Last weekend I attended my first Indian wedding, where I saw some old friends for the first time since getting home. (You might recall that my high school girlfriends are all Indian, but of the other two who are wed, one got married in India while we were in Europe and the other is Muslim, so that wedding was equally colourful but different in a few ways.) Here’s what I came away thinking:
I was surprised by how comfortable they all seem with their husbands
Without going into all the back stories, suffice it to say none of them have been together anywhere near as long as T and I have, all have been long distance for a significant amount of time, including more or less from the beginning of their relationships, and only one have been living together for awhile. I was especially amused to see how well my arranged-marriage friend and her husband were gelling. Maybe for some people, you really do know instantly, and I’m sure when you’re really close to your family, you can trust your parents to find you a reasonably compatible match.
Food in bulk is almost guaranteed to be mediocre
Now, I think I’d need to attend more of these huge weddings (as in 300+ people) but I think it’s fairly safe to say that when you’re catering to numbers like that, it’s tough to churn out amazing food. So far, the meals have been a serious letdown – disappointing, because I adore Indian food.
I have no idea what the future holds for our friendships
One has moved to another part of the city. One is moving to Sydney. One is still in Singapore, and who knows where she’ll wind up next. These are not, at least for me, BFF relationships. They are of the catch-up-every-few-months ilk. It’s hard enough to corral us all in one place a couple times a year, and with us all splintering off geographically at last … it’s definitely the next phase of our adult lives, and I am unsure how that will shape our friendships. I expected to be nattering away to S at the reception, as we hadn’t seen each other in six months, but instead she was caught up in discussions with her husband, parents, and sister-in-law most of the time. (Related: I am way too awkward, and it pains me that I haven’t instantly become buddies with all the new husbands, like one of our other girlfriends has.)
To the links!
Chelsea Talks Smack on doing the best you can, every day
Ask a Manager on dealing with being overworked and overloaded
Penelope Trunk on four ways to earn more money
Ms Career Girl on six things you should accomplish in your first year on the job
Finally, here are 10 truly awesome ideas for unique Christmas gifts (love the memory jar!)
Here’s a truism if there ever was one: Travel widens your horizons.
You can know a lot of things intellectually, theoretically – but often you can’t really grasp them until you’ve experienced them firsthand. Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?
What would my ideal city be? I’m still stumped. Somewhere warm, but not punishingly hot. That poses a problem for T, though. We would prefer to live at opposite ends of the globe in that sense – I’d decamp to a sunny island, he to Antarctica. Other criteria:
- Somewhere with advanced transport – a comprehensive metro system.
- Somewhere with diverse, awesome and affordable food options, including a range of ethnic choices.
- Somewhere with cheap/free entertainment options year round.
- Somewhere with proximity to beaches, and maybe bush, mountains, etc.
- Somewhere that doesn’t have a sky high cost of living, or at least a place where incomes and costs are in line, proportionally speaking.
I’ve yet to find this magical city, and I fear it does not exist.
While New York is now my absolute favourite destination in the world, it’s not my forever city. Sure, it seems like a fabulous place to live in your 20s, but long term… probably not so much.
Toronto was another city T and I found ourselves nodding at. Canada seems pretty close to perfect as a country goes; it has the good stuff you enjoy in the US (low prices, a range of ethnic cuisines, good customer service) and none of the bad (guns, healthcare, lack of employee rights, the imperial system, litigiousness – did anyone else adore that Don monologue to the lawyer in The Newsroom?). But the weather! I doubt I’d survive a single Canadian winter.
I thought I would return home either with a newfound fervent love for New Zealand, or the exact opposite. Turns out, it’s a grudging mix of both, tilted slightly in favour of the former.
My city has its faults. But I also need to appreciate what we do have.
- Auckland has ridiculously unpredictable and rainy weather, but it’s milder than almost anywhere else in the world. A variance of about 15 degrees from hottest to coldest really isn’t very much at all. Many parts of the world have it so much worse; sure, they have lovely hot, dry summers, but by the same stroke, bitter, snowy winters.
