Monthly Archives: August 2008

Blogs Without Photos Are Booooring

Hello all!

For some reason, I’ve been having some issues uploading photos onto my blog.  So I commend those of you who actually read through my previous, very long entry that contained no visual stimuli whatsoever!  Here are the photos that I wanted to put into that blog, so feel free to catch up.  It looks like for now, the only way to upload photos onto my computer is to send them to Jason and have them inset them into my blog.  I’ll try to keep updating and hopefully find a way to upload them, but for now (and maybe for the rest of the year) this will have to suffice.  Enjoy!

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Welcome to Beijing

Beijing is a bustling city full of life and optional traffic signals where the sky is hazy and the sun is permanently a pink blot in the sky surrounded by a yellow-orange halo.  In the two days I’ve been here, I’ve found it to be overwhelming even though I spend the majority of my time on campus and have left my district only once.

I arrived very late on Tuesday evening and was brought to my apartment.  Ironically, it is the nicest apartment I’ve ever lived in so far.  Not only are the amenities fairly new and well-kept, but there is a weekly cleaning service!  Housekeeping comes in once a week to sweep/mop the floors, change the sheets, and clean the sinks and tub.  I’ve heard some horror stories about other housekeeping services (mops getting their water from the toilet bowl, mops on carpets, mostly mop horror stories, I guess), but our staff is generally pretty sanitary and reliable.  (I will make a note here and say that I do plan on keeping up the apartment in addition to the cleaning services… so don’t worry, Mom.)

I’m so grateful for my new home!  Dad’s really provided!

Two sisters, Alethea and Dana, have been amazingly helpful in getting me acquainted to campus and just getting some work done.  I know I’d be completely lost about them and I hope you will keep them in your thoughts as well!

Last night, I went to a dinner at Alethea’s friend, Soltoni, from a Chinese language class.  He is an Iranian physics teacher for the Iranian high school in Beijing (who knew there’s be an Iranian high school here, right?).  He, his wife, and beautiful daughter invited us to their home in a different district of Beijing.  Two of Alethea’s Indonesian friends (one is a brother), Daniel and Willy, from the same language class also came to the dinner.  They were so friendly and a lot of fun to talk to.

Daniel and Willy told me a really funny (and somewhat disturbing story) about how the plumbing in their hometown in Indonesia just dumps all of the toilet waste into a pond or tank adjacent to the houses.  In each tank or pond, there is an eel (I’m NOT kidding!!) who eats the toilet waste and helps to regulate it.  I commented that it reminded me of Star Wars because there’s that giant eel-like monster in the Death Star trash compactor that Luke, Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca get stuck in.

I asked if they’d seen the movie, and they did not recognize the scene I was referencing, but they said, “Maybe it is like that, but a little different… and the eel is delicious.”  AAAH!!  I couldn’t believe it!  They catch and eat the eel that had been swimming and eating on their human waste for who knows how long!  When I asked if they were ever grossed out by it, they said, “Well, the eel is really, really good.  And you must clean it very well, inside and outside.  But if you think about it… well… maybe you think it’s not so good.”

This morning, my mom urged me over the phone to explore the campus and city on my own.  So I mustered up a bit of courage and bought a cup of coffee at a small coffee stand on campus.  I think my fear really altered my perception because the coffee stand was about a minute away and ordering was a piece of cake.  Still, it’s these small victories that keep me going and while my iced Americano was completely overpriced (14 RMB!!! About $2.5 USD) and didn’t include milk, at least I know I can purchase coffee in Beijing.  It may seem insignificant, but having access to coffee is vital to my survival here!

However, the most exciting part of my day was getting a bike!  Alethea gave me a bike that was left by a family that went back to Canada.  I took it to a bike repair shop and now it runs… well… it runs.  It ain’t new, but I love its little idiosyncrasies—I think it gives it a lot of character.  Plus, it was free AND it’s recycled!  Riding a bike here can be very dangerous, but it’s the best way to get around and you know me—I love being eco-friendly!

After getting my bike and taking care of some other errands, we rode to a nearby restaurant and had some amazing food (darn, forgot to take pictures… will try to remember next time) and on the way home, Dana mentioned that she may stop for a foot massage.  Alethea suggested that I go along since it only costs 24 RMB (less than $4 USD) and would be a fun cultural experience.

