Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blog Fail

Since I completely failed at blogging overseas, I'm beginning a new blog as I get ready to return to America.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Groundhogs are to Americans as...

In number 44 of 52 Things You Don't Experience in America I mentioned "Bare Bellies." Last week the temperature got up to the low 80s. As I walked down the street I spotted my first experience this year of a man with his shirt rolled up with his belly hanging out. As I walked past, I realized that this first sighting was similar to Groundhog Day in America.

As you all know, Groundhog Day is February the 2nd. Punxsutawny Phil comes out and if he sees his shadow there are 6 more weeks of winter. If our little furry Phil doesn't see his shadow then Spring is fast approaching. In East Asia, they don't celebrate Groundhog day, but as I saw my first bare belly, I knew Spring was just around the corner!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last 13 Things from a Promise I made 6 months Ago!

Ok, so to my 5 (ok, 3) readers out there here are the last 13 things of "52 Things You Don't Experience in America"

40. 150 Ways of Transportation other than a car: In America, I mostly drove a car. Here, I'm hardly ever in a car, unless of course it's a taxi, but that's pretty rare. In the past week I walked a ton, road a city bus, a ferry, an overnight bus with beds, and a 3 wheeler.

41. Tea Tasting: Every 100 feet or so there's a tea shop. Don't know what to buy? Go in, sit down, and spend hours tasting different teas. These people love their tea and the people that work here are passionate. It's cool, but really it's weird.

42. $1 DVDs: Say what you will, but the fact that you can get DVDs for super cheap is great. It allows you to stay up to date with life.

43. The need for "fresh air": Walk into any building on any given day of the year and you're likely to find open windows. It doesn't matter if it's ridiculously hot or ridiculously cold, these people LOVE their "fresh air" which, in all reality, is gross and polluted. But don't fight them on it! They will win.

44. Bare Bellies: I grew up in Alabama. There's a lot of things I've seen in my life in such a redneck haven. However, I have never seen this phenomenon. When the weather gets too hot here, which is about 75% of the time, the men with beer bellies roll their shirts up to let it all hang out. Most men drink alcohol like it's the night before prohibition, so a vast majority of them have beer bellies. Now, back in Alabama, there's a lot of guts showing, but there's just something a little more odd to an Asian man in slacks with the bottom of his polo resting on the ridge of his bulging belly.

45. Badgering over the use of A/C: So beginning in January my breaker would cut off quite often, sometimes every 1-5 minutes. I told my electrician that the breaker was broken. She told me it wasn't. After leaving for 13 days and my house helping finding my apartment without power and things rotting in my freezer, the electrician finally agreed there was a problem. As she was fixing it I could hear her telling my neighbors, "I had to turn your power off because the foreigner broke his breaker because he uses too much air conditioning!" Shut up and fix the breaker, lady!

46. The assessment of groceries you are buying: It's true, push a basket through the local supermarket or Wal-Mart and everyone is bound to stare inside to see what things you the foreigner are purchasing. Why on earth would someone want to buy Glad ziplock bags and 2 bottles of Coke?!?

47. Purse toting men: The place has it's fair share of man purses, but so does the USA. That's not what I'm referring to. I am shocked at the amount of men who carry their wife or girlfriend's purse. While Asian women may be small, their bags are BIG and somehow they've convinced the boys to carry them. My dad taught me a lot about being a gentleman: open the door, help her with her chair, etc., but even gentlemen know the purse belongs in HER hands!

48. Business on top, party on the Bottom, or vice versa: I never cease to be amazed at the fashion marvels (or lack thereof) that show up in this place. One of my favorites has got to be the dress shirt with athletic pants or the slacks with some type of sports top. This goes for both men and women. You cannot wear your red Adidas pants with typical double stripe down the side and your nice black v-neck sweater, pearls, and high heels, Grandma!

49. Excessive Hoarding: Several of my other blog friends who live overseas have mentioned hoarding in their recent posts. I figure I might as well make a confession. Hoarding is a crime committed by all Americans living outside of the borders. Cake mix, candy bars, soft drinks. Beautiful people send it, we save it for a "special occasion" and then eat it un-risen, stale, and flat. It's a sad but true occurrence.

50. Drinks every 100 yards: You simply cannot go 100 yards without finding a place that sells drinks. It may be tea, it may be fruit drinks, it may be soft drinks. It makes the hot months bearable.

