Last Week in Titles: A Saga of Sickness

Unrelated flower picture because you don’t want a picture of the actual happenings!

One week ago, I had high hopes. We had just returned from touring Sri Lanka for a week, everyone was glad to be home, and there were All The Things to do (namely, laundry, grocery shopping, and other elements necessary for survival). And did I mention everyone was glad to be home? Surely I could crank out some blog posts as well.

But then disaster struck. On Saturday evening, Jared began to feel unwell, and on Sunday morning we were awakened by him vomiting loudly and forcefully all over the bathroom. This day was titled “Thank Goodness it’s Probably Food Poisoning,” because, like the good wife I am, I’d rather stay healthy and take care of everyone than get sick myself.

On Monday, things were a bit more back to normal, though Jared was still feeling a bit green and not eating much. JQ, however, had decided it was his duty to scatter as many of his toys over the house as he could, resulting in blocks and legos covering approximately 3/5 of the living room floor. Any attempts to pick up said blocks and legos were met with protests and immediate rescattering, leading me to wonder, “Why Are Toddlers People Too???”

On Tuesday, there was a premonition of disaster when I got JQ up from his nap to take him to his babysitter’s and he vomited all over me when I put him on my back. I, of course, wrote it off as just one of those random things babies do as he was happy otherwise and not a grouch, but should have known I was “Living in Denial.”

By Wednesday, things were feeling decidedly blue and may have culminated in a few bouts of crying as I wondered if I would always be “Living in Solitary Confinement with a 1.5 Year Old,” which, in case you’re wondering, really is that much worse than living in solitary confinement by yourself.  But really, Singapore, why do you have to be so far away from everyone (and so hot)? And why does the rest of the world sleep so much during the day?

On Thursday, things were fine as I woke up and ate breakfast, until, at 10:00 a.m., I felt a twinge of “things aren’t quite right”. Jared immediately told me I was not allowed to get sick, then went to the store and got some traditional Chinese medicine as he’d been reading about all the values of traditional cultures and how much they know about everything. The stuff tasted awful, like dirt mixed with Swedish Bitters (which Jared apparently was never forced to take as a child), and had millions of little round balls which would not dissolve in water and had to just be swallowed. Oh, and it tasted terrible coming back up. A word to the wise: “Never Take Chinese Medicine When You’re Coming Down With the Stomach Flu,” or maybe, “Don’t Trust the Old Ladies at the Herb Store.” Once I categorically refused to even SMELL any more of the stuff, the day got a lot better, though it was perhaps marred by throwing up in the middle of a class.

By Friday, I had the energy of a sloth that’s been hit by a train and was just glad I only had to teach 5 classes instead of my usual 8 as I’d had the foresight to close any open slots the day before. You could call this day, “Lounging Is Too Much Work.”

On Saturday and Sunday, I was feeling better enough to pick up all the blocks and legos that had been scattered around the floor for the whole week (while JQ was in the other room, of course!). Then I figured my work was done and mostly rested, other than going to church since no one was actually throwing up anymore at this point.  “What Are Weekends for, Anyway?”

And now it’s Monday morning, the dishes are exploding out of the sink, the floor hasn’t been mopped in who knows how long, and we’re back at Solitary Confinement with a 1.5 Year Old. But at least there aren’t blocks all over the floor (for now)!


How to Eat a Durian

Don’t. Just don’t.


Why not? Well, reason number one, and possibly you’ve heard of this before, if you’ve even ever heard of a durian before, is the smell.

English needs more words to describe smells. We have so few! Let’s just say that smelling a durian up close and personal is kind of like smelling a flower. It’s a nice fruity mango kind of flower–that’s gone bad. Maybe even mixed with a little onion and a little fish? It’s the kind of smell that was endemic in grocery stores in China, always making you wonder what exactly they kept in the store that had just gone off (Spoiler–it was durians).

But. In spite of the smell, we persevered. This is a favored fruit in all of Asia, and especially popular with Singaporeans, so this was a valuable cultural experience. Aren’t you glad I was experiencing it for you?

The outside of a durian is hard and poky. Very very poky. So poky that the people who cut them up wear gloves. We had a glove-wearing person cut ours up for us.

