Count Dracula and Other Blood Suckers: Give a Pint Instead

Per Raftbuddy’s request – a little escapist humor. All the downer news is at the bottom.


How often do you get two Transylvanian taxi drivers in the space of one week? If 2010 hadn’t already started out any weirder, this would have sealed the deal. Both drivers spoke a slightly off version of Spanish and both mentioned Count Dracula’s castle …. [pipe in Vincent Price’s voice right here]. Like I wouldn’t have known! What else is there in Transylvania? And just exactly where is it?

To add to the strangeness of the new year, two Spanish (well, at least I think they were, but maybe they too were Transylvanian) cashiers were actually nice to me last week. One offered me a discount card (price: 9 Euros) at the tintorreria’s. Can you believe? It was not La Mentirosa but the other one. Then The Dreaded Carrefour cashier lady offered me one (price: free)! Will wonders never cease?! She actually asked me “why” I did not have one. Why? Because no one, in the preceding 10 years, has ever offered me one, that’s why! At the gym, in a fit of liberation, I cancelled my membership (how’s that for an anti-resolution?) but not one “why” from from the male Spanish cashier. Which would be part of the reason I cancelled my membership and signed up at another one, where all the madres from la escuela sweat it out. All of these new cards will join my favorite discount card in Spain: el Museu del Jamon. Andale, pues!


I have a new helper, Esmeralda, from Colombia. She kisses me hello and good-bye, something new in a maid. She has worked for the same Spanish family for 10 years – her four sons all live in Colombia, where her mother has raised them. There is a story there but it will eventually tell itself. I am trying not to be nosy.

Recently, I finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, per Flaky Friend‘s recommendation, which examines the roles of black servants and white employers in the deep South in the early Sixties. I have been ruminating on it ever since. Like the rest of America, I loved it, all of it. Rumor has it that it is especially wonderful to listen to as well. It helped pulled me out of my funk. (That and a can of Flarp.)

I, myself, could write a book about domestic help. “My Life in Maids”, by the Expat Princess, however, does not have the same story arc, despite the fact that many of the non-racial domestic help issues are familiar. As a child of the early Sixties, I grew up in a different part of America and there were no maids in my neck of the redwoods. If my mother was lucky, sometimes she found the one college student who was not too stoned to clean the bathrooms (this was a bit later, the Seventies) but mainly, it was my mother who cleaned the house and later, my sisters and I were forced to help out. (Can you hear already my mother’s fingers as they hit the keyboard? Insert here her claim that we did nothing.) As I have said many, many times, I know how to clean a toilet and I can do it well. There is nothing I would ask a maid to do that I would not or could not do myself. Well, okay, maybe windows … I’m just disorganized and hate to iron – that’s my problem. A little less Starbucks, a little more starch in my ironed sheets. The Deep Cleaning Class for Children starts this Saturday, starring Esmeralda and the Things. So, God Bless, Esmeralda who is a real pro.


Last week, I incorrectly gave the URL for Charity Navigator. I have corrected it and will now repeat it: This is important for the following reason.

When we lived in China, we participated in a charity called Heart2Heart Shanghai – Thing 1 is continuing to support them as part of her service project for the International Baccalaureate diploma. The organization provides surgeries to low-income Chinese children who suffer from easily reparable congenital heart defects. To raise money, the organization sells teddy bears, assembled by volunteers, dressed in hand knit cardigans, also crafted by volunteers. There is no paid staff and really, in the PRC, there is no framework for charitable organizations. (For example, you cannot deduct a donation to them on your taxes – the charity doesn’t “exist” so therefore neither does the donation.)

In researching the market for bears in Spain, I was told that most Mainland Chinese would not support a charity benefitting Chinese since they donated a lot of money for relief efforts after the 2008 Sichuan quake and the money did not reach the victims. Once bitten, twice shy are the Chinese living in Spain. Which is a terrible, terrible shame – a travesty that there is no willingness to try again to help a fellow countrykid out and that the money did not reach it’s intended recipients. In the blogosphere, however, there is Charity Navigator which susses the organizations out for so you; credibility is important when you are passing out cash.

I have also been chatting up my friends and family to sponsor a child from Haiti via World Vision or Save the Children for roughly $30 a month. Until the dust settles, this is a measurable way to help, especially, the orphans. Before the quake, our family had decided to skip our post-church Starbucks run and “adopt” another child. Sorry, Howard [Schultz] and Klab. If you don’t want to sponsor a child, the purchase of five ducks, a goose, or a cow can do much to help a family or community. Martita used to receive a goat every year for Christmas through Heifer Project International (3 stars), fodder for many jokes. But then MCV gave me the rear end of an ass/ ass end of a donkey for Christmas, one of my all-time favorite gifts, notwithstanding the fact that this time the joke is on me. It might just be on Starbucks too – as an employer, I think they match contributions to Save the Children. Think about it next year for Christmas.

