Well, That Was Unexpected

Real life is stranger than fiction...depending on which authors you read, of course.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

st petersburg blue skies

quick note--writing from st. petersburg. it's our first day here and we are in love with this city. seriously, one of the most gorgeous cities I have ever been in. canals, churches, totally european, and the people seem less hostile than in moscow. i can definitely say that being in russia and seeing the gorgeous onion-domed churches--voted sexiest architwectural feature by julie inc!--helps dissipate my resentment of their totally corrupt and hostile citizens. apparently people who smile too much are considered imbeciles, so i'm teh village idiot if there ever was one. i just lost my wallet, which sucked as it had money and atm and credit, my passport wasnt in there. wasnt stolen, just dropped and then the cab sped away with it safely in tow. anyway, mood barely dampened. we are in the midst of the white nights in which it doesnt get dark...ever. 11pm and still looking at blue skies. tomorrow we will go see the raising of a bridge and the hermitage--which is also totally sexy.

by the way, all thsoe fairy tales from childhood about princesses and carriages and jewels: all tru in Russia! amazing,. went to the kremlin. and red square--st basils...it looks like cahrlie and the chocolate factory, cant wrap mind against bloody commie persecution. thought everything would be gray and cold, but there is much life here, and many many scantily clad women in stiletto heels. i'm sure this is a stop on the heinous men of the world tour.

anyway, so far so good--very cool experience, have lots more fun details to write in the future, but now we must away, trip has definitely improved since vietnam! would relaly appreciate continued prayer! love you

Friday, June 23, 2006

notes from noibai

Of course I'm writing more from vietnam. I am stuck in their shat-ass airport, and have been thusly trapped for 16 hours. honestly, i feel catatonic. praise the Lord for these corrupt business class ladies who are letting me come in and get cheap soda and use the internet at will. the restaurant upstairs changed crews and may i say that the night crew is infinitely more hostile than the day crew. i wanted hot water refills for my tea and at one point they actually lied and said they had no more at which point i looked at them and said "you have no more hot water???" and gave them a look taht was like "you pathetic asshole liars" and then they siad "okay, last one. dude, i was getting up to get them MYSELF. what, do they get the benes from the movie-theateresque prices being charged--four dollars for a scoop of ice cream, i would like to announce. as if my getting another cup of tea is going to fund anything of theirs. no, dude, that money goes to the man. the commie man. wake up and smell the rebellion, whorefaces. anyway, my bitterness has set in fully as you can clearly read.

that would be fueled by the fact that there have been like 4 major fubars here, one being that i was denied my transit hotel by a moron bureaucrat who handled my initial customs entry, then at 5pm when i realized i had proof that i was supposed to have had some sort of option besides sitting in this little crap of an airport and was hoping for something, anything, you know, an apology that i had to sleep on metal chairs and have already killed 3 cockroaches, that this place isn't airconditioned adequately, etc, as they were all passing the buck--there were 6 of them at one point which made me laugh b/c they were a big clusterfuck with blank looks on their faces. I believe that none of them knew which line of bullshit i had already received and so they were at a loss as to which one they should then feed me...you know, like "we ran out of boiled water." but the real piece de resistance as i seemed to be winning some kind of recognition, and was frankly hoping for either some monetary compensation or a flight upgrade, we realized that it was all for naught b/c my travel agent f*ed up and made my visa a single entry for my next arrival in july and hadnt given me a multiple entry for this stay over. not to mention that she had given me a city tour when i asked for a hotel. i was defeated. dude, i'm hot, i have an ingrown hair in my armpit that is totally painful, i had just sat and explained my whole sob story 5 times to people who don't have one rat's ass of sympathy for anyone who can afford to fly internationally since it's probably more than they make in a whole year. anyway, in the end they said "see, your visa is wrong, and you know the trip is complimentary, so why don't you go upstairs and enjoy your free meal and i very dramatically said "i'm not even hungry, and this is a fucking nightmare." and i ended up crying. i'm very tired, you see. and then i apologized later since in the end i wouldnt have gotten through customs at all even if their employees hadn't had their heads up their asses. which they very well did, by the way, that was clearly established before we found out that mine is shoved up even further.

