Kitchens in 4 Countries: An Evolution in Expat Living


Sara went ahead of me to Haiti in 2010, arriving in Port-au-Prince only two weeks after an earthquake leveled most of the city.  The quake destroyed the national palace and most government buildings, killed well over 100,000 and left more than a million and a half homeless in the country’s capital.

(In case you’re new to my blog, Sara is, as they say in Spanish, “mi esposa.”)

However, we had lived in Vietnam the year before, a place that taught me a thing or two about surviving in a country far from home—what makes it bearable, what makes it optimal, what makes it borderline or even downright hellacious.  These insights I hoped to apply during our transition from Southeast Asia to Haiti.

I had loved the people of Vietnam.  I loved the culture.  I loved the narrow streets that snaked through Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the charming mix of traditional, Vietnamese buildings and colonial, French architecture.

There were, however, a few things I didn’t love—specifically, the heat (infernal), the mosquitoes (hungry), the bathroom (rats), and kitchen (no oven).

Our kitchen in Hanoi was lovely--except for being oven-less.

Our kitchen in Hanoi was lovely–except for being oven-less.

Notice to Sara's left, we only had a two-burner cook-top.

Notice to Sara’s left, we only had a two-burner cook-top.

I know what you’re thinking.  You firmly believe that rats in the bathroom would be the worst.  I know.  I understand your reasoning.  However, that reasoning would also be wrong.

Admittedly, the night I woke up at 2 am only to find a cat-sized rat perched atop the bathroom door, I wasn’t exactly happy.  Rats equal in girth to basketballs and close in length to toy trains don’t exactly leave middle-aged, peri-menopausal women bouncing back to bed, rapping about rodent romance.

It was a lovely bed.  Even Lucy thought so--except for the rats in the master bath.

It was a beautiful bed. Even Lucy thought so–except for the rats in the master bath.

Though it probably should have been, though it might have been for most reasonable people, repeating the scenario above wasn’t my first fear about moving to Haiti.

No, I had only two requests for Sara when she went looking for housing in post-apocalyptic Port-au-Prince.  I wanted screens on the windows, and I wanted an oven.  The former would keep out mosquitoes; the latter would allow me bake.

Our bedroom in Hanoi had lovely windows.

Our bedroom in Hanoi had stunning windows.

But those same windows had no screens.

But those same windows had no screens.

The house in Hanoi was beautiful and open--but "open" also meant we had mosquitoes.

The house in Hanoi was airy and open–but that also meant we had mosquitoes.

When I look back on it now, I’m embarrassed by my sense of entitlement.  To assume I would have screens, let alone windows, in a city where most of the population was living in tents, at best, or under tarps, more likely, epitomized hypocrisy on my part—made me the ugly American, expecting to be catered to in a city where cholera would soon be killing so many of those who managed to live through the initial disaster.

Things were bad in Port-au-Prince, to say the least.  I was asking a lot.  I should have been thankful if only my kitchen didn’t look like those used by most Haitians at that time.

Haitians traditionally use 3 stones to support a pot over an open fire.

Haitians traditionally use 3 stones to support a pot over an open fire.

Still—dear Sara delivered.

When I arrived in Haiti two months after the earthquake, we not only had a house

It was a great house!

It was a great house!

The living area was cozy.

The living area was cozy.

Don't  you agree?

Don’t you agree?

The patio rocked!

The patio rocked!

The guest room was charming.

The guest room was charming.

We had windows.  We had screens.

We had 2 armed guards.

Haiti wasn't exactly safe after the earthquake, but Jean-Jean was Ralph's buddy!

Haiti wasn’t exactly safe after the earthquake, but Jean-Jean was Ralph’s buddy!

Jean-Jean loved Lucy, as well.  And, quite frankly, the view was spectacular!

He loved Lucy, as well. And, quite frankly, the view was spectacular!

And yes, we even had an oven—

—of sorts.

  • It was narrow.
See what I mean?

See what I mean?

  • It was tall.
Beware boobs!

Beware boobs!

  • It had no thermostat.

That’s correct.  There was no way to set any temperature on that oven, either Fahrenheit or Celsius—try as I may—and I, indeed, did.

Still, we used that oven to prepare and serve an amazing Thanksgiving dinner for 24.

Still, we used that oven to prepare and serve a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner for 24.