To end on an upbeat note, I’ll skip the section on the child/human trafficking that is starting to occur in Haiti. (Just one more reason to send more US Marines. That Italian dude who has been sounding off about our military showboating can just stick a can of Flarp in his piehole.) I will leave you with my personal favorite, all-time best, uncensored Chinglish name to come out of Asia: Creamy Lay. I’ll still laughing myself.

Questions for the week: What is your favorite discount card? How are you doing on your resolutions? I am doing terribly!



Filed under Charitable Endeavors, Domesticity, Family, Folkart, Friends, Life, Mature, Misunderstandings, People, Princessdom, Spanish vocabulary

19 responses to “Count Dracula and Other Blood Suckers: Give a Pint Instead

  1. Princess Ai Lin

    The Help – I’m reading it now, and wish you were here to discuss it with. A particularly intersting read since I’ve had various Help of my own for the past 10+ years.

    You are practically a Mardrilena with all those discount cards – congrats! You could probably sponsor ANOTHER child with all the money you are saving, no???

    The name – finally! Must note spelling error though: Creamy Lei. Fantastic. Doesn’t get any better than that. Even the Starbucks barista with the name Coke can’t compare.

    XOXO off to Harbin this weekend.

    • Dearest PAL,

      I regret to inform you that “Lay” is not a spelling error! I made Mr. Understanding verify his source before posting. Unless, of course, someone has anglicized the name – but then why the “Creamy”?

      Vis a vis The Help – call me when you are back from Harbin to discuss. We can have a Vonage book club.

      Superb point regarding the discount cards! But really, I wish I were a Starbucks employee …. it seems to be a good gig, wouldn’t you agree;)?

      I am saving my favorite barista combo for my Memoirs … but it’s not better than Creamy LaT Te.

  2. Mood Ring Mama

    Great post. Will add The Help to my reading list.

    To my knowledge I’ve never met someone from Transylvania, so I’m mightily impressed you’ve met two in one week. Frankly, I’m impressed you interview your taxi drivers to determine from where they hail. (Ha!)

    Creamy Lay had me spitting coffee out of my mouth. I shudder to think what could top that!

    Esmeralda – I have a good feeling about her, and love that she kisses you when she arrives and leaves. I would love just saying her name everyday.

    Finally – last week we sponsored Yuny, a 9 year old from El Salvador, through World Vision. I was looking at Haiti, but at the time I was looking, not many children were posted. Then I started thinking that all the attention was going to be on Haiti, and kids in other parts of the world would be forgotten. But then we found Yony – he has Gabe’s exact same birthday, down to the year, his favorite activity is soccer (Gabe’s too), and his favorite subject in school is math (Gabe’s too). That sealed the deal. We have already sent him a letter, and we pray for him at grace every night.

    • Mood Ring Momma: Esmeralda is her handle! Yes, it is easy to forget about other parts of the world; El Salvador is no picnic either. And I do want to point out that you can sponsor an AMERICAN child as well. My goal is to have one per country I’ve lived in. Since China is not available via World Vision, we (along with Bea Long and many other contributors) sponsored a child’s operation with Heart2Heart. We have another cutie patootie from Peru instead as well. More on Thing 2’s Spanish project in the future. With unemployment at 20% here, it is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. You will not believe the light in Gabe’s face when he receives his first letter. XOXOXO

  3. Hi Expat Princess-

    I wanted to introduce myself as a member of the Vonage team. Was interested in your book club idea – do you chat internationally with folks about your recent reads?

    Planning to look into The Help by the way – need a break from reading Paulo Coelho all day.


    • Matt,

      I have been plugging Vonage for lo’ these many years! J’aime la Vonage! Eu adoro a Vonage! Me amo la Vonage! Vonage is an expat princess’ LIFE LINE! There is nothing sadder for an expat princess than when a vonage hands-free device goes down in a storm or the Chinese mess with your internet connection. Search my blog for both Vonage and reading. My friends and family around the globe and I chat about books, food, friends, marriage, child-rearing, etc. Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist has sat on my bookshelf for about three years … so kudos to you.

      I am honored that you stopped by. Truly.

      Skype? Not so much.

      • Hi Expat-

        Thanks so much for the note – it’s really my pleasure to meet you! Was hoping to chat with you further – would it be possible to talk over email (included in my commenter info)? And not just about The Alchemist – even though it helped me move around the world and find my princess. 😛

        @425Heidi Appreciate the nod. No Wii parties here – just trying to find folks that enjoy the service. But if there is one I’m at the ready with my favorite game – Smooth Moves:

      • Well, of course! It’s called noblesse oblige.

