Wednesday, May 25, 2016


My car was broken into last night.

Or, more accurately, since nothing seems to have been broken, I seem to have left my car unlocked overnight and some enterprising person noticed and took advantage.

Theo doesn't know about it yet because
A) he leaves for work an hour and a half before I leave to take the girls to school and head to the office, and
B) when he finds out his head will probably explode with the force of his, "HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU!?!?!??" so better to save that for later.

I am good at many things (she says, modestly) but it may be true, possibly, that I... do stupid shit like this all the time.

I am a girl who left her wallet next to the gas pump and then drove away; (briefly) lost her college ID and keys in her friend's keyboard tray sparking an hour-plus, dorm-wide search; left her boarding pass on the counter at the coffee shop; left her wallet in a cab two days before her wedding...

There are many stories like this.

The first time I came home from college, my sister drove me back so I could bring my bike. It was Yom Kippur, so we waited until after break-the-fast (dinner) to pack up and head out for the 2.5 hour drive. We got 10 minutes away and I realized that I'd forgotten the heavy-duty lock I needed to keep my bike safe in the city. So, with a sigh, my sister turned around in a 7-11 parking lot and went back.

We got the lock, got back in the car. 10 minutes later, I realized I forgot the key for the lock. We turned around in the same 7-11 parking lot. With a louder sigh.

Got the key. Back on the road. 10 minutes away and I realized that the second time we went back I brought my purse into the house and left it there. Just in time to turn around in the same 7-11 parking lot.

I'm not saying I'm a pain in the ass, but... Okay, I'm kind of a pain in the ass.

And Theo, well, he's the kind of guy who gets up OUT OF BED because he can't remember if he double checked that the door was locked before he came upstairs. Spoiler: he'd already checked and it was locked.

Unless I was the last one to come inside/upstairs. In which case, it's probably locked. I'm pretty sure.

I noticed a long time ago that I am 75% more likely to pull shit like this when I don't get at least a full six hours of sleep at night -- and really seven or eight is better.

Did I mention I have two small children?

(Side note: this morning Eva bounced into our room at 5:30, all "wake up you sleepy heads! we're late, late, late!" Which is the, I now realize, very annoying way I usually wake her up, because most of the time, these days, she sleeps well past when she needs to get up for school.

Given that today was also the first time in more than a week that Lena has slept past 5 am, I was not pleased, to say the least, so I growled back, "it's the middle of the NIGHT. GO BACK TO BED!"

She argued for a little bit and then said, in a genuinely confused voice, "but how do you know it's not morning yet? It's light out!"

So we're going to go ahead and buy her a clock today.)

Anyway, the point of this story (is it too late to pretend I have a point?) is that Theo was right. I left the car unlocked and someone broke in and he totally KNEW that was going to happen.

Except, I say, HA! Because you know who regrets the break in more than me and more, even, than Theo?

That hapless burglar who wishes he'd NEVER seen the inside of my car.

I barely realized the car had actually been rifled, since the normal state of it is, generously, "junk drawer, exploded." (And you know what? It was EVEN GROSSER a couple weeks ago, before I started keeping a trash bag hanging from the glove box.)

But looking more closely, I could see that whoever it was searched through the center console, where s/he found old receipts, a (paid, I promise) parking ticket, a fossilized stick of gum, and some baby wipes.

S/he also went into the glove box, where there was the slightly more promising result of two GPS units (one ancient, the other prehistoric—both still in the car this morning.)

And finally, s/he searched the little drawer to the left of the steering wheel, which sometimes has money for parking meters, and which Eva recently, and very generously, filled to the brim with her very own pennies.

So good thing I left that car unlocked. Because what if someone tried to break in and couldn't just open the door? They might have broken a window, and then my car would be full of junk AND broken glass. Which I'd have to pay to fix.

Thief: 0
Responsible car-lockers: 0
Naomi: 1

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Funnily enough, this blog is still here

And so am I, even if I haven't written in a while (understatement is a valid literary device).

