Exotic Pets

When I was growing up in Bangkok 1967-71, one of my favorite places to go was the Saturday-Sunday Market. It was big even then, with sections devoted to food (the smell of dried fish raises warm memories for me), housewares, clothing, and live animals. I don’t know now whether any of those animals were intended for eating, but many of them were there to find homes as pets. Over the years, we tried out parrots, white mice, hamsters, fish, and of course cats and dogs.

We stayed mostly on the mundane end of the pets spectrum, but others literally went wild. It was something of a fashion among expats in Thailand in those days to keep gibbons as pets. We never tried this, probably because my parents’ observed others’ experiences: it is hard to raise a wild gibbon as a pet. I have seen one instance where it went well: the gibbon was treated as part of the family, eating at the low, traditional Thai-style dining table with them, with table manners at least as good as anyone else present. More often, pet gibbons became uncontrollable and bitey and had to be got rid of.

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Remote work, in good times and in bad

I began working from home in 1993, from Italy, for a California company. Other remote experiences have included working in San Jose for Ericsson (HQ in Sweden), and working for AWS (HQ in Seattle) from my home in San Jose, and now from Australia. 

In some ways, I wish I had spent more of my working years in  a “normal” office routine. Working intensely side by side every day, with people you like and respect, is a fantastic feeling, and at times I’ve had that and enjoyed it. But other times workplaces went toxic, so that going into the office every day became a torment to be dreaded. I’ve also had working from home situations go bad, and at those times I dreaded getting up to face my computer every day, even if I didn’t have to directly face the people who were making my life hell.

Often, remote work was the best option available to me. When my Italian employer moved most of the company to the US and then sold out to a US company, continuing in that job was the best paid and most interesting work I could have while still living with my family in Milan. 

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Temporal Displacement

When I was a small child living as an expat in Thailand, a lot of my cultural inputs were American, especially around July 4th (the annual party at the American club featured fireworks, which terrified me) and Christmas. We had a few vinyl records of Christmas carols. I loved the music, but the context confused me: In tropical Thailand, we never had snow or even cold weather. I didn’t know what a chestnut or a holly was, had never seen a reindeer, and Santa’s furry red suit would have been stifling in Bangkok temperatures. Though I longed to experience a “white Christmas” and was excited about decorations and presents, I felt disconnected from the “holiday spirit” that seemed so important to others. This continued to be true even when I later lived in places that did have cold and snow (both overrated, in my opinion).

The weather in Thailand was always different from what I read about in English-language books or saw in movies: we had a hot season and a wet season (also hot). The idea of four seasons was strange. I was never cold in my life (not that I remembered, anyway) until we went through Europe in the winter of 1969 on our way back to the US for home leave. 

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Home making

This is not the first time I’ve used this title on a post – and far from the first time I have put together a new home. It’s enjoyable, but also tiring.

Moving in (two weeks ago) was stressful, even though all we were actually moving was our suitcases and a few other items we’d bought since arriving in Australia (such as a printer/scanner, which we’d needed to get essential paperwork done). We had booked a wagon type car on the premise that this would give us enough cargo space for what we most urgently needed to buy, but would not be too big to park in our new garage.

The car rental place texted me that morning: “The wagon won’t be back in time, so we’re giving you a van.” This turned out to be a huge Toyota Hiace which, had we had a crew of six, would have been ideal – we could have bought everything we could possibly need and brought it home in one day. But there were only the two of us, so the van was mostly just a huge headache to drive and park. Brendan had driven something even bigger than this before, but not often, and Sydney’s streets are not as easy to drive in as American suburbia. (Turns out that the smaller roundabouts are designed for semi trucks to just drive right over – no way they’d be able to negotiate those turns otherwise.)

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Looking for a new home

We knew we’d have to hit the ground running on finding a home to rent. Before we left quarantine, we had already engaged a relocation specialist (Marcelle of Sydney Rental Search – whom I warmly recommend), who gave us abundant advice and insider information on the Sydney rental market. Long story short: it isn’t easy. Over the course of 10 days we visited about 10 places, in a wide variety of styles and locations. It was exhausting work, and we were under time pressure: the new school year started Jan 29th, and we wanted Mitchell back in school ASAP. (One of our non-negotiable criteria was that the school district needed to be good, which ruled out some neighborhoods that would otherwise have been interesting.)

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