Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Me and Mrs. Meiser

James has work today. I don't. I was so smug thinking I'd be the first to find gainful employment here, seeing as j-school endowed me with uber tenacity when it comes to finding jobs. But James has language skillz. I have none. So he's off to do his merry translation, while I sit at home with his mom. We've never spent an extended period of time alone together. So the burning question is ... what will we do?

Quilt? Churn butter? Talk about our periods? I need to find a job.

Five Things I Miss About America

I've been here a week and a half. The homesickness is mostly in check. I miss my family. I miss the O.G.s in Los Angeles (and by original gangsters I mean my wonderful 'SC friends), but I'm enjoying Taiwan too much to feel too left out of the stateside shenanigans. That aside, here's what I'm craving from the homeland:

1. Country music. Yeah, I know lots of you reading this back home wish they would send all the country music to Taiwan. I, however, laid in bed last night listening to this, this and this on my iPod. But I'm adapting and starting to take a secret liking to this.

2. Baby football. My brothers are dominating the 5th and 6th grade bracket for the Central Oregon Coast. I'm so proud of them.

3. Election season. I don't like waking up at 7 a.m. to stream the debates. And no one here wants to talk about it. James has an arsenal of preprogrammed answers for all my political waxings: His eyes glaze, his tongue lolls, "uh-huh," "yep," "I agree."

4. Sweatshirt weather. I'm told there is such a thing in Taiwan. I'll believe it when I see it.

5. The 7th season of The Shield. Okay it got way too soapy in the last two seasons, but I'm not a quitter. I need to know if Mackey gets thrown off the force, or killed, or what.

The Earth is for the People

From National Palace Museum

Or at least that's what James' mom told me this gate said outside the National Palace Museum. Being illiterate makes me feel real dumb. Reading is fundamental. But learning seems insurmountable when you're starting from the ground up and the language is unsimplified Chinese. After a week, I can recognize four words: "on," "off," "exit" and "Taipei."

On to happier subjects: Today we went to the National Palace Museum, one of the largest collections of ancient Chinese artifacts in the world. We saw lots of old pots and paintings, and a very special cabbage figurine.
What the Mona Lisa is to the Louvre, the hope diamond to the Smithsonian, that's what this jade bok choy is to the Palace Museum. I had to mow down a horde of Japanese tourists to get within a foot of its glass encasement. And I can now attest, it does very much resemble a stock of cabbage, only shinier. Just as stunning and almost as hard to get within spitting distance of was the meat-shaped rock. This work hardly needs further explanation: It's a stone that strikingly resembles something I would like to eat for lunch. These are the two most famous works on display at the Museum. A society that treasures a vegetable figurine and a rock that looks like a piece of steamed pork has its priorities straight. I appreciate that.

As big as your forearm!

From National Palace Museum

Afternoon Snacks Done Right

Oh bacon on a pastry bun, where have you been all my life?
From National Palace Museum

Monday, September 29, 2008

Our Meeting with Dino

When I hear someone is a western journalist on a "permanent traveling assignment" I expect to meet a ramblin' man with stubbly jowls, a safari vest and a cigarette hanging off his lip.

Unless this journalist's name is Dino. Then I imagine him as a cast member of my favorite early-90s anamatronic series:

As it turns out this Dino (pronounced: dee-no) was neither a plaid-shirted triceratops nor a journalist. But he did have a pretty cool job.

He works for a company that provides ad supplements for English newspapers in Asia. Every four months he travels to a new country in Europe or Asia and persuades companies to advertise. It's the kind of deal where the size ad you buy determines how long the article about your business is.

Dino tells prospective clients he's a journalist from such-and-such newspaper. Then once he's in the door he gives the big pitch about what a great opportunity this is for exposure. Then at the end he names the price.

With four years at Annenberg behind me, the J-school Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder did much hand wringing throughout our meeting. I saw a sample of the section, it doesn't even say "special advertising section" at the top, as I believe is required in the U.S.

But the travel bug in my gut said, four months in Asia? Then four months in Europe? Then four months in Asia? Then - Sign me up!

Sidenote: We met Dino at Starbucks. Mine and James' coffee cost more than my delicious lunch and my ticket to see Red Cliff at a second-run theater combined. I plan on never going to Starbucks in Taiwan again.

What the hell is that?

Bill Murray and Steve Martin perform my inner monologue whenever I find a teeny fish head or piece of meat jelly in my soup.

