On The Road Again – Day Four of The College Tour (and five!) 1

*The following blog is days four and five due to the inability to get internet access.

It’s Day Four, dear reader and hopefully you aren’t bored yet! Knowing that I will be blogging about our experience daily actually keeps me more alert and curious on this long college tour and so I thank you for reading along and giving me an additional purpose for paying attention and staying awake.

Today we were on the Tulane Campus for the info session and campus tour and we were lucky enough to have arranged a tour of the Art School as well. Sophie really would prefer a true liberal arts school with a nice art program than a pure art school and Tulane definitely fits that bill. We loved the school.

IMG_2486

In keeping with our Hollywood theme this week, we arrived on campus to find a huge crew filming the Fox television series Scream Queens with Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ariana Grande and Emma Roberts. Seriously, you just can’t make this stuff up.IMG_2496

On the art school tour we saw printmaking, photography (both digital and film), painting and drawing studios, sculpture studios and one of the coolest workshops – glass blowing. Tulane has the largest glass blowing facility on any college campus. Some of the work scattered about was just gorgeous. Imagine, getting to blow glass as a class! The thing we liked the best is that at Tulane you can double and triple major and the dual majors can be as diverse as Studio Art & Public Health (like our tour guide).

IMG_2500

The glass blowing facility at Tulane

IMG_2501

Some of the student’s glass work that reminded us of sushi!

IMG_2503

The sculpting studio

No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a real poboy so a stop at Domelise’s was in order. I had heard so much about this hole in the wall from my cousin Wendy who went to Tulane and it was around when she was in school. It didn’t disappoint but figuring out how to order and what to get wasn’t exactly the easiest of tasks. My tourist was showing but who cares – we got what we came for and it was really good.

IMG_2507

In any college tour there is going to be down time that you really can’t do anything with including time in airport gates and driving in the car. Sophie has been good about filling the time with studying lots and lots of SAT vocabulary words (and I have to admit, I’m learning several myself – who ever used the word deleterious – it means injurious to health) as well as sketching – this picture was taken while waiting for our flight to Miami. IMG_2510 IMG_2513

Tonight, courtesy of facebook and the ability to see what all of my friends are doing at any given moment, we are having dinner with the Wendel Family, amazing friends from Tokyo who now live in Napa and are spring breaking in Miami. It’s an unexpected gift that will only add to our already adventurous time on the road. See you tomorrow, reporting from THE U!

IMG_2515

Day Five – it’s 80 and sunny as Sophie and I start the day with breakfast outside by the fountain at the Biltmore. This is the first hotel that is actually gorgeous (and the carpet isn’t sticky) and I just want to grab sunscreen and my book and lay out by the pool but info session 3 is calling…

IMG_2550

The “U” campus (University of Miami) is seriously a country club. The campus wraps around a man-made lake with a streaming fountain and the outdoor pool has lounge chairs set up with students lying around (Sophie said it reminded her of the movie Accepted). The only annoying part was the crying infant throughout the info session – yes I said infant. There was a mother there with both her high school junior and her infant. Get a babysitter for god’s sake!

Our tour guide talked about how during mid-terms and finals the school offers free massages, play time with puppies and the installation of tons of hammocks across campus. Yes, all those things are true. Puppies and free massages? I’m sold.

IMG_2568 IMG_2562 IMG_2558

We were able to meet up with two ASIJ (American School in Japan) grads that were good friends with Hayden, Kenjo and Tacuma. We had lunch outside at the Rathskellar by the water and over lunch they gave us the inside scoop. They couldn’t have been nicer and it was so great to see them – all grown up and living in Miami!

IMG_2574

After lunch, it was a quick Uber to the airport in time for our next flight to Orlando where we will be driving to Winter Park, Fl to visit Rollins tomorrow. As I type this, the day isn’t over but we have yet to see anyone famous – our streak might be ending…and we haven’t had anything delicious to eat either but there is always hope! See you tomorrow – reporting from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fl.

Relationship status with teenage daughter: going to bed on a good note – mini fights had today: at least 7 but all good now.