Actually, Singaporeans love the durian so much they call this building the durian: it’s round and spiky and was apparently supposed to be a microphone. The architect was quite upset they called it a durian because he’d never heard of one!

But to get back to the edible kind. There is a small amount of edible fruit in each half, and it looks kind of like mango. Not so bad, right? If you can keep from gagging as you approach.


Those who love durian praise the buttery texture, the smooth melt-in-your-mouth sensation as it slides down your throat.

This was not my experience. Sure, it was kinda buttery…mixed with stringy. Oh, and did I mention the smell?

But to get to what you really want to know–how does it taste?

Jared put a small bite on his spoon. I put a small bite on my spoon. I offered it to JQ like the good mother I am, and he turned his face away in disgust. He was not going to join us in this adventure.

Then we took deep breaths (turning our noses away), stuffed the bite in our mouths, and chewed.

It was significantly less sweet than expected. In fact, what it most closely resembled, in my opinion, is caramelized onions. Caramelized onions with a healthy topping of rotten mango and black pepper. If this sounds appetizing to you, by all means, you may eat up all the durian you wish. Just not in my house.


There’s a reason they’re not allowed on public transport or in hotel rooms here!

Small, Ugly, and Alone

In China, people love their pets. Specifically dogs. Dogs everywhere.

Now, I’ve heard that there are three categories for being a Chinese dog:

1. You have to be small

2. You have to be ugly

3. You have to be off-leash

Oh, you say those categories fit your small child? He might possibly be a Chinese dog.

Anyways, let’s examine a few pictures and see if they fit those criteria.

Example 1:


Definitely small, definitely ugly, and there is definitely no owner in sight. Yet the dog looks very purposeful. Chinese dogs always have a goal in mind and know how to achieve this goal. So, this dog fits our criteria like they were made for him. (Whaddaya know!)

Example 2:

Obligingly posing for the camera. Except without his face.

Small? Check.

Ugly? Check

Alone? Check.

Folks, we have found yet another Chinese dog.

Example three:

Look at it waddle!

I know this looks like nothing more than a ball of fur with a tail stuck on it, but rest assured it is a dog. However, I was unable to get a picture of it with its head, so pardon me.

Anyways, by this point you oughta know the drill: small, ugly, and alone? Bingo! (And the fact that it has little rabbit legs sticking out from under its fur doesn’t hurt anything, either).

Now that you know what Chinese dogs are, let’s move on to another example. Crazy Chinese dogs with crazy owners.

This lady (below) had about six dogs. All on the sidewalk. And she loved herding them and making them do “tricks.”

Yes, that IS a doggie chair. And Jared says the dog in the forefront is not a Chinese dog (too good-looking), lest you should think that I am simply a dog hater and think all dogs are ugly.

Now, we were peacefully walking down the sidewalk minding our own business and getting sticker shock from clothing prices (600 Yuan for a shirt? No thanks!) when we saw this dog family. At the moment, the owner was getting paid by a customer. When most of us get money, what do we do with it? We put it in our wallets or our pockets or our safes, right? Well, you’ll never guess where this lady put it.

Yes, that is money.

That’s right. She gave it to the dog. And for the next 10 minutes, he carried that money around.

Who says having money doesn’t make me king?

Anyways, he played around with it for a while before finally getting bored and dropping most of it all over the sidewalk, and then leading his owner on a merry chase before surrendering the money.

After that little show, the dog owner decided we needed to see them doing some real tricks. So she got out her dog treat stuff, and they all surrounded her and stood on their hind legs. Pretty unimpressive after the whole money thing!

Notice the bored dog on the chair–he’s not falling for any of it.


After all of that, I expect you to be an expert on what makes a Chinese dog, so tell me: which one of these is a Chinese dog, and which one is American?





I have faith in your intelligence, so tell me in the comments!

The Deadliest Sourdough of Them All

We called it The Smell. A creeping odor, invading corners, pipes, cupboards. Nowhere was safe from it—and where it crept, it stayed. We attempted to banish it, fumigating every hidy-hole we could find. It disappeared long enough for us to let out a sigh of relief—and then returned in force, until finally the odor was almost tangible.

