What is this “Netflix” of which you speak?

“It’s all rubbish,” my friend lamented.

We were talking about how depressing it can be to be in our home countries, when it seems like all our friends there want to talk about is the Netflix show they’re addicted to, or which team is sportsing well, or how fabulous the new fill-in-the-blanks at StuffMart are.

Our lives overseas are full of deep, serious business. We witness the highs and lows of humanity in a way we usually don’t see in our countries of origin. We meet with government leaders, we advocate for the marginalized, we counsel the heartbroken, we bridge gaps, we weep with mourners, we stand for right. We’re over here saving lives, saving the world, making sacrifices, making a difference.

But back home, it can feel like the only thing people want to talk about is…fluff. Complete and utter fluff. Inconsequential fluff.

“All they talk about is rubbish,” my friend repeated. I nodded. “And yet…” my friend went on, poking at the food on her plate, trying to find words for the thought that was forming. “And yet…it’s so very nice to talk about rubbish sometimes.”

The conversation went on, but that thought has stayed with me because it’s so true: It’s so very nice to talk about rubbish sometimes.

When I first started this blog, I was imagining writing deep articles, like the ones I had read by other expats. They wrote of poverty, human trafficking, epidemics, staying ahead of war, life-saving surgery for children, illiteracy, lost souls and perishing bodies, world news headlines unfolding in their own neighborhoods. They wrote how their being there, among the people, was helping to change things. You can’t get much deeper or more significant than that. Yes! That is what I would write.

Instead, I found myself writing about tofu marshmallows, radish monsters, and my hair’s battle with China.

In other words, fluff.

I was discouraged about it. Who wants to hear about pig teeth in the soup when there is a baby who will die if she doesn’t get those meds right away? When your neighbor is drinking and gambling away the last scrap of the family’s money? When 18 million people do not have their language written down yet? When millions are being displaced by war and famine?
Who wants to hear about fluff then?

It turns out we all do.

We all need a break from the serious news and realities of life. And those who live closer to poverty, closer to famine, closer to disaster, might just need it even more than the rest of the world.

In recent years, the idea of margin has been very popular. Margin for finances, margin for schedules, margin for relationships. I think fluff is margin for our hearts. Our emotions can only take so much wringing. And then we need to watch dumb-funny movies, and take Facebook quizzes to find out which Disney princess we are (Aurora? Jasmine? Kylo Ren?), and laugh at Gru overalls for grown women. We need the fluff to give our hearts a break.


Speaking of Kylo Ren, “Matt” ran into him in the bathroom and he wants to tell you that he approves of fluff.

So, I should not have been surprised by my friends’ reactions when I said, discouraged about my blog, “Maybe I should stop. I can’t seem to write serious stuff.”

“NO!” each one of them replied in their own ways. Don’t stop writing your posts! They make me laugh, and we need to be able to laugh—at ourselves, at the absurdities of life here, at anything. We need light-hearted, eye-rolling, silly rubbish.

Yes, we do. Because no matter how deep and significant our lives are overseas, sometimes, we need the fluff.

The theme this week at Velvet Ashes is “Fluff.” I think what they had in mind was lighter, fun, funny posts. Ironically, this ended up being one of my more serious posts. Ce la vie!

“Little Apple” by the Chopsticks Brothers – It’s Time to Jump on the Bandwagon 

How Many Foreigners Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb?

46 Signs China is Permeating Your Soul