On The Road Again – Day Three of The College Tour Reply

If you go on a long college tour you’ll inevitably hit a Sunday – a day where colleges (at least the one’s I’ve researched) don’t have tours. If that’s the case, try and plan it so the day off happens to be in a place you want to spend time. For the first free Sunday (our tour is long and so we get two!) I chose New Orleans. New Orleans might be my second favorite city in America (NY is #1 natch). That being said, Sunday morning might not have been the best time to walk through the French Quarter on the way to breakfast. The smell and the street remnants were overwhelming and not in a good way. We started the day with eggs benedict poboys and a horse drawn carriage ride around the quarter. Afterwards, we walked the long aisles of the French Market and by the end Sophie needed Motrin and wanted to go back to the hotel (maybe don’t try to pack too much into one morning?)  I sometimes forget that not everyone is insanely crazy about seeing every corner of every city like I am.  While she napped, I spent some time perusing the Tulane Admissions site, preparing for our tour tomorrow. One thing that struck me right away was this: The Admissions Staff had blogged about their top 15 places to eat in New Orleans and they were SPOT ON. Now this is the kind of school for me and my offspring! http://tuadmissionjeff.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-fifteen-best-restaurants-in-new.html After Sophie’s much needed respite, we went to Domenica for a late Italian lunch. While sitting at our table I happened to notice an extremely cute Dad walk by holding his baby but didn’t think anything of it. Midway through our pasta course, Sophie turned her head and almost choked on her Rigatoni. When she was finally able to put two words together she told me that the one famous person on the entire planet that she wanted to meet was sitting at the table behind us: Christian Bale. Yup, the handsome Dad. Seriously, I had no idea. We spent the rest of the meal debating whether or not she should approach him. He was with his wife and kids (and nanny) and she didn’t want to bother him BUT COME ON – it was Batman!. In the end, she was brave enough to go up to him, apologizing for disturbing him and asked for a picture. He said no – he was with his family. Fair enough. After lunch, I wanted to show Sophie that New Orleans was more than just a LOT of drunk people stumbling around the French Quarter so we hopped on the St. Charles Street Car, paid our $1.25 fare in exact change and took it to the end, winding our way through the Garden district with the incredible southern architecture and the myriad trees filled with hanging mardi gras beads. We passed Tulane and Loyola and got a feel for the college neighborhood. We rode it to the end and then got off and took it all the way back to the quarter. By this time it was late afternoon and the streets had been cleaned and for the most part, the smell of alcohol had wafted away. There were still many people stumbling around who had had too many Hurricanes but it was definitely a better time to be out and about. One thing Sophie was amazed by was the city’s total love and support of the arts. Everywhere we walked there were galleries and street artists, bands and dancers. A city where an artist could definitely find inspiration.

IMG_2447An interesting sidenote: The front desk rang up and said there was a package downstairs for me. I asked him twice if he was sure it was for me. Yes, definitely Lisa Jardine. Sophie and I went down to find a fedexed freezer box of chocolate covered strawberries from… Expedia. With a hand-written note thanking me on their 4 year anniversary for being one of their best customers. I have to say I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing. Travel much? When I told Tom he said those were some very expensive strawberries.IMG_9136

Dinner was at our favorite this trip: Le Petit Grocery. The turtle bolognese (snapping turtle to be exact) with a whole fried egg on top was ridiculous and the famous butterscotch pudding was definitely famous for a good reason.

IMG_9129 FullSizeRender 2Still on speaking terms with Sophie and still looking forward to tomorrow (although both those are subject to change)…

On The Road Again – Day Two of the College Tour 1

IMG_2441Day Two started with the info session at GW. One of the assistant directors of admissions ran the session and I have to admit I was so in awe of what he was wearing it was hard to focus on what he was saying. He was so totally cool and dapper from his bow tie to his extremely short pants with no socks and loafers. This is my third child to go on college tours and this was by far the most dapper of admissions officers. Extra style points for sure. After the info session we went on a very cold walking tour of GW along with a gozillion other prospects. We had already fallen in love with the school the day before so it was preaching to the choir but I have to admit to being fascinated by the new science and engineering hall that has such smart classrooms that motion sensors not only turn on the lights but adjust the heat and a/c depending on how many people are in the room. That is just super cool. But since we were there for art, Sophie would never be turning the heat on in that building. I liked this wall at GW – covered in flyers advertising fun of all sorts…

IMG_2421

A little strange situation on our flight from Washington to New Orleans. The stewardess spent about 20 minutes moving people around the cabin to “evenly distribute the weight”. This wasn’t an 8 seater…For someone who has to medicate to fly it wasn’t the best thing to witness prior to takeoff. Thankfully she must have done her job right and we landed about 2.5 hours later in New Orleans, in a different time zone and about 30 degrees warmer. I opted for the economy rental car. This is quite possibly the smallest car I’ve ever driven in:

IMG_2425

The hotel I booked on Expedia in the French Quarter looked good enough. Yeah, that didn’t really work out that well. Between the heavy smell of weed and the carpet that is too sticky to walk on without shoes, it’s not my best choice. Note to anyone visiting NOLA do not book The Hotel St; Marie. Dinner was at a VERY highly recommended restaurant in the Garden District called Shaya – just recently opened, Israeli food. It lived up to its reputation but probably better visited with more than 2 people as it’s all about sharing. We over ordered and I left slightly in pain.