51. Packed public buses: no one rides the public bus in America, or at least not many do. Simply not the case here. Nearly everyone rides the bus. There are roughly 35 seats on a bus and then aisles for people to stand. I promise I have been on buses with close to 75 people on it. It makes the sweaty, b.o. ridden months lovely!

52. A timid white kid now deathly afraid of all winged (said wing-ed) things: See post below!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Most Bizarre Incident of My Life

So, I realize that I still owe you 15 more things that you don't experience in America. It'll come , one day. For now, sit back and enjoy this story that almost told of my death.

Around 1:30 AM this morning, I was laying in bed and could not sleep. I decided that I would do some rounds around the blogosphere and catch up with the world. Upon visiting one friend's site, I found a preview for Lost, which will return on February 2nd. PTL.

This preview was rather intense with these flashes from throughout the previous 5 seasons. In the background was playing this rather creepy rendition of Amazing Grace. Towards the end of the preview I began hearing this flapping noise. I thought to myself, "Huh, that's odd." The preview then ended, but the flapping did not.

As the flapping increased in speed and noise, I began to think I was being attacked by some kind of evil spirit or something. It's the only thing my 1:30AM brain could come up with. I turned charismatic for a few seconds until I look up and there, flying around my room is a bat.
Yes, a BAT.

I jumped up out of the bed and attempted to turn on my light, which would not turn on. I had a pillow in my hand and ran into the living room. I could only get 1 small light to come on in there. I stood there, tried to collect my thoughts, and decide what to do.

Unfortunately, there was no time to think because the bat came into the living room. The only reaction I had was to start swinging at the bat. I suppose I was thinking that if I could knock the bat out or kill it, then I could more easily dispose of it. That was a mistake!

What I did not realize at the time, but now know, thanks to my good friend Kelly, is that bats really are blind so they follow shapes and light. As I began swinging at the bat with my pillow, the bat started diving towards me. It was all over at that point.

My heart began to pound, I was shaking, I was screaming like a little girl. I realized that swinging was doing nothing good, so I crouched down on the floor, hoping for a miracle, but ready for the sweet release of death. The bat flew out of the room.

As I stood there shaking, my heart pounding, my head spinning, it suddenly occurred to me, that the only thing I could do was open the window and hope for the best. So that I did. I turned on the light and opened the window. I stood in the kitchen and waited, crouched behind my pillow.

Thankfully, the bat came back into the living room and flew right out of the window. I, myself, was within inches of death. I was certain a heart attack was headed my way, but alas, I did not die. For hours I sat on my bed, wide awake, heart pounding, calling all the people who would give me the best reactions. I'm not sure I will ever be able to sleep again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

52 Things You Don't Experience in America (Part 3)

Dear Kat and other blog fans. I'm sorry that I haven't kept up with this as promised. Please enjoy and forgive me for my lack of diligence in the blogosphere!

27. Moon cakes: around the beginning of October is Mid-Autumn festival. It's something to do with the moon and something, but mostly it's just a time for families to get together and eat. During MAF, people give their friends and family moon cakes. These are small tasteless cake like things with gross stuff in the middle. There is a LOT of lard and other goo in the ingredients. The fillings can be a mixture of different things. Some fillings are: fruit, nuts, meat, fish, and various and sundry pastes made out of various and sundry flora and fauna. Many moon cakes have an egg yolk in the middle of them to represent the moon. The closest thing in America to moon cakes is fruit cakes. Somehow you always get them, but who in the world eats them???

28. Fake KFC: any small town worth it's rice crop here has a fake KFC. Some are SKETCHY and some are rather nice. I've seen MFC, DFC, McKonkey's, Dinko's, and many more. If you ever find yourself at one, it's probably safest to go with the fried chicken sandwich. More often than not, the ice cream is pretty good as well.

29. Overnight trains and buses: I'm willing to bet that most readers of this blog who live in America but haven't done extensive or cheap traveling around the globe have never ridden on an overnight train or an overnight bus. There are more people who use trains here than any other country in the world. Now, grant it, there are more people in this country than any other place in the world, but that's beside the point. You probably aren't surprised by overnight trains, but have you ever seen an overnight bus with beds? It's actually quite nice. You step into the bus, remove your shoes and then there are bunk beds up and down the bus. Some are 3 rows of beds and others are just 2 rows of beds with both kinds having a top and a bottom bunk. It's fairly easy to sleep on an overnight train because it gets into a rhythm fairly quickly. To sleep on an overnight bus, I have to be nearly dead. Either way, it's an experience!

