Thursday, December 29, 2005


Did I mention the guy???

Yeah, I met the guy.

Let's call him FH. Well. He turned out to be, in real life, very much like his cyber/telephonic self. Only better, because he was real.

My mom LOVED him! "Are you going to marry this guy? I like him. He's different from other guys you've dated." Did I mention she never approved of her son-in-law??? Or did you just pick up on that one naturally? HA.

Did he like me?

I think he did.

He is very sweet. He treated my mom beautifully. He treated me pretty beautifully, too.

I think this could work. I think, in fact, it could be a very very good thing.

I haven't heard from him since I left the US on Sunday, but he was planning to be driving for a couple days back to where he lives. So it's not surprising that I haven't heard, but of course, my jolly active imagination has him meeting someone else and falling majorly for HER.... He's on all the same Jewish singles websites I'm on plus Saw You At Sinai, which is probably the most effective of the lot. (I'm not on that one because it costs and because given where I'm living at the moment it doesn't seem cost-effective. I don't imagine a matchmaker would be very keen to undertake finding someone for a woman in my circumstances who lives on the other side of the world from the pool of single Jewish men).

We spent the two shabbatot I was at my mom's in a Jewish area of that city. First one, we had meals with - and I slept at the home of - another single mom, with three mostly grown kids. There must've been twenty people at each meal! Great food and interesting conversation. I was on edge because it was pretty clear FH and I were "meeting" each other and that on top of being a guest from the exotic Orient on top of the jetlag, nearly did me in. Nevertheless it was a lovely shabbat, and I felt that both he and I made good impressions on each other.

One comment I kept hearing was "Oh, you're meeting this guy?? Have you heard of So-&-So?? She's from here; she just met a guy online and is getting married!!" FH mentioned to me that he had, in fact heard of this lady; that her profile had been on-again-off-again on one of the websites, that he suspected she'd been doing a bit of "comparison shopping" (i.e., she'd "met" the fellow she was now engaged to, and then her profile had gone back up and then down. I'm assuming this was on SYAS). He has actually spent quite a bit of time in this particular city in the past few years, so he knows more people there than I do.

Second shabbat was a smaller affair, but I got some feedback from the mom where we ate our meals and where I stayed. She didn't dislike FH but had reservations about how he would deal with kids. FH has no children of his own and, having been single for a long time (widowed quite young), hasn't had much experience with them. I don't have the same reservations, but of course, my daughters' reactions to him and his to them will be a major factor in whether this relationship develops.

Ah well.

It struck me when I was in the US in October, and again now, how weird it is to morph between Me-in-America-kidless and Me-home-with-girls.

Did I mention the flight, on Christmas Day, was awful??

I've been gone for 2 weeks. Two weeks in the USA, helping Mom deal with life, talking to people at her retirement village about moving her into an assisted-living apartment, looking at Jewish schools for daughters for next year, making feeble attempts at job-hunting, meeting a guy. Just yer average mid-winter vacation. Everybody I know, of course, hies off to Thailand or some other tropical paradise at this time of year (my boss and her family, for one).

Yeah. So, my Mom. She's not in great shape. How many times was I sent to search upside the house and down for 1) her purse; 2) her stamps; 3) her glasses; 4) her ID; 5) her checkbook; 6) her address book? This latter, I placed strategically on the table by the phone she prefers to use (the one with the big buttons), and showed her that this was a good place to put something she usually needs to have by the phone. It disappeared, of course, and then I had to find it again... And accompanying all this searching is a running litany of "They take things, of course. You know. They sit outside and watch this house like a hawk, then they come in as soon as we go out and take things..." The ID search was the scariest, probably because the consequences of lost ID are the most extreme. I finally called Mom's regular helper (who Mom includes in the vague "they" abovementioned), who alerted me to the most likely hiding spots, which, thank G!d, was where I found said ID. When I showed them to Mom, and showed her where they were, she confessed that she remembered hiding them there...

Mom harbored some lovely idea that I would move there and she would move in with me. It was most important that I disabuse her of this notion; the surest way to my own insanity would be for me to have my daughters and my mom together in a small apartment in this major American city, working fulltime!!!

The headhunter meeting was positive, although I know it's her job to be positive. She did say that interviews with actual law firms were possible if I return in March. And the interview suit was judged to be perfect, even for March.

Well, at least that's a relief!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I can't believe how long it's been since I've put anything new here. Too much has happened since 22 September!

On October 9, my stepdad died, and I had to hie myself to the US for his funeral and to help my mom (who's 90) cope. Mom has been coming a bit unglued from reality of late - shortterm memory loss her MD calls "mild dementia." - and I confess I am not really prepared for dealing with this. I guess g!d sends us stuff to deal with on his timetable and not ours, so how I feel about my "readiness" doesn't really matter. Anyway, I was stuck there for Yom Kippur, and it turned out to be one of the best Yom Kippur davennings I've had for years. Through a friend here I made contact with a frum couple where my mom lives, and spent the chag with them. They go to a very nice, small shul; and I was really treated beautifully. It turned out that I met a lot of people who offered to help in many ways.