- We have the most pathetic excuse for public transport, but we aren’t under CCTV surveillance everywhere we go. Nor do we have armed police.
- We have no squirrels, but also, we have no scary/poisonous creatures (or even plants) that are out to get you.
- It’s hard to get ahead if you’re part of the squeezed middle class, but we do have a reasonably laid back and egalitarian culture.
- We don’t have anywhere near the variety of cuisines that bigger international cities have to offer (though that’s sloooooowly improving), but at least we don’t put high fructose corn syrup in everything.
- Everything costs a lot. There’s no getting around that. But, erm, at least we don’t add sneaky taxes at the till?
I realise things in Auckland are unlikely to change. We are too small for mass transit; we don’t have the density and possibly never will. We like our houses, detached ones. (That goes for me, too.) It’s a city that’s desirable enough that prices keep steady or continue to increase; there’s still enough money around, both local and international, to feed this – even if the rest of us get left behind and priced out. We are too small for competition in consumer markets and far away from other countries – the tyranny of distance still exists for certain kinds of goods.
Living in New Zealand really is a lifestyle choice. Now, at least I’m a heck of a lot more aware of the sacrifices I’m making in exchange for what I get.
What tradeoffs do you make to live where you live? Have you found your forever city?
Tags: life, reflections, travel
Tags: photos, travel, usa
Shopping around is one of THE cornerstones of frugality. Taking a little time to do your research in order to get the best deal … it’s a no-brainer.
But when do you draw the line?
I wasted far too much time early on in Europe trying to save money on accommodation. Hostels and hotels were so expensive in Brussels and Amsterdam that frankly, I may have saved a few euros, but it was a poor payoff in proportion to how much time I spent searching countless websites looking for the best price.
My go-to sites for booking accommodation are Agoda (in Asia) and Booking (Europe/North America). I also used Hotwire, Priceline and Expedia once each in the US, but by and large, Booking.com is where it’s at for me. Unlike other sites, it’s always upfront about taxes and other charges that individual places levy. And while I don’t ALWAYS check against other sites, I can’t think of any instance where I’ve found the same room for cheaper elsewhere.
(As for hostels, I always play off both Hostelworld and Hostelbookers against each other, though Booking also includes some hostels in its database.)
The convenience of booking through the same site can’t be understated, particularly if there’s a good mobile app. All your details are saved, so you don’t need to enter them every time. You know how to navigate your way around instinctively to get the information you need. And your loyalty starts to pay off – you start to get emails with special subscriber deals and exclusive discounts. I’ve booked through Booking.com so many times I now have a 10% Genius lifetime discount, although it applies to certain hotel deals only.
Loyalty pays in other areas, too. You’re more likely to get fees waived if you’re a long-time customer. You get discounts for staying with the same insurance provider after a certain number of years. You get a free coffee if you rack up enough stamps at your favourite cafe. And so on and so forth.
Personally, I’m pretty loyal when it comes to banking and insurance, but I’m a personal finance nerd. Nothing is totally sacred.
When do you go with the easier option, and when do you hunt down the best possible deal?
Tags: money, personal finance, shopping
Week 3 update!
Back in the groove at work. Moved (mostly into our new place). Pondering the longer-term future, because travelling has cemented what I’m most passionate about: travel, obviously; personal finance; and food. As it turns out, I’m also rather interested in the two urban issues plaguing Auckland that desperately need fixing – housing and public transport. I’m not sure attempting to fix the affordable housing shortage by building in the likes of Takanini and Riverhead is the solution, but I’ll watch with interest.
To the links!
Kim shares an amazing travel story about the sheer depth of human kindness
Greed is good, says Bridget
Financial Samurai reckons active income is more satisfying than passive
Cassie has a down to earth guide for surviving Christmas shopping
Kayla explains what we can learn about work from the Hunger Games
Jessica shares her top takeaways from Lean In
Alison (Ask A Manager) lists seven things you need to know before accepting a job
And here is a cracker of a post on A Practical Wedding on having a partner who may not identify as a feminist and may have differing political views
In which I pay tribute to a few instances where we got great service with minimal drama.