Unfortunately, the usual masseuse was out and it would be another hour wait for our turn, so we just rode our bikes around town a bit, then headed back home.  Tomorrow, I go to the hospital for my physical exam… I’m sure that will be a different experience!  ‘Til my next update, your thoughts have really transpired into amazing things here in Beijing and I am so grateful for all of you.  Zai jien!

4 Comments

Filed under Random Thoughts

Hello Tokyo!

Well, here I am folks in foggy, smoggy Tokyo. This airport is everything I expected. The uniforms are cute, the entire place is immaculate, and the toilets/bathrooms are cool!

The flight over was super smooth and much shorter than I’d originally anticipated. I think it ended up being just over 9 hours. I wasn’t tired at all, so I Sudoku’d to my hearts content and watched a few movies. One completely sucked (do NOT watch Deception with Ewan MacGregor and Hugh Jackman. Blech. Waste of time), but the other was completely delightful and definitely helped lift my spirits. I’ll admit that every time I went to use the lavatory, I would sit on the toilet and suddenly burst into tears! I just couldn’t get the image of my mom waving to me at the security check point at PDX out of my mind. I just kept thinking and meditating upon the purpose of my trip and the joy it will bring Dad to see me grow and learn from the experiences he’s planned for me.

Oh! And in case you’re wondering, the movie was a French film called Priceless starring Audrey Tatou. It was a little bit of an off-beat romantic comedy, but it was really original and the acting was really good.

I also took Timmy Hino’s advice and got some Japanese grub while waiting here at the airport. I may run off and grab one more snack before I board because everything here looks off the chain. EVERYTHING. Even the bottled beverages look good! I’m assuming a lot of this is driven by my American consumerist mentality, but walking around the snack bar areas of the terminal is like being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory except not free and not with a bunch of creepy, spoiled white kids from around the world. For now, I’m quite satisfied with my big bowl of Spicy Ramen.

I hope I made you proud, Timmy.

I hope I made you proud, Timmy.

That’s about it for now. I’m not sure when I’ll have internet access, but I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures and write more later. Thanks everyone for thinking of me– here’s to another smooooth flight (*Grace takes big ol’ swig of ramen broth*)!!

3 Comments

Filed under I ain't no salad-eatin skinny, Travel and Transport

More Road Trip CHAOS! (Part Two) … and then some…

Our second day on the road from the Bay Area to Portland was certainly not as stressful, nor as eventful, but it was certainly memorable. Joy and I woke up early the next morning so we could get an early start out in hopes of being home by dinner. With every minute, our desire to just be at our parents’ house grew and grew. We hit up the free continental breakfast, downed as much coffee as we could stomach, and prepared for our next face off against Mr. Honda. In our escapades the day before, we’d learned from a few different generous men who’d stopped to help us that our biggest issue was that the cap to our radiator was broken.

These stinkin' things, man...

Fortunately, our hotel was just a half-mile from the nearest Auto Parts store! We walked down and bought a replacement piece that cost only $10. On one hand, we were glad that the damage wasn’t so severe that we’d have to take the car in for repairs, but on the other hand, we were slightly irked that a stupid $10 piece was what kept us from making it home the day before.

We put on the new piece and took Mr. Honda out for a short drive around town, just to test him out. The temperature and RPM gauges were doing great and there was no sign of any steam, so Joy and I did a little dance, checked out, refilled the radiator with more water and coolant, and set out for the open road AGAIN!

Our success was short-lived. As soon as we hit the first hill, Mr. Honda was out and out all over again. Steam pouring out from the hood, water being spat out from a different spot, and the engine was on fire (not literally… but we were concerned about it happening). We called our brilliant cousin, Josh, who used to work for Kragen and he told us to blast the heater and not to exceed the speed limit NO MATTER WHAT. As a Californian, I was almost offended by the idea of staying a speed limit the entire time, but we had no choice. The car kept overheating and we just wanted to get home. We also agreed to stop every 30-60 minutes to check the water and coolant in the radiator and give the car a chance to cool down a bit.