But of course, being gone for a week meant that all the bat mitzvah preparations were dropped! Thank g!d I have great friends who stepped into the breach and took over the various projects: decorating the succah, choosing a menu for the kiddush, making sure Prima completed her Kohelet studies, confirming attendance.... I am was and am so grateful for everyone's help. It was a beautiful simcha: Prima spoke beautifully, it was great weather, the shul's succah was gorgeous, the food great, lots of good friends came.

But now I'm getting ready to return to see my Mom. And this time, I have appointments at legal headhunters and with heads-of-day-schools in preparation to move to this delightful American city at the end of June.

Plus I'm meeting a guy when I go there... GULP. (more on that later)

And I just finished playing another orchestra concert - freelance group this time. Mozart: Jupiter Symphony and C Minor Mass. Can a person play at a professional level on heavy sleep deprivation?? Go read Mozart in the Jungle, the new kiss-and-dish-dirt-on-the-NYC-classical-music-scene book by Blair Tindall.

Now, I KNOW Blair. I met her at more than one audition back in the 80's. I hated this book when I started it (it's making the rounds of the local orchestra crowd), but by the time I'd finished I felt like she'd really taken control of her life in a positive way (finally). Go read the book. Just don't expect to like many of the people in it...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Haven't posted in awhile. Too much going on. Bat mitzvah preparations, work, work, kids, work...

Probably some of you have never been *lucky* enough to play Second Ob0e on Puccin1's Turand0t. Let me tell you, like 2nd on Mah1er 5, this is NOT something to be attempted when out of shape. Which is why I said YES when the Philharmonic called. (No, not true; I said yes because it was 15 services at roughly US$75 per. Not an amount to be sneezed at.

But that means I have work a fulltime job, edit novels parttime, play with the Phil for 2 weeks.... on top of all the above...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

disaster help

It's a funny thing how the WWW creates little eddying communities...
The below is from one of the Jewish singles websites I'm on; I post it here for the information of those who might like to help. It's from a website member from Baton Rouge.

I've been watching and listening to all the coverage I can. Both daughters have done reports on Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath. Best Friend M's mom (who lives in New Orleans, sorry, who LIVED in New Orleans) is safely evacuated and with family. Just like 4 years ago during 9-11; it's hard to be an expat during a US crisis...

It has been a horrendous week.....Baton Rouge came out ok.....
But now Baton Rouge has become the command post of nearly every operation in the country, much less the world....
BR is crazy.....we've doubled in size....we have upwards into 300-400 thousand people here......mostly evacuees and some majority are government and local officials......we have nat'l guard here in BR to keep peace for all the surous that's going on......
New Orleans was hit you've been watching all is true of what you hear of the vast's totally unfathomable.....the suffering....the homeless.....the familles who've been separated from their families and children.....they suffered so badly....and they are so sick.....we now have 3 make-shift hospitals that have been set up here in BR alone.....full of 1000's of people who're evacuee's......and they are sooooo to the elements....the water was so bad that they had to wade thru.....there are so many's like a war zone.....

Our local synagogue is taking in displaced Jewish families from New
Orleans who need temporary and permanent housing.....they are asking Jewish communities through out the country to consider taking in or hosting a family or families in assistance......they have people housed in our synagogues.......

The contact number is 225-343-0111....Rabbi Barry Weinstein at Temple B'nai Israel........please if you can pass the word to anyone who could help send donations or send supplies they need......they need everything from baby items to adults clothes and shoes......many Jewish communities across the nation are sending packages of supplies to them.

Please call them and forward this info to anyone you know who could help with these efforts......they will tell you a list of things they have many contacts Bart, you could help greatly with this
catastrophe......... I have already been in contact with some of my friends in Santa Rosa, Walnut Creek, and others who are sending packages of items would be greatly appreciated and when you call tell Rabbi Weinstein that I told you to, he knows I am working hard on my contacts as others too......see what you can do,

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Ah, yes… The Kissel Trial…
It’s been the focus of many a lunchtime confab and the subject of discussion around our Kiddush table all summer.
Expat investment banker Robert Kissel was bludgeoned to death by his wife Nancy in November 2003. On Thursday, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to life…

I imagine a number of expat wives watching this case and shaking their heads, saying to themselves “there but for the grace of g!d go I…”

To “get” this, you have to understand what it means to be an Expat Wife in a major Asian city.

Your husband works 12-14-hour days.

