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Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Have you guys met my buddy Irish Gumbo yet? I am sure you have. He's everywhere, man. I have tossed him the keys to the Bungalow today. Make sure he serves you a heaping serving of gumbo (I hear it is very good) and make sure you use a napkin and proper table manners. Oh and IG, make sure you do the dishes before you leave.

I was delighted and flattered when Kat generously asked me to write a guest post for 3 Bedroom Bungalow to Let in Crazytown. Hooray! My first guest post, ever! Very cool, so I skedaddled myself to the ol’ keyboard, cracked the knuckles, ANNNNDDD….nothing.

Nada. Nyet. Zip. Zilch. The Big Goose Egg. Hmmmpph. Not often that the Gumbo noggin is free and clear of ANYTHING, so I went to my fallback, my ‘go-to’ guys for some help.

I went to have speaks with the geese and ducks down at the lake. And they didn’t let me down. After much consultation and muttering, they posed the question:

Where, pray tell, is Crazytown? And how do I get there? Good questions, mates. I’m going to hazard a guess, so please stick with me.

As many of you already know, Kat is a military wife and mother, her husband being in the Air Force. This by its very nature leads to a rather nomadic lifestyle, one that requires a certain amount of self-sufficiency and the ability to quickly adapt to changing conditions “on the ground” no matter where one is told to go and what one is required to do. I am used to staying in one place for extended periods of time, with the decision to pack up and leave pretty much entirely at my discretion. This suits me just fine.

But what do you do when one day you are bundled up against the cold in the Great Plains of the United States, and the next day you have to head off to a remote island somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean? This with the knowledge that soon after that, you might wake up in Italy or Greenland. There is a significant amount of hard work to be done, entailing long hours under dangerous and demanding conditions. You have to be awake and alert, ready for the call of duty no matter the time of day or prevailing conditions. And that’s just Kat’s job! (heehee). So having something familiar to carry with you, remind you of the place you would probably stay forever, would seem to me to be pretty important. Hence, the search for Crazytown.

The issue of familiarity is probably even more important when the orders come in and the whole family has to pack up and move to a foreign country. The distances and time involved will require a significant effort of logistics and preparation. Getting my young daughter from the front stoop to her car seat (a distance comparable with that of pitcher’s mound to home plate) can be exhausting like herding cats, so the notion of packing up a household of stuff, two adults and two kids and transporting them out of country fills me with enough trepidation that I just want to lay down and sleep!

Once in country, then, there are the issues of climate, and cultures and lifestyles. True, one may be living on base and surrounded by a fair number of fellow countrymen, but one can’t remain on base 24/7/365. At least, I couldn’t. I would be too curious about where I am and who lives there and what they eat and what they do for fun. So I am thinking I would be undertaking some scouting missions to get the “lay o’ the land”. Crazytown’s got to be around there somewhere, right? Only one way to find out.

Which brings us to another big issue: interacting with the natives. This would ideally include speaking with the local folks, being able to talk with them, at least be able to say “Hello”*. But that is no easy task, in most of the world. Unless one has trained as a linguist or studied a particular language in depth before relocating, my guess is a lot of the local dialect is picked up on the fly, learning as you go.

Even though the Kat Klan’s most recent move was to England, this is not a guarantee there will be no problems with the local lingo. As the saying goes, England and United States are two cultures “divided by a common language”, and that has a ring of truth to it. Anecdotally, I once heard of a British visitor saying to his hosts “We Brits speak English. You Americans try.” Point to John Bull! The idioms abound:

crisps” = “potato chips”

chips” = “fries”

Oi, referee!” = “Ump, are you blind?!”

spotted dick” = a dessert, not a disturbing medical condition

mind the gap” = look out for the space between the platform and the subway car

And, of course, the infamous:

packet of fags” = “pack of cigarettes”

Yikes. I had a boyhood friend who had lived in England for a while before moving back to our conservative, southeastern Virginia hometown. He took great glee in going into local convenience stores and loudly asking (in a passable Cockney accent) the confused clerks “ ‘ello Guv’nor, give us a packet of fags, would ya?” Very funny to out teenaged minds, but where we grew up, that sort of thing could get you beat up!

