Book Review: Drinking Camel’s Milk In The Yurt – By Monica Neboli


Edited by Monica Neboli
Summertime Publishing: $13.95

As a seasoned traveler and former expat, I’m always on the lookout for new challenges and experiences. There’s a deep sense of accomplishment when you learn to adapt to another environment and overcome the culture shock.
In Drinking Camel’s Milk in the Yurt, an anthology by expats in Kazakhstan and edited by Monica Neboli, I was left with a new curiosity about a part of the world that let’s face it, most of us have never considered visiting.
Two of the biggest expat challenges to living abroad are adapting to a different culture, and finding a sense of belonging. In this collection of stories, expats from all over the world expose the many traditions, mindsets and an ultimate sense of community in a country that is pretty much unknown to the rest of the world. Despite what Westerners may or may not know; this is a country filled with welcoming people and a celebrated passion for culture. What’s not to enjoy about that?
A recurring characteristic of the Kazakh people seems to be their random acts of kindness and genuine hospitality but in this book there is also a reference to its darker, yet fascinating history when it was part of the former USSR. And, despite most Westerners uneasiness with cultural events involving religious animal sacrifice, and consuming animal parts normally overlooked in more sterile cultures, on a personal level this anthology embodies several elements that feed the desire to travel.
The stories in this book had me thinking that there is indeed a part of the world that I have yet to discover; that would fulfill that sense of adventure from visiting somewhere exotic, and deliver an untouched cultural experience.


I Shaved My Legs For Physio

hairy legs

Time For A Trim?

After a vigorous run around the track one morning and then bending over to stretch out my hamstrings, I came to the quick realization that I was sporting what would be approximately five full days of hair growth. I had a physiotherapy appointment in 30 minutes that required the majority of the attention to be focused on my legs. Lucky him I say.

I would soon be showing up as the Tazmanian Devil: spinning and spitting, hair flying every which way and dribble making its way down my chin. God forbid I should let the physio see my unshaven legs with hair sprouting out like a Chia Pet, discovered as he rolls up my pant legs and shrinks back in horror!

Like somehow all women are really hairless-wonders, who don’t grow anything on their bodies (except for a certain freak of nature, ahem, (my friend Sam,) who doesn’t seem to grow any hair at all, except for the necessary patch of it on her skull). It’s Mother Nature’s cruel joke that as we age, she takes it from men where they need it the most and puts it on women where we want it the least.

Presentation Is Everything

Bursting through the clinic doors, pants flapping silkily over my freshly shaved pins, I apologized profusely to the woman at the front desk, joking that once again, true to form, I was five minutes late for my appointment. No matter; this is my pride and dignity we’re talking about here and if necessary one must be late in order to be beautiful.

Is hair removal prior to appointments and public appearances a case of manners? Or, is it simply a case of caring too much about what people will think of us?  A bit like women conferring with their girlfriends about who’s going to wear what on a night out. As though somehow, someone is going to screw up and arrive wearing a Julia Robert’s inspired hooker ensemble.

My theory is also based on similar experiences such as dental appointments. You brush your teeth for that right? And you clean your house before people come to visit.

Or is it really just my mother who famously cleans her home before the housekeeper shows up? Oh no! Don’t let the housekeeper see your mess, she isn’t paid to clean up mess…

Finally, on a side note, when writing this blog, I Googled ‘pictures of women shaving’ – to include some visual inspiration on this subject. Apparently when you do that, the majority of the public is looking for something being de-fuzzed somewhat NORTH of the leg area. Not EXACTLY what I was looking for but live ‘n’ learn…

Raised In A Barn – Restaurant Confessions Part One


“How Much Longer For Our Food? We Have A Flight To Catch!”

Working at an airport restaurant, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard this phrase.

My instinctual response is riddled with sarcasm of course, which would be something along the lines of “Oh really?! Well, why didn’t you say so? I thought you just bought a plane ticket to eat in the airport! Let’s get you fixed up right away!”

This perhaps would not be well received, given the already stressful state that most passengers are already in when they’ve arrived, having all their privacy stripped away by the CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency).

Working in one of the largest airports in Canada, I get a pretty large window to the rest of the world, and all of their strange habits that come with them. As there has been so much media attention on the often unfair treatment of passengers within the airport, I felt it necessary to give back to my airline and service industry comrades with some of my own observations from the dark side (insert Mr. Burns evil laughter and finger tenting)…

– It is not OK to brush your teeth at the dinner table.

– Clipping your toenails is often reserved for doing in the privacy of your bathroom.

– It is a cardinal rule of the service industry to do a ‘quality check’, within the first five minutes of the guest consuming food. This would be the time you express your dissatisfaction, not AFTER you have inhaled the entire meal. We know you’re looking for a freebie.

– Producing a bag of oranges so that you can have your waitress ‘freshly squeeze’ them for you, is frowned upon.