30. Parks that won't let you use the grass: most of the time, unless there's a special event, many parks do not want you playing sports on the grass. This could be why they don't play American football. Afterall, would you want to get tackled on the cement sidewalk? Why will they not let you play on the grass? Who the heck knows, my guess is that using the grass to have fun is the most logical thing, so clearly the rule has to be the opposite.

31. Dryer-less lives: Does anyone that's not Amish not have a dryer in America? My dryer here consists of a balcony and a piece of rope. It's horrid for the following reasons a) this country has a smell all it's on, so hanging your clothes outside is detrimental to your nose b) at certain times, the humidity is roughly 178% and that makes drying almost impossible c) your clothes do not lose their wrinkles like the majority of clothes do in the dryer. I have 3 reasons for wanting a decent paycheck when I move back to America: food, car, dryer. I maybe living in my car, but darn it, I'm gonna have a dryer!

32. Service with a smile: while this still exists in pockets in America, the last time I was there it was a rarity. Here, bad service is a rarity. I have been blown away at what people will do and how far they will go out of their way to serve whether that's at a restaurant, hotel, or almost anything else. Plus, they do all this with no tipping. Excellent.

33. Massage places: I mentioned in an earlier post that haircuts come with a massage, but there are also places you can go to get full body massages for just a few dollars. The place I go to is what we refer to as the "blind massage place" because a majority of the workers are blind. While this sounds creepy, it's actually some of the best massages I've ever had and it's not sketch at all (like say, when you get a massage in Thailand!).

34. Hot water when it's cold: In America, when the weather changes and you go to a restaurant that serves water first, it's always cold. Why else would it not be? Culturally, it's believed here that if you drink cold things when the weather is the least bit cool to freezing, then you will get very sick. Thus... as soon as the weather drops it's hot water! When I came before I thought this was odd. Today I went to a restaurant and ordered some food to go. They gave me a glass of hot water as I waited. I was so happy for it. I'm becoming quirky and I'm scared...

35. Genuine imitation clothing: Any market, or man with a blanket on the sidewalk, usually sells knock off name brand clothes. With just a small amount of love and care you can keep these imitations for just as long as the real thing and no one will ever know! If you're REALLY lucky then you can find "for import" clothes that are messed up, but still more than wearable. For instance, I own a pair of "Caivin Kien" jeans!

36. Sketch hotels: So... there's this hotel here that's showers are clear, and in the middle of the room. I personally have never seen these, but have heard from many witnesses. As far as I can tell, you walk into the room, and there, in the middle of the room is this clear glass case like thing with a shower inside. It's one thing to shower in a gym locker room... it's a whole other ball game when you're the only one showering like you were a monkey in a zoo.

37. Sweets that aren't sweet: When you walk in the bakery and check out the cakes and other pastries it is a delight. The real problem begins though when you bite into it. There is a tremendous lack of sugar. There's a Friend's episode where Monica gets a job creating recipes for a new product called "Mocolate," a synthetic chocolate. When Phoebe takes a bite of Monica's mocolate chip cookies she says, "Ew! This is what evil must taste like!" I think about that all the time when I bite into these unsweet cakes or pastries.

38. Ladies playing the gourd on the corner to make money: No lie, there's a lady that sits on the corner 2 blocks up that plays the gourd. She's high class... it has a microphone and everything. Sometimes I wish I had majored in gourd in college. I think living life as a gourdist would be extravagant. Without question, your Christmas party would play my gourd tunes just after Kenny G's.

39. Banks without lines: When you use the bank here you take a number. It's really great, actually, because it means that you can go to the "next available counter." It's also a wonderful way to learn numbers. Where else are you going to learn to count to 2378?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

52 Things You Don't Experience in America (Part 2)

14. Everyday trash pick up: Here, the trash is picked up, not just everyday, but twice everyday! Grant it, everyone lives in apartments and the trash bags are smaller than the kind you keep in your office in America, so it's a must, but it's still awesome. My trash receptacle is 9 steps down from my door. I average .986 on ringing the bucket without ever leaving my apartment!

15. Trash cans for #2 toilet paper waste: Heaven forbid that the western toilets be able to handle toilet paper disposal. Some can. Mine cannot. I have a poop pail right next to my toilet. It's kind of gross really. But, thanks to #14 (above), it doesn't have to stay for very long! 99.9999% of squatty potties cannot handle toilet paper either, so there are trash cans (sometimes) associated with those as well.