I’ve told this last part of the story before—some of you may recall.  (To read my piece about this in the Huffington Post, click here.) But I was reminded of it this last week, when Terri, a blogging buddy of mine remarked that our kitchen in Ecuador was way nicer than the one we had in Haiti.   Bless her blogger’s heart for reminding me.  (God bless all those who have been reading for so long.)  I had forgotten. Who knows how?  Maybe it’s some bizarre form of expat amnesia.

Still Terri’s comment made me think—as had Miranda’s before hers.  Our kitchen here in Ecuador is awesome.  No, it doesn’t have a dishwasher or garbage disposal, but it does have:

  • an actual oven,
We love our Cuenca kitchen, but Sara does especially.

We love our Cuenca kitchen, but Sara does especially.

Not bad.

Not bad.

The oven allowed me to bake these great pies!

The oven allowed me to bake these great pies!

  • a thermostat,
In Celsius, to be sure, but what’s a little math?

In Celsius, to be sure, but what’s a little math?

  • and more counter space than our kitchen in Kentucky,
Sara created amazing meals in this virtually counterless kitchen.

Sara created amazing meals in this virtually counterless kitchen.

We’re moving up in the world.  And I’m not talking Andean elevation!

I’m also thinking about the evolution of our expat kitchens (and houses, in general), since our 20-foot container arrived in Ecuador last week and is due here at our house the day this piece posts.

Sometimes when I imagine all our belongings stuffed in that over-sized steel box—the books and art, shoes and clothes, gadgets and gizmos—I realize I still feel a bit too entitled.  I still crave comfort—the biggest and best, the latest and lovely.  But maybe that’s not so much the American in me.  Maybe it’s just my all too human heart—inclined as it is to cling to the concrete, the tangible trappings of home and hearth.

 What do you think?

What gives you comfort?  Do you cling to things that you wish you were less preoccupied with?  If you moved to another country, which possession would you want to take along?

98 thoughts on “Kitchens in 4 Countries: An Evolution in Expat Living

    • I’m so happy you enjoyed this post, Jenn! We we’ve been pretty fortunate in each place we’ve lived to have lovely homes. It’s been a great adventure–and fun to look back a photos of our houses. Hadn’t done that in a while. Hope your week is going well!

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  1. Boy! That Haitian oven was definitely not designed for those of us short, busty women! Gives new meaning to hot flash! The one and only thing I cannot live without is A/C. I am one cranky woman when I’m hot.

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      • Yeah, I was definitely not a fan of the rats! To be honest, I was completely freaked out by that experience. Guess I was less worried about moving to post-apocalyptic Haiti than I was glad to be away from those particular rats. LOL Says a lot, doesn’t it?

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    • Okay, that’s the funniest line I’ve read in a while–the hot flash one. And as you know, I can’t live without ac either–except here, of course, where it’s not needed. It’s amazing to live in a place that has perpetually perfect temperatures. Hugs to you, sweetie!

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  2. OOooo, Kathy, I so much LOVE your sense of adventure & these exquisite far-away-homes…but more than that, your humanity, empathy, compassion, love.

    What do you girls do in Ecuador? (day jobs)

    I would bring my family with me and photos! Xxxxx

    give me your address and I’ll sign you up for my posts!!! OK?

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    • Oh, Kim, I’m so happy to hear from you. I don’t know why your blog insists I’ve already subscribed but won’t send me the posts. Silly technology. My email address is kownroom@yahoo.com . I’d love you to sign me up!

      We’d love you to come visit and bring whomever you like!

      For jobs, Sara is an editor for the local, online English language newspaper–a new kind of work for her, but she loves it. I’m writing my memoir and am about to begin writing for the same site. Plus, it’s SOOOOO incredibly affordable to live here, one doesn’t need a huge income to live quite comfortably.

      Hugs to you, dear Kim!

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  3. Every kitchen was beautiful, rich in color and adventure … but I have to say I’d miss an oven (with a thermostat), too.

    I have moved – and live in – a different country and what I brought along I still have … my high school graduation gift — an acoustic guitar that youngest boy now plays 🙂

    The positive thing about being so far from home is that I don’t get attached to “stuff” as much as I could .. when you can only take something back in an airplane/suitcase, most gets left behind for others.

    MJ

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    • Thanks, MJ. Glad you liked our kitchens. When Sara and I looked back at the photos, we had a new appreciation for them all. It was fun for us.