IMG_2442But not too much in pain that we didn’t stop here…

FullSizeRenderOur walk home to our hotel through the French Quarter, crossing Bourbon Street was just as you’d expect on a Saturday night in NOLA. Sophie took it all in stride saying “it sort of reminds me of Tokyo.” Well said. Tomorrow finds us with a day off to roam free! Laissez les bon temps roulez!

On The Road Again – Day One – The Corcoran School of Art (now merged with GW) Reply

Welcome to Washington!

Welcome to Washington!

Day One off to a good start – left NYC in the pouring rain and arrived a bumpy hour later in Washington DC. Within ten minutes in the rental car, the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial came into view and the GW campus appeared minutes later. Close to airport. Check. We left our bags at our hotel (George Washington Inn, chosen for it’s proximity to campus which is very close) and walked to the main campus for lunch. The GW campus has the best of both worlds: a real campus in the middle of a cool happening city. The gates, the quad, the old buildings are all exactly as you would expect them on a traditional campus but turn a corner and the lunch options and shopping opps are unlimited. We waited in one sushi restaurant that was packed to the gills and I’m sure I heard at least 3 different languages being spoken. After lunch it was time for our first tour of the day; the Corcoran School of Art. The Corcoran was founded in 1890 but with only 200 students (in the entire school) it was having a problem with money. In August, GW acquired them and is in the process of transitioning/merging these two schools. From what Sophie and I saw, it’s going to be a challenge. We will take the GW Foggy Bottom tour tomorrow. Mid-way through the tour, Sophie noticed that several of the parent/student pairs had dashed out the exit doors… “I feel like I’m in Willy Wonka mom and we’re about to win the chocolate factory,” Sophie very accurately commented. Dinner tonight was at The Tabard Inn, one of the oldest Inns in DC. It was a recommendation from my great friend Esther Cohen – historically awesome. It must have been a hot spot during prohibition.

First Bonus of the Day: I found some blooming Cherry Blossoms!

IMG_9065

Second Bonus of the day: a quick after dinner photo opp at the Lincoln Memorial.

IMG_2401

Unexpected yet very appreciated bonus of the day: We bumped into a very bearded Jon Hamm who said hi.

image1

On The Road Again – It’s College Tour Season Reply

welcometocampusSpring Break – Junior year of High School is the official kick-off to the college tour season. And even though each kid is different; my first son wanted “California or Bust” the second son was all about playing football and my current junior is a girl who wants to study art, the college tour road show is for the most part a ritual that has seen few changes.

Step One: Sometime around the beginning of the new year, spend time with your student trying to come up with a working list of colleges to visit. Depending on your student, this could be a very short conversation or one that drags on for weeks. Because honestly, sixteen year old kids hardly know what they want for lunch let alone where they want to spend four years going to college. But let’s assume you are able to jot down 5-7 schools that are within reason (this would be the parent’s reason because  a list of the top 5 party schools in the United States might not be your idea of a real college list), this is the beginning of your college tour plan. I used the website batchgeo.com to map the schools on my daughter’s list. This is a very good way to visualize where the schools are located in relation to one another. Immediately, it became obvious that there were outliers that we weren’t going to be able to visit on our tour.

Step Two: Prioritize. You can’t visit every school your child wants to see – it’s too expensive, time consuming and to be honest, after your 6th or 7th campus, it can become mindnumbing and they will all start blurring into one another. Once you have your priority list you must first, before you book a flight or reserve a rental car, make an appointment for the college tour/information session. Most schools have both and they are booked together, usually first thing in the morning or after lunch. Combined they take about 2 0 2.5 hours to complete. These sessions fill up, especially during spring break so book these first. You can always cancel later. When choosing your tour and info session check first to see that the college is in session because it is spring break and not just for high school students. Sometimes, one of the schools will be on break and it can’t be avoided. Schools still give tours even when school is not in session. Seeing kids on campus is a big part of the information you will need to make your decision.

