THE QUILTED LIFE: EXPAT BITS AND PIECES

by missfootloose on August 1, 2009 · 8 comments

in Albania, Armenia, Culture and Customs, Ghana, Indonesia

Is your globetrotting life full of little incidents, insights, views, colors, smells and other bits and pieces that don’t stand alone as a big adventure or an amusing story, but are fun or interesting just the same? I have lots and for this post I’ve stitched together a few random ones fished out of my treasure box of odds and ends.

This photo is of the vendor who, in INDONESIA, used to walk by our house with his enormous load of plastic ware and assorted housecleaning paraphernalia. Sort of like Walmart on legs. He was a nice, smiling man, but when I asked if I could take a picture, he turned instantly serious. The same story with the flower vendor who would come to the door every week with huge baskets full of gorgeous tropical flowers. It’s a common reaction of people in many countries. The cheeriest person looks instantly funereal when faced with a camera.

All over ARMENIA you find statues and monuments hailing from Soviet times. I like this one especially because an Armenian friend told me it’s affectionately called “Throwing Mother-in-Law Out of the House.” It was probably erected to the glory of working men and women. Or something like that.

In Armenia, young men and women do not usually strike out on their own when they become adults but live with their parents until they marry. Then the lucky bride moves in with her husband’s family. You can imagine your mother-in-law plays an important part in your life as a married woman and you’d better like each other. When couples at some time or other do move into their own digs, they often end up with aging parents living with them until the oldies get called up to their home in heaven. When I told an Armenian friend about retirement communities and nursing homes in the West, she was appalled. How could you possibly send your parents to live by themselves and be taken care of by strangers! (Okay, you answer that one.)

I was quite taken with this building in downtown Tirana, the capital of ALBANIA Every time I looked at it from the balcony of my tenth-floor apartment across from it, I had the impulse to lick it. I can’t decide if it looks like a frosted cake or a funky kids’ toy, but I always appreciate architecture that has at least the guts to be different. Tirana has many colorful apartment buildings, oceans of paint covering up the drab colors of communist-era architecture.

Albania is a poor country, but the center of Tirana is very nice and blooms with sidewalk cafes and restaurants abuzz with people drinking espresso. It is said that half the population of the town brews coffee and the other half drinks it. I only spent a short time in Albania and the country was a big surprise to me. The people are open and friendly and full of curiosity about the rest of the world. It’s amazing they have so much spirit left after having been suppressed under a cruel communist regime that lasted almost half a century.

GHANA

The cheeriest country of them all. There’s always something fun to see by the side of the road. Billboards like this one for cough medicine, and small shops and businesses with names like MY WIFE LOVES ALL ENT., GOD IS GREAT HAIR CUT, HOLY TRINITY FAST FOOD, DRESSED TO KILL BOUTIQUE, and so on. Who needs TV I ask you.

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And now, dear reader, it’s your turn. Please tell me about your bits and pieces – colorful vendors, interesting statues, fun buildings, anything entertaining.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous August 1, 2009 at 6:33 am

There was (maybe still is) a shop on the way out to Krokrobite in Ghana called “Jesus Saves Fashion”. Still cracks me up.

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Lauri August 1, 2009 at 6:41 pm

What lovely photos! I love the mispelled signs in Botswana- especially all of the ‘penal beaters’. I try not to speculate what exactly is done there.

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Marja August 1, 2009 at 10:56 pm

Oh you took us all over the world in one post Magnificent What a great experiences. I am happy that I won’t have to live with my mother in law.That wouldn’t be easy for both of us.
I love the statue and the pink building.
In the Africa museum in Holland they show a whole village from Ghana I loved it
Een prettig weekend of eh zondag en tot de volgende keer Doei

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LadyFi August 5, 2009 at 8:22 am

I loved this bits and pieces – especially the cheery billboard in Ghana and that wonderful cherry cake building in Albania.

Over here in Sweden they have signs declaring: Fart hinder… Cracks me up every time although I should know better! (It’s the Swedish for speed bumps).

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GutsyWriter August 8, 2009 at 3:02 am

As always, I love your stories. I’m sending the one with the statue to my Romanian friend in Belize who cannot stand her mother-in-law. Are you home now after traveling to the U.K?

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Miss Footloose August 9, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Anonymous, I love all those fun signs and shop names all over Ghana! Jesus Saves Fashion is a great one.

Lauri, so what are “penal beaters??” Do tell!

Marja, I hope you keep reading. And living with mothers-in-law even if you like them is, well, it would be a challenge for western women.

LadyFi. Fart in Swedish would be vaart in Dutch, which means speed. And hinder is hinder, in English as well as in Dutch, so with a little imagination you I could figure it out as being a speed hinderer 😉 or speed bump. I love languages!

GutsyWriter, I hope your friend likes the story and the statue. I imagine they have these types of state-sponsored statues in Romania as well. And yes, I have returned from travels in England and Holland.

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Mary Witzl August 10, 2009 at 10:53 am

Love this post.

In Japan, people buy kerosene from small trucks that cruise through the neighborhood, hawking their goods and the price, from a loudspeaker. My kids loved the kerosene truck as it played a special song about the north wind; they can still sing it. There was also a man who sold bamboo and steel washing poles. He ripped me off, but I’ve still got my washing poles; no way was I going to get rid of them after shelling out all that money.

They sell charcoal-roasted sweet potatoes in Japan too, and the sing-song cry used to advertise them sounds eerily like the Muslim call to prayer.

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