Bragging Rights

Today I had noodle soup and roast duck for lunch, all for less than $3.00 U.S.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

When is it over?

The wind is supposed to die down this afternoon and the rain - I'm not sure about the rain. But as soon as we can venture outside with the assurance we wont be hit in the face by flying trash, I plan on scooting out of this apartment.

Weather permitting, James and I are going to meet an Australian journalist who works for the Japan Times this afternoon. James might do translation work for him, and I plan on aggressively needling him on future job opportunities.

That aside, I'm still setting up interviews on the English school circuit. There are plenty of school looking for teachers, but it's hard to say how legitimate they are without physically traveling there and interviewing. Thinking about all the interviews I have to do really just makes me want to take a nap.

"Now you know what typhoon is"

It's still raining sideways, only harder now. The windows are rattling, and water is streaming down the facade. The lights just flickered, followed by a loud buzz.

Tina: "What is that?"

James: "Probably the generator switching on."

Tina: "Oh you know what we need do ... Get some water."

She proceeds to the kitchen to fill buckets.

Tina: "If you need to shower you need to do it right now."
James, you best not be thinking you're going to get away without showering today, I think to myself.

This is how James wards off typhoon boredom, he reorganizes his DVDs. Unfortunately his doing so only increases my hankering to impale myself on an eating utensil.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Typhoon Top Ten

It's raining sideways. Everything is closed. Here are my plans to entertain myself so I don't attempt seppuku with a chopstick while we're stuck inside.

1. Attempt to set up voicemail on my cellphone sans English-language user manual.
2. Finish reading The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh.
3. Watch Best of the Chris Rock Show.
4. Bust out my "Chinese in 500 words book" in the hopes of one day being able to order my own intestine soup.
5. Eat my fishballs for lunch, pretend they're double cheeseburgers.
6. Stream sad country songs while I rub menthol on my heat rash.
7. Write a bitter and boastful ballad about how I picked the right time not to be job hunting back home.
8. Think of ways to accidentally on purpose break James' synthesizer.
9. Sneak down to the 7-11 downstairs and buy some plum wine and not share it.
10. Convince James to let me french braid his leg hair.

Thar She Blows

Oh man, after a lifelong fascination with the ocean, this is the first time I've been able to use that phrase in earnest. Typhoon Jangmi (which is supposed to be big but I don't know anything about weather measurements so you should really just read about it at Bloomberg) is expected to pass through Taiwan and then on to eastern China.

It's sort of scary and exciting, witnessing my first typhoon. Exciting because I will hopefully get to watch TV all day tomorrow, which will be a welcome break from all the pavement beating we've been doing in this tortuous humidity. Scary because I will likely be stuck inside this apartment with my boyfriend and his mom for a 24-hour stretch. Pray for me.

It's not easy being green...

James' uncle and aunt took us to the supermarket today because there's a typhoon that's supposed to come tomorrow, and we don't want to be stuck with just our beer and eggs. I once many times said I'd never live anywhere with hurricanes. Ah, hypocrisy.

That's where I found Kermit, perched on his little rock, with lots of other Kermits swimming below him. Though I once tied a fork to the end of a broom for frog gigging, it made me a little sad to see this poor lil' guy in the super market. Back home I had to leave the frog slaying to the real Oregonians, I was too squeamish. But I can't lie, frog is a little bit delicious...

Lost in Translation

No one told the people of Taiwan mattresses are supposed to be big, cushy sleep aides. If you can grab it with one hand and fling it across the room, it's not a mattress, it's a cruel joke with bamboo slats.

When I sleep with my head propped on my hands my fingers are numb in the morning.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not the American Way

I had two job interviews this week. The first I set up myself. I was taken into a classroom by a woman whom I dwarfed by probably 8 inches and 50 pounds. I briefly contemplated throwing her over my shoulder and forcefully demanding a job.

But instead we had a 20-minute interview that was pretty much what I'd expect in America. She asked why I felt qualified to teach kids English when I have zero teaching experience. And I gave the worthless but expected, "Oh but I love children," reply. She looked skeptical. Fair enough, I thought. She said she'd call me in a week. Done. I found out afterward she has a masters in education from the U.S.

The next interview was set up by James' mom who knows a woman who teaches English full-time. I put on a skirt, James donned a tie and we took the train to another school. Then James and I sat silently in the lobby and watched James' mom chat up the school owner. I nodded and smiled, and answered politely when questions were tossed my way. Answers as in, "There's hiking trails near here? Oh yes, I love hiking," and "I think it's a wonderful city so far." Twenty minutes passed and we were offered $600NT ($20 U.S.) an hour for a Friday teaching position, starting almost immediately. Though it's not many hours, that's terrific pay for a first-time position in Taipei, where there's a surplus of English teachers (I'm told you can expect higher pay working in smaller cities).