So... what's new, y'all?

Oh, me? I've been busy running marathons, living the expat life, and all that stuff I used to do when I wrote here. Actually not marathons. Triathlons. Ooh, or those Tough Mudder races. I totally do those.

Or..... maybe I do a yoga class every once in a while and pat myself on the back when I walk more than a couple blocks.

But I live in a really exciting place that is...

Actually, I live in Washington, DC, in a 100+ year old row house that we are sinking all our money into fixing up.

But, truth? Even though I'm as out of shape as I've ever been, and even though I haven't used my passport since 2013 (which I find a little tragic), I'm pretty busy.

Meet the new cast members who keep me on my toes:

*Eva, who is currently five and a half (don't say 5). Eva is one of the most happy, fun and outgoing people I know.

She uses her whole body to smile, always shares the last bit of her treat, and sets her entire life to song (often ones that she makes up as she goes along). And since she was a baby she has had an amazing ability to push my buttons exactly up to the point where I'm almost ready to throw her out the window—but not one bit further.

(This is Eva on her first ever roller coaster, during a recent vacation in California. That is Theo, next to her. I was safely on the ground. I hate roller coasters.)

*Lena, who is nearly one and a half and already grabbing onto life with both hands. She taught herself to crawl at 5 months, to walk at 10 months, and to climb I don't even know when (at birth?). She wants what she wants, and she isn't going to wait for anyone to hand it to her.

(One of my favorite examples this one, when she saw the open jar of peanut butter on the counter. She was maybe 11 months? She pushed over the stool, climbed up, found a spoon, and started scooping.)

But if you're a grownup and she doesn't know you, she will 100% hide behind my knees or leap into my arms if you come near.

"What? People are scary. Excuse me, I have a light fixture to dangle from."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Since I've been gone

(Can anyone read this post title without singing that Kelly Clarkson song? Can you still, now that I've brought it up? You're welcome.)

An astute anonymous commenter noticed that my "starting over" attempt has pathetically fizzled.

Yeah... About that.

Honestly? I couldn't figure out what to write. Not like that used to stop me.

But: lazy. Also: perfectionist.

So rather than writing something lame (again) just to kickstart the process, I... slumped. Further.


Not like I haven't been up to anything exciting in the past couple years.

I got married. (Didjahear?)

My husband got a green card.

I don't have links or a peppy picture at hand to prove that. But he did.

Actually, that was pretty interesting. Not really because of what went on during our application, which was astonishingly easy -- or maybe not so astonishing since one of the "questions" during our "grilling" to determine whether we were a for-real couple or just a for visa-one was "which consular officer was a guest at your wedding?" (My husband: "that one. Hi!" )

Of course, grade grubber that I am, I totally interpret our easy road to legal American residency as an objective assessment of the awesomeness of our union.

Theo + Naomi: A+++

If this were an AP exam, we would get a 5.

Gold star!

Anyway, my favorite part of the process was where we got to listen in to everybody ELSE's fascinating roads to legal American residency. Or, you know, to somewhere else.

People, not everyone used the study guide.

Like the one group of children trying to rejoin their father who was a naturalized U.S. citizen. Except he was not the father listed on their birth certificates.

Family representative: Oh, they changed their names.

Consular Officer: Huh?

FR: No, the father changed his name.

CO: What?

FR: Everyone's name changed.

CO: I think we're going to need a DNA test.

Or the lovely woman from Mauritania, a legal U.S. resident, who wanted to bring her new-ish husband back with her to the states.

CO: When did you get married?

Wife: 2006

CO: But it says here you got divorced in 2008.

Wife: That was my first husband.

CO: But how could you get married again if you weren't divorced yet?

Wife: It was in the village.

CO: Also, it says you were in the U.S. from 1994 on. Did you ever come back to visit?

Wife: In 2007.

CO: But you said you got married in 2006. Did you go back for the wedding?

Wife: Nope.