um, i believe that what is going to push me over the edge into complete insanity is that there was an announcement about our flight being delayed until 3am. They have an awesome awesome announcement when the flights are delayed. they say, "we regret to inform you that the flight has been dalyed by the late arrival of the airplane." bwahahahaahah. code for: we had to wake up captain nguyen from his rum-induced stupor in bangkok and he didnt make it in time"

everyone here is watching the world cup. people are dressed in jerseys--most foreigners here are japanese and european--so the euros are all enthralled, but so is everyone else. it would feel communal if i hadnt been cheated by everyone i ran into today. hmmm, i've always appreciated taiwanese hospitality, but i'm really yearning for it now. anyway, i better go. here's to hoping it all goes uphill from here.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Hanoi airport

The first few hours of the Summer of Splendor have been wildly eventful--and I even slept through 1/2 of my flight. Sooo, Fronm Taipei to Vietnam was interesting. I was bumped up to business class and then bumped down again because a legitimate businessperson decided to join the flight. The fact that I was ragingly late after a horrormovie encounter in Duty Free when I foolishly expressed interest in buying a 200 dollar Estee Lauder anti-aging cream that I really just wanted to mooch from because I'm high class like that. Yeah, so the Estee Lauder lady haunted me and prevented me from boarding by desperately thrusting every beauty product she had in my face. Next time I will simply be honest and say "actually, I just want to try this out, because you have it out to sample." relaly that wouldn't be hard. Anyway, when I got my classist demotion I ended up in section full of giddy Vietnamese women who have been working in Taiwan for three years and haven't been home since they first came over. The lady sitting next to me has two kids and a husband that she HASNT SEEN FOR THREE YEARS!! She asked if I had been vacationing in taiwan, and I said that I was working there as well. And she looked at me suspiciously and said, "But America's financial situation is good...why would you need to work in taiwan." Indeed, why would I flee AMerica when it isn't a raving shithole. I told her that I hoped Vietnam's situation would improve so she could return home. Clearly if Vietnam had not been a third world hole, she would not have run away. Why does anyone leave a nonshithole country? hmmm. I lied and said my husband was in business. I am sporting my wedding ring, after all.
Anyway, she and her friends thought I was the cutest thing since winnie the pooh and they kept touching me and patting me and caressing me. You know I've come to terms with myself as a non raging beauty, and most people in america seem to find chubbiness repulsive rather than adorable. and while i would not like to be harrassed by everyone walking down the street, I would happily exchange my adjective from grossly obese to adorably chubby, so i would appreciate americans reforming their attitude in this regard. Anyway, my neighbor kept grabbing onto me and hugging me--some major invasion of Julie Inc's personal space, may I say. The Vietnamese are even worse about personal space than Taiwanese. And this lady had no qualms clinging to me and staring as I wrote in my planner. She was staring as if she actually knew a damn thing I was writing. very bizarre. anyway, i guess we were best friends by the time we landed. she held my hand b/c she was scared. can you imagine if she had been next to someone who looked like me, but didn't deal with spontaneous affection and assault well? international incident, i'm thinking. what was very adorable though was that all the women cheered when they were finally on the ground--they were so excited to be home. and then they proceeded to exit like the running of the bulls at pamplona. there would be no lining up for them, no way! they were going home.