This is going to take some getting used to.

Globalization all up in my face

Yesterday we ate dinner at "Ni Ni's." That's James' grandma. She's in her 80s but Yeye (that's grandpa) is 92! He can't remember much and mostly sits in his chair and smiles.

After we finished our squid and ground pork, the real adults retired to the living room and James' and I chatted in the kitchen with Amina, his grandparents' Indonesian maid. She's been living with them for four months now, helping take care of Yeye.

Amina is 23. She told us she's from Jakarta. We found out she's Muslim earlier in the week when she wouldn't join us for lunch because of Ramadan. Oh yeah, and she's married, honeymooned in Bali, she said.

So naturally, she asked James and I if we were married. When we glanced sideways at eachother and threw up a little bit in our mouths, she asked if we at least had an arrangement to get married.

"No......nope, sure don't" followed by awkward smiles.

"Oh, no need!" she said in Chinese and laughed - which I thought was very diplomatic.

It occured to me afterward that James and I were two Americans in Taiwan mingling with an Indonesian. James translated for me since the bulk of my Chinese is still "What is that?" and "I'm too hot." All of the conversation took place in Chinese, although Chineses isn't a primary language for any of us.

I think that's cool.

Squid Ice Cream: It's what's for brunch

Tina's best friend, "Rebecca Ayi" (ayi means auntie), took the three of us to Keelung for a day of fish and festivity with her college classmates.

We arrived midmorning and I met my nine new aunties; rather than bother with names, Rebecca Ayi told us to just call her gang of middle-aged lady friends "ayi."

Here's a picture of the squid ice cream. It didn't taste like squid, but note the inky color.

Then we went to the fish market and picked out our lunch. Once they decided on which fish, the group went to a restaurant with plastic tarp table clothes, barren walls, and a single pesky fly that haunted the dining area throughout our meal. But the food ... amazing.

Afterward we went to one of my Auntie's summer homes, which was on the 18th floor of a highrise overlooking the port.

Here's all my aunties.
For more pictures, go here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I died ...

and went to heaven a Dior fashion show at the Grand Formosa Regent. James' mom's high school classmate's brother is a top stylist in Taiwan (p.s. did I mention connections are sort of important here...). Anyway, my boyfriend's mom's friend's brother got us tickets to see this fashion show. Taiwan's top super model, Lin Zhi Ling, was there, so I've had my first official Asian celebrity sighting. The moment we were seated I did the tourist thing and took a bjillion pictures before the models even stepped out. I just couldn't get over how fancy these place settings were! The three of us, James, his mom, and I, got extra plebian on the Taipei fashion world and stuffed the complimentary hotel notepads in our bags. "We can use at home!" Tina said scooping them off the table.

Here's a picture of the fancy appetizers. I was just blown away by the fanciness.
Then came the models. I was developing a crush on this one. She could tell.

And then the supermodel.

For more pictures, check my picasa.

James' Dirty Pillows

We found this in a dollar store today. I almost bought it for one of my dearest and lewdest friends back home, but it had a useless on/off switch and battery pack. We surmised the battery was to power a noise elicited upon squeezing of the hoohahs, but these boobies were silent. James suggested we buy a new battery for it. I told him I wasn't interested in investing that much time in a pair of plush taters. I also wasn't interested in ringing them up in front of his mom.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh thank God, I found it

The Golden Arches in Keelung, a port town on the north coast.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Plan For Day Four

1. Call the buxiban across the street. Hope they hire me.

Buxibans or bushibans are cram schools where Taiwanese children go before or after their regular school so they can do even more learning. The majority of English teachers get jobs at these kinds of school, or so I'm led to believe. According to the internet, it shouldn't be difficult for me to find a job at this type of place. Hopefully the internet is right. I would like to work at this one particular Bushiban because it is literally right across the street from our building, tres convenient.

2. Go to a fishing village, get a fish, take it to a restaurant, have it cooked for me.

Get a job, eat a fish. It should be a good day.