CO: We're going to need some further documentation.

It's probably totally illegal to write about other people's visa issues on the internet, but if it is, the embassy should stop using microphones to be heard through the glass.

And actually, I could totally believe that, in both those cases, everyone was being totally honest about their relationships and the timeline of events.

Like the names on the birth certificate. In Senegal, at least up until a few years ago, if you were held back in school or lost your ID card or hoped to become a professional athlete or weren't growing fast enough (okay, not sure about that one), they'd just write you a new birth certificate, with a new birthday -- and, I could totally believe, different parentage, if you felt like it.

Or the wedding, in the village, with the still-legally-married, not-present bride. In many traditional weddings, at least in West Africa, neither the bride nor the groom needs to be there.

My (female, non-Senegalese, non-Muslim) friend once stood in for the groom in a Senegalese Muslim wedding, because he was a well-known musician and didn't want to face the demanding public. Mostly because in a Senegalese wedding, the groom, as "host," is supposed to show -- and spread -- his prosperity with all the guests. So it's totally legit for guests to demand money from the newlyweds. And most people can get away with small change, but this musician was successful enough that everyone knew he had real money. Also, there's no such thing as an invitation-only wedding. Which is why, although Theo WAS present during our vows, I only caught glimpses of him during our party-in-the-village. He filled his pockets with small change and bills and then when it started to run out quickly... he hid.

And in Senegal, the legal wedding and the religious/traditional part are separate, so plenty of people have a mosque or church wedding and don't bother with the legal paperwork. No one would care if you weren't actually, you know, technically, like, legally, divorced from your last husband. (Or if you had checked the "monogamy" box on the marriage certificate but later decided you did actually want a second wife. And yes, my favorite part of my marriage license is the part where it says: "The Spouse has opted for monogamy." Because the other choice was polygamy, and that's totally legal, common, and accepted in Senegal. Because everyone's entitled to the marriage-style of their choice. As long as they're not homosexual, apparently, but that's a rant for a different blog. Or at least a different digression.)

So fortunately (or not, depending on your commitment to the narrative arc) our visa application was approved, which means we weren't around find out if this crowd got their visas or not.

I think what we need is a Maury Povich-style, "You are...........

[longer dramatic pause]

[commercial break]

NOT THE FATHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

to bring us the conclusion. I'll have my people call his people.

And there you go. I wrote a post. It's like a real blog! Stay tuned for all the other things I've been up to besides becoming coupled.... I swear there's something. I'm a little grossed out by myself right now.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Starting. Again.

There's nothing harder than getting started.

Except maybe starting over.

I know all the steps. I know how much I liked it before. And every day another day goes by and I don't.

I've lost all my readers, anyway.

I'm completely out of shape.

Watching TV is always fun.

I'm in a rut, y'all.

I didn't expect this to happen. Actually, I was working hard making sure that whatever else I achieved (or didn't) that I would feel like I was *living* every moment. That I used every moment I had, and wasn't just treading water.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was in a bush taxi in Cape Verde careening around hairpin turns with a driver who was, by all available evidence, either completely drunk or else equipped with a death wish.

I've never been so convinced I was going to die. (Except maybe the time I was driving on mountain passes in a dark forest in pre-dawn Guinea in a bush taxi with no headlights.)

I was utterly panicked. My heart was pounding, I was desperately clutching the seat in front of me, slamming my feet on imaginary breaks, and dreading every uphill because they were followed by downhills, during which the driver accelerated on straightaways and didn't seem to find the breaks even for 270 degree switchbacks.

Until I stopped. Because I took a couple deep breaths. And I thought about my worst case scenario. We could die. The knocked-out guard rails on some of the deadlier turns proved that car crashes do happen, even in idyllic Cape Verde.

So... I didn't want to die. There are still plenty of things I want to do in my life.

