the Avocado Salad, hubby likes it a little bit more creamy so add milk and sugar he did.

5 Oct, Tuesday

Entrée
Naked Burritos with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole

Dessert
Fresh Strawberries with Newdale Yoghurt

Hubby was pleased I think even if it didn’t taste too Mexican as I didn’t have cumin (only seeds in the market and no powder).  He ate a lot!  I personally was not pleased with my Guacamole.  Andy Alberto, please send me an authentic recipe!

6 Oct, Wednesday

Entrée
Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Sweet Corn

Dessert
Cupcakes by Mon Gateau (Sri Lanka’s First Cupcake Shop!)

I did the barbeque sauce ON MY OWN!  It was a bit too sweet though but I guess it’s to hubby’s taste.

7 Oct, Thursday

Salad
Mixed Greens with Pesto Vinaigrette

Entrée
Carbonara Pasta Topped with Bacon

Dessert
Ferrero Rocher

Hubby said the combination of the pesto vinaigrette salad and creamy carbonara pasta was a good complement to each other and created balance to the overall menu.  Of course he is happy that I chilled chocolates for dessert.

Friday and Saturday are my days off and a chance for hubby and I to check out cool places in town (watch out for future posts!).  Sunday lunch was a re-make of our Saturday dinner doggy bag left overs done by hubby.   

10 Oct, Sunday

Entrée
Steamed Lapu-Lapu
(instead of Grouper, Mullet – which in hindsight was more of a broil fish)

Hubby liked it but I like my mom’s recipe for the sauce better.  Plus I could have used a less tough fish.  And de-scaled it.  Oooopppsssie!

The journey to making these dishes is exhilarating.  For a newbie in everyday cooking it was a feat being able to prepare all of these.  From menu planning, to sourcing ingredients, preparation to actual cooking.  Plus, because I was not in my home country I didn’t have the luxury of having all the ingredients.  There was a lot of substitution and making do with what I have.  I had to change a lot of my plans - depending on what the trusty grocery or neighborhood market can provide.  I guess I am not a newbie at that – it’s pretty much what I’m used to at work.  Now I just need to translate change management to the kitchen! 

A week into this I still get excited over cooking.  I live for cooking dinner these days!  It is a foray into something new, something yummy and something I can pleasure my hubby with.  And the verdict?  Nothing orgasmic (yet!) but definitely good enough for everyday meals!  The anxiety over cooking is gone but is now replaced with a simmering passion for crafting gastronomic delights that fill the tummy and the soul not just for me but more so for the people I love.  The culinary adventure continues!              

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pettah Surprise

On my first day out to Colombo by myself, I wanted to find inspiration for my home decorating project.  Instead of going by the stores route, I had this “brilliant idea” of checking out museums instead.  You see our design inspiration was Colonial Zen – a mix of British Colonial décor for tropical and wedded east and west designs with a touch of modernity in Zen style.  To take in a British Colonial feel, I thought of taking one of Lonely Planet’s suggestions: the Dutch Period Museum.  The description was promising: “This unique museum was originally the 17th-century residence of the Dutch governor… the well-restored mansion contains a lovely garden courtyard.  Exhibits include Dutch colonial furniture and other colonial artifacts (Atkinson, Butler, Gelber & Kohn, 2009).”  I was excited!



The journey was a bit intriguing as it took me all the way to Pettah.  The streets were small, narrow and not exactly for the use of cars.  But it felt so alive and very busy.  You can see all kinds of merchandise – from appliances to fabrics to local delicacies.  Think Quiapo only Sri Lankan.  It was awesome but by the sight of things, there was already a big shadow of doubt that I would find this “unique museum” Lonely Planet was raving about.  Yet I was able to find it, tucked in Prince Street.
 

The description was the total opposite of what I saw.  It was not exactly a well-restored mansion.  The house was dark and I didn’t even know if the stairs were safe to take!  The colonial furnitures were just scattered about.  It didn’t even have any helpful descriptions or arranged with an interesting story to tell.  They didn’t say that one of the other colonial artifacts were tombstones – and I don’t think they were empty.  Yes there was a garden courtyard but it was normal nothing really lovely about it.  Imagine the frustration!  Definitely not inspiring.