This is how we really feel about Mr. Honda

This is how we really feel about Mr. Honda

We cranked up the heat and set out. It was definitely an interesting experience. Fortunately, the weather was cool and since we were traveling so slow, we cracked the windows a bit to let in some fresh air.
It took us about another 5 hours to get home from Grants Pass. The drive was uneventful. I think at this point, I was beyond trying to cheer Joy up and Joy was just overwhelmed by how ridiculous our situation was. Still, we were able to laugh about it later.
When we finally pulled up to our parents’ driveway, our mom rushed out of the house to greet us and was met by Mr. Honda blasting Queen’s “We Are The Champions” and her two daughters screaming along to the song at the top of their lungs. I was so happy I cried. Still, in his own way, we were taught so much by Our Dad about how we manage high-stress situations and the joy of having a sense of humor through situations like this one. We also learned a whole lot about cars!
The rest of the week was wonderful. Our family got in some really blessed time together and I managed to get a ton of stuff done. Aside from watching the Olympics and doing some shopping, we simply enjoyed one another’s company, talked about the future, and ate some amazing food.
Joy and I were also glad to have each other for the most frustrating road-trip experiences we’ve had so far and were grateful that in the end, we were able to laugh about it. Here are some of the highlights of our trip:

Happier, now that we're out of the car and eating GIANT sushi!

Happier, now that we're out of the car and eating GIANT sushi!!

This is classic.  Just look at Joy's face's reaction to Daniel.

This is classic. Just look at Joy's reaction to Daniel

Toby, I'll miss you so much.

Toby, I'll miss you so much.

This is Dad's first shot at being a hand-and-face model.

This is Dad's Hand-and-Face Model Test Shot

My next post will be from Beijing, China! See y’all then… I hope you enjoyed reading about our experience more than we did going through it!

2 Comments

Filed under Travel and Transport

West Coast Road Trip CHAOS! (Part 1)

Before my big trip out to the Far East, I took a road trip with my sister from the Bay Area, CA to the greater Portland Area, OR to visit my folks, brother and various relatives. Here’s a map of our trip:

Our trip has consisted of wonderful, often overlooked road-trip rituals, included eating junk food and engaging in some serious sing-alongs (video will be uploaded at a later time).

excellent road for a road trip

excellent road for a road trip

The drive from the Bay Area to Portland is really beautiful. You begin in the foggy, familiar San Francisco skyline and end up lost in the Northern Cal mountains and passing by Mt. Shasta. Lucky for us, Joy and I were able to enjoy the scenery for a considerably LONGER period of time than any other car driving through the area. Against our will. Observe…

Exhibit #1

Here I am with my dear Mr. Honda with his skirt (or would it be a kilt?) up for the world to see his privates (see Exhibit #1) about 3 miles before the CA/OR Stateline. He’d pooped out due to the heavy load he was hauling, the incline, and Joy and I stupidly leaving the A/C on full blast.

30 minutes, 1.5 quarts of oil, and a bottle of coolant later, we were back on the road. Mr. Honda was purring like a baby and for a split second, I thought to myself, “Maybe we WILL make it up to the other side of the Oregon in my faulty 1996 Honda Accord that has already failed on my once.”

Exhibit #2

40 miles later, steam was streaming out from under the hood again and we were ready for Round 2 of the big fight with Mr. Honda (see Exhibit #2). We figured we’d just overheated again, and were hoping that we could just wait it out as we had at the border.

Alas, it was not so… we stopped again, only THIS time, we were on an incline going up the final hill of the infamous Grant’s Pass. With numerous semis and tons of other cars blasting past, we desperately tried to give Mr. Honda some more water, coolant, anything to soothe the super hot radiator and engine, but nothing seemed to work! He just kept steaming and spitting everything back out the radiator.

At this point, we knew we were on our last leg and had to get help. Since we were on an incline, we figured we’d just get to the peak of the hill and then cruise down on neutral and exit at the first turnoff (about 1 mile away). Like the little engine that could, we chugged our way up the hill, steam flowing out from under our hood, and finally started down hill. I popped Mr. Honda into neutral, but Joy was not satisfied. Now, something you should know about my younger sister is she generally keeps things under control and she gets work DONE. So when she panics, I also panic, but I try to cover up for that by keeping her calm. At this point, we’re cruising downhill at the posted speed limit in neutral, but as I’d mentioned before, Joy simply was not satisfied.

“I think you need to turn off the engine. It will stop the steam.”

My gut is telling me that turning off the engine in a car that is going down a curvy road at 50+ mph is NOT the greatest idea, but since she’s been the one calling the shots up until now, I go against my gut and switch off the ignition. I suddenly realize that it will soon be time to break.

