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  1. #10
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    May 2005
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    Aruna interviews Laurie Ashton.


    1 Where were you born/did you grow up?


    Born in northern Manitoba, but grew up all over western Canada, mostly in the northern places. We moved a lot. By the time I left Canada, I’d live in well over 30 different houses/homes/abodes.
    I’ve lived in small towns of 3000 to large cities of a couple million and everything in between. I’ve lived far enough north that -40C in the winter was no big deal. And we had colder temperatures than that on occasion. When you live places like that, you always carry around a first aid kit, jumper cables, a shovel, kitty litter, and extra blankets, gloves, scarves, and so on in the car. Well, if you drive junkers like I did. And I usually drove small enough cars that I could push it out of a snow drift on my own. Which I’ve done. More times than I care to admit. 
    One place we lived, Fort McMurray, Alberta, is far enough north that, in the winter, the sun comes out around 10 am and goes down around 2pm. So, it’s dark when ya go to school and dark when you get out. You only see the sun from the classroom window or during recess. And the Northern Lights up there are so incredibly brilliant. I don’t care if you’ve seen the Northern Lights from a thousand or two miles further south – it ain’t the same. Not even close.
    And, as a side note, I’ve been to the Arctic Circle. While visiting my sister, who lived in the North West Territories at the time. Whole other life up there, I tell ya.

    2. I know a little about your going off to Sri Lanka to join Fahim, I think sight unseen, and I'd love to hear more about this! It's the main reason I chose you! How could you be so sure? Were you nervous? Did you leave a back door open, or did you "know" it was for life?


    Left Canada because of Fahim, yes, but even before that, still moved around a bit. That’s an even longer story.
    The Fahim thing I’ve written in more detail at http://laurieandfahim.laurieashton.com. How could I be so sure? Well, if you believe in God and prayer, it might make sense, but if you don’t, you’ll just think I’m nuts.  My airplane ticket was return – it had to be for me to even be able to enter the country – but by that point, I was about 99.99% sure. Probably more.
    And honestly, I’ve always wanted to see the world by living elsewhere. Before the Fahim thing happened, I’d already started making plans to move to Belize, where I’ve got a ton of relatives who’d help me get settled. Of course, that didn’t happen – I went to Sri Lanka instead.
    Was I nervous? Of course! I also spent most of my layover time in Hong Kong crying. Well, maybe not most, but a lot. I was leaving everyone/everything behind.

    3. Can you name, describe one decisive moment in your youth, one that changed the course of your life, either in a physical, mental or a philosophical sense? Or, is there an experience you had as a youth which lives on in your memory, influencing your life now in either a positive or negative sense?

    One day when I was fifteen or sixteen, after a nasty argument with my mother (they were all nasty, but that’s beside the point), she said to me, “If you don’t like how I raised you, change yourself!” Ignoring the part where she said it in absolute hostility and nastiness, the lightbulb went off in my head. Yeah, I don’t like how they raised me, I don’t like how I ended up, and yeah, I AM going to change. And that started Laurie v. 2 beta. And, by the way, it’s been a rousing success. I’m not the child my parents created at all. I think I’m probably closer to version 3.5 by now, honestly.

    4. Describe the street you live in, the view from your bedroom/living room window, or the route you take to work each day!