But if that was going to happen, I couldn't stop it. And if I died, well, I was okay with that. Because I was utterly, completely happy. I was sitting next to the love of my life, a month past our wedding, having just had a lovely vacation, birthday, honeymoon. I had followed my dreams and was living in West Africa, earning my living as a professional journalist with articles that had been printed in things I actually read, on purpose, and not just because my name was in there. I ran two marathons. I had been to dozens of countries. I had met and befriended wonderful people.

And I knew that I had taken every opportunity I saw, and couldn't think of anything wasted or regretted.

So I grabbed Theo's hand, closed my eyes (and opened them again when I realized that made me carsick), and went for the ride.

I didn't die. Thank god.

But now a year has passed and if I were in that car today, I don't think I could find that same zen.

I hate freelancing.

I am not running.

I feel like I spend far too much of my time alone, on my couch, working (or pretending to) and wishing I was somewhere else. And when I have the choice to be somewhere else? It all sounds too stressful or tiring or, well, too much like not sitting on my couch.

I have watched all of Hulu.

I have read the entire internet. Twice.

I'm still married to the entirely wonderful and extraordinarily gorgeous Theo. And he's happy to see me even when I've only managed to get out of my pajamas a few minutes before he swings through the door from work at 10 pm. (I don't always tell him though.)

But happily married is not a whole life. (Groundbreaking, I know. I'm ready to join the feminists of the 1960s.)

So I'm working on it. I need to stop spectating and start doing.

That's a lot of words to say hi. I'm back. I missed you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Marie-Suzanne Schools Mont Rolland

We had our doubts. At 4:30, when only a handful of people had shown up for the workshop which had been advertised to start at 3, and all of those people were Marie-Suzanne's cousins, siblings, aunts, and parents, we got worried.

But there's on time and then there's Senegalese time. By 5 pm, the second speaker had finally shown up, and as they began, teens from the village continued arriving. By the end, a standing room-only crowd scrambled to get their hands on the free condoms, female condoms, and cool necklaces designed to help women keep track of their cycles.

(Go here to see more photos from the day.)

Rappers performed songs written especially for the workshop (and one of which will appear on the rapper's next album) and village kids danced and sang for the crowd.

From my perspective, I was disappointed with the focus on abstinence from the speakers. Plus, the organization that donated condoms only sent one box of about 50-60. They told Theo (who handed them out) they didn't want to encourage young people to have sex (Gah.) It seems to me, with all the young girls getting pregnant, that ship has sailed.

But it opened the discussion, and inspired Marie-Suzanne, who is planning to organize round two for next year's festival.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed. Marie-Suzanne also sends her heartfelt thanks for your help.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

You know you want to come on vacation with me...

... don't deny it.

Among my many, many (bad) reasons for not posting lately (or ever) is that I spent three weeks last month crossing the Sahara.

Theo and I flew to Casablanca and bit-by-bit, train by crowded (and sometimes less crowded) bush taxi, by bus, we made our way back to Dakar. Our own private Paris-Dakar Rally, if you will, with less speed and more cookies. Although maybe the people on the Rally like cookies. I do.

Anyway, we took a brief detour inland to the Atlas Mountains where we met up with the ever-fabulous Julia and her cool-chick friend Alden. On the way inland, we stopped in Ait Ben Haddou, home of a famous (or INfamous) Casbah, where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed (also Gladiator. Who knew?)

And there we did something NO ONE in the history of EVER has ever done.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Everything is Possible, Nothing is Simple

Sierra Leone has to be one of the most spectacularly beautiful places I've ever been. And one of the friendliest. People in Senegal are very friendly too, but sometimes it seems almost aggressive and maybe motivated by self-interest.

But Sierra Leone has a low key vibe that expresses itself in friendly helpfulness. Walking through the seemingly never-ending rain (Sierra Leone's rainy season is for real, not like Dakar's occasional drizzles) I can't count the number of times complete strangers shared their umbrellas with me.