16. Family style dining: Most often, when you go to a restaurant, you order several dishes that are to be shared by everyone. The tables are usually round and have a lazy susan in the middle so those dining can have easy spin action access to all the dishes. Every person has their own little bowl, and you just pick out a little at a time. No one knows how much you eat. It's fantastic really. I WILL have a round table and we WILL have a lazy susan. It's great, really!

17. Noodle shops: One thing about this place that I love is the over abundance of noodle shops. There are a billion different noodles: rice, flour, wheat, Muslim, and the list goes on. They come in a bowl, there's some vegetableish something, there's some spices, there's some meat. They are delicious. More often than not, the sketchier the restaurant looks, the better their noodles are.

18. Red lanterns and other decorations: At least in my city, and I assume the same is true throughout, this place goes ALL OUT (well, sorta) with decorations for holidays. Just recently we have celebrated National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival. The trees on the main streets are covered with red paper lanterns, the streets have tons of potted flowers set in unique shapes and designs, and "art" has been added in several places. Christmas decorations will come out in mid December or so. They are not good ones! You know when you go to the dollar store and you see all the really cruddy decorations at Christmas and you think to yourself, "Who buys this mess?" The answer: ASIA. This country is like one big trailer park puttin' on the dog for Christmas. After Christmas comes New Year. EVERYONE decorates for the Lunar New Year. There's lots of reds, lots of mandarin orange bushes/trees, and lots of other great things like smoldering incense and sugar cane. Maybe I'll make it a goal to post some pics.

19. Western food that really isn't Western: In America, when you go to an "ethnic" restaurant, more often than not, it's relatively close. Now, I say this, and at the same time think, "But that's not really true for Chinese food." Anyway, there are some "Western restaurants" here that make a good stab at Western food, but just fall short. Maybe you do experience this in America. Maybe all my ethnic foods experiences have been lies in the culinary world. Maybe I'll never appreciate ethnic food again. Maybe I'll be in counseling when I'm 30 (which, dang it! isn't that far away) and confess, "It all started with #19!" Maybe Elbert is right, "That's not a taco!"

20. $1.32 cans of Dr. Pepper: That's right, I pay $1.32 for Dr. Pepper. I was without it for so long, and now I have it, and it's going to make me homeless. Wow, if I end up living here, I might squander my future children's education fund on Dr. Pepper.

21. Joy over McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, and others: So here, these are our 3 Western Restaurants. At any given moment in time in America, I wouldn't really head to these first. Although, I do like McDonald's every once in a while. However, it's sometimes a special treat to have these. What's really amazing though, are trips to great places like Hong Kong, Thailand, and others that have REAL restaurants such as California Pizza Kitchen (SWEET TEA!!), T.G.I. Fridays, Western Sizzler, and a plethora of other greats. You should really have seen the joy in this kid as he drank an unlimited refills sweet tea and ate a BBQ chicken salad from CPK. I cried at one point! Have you ever cried over a salad and sweet tea? I bet you haven't...

22. Electric bikes with more than 2 people: Now, electric bikes already have ego issues, so I'm really not doing any favors by adding something about them twice, but this is great. There's nothing like seeing a family of 4 and their dog zooming down the street on an electric bike. It's exciting.

23. Dead animals on the back of bicycles and other 2 wheeled vehicles: Yesterday, I was standing at a red light waiting to cross the street. The man on his bike next to me had 2 plastic bags filled with dead, whole (including head and feet) chickens. It was amazing. My favorite dead animal to see on these 2 wheelers is pigs. Often I see deboned pigs slung on the back of motorcycles. It's awesome! They flap up and down as they go. MMM pork!

24. Chicken and duck feet for snack: Asians LOVE to gnaw on the feet of innocent poultry. I'm not quite sure how they are cooked, or what there is to eat on the foot of a bird, but they LOVE them. Here's a piece of useless trivia to help you sleep better at night. Did you know that Tyson Chicken is the #1 importer of chicken feet? No lie.

25. 1.6 Billion people staring at you or saying "Hello! Hello! Hello!" as you walk down the street: every time I go out I get "Hello!" at least 5-10 times. It's great. When I travel to smaller towns/villages, I feel as though I should wave and throw out candy.

26. High heels on 92.6924% of the women: High heels here say, "I don't work in the fields," so much women wear them. The sidewalks are not even. I trip all the time. How do these women not die? Can we say, "Thank you, Lord, for making me a man!"

