Wednesday, January 21, 2009

i wish for a fish

Today has been a fishy day! First, let me say that it has been so painful for me to not be able to upload pictures here. Second, I earned my BC point* by eating a FISH EYE at lunch today. Yes!! Third, my feet were massaged by skin-eating fish today. All for the low low price of a little over $1.

*One may be initiated into the Balls Club if another member challenges said person to do something, well, ballsy. Once you are in the club, you then have the power to challenge others into it. You are not allowed to make up BC initiation challenges for others if you yourself are not in the BC. Once a BC member, always a BC member.

Friday, January 16, 2009

selamat datang!

I think (hope?) that means "welcome" in Bahasa Malay...? Just a quick update to let everyone know that southeast Asia is warm, beautiful, and full of mosquitos: bite count at 16 and rising...

Nevertheless, it is DELICIOUS, and I am trying to eat as much as I can! We spent a half day in Singapore before hopping over to Johor Bahru in Malaysia. INDIAN FOOD! Chicken biriyani and roti prata abound here. My life is so full of happy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

methods of transport

Sometimes when comparing different places, one might be led into thinking that due to some surface-level shared qualities (they both have great hole-in-the-wall sushi joints! Their residents are so friendly to visitors!), said places might actually resemble each other.

This is not one of those instances. Whether I am aware of it or not, I keep a running mental log of observations of my new surroundings and how it compares to Modesto, Berkeley. If I were still a developmental psychology student, I would discuss the use of schemata (fancy term for mental categories) and how so many things here don't fit into my previously established schemata. They are that different.

This resembles nothing I've ever ridden before, save that John Deere junior year of high school. Introducing...the "tiny automated rickshaw" (my words) or alternatively, a "ghetto lawnmower" (Aubrey's). There are illegal taxis here called "hei che(s)" (literally black car)...this here thing is several steps down from that.

And a photo with the driver for good measure.

And in case all of you were wondering, this is how dogs roll around here.

So. No secrets here, but a big reason why I started this blog was to have a place to tell y'all about our amazing trip around Southeast Asia! (I then realized that this country itself has a ton of blog-worthy material...) I leave early Tuesday morning, but hopefully I will be able to quickly update from fun places! And when I return...prepare yourselves. In the meantime, who wants to be my technical support? I tried to upload a video of our lawnmower ride, but to no avail.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

but for you who fear my name

(I believe the "you" is plural)

Well, far be it from me to write an album review since I'm barely qualified.

I'll back that up now. To me, music reviewers are the kind of people who know about artists and passionately love (or hate) them even before they've made it big, before they've scored a record deal...dude, if you've "discovered" them by the time they're in the process of recording their first album, you've missed the boat and are sooo 2008. Our finest case in point here, where their ever so slightly patronizing tone never lets the reader forget that their first (implicit) objective is mockery. Of the ironic sort, of course. (How dare you call my Decemberists "pretty ridic"? Who ARE you? I hate Pitchfork and their pretty ridic rating system.)

Reason #2 why I am not qualified: I dislike most music the first time around. And the second, and the's not my fault; it sometimes takes a kid 20 times before she'll eat a new food. Fortunately, I have a loving friend whose middle name is perseverance--she persistently introduces new music to me and smiles as I initially fight it and eventually surrender.

Speaking of said loving friend...she sent me a package full of happy that I received today! I was so excited that I called her right away:

S: THANK YOU!!!!!!!

D: Did you listen to it yet?

S: I'm so excited to read the David Sedaris book, and to eat the Oatmeal Squares...

D: Did you listen to it yet?

S: ...and to use my new floss, and to make my Peet's Fair Trade coffee...


S: Well no, I called you first.

D: Go listen to it now. Email me when you've finished. (hangs up)

"It" refers to this, a recent Sufjan Stevens production of a couple and their forays into folky-but not-hokey song. Here's a picture of how I feel about the album:

(It means I like it a lot!* Hat tip to Jena for the reminder to take joyous pictures with Photobooth with things you love.)

Anyway, it will probably be at least 2 weeks before I can give a solid two cents on the album, but seriously, while none of the songs are penned by Mr. Stevens himself, the album is full of Sufjan soul and heart. The horn interludes, the gentle choir crooning, and the lonely banjo strums are all Sufjan trademarks, trademarks that I happen to enjoy quite a bit. I repeated #6 multiple times today (the title of this post). It comes straight of Malachi: triple point word score all around! It's clappy and easily sing-a-longable, which is a high priority of mine. Plus, inside the little booklet is a 4 page essay of Sufjan ramblings about musicians' "proclivities" and attempts to "extricate" meaning from life. Well, stick a fork of obtuse vernacular in me, I'm sold!

*Pitchfork actually gave a decent review for the album and managed to not make fun of Faith in the process. A thrill of hope...?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

the first step

Inaugural post! This should be epic. Anyway, the purpose of this blog is to document my life in a organized way so that the grandkids have something to laugh about later. Focus of this blog: a lot about things I eat, since 10 minutes into my waking day I have usually figured out breakfast and am tackling lunch and dinner. But there will also be all the little stories and random thoughts that come with living in a foreign country...I can't write on food alone. Can I?

So let's get started! I've been in East Asia now for over 4 months. The language continues to be difficult. The people continue to be unflappably friendly and go miles (or kilometers, I guess) out of their way to make sure we are happy and wearing enough clothing. I continue to learn my new land. It is at turns confusing, inscrutable, completely different from anything I've ever known, and at times strangely familiar. It brings me so much joy when I am able to call it home, temporary though it is. And while I think I have a lot to teach these people, the reality is that I still have so much yet to learn.

Food Lesson #1: freshness counts!

One of the absolute joys of living in this country is the people's insistence on buying nothing but the freshest food for their meals. I mean, I come from the US, where we buy mangoes in December shipped from tropical places. The US, while it encompasses many traits, is absolutely not a tropical country, especially in December. So here is an example of daily eye candy on what we call "our food alley", which is a mere stone's throw from our apartment:

I believe these contain some sort of pork and green vegetable.

A husband and wife team run this dumpling cart. He rolls out the dough and oversees the cooking; she stuffs the little 饺子. In case anyone was wondering, I am so very fond of these. Also, I am fond of how they lay the dumplings out in concentric circles in the giant cast-iron pan for neatness.

These were photographed on the stairway of my apartment...I had to capture them before I ate them for lunch!They are transported in what I like to call the ubiquitous plastic bag. If you grab absolutely any food to go in this city, it automatically comes in a small and impossibly thin plastic bag that can't be good for the environment. I've learned to let that go a little bit this year.

note to self: get serious about blogging this year