      I love that you’re not attached to things. I know I am in an unhealthy way–something that is new for me to understand about myself. I don’t like it. But, I suppose, recognition is the first step toward change. Right? I hope so. Great to hear from you, MJ!

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  4. I had some pretty hairy student kitchens right here in Belfast. Now, yes, there was generally an oven, but there were other charming aspects, such as water running down the light cord. Or the time we moved to a new place to find that it had been burned out just before they gave us the keys, and failed to mention….Ah, those were the days. God, I’m glad they’re over! 🙂 🙂

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    • Oh, Deidre, I’m so excited to hear from you–and to have seen a couple of recent posts from you. I had been away for a while, too. Sometimes it all becomes to much. And I was so sorry to hear about your cat. When I lost my Tashi after 17 years I was sick with grief.

      Those kitchens of your sound dreadful–and fire! Hope those folks weren’t killed in the inferno and unable to contact you in their newly charred state. LOL

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      • Thanks Kathy – I’m lucky, I’ve still got four furballs to console me 🙂 Trying to catch an injured magpie at the moment, so may branch out into avian care too, no pun intended! Have just been given an old slide of me as a two year old with my first dog. Feel a post coming on once I get it converted! Speak soon, say hi to the mosquitos for me! D

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      • A couple of pieces back, I did one called “Once upon a Pigeon.” Probably, you were still grieving when it posted. I’m on Pinterest, but I’ve not really used it. Think I’m on, just by my name–Kathryn McCullough. Are you posting mandalas there?

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      • Pigeons…Another of my favourite topics! Will have to go back and look. I just found your STAIRS on pinterest! It was posted by someone else from your blog. I’m not posting mandalas really, but I am posting a new experiment. I took up kendo, so when I get home, I just doodle to see what happens. All very black, white and red, with some indigo. I think the board is just called abstracts. No masterpieces, but fun to do! I’m on as tranquil space designs, because it’s SUPPOSED to be a work thing, but you know me. Total corporate failure! Will look you up. Expect to see a board filled with ovens 🙂

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      • I’ve never heard of “kendo”–will have to google it. However, I adore doodling, I must admit. How cool that found my stairs! It was sad to leave them. I’ve off to whip up a pie—–no, not a pigeon pie!

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      • Thanks Kathy – I’m lucky, I’ve still got four furballs to console me 🙂 Trying to catch an injured magpie at the moment, so may branch out into avian care too, no pun intended! Have just been given an old slide of me as a two year old with my first dog. Feel a post coming on once I get it converted! Speak soon, say hi to the mosquitos for me! D

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  5. What adventures! And what a great way to do a travelogue…through kitchens and the meals cooked in them! I once did a story of my life through automobiles…another through pets…at a writing workshop. Wonderful to hear from you!

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    • Thank you, Cindy. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. This post was fun to write, as well. And as I said to someone else, Sara and I got a kick out of looking back at the photos. Love your car and pet memoir ideas. I’d done mine through hats and haircuts, as well. That was loads of fun. Love hearing from you. Hope your week is going well!

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  6. Fantastic post Kathy! I love all your kitchens and I must admit I’m amazed at how nice your house was in Haiti. I ignorantly pictured it to be nothing like this at all. Hope you are loving Ecuador!

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    • I don’t think you were ignorant to think our house in Haiti was less than lovely. Who would have ever guessed? The house was not as great when we moved it, but with paint and right art on the walls, it turned out to be quite nice. Plus, Sara got an allowance that enabled us to buy some furniture. The assignment was tough in so many ways, that it least we had a decent home. We were fortunate. Great to hear from you, Nicole. So glad you enjoyed this post!

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  7. If I was moving to another country I would want to take you and Sara because you would know what to do and because you are so brave! Once I know the ropes you can leave, to go down the street, where you will live as our neighbors.

    I love your life.

    HUGS FIRST! 😉

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  8. I think we all crave comfort. It’s the expectation that we’re going to get it that denotes our privilege. I also know that we can become comfortable with things (like rats?) that we would never have dreamed possible. I do think that as we age we begin to recognize and truly value the things we are no longer interested in living without. That dutch oven on the rocks works, but I’d do better with the one in your kitchen as well.