Asia is Adorable

Cute isn't just for kids in this country. On the bus ride home today I started a tally of Hello Kitty motorcycle helmets ... on men. I first visited Hong Kong when I was 11. And I suspicion the ubiquitous cute factor had something to do with why I was so enchanted with it. Then it seemed like I'd found my place in the world, a world full of magical, hot-pink, cartoon-eyed wonders! Now, 11 years later, I have gained the wisdom and knowledge to know I will succumb to wasting much money on tschotsky crap while here. But I don't mind.

Today we visited Tapei 101, which will be the world's tallest building for a couple more years. Tapei 101 is home to the world's fastest elevator and the world's largest wind damper. If this were America the world's largest wind damper would be stenciled with a cheeseburger/handgun design, a giant American flag and a "BIGGER IS BETTER - OH YEAH!" logo banner - Just so you wouldn't forget: It's the biggest, ok? But in Taiwan the world's largest wind damper is known as "Damper Baby." How emasculating.

If you didn't know, because I sure didn't know: a wind damper is a gigantic, spherical weight that protects the tower from earthquakes and typhoons. For further explanation, see an engineer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning Chinese No. 2

This morning James and I walked through an alley bazaar and picked up green onion and egg pancakes for breakfast (no relation to the bisquick variety). Looks like the typhoon missed us, but it's blowing like something else. On the way to pick up breakfast I got hit in the eye with a plastic shopfront banner. Lame.

Back at the pad, James and I ran through Chinese words as we finished off our red tea. We talked about how hot it is, what we were eating ... Okay, he says, now tell me, 'I don't want to sweat.'

Me: "uh ... wah boo yow lee-ow tse"

James: "You just said, 'I don't want to seep tea.'"

Learning Chinese

Today I added two new phrases to my Chinese vocabularly. I suppose that's a bit redundant, because I can't think of any other Chinese phrases that I know.

Anyway, the phrases of the day were...

"I want coffee."


"Do you have or don't you have a pork bun?"

The View from My Balcony

How many men does it take to pack a dumpling?

Six, apparently. I took this picture today at the restaurant where we ate lunch.

This morning we made a scratch into the eternity of cleaning this apartment needs. I spent two hours scrubbing the walls, which look like Jackie Chan and a cadre of Shaolin monks were practicing their gravity-defying fighting skills, there's all these nasty black track marks.

Then we took the bus to Taipei. It was raining so we mostly stayed in the below-ground shopping streets and department stores.

Now we're back at the Nankan pad. Nankan is the neighborhood we live in Taoyuan, which is a county about 30 minutes south of Taipei.

The wind is really whistling outside our 13th-story windows. There's supposed to be a typhoon coming tonight. James' mom, Tina, sent us down to the 7-11 on the ground floor to pick up beer and eggs for the occasion. Beer for tonight. Eggs just in case we can't get out tomorrow morning.

Now Tina is on the phone talking to her friends about getting James and I jobs at a school called Giraffe. This is awesome because I would love to have a job at a place called Giraffe. It's also awesome because I'm out of college and out of country and this would be the least amount of work I've ever had to do to secure employment. HACHA!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sea Cucumber: It's what's for dinner

Ohmygosh, I'm in Taiwan. This is our second day and there have already been so many crazy things to report on -- like the girl in an orange vinyl dress in the department store pushing Gillette shaving cream, and the black person toothpaste -- toothpaste that came in a box with a picture of a smiling black man in a top hat. James' uncle told me the company called it "Darkie" but switched to "Darlie" after ensuing furor. Nevertheless, the idea is it'll make your teeth extra sparkling, like a black person's, I guess.

James' uncle picked us up at the airport yesterday morning and brought us warm soy bean milk and greasy buns filled with green onion and leeks. We had fishballs, and curry, and drunken duck at James' grandparents house for lunch, and his 92-year-old grandfather surprised everyone by calling me beautiful in English when James' grandma prompted.

Then for dinner we went to a restaurant with Shanghai cuisine and ate spicy eel, stinky tofu, sea cucumber and meat jello - which is exactly what it sounds like. I could do without the sea cucumber.