    From our upstairs sitting room, where Fahim and I sit all day as we work/play on our computers/write/watch television or movies, there is a window to my right and a balcony at my back.
    From the window, I can see bits of the neighborhood, but mostly just the tops of trees. The closest tree is the one right in front of our house and has pink flowers which attract hummingbirds, brown birds, black and white birds, black and yellow birds, bright green parrots, and more. It also attracts the four neighborhood monkeys sometimes.
    The balcony is where I grow plants – aloe veras, local spinach, mint, lemon grass, and a sort of edible ginger plant. It will expand. The empty lot beside our house has a couple of banana plants, palm trees, and various other bushes and trees along with the usual wild plants that quickly grow and carpet any unoccupied area in an immediate green. That’s also where my cat Oberon is buried.
    I can see the entire neighborhood, really. I get a great view of the four neighborhood monkeys as they wander the power line highway as they search for food (flowers, bamboo, and so on). I can see the cows wander, or occasionally stampede, up and down the road. I can see all the pesky neighborhood cats and dogs, starving, emaciated, mangy, unhealthy. I can see the snake charmer as he tries to earn a living, and I can see the people wandering up and down the road, banging on everyone’s gates, as they try to sell products that no one wants or beg for donations for who knows what. And there are also the fish and vegetable peddlars, with fish or produce in the back of their bicycles.
    Down the road about fifty paces are a couple of typical neighborhood shops. A person can buy short eats (buns, rolls, deep fried pastries, basically quick little transportable appetizer type dealies), produce, eggs, lentils, and so on. When we get eggs there (Rs.10 per egg as opposed to the grocery store’s Rs.160 per ten), Fahim brings them home in a plastic bag. Loose. No egg carton for you! Yes, they’re sold individually, so buy one, three, or thirteen.
    There’s also a hardware shop with basic hardware supplies. Very basic.

    6. Describe the room you are sitting in right now!

    We’re at Fahim’s parent’s other house right now. Yesterday was Eid ul Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice, the second most important holiday to Muslims. Yesterday, everyone – the aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on – went to Fahim’s omama’s house (grandmother on his mother’s side) for the main event. Thirty or forty people sitting on mats on the floor around a communal rice platter which they all ate out of. I didn’t – problem joints, wouldn’t be able to stand or walk after if I tried that – so I got a plate to eat on a chair. But I still eat with my hand – it’s local custom, so why not? And cows were sacrificed for Eid. Fahim and I, his parents, and his brother’s family, get together to buy a cow which is then killed in ritual Islamic fashion. A portion of that cow MUST go to the poor. A portion can be had by the people doing the sacrifice, and a portion may go to relatives.
    None of which is actually answering your question, but does explain why we’re here.
    Fahim’s father is watching the news. Or was – he’s just switched over to a movie, sounds like a Tamil move (with Sinhala subtitles). Fahim’s sitting beside me, writing a script for a client. Fahim’s mother is grabbing a newspaper, but to do what with, I don’t know.
    This room has a very high sloping ceiling – perhaps 25 feet at the height. The floor is covered in rosy pink tiles and white tiles in a box pattern. The door is open – it always is during the day to let a breeze run through. The walls are painted rosy pink and the space is very open. Two steps down on my right to get to the dining room with another set of full-length windows which were just shut. In the front yard, there’s a fairly big – to me – mango tree, but it’s not fully grown yet by any means. When the fruit’s on it, the fruit bangs on vehicles coming in the driveway.
    Across the road from the house is an open field with palm trees, papaya trees, and so on. It’s very peaceful and relaxing here. 

    7. Referring to questions 5 and 6: do you see yourself in this same place in two/five/ten years time?


    Hard to say. It really depends a lot on the politicians and how badly they wreck this country.
    At present, inflation’s been sitting at around 20-28% per month. But food prices have just recently dropped for some items. Eggs were at Rs.160 per ten, but now can be had for as low as Rs.100 per ten. They were Rs.40 per ten five years ago. Coconut oil was as high as Rs.1400 per 3 liters, but is now down to something like $980 per 3 liters, but five years ago was Rs.500 per 3 liters five years ago. But not everything has dropped, and not everything has dropped as dramatically.
    As well, the civil war is killing the country. Literally. Bombs, grenade attacks, gunfights. Not pleasant. Security checks, men with guns everywhere. You never know if you’re going to be a statistic simply by going to the mall.
    Then there’s the corruption. Absolutely nothing, in my opinion, about this country will move forward in any way until the corruption is eliminated, at least partially. Corruption is a way of life here, and everyone wants their dues. Can’t complain about the noisy neighbors with the extremely loud music that you can hear well over a block away because you know that, if the noisemakers give a big enough bribe, they’ll know it was you who complained and then they make your life difficult in ways that people who’ve never been out of the west can possibly imagine.
    The corruption is rampant. Problematic. And it’s pulling this country even deeper into a pit.

