Tag Archives: date

Marital Misunderstandings and Utopia

Successfully navigating that “getting started on Monday morning after a lovely weekend” speed bump is a lot easier when you have an office to go to, I’ve decided. Oh, and when coffee doesn’t taste like rat droppings. I miss my morning caffeine.

I have already pushed past the initial resistance to doing anything remotely resembling hard work once this morning. But now, an hour and a half down the track, I find myself stuck. I’ve finished editing one chapter and I’m just not sure where to take the next. So a break. Or a blog post. Same thing, really.

After a week of unusually chilly weather, the temperature in Laos is back to normal (read: 90 degrees by 10 a.m. and climbing). I loved the cold snap. I left air conditioners off and doors open and even had to wear to wear socks and long sleeves on a couple of days. I smiled at the very odd sight of cold rain falling from the sky in the middle of the dry season. I was as happy as a hippo in a muddy pond.

At least, I was happy until I learned that the freak cold weather combined with the even more freaky rain had killed thousands of cows and buffaloes in the northern villages – dramatically exacerbating the already problematic issue of food insecurity in these areas. It’s been a tragic couple of weeks for those subsisting in villages at higher elevations here.

In light of all of this it feels quite wrong to say that we had a great weekend, but we did. After the busyness of last week it was lovely to relax over dinner at Utopia by the Khan River on Friday night, sleep in on Saturday morning, then enjoy breakfast together.

Well we enjoyed breakfast together after Mike and I weathered the sort of misunderstanding that I would have thought we might be past after being married for more than two years.

During dinner on Friday night I checked out Utopia’s breakfast menu and was quite intrigued by the promise of cinnamon French toast topped with fresh mango and papaya compote with just a hint of chili in it. So I casually suggested that we should have a breakfast date at Utopia sometime.

On Saturday morning Mike woke up at 6 and went for a long bike ride. On his way back, at 9 he rang my mobile phone.

“Hey,” he said. “Do you want me to stop and pick up eggs so we can make breakfast at home, or would you like to walk down to the Khan and do breakfast at Utopia?”

“Um,” I said, still groggy from only just having woken up. “OK, sure, I can get ready and we can go to Utopia.”

Now it was Mike’s turn to hesitate.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “It’s already pretty hot out here.”

“No, no, I can do it,” I said.

“Alright,” Mike said. “I’ll be home in ten minutes and we can go.”

So I jumped in the shower, threw on some clothes, slapped on some sunscreen, grabbed my big hat, and was all ready to walk out the door when Mike arrived.

“Are you sure you want to go?” Mike asked me, again, before we set out. “It’s not too bad in the shade but it’s quite hot in the sun.”

“I think I’ll be fine,” I said bravely. “Let’s go.”

So off down the sunny street we went.

Five minutes into the walk I noticed Mike wasn’t saying much.

“You OK?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I just rode 50 km though and I need to eat something before I get the hangries.” (In case you don’t know this most useful term, hangry means “hungry angry”).

“Why didn’t you grab something before we left?” I asked.

“Well it was already getting late,” Mike said.

By the time we were another five minutes down the very sunny (and indeed warm) street we had figured out two things. Mike’s preference had been for making breakfast at home. And so had mine.

“What are we doing here then?” I asked.

“Well, you said last night that you wanted to go to breakfast at Utopia,” Mike said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I meant… sometime. Like next weekend, or the weekend after. Sometime when we’ve planned to get up well before nine.”

“Oh,” Mike said.

“And when you present me with two options – one of which is to stay at home and one of which is to go out and have an adventure,” I said. “I’m always going to assume that your preference is to go out and have an adventure unless you tell me otherwise. I was doing the good wife thing and having a weekend adventure with you.”

“I don’t really like eating breakfast out,” Mike said. “When it comes to breakfast my preference is almost always going to be staying in. But I know you love having breakfast out, so I was doing the good husband thing and suggesting something I thought you would like.”

“Oh,” I said.

So we laughed and turned around and came on home and cooked up Spanish scrambled eggs and had a lovely, cool, breakfast at home after all, followed by a long and unusually lazy weekend that included massages at the Lao Red Cross and taking a couple of pregnancy shots while we thought of it. I’m at 22 weeks pregnant now, a fact that is getting harder and harder to forget as the baby has taken to squirming away in there like a small sackful of eels at regular intervals. Below are some shots from this weekend.