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    • I suppose you’re right. We all crave comfort, but as we get older and our values become clearer some maybe find themselves more conflicted–at least I do. But then maybe that’s part of the human condition, as well! Great to hear from you, Lisa. Hope your week is going well!!!

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    • Amen, about the mosquitoes. I swear, David, living without them is a massive blessing. I wish I could cook as well as Sara, but, SHE DOES work miracles in any kitchen. It still amazes me. Great to hear from you, David. I’m SO glad your brother is doing better. Still praying for him!

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  9. So enjoy hearing of your experiences in your new home. I do not think I could go live somewhere outside the US. I guess what keeps me happy and comfortable is my collection of tools. If I had them with me, I would make what I did not have and find an old vehicle that I could tinker with. Would probably not do well with lots of mosquitoes even though they don’t bite that much. I could be happy for cooking with a fire outside and a grill on which to cook. Love vegetables but also love my meats. Best of life to you and Sara.

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    • Thank you, Jeff. It’s wonderful to hear from you. One good thing about Cuenca, where we live, is that there are NO mosquitoes. We are too high in the Andes. I suppose they don’t like the cool nights here. I couldn’t live comfortably in a place with mosquitoes. They’d eat me alive. And I know what you mean about your tools. I feel the same way about my art supplies. Fortunately, we have a 20-foot container due to arrive today with all of those essentials. Take care!

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  10. I absolutely love all of the compare/contrast photographs you shared with us! And having guards in the past – Holy Toledo!

    You asked, “What gives you comfort?” As you know, I have very few material possessions. My favorites include a sarape/cape I bought in Mexico last year, a wide-brimmed garden hat my husband bought me in Colorado, and what I lovingly call my “Buddha Butt” — a small hand-crafted meditation bench from Vermont that allows me to sit for extended periods of time without cutting off my circulation. I have a pair of mahogany chopsticks that Len got me in Yokosuka Japan that I use daily (and take with me even when we eat out at restaurants). And oh, and I have a pair of black pants — high waisted like Katharine Hepburn wore — that have served me well for many years.

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    • I LOVE the very few things that you hold dear–and I love that there are few of them. I admire that. I’ve not ever managed to achieve it, however–as you know.

      Yes, we had two armed guards around the clock in Haiti–though that wasn’t unusual for the expat community there at that time–lots of kidnapping going on–mostly for ransom–but folks did get killed if no one was willing or able to pay. Kind of scary.

      Great to hear from you, Laurie. Hope your week is going well!

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  11. Wow…looks like you have a fine kitchen now and have certainly moved up the baking scale. It looks like a lovely place…would imagine baking times would be altered by the attitude…but still you can bake now. 😀

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    • Thanks, Charlie. We certainly love it. And you’re right about the altitude. That’s why I’m baking more pies than anything, as there is no leavening involved. I’ve worked out a couple of cookie recipes, but when I tried a cake I had less luck. Great to hear from you. Take care!

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  12. I agree with Miranda. Doing without A/C would be tough. You’d think I, of all people, would be acclimated to the heat after living for 9 years in Hawaii, but no such luck: if the temperature hits 80, I’m “sweltering.” So my own personal sense of American entitlement would center around air-conditioning.

    Being without an oven would present its own set of challenges, of course. I imagine there’d be a lot of crockpot meals.

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    • Oh, I’m SOOOOO with you about the heat. I hate it–can’t tolerate it. And I’ve lived in Vietnam and Haiti. Suppose I’m a brute for punishment. I may be living pretty much on the equator now, but, thank God, it’s at an elevation that makes the temperatures lovely and spring-like! Congrats again on the wedding, Mark!!!

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  13. Dear Cathy,

    As the lima beans boiled over on my stovetop because I was too involved in reading your captivating story of kitchens, at this time in my life I would greatly miss my super firm king size mattress, feather pillows and down comforters.

    Great blog!

    Ever,

    R.

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    • Thanks, Robert! So glad you enjoyed the post. Sorry the lima beans boiled over. Hope it was worth it. But, I’ll tell you what, I think bed-related comforts are the ones many would miss most. I know I would. You’re not alone, my friend. Hope you’re week is going well—-and that you were able to save the lima beans!!!

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  14. “Beware boobs!” Kathy – you crack me up!
    Once you’re used to having an oven, I think it would take a while to figure out how to cook without one. Is there a reason they don’t often have ovens? Is it too expensive or does the typical cuisine doesn’t use them?