It was all the sourdough’s fault, really. You’ve all heard of Paul Bunyan and his famous sourdough that made the Rocky Mountains. Well, his sourdough had nothin’ on ours—ours was that strong, but with a malignant twist to it. It was bent on taking over the world by every weapon at its disposal. The Smell was just one of them.

Healthy and happy, when my older sister remembered to feed it, the sourdough had been a noble organism. Many were the pancakes, coffee cakes, loaves of bread, and muffins that had been made with its beneficent yeasties and devoured by all of us. Then, it had seemed a helpful creature, willing to please, offering up of itself for the good of mankind.

But the day my 10-year-old brother, Slen, came running in, a shocked look on his face and arms flailing (after we had regretfully lain the sourdough to rest), I began to doubt its kind heart. “Brotherkins,” he said (that was how we always talked to each other), “Brotherkins, there’s a strange smelling mass in the backyard. . .and it’s eating up the flower bed!”

Needless to say, we all went without delay to see—my brothers coming out of the woodwork like names in a Russian novel. There it was, larger than life, causing each flower one by one to sway, creak, and slowly topple into the bubbling mass as its stem was eaten away. It was truly a horrific sight. I figure it must have eaten its way out of the two plastic sacks in which we had encased it and then eaten its way out of the trashcan.

My oldest brother, Theodore, twenty-three, spoke up first. “Friends, nobles, countrymen: lend me your ears!” Theodore is the literary one of the family—he always has his long thin nose in a book.

“Aw, cut out the Shakespeare,” I groaned. “This is a time of crisis here, and we need to act faster than a coon headin’ towards a field of just-ripened sweet corn.”

“Well, I have a plan,” he said.  “There’s a can of gas in the shed, and some matches in the house. If we pour the gas over it and then throw a lit match into the mix, there’s no way that sourdough could survive.”

Yeah, I thought, but can WE survive?  Theodore has a good head on his shoulders, but sometimes he’s a mite impractical. He needs someone close to him with good ol’ fashioned common sense—like yours truly.

So I gave him my (better) plan. “Instead of burning the house down, why don’t we just spray it with some bleach? That’ll disinfect it, get rid of The Smell, and kill whatever rogue organism is in that stuff.”

Everyone liked my plan better, so away we went—me to get the bleach, Theodore to get a shovel to clean up the remains. When we reconvened, the sourdough had eaten up at least half of the flower bed. It was time to act!

My younger brother Snah made his ponderous way to the laundry room. At fifteen, Snah was built like a prize-fighter and had the attitude of a gentle elephant. Right at the moment, however, I wished he’d hurry up. He was movin’ like a river runnin’ up a slope.

He eventually emerged, bleach in hand, and I got busy dousing the rapacious odoriferous insatiable sourdough. (Sorry ‘bout that there, folks—sometimes I get a mite carried away with my words—where was I?) We only had one bottle of bleach, so I had to use it sparingly on the ever-widening growth that had once been our flower bed, but as I poured, The Smell turned from its hideous shade of deathly brown to a light tan color. We all covered our ears and ran, since that there organism was emitting a deathly shriek—and growing even bigger!

“Well, pickle me tink!” I said.

“Would you like some milk to go with it?” asked my little brother Thor helpfully. Thor was only five, but he was nearly the greatest talker of the bunch.

“This is no time for foolery!” I told him fiercely—“If anyone’s going to be making jokes around here, it will be I—The BOSS!”

And while we sat shootin’ the breeze, The Smell had finished off the flowers and was beginning to eat the lawn.

Enter little brother Nat, thirteen years old and nearly as annoying as his namesake the gnat, careening around the lawn with an armful of something and shouting “Alert, alert—full alert!”

But just at that moment he tripped over a protruding paw of the sourdough—and his bagful of whatever it was spilled all over that creeping corpus. And without a further murmur, squeal, or scream, it gave up the ghost.

“Nat,” I said, “You’ve done it this time. You’ve saved us all from The Smell, and you didn’t even mean to.”

“Aw, shucks,” he said. “It was easy. Just put a little salt on something like that and it quietens right down. Learned it in biology the other day about slugs.”