I hope you had a great weekend too, and thanks for dropping by.

P.S. If you’re in a long term relationship, what types of miscommunications are you surprised to find yourself still having this far down the track?

Date Night

“What do you want to do tonight?” Mike asked me after he got home from work on Monday to find me where he’d left me that morning – sitting on the bed under the air conditioner, writing.

I looked up and smiled at my play buddy.

“I want to have hamburgers and French fries at 28 Degrees in Alhambra,” I said, thrilling at the thought. “And then I want to go to Coldstone for ice cream. And then I want to go to the movies.”

There was a long pause.

“Oh,” I said. “You meant things we actually could do. Realistic plans.”

“Those are generally my favorite kind,” Mike said.

“Boooooring,” I said. (Not, I will admit, because I thought this allegation had any merit, but simply because I felt like being difficult.)

“I want a daaaaaate night,” I whined. “I want haaaaamburgers.”

“Listen to you,” Mike said. “You’d think we hadn’t had dinner together in months instead of spending every night of the last four weeks together.”

“Eating bamboo and egg,” I said.

That was just one or two nights,” Mike said sternly.

I grinned.

“They have hamburgers at Utopia,” Mike said.

“Alright,” I said. “Let’s go to Utopia.”

I think Utopia is my favorite restaurant venue in Luang Prabang. To get there you leave the main road down the Khan River and walk down a long, twisting, alleyway and over a stream on a small wooden bridge. Just before you start to think that the alley is leading you straight into a thicket of green along the river, stand a set of heavy wooden doors with brass trim. Inside these doors is a stone courtyard shaded by a thatched roof. If you walk through the courtyard, past the low wooden tables surrounded by cushions, and down the stone path across the grass, you will reach a bamboo platform overlooking the Khan.

On Monday night Utopia was particularly atmospheric. There was a storm brewing and every ten seconds or so the sky sheeted white. Across the river the occasional incandescent spear was being tossed from cloud to cloud. The scent of coming rain arrived, thunder growling at its heels. Lit only by candlelight, our bamboo perch felt perfectly suspended across that paradoxical canyon that lies between cozy and wild.

And they had hamburgers! And saffron robes – a nectarian concoction of mango and tamarind that is a Utopian specialty and possibly the best drink in Luang Prabang. This was turning into one of our best date nights ever.

Except they didn’t have hamburgers or saffron robes, our waiter eventually managed to communicate. Because they didn’t have any electricity. Because of the storm.

Hence all the candles.

“OK,” I said, with a small sigh. “What can you make?”

“Sausages and potatoes,” they told me. “And lemonade.”

“OK,” I said. “Sausages and potatoes and lemonade.”

“Sorry,” Mike said.

“Meh,” I said. “Watching this storm is worth the death of a dinner dream.”

“If we stay too much longer we’re going to get wet walking home,” Mike said.

“Yeah,” I said. “But it’s warm.”

It was, too. By the time we’d lingered over our lemonades and fully debriefed our respective days the storm had pretty much passed, leaving only a slow misty rain and distant thunder in its wake. The streets were fresh and slick, and by the time we were halfway home we were both more than damp – our hair crowned with shiny beads, the drops of water on my glasses creating a dozen different worlds.

“Wowee,” I said happily, as we walked along hand in hand. “We should walk around in the rain all the time – it’s so nice and cool. And there’s a whole box full of DVD’s back at the house, so we can even watch a movie on the laptop on our date night! I love Laos!”

Thirty minutes later we were all clean and dry, and excitedly anticipating the first movie we’d seen in a month.

Well, I was. I don’t actually think Mike cared much one way or another about the movie. Which possibly explains why he was the one to keep his cool during the subsequent parade of DVD disappointments.

The first one we tried, Letters to Juliet, was a movie I’d really been looking forward to seeing after hearing rave reviews. Sadly, however, the version we were trying to play (as best we could figure out) been re-filmed on a hand-held video camera in a Chinese movie theatre. The cinematic entrepreneur had managed to get rid of all the annoying Manadarin subtitles, but he accomplished this by focusing the camera above the subtitles and thereby cutting off about a third of the screen. The picture was grainy and so was the sound.