    8. What was your education? What do you do for a living? Do you enjoy your work? How does writing fit in?


    I used to work as an accountant back in Canada. Self- employed for the last nine years. I didn’t play well with others in the sense that I didn’t exactly enjoy doing the work of three or four people, getting paid for one, and getting none of the credit but all of the blame. Yeah, not a team player. I’m the independent over-achieving perfectionist sort who was anal retentive enough to be an excellent accountant. C’mon, you know the type. Stick a lump of coal up an accountants butt and you get a diamond in two weeks. That type.
    Being self-employed was totally better. Sure, I got the blame when I did something wrong, but that wasn’t very often. Better, I got all the credit and got paid much, much better. And companies which had messed up accounts hired me since I had a reputation for sorting out the worst possible messes and making sense of it. Yeah, I was good. And yeah, as sick as this might sound to some, I enjoyed it.
    Plus, I could work from home, work the hours I wanted, take holidays or time off when I wanted, and basically live my life however I wanted. Which was a good thing for other reasons, too. As in, declining health caused by a genetic defect (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Hypermobility type for the curious in the crowd). I can’t work full-time anymore, and haven’t been able to for more than a decade.
    I don’t enjoy accounting anymore. That stopped in the last couple of years of working as an accountant. It was too much same-old, same-old, no challenge.
    Plus, I’d changed. I was around version 2.8 by then and no longer the version 2.1 I was when I started out in accounting. I was more in touch with myself, my emotions, and all that other stuff that nauseates some.  It just didn’t work anymore. I wanted to become a writer. I wanted to write science fiction and fantasy. Well, I’d wanted to do that for years, but never really believed in myself or my ability to tell a good story or write decently enough.
    Now, I write. Whenever I can, for whoever I want to, whenever I want to. It’s my choice. Which is good because of that chronic illness thing which hugely prevents me from actually being able to be as productive as other people. I do freelance writing and editing as well as writing fiction. But honestly, fiction is what I love doing more than the rest.

    9. What is the quality or qualities you value most in a life partner? Is there such a person in your life right now?


    Second question first. Yes, and his name is Fahim.  First question. Where do I start? Integrity, honesty, caring, concern, understanding, loving kindness, compassion. The only way I can really sum it up is to say that everything I need in a mate, he is. Even the stuff I didn’t know I needed. He’s the best man for me of everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some damn fine excellent best friends. I actually could go singing his praises for a very long time, and then I would start to cry because I’m just so grateful that I have him. He’s made my life far better than I could have imagined, and being a science fiction writer, I’ve got a pretty huge imagination!
    Oh, yeah. AND he writes as well as reads science fiction. I mean, seriously, that was such a huge coincidence to us both when we met online that it was a huge part of the reason why we, well, continued getting to know each other and felt that it was meant to be. Silly? Yes. But so what?

    10. Dogs, cats, both, neither, and why?


    Not dogs, ever. I’m a cat person, but Fahim isn’t and various assorted family members are allergic, so when my fat cat Oberon died, I knew that would be it. Unfortunately. Cats have a much different life here – there are so many nasty, diseased strays that it makes it difficult for a domesticated cat. Oberon, even at five times their weight (he weighed around 15 pounds, while local cats tend to weight around 2 or 3), could never win in any fight, so he’d walk away looking like he lost the fight, which he did. He was a softie, completely, and cats like that just can’t survive here unless they’re completely indoors, and that’s just not realistic with the allergies and other difficulties here. No, as much as I’d love another cat, it’s just not realistic. Unfortunately.
    Last edited by aruna; 12-14-2008 at 09:16 PM.
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