Step Three: Arrange transportation and book hotels. I start on the school’s website and look on the admissions page for suggested area hotels. Almost always they provide a varied list of choices including discounts (if you mention you are visiting the school you get a better rate). I also ask anyone who has a kid currently attending that school as parents always have the inside scoop (especially when the school is located in the middle of nowhere as many of them are). Transportation is really the killer piece in the entire process. Depending on your student’s list and how far away the schools are from one another. This year, my daughter’s list includes schools in five states making it impossible to simply drive from one to another. A combination of one way flights and rental cars was required to get us from school A to school G.

Step Four: Try and add in a few things to see, do or eat for yourself. Yes, this college tour is all about your kid and it’s their tour – you are just there because they are too young to rent the car – but it’s a lot of work, pressure and stress to make sure everything comes off without a hitch so make sure there is something in it for you. For me, this means researching the best local places to eat and I make reservations way beforehand. We don’t spend any time wandering around looking for a place when we are hangry and it also gives me something to look forward to.

Step Five: Packing. This is an important piece as you will most likely be on the road for some time and you don’t want to be dragging around a huge piece of luggage (or two). Pack a carry-on size suitcase and make sure you bring comfortable shoes, tide-to go, a raincoat, an extra sweater or sweatshirt and a bathing suit (some hotels have pools and a swim might be the perfect thing to let off some steam).

Step Six: Get to the tours on the early side and make sure you always sign in. It’s very important that the colleges see that you made the time and effort to come and visit their school. If there is a school not on your list but it’s in the vicinity, stop in, pick up literature and sign your name. You never know when you’ll need another school to add to the application list and even if you didn’t go on the tour, they still see that you were there. While on the tour, try not to be “that parent”. The one that asks all the questions and usurps the guide’s time and energy. This is your child’s tour and you will be a total embarrasment to them. Most likely every question you have will either be asked by someone else or you can find it online or in the literature you will be inundated with. Do use your phone to take photos (when you arrive on campus take a photo with the name of the school first so you know to which school those photos belong) and take notes if you feel you need to. Again, everything you need to know can be found online or in their brochures. There isn’t a question you are likely to have that they haven’t been asked 10,000 times before.

Step Seven: Encourage your child to really take a good look at the kids, the dorm rooms, the quad, the dining all and see if they can picture themselves there. A good fit is the MOST important piece of this puzzle. There are so many fabulous schools in the United States but not all of them will be fabulous for your child. The priority should be first and foremost that they are happy where they land. Happy students make good students. Unhappy students just want to come home.

Step Eight: Downtime is important. Non-stop college touring takes a lot out of a student and her mother – don’t spend every second rehashing everything you saw and felt. Take the time to marinate the information overload. Let your kid put on their headphones in the car and listen to their music. Rent a movie in the hotel room. Listen to podcasts or books while driving.

Step Nine: At the end of each tour, it’s a good idea to make a few notes regarding what your daughter or son thought about the school – things they will be able to recall months later when it’s application time. Most schools have a supplemental essay on the application that asks, Why Us? Wouldn’t it be nice to whip out your list and have 5 great reasons why them instead of searching their website like everyone else? That time taking personal notes will pay dividends later.

Step Ten: Try and enjoy the one on one time with your child. The fact that you are on this college tour means that in a little over a year they will be moving away from home. And in my experience, sometimes they move very far away and don’t come home often. Treasure the time you have together and make some memories.

Happy Hunting!

 

 

The New Norm Reply

To Whom It May Concern,

Please be advised that I gave my daughter ___________ permission to leave school on Friday after the buses returned to school after the bomb threat evacuation.

 

This is an actual note I sent my daughters to school with today. Last Friday, our public high school received a bomb threat by email. This is the 3rd bomb threat their high school has received in the past 4 months. This is the new norm. I think a majority of the students were more annoyed than anything else, especially since it was a cold and snowy day last Friday and they had to walk to the evacuation sites, some of them without coats. They don’t think that someone actually was going to bomb their school. They think it was a prank by a student who wanted a snow day and didn’t get one. But what about the kids who were more than just annoyed? The ones for whom just going to high school every day produces enough anxiety they certainly don’t need the extra worry that their school may blow up at any minute? And how about our teachers who deserve an environment where they know when they come to school their main concern is their ability to get 11th graders to understand pre-calculus. They aren’t really trained in emergency protocol. It seems like a lot to ask. But, here we are, in 2015, in small town USA, worrying about bomb threats. And the fact that recent history proves that on occasion, these types of threats aren’t just pranks; they really happen. So, what’s the answer? I certainly don’t have them but I have to believe that we must get better at finding out who is behind these threats and punishing them to the full extent of the law. We need to set an example so that when the next person thinks it might be fun to pull the same stunt, they’ll think again.