I was desperate, but I wasn’t that desperate. So it was on to option two.

Option two started out promisingly. The cinema lady appeared on the screen, announced by trumpets, in all her pomp and glory. All the familiar warnings about how we’d go to jail for the rest of our natural lives if we were caught watching a pirated copy of this movie were there, crisp and clear. It even had previews. We couldn’t fast forward through them, but we figured ten minutes of previews was a small price to pay for what we hoped would be one hundred minutes of good comedy.

Except, we ended up paying it for nothing, because as soon as the previews had finished the sound receded to something vaguely resembling the low buzz of drowsy bees on a hot summer day.

We tried turning up all the volumes we could find. We tried plugging in travel speakers. No joy.

By the time we put in the third DVD, Date Night, I was frazzled.

“If this doesn’t work we have plenty of options,” Mike said. “We’ll find one.”

“But I was emotionally invested in the first movie,” I said. “And then, while we were watching the previews, I was getting all invested to the second movie. This sort of sequential emotional commitment takes a lot of energy, you know.”

Mike looked at me in a way that made it perfectly clear that, no, he did not know.

“Let’s just try the next one,” he said carefully.

Again the previews, loud and lovely. And I was so relieved that the movie, when it came on, was also loud and lovely, that it took me approximately six seconds to realize… that it was dubbed.

“Ahhhhhhh,” I wailed, throwing myself sideways on the bed and burying my head in my arms. “They are speaking Korean!

“Maybe we can fix it,” Mike said, rescuing the laptop from the vicinity of my flailing.

“You can’t!” I said. “They’re speaking Korean.

“OK,” Mike said, scrabbling around on the keyboard while I lay there and moaned.

“What else?” Mike asked, wisely recognizing that I had ventured into Fully Unreasonable Territory and that maybe, just maybe, hyperbole would prove a quick shortcut exit.

“We’ll never watch another movie,” I said.

“Probably not,” Mike agreed, still working on the language settings.

“And this is the worst date night ever!” I said, smiling just a little.

“It is,” he said. “The absolute worst one we’ve ever had. What else?”

“Nothing else,” I said, pathetic, lying there limp and spent.

“There’s more,” Mike said. “There’s always more.”

“I hate Laos?” I offered.

“Yes!” he said. “You hate Laos.”

“Look,” he set the computer back on the bed. And, lo and behold, there was the movie. In English. With a choir of angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus in the background.

You are a genius,” I said, bouncing upright. “And this is the best date night ever.”


The Birds

Lisa and Mike are having a skype date. Mike’s just finished a three week consultancy in PNG and is at Lisa’s parents place in Ballina for two days before heading back to LA. Lisa is in LA, not at all jealous about her family hanging out at home without her. Not at all.

Mike: “So, what else happened today?”

Lisa (running a bit short on material since she’s been sitting at the kitchen table all morning writing, thinks hard). “OH! There was this bird. Well, two birds actually. There was this girl bird just sitting on the railing minding her own business. And then this boy bird flies down and sits about a couple of feet away and pretends not to notice her at all for a while, but you KNOW he’s interested because he’s fluffing up his feathers and doing his little boy bird dance and sneaking peeks at her out of the corner of his little eye.”

Mike: “Mmmm. What was she doing?”

Lisa: “Pretending not to pay any attention of course, and the courtship was proceeding according to plan until she decided to hop off the railing and have a little fly around. Presumably, to show him that she COULD fly. Except, she flew in the open door of the apartment and round to where I was sitting, and then tried to fly out the locked screen, which didn’t work so well. So she beat herself against the screen, and then the glass in an absolute flurry of desperation and frantic cheeping.”

Mike: “What was the boy bird doing?”

Lisa: “He was sitting on the railing, watching, hopping from side to side, not knowing WHAT to do.”

Mike: “Well, of course he didn’t know what to do. Because you know what she was saying?”

Lisa: “No. What was she saying?”

Mike: “Don’t help me! Don’t help me! I’m fine! Just fine!”