For breakfast James and I picked up a plate of cold noodles with peanut sauce and chili oil, a green-tea flavored bun filled with red bean paste, and a delicious greasy pastry with a hot dog in the middle.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I'm in Alaska now, and in about four hours I'll be off the ground bound for Taipei.
I drove Billy and Ricky to school to say my goodbyes Wednesday. Upon their request, we bumped the Flo Rida as we cruised down Highway 101. In chorus we sang, “she turned around and gave that big booty a smack." I hope they know how much I’ll miss them. I think they do, judging by how embarrassed they were at my farewells.
“Goodbye, I love you, I’ll miss you, please please respond to my emails!”
“Bye,” Billy grins laughing and strolling away from the car.
“I LOVE YOU!” I call with the window rolled down as he stalks into the middle school, barely noticing my public display.
“Bye baby.” I say two minutes later dropping Ricky off at the elementary school.
I hurried home to finish stuffing the last nylon, bikini bottom, notebook, novel, hard drive into my overstuffed ski bags. Then I almost walked out of the house without my walking shoes or my fall jacket. Where did I get off thinking I could competently move to another country?
I had an emotional goodbye with dad, then mom and I were off to Eugene. We bantered the whole way about technology in Alaska, overuse of curse words in fiction, and what’s an acceptable price for a pair of quality pumps – anything to diffuse the feelings tied to the fact I’m leaving home with no return ticket for the first time.
Remember to wiggle your feet on the plane, don’t drink the alcohol – it’ll dehydrate you faster - DON’T let your purse out of sight, she reminds me.
Too soon it’s time to go through security.
“See you at Christmas in Taiwan, unless I win the lottery tomorrow in which case you can come home,” she says. She always buys a Powerball ticket when it gets about $130 million.
Then it’s “love and bye,” and twenty minutes later I’m watching The grass-patch suburbs of Eugene recede through an airplane window.

Sometimes in Life...

... you do something real dumb, like go hiking in Hatcher Pass wearing your only pair of diamond earrings. One falls out somewhere in the vicinity of your tent and the tundra it's pitched on. It's midnight. It's frickin' cold. You comb your bedroll to no avail. Then for twelve months you carry a single diamond stud around in your jewelry case and contemplate a cartilage piercing just so you can wear it. You go to California, Oregon, Washington - solitary stud in tow. Then you come back to Alaska for two days. Your boyfriend unpacks and repacks his backpacking pack. However, he has done this at least a dozen times since you lost your beloved earring. In eight hours, you're leaving the country. Your boyfriend is about to vacuum the floor when he spots something shiny. Eureka! All of a sudden you have two diamond studs again. How's that for a good omen?

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Conversation about Asians in Oregon

My brothers were adopted from Cambodia as babies. Now my family lives Florence, population 8,000, which probably has enough Asian children to count on one and a half hands. These facts inspire some interesting conversations about race. When Star Wars 3 came out my brother, 6 at the time, asked me why there were no brown jedi. I was at a loss until he reminded me that Master Windu, Samuel L. Jackson, was brown. “There you go!” I said.
“But I don’t know what I will look like when I grow up,” he said in a voice that seemed to say he had vague hopes of flowering into the likeness of Jules Winnfield. Our most recent conversation about race was on why there are other Asians in Florence, namely a Samoan family:
Billy: Him and his brother are Samoan, does that mean they’re from Hawaii?
Dad: No, it means they’re from Samoa.
Billy: But how did they get to Oregon?
Dad: Probably the same way you did! On a plane!
Billy: But, but why? For the historial cultures…?
Dad (accusatory): Historial what is this word? I've never heard this word. Why did you come to Oregon?!
Billy: I came because I had to. MAYBE they came for the historical cultures.
Me: Maybe they came because they love Oregon wines.
Ricky: I came for the girls.

Monday, September 15, 2008

If I were a nice Chinese girl...

I definitely wouldn't sign up for language exchange with this guy. Often I peruse Tealit, a website for English teachers in Taiwan, looking for jobs and what not. When I saw this man's beastly forehead and the headline, "I teach you English, you teach me Chinese," I had to click. Maybe, I'm being harsh: He's just an uh.. unconventional man looking to learn a different language. But his language exchange ad did note he's a "social drinker." How relevant. Turns out he's Swedish. Still, he just looks like the type of dude who'd ship his Ted-Bundy style van all the way to Formosa.

Awhile back when I was considering a summer in Phnom Phen I spoke to a woman who spent a couple years in Cambodia. She sung its praises except for the abundant gaggle of Indiana Jones types at the western bars. And not Indiana Jones type as in: rugged, strong and attractive through the decades a la Harrison Ford. Indiana Jones type as in, "Why hello little lady, I'm a white guy in southeast Asia who drinks a lot of beer and fancies myself adventuresome."

