Singapore Surprise

I am behind on posting because I am currently on vacation in Singapore! This is my first trip to Asia and it has been amazing so far. But I did have an interesting encounter at the immigration counter. I am traveling with my sister, who also has BPES, and she was in line ahead of me. After she made it through, I walked up to the desk, and the officer looked at me and said, “oh was that your sister?” I said yes.

Then came the surprising question: “Are you mixed blood?” I kind of froze but managed to reply “No I was born with a rare genetic condition.” And the immigration officer said, “oh I thought maybe one of your parents was Japanese.”

He seemed sincere, and Singapore is a country made up of people from all over Asia, and I think he was just trying to figure out where I fit in, so I was not offended. But I was a little intimidated. I was trying to enter into a foreign country with strict laws. Sometimes I find it just easier to lie and say yeah I’m part Asian. But in this case all I could think was oh my god, I can’t lie to an immigration officer, haha.

This encounter didn’t upset me, but it did kind of catch me off guard. I guess you just never know when someone is going to make a comment. I like to think I am prepared, but this was definitely the first time that I have heard the phrase “mixed blood.”

(Don’t) smile for the camera – now click!

Recently l went through the “saga” of having to get a new passport, for reasons that are a story for another day.  This process included having to get new passport photos taken. In theory getting passport photos taken is something you should only have to do every ten years or so. I travel abroad fairly often and in the last few years, I’ve had to get identification photos taken several times for various visas and IDs, each with different specifications for photo dimensions. US passport photo requirements have changed and now you can’t wear glasses in your passport photo. Other countries require that your eyes fit within certain centimeter dimensions for an official photo ID. While simply taking off your glasses sounds like no big deal, for someone with BPES, these specifications can be a nightmare. Getting passport pictures taken is such a mental obstacle to me, that I go through great lengths to avoid having to do it. For example, I still keep a huge stash of passport sized photos that I printed and trimmed myself years ago on a photo printer at home based on a photo I had taken that met passport photo specifications. Crazy schemes like this often backfire on me because photos have to be recent and the requirements are often changing.

A colleague ran into a snafu recently with getting his passport replaced. As we were commiserating this week over the bureaucracy of getting a passport, particularly while abroad, I realized that part of my resistance to passport photos stems from my eyes. Oftentimes when getting my picture taken, the photographer will prompt me to open my eyes wider. I used to get so frustrated when someone told me to open my eyes. It drove me crazy because I would always think – if I could open my eyes wider, don’t you think I’d do it?! On one of my latest rounds of passport photos, I sat with the photographer for five minutes where he kept telling me to relax my eyes. With my eyes being so small, the picture wouldn’t meet the ID photo requirements. It was insanely frustrating for both of us and I felt really stupid. He didn’t realize I had small eyes and it seemed he thought I was squinting on purpose. Other people came in and it took less than a minute to snap their photo. In the end I got my photos, but the entire experience made me feel awful. At best it should have just been an annoying quick errand, instead of me feeling incompetent, foolish, stupid, embarrassed, and frustrated. Clearly it made its mark, with damage to my psyche because now I’ve built it up in my mind that getting passport photos is SUCH a hassle.

Just another small annoyance of having BPES.

J3

Lost baggage

I’m on vacation this week with friends and one of my traveling companions unfortunately had her luggage lost. We’ve been trying to make the best of it, with everyone in the group offering what they can to try to supplement her lost luggage. There’s no worse feeling than not having your own stuff so you can truly enjoy your vacation. I am a pretty low maintenance lady and I felt terrible that I didn’t have so many things with me that perhaps other women might, such as make up, foaming face wash, bobby pins, and tinted SPF moisturizer. My friend and I sadly laughed that if she had been on a trip with any other female friend, this probably wouldn’t have been as painful for her.

Over the course of the last 48 hours as we’ve waited for her bag, at different points in our trip, she’d ask if I had a certain item. It struck me when she asked if I had any eye cream. I burst out laughing because I actually own eye cream, but I don’t really use it and I certainly don’t travel with it. I think I bought it in a moment of self-absorption because I thought it would help with early signs of crows’ feet. I’ve always wondered what is the point of eye cream. I’d see it so often advertised for women in particular to have younger looking eyes. With our BPES, we don’t get bags under our eyes or at least we haven’t yet. I’ve never really had a true need for it or understood what it does. My friend assured me that it perks up tired eyes. I am intrigued and we laughed together that my eyes are so small, I’ve probably never really experienced the need for eye cream. While I hope her baggage is found quickly, I hope to not see bags under my BPES eyes!