Ayway, the general pleasantness/bizarreness of the flight (although I think someone smoked on board, hmm) and the happy surprise that I will probably have my own in-flight entertainment system was replaced by serious annoyance when I arrived at the Vietnam airport to find that my transit hotel, upon which I had been banking for some major revitalization, existeth not. 14 hours in the Hanoi airport? Not my idea of a good time. It'll be fine. Upstairs there is a wide open cafeteria-like restaurant with huge booths which is required to serve me two free meals--I already had one rather delicious bowl of Pho and 3 cups of coffee. I have already made friends with the girl at the desk who is having a baby girl in July. Now I'm in the business class lounge because I bribed the girl at the counter. After getting the runaround from the VN airlines man--mr. bureaucrat who flipped through my passport for sport for 30 minutes just so i could stand at the counter...I was the only person in line!!-- about whether or not I got a transit hotel, an encounter in which the ugly american started coming out and i rather hilariously ended up shouting (after 30 minutes of miscommunication ) "I AM CALLING MY TRAVEL AGENT!!"...(those mild purveyors of world travel never sounded so powerful). anyway, I couldnt call my travel agent because i have no money to buy a phone card, and i couldnt pay to get into the business lounge because they don't take credit, and there are no ATMs in the airport and you are not allowed to leave the airport once you are in. so i had to go and bribe the duty free girls with a purchase of marlboros (ostensibly to bribe the russians with, but which may be employed by me if things keep going this way) and got them to tack 20 US onto my bill so i could wheel and deal around the airport, which led me here where I have paid 3 dollars for an hour of internet access and a soda water. hah, i think she thought she was ripping me off.

speaking of pho, i was wondering about the simple ingredients that make it so delicious and I realized that what Anthony Bourdain said is true: chives are a secret culinary weapon. They do perk up a pmeal. I don't know if many westerners know the simple goodness of beef and clear broth with noodles, scallions and a liberal amount of lime juice and cilantro. But it is the cat's pajamas. lemony pho broth+ cheddar cheese =love, by the way. yuuuummmmmy.

anyway, a flight is leaving in an hour or so and the business lounge has gone from ghost town to international village, and since I am an impostor, I must hie back up to the restuarant and sleep on the booth cushions. An interesting start. I do love beinga ble to say I've bribed people, though. Really, part of bribery is just begging and desperationa nd those powerful words "I Will Pay!!"

summer of splendor

Truly the last post before leaving for my summer of splendor. Had a great last day--amazing chinese dinner and group prayer and raucous game of dutch blitz to cap off the night. It was my last day at work!! amazing!! wooohooooo!!!!! Someone will have to let me know how my little prank went over, I'm hoping it was harmless and amusing.

I hope everyone has a few wonderful weeks ahead, I shall pray for you all on my many flights and layovers! Wish us luck in Russia and Ukraine!


summer of splendor

Truly the last post before leaving for my summer of splendor. Had a great last day--amazing chinese dinner and group prayer and raucous game of dutch blitz to cap off the night. It was my last day at work!! amazing!! wooohooooo!!!!! Someone will have to let me know how my little prank went over, I'm hoping it was harmless and amusing.

I hope everyone has a few wonderful weeks ahead, I shall pray for you all on my many flights and layovers! Wish us luck in Russia and Ukraine!


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

one day to departure

My going away sale is coming to a close and it's been fairly successful. I had no expectations, so the fact that anything has sold is a bonus. If anyone wants to check from abroad, I have a blog for it--totally ghetto simple, but it does the job: http://julie-sells.blogspot.com . I've succeeded in the last few days in outfitting the art department in Melissa's clothing. Our biggest coup was Olive, the sexagenarian who managed to fit into a few pairs of pants. Her coworkers were like "she never buys anything new for herself." And she still doesn't.

I have some Bvlgari perfum to sell. Anyone wear it or want it? It's Bvlgari Blv and I'm willing to sell it for 20 US. to save the hassle of putting it on Ebay or returning it to a store for exchange. It's new. It was a super sweet gift from one of my FBI friends/students and she gave it to me because I told her that she smelled good once, and it's what she wears. Excellent memory, and way more personal than most of the truly random crap I get. But I pretty much only wear Truth and Eternity and I have tons of it left (hah). She wins for having the quote of the week, by the way, and it refers to an acquaintance who implied that she might be making some harrassing phone calls to his cell number: "What would be my purpose in harrassing him, anyway? I'm in the FBI, believe me, I could harrass him better than that. Besides, I have friends in central communications, if I wanted to know who was making those calls I could easily call up a friend and get the numbers. But it's just not that important."
Dude, don't you wish that when you wanted to really stick it to someone, you could have government intelligence at your fingertips? Usually we have to sit there and think about how we can possibly prove our innocence. She could prove her innocence with a phone call, but she's basically offended that he's heinous enough to accuse her in the first place. bwahahahaha.