    My kitchen is so small I can’t even open the refrigerator door completely. 😛

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    • Okay, Jackie, I think not being able to open the frig door completely is a real kitchen handicap. I think most folks in Southeast Asia don’t have kitchens both because the cuisine doesn’t require it, and they don’t want anything to heat up the kitchen too much, as so many folks don’t have ac–or rather when the cuisine was being developed NO one had ac.

      Great to hear from you, Jackie. Take care, my friend!

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  15. I thought you two were girl scouts. LOL. You’ve been living in luxury all these years while I was under the impression you were roughing it….none of these places look like Third World. In Nic, the first early part of the morning is spent looking for wood; then build a fire; hopefully have some coffee. THE END.

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    • Okay, don’t think I’m not going to know who this is, Anonymous! You lived in Nic a long time ago. Much of the developing world has developed a lot in the past 20 years. You have to remember that in Haiti we only had electricity for about 8 hours a day–though some days we had none. So, maybe not the lap of luxury–but at least we didn’t have to hunt for wood!

      Luv you, JK! You were REALLY roughing it!

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  16. I’m sure we all have a sense of entitlement to some degree. Here in America, we’re blessed with abundance, even if we sometimes forget that fact. Technology grows in leaps and bounds. Things that were once novelties are now must-haves for the majority of the population. One thing that’s always been obvious through your words, is that you have a sense of graciousness and gratefulness for your life and all it is filled with.

    I cracked up at the photo of you next to the stove in Haiti. Without the explanation, we might assume you are very short in stature! 🙂

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    • You’re so sweet, Terri! I try to be grateful, you’re right, but seeing so much poverty challenges me to think differently, or to at least try.

      Glad you got a kick out of the stove photo. You know, I am short. So the stove was high AND I am short–double whammy. My friend Miranda’s comment about the stove photo was the best. She said it lent whole new meaning to the notion of hot flash. Cracked me up!

      Great to hear from you, Terri.

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  17. Like so many other readers, Kathy, I also enjoyed seeing the contrasting pictures of your many kitchens from all over the world. Milton and I recently took a tour of Louis Armstrong’s house in Corona, Queens (that’s as worldly as we get). His wife, Lucille, redid their kitchen in a shade of blue that looked so similar to yours. Since I live in an apartment not much bigger than a thumbnail, my kitchen isn’t even called a kitchen. It’s called a kitchenette, a cute term for a crummy sliver of space crammed with a dorm-sized fridge, a few cabinets and an oven I have not turned on since May because as you know, I have never had a/c in this hovel. Following the lead of the Vietnamese, when I cook, it’s primarily stove-top. Back to your pictures, did you ever take any of the rats? If I ever saw a rat of any size in my bathroom, I’d be so freaked out, I would run straight through the door like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character. No way could I co-habit with rodents, no matter how beautiful the windows.

    As for what give me comfort, I’m on the same page as R. I have a pillow-topped queen-sized bed with an 18-inch thick mattress. Even though it’s a total ass-pain to find good fitting sheets, intimate guests have marveled at just how comfortable a bed can be. Milton has the same bed and says it’s like sleeping on a cloud.

    I don’t ever see myself moving to another country. Visiting my bud, Martini Max in New Jersey, is something I can barely motivate myself to do. But at least he visits me.

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    • Oh, My God, NO I never took photos of the rats! Never stuck around long enough to do that or had the presence of mind. Now I wish I had. I was TOOOOOOOO freaked out.

      Had to laugh about your not wanting to venture to the outback that is New Jersey–let alone another country. Thank God Martini Max is willing to take those long-haul trips!

      Interesting what you say about not using your oven since May–that’s exactly why SO many countries in SE Asia don’t have them–it NEVER cools down enough to use them and few folks have ac.

      Great to hear from you, LA! Sorry I’m a day delayed at responding. Our 20-foot container arrived from the US about the time you left it. We’ve been so swamped by boxes, I could hardly find my laptop–let alone swim in place long enough to respond. God, so much shit!

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  18. I love this post. It’s like a classy, celebrity free version of Through the Keyhole (don’t know if you got that programme in the States)!