Monday, October 19, 2009

52 Things You Don't Experience in America (Part 1)

Well, I've lived in this country for a year now! In honor of that, I thought I'd make a list of things you don't experience in America. I'll give you 52, one for each week I've been here. They don't coincide with the weeks... I just didn't want to make a list of 100, so I'll give you 52 in no order. I have ADHD, so it'll be in parts. Here's the first 13...

1. Squatty Potties: If you think toilets are the same all over the world, you don't know squat!! In the majority of the world, toilets are mere holes in the floor. Some are rather nice, made of porcelain, and flush. Others, say in villages and such, are holes in the ground next to the pig sties. Here's a few tips to using the squatter...
2) Do squat exercises starting at least 2 months prior to leaving America. It's not easy!!
3) Work on your built in body compass. You've GOT to make sure both holes involved line up.
4) Figure out what to do with your pants now! You DON'T want them to touch the floor, and you DEFINITELY DON'T want to miss the squatty and hit your pants. When all else fails, rip those suckers off (Yes, I've squattied pantsless!!)
5) If you're a man, load up on pepto and imodium. With any luck, you'll only have to stand, not squat!

2. Lunar New Year Fireworks: I know what you're thinking, "Come on man, we have fireworks here." Oh you do, do you? At the stroke of midnight on Lunar New Year's Eve 1.6 billion people set off fireworks. By 12:05 AM, you cannot see 10 feet in front of you due to the smoke. There are more fireworks shot off here, than America has seen on every 4th of July combined since July 4th, 1776.

3. Split Pants: Diapers are a rarity here. Within a few months of a child's life, families begin "potty training," so to speak. All children (toddler and younger) wear clothes with splits in the appropriate places. When the parents think it's time to go, they hold the baby, spread it's legs, and go "ssssssssssssssssssss" in the baby's ear. In turn, the baby goes. This can take place ANYWHERE. Over the squatty, on the sidewalk, anywhere. When I say ANYWHERE, I mean it. I've even seen a child pee in a plastic bag on a city bus. Split pants are worn all year too. It's actually quite sad to see a child all bundled up in the winter and then their little hinies red from the cold.

4. Shower heads w/o stalls: More often than not, the "shower" is simply a faucet on the wall. The bathroom gets soaked. I've lived here long enough, that if the bathroom is not soaked in the morning when I'm getting ready, it just doesn't feel right.

5. Bamboo scaffolding: It's everywhere! Unless a high rise is being built, most of the time, the scaffolding is made out of bamboo. There's a weight limit though: 140 lbs!

6. The wet market: This is another experience that happens all over the world. The easiest way to describe this is to get you to picture the farmer's market. Now, soak the floor (or ground down), multiply the people by a few hundred, and add dead animal carcasses. There's nothing like fresh produce and meat, but it is gross! For a fun description of an experience I had at the wet market, read my Chicken Lady post.

7. 7th story apartment without an elevator: Enough said! Is this even legal in America?

8. No central heating and air: We do have wall units that are similar to window units. I live in the deep south, so heat is rare, but I do personally have heat.

9. Concrete... everything: Here, the main material used in building houses is concrete. The floors, the walls, the ceilings, everything is concrete. Laminate flooring and some paint is added, but everything is still mostly concrete. It TRAPS the cold like nobody's business. Want to hang a picture? Be prepared to drill or hammer for HOURS. But hey, you're pretty safe in a fire, which is good for New Years when they set off fireworks in the stairwells.

10. 1.6 billion bicycles: They even have their own lane, but that doesn't matter. Why? Well, let me tell you, dear blog reader. Let me begin by stating that there are 2 types of bicycles, regular and electric. Electric bicycle owners unfortunately think they have the option of deciding when their electric bike is a mere bicycle, and when it is an automobile. During peak traffic times, bicyclers ride on the sidewalk. Electric bicyclers FLY down the sidewalk blaring their horn. IT'S THE SIDEWALK PEOPLE!!! AS IN, THAT THING THAT WE WALK ON TO THE SIDE OF THE STREET!!!!

11. Rice: Again, I realize you have rice in America. But do you have it everyday, 3 times a day? Thankfully rice tastes better on chopsticks, and sometimes, when you're craving 2000 of something, rice is the only thing that's feasible.

12. Sketchy internet: Stop complaining about all that high speed stuff you've got across the pond.

13. Hair cut/Massage combo: I've discussed this before, but hair cuts involve 2 shampoos AND a massage. Oh man... is there a better way to spend $3.00???

Check back later for Part 2!!