Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help

In my book club last year, one of the themes that continued to arise as we read books from many cultures was how we are perceived by the people we hire to help us in our homes. In The White Tiger, a Man Booker Award Winner, the main character lucks into a job working for a family as a driver. We see the people for whom he works from the inside, their sweet acts and all their flaws. We see how callous they can be, and, ultimately, how the driver takes his revenge and becomes his own boss. (Not one of my favorite books, but then again, I’m still thinking about it a year later, so there is something to be said for it.)

In Half of a Yellow Sun we saw an entirely different relationship (in a book I totally loved, BTW) between employer and employee, but it shared with White Tiger the aspect of employer as seen from the eyes of an employee inside the house who sees the family and all its interactions intimately.

The Help, a surprise best seller, does the same to 1960’s era Mississippi. A recent graduate from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) starts interviewing the maids from local households, any maid that will talk to her. At first, no one will talk with her, but after traumatizing racial clashes, one by one, they share their stories. Just interviewing the maids, just the maids sharing their stories, is enough to bring on serious consequences.

First, the book is riveting. I have a million things I really REALLY need to be doing, and I can’t stop reading. There is something about peeking into your neighbors house, seeing how they behave when they think no one is looking, that appeals to the voyeur in each of us.

Second, these women are taking serious risks. I am on the edge of my chair with each reading, hoping nothing bad happens to them.

Third, there is something that makes you squirm, it is the old “wee giftie” that shows us the worst in ourselves as others might see us; our own hypocrisies, our condescensions, our patronizing acts, how cruel our charitable acts can appear through the eyes of others, and how callous we are in the end towards those who take care of us every day.

It has rocketed onto the best seller list, now the #6 best selling book on Amazon.

If your book club is looking for a book to read that will get you talking and keep you talking for a long time, this is one of the best.

If you have hired help in the house, I double-dog-dare-you to read this book. (OOps, sometimes the little Alaska girl in me pops back out!) Fair warning, though, once you start, you won’t want to put it down.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 7 Comments

LOL Cats Really Made Me Laugh

I was such a bad mother. Here’s the problem. Life doesn’t come with instructions. You get faced with new situations, you just have to do the best you can. You might think your parents know a lot, but we are just like you – sometimes we are over our heads.

The first time we moved to Florida, our cats got fleas. The whole house got fleas! We had to give the cats flea-shampoos and we had to flea-proof the house.

Here’s where I was a bad mother. I made our son shampoo the cats. We did it as a team, but he was the one who had to stand in the shower and do the actual shampooing. I was the one who caught the second cat and held her while he shampooed the first cat (it was a walk-in shower with a door that shut, so once inside, the cat couldn’t get out) and then I towel-dried the totally-freaked-out cat while my son shampooed the second cat, etc.

My son – my hero. There is a part of me that still feels guilty for making him to the shampooing. It’s because we didn’t have the chain mail:

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Adventure, Family Issues, Florida, Pets | | 3 Comments

10 Riskiest Foods to Eat

Found this on AOL Wallet Pop where you can find amazing research and ideas on how to make your money go a little further. Although this study was conducted in the US, it seems to me that these would be the hardest foods to manage anywhere in the world.

Aimee Picchi

Think you’re safe eating foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration? Think again, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit health advocacy group.

What many consumers consider healthy foods — including eggs and leafy greens — are implicated in 40% of food-related outbreaks linked to FDA-regulated food, the Washington, D.C.-based CSPI says in a new study.

The watchdog group, which based its findings on outbreak data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1990 to 2006, says the list of the 10 foods should sound an alarm to consumers and legislators because of the presence of so many healthy foods, ranging from tomatoes to sprouts.

“Many of the foods that made the list are a part of a healthy and balanced diet,” said CSPI staff attorney Sarah Klein on a conference call to discuss the findings. “Leafy greens are unfortunately no stranger to food-borne illness. The most common path are Norovirus, E. coli and Salmonella.”

The report from the CSPI, known for bringing the public’s attention to food issues such as the health dangers of trans fats, comes days after the New York Times highlighted the dangers of hamburger meat and the flaws in beef inspection. Some readers decided to swear off hamburgers for good after seeing the piece, writes WalletPop sister publication Daily Finance.

More than 1,500 separate outbreaks were linked to the foods on the CSPI’s list, which has led to almost 50,000 reported illnesses. The top 10 riskiest foods regulated by the FDA are, in order of the most outbreaks:

• leafy greens
• eggs
• tuna
• oysters
• potatoes
• cheese
• ice cream
• tomatoes
• sprouts
• berries

The report doesn’t differentiate between organic and non-organic foods, although the CSPI believes the risks are fairly similar, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, the director of the group’s food safety program, on the call. It also didn’t include meat, because the FDA doesn’t regulate the meat industry, she said.

So what should consumers do? Proper food handling and safety measures are important in home kitchens, ranging from cooking eggs thoroughly to taking care potatoes aren’t contaminated by other food. Because potatoes are always cooked, which would eliminate any pathogen, the reason why potatoes are linked to food-borne illnesses is likely from cross-contamination, DeWaal said.

And the report underscores the need for the passage of the Food Safety Enhancement Act, the CSPI said. The Senate should take the lead of the House and pass the legislation, which would give the FDA authority to require food processors to implement food safety plans and increase frequency of inspections.

Despite the call for change, food system in the U.S. remains relatively safe, said Dr. Craig Hedberg, a professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, on the call. Still, food-borne illness is “a major health concern,” he added.

October 8, 2009 Posted by | Food, Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions, News | 3 Comments