Burrito Boyz in Toronto
Mucked up our order, giving us a spicy instead of a mild. Made up a new burrito and let us have both (win!)
Uno Pizzeria, Chicago
I had a total ‘duh’ moment and realised I’d ordered the wrong size pizza. Turned out it was too late to change things in the kitchen, but our waitress only charged us for the smaller portion in the end.
Outback Restaurant, Irvine
Waitress forgot all about T’s beer, and brought it by after we’d finished our meals. (We still haven’t got the hang of making a fuss about that sort of thing.) Apologies flowed, and she didn’t charge us for it.
Earl of Sandwich, Disneyland
I brought some snacks along with us, but spending a whole day here necessitated the purchase of some food. It took a little psyching up, but I ballsed up and spoke up, as they messed up my order and gave me a horrible flavour combination I didn’t want any part of. I got the right sandwich in the end – and got to keep the other one (which I did also eat most of, and it was indeed revolting).
T-Mobile, somewhere in LA
Instead of charging us $10 to change our card (we needed to downsize ours from a micro to a nano sim), the sales guy gave it to us for free after hearing we would only be in the country for a few more days.
And while I’m on the topic, two thumbs up (and one thumbs down) to Slingshot, the NZ ISP. I gave up on their signup process as the system insisted my credit card details were invalid, went to eat dinner, and after that, decided to revive my existing account with Orcon instead. Saving roughly $50 over 12 months was not worth the headache with Slingshot. Alas, Slingshot called me right after I got off the phone with Orcon (and apparently tried calling a couple of times while I was on the phone) to see if they could help me finish the signup process. Sorry, guys, if you’d been 10 minutes earlier…! Not impressed, though, that Slingshot kept bugging me with multiple calls a couple of days later (last night). Enough is enough, and I hope that’s the end of that. I will definitely reconsider at the end of our contract, but for now I’m set.
Had any amazing/terrible customer service lately?
Tags: photos, travel, usa
Out of an entire week in Paris, we managed one day under budget (and that’s one more than I expected, to be quite honest). We more or less stayed in our Airbnb apartment, watched movies, cooked at home and relaxed.
Confessing that feels strange; it feels like admitting to having wasted a perfectly good day in an amazing foreign city. But the thing is, you need ‘weekends’ while travelling, too. Being on the go all the time, while not ‘work’ in the typical sense of meetings + endless emails + squinting at a screen, does take it out of you.
(Let’s not get into the fast travel vs slow travel debate here. Rushing around trying to cram three days of sights into 12 hours isn’t for everyone, but neither is flying halfway across the world only to be stuck inside working and not getting to see anything at all, while proclaiming you’re a ‘real’ traveller because you’re living like a local. Yes, there’s something to be said for simply BEING in a new and exotic place … but that only goes so far.)
T and I are naturally slothful creatures. That quickly became apparent while we were away, too. Somehow, it worked out that we had a day off once a week, more or less (sometimes two). Whether we were in Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh, Edinburgh, Berlin, Bologna, Athens, Grindelwald, New York, New Orleans, or Flagstaff, we carved out time to sleep in, watch movies, and recharge just as we would in daily life.
Bonus: if you freelance, those are the perfect days to catch up on work.
Tags: reflections, travel
Much as I loved the coastal cities, when it comes to natural beauty, the Southwest blew my mind. I love a good desert landscape, and you guys did not disappoint. I can’t decide whether I love New Mexico’s white sands or Arizona’s red deserts more! Here’s some of my favourite shots from the region.
There’s the red rocks of Sedona…
The can’t-quite-believe-what-I’m-seeing painted cliffs…
That big ol’ hole in the ground, the Grand Canyon
And the surreally blinding White Sands. I can’t believe entry is only three bucks.