Your husband’s company pays for you to live in a large apartment in a more or less exclusive area. Your husband’s company pays your kids’ school fees, which can be as much as US$1500/month per child. Your husband’s company pays for your car.

You have at least 2 servants. We are not talking here about a nanny or an au pair whose sole purpose is to help you with your children from 9-6. We are talking live-in servants from the Philippines or Indonesia or Thailand, who could be trained as nurses or accountants or mechanical engineers but can make lots more to send home being your servant. They are at your service from roughly 6 am through midnight; longer if there’s a sick child who needs attention. You pay each of them US$427/month; more if they can demand it by virtue of many years’ experience or because you feel generous. They clean your house from stem to stern daily. They clean your car. They wash all your clothes, do all the grocery shopping, run all your errands and cook all your food. They iron your clothes, including socks, underwear, and bed-linen unless you specify otherwise. You might also have a driver who delivers your children to school or playgroup and thence to art class, soccer, rugby, Hebrew school.

What do you do?

You shop. You go to spas. You plan elaborate vacations in exotic locations you’d never heard of before you moved to Asia. You might be heavily involved with your kids’ school’s PTA, but your options to work will be severely limited: in many Asian cities, even if you are married to a person who can work, you yourself are NOT eligible for fulltime employment unless some business wants to jump through the Immigration hoops necessary to employ you.

Sound like the life of Riley?? REALLY?? Think again.

Thirty years ago, companies usually sent upper-level managerial staff to Hong Kong. These were families with parents in their late 40’s to 50’s; with children mostly in upper primary or secondary school. It turned out that a serious “expat wife” medical syndrome appeared: the women became alcoholics. It’s not surprising, really; these were women who had they been back in the UK (which is where most of them were from) would’ve been working, or involved in complicated and highly rewarding charity work. Plucked out of their comfortable surroundings, thrust into this world (where they don’t speak the extremely difficult local language) in which everything at home was done for them and there was no outlet for their efforts or creativity, plus a very limited social circle – it’s a recipe for disaster. It ruined a lot of women’s lives.

Since the 80’s companies have sent (at least to Hong Kong) much younger staff – either singles or recently marrieds; 20’s to late 30’s – so that the wives at least have the option of childbearing to occupy themselves with. When I came to Asia – in 1991 – if you were married to a person eligible for a Hong Kong ID card – that is, employed by a Hong Kong entity or a Hong Kong office of an international entity – you could be hired by a Hong Kong employer as well. So, the woman who was on a 1-year contract to play contrabassoon with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in 1991-1992 married her boyfriend (who was permanent Second Bassoonist with said orchestra) in June 1992 so she could stay in Hong Kong and work. It’s not like that now – my law school chevruta from 2003-2005 couldn’t work; even if she’d been married to her HK-employed investment banker boyfriend, and thus eligible for a Hong Kong ID, she couldn’t have worked.

So anyway, here we have Nancy Kissel, livin’ la vida expat, as it were, until SARS hit in the spring of 2003. Now, SARS was horrendous. Those of us who did not flee Hong Kong went to work in masks and gloves on public transport; avoided crowded areas; tried to occupy our kids while all the schools were closed (and in the course of it, gained tremendous respect for the women of Afghanistan who were forced by the Taliban to stay at home and persisted in educating their daughters themselves). Nancy and her family fled, though, and landed in their summer home in Vermont. Where, according to records, she got herself “involved” with a TV repairman.

Her marriage, on shaky ground already, did not withstand this blow.

Her husband succumbed to a series of blows to his skull on November 2, 2003, at the couple’s Parkview apartment.

CCTV cameras from Parkview security show Nancy’s helpers and Parkview staff heaving a rolled-up carpet (containing her husband’s body) through the corridors to a storage room.

And now, Nancy’s been convicted of murder.

I watched this trial from a number of angles: a law student, a Jewish mother, an expat, a divorced woman. Evidently Robert Kissel planned to divorce Nancy, having hired a private detective to gather evidence of her affair with the TV repairman. Nancy was very active in the United Jewish Congregation, the Reform Jewish congregation of Hong Kong. She was also active with the PTA of Hong Kong International School. Suspecting, if not actually aware of her husband’s plans to file for divorce, she researched sedatives on the internet (confirmed by spyware her husband had installed).

Nancy Kissel didn’t want to be in Hong Kong. She did the best she could with her situation. She didn’t go public with the sexual abuse her defence counsel presented at her trial - which meant that her case was much weaker – but I’d be very surprised if any woman in her social circle would have done so. And now she’s jailed for life (at least it’s a Hong Kong prison, not a proper Chinese one…).