I leave for my worldwide tour tomorrow--russia and ukraine here I come! Don't know how much blogging will be done. Charity informed me tonight that one review of our hotel in Moscow said that half-dressed prostitutes were to be found aplenty. Just like Hotel Vladivostok! Russians. grrrr.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Yoda the orphan saint

This weekend I had another little man in my life; the 8 month old Yoda, thusly named because he looks like a 75 year old man and because his chinese name starts with a Y. I fell for him at the orphanage--he's very fat and adorably ticklish and I tried obsessively to make him laugh, though I think I may only have succeeded in making him crap profusely. Anyway, it was completely worth it, but any free time I had was spent slobbering on him, cleaning up his slobber, changing his diapers and of course reading verses about how God loves and protects orphans and eventually smites their enemies.

Matt Sawatzky says that Yoda looks exactly like the VP of his company. Hysterical! I will have swoon-worthy pics of Yoda up tomorrow I hope! Speaking of Yoda, we tried to introduce Andrea to the three original star wars episodes, but the video stores only had the hopelessly inferior prequeltrilogy.

I'm pretty sure that the fumes from our buildingwide fumigation last weekend are affecting me. I've just had a craving for some donkey-hide gelatin. mmmhmmm. :) still, nothing could really be as traumatizing as the memory of having pigs ear, liver, and chicken feet stuffed into my mouth last weekend at gareth's house. blind taste identification "game" for me and jessie as we leave taiwan. whenever someone blindfolds you to feed you, it's a bad idea. things will not go your way. things will invariably go the way of entertaining the people watching your helpless, innocent little face as you take your first bite of fermented ass.

my coworker Bill is one of the funniest people I know, definitely missed his calling as a writer for the best damn sports show period. i decided to post his summary of world cup happenings this last weekend:
---Even though the Hurricanes lost on Saturday, the whole weekend wasn't a lost cause---the French suffered a demoralizing tie when the Koreans scored in the 81st minute, and had an apparent winning (French) goal called off just before the end--so it was a bitter pill for the Fries to swallow on Sunday in Germany.

Brazil, struggled with Australia, eventually winning 2-0. With a roster of one-name guys like Ronaldo, Ronaldhino, Adriano, etc. the second goal was scored by Fred. I kid you not--on a roster of romantic, exotic names, this guy's name is Fred. (No last name, just Fred). Of course, it could be worse--one teammate has the name "Kaka". And on Sunday, the talented Kaka played like ____ . I'm going to change my on-air name to Poopoo. Or simply "Joe". ---

I saw Cars, and while it wasn't as good as Nemo or Incredibles, it was still fabulous. A totally quality production, very moving at the end. yes, indeed, tears welled in my eyes in the last few scenes. As I was trying to make happy memories on the phone with First wife, reminiscing about the best parts of the movie, she says "oh, yeah, well, i sort of dozed off...." yes. of course she did. much like the time we went to the limited release of the movie Waking Life in an artsy new york theater and, as they were weaving their charming philosophical web, Julia starts snoring next to me. What Julia really needs is a minihotel within the movie theater where you can go and sleep for 90 minutes and then wake up and see a cliffs' notes version of the film--like a 15 minute montage of the best scenes so she can go into the world and be conversant and in-the-know and yet still have gotten a refreshing cat nap. Anyway, if anyone wants to help me develop this minihotel idea, I also want to develop sleeping rooms in airports--cheap ones--bunk/capsule beds with alarms--the size of a bookstore, for long layovers in which you just need quiet and sleep. People in Amsterdam tried to charge me 60 dollars for 6 hours in a room. Criminal! Speaking of entrepreneurialism, I have a serious yen to start an import business with Vietnam. I just don't know how I can justify abandoning my other life goal of being an international director for World Vision in order to provide ever more cheap, beautiful goods to the gluttonous West.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

