Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Froggy Went A Courtin'

Froggy went a courtin’ and he did ride
Sword and a pistol by his side, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh

I went looking for orange Gatorade last night. Yeah, I have hunger cravings too. I miss melted cheddar over my greasy McMenamins Communication Breakdown burger meat and colorful rainbow sprinkles on my chocolate VooDoo Doughnuts. I’m human, way too human, and I felt lucky a buddy tipped me off about a new shipment of black market goods at Finga’s Base Camp.
Took Miss Mousie on his knee
Said Miss Mousie will you marry me, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh

When you live as an expatriate in Asia, nothing is more depressing than food. Surrounded by Yam Tea flavored bread and Shaved Ice over Bean Curd Vanilla, sometimes you just want a little slice of home, but you can never get it. Dig into that golden movie popcorn tub only to find it’s covered in sugar. Tear into a bag of Doritos at 7-Eleven but gag at their apple flavor. Order a hot dog at a ball game and it comes to you covered in tuna-fish and mayonnaise.
Moments that should be so normal… frequencies that are so familiar are now turned on their ear.
Without my Uncle Rat’s consent
I wouldn’t marry the President, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh

Of course, this doesn’t hit you at first. No… initially it’s fun. Finding orange flavored Oreos and Seaweed and Kelp chewing gum adds to the foreigner experiences. But over time, it wears you down. When the ketchup on your McDonald’s cheeseburger tastes like sweet yams and the chocolate syrup in the bottom of your Starbuck’s mocha is runny water… you feel cheated.
Sure, they’re small complaints, but over time it defeats you.
Uncle Rat laughed and shook his side
To think his niece would be a bride, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh

Talk to any expatriate who has lived overseas long enough and they will tell you the same thing. It’s a slow dripping water torture that adds to a complete collapse. Soon the motor scooters that don’t stop when you’re in the crosswalk, clipping your shoulders as they race by, and the boys in the park who laugh at you and run away, and the woman in the market who jacks up the price with dollar signs in her eyes, and the girls in the department store that stare at your children and talk loudly about them... well... it starts with having no slice of home to run to and ends with a feeling of complete isolation. You’re even more depressed than before.
Where shall the wedding supper be
Way down yonder in the hollow tree, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh

Of course, you’ve got to find ways to make yourself happy. That’s part of survival.  One of the best ways is letters from home. I got a letter this week from a kid named Taylor I used to know. He’s an old student (Forgive me for printing our conversation here. Maybe it will make more sense within this story) but Taylor told me he doesn’t want to meet me or know me now that it’s been years since his graduation. No, he just likes checking my blog every couple of weeks, just to know I’m alive… to know I’m out there. He says it’s comforting.
First to come was a big black snake
Went up and ate all the wedding cake, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh

He said it was like this with his grandmother, who used to knit him a different scarf every year. He didn’t care for the scarf. In fact, he never wore the hideous, itchy yarn at all. But he liked receiving them. He liked knowing that someone in the world was spending hours and hours making something for him.  It made him remember he would always have a place called home.
Next to come was the old gray cat
Swallowed Miss Mousie and Uncle Rat, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh

He told me that I was his favorite teacher because I was always talking about love in class. He explained that I was the only teacher he ever had who said something he wrote down just for himself. That I’d said every kid grows up to fall in love, that you know you’re in love with every fiber of your being. You are consumed by it. And you know when someone is in love with you because they burn the same way. Only for you.  Conversely, you also know when someone is not in love with you, because the feeling is gone.
So Froggy went a-hopping off away
And we sing his song to this very day, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh

Taylor wrote that he had asked me then… asked me if I thought this was true. That everyone falls in love, and… well, would it happen to him?  Did I really believe he would find someone who would make him feel like home?  He asked me if I remembered what I said. 
Taylor, what I said was… you'll know only when it's gone.

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