And when I left my wallet in a taxi, I was utterly shocked, before I knew it was gone, to find the taxi driver honking in front of my hotel, waving it out the window for me. Considering he'd dropped me off at a nearby intersection and I'd never told him where I was staying, it was an especially impressive feat of good samaritanism.

Many of my fellow Dakar journalists began grumping about the flat, brown of our city, and how it compared to the lush, hilly city on the beach where we were staying.

And then we tried to leave.

For reasons no one has been able to explain to me, the airport in Freetown was built across a wide bay from the rest of the city. There are four ways to get there. A three-hour drive on bad roads, around the perimeter of the bay; an even longer, crowded, delayed ferry ride across the water; a short, but expensive, and not entirely safe helicopter ride; or a pretty expensive, not too long hovercraft ride.

We opted for the hovercraft.

But when three other journalists and I arrived 20 minutes before the airline had told us the hovercraft was scheduled to leave, we were greeted with unfortunate news: the hovercraft wasn't running that day. We learned later that the operators of the hovercraft decided to give their employees vacation during election weekend. Who cares about the people who might have to fly? They should have known to take the ferry.

But there's always a solution. Next to the hovercraft dock, there was a guy with a speedboat.

Well, more like a guy who works for a guy who owns a speedboat. But he said he could take us across, as long as we cleared it with his boss.

With the minutes ticking by, we were starting to feel stressed. The airline we were flying routinely overbooks their flight, and if you arrive late, you are guaranteed not to have a seat, even if you have reconfirmed. But things happen on their own time here, so when we called the speedboat owner, instead of discussing things on the phone, he just said he'd come on by.

"Where does he live?" we asked the speedboat driver of the speedboat owner.
"In town," he told us. 30 minutes away.

We tapped our toes and tried to seem patient.

Eventually Ivan showed up.

And so did Alan.

As two of my colleagues negotiated with Alan, a third colleague and I negotiated with Ivan, not realizing what the others were doing. Alan had a speedboat. Ivan had a giant boat. Both were willing to take us, but Alan said his boat was ready to go and Ivan said he needed to wait for his captain.

Speedboat it was.

Thirty minutes later, as we sat on the boat and drifted in the shallow waters near shore waiting for the speedboat driver to show up with gas, and all the speedboat crew had disappeared, we began to get angry.

And so we started shouting for the drive. Four white chick journalists stuck on a boat with nowhere to go and a plane to catch.

The upshot: we got to the airport, even though nobody showed up with gas (the nearest gas station didn't have any, from what we understood).

And we got on the plane, unlike twenty or so others who had to cross the bay back to Freetown and wait until Tuesday. Even though one of our crew was NOT ON THE LIST of reconfirmed passengers. In Freetown at least. She was on the list in Dakar.

It pays to be pushy. And everything is possible, even if it's not simple.

The airline manager refused to back down, even though his list was wrong and her ticket was right. But after two hours of arguing, he agreed to put her on "standby". With a grin on his face, he issued the very special, only because he was so nice, entirely irregular "standby" ticket. That looked exactly like our boarding passes. And worked exactly like our boarding passes.

It's important to know when you've won a battle, and sometimes that requires letting the other person claim victory.

And so I'm back in Dakar.

After that ordeal, I may revise my plans to head straight back to Freetown for a vacation on the city's fantastic beaches. And I may hold off on pitching a travel story on why everyone should visit Sierra Leone (there's no war anymore, I swear!)

Besides, after what I discovered in my purse this morning, I'm not sure I could show my face in town again.

It seems I have stolen the cell phone of the speedboat driver.

Sierra Leone is one of the world's poorest countries. And I stole someone's phone.

I thought it was Selah's one of my friends on the boat. I asked her. She said yes. I threw it in my bag so she wouldn't forget it, and it was still there this morning.

But I saw her using her phone last night, and it was in her purse.

I'm not sure, but this might be one of the stupidest and meanest things I've ever done.

I'm working on a plan to send it back to him, with my apologies. Anyone know how reliable mail is between Senegal and Sierra Leone?