the goodbyes begin

Yesterday afternoon I was so tired and had so many little things to do that I ended up paralyzed, staring at the wall. In a 2 hour period the most productive things I accomplished were to find out crucial answers to the tests Which Golden Girl are you?(Blanche) and Who is your celebrity chef match? (Emeril Legasse). I was bummed because I wanted Sofia and Jamie Oliver. Apparently my theory that food is fun is what did me in.

Today I had my farewell lunch with the NPA. They spoiled me incredibly. We went to a phenomenal vegetarian restuarant at which they create foods that look and taste exactly like non-vegetarian options: worms, eel, etc. but all vegetarian. crazy! I also ate something called stone lotus fruit which is supposed to be dipped in honey and restore your energy. Was given a small nation's worth of jade and can now start an export business using all of the high quality tea I have been given as gifts. Found out that jade is supposedly lucky and wards off evil. Really helped all those landowners who were lynched during the cultural revolution. Maybe there was a shortage in that decade. In any case, the thought was very sweet and I'm trying to deal with the fact that I feel so undeserving. Jenny gave me a card that wished for me to get everything I am hopping for. Indeed. I think one of the issues I have with being showered with gifts and free meals and whatnot is that I don't really want to be important to that many people. Because if I am important to people that entails responsibility and I just don't know if I can be responsible to hundreds of people. It makes me nervous. Sharon cried this morning about me leaving. I wish I could be more emotional. I feel like I want to be able to express a reciprocal amount of emotion, but it's very hard for me to muster outward emotion--sadness, at least. my sister Corinne cries easily. Maybe I can get her to fly over here for a week to be my crying proxy. It will be like at those buddhist funerals where they hire people to shriek and wail in agony. I would cry about leaving, but I'm happy about leaving this mindscrew of a company. And I'll see everyone again at some point, you know, everyone worth seeing. I'm not only happy, but I will be flying to meet three of my best and dearest friends whom I have known since freshman year of high school. And I'm just *excited* about it. Not sad in any way. Maybe I can cry when I leave the kids at the orphanage. I cried a little when I had to give onion back to the orphanage.

Jenny asked me if I had gotten a haircut. I said yes. Actually, I havent gotten a haircut in months. I just felt it was easier than saying that for inexplicable reasons my hair just looked better and different today. Sometimes it's easier to lie than to try to communicate things in Chinese. This comes back to a question I once asked Julia, "Do you ever just...lie?" I don't want to lie, not actively. But if someone I will never meet again starts a conversation with me in line and says "been a long day, eh?" and actually I had a great day or just took a nap, I'll just say "yep." Why be contentious? If that person needs solidarity, I'm the last person to ruin their quest for sympathy by telling them that their life sucks more than mine or that they are ignorant morons who have just made a totally errant assumption about who I am, or my hair or whatever.

Today I bought a new battery for my camera...and my camera turned on and rewound the new roll of film I had just put in it. Grrrr. No pictures of the crazy buddhist vegetarian restaurant where monks eat for half price. Anyway, for buying said camera I got two free Hello Kitty pins. I got Hello Kitty Zimbabwe. Hello Kitty Zimbabwe, you ask? indeed. 7-11 is having a Hello Kitty countries of the world giveaway and when you buy a certain amount of crap, you get a corresponding amount of Hello Kitty pins. Hello Kitty South Africa, Hello Kitty Taiwan, Hello Kitty France, etc. I think they should only have the countries from whence the child labor used to make these frivolous pins come from. How about Hello Kitty India with one of her legs sawed off from leprosy?