    We moved from the UK to Qatar with four suitcases and two small boxes that were shipped. The suitcases contained our clothes, our boys’ scooters, and a box of Kinex (like Lego, but sticks and spindles instead of bricks). One and a half boxes were filled with my husband’s physics books, I used the remaining space for a few recipe books and my favourite mugs. Everything else, we gave away (apart from old letters and photos which are still in a corner of my sister’s garage) because we’d been promised accommodation that was furnished ‘down to the last teaspoon and tea towel’. Arrived to find a big but very empty house – they’d changed the accommodation set up and missed my husband off that particular email.

    So what gives me comfort? A fine bone china mug for my tea. That is when I really feel at home.

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    • I’m tickled to have your comment–and was even more so when I visited your blog. I can’t wait to follow your adventures in Qatar.

      Have to admit–a cup of tea is one of my greatest pleasures, as well–though my mug is a little less fine, I fear. Having a cup even as I write this.

      Sorry to be delayed 24 hours in responding to you. Our 20 foot container arrived from the US the evening you left it, and I’ve been too busy unpacking to spend time on my laptop. Still, I’m thrilled to hear from you–and can’t wait to follow your wonderful romp in the Middle East.

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  19. the thing about travelling, about living in different places, in countries different from home is that it shows us what we can manage without and what seems so important, I think. North Americans, by and large, live lives that most of the world cannot even imagine. For me, I often note the amount of waste and surplus we have. Most of us have enough clothes to clothe ten people and live in homes large enough to accommodate a dozen folks. Right now, I’m in an apartment in Paris whose kitchen is so narrow I lack about eight inches to touch the walls on both sides with my outstretched arms. The counter space is about 18 inches long and yet we are managing to eat and eat well! What I miss the most is having a sink in the same room as the toilet! And yet how many millions of people don’t have running water in their homes on this planet? We live charmed lives in so many ways.
    I loved seeing the interior of the places you have lived and knowing that you have learned to accommodate (probably a French word I’m using here) and still do the things that matter, like cooking Thanksgiving Dinner for 24.
    I look forward to visiting you and Sara in Ecuador some time and maybe even tasting a piece of pie!

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    • Yes, yes, you are so right, Joss! So many Americans can’t even imagine how most of the world lives. We are so insular, in many ways. Love that you haven’t starved in Paris with your tiny kitchen–imagine that! One can get away with so little space and still thrive–even dine like a king!

      I can’t wait to read about more of your adventures. You are going to have an amazing year. And you simply must visit us in Ecuador. We would love to host your in our home–once your current itinerary has run its course.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by in the midst of your busy travel schedule. I love hearing from you!

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  20. What wonderful pictures and changes you have shared. Each of your homes are such a piece of you all, clear in each one are the two of you no matter where you are. This is what makes them special.

    What gives me comfort? Coffee in the morning, cooking on gas (I don’t know how to cook otherwise), sun through picture windows into my kitchen.

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    • Isn’t it amazing how something as simple as sun through a window can comfort. I know that feeling so well–something about the slant of light at certain times of the day and certain times of the year.

      I’m so happy you enjoyed this post, Val. Sorry it has taken me a day to respond. Our container arrived from the US–throwing my schedule all to hell. But, it’s wonderful to have our books and art here, even if it’s not all put away yet. It’s great to hear from you! Thank you.

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  21. Nice. I’m glad you figured it’s not about entitlement or luxury as much as it is about being ‘at home’. 🙂 I’m quite attached to my creature comforts and they include everything I have chosen to inhabit my house, the furniture, the appliances, my assorted pots and pans, my bathroom, my bed and all the knick knacks and objects that make my home ‘my’ home. So I guess I’d have to move for a good amount of time to another country to know what I’d miss most! I do think I can be quite adaptable though, but who knows. Everyone gets cranky sometimes!

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    • Yes, you’ve said something important here, Mun. It’s easy to become cranky when settling in a new place, without all of the comforts of home. However, cranky, with some time, can turn into a new kind of contentment.

      Glad to know I’m not the only one attached to some of those things–especially the comfort of my own bed. Lots to be said for that!

      Wonderful to hear from you, Mun. I’ve so been enjoying your Sri Lanka photos!

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  22. I don’t think I would be able to live in a house without an oven! Or a proper kitchen. I am not much of a baker, but cooking makes me feel content.
    We moved into a new house last year, and I was thinking the other day how it is my first house that really feels like home. My heart still glows warmly every day when I drive up the driveway.
    But, if I had to leave, I guess I would be able to do without most of the stuff. My most prized possessions are my photos, probably a few books.
    Btw, those pies look to die for!