– Painting your fingernails or dousing yourself in Duty Free fragrance at the table releases a rather unpleasant odour for nearby patrons.

– TIPPING is NOT a place in China, it is a North American custom. TIPS actually means ‘To Insure Proper Service’.

Note: to stingy Dutch guys at YVR, yes your bill was $157.13, thank you for giving me exactly that.

I’ll Take A Four Legged Child Please


Defying Procreation

After one particularly heinous junk food binge, I stared down at my ridiculously bloated belly. I couldn’t help but think about being slowly yet surely, one of the last of my childless friends. This enlarged ‘food baby’ was about as close to experiencing pregnancy as I might get.

At 34 years old it seems there is a constant reminder thrown at me to bear children. From society, the media and of course… my mother. Apparently my ‘window of opportunity’ is getting smaller and smaller as time marches on. I have been told that the longer I wait, ‘the less likely it will happen’, ‘your ovaries are aging’, ‘you don’t know what you’re missing’, ‘children are a blessing’.

My child-bearing friends always insist that I have it good, that they desperately miss their freedom. These friends follow up with “but I wouldn’t trade them in for anything”. Let’s be honest here, what kind of mother would readily admit that the non-existence of their own offspring would make their lives so much happier? But the dirty truth does come out now and again, after a few glasses of wine of course, from friends willing to shed light on what really goes on in the homes occupied with children.

“It’s Alive!!! ALIVE!!!”….

The frightening stories of pregnancy and child birth alone are enough to scare off anyone with ears to listen. The permanent stretch marks, the constant mornings of vomiting yourself inside out, the weight gain that just doesn’t want to come off, the once sky-high breasts now resembling what could pass for tennis balls in a pair of pantyhose. Then there’s the ripping of one’s most delicate area….Is this a horror film?

Then you get to bring home what either looks like an alien or a really tiny old man, and listen to it scream all night long as you kiss goodbye to what was the last of your blissfully sleep-filled nights, along with your sanity.

No more peaceful five-star vacations filled with shoe shopping. Instead, insert loud, splashing, crying, hissy-fit filled trips to the lake and kiddie infested theme parks.

Then as they get older, you live in fear of quiet moments. Something is always going on when the house becomes silent. This silence is usually followed by some sort of art work on your freshly painted walls, done by your newly purchased nail polish, making its way onto your living room carpet for all to see.

The Puurrfect Solution

I think I will stick to parenting my cat. He spends hours a day sleeping by himself, is perfectly satisfied eating the same food, day in and day out, is easily amused by boxes and strings, AND… I can leave him alone in the house for days at a time, with his food on the floor and a place to go to the bathroom. When I return home, everything in the house is still intact as he runs directly to me, purrs affectionately as he brushes up against my face, then scurries off as if I never left.

You can leave a cat alone in your house for days but you can’t leave a child. Clearly I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure there are laws against that…

“Hey Michael, I carried a watermelon!”

Michael Buble

I See You Baby

For any woman who’s seen the movie Dirty Dancing as often as I have, you’ll know exactly what I mean by the watermelon title.

For those who don’t, here’s a quick breakdown; Jennifer Grey’s character, Baby, meets Patrick Swayze’s character, Johnny, for the first time. She’s so flustered by his sexiness that when he asks his cousin (who he’s enlisted Baby for help – to carry said produce into the dance party), “Yo cuz, what’s she doin’ here?”, Baby stutters out  “I carried a watermelon!”. Disgusted with herself, she continues to shake her head and mutter, “I carried a watermelon?!”

This unfortunate predicament was to be replicated in my first encounter with Canadian crooner, Michael Bublé.

Now Don’t Get Too Excited

I was at work when the watermelon moment occurred.

Serving tables in a restaurant at Vancouver Airport has its perks. One of them being the likelihood of running into a celebrity.

Now, I have seen a few low – key actors, athletes and probably some folk I should know (but don’t), so when Michael Bublé showed up, I figured I had the celebrity ‘meet and greet’ down to a pat. Nope….

Like a pack of twelve year old girls squealing like newborn pigs, myself and the other adult female employees all piled into the kitchen, fussing and fainting over the fact that this Canadian stud was in our range. Who was going to be brave enough to serve him? Who was going to be bold and ask for a photo? Were we allowed to take his photo? What if I tripped and fell “into his arms?”

I’m ashamed to say that none of this happened. No, not in the least. What really went down? Well, I did about five laps back and forth past his table, hoping for an opportune moment of some kind. Nada.

So you can imagine my heart leaping into my throat when the man himself stood up to remove his jacket and turn towards me, just as I was walking straight into his line of vision. He smiled a charming smile, looked at me as though he was waiting for me to say something and…. I stopped. Smiled the biggest toothiest grin you can imagine and before I knew what was happening, my two thumbs shot up in front of me and I said “AWESOME!”.

Hopefully next time he comes through the airport I’ll be on my day off!