Discover more from Beagle Voyage with Jane Liaw
Halfway through our nomadic year
And I’m a little bit tired
We’re actually more than halfway through our year, as the plan is to go back to California by August.
We’ll be in North Vancouver for the next four months, closer to Beanie’s school campuses but no longer among the downtown throngs. We’re surrounded by greenery, looking out our windows onto the tops of tall fir trees. I like the building we live in, with two grocery stores (and a public library!) next door, and I like our apartment, with its views of the forest—always draped in mist, as a good Pacific Northwest forest should be.
Yesterday, after a morning of torrential rain, we saw a rainbow from our window.
But at this moment I’m a bit tired. We spent all of Sunday cleaning, moving, and settling in. And with the move came another kitchen to familiarize myself with, another set of quirks particular to this place that I have to work my way around. The apartment is pretty well-equipped, but it’s still not the same as our own kitchen and our own home. I’ve picked up a few things from Winners (love that Winners) to fill in the gaps, choosing the least expensive options since these are to make do for four months. The store had five or six types of salad spinners; the cheapest one, which I bought, was also clearly the flimsiest. At home I might spend a little more to buy quality and longevity. It’s harder to justify when we’re leaving so soon.
Another Winners purchase was an in-sink dish rack that’s barely long enough for our kitchen sink cutout, so that every time I touch it, it collapses into the basin.
I don’t want to buy another dish rack, but will this one drive me bananas after several months of this nonsense? (Probably.)
When you’re living in someone else’s space, especially a space that’s furnished for short-term rental, there’s a bit of improvisation to make your routines work where you are. There’s a cost-benefit analysis every time you buy an item for everyday living. Is it necessary? Is this wasteful? Can you be comfortable without it?
You end up buying less, which in my case is a good thing, but you also might just put up with micro-aggravations like a rack that falls down every day. Things you would fix or replace without a thought at home might not be worth paying for—a second time—when you’re away from home.
On the other hand, what price aggravation? If it stays, this rack might take up an outsized part of my mind. Steve Jobs famously wore the same style black turtleneck every day so he didn’t have to waste a single brain cell considering what to wear. Changing our surroundings frequently means we’re using considerable energy and brain cells to figure out things that are rote back home. It’s harder to relax completely.
Plus, unlike at home, we simply don’t have a lot of our stuff around to comfort us. Not our shelves of books, our window bird feeders, our good pillows. Not my well-worn cooking aprons, my cozy robe, and my Instant Pot.
And, of course, I still miss my Toto Washlet bidet.
On Monday morning, during a downpour, we forgot to bring Beanie’s rain pants to school. We were halfway to the nature reserve before I realized they were missing. Attending outdoor school in North Vancouver without rain pants is simply not workable, so we doubled back. Taking a second trip to school and back again would make me late for a work meeting, so I briefly considered having her stay at home, but in the end we hurried back out and she joined her class, almost half-hour late. I was late for my meeting too.
Yesterday morning, I saw she had her rain pants with her, but we were in the parking lot downstairs when I found she didn’t have her rain jacket. It was an improvement—we hadn’t left the building yet—but somehow we were still a bit tardy.
The school meets in different locations on Mondays and Tuesdays, so both those mornings saw me navigating unfamiliar roads in heavy rain. I was stressed and annoyed. Before this week, I’d been checking Beanie’s gear before we left the house to make sure she had everything. I’d asked her to take over responsibility, and we were 0 for 2 so far. It did not feel good, how these mornings unfolded.
I wrote the above paragraphs over the past two days—now it is Wednesday afternoon, and I’m feeling better. It’s not raining today, we didn’t forget any clothing on the way to school this morning, and I’m enjoying the espresso machine in our kitchen, which is one appliance we don’t have at home.
Frothing milk is fun!
I think I’m suited to being nomadic because I adapt pretty readily, and I don’t need my environment to be just-so to thrive. I like changes in scenery. I enjoy that feeling of discombobulation when I first arrive somewhere and don’t quite have my bearings yet. I like having new eyes—they observe more. I also enjoy the days following when, after just 24 or 48 hours, a place that was unknown becomes comfortable as I recognize landmarks and can find my way around. It’s surprising how quickly what was once strange becomes familiar—and then becomes too familiar and overlooked.
Still, sometimes not being settled is challenging. This week has been a bit challenging. But to me, the cognitive load that comes with learning a new environment is worth it for the shake up I get. Yes, it’s harder to relax, but it’s also harder to fossilize and get complacent. I see new views from my window and there are new trails around me to explore. I’m getting the hang of the school run. I’m not feeling as tired as I was earlier in the week. This is a good trajectory—I hope it continues.
Pretty Good Things
Muppets as Beastie Boys
Taz showed me this video yesterday, of this Muppets-Beastie Boys mashup. It was created in 2017 by Mylo the Cat and became a viral sensation then, but unlike the 3 million people who have watched it on Youtube, I missed it the first time around. I think this video is having a resurgence on Tiktok. If you like it, Mylo the Cat has many more cartoon-hiphop mashups on his Facebook page.
We keep finding interesting flavors of Lay’s potato chips here. The latest one Taz spotted was Cucumber, which I wouldn’t have guessed in 1000 tries could be a chip flavor. Lay’s loves the strange—some that have existed around the world include Cappuccino, Blueberry, and Hot & Sour Fish Soup. But there have been some unusual flavors created for the US market too, like Southern Biscuits and Gravy, and New York Reuben.
It’s fascinating what different cultures want their salty crispy snacks to taste like, isn’t it? One man’s Reuben is another man’s Hot & Sour Fish Soup.