I suspicion there'll be some of the same in Taiwan. Or atleast, there sure seem to be a lot of ads on Tealit from twenty-something white men who reeeeally like Asian girls.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Baby Football

Today my brothers received their formal induction into America's favorite bloodsport. This morning I donned my empire-waisted fall coat and slouchy brown boots and hopped in the car with the rest of the Jones clan, and we headed to North Bend/Coos Bay (two towns that are actually kind of the same town. weird, I know). As soon as my brothers had their helmets and should pads on they adopted a swagger, the man swagger. When you get to be a tween and adults put you in plastic armor and tell you to go hit other kids - you automatically receive an extra jaunt in your step, apparently.

Some of the footballs dads were sweating it the practice before game day; word was North Bend practiced more and had more time to get used to their padding and helmets. We were all a little anxious before the game began, but by the beginning of the third quarter I'd characterize the mood on the Siuslaw bleachers as pride mixed with mild embarrassment: I stifled my cheers for Billy's touchdown runs, because - shoot - it just seemed like excessive celebration. Siuslaw turned it into a route, 36 - 0. Billy had a touchdown run greater than 50 yards, and Ricky made a couple terrific QB sacks. Then Ricky went and knocked the wind out of the other team's players and the kid had to be walked off the field. My parents looked around sheepishly, as if to say, "Is that okay for him to do that? Should we yell at him when we get home?" Our pastor, whose son is also on the team, happened to be sitting behind us. Pastor Randy assured us it was a fair tackle, the boy is just playing a good game of football. Phew, we got a pass.

Since I'm about to leave the country, I'm feeling extra sentimental about my brothers. I think I'm preemptively missing them. I find myself watching them on the field or listening to them jam on their drums and guitar and thinking about how I was about their age when they became a part of my life. When I was 11, I was changing their diapers, watching Bambi about four times a week, and learning that if you turn your back on an infant for three seconds he will find whatever you least want him to play with and try to eat it. I'm not down there in the action anymore - wiping away poop and collecting scattered leggos. Instead I'm in the stands cheering while they stiff arm the other little boys for a firstdown carry.

The good news is they're still afraid of aliens. And they still (secretly) adore Hannah Montana. You can dress them up like men, but they're still my baby brothers.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Two Weddin's and a Baby

In the last three months I purchased a wooden salad bowl, a serving platter and a baby bouncer. Not for myself, thank Jesus, but for three childhood friends making new additions to their families. Hopefully this rate of joyful blessings will decrease, because I really can't afford to drop that kind of change every few weeks. But it does call to mind a certain Bob Dylan song. Don't click that link, you know the one.

It wasn't so long ago that being able to buy a house was a hazy eventuality, and suddenly it's not such a nebulous idea, but a going concern. I catch myself drawn into involved conversations about furniture and kitchen appliances, and think, 'geez' the 16-year-old me would find me awfully boring.' I never aspired to become the type of person who cares about owning a good pairing knife, it just happened.

I'll admit some of my admiration for my old friends' new lives is marked by the basest consumerism: I scroll through their wedding registries and think to myself -- Well, I want a casual home laundry hamper, too! And throw in some gala balloon goblets and an avocado slicer while you're at it!

But then I remember that in order to make a list of all my worldly desires and send it to everyone I know, I have to make a lifelong commitment to another person. Ew. I can only commit the next eight months to James, max. And only if he acts right. I may send him to his grandma's if he can't give up that consternated whistling! If we're going to last more than six hours living together he'll have to learn that when finished eating and presented with the options to A. Leave your plate wherever you took the last bite (a coffee table, a stool, the middle of the floor) B. Stick it near the kitchen sink, unwashed or C. Clean it and put it away ... There's only one right answer. The others could prove fatal.

James: You're on notice.


This week my mom and I went to Portland and she bought me everything. And not everything as in "she paid for what we purchased" - that's a given. She bought everything as in all the goods that were for sale in Portland are now gone. We left the city in a state of emergency: the shelves are bare, no one can find ballet flats to pair with autumn dresses.

Since I'm out of school now and occasionally work, I figured I ought to pay for dinner as a show of gratitude for her depleting the city for my benefit. But she shut me down with the flimsy excuse, "but I get miles if we put it on my card..." If I were a man, this would have been emasculating. Since I'm not a man, I guess it's not. But that's how I felt. Oh well. I'm happy to be the proud new owner of everything that once belonged in Portland.

Said everything is now sitting in the garage waiting to be stuffed into duffels. One could probably make decent suppositions about someone's personality based on the items she deems vital to haul across the Pacific Ocean. For me those items include thigh-high pink socks, two pairs of faux suede boots, and a stack of books that will probably put me over the airplane weight limit. That stack includes works by Studs Terkel, Paul Theroux and Capote. Maybe there's a career in journalism for me yet?