Jew-ish Reply

The following is a poem I wrote when my friend and mentor Esther Cohen (aka The Book Doctor) asked me to write a poem about my children who are both Jewish and Catholic. It’s been included in the Jewish Currents 2015 Calendar which is more like a magazine than a calendar :) Thanks Esther!  You can buy one here if you are interested: http://jewishcurrents.bigcartel.com/product/jewish-currents-2015-arts-calendar

 

Calendar_cover

 

Jew-ish

You are what your mother is. That’s what I was told as a child. My mother is Jewish, therefore I’m Jewish. That seems logical. But, when the father is Irish Catholic and he’s never heard of the rule, you can end up with something very different, like a hybrid. Wikipedia defines the word hybrid as the offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties, such as a mule. My kids are definitely the offspring of different species. I grew up in a family of over-sharers. We knew exactly how everyone felt to the minute. My husband, not so much. His New England upbringing found him in a family of tight lips. To this day, he’s not sure if his parents were Democrats or Republicans. Two halves make a whole. Well, not always. Sometimes they make something entirely different. When my kids are sick they crave matzoh ball soup and yet they were all baptized and have spent more time in churches than in temples. But they know the Hebrew prayers and couldn’t begin to recite the Our Father. They make Christmas lists and love eating latkes but ask them about the story of Purim and you’ll likely get blank stares. They believe in god, sometimes, when times are tough but when asked they would probably say ‘they’d have to give it some more thought’. My eldest son was baptized, confirmed and spent Pre-K – High School in Catholic school then went on his birth right trip to Israel after his sophomore year in college. Bagels, candy canes, Old Testament, New Testament, holy water, communion wafers, nuns, mezuzah, brisket and gefilte fish. These kids are a holy mess.

*poetic license was used in the above poem

Remembered Well in Bangladesh 6

Caroline Bauer(Hilary’s mom) in the school she built in Bhatiary, Bangladesh

Growing up, my family wasn’t religious and there wasn’t much talk about heaven or hell but I do remember being told to worry about living a good life so that I would be remembered well.  I’m not sure who exactly gave me those words of advice but they stuck with me and from time to time I think about them. That concept was never more illuminated then during a trip I took in May to Bangladesh with my friend Hilary. Hilary’s parents lived in Chittagong for fifteen years at the end of her father’s career. In their 60’s they were brave enough to leave a very comfortable life in America for a new adventure on the other side of the world. Hilary’s father was sent to Chittagong to work for one of the largest manufacturing companies in Bangladesh. What happened to them while they lived there is something quite magical. Hilary’s mom, with time on her hands, took up golf where she met a young Bangladeshi caddy named Aboul. She and her husband Peter started most of their days playing golf with Aboul and they grew to love him as the son they never had. He took them to his small rural village and introduced them to his family and over time they developed a very special bond.  After spending time in the village, Hilary’s mom decided the village children needed a place to play and she engaged members of the community and built a park. But that wasn’t enough; she wanted a school. With help from Hilary and her friends she built the school where its stood for the past seven years and continues to serve over 100 children a day. Aboul is now the director of the school and his wife, the librarian. It’s been several years since Hilary’s parents have passed away and yet their legacy is as strong as it was the day they left Bangladesh.  While in Chittagong, we were invited to many of their old friend’s homes and offices where I found plenty of framed photos of Hilary’s parents. There wasn’t a person we met in our travels who didn’t have a Caroline and Peter story.  All these years later, on the other side of the world, people were still talking about the contributions and camaraderie of this amazing couple who came to Bangladesh for one last adventure and left behind a legacy.

Remembered well? Check.

I took hundreds of beautiful photos in Bangladesh and I think in some ways they speak louder than the words I would use to describe them.

 

The Play Park in Bhatiary that the Bauer's built

The Play Park in Batiary that the Bauer’s built

 

Two of the teachers at the school

Two of the teachers at the school

The Kids!