Now three small children are motherless and fatherless and in the custody of an uncle who’s got his own troubles with the law and is divorcing their aunt. Great situation, all around.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I'm the blobby one being held. Posted by Picasa

The camel’s hump is an ugly lump
That well you may see at the zoo,
But uglier yet is the hump that we get
From having too little to do…

Kipling. From How the Camel Got His Hump, one of the Just-So Stories. My mom used to read them to me from a slim blue volume that was dated 1915. I read the same volume to my own girls.

This one has been on my mind of late, as I sit at my desk with “too little to do.” As the clock ticks by and the sun crosses the sky (that I can now actually see from my desk, since I moved to this cubicle) my frustration increases because of the dearth of stuff on my desk. I need MORE WORK. Actually I have plenty to DO, it just doesn’t properly come under the rubric of what I should be being paid for. The last two days I got 30+ pages of The Interminable Novel #1 edited at work (this is a freelance project and ought not be here!), which meant that when I got home I could devote time to the Upcoming Bat Mitzvah of Prima and the oboe reeds for not-hopeless-student. But I don’t want to be doing this at work; I want to be working at work!

My boss, g!d bless her, has kept me together body and soul since 9-11 (not likely I’ll forget my first day of work here…); and I am deeply grateful. Which is why I wanna go parttime and do something else in addition – I don’t have enough to do and therefore she shouldn’t have to pay me for time she doesn’t get.

I got all excited this morning, because there was a bunch of stuff in my inbox that I was sure would keep me busy all day…. But when the f*wit techies installed XP on my computer, I got disconnected from the company product database, and not reconnected, and now someone from the database company has to come and connect me….. the result being that here I sit some 7 hours later, as yet unconnected, and writing for this blog instead of doing meaningful labor! GAH!

Did not make it to karate this weekend. Instead there was a huge Bat Mitzvah for a former classmate of Prima’s (parents pulled her out of our heimish little day school and hurled her unceremoniously into the cesspit “international” school across town last spring). Did not get home until past midnight. And while I didn’t drink too much, and didn’t do anything embarrassing (unlike a certain single guy of my acquaintance), I also did not get half an hour of intense stretching followed by 15 minutes of hard aerobic activity, followed by sparring, flexibility-training, strength-building exercise. And as I’m on a deadline this week for Prima’s own bat mitzvah invitations to go out, it’s unlikely I’ll get much exercise on my own, either. This will add to my frustration…

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I am nearly out of computer hell.

My pc at work (there's a macintosh at home, thank g!d) had been ravaged by spybots, spyware, and stupid techies to the point where on Friday 3 weeks ago I crashed 9 times between breakfast and lunch. On Monday afternoon one of the above mentioned techies arrived to upgrade me to Windows xp. Yesterday I nearly collapsed in shock to discover that the plug-in key required to operate a program and ONLY I CAN RUN and that is REQUIRED BY A MAJOR RETAILER was missing; two techies could not reinstall it and its requisite drive properly, but this morning I was visited by that program's tech support woman who had the entire problem solved in 15 minutes plus we had quite a nice visit.

Thanks to Canadian Friend who spent hours i-m'ing me to install spyware, the beast is in much better shape now.

Let's see.... today was the first day of school at our mod orth day school. Daughter Prima is in Grade 7 and daughter Seconda is in Grade 5. New teachers for both, although Prima has a whole team most of whom are still there. Good friends still in the school. This is a nail-biting situation every year, as a percentage of the school is Israeli families who typically put their kids into the school until their English is "good enough" to pull them out and hurl them into the cesspit of the city's *international* schools. I was pleased yesterday at orientation to encounter a couple who have decided to keep their 5th-grader in instead of moving her. They have an interesting story. Firstly, they are the only non-Jewish family in the Primary Division (Middle School has an international stream of about 5 non-Jewish kids). There is a policy against non-Jewish kids in the Primary Division. Why then this family with their 4 kids?? The mom is Northern Ireland protestant, the dad is English. The mom used to run the jewish club in this city in the years before it morphed into a JCC, and then for a couple of years thereafter, during which time she began having her children. She was allowed to send them to the 1-year-old play group attached loosely to this school as a community employee, and so was "grandfathered" in. Now all four - 3 girls 1 boy - are in. These people could put their kids in any school here; with the dad's income there's no problem (and believe me some English-language schools here are mega$$$$ and academic reputation out the wazoo), but they have been so pleased with the education and environment our school provides that they're intent on staying. I had a conversation with the mom last spring. At the time she'd been planning to move her older daughter into a bigger school based on the English system in preparation for her going to boarding school in the UK in fall 2006. But evidently, when they went to check out the school, the dad was so outraged by the way the girls there dressed (mainly skirt length; all the schools here have uniforms), that he insisted they rethink. So they kept her in our school. Great for us, great for her.

My friend M and I think that eventually this little girl will end up a Near-East or Semitic languages scholar at Oxford...