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Living with Foreigners: Part 7 – Some Like It Hot


thermostat

My wife and I have an ongoing debate as to exactly what “room temperature” means. The picture above was taken at my brother-in-law’s apartment tonight and perfectly illustrates my point.

According to my wife, she was very comfortable the entire evening. I felt like I was living on the surface of the sun. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that she grew up in a warmer climate than I did and she’s accustomed to the heat. It’s hard to say.

What I do know is that I quickly shed layers of clothing as the evening progressed. I confess at times that I contemplated stripping down to my undershirt and boxers but finally decided against this as a reasonable course of action. No one wants to see a balding overweight man get that cozy anywhere other than in his own home when he’s alone.

I will also state that a quick perusal of the internet on the subject of room temperature seems to bolster my case. Wikipedia, that ever expanding fountain of knowledge, describes room temperature as “… typically between 20 °C (68 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F)” which seems a little on the hot side to me. However, it also goes on to state that other sources claim the range is variable depending on the season.

Since it’s currently winter here in Ohio, I particularly found the portion that gave the wintertime range as “being 20 °C (68 °F) to 23.5 °C (74 °F)” reasonable. What is unreasonable is to expect your husband to sit for several hours in a virtual sauna and for him not to be a little bit irritable.

Of course, my mood could also have been influenced by the fact that I literally sat on the couch for hours while her mother put my wife’s hair in rollers. The situation was not improved when I was informed that my wife needed to sit under a hair dryer for 40 minutes after my phone battery had already died.

There is only so much conversation you can make with your in-laws when you have a hair dryer running in the background combined with the incessant chatter of my nephew and niece as they alternatively squealed, shouted, ran from room to room, and generally behaved like young children do.

“Are you feeling okay?” asked my mother-in-law. “You look sleepy.”

“Yeah, I am a little tired I guess.” I replied. Of course, that could also just have been the heat exhaustion talking.

Which reminds me, it’s time for me to change the password on our wireless thermostat again. My wife is getting a little too good at guessing my passwords and then waiting until I fall asleep before cranking up the heat from her phone to an unreasonable degree or as she would say “a comfortable 78.”

In Retrospect and 3 Stitches Later


Whoa- what a weekend! Sometimes there are things in life that should be a wake-up call and only idiots don’t hear them. Such was my weekend.

First things first. I have to say that I have the most patient, understanding, and loving wife that has ever graced this side of heaven. I mean she is the definition of that famous Corinthians bible passage that they read at our wedding. She is that kind of good.

I think we all have regrets in our lives and I will never ever doubt again that marrying her was the hand’s down wisest decision I have ever made. It is painfully obvious that she loves me with her whole heart- way more than I often deserve.

It’s hard to say “I’m sorry.” It’s harder to say it when they’ve  heard it numerous times before. Actions really do speak louder than words. And sometimes when you take inventory of your life, you realize that you’re not the best person that you can be. That there are things that are holding you back in life – whether it be a habit, an attitude, or even a bad temper.

Life is too short to be hindered by baggage and regrets. Sometimes you just have to say enough is enough. Old habits die hard. But that’s how you know they’re  worth fighting against. No one else can do it for you and you only get the reward after you’ve slain the dragon.

So things have to change. If I truly want to have a good life, be the best husband I can be, raise a family and be responsible adult- I’ve got to grow up. It sucks that it took me 35 years to figure that out but as they say, “better late than never.”

Oh, and did I mention that I love my wife? And I also want to say thanks for all my friends taking care of me until the cavalry (my caring wife) arrived.  Honey, I promise I will do better than this going forward. I want to be the man that you always envision me to be.

Babysitting, Bribes, and Organized Chaos


So my wife and I babysat my sister’s twin 4 year old boys for their first overnight sleepover a few weeks ago. Apparently my wife had invited “the boys” to come over and visit Auntie and Uncle sometime.The twins asked their mother when they could visit and we arranged a time for that Friday.

All week the boys were constantly asking if it was Friday yet so they could go over to Auntie and Uncle’s house.  They were so enthusiastic about visiting us that they even started packing their own suitcases. The plan as I understood it was to pick the boys up after work on Friday from my sister’s house and then bring them to over to our house, entertain them for a few hours, and then drop them back off at their house wired up on sugar and caffeine for their parents to deal with.

But plans change. I should have realized that when I saw a suitcase with a toothbrush inside it that things were about to go off-script. I had assumed that the suitcases were just full of toys and games. Unlikely though it seems, the twins must have also had the foresight to pack pajamas, socks, shoes, extra underwear, pull ups, outfit changes, toothbrushes, and their tablets complete with portable chargers.

Huh… My first reaction was that I must have somehow grossly misjudged the sheer volume of items it takes to babysit for a few hours. But then came the more obvious solution,”I guess that means we’re keeping them overnight.” I thought to myself.

This revelation was quickly confirmed by my brother-in-law.

“So… your sister didn’t know how long you were thinking of keeping the boys but the  twins wanted to spend the night.”

Here my lovely wife responded, “Sure, that was the plan.” The rest of the brief conversation centered on what kind of pizza the twins would eat and a quick rundown on what shows they like on TV and how to turn on their tablets.