J3

Wine Time

I just got back from an amazing relaxing vacation, and have been fighting jet lag this week, so the post is a bit late.  I had a great time in the Douro Valley in Portugal.  I had no idea how stunning the landscape would be.  It was just such a peaceful place.   I love living my life in a city, but it is great to vacation in a tranquil environment.

I have always loved traveling and am proud of how many places I have managed to visit.  I can’t help but think that if I had kids, I most likely would not have been able to go to many of these places.  I still can’t believe how lucky I am that I just got back from a spa in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and had the opportunity to do wine tours of these amazing mountainside vineyards.  Just look at this view!

IMG_3117

It is times like these that I embrace the positive side of being infertile as part of having BPES.  I can’t imagine my life without travel.  I already have my next destination planned for later on this summer…stay tuned!

2.0

Are you two sisters?

This week my sister and I are together on vacation! We are having a wonderfully relaxing  week and taking some  much needed time to unwind and spend time  together. We noticed throughout our travels this week, no one has commented on how we look alike or asked us where we are from. It’s been marvelous!

During high school we both worked in the same place in a family owned business that consisted of three different stores. Oftentimes customers would go between stores and think we were twins working  in two different locations. It drove us nuts because while yes, it is pretty clear we are sisters, due to our eyes, we think we look nothing alike. Whenever people ask us if we are sisters or ask more about our eyes, it can be annoying. Sometimes we’d think, can I order a cup of tea without having to answer personal questions for a total stranger?!

This week it was so refreshing to not have people ask about us or our appearance at all. It makes our trip all the more enjoyable.

 

Singapore Sling

I had the opportunity to travel to Singapore this past November. I haven’t spent that much time in Asia, so this trip was really impressionable for me. I was delighted by the mixing of so many Asian countries and cultures within Singapore. In addition to enjoying getting to explore a new place, eating amazing food, and soaking in the warm weather, I was very curious about how others perceived me. During my college years, as I’ve mentioned in other pages on our site, many people told me they thought I was Asian based on my eyes. It used to be insanely frustrating for me when people assumed I was of Asian descent. As I roamed through the indoor malls and outdoor parks in Singapore, I kept wondering – do people think I am part Asian?

When I travel, I like to fit in and not stand out. My goal is to be a respectful tourist and just blend in with the background to observe day to day life as seamlessly as possible. You’ll still find me at local tourist spots, but I won’t be standing on the corner with my map open, while in line waiting to jump on the open air city tour bus. As an aside, with the utility and subtlety of SmartPhones now, I suppose the classic tourist “two handed open map study on a street corner” is a thing of the past. I think I was self-conscious because I couldn’t blend in as a local as I usually try to do in my travels. It was very clear that I was not a native Singaporean based on my pale skin tone, light brown hair color, and oodles of freckles!

It’s funny to me that in the United States we really are a melting pot at times. I love how you can walk down the street in a major city in the US and you’ll have no idea based on someone’s appearance and dress whether they are a citizen, an immigrant, or a visitor. I was so conscious in Singapore that everyone knew I wasn’t from there. I am not sure why I thought this and why it bothered me so much. It was clearly all in my head. Never was I treated poorly during my trip and never did anyone call my background or appearance into question.

Earlier this year, I traveled to Thailand and I don’t remember being as self-conscious about my appearance for whatever reason. Maybe this was due to me being with my friend and Bangkok being a larger city or that we did more touristy things. While in Singapore I had more time by myself to wander the city and I was overthinking, as I tend to do. I fully recognize that these are all just thoughts invented in my mind, but…what a funny BPES problem that when Asia, I inwardly called my own identity into question. Probably more a product of my childhood and college years where so many people challenged who I was and practically argued with me that I must be Asian. Surreal. I know exactly who I am, but weird when other people try to tell you that you are something you are not. I appreciate the world is more globalized than it was 15 years ago in that no one said a thing to me about my eyes or heritage during my entire trip. What a thrill that I could walk down the street in Singapore and be accepted as a tourist exactly as I am, in all my BPES small eyed glory!

J3