But such is life.  Ok, it didn’t meet expectations but it was quite an experience nonetheless.  That Colombo is not only made up of chill out veranda cafes (check out Welcome to Paradise Road for one) but life is thriving in many different colors, sounds, small roads and smells.  Once before I promised myself that if I didn’t get what I want I won’t mope like I did when I was 5 on a trip to Hong Kong’s Ocean Park and was forbidden to take the roller coaster (height requirement, fail).  You just lose out on life’s little surprises.  So I decided to just take in the view – at least I know now where to source a plethora of stuff and boast to locals that yeah, I’ve been to Pettah.  Plus it is an interesting story to tell hubby when he gets home!    

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Welcome to Paradise Road

How else can you start off an adventure than by a hearty meal?  My husband took me to Paradise Road for a welcome Sunday lunch on Alfred House Road, Colombo 3.  It houses the Gallery Café, as per www.paradiseroadsl.com it was listed by East Magazine as one of Asia ’s Top Restaurants and by Condé Nast Magazine as ‘the only place to eat in Colombo.’  It offers fusion cuisine and magnificent pastries albeit a bit pricey. 

Hubby and I started off with one of our all-time favorite salads: mozzarella and tomato sprinkled with pesto and arugula with balsamic vinaigrette on the side.  We then proceeded with sharing Chicken Ginger on mashed potatoes and spinach (which tasted like alugbati) and Squid Ink Risotto.  Hubby tried their homemade ginger beer (think ginger ale shake) – it was pretty good when you add a little bit more lemon juice.  Hubby then closed off with glorious Lemon Meringue Pie. 


The meal was good, the ambiance even better.  It is the veranda of the old office of Sri Lankan-born renowned architect, Geoffrey Bawa (www.geoffreybawa.com).  It is in the middle of the city yet you don’t feel the rush and you’re free to just totally chill out. 

We checked out the shop for lifestyle pieces (some of which are now in our living room, dining room and shower).  We have yet to go back and check out their gallery, studio and the upstairs café.  This was one awesome way to welcome me in Colombo.  Great job my hubby!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Real Housewife of Colombo

The view of Colombo from our veranda
Around a month and a half after I started this blog, I finally arrived in the tea country! The journey was (and still is) interesting – a series of difficult but beautiful transformations.  One such transformation was filling out the immigration card.  I didn’t know that it would be such a moment.  In particular, I didn’t realize that answering the box for “Occupation” was so defining.  Normally I would put HR Manager or its derivative.  Last October 2 was the first day in 7 years that I couldn’t.  That day I didn’t have an occupation so I just put “None.” 

I didn’t think too much of it until I was asked by the Immigration Officer, “Why None?”  Yeah, why none?  I was telling my husband about this when I arrived and he said, “Why didn’t you just put housewife?”  Yeah, why didn’t I?  I guess at that moment, I wasn’t yet a housewife.  I was still 10 hours away.

Now, 6 days after I arrived I can say I am a housewife.  I am a wife, I stay home around 50% of the time, I wash, I cook (yes!), I clean and I decorate.  When I was still working and there were days when I get enough of the stress, the people and the politics, I dream I was a housewife – not just your everyday housewife, an expat’s wife!  It was a nice convenient escape.  Now that I am “living the dream” it does feel like an escape.  I actually feel like I’m in a silent retreat most of the day (sans the TV, internet and radio).  I like the balance of staying home and going out.  And on both occasions I am definitely occupied.  But it is a different kind of “occupation.”  It is totally an escape from my “previous life.” 

In as much as I dreamed of becoming an expat’s wife, I loved the life I lead.  I was working in reputable organizations, learning a lot, touching quite a few people along the way, dealing with challenges that fed my soul.  There are times when it felt like the daily grind and you want nothing but to take a vacation.  Now that I’m in this “vacation” I hope that it stays that way, a vacation.  It will be good while it lasted but it has an end.  To the housewives out there, I totally respect you because it is hard work and a totally different discipline altogether!  But really, enlighten me how you are able to do it because I think I still have a lot of learn.  

Reunited with Hubby
The battle plan is settle in, make the house a home, enjoy being a housewife (a good one at that!) and then continue doing what I’m passionate about (work in organization development / human resources) on top of continuously making the house a home and being a wife.  Now that’s truly quite an occupation!  But for now, I’m still learning to embrace this so-called-life as a housewife.  And along the way I hope I can find passion in it and be a really good wife.    
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