After transferring the car seats from their car to ours and making doubly sure that the seats were installed correctly, we buckled the boys in. My wife and I loaded the rest of the toys into the trunk of the car and then waved goodbye to my brother-in-law as we backed out of the driveway.

“So we’re babysitting them overnight I guess.” I said.

“Yeah, I told you that already.” replied my wife.

“I must have forgot. When did you tell me this again?”

“Like 10 times this week.”

“Oh, well cool. Should be fun. I was just planning on relaxing at home this weekend anyways.”

I legitimately had absolutely nothing to do the entire weekend and figured that there were worse ways to spend a Friday and Saturday than being home with my wife babysitting my adorable nephews. But I also vowed that day that I really should start paying more attention to my wife when she’s talking to me.

Upon arrival the boys immediately had us bring in their suitcases so that they could start playing with their toys. While my wife kept an eye on them, I called and ordered some pizza for dinner along with brownies for dessert.

As soon as I told them that pizza was on its way, they anxiously crowded at the front door . Then after repeatedly assuring them that I would actually answer the door when the delivery guy came, the boys ran back into the family room to watch Scooby-Doo. Luckily we have Netflix so it wasn’t too hard to find the boys’ favorite show and queued up the first episode. Soon the boys were transfixed on the television  screen.

“So babysitting really isn’t all that hard.” I declared to my wife.

Then the pizza delivery man rang the doorbell.”Okay, boys we have to wash our hands before we can eat.” I said as I carried the pizza boxes into the kitchen. Soon the twins were washing their hands with the help of my wife.

This is when I began to realize that babysitting is about compromise. Our goal was to have the twins sit at the table and eat their pizza and then we’d give them brownies later on for dessert. One of my nephews seemed to grasp this intuitively. One of them however didn’t realize that it was our implicit understanding that he would eat dinner while also wearing a shirt.

I was about to say something to him but the more I thought about it, he’d probably get any shirt he was wearing dirty anyways so maybe it wasn’t really an issue at all. Sometimes it is much easier to just wet-wipe down a sauce covered child than to try and launder multiple outfits a day. I mean, he was sitting at the table AND he was actually eating his pizza. 2 out of 3 ain’t all that bad.

It was around this time that the boys started arguing with each other intermittently. We used the reward of eating brownies for dessert to break their scuffles up. I am pretty sure that anyone that has ever babysat children knows that sometimes a good bribe is the easiest form of discipline.

The rest of the night was mostly uneventful. My wife dutifully played with the boys as they built towers with blocks or read to them until they would get bored and want to play something else. I mostly reclined on the couch, watched Scooby-Doo and made sure that they didn’t get too crazy fighting or break anything or hurt themselves. Overall, my experience was enjoyable and fun and it made my glad that I’m their uncle.

I also have no problem saying that because my wife saw how tired I was and graciously let me go to bed around 10 o’clock that night while she stayed up with the twins until they went to sleep. That turned out to be 1 AM and 3 AM respectively. It must be some universal biological truth that no matter how identical twins can be, they will never, I mean ever, go to sleep or wake up at the same exact time.

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Someone Please Print Me This Bumper Sticker…


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Tipping a Shrewd Waitress


So a while ago some friends came in from town and we decided to go to the new local Asian fusion restaurant. I’m not really sure what exactly they were trying to fuse together but as near as I can tell they had a pretty good mixture of Japanese and Chinese food on the menu.

Long story short, the check for the entire meal was around $69. I took a hundred dollar bill from my wallet and placed it in the check folder. Then the waitress returned with my change. She left me ten dollars in fives, a twenty, and a one dollar bill. For those of you not great at math, this is exactly 31 dollars in change- but also a very calculated move.

I was pretty much forced by the denominations in the change to either leave a somewhat fair but smaller tip or a somewhat more gratuitous tip instead. Eleven bucks is roughly a 16% tip but the recommended tips at the bottom of the check started with 18% as a minimum. This left me questioning things.”If I only tip 16% will this waitress think that she didn’t perform her duties well? Will she think that I was dissatisfied with her service? Or would she just think I was a cheap asshole?”

However if I tipped the waitress a twenty which is about a 29% tip, would she think that she did an extraordinary job of waiting on us? Don’t get me wrong, she did do a fairly good job. But there were a few times I had to ask her to refill my water. Did these oversights warrant a 29% tip? I think not.

But then I also remembered that my wife said that she wouldn’t mind going there again. So I tipped the 29%. I figured in the long run, while it might send the wrong message, I guess I would rather be seen as a gracious tipper as opposed to a cheap ass- even if the service didn’t merit it.

Life Lessons at Almost 36 Years Old


I was thinking the other day about turning 36 years old soon and realized that for all those years of living, I surely must have picked up some kind of wisdom over the years- either through experience or osmosis. So I decided to write down some life advice that I wish I followed better myself:

Research Everything of Importance

I would imagine this is obvious but Google really is your best friend. We live in an age where information accessibility is almost instantaneous. Long gone are the days of bar bets that had to be settled by the Guinness World Book of Records book (which they still apparently publish). Now almost any debate can be resolved or informed by a quick perusal of the internet. I know it may sound condescending when I say it, but if I ask you if you googled it first, the really only good answer is “Yes.”