All this change, all the adaptation required to maintain an even keel and a grip on a life in motion: lots of time and energy spent on the quest to be home. Maybe Crazytown is home, in some ways, that place where you can always go to stay no matter what, and it is portable. It has to be. When you become part of a life that entails moving constantly with hard work and sacrifice on many fronts, in the cause of something worthy, having something stable and reliable is valuable indeed.

So, where is Crazytown and how do we get there? I kept asking myself. After reading Kat’s blog and chatting with her a bit, I realized its right there, in a plot of land about the size of her heart. Priceless real estate in my opinion. And I am betting we all have our own Crazytowns, with us wherever we may be.


*Instead of accidently calling someone a harlot, for example. Bad form. Should be avoided. Unless the person is indeed a harlot, in which case I suppose it would be okay. Still, it would be best to avoid that sort of mistake, even if it would be hilarious posted on YouTube. Not that I’ve ever done something like that.


Ian Newbold said...

What does 'Fanny' mean in the US?

And which is more descriptive, pavement or sidewalk?

Badass Geek said...

Personally, I think the differences in words used between the English and American's is very interesting.

Michele said...

Irish, this was a great post. I'm sure it summed up what Kat feels every time she has to pack up crazytown.

ChurchPunkMom said...

and don't forget 'jumper'.. that one confused me for a while when I had some Aussie bosses..

great post, Gumby!

Mama Dawg said...

SPD-Fanny is your rear end in the US.

Yay! IG broke his guest blogger cherry on Kat!

Wait, that sounded wrong.

But I'm sure neither of you care.

Well done!

SSP said...

i liked it, i really liked it. thanks for dragging me out of my zone IG...I will have to read more here. My own personal crazy town is sitting on the floor in the bed room waiting to be zipped up, as I am also heading out today!!

rachael chatoor said...

Well done Kevin, nice to see you here!

Having lived the nomadic lifestyle myself for nearly 10 years, I REALLY got this post. There were times when I was given TWO weeks to pack up and move......... to another continent. ( I lived on 4 different continents over 10 years )

Moving a family around is a full time job in itself, but it really prepares you to be adaptive in life.

Nice guest post!

Sprite's Keeper said...

Working on the cruise ship, my friend would ask me for a bauble all the time. I never had one. Then one day, she told me it was sitting right in front of me on the counter. I looked down and only saw hair bands. That day, I learned what she meant. Anti-climatic, really...

Joanie said...

Well done, Irish!

My brother-in-law was in the Army for 29 years and my sister and her family moved A LOT! My niece and nephew went to 9 different schools in 9 years and in 3 different countries. They've lived in 4 foreign countries (Jim lived in 6)and 8 different states. The kids grew up ok, too. Steve is a Blackhawk Pilot in the Army and Marianne is an attorney in Washington DC.

Captain Dumbass said...

Dude, you're in England? Don't forget what's just north of you. The magical land of Scotch.

Anonymous said...

All I gotta say is Crazytown is an ever shifting place that we carry in our minds. Don't know how Kat does it but Holy Mount Olympus - I would not want to do that.

I bow down to you Kat - oh, and Irish - you talk to the ducks too? Thought that was just me!

Petra a.k.a The Wise (*Young*) Mommy said...

awwww, in her heart, how sweet...

cheatymoon said...

Hey Gumby, nice post. I could go a few rounds with you on the UK-American English. :-)

And Hi Kat. I can't believe I've never been here. (So thanks Gumby for the intro). I used to be an AF wife. And I lived the military dependent life in the UK for a few years in the 90s. Good stuff.

You are a better woman than I for doing all of that with children. Ack, the moving.

But I will be sure to visit you here again - I miss England still so much.

Anonymous said...

Great post!

I too have wondered about crazytown.

And Kat seems to be adapting to a Brit pretty well!

Vodka Mom said...

wait, are you and the captain having a sleepover????

Anonymous said...

Kat made the whole move look amazingly easy. I don't know how she does it - especially moving so often with 3 kids.

Lovely post IG.

Lola said...

Great post! Crazytown seems to be wherever we go, I'm afraid.