Less than a week left here. Yikes.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And just for laughs...

American Airlines redefines the zenith of lost luggage.

I was thinking of quitting Alaska Airlines when they lost my bags going home and coming back from Christmas break, but guess I wont start up on American.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Parliamentary Smack-Down

One more reason I have to be excited about Taiwan: Looks like we Americans could learn much from democracy practiced Taiwan-style. I can think of plenty of politicians I’d like to punch in the face. But I’d consider becoming one with the promise of actually getting to jump my enemies.

I hereby propose a petition for Obama v. Palin in the Capitol rotunda (Mac Attack is just too dang old). My money is on the moose hunter.

Monday, September 8, 2008

10 Day Count Down

I leave for Alaska in 10 days. Two days later, I leave the country. There’s an element of surrealism to it; I can’t believe just yet I’m going to be gone from the good ol’ U.S. of A. for so long. I feel like I should be preparing more for it, but how exactly? Eat enough cheeseburgers to last a year? Shoot some guns so I don’t forget how? I expressed my anxiety over departing America to Graham, a friend who lives in North Carolina. He said not to worry, he’ll send me baseball cards and a pair of Levis if I get too homesick.

Tomorrow Mom and I are driving to Portland so I can buy enough makeup to last. I also need some new pants, since - I’ve been told adamantly on several occasions - it will be near impossible to find pants that will fit my big white booty in Nationalist China.

Happy Burfday Leslie, Cont'd.

My brother wrote this sweet song in honor of my 22nd.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Proof my Cambodian brother grew up in Alaska

I laid my stuff out to pack for Taiwan and he asked me why I was taking a gold pan. The “gold pan” is my wok. Since then he has insisted on calling it my gold pan and refuses to recognize its efficacy as a cooking instrument.

“It’s for stir fry, Billy! Not nuggets!”

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Little Bit About Me

When I grow up I want to be Animal Mother.

That is all for now. James said I should try and add a picture to my blog, just to make sure I could. So I did.

Happy Burfday To Me

Today, I’m 22! It’s nice having a September birthday: Nine months is just the right amount of time to insert a day of self reflection where I can note the shambles of my New Year’s Resolutions. Goals for my 23rd year? Talk less. Write more. Learn Chinese. Write better. Publish something better than my 22nd year. Clean up my potty mouth. That’s definitely more than enough goals. Guess I should insert something about health and long-term goals. Yawn.

My friends who turned 22 before me boo-hooed the fact all the coming-of-age, important birthdays are over (14 for driver’s permit, 16 for the license, 18 to be an “adult,” 19 to smoke in Alaska, 21 to drink). I try to comfort them: When we’re 24 we’ll be able to rent cars with much greater ease! And 22 is a palindrome! Palindrome birthdays only come every 11 years, there’s a finite amount of them left. Somehow this isn’t received well either.

Frankly I’m relieved to be done with 21, and thrilled that all those liquor signs now say “after this date in 1987.” I’m tired of going to the bar, having my license scrutinized endlessly while someone tries to figure out if Sept. 4th has passed yet. This never failed to make me feel like I was doing something wrong, even though I was of age. I’m such a sissy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Alaska: A Real Place

I’m going to try my very best not to talk politics here. My awareness to the issues is only enough to allow the occasional living-room sparring with a friend. But as someone who has lived most her life in Alaska, I find it wholly irritating the way the State has been treated post-Palin nomination. Maureen Dowd called it an oversized igloo. A friend, and Obamaphile, told me on the phone Alaska ”isn’t even a real place.” Some reporter who interviewed Bristol Palin’s baby daddy’s mother described the woman’s home as “decorated outside with moose and caribou antlers … as many Alaskan homes are.” Ageh, I guess it’s more common in Alaska than elsewhere, but growing up in Anchorage I don’t recall THAT many antler-trimmed exteriors. There were a lot more “don’t rob my house, I’ll shoot you” type window stickers than trophy racks. Should I have occasion to interview someone outside their Los Angeles home maybe I’ll add: “a rhinestone-collared chihuahua and discarded botox brochures decorated the lawn … accessories common to Californian dwellings.”

Plus, everyone keeps describing Wasilla as a town “tucked between two mountain ranges,” which makes it sound like it’s hard to get to, when really it’s probably an hour-long drive from Uncle Ted’s Intl. Airport.