“JOY THE BRAKES AREN’T WORKING!!!!!!!!!!”

“What… WHAT!?!?”

Two helpless Asian girls who were just trying to cool down their car were suddenly two hopeless women, plummeting to their death! I hit the brakes REALLY hard and we eventually started slowing down and made it safely to the closest exit in Sunny Valley, OR (see Exhibit #3) which reminded me of the old kayaking film Deliverance in ALL THE WORST WAYS POSSIBLE.

Exhibit #3Exhibit #3

At this point, Joy and I knew there was no hope left for Mr. Honda- at least not for today. After receiving generous help from some (somewhat shady) locals, our parents decided to have us stay in Grants Pass for the evening and attempt to make our way north the following morning. Joy and I SLOWLY backtracked about 3 miles up and down the same hills we nearly killed ourselves on (which took about 20 minutes since we had to stop every 7 minutes or so to refill the water in our radiator and cool the engine down) and ended up at the lovely Comfort Inn. To top off the eventful day, we evaded eating dinner at the local Sizzler (as their clam chowder had “a pinkish hue” and the potato salad was “neon yellow” according to Joy) and laughed about our hilarious adventure at Denny’s over bagels, Boca Burgers, and fresh fruit.

There IS more to this story, but given that it is already incredibly long, I will save the rest for the next post!

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel and Transport

Time is a-tick-tockin’

The Mighty List o’ Things I’ll Miss

Aside from the obvious..

Ma and Pops

Ma and Pops..

My favorite pair of crazies

My favorite pair of crazies...

... and this strange mustachioed stunner.

... and this strange mustachioed stunner.

There are a few other American commodities that I think I’ll long for while I’m in China.

TAPATIO!

TAPATIO!

#1 TAPATIO

Many are astounded to find that I put Tapatio on literally everything. Reserved not only for my tortas al pastor (which should also fall under the “obviously will miss” category), I’ve been known to put this irreplaceable red elixir on nearly everything, including my Eggo waffles (yes, plus syrup).

Oh Senor Tapatio. You’ve been the inspiration for lines in poems, late night munchies. I plan on taking you with me to Beijing to sprinkle generously upon my scrambled eggs and in my brothy Chicken soups.

My heart aches at the thought of a Tapatio-less world.

Unpolluted Skies and Wide Open Spaces

Unpolluted Skies and Wide Open Spaces

#2 UNPOLLUTED SKIES AND WIDE OPEN SPACES
Sure, I’d consider myself more of a city girl than a Nalgene-toting tree hugger. Maybe I’m a bit of a closet tree-hugger, with my eco-friendly shopping bags (ah… environmentally conscious people… another thing I’ll probably miss) and general disdain for smog. But I ask you– could anything possibly replace a sky like this? I’ve heard about rain so acidic that it burns your eyeball and the idea of stargazing is completely out of the question. I’ll probably enjoy some of those LA-sunsets topped by a thick layer of fuschia smog clouds. Still, blue is pretty out of the question which makes me a little sad. Gray skies will hopefully offer some comfort when I haven’t seen the sun for the 5th month n a row.
FATTY POTLUCKS!!!!

FATTY POTLUCKS!!!!

#3 FATTY POTLUCKS
I’m sure that I will bet met by some amazing, large meals in China. However, I will miss the meals I’ve had here with my extended families. Meals marked by copious amounts of meat and a delightful mixture of Japanese, American, a giant pot of rice, and various grilled proteins. I’ll miss the familiarity of sharing gluttonous meals with good friends and people you can easily call family because what binds us is a lot bigger than institutions or even rice… and we ALL know how vital rice is. Still, I look forward to what new foods will show up on the spread at my first hosted potluck. ‘Til then, I’ll retain fond memories of aluminum pans brimming with spam, pots of bubbling chili and the familiar smell of charcoal.
IN CONCLUSION
I’ll be missing lots of things that I haven’t thought to list here on my post. All this sad, I strive to follow the wise words of a timid, yet poignant individual…
LIVE IN THE NOW

LIVE IN THE NOW!

Take it day by day, not long after things I can’t have or never be able to afford, and enjoy every second of the biggest butt-kicking I’ll ever endure. Besides, I’m sure once I come back, I’ll write a blog entitled, “Things I Miss Most About China.” And the list will probably be a lot longer and include a whole lot more than some hot sauce.

1 Comment

Filed under Random Thoughts