Sunday, August 31, 2014


So tired.

And it's the last day of August. HOW?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

From the morning market

Flowers to brighten our home on this rainy day.  I don't want summer to end, not just yet. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Strawyberry-Rhubarb Goodness

This was in late June. That's a very pregnant me, after I waddled half a block to the farmers market.  I bought rhubarb and strawberries, and I made this compote.  So good.

David Lebovitz's Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

  • 1 ¼ cups (310 ml) water
  • 1 ¼ cups (310 ml) dry or sweet white wine
  • 5 slices (15 g) fresh ginger, unpeeled
  • ½ cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup (100 - 160 g) honey
  • 2-pounds (1 kg) rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 3-inch batons, about 1/2 –inch wide
  • 1 pound (450 g) strawberries, hulled and quartered
In a large saucepan, heat the water, wine, ginger, sugar, and honey (use the smaller amount if you think you might want it less-sweet.)
When all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is simmering, add the rhubarb and let the rhubarb cook in the simmering syrup until it’s just softened, which may take as little as 5 minutes, depending on the rhubarb. Remove from heat and add the strawberries. When cool, pluck out the ginger slices.
Serve warm or room temperature.

On Privilege

Early days in Cambodia, on one of the monitoring trips
No one told me the early months of motherhood would be this difficult. I simply had no clue.  But we're adjusting to sleep deprivation and slowly a routine - a new normalcy - is emerging. And with that difficulty, there's also a lot of joy, which helps.

My mornings - just when M falls back asleep and the light is out - are precious moments for me, minutes when I am (relatively) awake and I can think about things other than feedings, the daycare search, minutes that I can waste on thoughts of autumn layers and flat boots, on the world that existed before motherhood.

This morning, I thought of the string of emails I received - actually, just as I was in labor!  They were from two families of Vietnamese Montagnard refugees I worked with in Bangkok.  Fleeing from religious persecution in Vietnam, they made their way to Cambodia first, then Thailand, where they would settle (illegally, as with all refugees in Thailand).  Theirs was a story that went back 7 years, with numerous rejections of refugee status by the UN, detention in Bangkok, release, and then the precarious life of a refugee not being able to lawfully live/work in their country of refuge.  Extortion by police is not uncommon. I had helped with a re-opening request to the UN (the third one, as their files had been closed), and the day of the email, they had finally received their refugee certificates.

It was such fantastic news.  I could imagine their faces and those of the children.

When I left Bangkok, there were others whose cases were still pending.  I didn't write about their stories then because it felt so close.  I still think about the Iranian man, detained in jail for political activities, tortured, raped. He was seeking an appeal. Did he ever get it?  I think often about the Muslim Pakistani woman forced to have an abortion by her tribe because she fell in love with and married a Christian.  What became of her?  And what of the woman from Cameroon, who fled her country with her daughter who faced genital mutilation?  The Palestinians displaced from their refugee camps in Syria, who bought a visa to Thailand not knowing how long it would take to be recognized as refugees and how arduous daily life could be in Thailand for a family waiting out resettlement?

One of the things that struck me in my travels was just how privileged I was to be an American citizen.  In Cambodia, on monitoring trips where arrest was possible, I knew that my passport would provide a level of protection. Same thing when I was in Burma on one of those frequent middle-of-the-night military checkpoints, where you're scooted off the bus and required to stand in line to be interrogated.  In the international work travel that is sure to follow this fall or winter, I will be working on human rights issues in difficult contexts, again with the protection of my passport. 

And, I'm aware this privilege came at no cost to me, really. My grandfather was the one who made the journey in the 1920s. He was alone, 16 years old. He toiled as a migrant worker until his retirement. Once a US citizen, he went back to the Philippines, where I was ultimately born.  For me, it was never a question of "if" but "when" I would move to the US to claim my citizenship.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Slipping away

In the early months of summer, the sunflower patch on my block barely had any flowers. Now, in mid-August, the flowers are out, some wilting away. I cannot believe the final weeks of summer are here.  

I had misguided notions about what maternity leave would look like --that I'd have plenty of time for reading and trips to the cafe, that I'd be able to keep up with what is going on with the outside world. Since M's arrival, my world has felt much smaller. Today, we managed to take a walk around our neighborhood in the early evening. We came across the trickle of people coming home from work.  I felt out of sync.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sale Alert: Dieppa Restrepo Camilla Boots

A pair of Dieppa Restrepo boots for $98.  Not a bad deal.

Maternity leave has really exacerbated my online (window) shopping habit.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Russian chocolates

The day before I went into labor, Ethan and I celebrated our one year anniversary.  In lieu of how we imagined we would celebrate (a trip to Kyrgyzstan, camping in a yurt), we instead spent the day doing more low-key activities--namely, buying houseplants, eating at our favorite Sichuanese restaurant in the Maryland 'burbs, and visiting a few of the adjacent "ethnic" grocery stores, one of which was a Russian/post-Soviet Imperium grocery store.  There, we came across these chocolates, which I encountered in many grocery stores in Russia. I remember bringing these home as souvenirs for friends in Portland.

That trip feels like a lifetime ago.  I think often of that trip.  I guess it could have been any trip. Replace the Tran-Siberian with a trip to Italy or Chile - whatever.  That trip marked an inflection point in my life; so much changed after that time.

One of the surprising things I've found about motherhood is that it has strengthened my resolve to live/work abroad again.  Moving abroad again has always been our plan, but there's another dimension to it now. When I found out I was pregnant, my mind clung to an image of me, Ethan and our child in Cambodia or another country. Perhaps it's because that's where this story began (where Ethan and I met and fell in love).  Perhaps it's because I was exposed to many expat mothers raising their families in Cambodia, Thailand, elsewhere.  And/or, perhaps I'm clinging to a way of life that may no longer fit.  I'm not sure; it's probably a mix of all three.

With M's arrival, Ethan and I talk a lot about living abroad again.  It pains our families to hear that we plan to move abroad with M in a few years. While life certainly has its twists and turns, I hope that when the right opportunity presents itself, we will have the courage to go through with the move.

But that won't happen for a few years, I think.  And right now, there's a lot to relish about life in DC.
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