I can sympathize with the children of Anchorage who are probably humiliated about now by all the “Sarah Palin sure loves moose stew” baloney. When I was an Anchorage teen, I fancied myself rather cosmopolitan. We all did. And today’s kiddies - well, they don’t even have to mail-order their Abercrombie like we did! There’s a store! A STORE! In the Fifth Avenue Mall! Sometimes they even have the bare-chested models outside!

Anyway, I think before anyone writes Alaska off as an icebox or uhh “non-existent” they should keep the following in mind:

1. It’s frickin’ big! Size matters, y’all!

2. It’s the only place on American soil occupied by Japanese (Kiska and Attu Islands) during World War 2. No, it wasn’t a state then - but Alaska has been in the shit, k? It deserves points for that.

3. Oil: Kind of a big deal.

4. Despite the remoteness, Anchorage has a thriving arts scene. In high school I got to see Feet of Flames. If Michael Flatley’s arrival doesn’t legitimize Alaska’s state of enlightenment, I don’t know what would.

5. If Alaska was really so irrelevant, you’d think the contiguous U.S. would leave it alone, freeing Alaskans up to tap down on ANWR and drill, drill, drill - There. I’ve said too much.

p.s. I had to rewatch the entire You Tube Feet of Flames finale. I love that sequin jacket!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Day of Skewl

Today I dragged my ass out of bed to see Billy off on his first day of sixth grade. In Oregon sixth grade is middle school. So for about two weeks I’ve pestered him about when the first dance will be and whether he will bust out “the lawnmower” when the time is right. “I don’t know!” “I don’t know!” He says. I’ve also insisted he decorate his locker with a life-size picture of my face that will greet him at eye-level when he retrieves his books. He hasn’t completely poo-pooed the idea.

Wanting to be as helpful as possible during the transition to the terrifying land of adolescence, my father instructed on the car ride over that the first day of middle school is kind of like the first day of prison: ”So you better not become some eighth grader’s bitch, Billy.” Then we all agreed were it the fourth-grader Ricky’s first day of middle school he would probably make all the eighth graders his bitches as a matter of course. Side note: Ricky has assured us that he has outgrown fighting and will not punch any more big kids in the face.

When we got to school, mom, dad and I asked Billy a dozen times if he wanted someone to come in and help him find his first period. To which he replied, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, and no. I watched him walk across the foyer in his new, supa-shiny white DC shoes, khaki shorts, ball cap and hoodie, and thought to myself, “My God! All of those clothes match!” The same could not be said for Ricky, who chose to wear an Eagles football jersey and USC basketball shorts to the first day of fourth grade. It’s okay, he has a couple more years.

It’s funny for me to watch Billy enter junior high. Because I was about that age when Billy and Ricky entered my life. Those were impressionable years. Now it’s Billy’s turn to get acne, forget his locker combo, juggle six classes and endure the merciless creatures commonly known as junior high girls.

Haha, suckas!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Learning Chinese

I’m leaving for Taiwan in three weeks. That is, I’m leaving to live in Taiwan for eight months three weeks from today. HOT DOG! And up until now all the Chinese I’ve bothered to learn is “I eat poop” and “go away.” Unsure how these phrases will serve me when I meet James’ grandparents next month - I began studying in earnest yesterday.

My educational matter consists of a book and corresponding computer program James’ mom sent to me. It’s a course put out by the Taiwanese government. In this program an animated white (as in the ethnicity, read: Caucasian) fairy introduces each lesson in long Chinese sentences that I don’t understand. During the lesson, I pretend to learn half a dozen words. Then after each lesson, I play a “game” in which gophers holding placards with Chinese characters jump out of holes to the beat of techno music and I vainly attempt to match the character with the sound of the word. Impossible, I know.

After each of these lessons and subsequent games I call James. And in a tone and inflection that reflects the fact I was raised in Alaska and never seriously attempted to learn a foreign language, I say: “NEE ZOW WAH MANG NEE NUH?” This is followed by a very long, uncomfortable pause. After which in his most nonjudgmental, compassionate, boyfriendly voice James says: “What were you trying to say?” Whining supremely, I retort, “I WAS TRYING TO SAY, ‘GOOD MORNING. I’M BUSY. ARE YOU BUSY?’” At this point James must pull me back from the edge of emotional breakdown. Then he very patiently goes through each syllable, correcting my pronunciation, after which he assures me that I’m moderately intelligible. Somehow, I don’t believe him.

Guess I’ll learn when we land.