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    • Thank you, Gertie. So glad you think the pies look good. Should you ever come to visit, I’ll be sure to bake you one.

      And I’m delighted you now feel at home in new house. It would be interesting to go back and do an inventory of places lived and how one feels about them and their hominess potential.

      It’d great to hear from you. Hope you have a wonderful weekend–and get to do some yummy cooking!

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      • Kathy, that would make a story on its own! I lived in so many towns when I was a child, that my mom says I used to ask if we were moving whenever they packed for holidays!

        It should be a good weekend in Joburg…we went straight from winter into summer and Tuesday is heritage day, which has been dubbed ‘braai day’ in South Africa…our local slang for having a barbeque.

        Would love to come visit one day!

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  23. Oh I love this post! Only you would have written about kitchens in four countries. Your Cuenca kitchen looks so modern–much more modern than ours. I like how foreign travel just keeps widening and widening our prejudices and preconceived ideas about just about everything. One thing I enjoy about reading your posts. We always learn something.

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    • Thank you, Kathy. I’m so happy you enjoyed the post. It’s been a crazy, busy, wonderful week for us, as our 20-foot container arrived from the US on Wednesday evening. It’s felt a bit like Christmas, rediscovering all the things we packed so many months ago.

      Glad you feel like you learn from my posts. That must be the teacher in me. Thanks, Kathy. Have a wonderful week, my friend.

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  24. What I love is how you have adapted to these places. Never call yourself an ugly American, Kathy. You are flexible and open and embrace adventure, all wonderful qualities. I hope you will do a Thanksgiving feast for at least 24 this year in your kitchen.

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    • Oh, thank you, Andra. I, too, hope we have a huge Thanksgiving dinner. The one in Haiti was wonderful. Okay, maybe I’m not exactly an “ugly” American, but I am a spoiled one, for sure! Great to hear from you, Andra. So glad you have confidence in me.

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  25. Your posts of life around the world are so fascinating, Kathy — more homey and real than, say, National Geographic or a travel magazine. I get true insight of being there. I just love the Caribbean colors in Haiti and the airiness of Hanoi. I cannot imagine having mosquitos inside my home; I just can’t. They’d have wrapped me in sheets and taken me away long ago. And, those big rats. How did Ralph and Lucy deal with them? I wouldn’t be going into the bathroom in the dark in the middle of the night.

    I really enjoyed your Huffington Post story, too. Entertaining and edifying. The table decorations are gorgeous.

    I do like a good kitchen with lots of counter space. I was in Adele Davis’s once, shortly after she died, and it was small and with U-shaped counter space, ideal for preparing food. I had a big u-shaped kitchen in So Cal, too — great for having friends over for T’giving dinner potlucks; it also had a double oven and 6 burners.

    So, besides the comforts of kitchen, I would bring with me my many boxes of books, my music (CDs and the like), DVDs and video tapes, and all my writing files. Then, I’d have a comfortable bed and a comfortable couch and an easy chair or two. And, of course, I’d bring my computer. I’d love to have a dog. For now, The Phantom of My Blog has one I can enjoy, and I don’t have to walk him. 😉

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    • Great to hear from you, Samantha. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Yeah, the mosquitos and rats in Hanoi were difficult to deal with–and I didn’t do well. It began to wear on me–make me anxious.

      Somehow Haiti was easier. I don’t know if it’s because I had the Vietnam experience or because we had screens there. Thank God I insisted on them. Sara has no idea how mad the mosquitoes can drive one, as she rarely, rarely gets a bite.

      Fun to hear what you’d bring with you–so many of the same things I’ve brought here. And, heck, a dog you don’t have to walk is pretty darn convenient!

      Take care, my friend. Thanks for stopping by.

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  26. Kathy, just goes to show you, even something as benign as a kitchen can say a lot about the culture of where you are. I found your tour of kitchens from different countries, fascinating. Would make an interesting book if you traveled around the world and took photos of other kitchens. Americans would buy it up. We are intrigued, after all, to see how others live and somehow survive with what we take for granted, like ovens with thermostats. Rats in bathroom or in any part of house? Disgusting! When I lived in Venezuela for a summer, I was staying in my aunt’s house with an open courtyard in the middle. I don’t recall ever seeing rats there, but we had giant moths in the house as well as TONS of cockroaches in the bathroom and kitchen. I remember actually getting used to this and watching TV in the kitchen while we ate dinner, and waiting for the cockroach to move across the screen so we could see the show. Again, disgusting to think about now.