The Kids!

Hilary and Aboul playing golf

Hilary and Aboul playing golf

With friends of Hilary's parents at their home

With friends of Hilary’s parents at their home

At the Ship Breaking Yard owned by friends of Hilary's parents

At the Ship Breaking Yard owned by friends of Hilary’s parents

Salt Market in Chittagong

Salt Market in Chittagong

A girls night out Pot Luck

Pot Luck Girls Night Out

Paan - the leaf chewed by many men in Chittagong

Paan – the leaf chewed by many men in Chittagong

On the streets of Batiary

On the streets of Bhatiary

 

Fruit seller in Chittagong

Fruit seller in Chittagong

Our group on our way to dinner in the traditional dress: shalwar kameeses

Our group on our way to dinner in the traditional dress – shalwar kameeses

Brick breaking industry in Chittagong is huge

Brick breaking industry in Chittagong is huge

we always drew a crowd wherever we went

We always drew a crowd wherever we went

At the courthouse in Chittagong where the illiterate go to have important documents written for them

At the courthouse in Chittagong where the illiterate go to have important documents written for them

The children in Bangladesh are beautiful!

The children in Bangladesh are beautiful!

Shopping and bargaining were always an adventure

Shopping and bargaining were always an adventure

At a mosque wedding

At a mosque wedding

It was pretty hot most days.

It was pretty hot most days

Bangladesh or Bust 7

Tea in Dhaka

 

Why?

 

That was the response I got every time I told someone I was going to Bangladesh. And it usually came after an awkward pause where the person would squint their eyes and try to figure out if I was telling the truth. I had a feeling this might be the case when I booked my flight in May the previous year and so I waited for months before I actually told anyone besides my husband. My response to the question would always depend on the day I had and what remained of my patience level at that particular moment. On a good day I would say that it was a long story but that it had to do with a friend whose parents were expats in Chittagong many years ago who had built a play park and rec center, recently passed away and I was going back with her to check on the school and find an NGO in country to help manage the day to day finances. And sometimes, when I was feeling unsure of the decision myself, I defensively said I was going on an adventure. The first answer received some ah’s and oh’s and some head nodding although you could tell what they were thinking was “I never quite pegged Lisa as a 3rd world volunteer” but the second answer was almost like a throw down, challenging them to respond in a negative way to a 48 year old mother of four in Rye, New York who wanted more adventure in her life. I could only imagine their internal dialogue. “Was she having a mid-life crisis? Who goes to Bangladesh for an adventure? Why not run the marathon or start to row crew?”

 

I wasn’t always an adventure traveller; in fact my first trip to Europe wasn’t until I was in college. We took vacations when I was growing up but never venturing further afield than a Caribbean island or the ski slopes of Vermont. And when I had my own children, I wasn’t the type of mother who with four small children would plan trips to Thailand or The Great Wall or even California. We spent our school vacations in Florida or Windham, sometimes skiing out west. The thought of running after children in the Louvre didn’t hold much appeal. Our first family vacation to Europe didn’t happen until the summer of 2007 when my oldest child was 16 and my youngest was 9. But then in 2008 my husband was transferred to Tokyo and as we passed through immigration and the officer opened my fairly empty passport to stamp my entry to Japan, the portal of change opened wide and the possibilities for adventure unfolded.

 

Living as an expat can be highly lucrative as most of your major expenses are covered by your company like rent, utilities, education, club membership, flights home, … so in theory, if you were a savvy and responsible adult, you could return to your home country years later with a very comfortable bank balance. Instead, my family returned with double thick passports due to the extra pages we had to add to hold all the stamps and visas we collected in our four years in Asia. Something happened to my husband and I living so far away from our normal existence, it was like a wake up call to our lives. We were in our mid-forties, we were healthy and we’d made it through the tough, physically demanding baby raising years. And we were living in Japan! The proverbial rainy day had come and it was time to see the world.

 

We returned to Westchester in the summer of 2012, four years and a lifetime later. The transition for my husband seemed to me, effortless. He returned to the same company he worked for in Japan only it was better because he was back in the home office where all the action was. My two oldest children were in college and the two youngest started in the local public school. There were the usual new kids on the block issues but within a few months that was mostly resolved and they seemed happy and excited to be back in New York. I was the one who kept looking longingly at my passport in the drawer of my bedside table. So when the call came from my good friend who I’d met in Tokyo, who also moved back to the US the same time I did, to accompany her to Bangladesh I knew I had to go. One of those once in a lifetime opportunities that you just can’t pass up. Luckily I have the sort of husband who also knew I had to go. The trip was planned and put in my online travel folder and I filed it away mentally as well. Having that on my calendar a year away was both an opportunity for personal growth and a source of uncertainty. Bangladesh?