  4. 425Heidi

    Keep brown nosing the Vonage guy, Expat. It is great that they found you. Nintendo looked at blogs to find well connected mothers, and then threw big Wii parties at their houses for friends and neighbors. Maybe you can get something free out of the deal.

    I have been too busy with Girl Scout stuff to even think of resolutions. Right now I am working on 200 pins that look like camels. Exciting, huh?

    My favorite discount card is the Microsoft Prime card. You can get 2 for 1 meals at several local restaurants, and discounts on everything under the sun. It is a nice perk.

    Thanks for mentioning your irritation with the Italian dude. I agree with you. The USA spends so much money and manpower to help people in other countries, and all they do is get criticized. It sounds like Hillary Clinton is not going to let his comments just slide by. Not that I am a fan of hers, but I am glad someone stood up to him.

  5. MCV was Here

    Expat, I’m here and while I added a new Facebook profile pic this week, I have little time to comment on the blog 😉

    OK–love the Heart2Heart bears. They make EXCELLENT baby gifts. Can you bring some more home this summer and I’ll stock up for those in need. Not only is one giving a great gift, you’re helping one out.

    No, I am the butt of the ass of the donkey gift. I received a letter AFTER I purchased your gift and well AFTER you received the notecard saying a donation was made in your name. It said my credit card DID NOT go through. Who is the ass now? I immediately called as we had plenty of space . . . I’d given the wrong expiration date. The woman at World Vision was quite nice and even ended the call with a “God Bless” (vs. a “Screw You” which I thought would have been semi-appropriate). In any event, the ass of the ass is now legitimately paid for.

    Re: cleaning people of our youth . . . do you not remember Linda? She was cranky but did a great job cleaning. We just had to clean in prep for her cleaning. When I was a child I did NOT understand this theory. Now I do–100% on board w/ that. Currently I don’t have a “cleaning” person but thank God I have Lindsey, our M/W nanny. She organizes and picks up for me. LOVE her.

    Re: resolutions. Mine is to run 2 half marathons in 2010. I’m signed up for my first. May 2, 2010. Vancouver B.C. Flakey Friend, are you in?

    MCV was Here

    PS: Was that long enough? Expat, can you stop the badgering?

    • MCV was Here: At least you were Here, not There! Great job! With Bea Long’s assistance, I pray that a shipment of bears lands on my doorstep in the next 48 hours for Thing 1’s project. Hope we sell them all and I have to get 2nd shipment for US. I do not remember Linda – I try to erase cranky people from my memory banks. And how nice of WV to have sent me the gift anyhow ….. :).

  6. gamamae

    Princesa!!!!I have missed you and your marvelous writing!! I will add meus 2 centavos on one tiny bit of your post…I had a gay friend who spent several semesters studying abroad during his college years. We spoke about Italy and guys there after I went on a trip. Many years ago!! He summed up things like so: There is something about Italian men, they really are, well, Pig Men. So ever since then in any context, when I meet somebody and he is italian, I think to myself- Pig man! I think it also applies in relation to annoying Italian ” dude “.

  7. flaky friend

    So glad you liked The Help. I think it is my favorite book of 2009. Creamy lay – hmmmm.

  8. flaky friend

    As for my resolutions – I haven’t really lost any weight but I am exercising a lot more and eating more fruits and vegetables. I have also become more responsible about Thank You notes and insisted my children write a few this year. Haven’t gotten to everyone yet but trying. They don’t call me FF for nothing.

  9. I do not know where thank you notes were discussed, maybe only FF. However, I do owe you one. I have created a little photo for you, I guess I will email it. I am not up for an adopted child. I am still worried about our wounded soldiers where I guess I will send money.

    • Radish,
      Thanks for my thank you note! It was great – please print out on photo paper for me!
      You do not have to actually adopt the child – just send money and be a pen pal.
      Wounded soldiers – or Fisher House = great organizations.

  10. Raftbuddy

    Re: “The Help”- loved it. Child #1 and I read it for our mother/daughter book group in October (now 9 years of reading and they are seniors). Tried to listen to it on recommendation, but it made #1 fall asleep in the car on a college visit road trip (the Southern accents) so we read instead. We are now reading “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”, will give you thumbs up/down when I finish.

    Re: Resolutions- don’t make them. Am working on a diet but refuse to call it a resolution. I am weird that way. Losing weight, but not as fast as I should if I could have better will power.

    Re: Discount cards- I hate all plastic cards issued by merchants/retailers. You end up with a giant wad of plastic cards in your wallet for things like groceries, pet store, underwear, etc. then have to file through all of them every time you visit a store. Makes me cranky.

    • Raftbuddy: a NINE year long book club???? WOW. That is the benefit of staying in place all the time, for sure. Have heard the hedgehog is also fabulous. And I can tell discount cards make you cranky – an underwear card??? Lordy! I only have 3 in Spain but need the 4th – Ikea.

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