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    • I suppose that a book about kitchens around the world would sell. I hadn’t even thought of that. With regard to your summer in Venezuela, I must say that cockroaches freak me out–maybe even more so than rats. I have no idea why. Makes me squirm just to think about it. And moths, I don’t mind as much, but when you say “giant” moths, that does sort of make me flinch. And your roaches were right out in the open, on the TV screen. Damn, they had NO shame! I feel fortunate not to have had roaches.

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  27. Beautiful, thought-provoking post, Kathy. I remember your kitchen in Haiti and your Thanksgiving. 🙂

    Rats in the bathroom? And here I was standing on the couch over a tiny mouse last night. lol! With this move to the Eastern Shore, I’m learning a lot about the owning of stuff, comfort, and how spoiled I’ve been. I didn’t leave the country, but the move itself was life changing in many ways.

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    • Yes, it is amazing how spoiled we are–I mean, most of us as American. Maybe we could call it being blessed until it spills over into entitlement. I see that in myself as I grow older. But isn’t it wonderful to be able to see the real you/me–the good AND THE BAD!

      I love hearing from you, Robin. I got a laugh out of your mouse issue. We had them in our house in Lexington. Good that you have Izzy! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend!

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  28. I really enjoyed this post. Lucy is so cute! Not sure I would dig the large rats. I don’t cook much, but it would be hard to live without an oven. And I get the no screen thing. They don’t have screens in London and it baffles me. All spring, summer, and fall I have flies. I can’t imagine if I was dealing with mosquitoes. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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  29. Kathy, I don’t think you should feel badly about craving your creature comforts. You have way more understanding and appreciation of your relative wealth compared to so much of the world, which in itself is a blessing. Giving away all of your books won’t help the people of Ecuador (or Haiti, or Vietnam, or anywhere) become more prosperous themselves, any more than getting sick will help somebody else recover from illness. Your journey proves that people are people, no matter where they are in the world or what they possess. I think it’s wonderful that you can celebrate humanity wherever you go and still honor the joy that your ovens and books bring you. 🙂

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  30. What a fun post. I’m also spoiled. I don’t bake often, but if I lived in a house with beautiful windows but no oven, I know I’d be the first one to whine about it. Like you, I don’t ask for a lot. So many of the beautiful old homes in my neighborhood are being pulled down, and replaced with ugly monster homes. I’d hate to live in one of those 10,000 sq foot homes. (I must add that those pies sitting on your stove look very tasty)

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    • Wait, don’t you all live in California? I’m surprised you don’t have an open. Or have you all moved? That’s pretty unusual in the US. Sorry to hear, also, that the old houses in your neighborhood are being torn down and replaced with McMansions. Shall I save you a piece of pie the next time I bake one?

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      • I was tired when I left the comment so I’m sorry I confused you.
        I do have an oven right now.
        Yes I do live in California. In a 1,300 sq foot house.
        YES please save me a piece of pie. I attempted to bake ginger cookies today (I haven’t baked in a long time) and sadly they were “raw”. My oven takes forever to get hot and I didn’t wait long enough.

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  31. We only have a kitchen because it came with the house. And of-course if you have a kitchen you are expected to cook. Dearly Departed Joe was the cook. Not me. I’ve thought about tearing out a few things and telling everyone the kitchen was being remolded. Contractors are slow, money tight—it could take years and years.
    I don’t have a lot of fears but I am terrified beyond reason of well yes you know. I’ve tried to conquer the fear—Chicago has a few and maybe the fear has dwindled a bit but living with them in the alley is out of the question. The bathroom? Nightmares in Chicago.
    The oven was odd but it looked like you worked magic with it and I continue to love all the colors!

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    • Sara is the cook in our house, so I know I wouldn’t do much in the kitchen were she not around. Yes, kitchen remodels can be long and costly, so I’d avoid that, as well, if I were you.

      Great to hear from you today, Katybeth. Glad you like the colors. Thanks for the comment. Hope you have a good weekend.

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