 

Why?

 

And then, quite suddenly the day arrived. I had spent the weeks before departure getting shots, debating the pros and cons of different malarial pills and buying every drug for every possible ailment I might experience. The expected temperature for Chittagong was over 100 degrees and it being a Muslim country, where showing skin was not looked upon favorably, long linen pants and tops were purchased. My suitcase was half filled with games like Twister and Memory Board, gifts for the children in the school, which require no English to be able to play, and one very large toiletries kit jam packed to meet any emergency. It would take four flights for me to arrive in Chittagong from New York, one of which was 15 hours long. Did I have doubts and second thoughts? Big time.

 

My supportive husband kissed me goodbye, my girls gave me the “see ya” not hiding their lack of enthusiasm for my leaving for parts unknown. Sitting in the back of the taxi, as the car left Rye and drove over the bridge, the feelings of doubt and uncertainty about my decision melted away and the realization of why I was going in the first place came back and flooded me with excitement and anticipation. It was finally here, it was real, and I was going to a country on the other side of the world I had only read about in disastrous headlines in the New York Times.

 

Why?

 

Why the hell not.

 

 

 

 

Nothing To Do circa 2013 2

Full length of young men and women holding cellphoneThis is the first time I’m raising teenage girls in a suburb.  And its starting to bother me.  When my boys were in high school we lived in Tokyo, a city of 20mm people and plenty of trains, buses and taxis to get them where they needed to be.  Which meant their dependence on me was minimal.  It was also a city where teenagers didn’t drive – as in never.  The cost to get your license in Japan is prohibitive, not to mention you need to have legal proof of a parking spot in order to get a car (again, prohibitive) so teenagers JUST DON’T DRIVE.  And, they don’t need to or want to.  Bikes are another huge method of transportation for kids of all ages.  And even though there is a drinking age in Japan (20) its not anywhere near as strictly enforced as it is here in the US.  Most likely because they don’t have a lot of underage DUI.  So no one’s beating down the doors of their government demanding stricter laws on underage drinking.  Which means there is MUCH MUCH less binge drinking for teens.  Why binge when you can sit down at a club and just place an order?  And drugs are so illegal in Japan that being caught sends you right to jail without the American phone call – your kid could literally rot in jail for a week and you would have no access to them.  So that pretty much puts a big damper on the drug thing.  So, I had it easy.  Boys, big city, transportation, very few barriers to entry for having a good time, independence, etc…

Now, back to the American suburbs.  All I hear from my teenagers is there is nothing to do on weekends.  Very few parents allow parties because they either end with the cops coming or kids leave when they find out there are rules and there won’t be any alcohol or drugs.  And when a kid is stupid enough to throw a party at their house when their parents are away (you would think they would learn from their friends’ past mistakes) it ALWAYS ends with the police as it did a few weeks ago in a neighboring town.  Not only did the police come and shut it down, they made the parents of each kid come and personally pickup their child.  The line was down the block waiting to get in.

I try to make suggestions: go for dinner with a large group of boys and girls (boys don’t do that).  Go ice skating (no). Movies (anti-social).  So what happens is they end up walking through town, hanging out on the corner of Starbucks and basically doing nothing that resembles fun.  And the weather is getting colder which will make it even less fun.

And yes, we did pretty much the same thing when I was in high school however there is a big difference – technology.  Back in the 80’s if you wanted to have a few friends over to your house it was fine.  It hardly got out of control because NO ONE KNEW WHERE YOU WERE.  No cells, no texting, no apps that track your every move.  Once you were out for the night, you were out.  You couldn’t find anyone unless you happened to randomly bump into them.  Now, our kids can’t go anywhere without everyone knowing where they are.  This makes it very hard to have people over with limitations.  So, parents, fearful of having the entire 10th grade milling around their backyard, just say no to parties and friends.  And then there are the lawsuits.  I just don’t remember anyone threatening to sue if someone drank my father’s stoli.

I’m not sure what the answer is or if there even is one.  I imagine this situation is pretty common in many small towns in America.  If you have any good ideas, i’m all ears.