Up Hill and Down Dale

Up hill and down dale,
Butter is made in every vale;
And if Nancy Cook
Is a good girl,
She shall have a spouse,
And make butter anon,
Before her old grandmother
Grows a young man.

If Nancy is a good girl, she’ll have a spouse. Oh Nancy, be bad. Be very, very bad. Or at least be who you are and don’t worry about social pressure to get married. Figure out how to differentiate your butter from everyone else’s, start a small business selling your artisanal butter, and support yourself without having to worry about a husband. Continue reading →

Pumpkin Eater

Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater,
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well.

So…I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to think that if he couldn’t keep her and had to lock her away in a pumpkin shell, there is something terribly wrong with this relationship. Let’s just say it – this is kidnapping! How on earth can this be one of the most common Mother Goose rhymes? It’s cute, I suppose, to see a little woman living inside a pumpkin—I mean, I loved the story of Thumbelina when I was little—but it seems clear that this woman wants out of this relationship. The lack of punishment or any sort of negative consequences for this outrageous and illegal behavior is disturbing. Continue reading →

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
Silver bells and cockle-shells,
And pretty maids all of a row.

On the surface, this rhyme is innocuous, inoffensive (or is it?). Flowers are lovely and it sounds like Mary might have some serious gardening skills, which is not to be scoffed at. It would be better if she were growing beets and carrots and peas, learning how to provide for herself, but flowers do make the world lovely. However, I have to wonder why Mother Goose describes Mary as contrary without offering any evidence to support this characterization. Given Mother Goose’s bad track record when it comes to portraying women, I wonder if she doesn’t like that Mary is working outside, doing something on her own, instead of sitting around, taking orders and taking care of the house and children. Continue reading →

Flash Fiction: A Jamaican Proposal

Sun on a dirt path, rutted by large tractor wheels, bronzes our bare arms. We are the only tourists in the jitney to the waterfall at this early hour. When we arrive, our guide, Clive, greets us and we ascend to the first cascade. Under Clive’s direction, we pose beneath the plummeting water, on the slippery rocks, in the churning whirlpools, further apart, closer together, until, shivering, I hoist myself out of the cold and stand alongside him on the wooden deck in a patch of sun.

My longtime, long-distance friend is turning 40 this year and I watch her float to the far side of the pool. Away from the falls, beneath the rock overhang, white water turns clear. Through the surface, I can see the telltale signs of the age she is approaching. Her torso is rounder than when we met last, her thighs dimpled, the backs of her arms adding new heft to her upper body. Continue reading →

eXpatriation

Yes, I’m aware expatriation doesn’t really begin with X. But what else can I write about for the letter X? I don’t think I had any big misconceptions in my younger years about x-rays, xylophones, or Xerses the Great. I’ve never been xenophobic either, obviously, or I wouldn’t have been an expat for so long. In fact, I love all things foreign – people, food, traditions, geography, climates, history, cultures. Bring them on! When I started travelling, I thought I would never return to the United States. I even contributed several segments to a book on leaving America. There’s just so much to explore and experience that it seems a waste to just sit around the same place all the time. But in some respects, Dorothy was right.

My longest stay in any foreign country was in Russia – I spent one academic year in Volgograd and two in Moscow. We were five foreign teachers at my language school in Russia and I was the only non-Russophile. I chose to teach in Russia because, well, why not? I had taught in Mexico first and then South Korea, so I was looking for some place that would be very different from both of those. Aside from Greenland or Vanuatu, I think Russia was really the best choice. Continue reading →