Go the Doctor and Dentist Regularly

Medical conditions or teeth issues rarely resolve themselves well. If you’re over 30, you really should be seeing a doctor for annual checkups and the dentist every 6 months or so. While it is easy to rely on home remedies and folklore elixirs, ultimately doctors and dentists have actually gone to school for years to get their positions. They probably know what they are talking about. Or at least a helluva lot more than the average patient that didn’t even bother to google their symptoms before walking in.

Listen to Your Family

I know it’s a bit cliche, but your family does really know you best. When they offer advice, it should be a golden rule that you at least listen to what they are saying. Obviously, your family may not always have it right, but they should be paid the courtesy of a careful hearing- unless your family is a bunch of idiots, in which case, google everything and hope they didn’t feed you too many lies growing up.

Be Honest

I can’t imagine how many marriages would still be together or families on speaking terms if people would just be honest with themselves and others. I think it was Mark Twain who said “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Sometimes we tend to bend or massage the truth or outright lie- often with the best of intentions. However, it pays to be honest with everyone that we care about- ourselves included.

Exercise

Not that I am following this advice from my doctor to the letter, but as adults, we really should be exercising regularly. We cruise parking lots for minutes on end, simply to find a closer parking space- knowing that a little walk from the car to the store doors would do us all good. It’s time to start taking exercising seriously- whether because we added a few pounds last year or our blood pressure is getting high. Take the advice of your doctor and exercise at least 3 times a week.

Eat Healthier

I know that getting fast food after a long day’s work is the easy choice. However, it may not be the best choice. If you do opt for fast food, try and get just the sandwich without the fries. And cut out drinking soda why you’re at it. I have found even cooking just one or two meals at home during the week has significantly saved me money and most probably some extra pounds.

Enjoy Life

They say to dance like nobody is watching. I say to dance like everyone is watching and you’re Napoleon Dynamite. Life is beautiful and full of adventure. Don’t forget to have fun. There is a time to be serious and a time to be ridiculous and knowing the difference between the two is the better part of wisdom. Or in other words “Be smart about being stupid.”So by all means have fun and enjoy life. Just do it in moderation of course- even if your favorite drunk uncle isn’t always the best example.

Living with Foreigners: Part 6 – Cultural Movies


I hate to say it, but I wish that my wife would start watching Hallmark and Lifetime movies again. Normally, I would absolutely dread saying that but it turns out that my sweet wife has found an even more inane source of entertainment. Yep, you guessed it – Ethiopian movies on YouTube.

While with Hallmark and Lifetime movies, although the plots were usually predictable, they at least had a semblance of a plot. In Ethiopian movies there doesn’t seem to be strong discernible plots at all. Usually with Hallmark or Lifetime movies there is someone that is either deathly ill, or a victim of domestic abuse,  or a firm believer in the magic of Christmas to spur the asinine engaging movie plot on. This is apparently not the case with Ethiopian movies.

As near as I can tell, Ethiopian movies are almost always about either a wedding or a murder plot or a love triangle with seemingly mandatory shots of Ethiopians dressed in traditional wedding attire or talking on cell phones. They also strangely  feature cars a lot- like people driving cars or getting into cars or having cars in the background for no clear reason.

The subtitled dialogue also leaves something to be desired. I think this is because the creators of the films hired an interpreter that purportedly spoke English but definitely misses the finer points of grammar or native language flow but I might be mistaken. It’s equally possible that they might have forgone the option of a translator altogether and instead opted for an Amharic to English dictionary instead. For example here is an excerpt:

Older Lady (an aunt of the main character): “What is the nagging beginning from now?”

A Main Character: “My aunt, Who did nag?”

Older Lady: “You and your husband. I don’t think your husband is not comfortable with the coming of this man.Why don’t you distance him if your husband did not like him? Let him not come. This is the devils temptation. Pray well.”

It continues on in this vein for about another hour. Needless to say by the end of most movies, I find myself struggling to even remember basic grammar.

The films also strangely feature an exorbitant amount of close-ups, even when it would seem like it would make more sense to film two people talking to each other in a single frame. Also the camera almost never actually pans so it’s basically like watching a single video recorder flipping back and forth to stationery scenes of people talking or doing something- in the most recent movie, it seems that grown men enjoy cracking a whip for entertainment.

All told, I long for the days of a good Hallmark movie where everything turns out alright in the end and the whimsical daughter of a downtrodden baker turns down the corporate offer to franchise her beloved father’s bakery and ends up with the irascible but rich town bachelor. At least with those movies I could count on some professional camera work and a plot that I could follow along with.

Here’s a link to one Ethiopian movie in case you ever get really bored one night: Mensut (A word which my wife doesn’t even know the translation of coincidentally. For now, I’ll just assume it means “a terrible movie.”)

Update: Apparently Mensut means something akin to “being raised up” or maybe even “resurrection”. Also- please note the opening theme music which is unabashedly ripped straight off of Game of Thrones.