Archive for July, 2012

July 16, 2012


Where we live we have play dates for our kids.  They don’t just go out and visit their friends’ and classmates after school and homework as we used to do, no, generally, you have to make a “date” for such an important event.  This involves two parents – mothers, mostly – taking out their smart phones and scroll through their and their busy off-spring’s  calendars.  A conversation like this ensues:

Parent 1: “Monday and Thursday Jimmy has soccer training, Tuesdays is piano class and afterwards  we go to the library, Friday is his Chinese class and Saturday morning a soccer game.  We could do a week from Wednesday but not before 4:30 because of art class every other week.”

Parent 2: “Let’s see, a week from Wednesday … that won’t work, Danny has swim practice.  Maybe Friday after Jimmy’s Chinese class and Danny’s chess club.  Or maybe on Saturday between 2 and 4 pm – before the birthday party at 4:30 pm.”

The Fallacy of play dates, (c

So a date is set for a week from Friday at 4:45 pm for an hour or so before Jimmy or Danny has to run off again for some special event or another.  Chances are, though, this play date will get canceled at some point before Friday: “i am sorry , we won’t be able to make it on Friday after all, Jimmy has an extra chess club training event to get ready for the tournament.  Maybe we could reschedule for four weeks from now when the tournament is over.”

The funny thing is, almost all the parents I ever ask about that practice hate it (admittedly most of them are either Europeans or from India – given where I live and whom I hang out with) and all fondly think back to their childhoods when they would come home from school, eat, do homework, do whatever else kids have to do and the jump on the bike or run on over to the neighbor’s house, or go to the local park where a bunch of buddies were already kicking or tossing a ball – or whatever kids would do.  All without calendars and schedules and a multitude of enriching afternoon activities.

Yet, the play dates continue unabashedly.

July 14, 2012

Of Thongs and flip-flops

Recently I spend some time with Australians and terms like “bloke” and “mate” are rolling off my tongue with ease.  I learned a few bad words, too, well not too bad, like wanker, which is used pretty broadly for annoying guys who are full of themselves.

Flip flops, thongs or both?

The most fun I had, though, with Australian English was over footwear and this is how the story unfolded: I was with a group of people in business wear and the plan was to walk from here to there, with “there” being a ways away.  One of the ladies considering the distance said something along the lines of  “I am just going to slip into my thongs.”  Now in the US thongs describe a certain kind of underwear, namely the one that has but a string or very narrow strip of fabric on the backside which runs between the buttocks.  Now, even if she would consider thongs a better choice of underwear for a bit of a walk then whatever she was wearing, the mere idea of mentioning this to a mixed group is shocking in the US.  Since I am not American I am not that easily shocked by risky underthings – but I was a little puzzled.

Well, turns out that thongs are to Australians what flip-flops are to Americans:  comfy flat shoes worn on or to the beach.  It took us a bit to sort this out but ever since I enjoy casually mentioning something along the lines of “just quickly slipping on my thongs” or saying “did you see that bloke (guy) over there in the thongs?” and getting really confused looks from people.