Tags: travel, usa
Week 2 update:
T mentioned that I’ve seemed a lot happier in the last few days than I have been in awhile. I will admit, it’s nice to not constantly be thinking about our next move, researching and trying to plan stuff, organising and coordinating departures and arrivals and accommodation and transport.
And while I miss being able to see amazing new places every few days, I don’t miss having that be dampened by the thought that most of it basically exists because the native people got screwed over years and years ago (something that was really starting to weigh on me toward the end of our trip).
Aside from that, it feels like we’re bowling around in Toyland sometimes. Everything seems so small after North America – cars, houses, distances. And of course, I miss the prices! I know you’re burdened with insane health and education costs in the US, but as visitors, those didn’t affect us. We’re trying NOT to annoy everyone around us and get out of the habit of moaning about the cost of all consumer goods here. That said, petrol was $2.20 a litre when we left and has dropped 10-15 cents since, so, small mercies.
Anyway! Something different this week – only one link, but it’s a goodie, I promise.
The single best thing I’ve read in a very long time is undoubtedly The Hulk on why we need to change how we talk about rape. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it’s all in caps. TL;DR? Here are my favourite snippets, which I have painstakingly retyped for your reading:
On the pervasive mindset of victim blaming:
If the victim is our darling daughters we react to their rape as if they were a young child being raped by pedophiles and it just shatters them completely. But hey, if they’re some random chick who was being ‘too liberal’ with her body? Who had a little too much to drink? Well then men seem to care much, much less. Then men seem far more willing to defend and identify with the guy just trying to get laid in the situation.
Because if a girl goes to a party and gets drunk and someone MURDERS her we don’t say ‘Hey, you shouldn’t have gotten drunk!’ Of course we fucking don’t. So when you look at the dynamic of all this for what it really is, the reality becomes horrifying.
We’ve made it so rape isn’t actually about rape. It’s about the sexuality of the person being raped.
On the hypersexual, double-standard society we’ve created:
Doesn’t this male desire for sex and the yearning to keep our daughters pure create a super-obvious conflict? Isn’t that a catch-22 where we want two things from ‘girls’ at the exact same time? Doesn’t this just create a non-functional culture where men are shamed if they don’t have sex and yet girls are shamed if they do?
We feed team-thinking. We say ‘Be a Madonna! You will be rewarded with marriage and get to be judgemental of all those whores!’
(Ed: Hence my problem with the ‘why buy the cow’ schtick.)
On why individual advice (Don’t go out at night! Don’t get drunk! Don’t wear skirts!) may be well meaning but it is in no way a fix.
1) It’s a solution that doesn’t address the problem itself
2) That supposedly aids the individual but doesn’t help the overall societal dynamics
3) That puts all the responsibility on the shoulders of the would-be victims
4) That directly limits the rights to certain behaviour of one side of the gender
5) That not only does that, but puts those limits on the side of the gender that’s the VICTIM
6) That completely increases the troubling gender dynamic of the Madonna and the Whore, by creating another impossible dichotomy of women to live up to (You gotta drink! You can never drink!)
7) That just ends up completely apologising and placating a rape culture by not ever directly challenging it
AND 8) To top it all off, it severely hurts the mindset of the girl who becomes a victim despite all this and essentially tells her it was her fault for drinking too much, because, psychologically speaking, ‘the only difference between tips and blaming is timing’
Seriously, in the end what is right about this ‘reasonable’ solution?
Why must the solution fundamentally fall to creating another inequality, instead of doing something about the inequality of the situation behind it? Doesn’t that say something about our unwillingness to point the finger in the right direction?
(If that doesn’t convince you, how about considering it from this viewpoint:)
Most parents love their kids so frickin much that they want to send them off to school covered in bubble wrap … but we don’t do that. We know it would be ridiculous, and more importantly, it wouldn’t actually help in the ways that matter. It wouldn’t actually solve anything. It would even just make things worse for the kid.
Something to chew over this weekend, perhaps. Have any good links to share?