Anyway, I have to go use my healthy legs now to exercise so that I can continue one of my favorite activities which I call "fitting into my pants."

Monday, June 12, 2006

double entry visas

This morning I had another beautiful moment with my fruit man. I run up to him to buy a dragon fruit for breakfast, and I am, per usual, a total wreck. I have three bags bulging with crap--workout clothes--work I took home, etc. and I am fumbling around looking for the change I know I have, but can't find. So he takes it upon himself to reorganize me. He gets out a huge plastic bag and takes my bags off my arm and puts them all in one big bag and says "there, that'll be more comfortable." I was like, "I'm sorry, I'm really all over the place this morning." And he said "it's the rain." And it wasn't even raining. I love this man. This is a man who has totally endeared himself to me simply through his joviality and kindness. By endeared I mean, "wow, I might consider marrying fruit man." It's not everyone who will actually help a walking storm such as myself rather than getting annoyed that I don't have myself pulled together. Luckily, fruit man is already married so i don't have to truly struggle with marrying a man I can't communicate with who sometimes sports long fingernails and probably prays to false gods.

The other day I went with Naomi and Beth and Beth's friend Summer to Danshui. We fleshed out three things that Taiwanese people do really well: Beverages, stationery, and hospitality. Clearly, Fruit Man is a prime example of the latter. Beverages are another true gem of this country. If you need evidence of Taiwanese creativity just stop by any tea stand and peruse the hundreds of combinations available for 60 cents. Indeed, this is the country that pioneered the drinking of tapioca balls in tea...which then led to dozens of other drink additions: jellies, gummies, pudding, wheat, barley, green beans, aloe, etc. So bizarre, and yet so delicious.

Our determination of three things that Taiwan does truly well reminded me of that part in Snow Crash where Stephenson informs us (I'm going to summarize via Thomas Friedman) that in the near future when globalization has completely flattened and equalled the global playing field, there are only 4 things America truly does better than anyone else: music, movies, software(?), and high-speed pizza delivery. Hysterical. I don't know of any other writer who could keep me entertained by creating a world in which high-speed pizza delivery is a matter of life and death.

I'm in the midst of editing a 26 page academic paper on politics and oil pricing in China. It's written by a man who announces in his first paragraph that his research is totally original and has "never been done before!". Thank you, captain amazing. This is a person who uses the word "redress" freely, but can't use "the" for his life. Sweet ESL.

So yesterday the Russians struck again. I was charged 6 times more than the advertised price for same-day visa service. And because the other russians before him had passive aggressively dragged their feet on getting our plans finalized, I had no recourse but to suck it up and pay it. Happily, he changed my visa to double entry and extended the dates illegally. Seriously people, is corruption genetic in Russians? I'm pretty sure he just assesed the cost of a steak dinner and a carton of Marlboros and decided that would be my fee for the day. He let me pay at the window in the office, and the couple behind me also paid right there, but then he made these exchange students behind us leave the office and walk a few blocks to some "bank" that takes care of the majority of their financial transactions. He almost made me go there, too, but then he was like "you have money, you pay here, is more convenient for you." I was like "fantastic, he's stealing it" and then when he gave me a single entry visa that only allowed me to stay in russia for a week, i was like "uh, i have to fly back to russia from ukraine...will I be able to get back in the country?" and he says "you stay in airport, if so you no need double entry" and i said okaaay and then he said "Moscow has 4 international airports..are you sure you stay in same airport?" and i was like "i have no more money, so I have to take a chance" and he says "oh, for you, i give you double entry visa, right now for free." hell yeah, you better give it to me "for free" you putin-loving bastard, your country is single-handedly making me declare chapter 11. yes, it is all a bureaucratic ruse, i would say it's thinly veiled, but actually, it's pretty much unveiled. they bitterly despise everyone, want to spread their bitterness like a plague, and obey no law but their own whim. Russians. GRRRR! I used to think rebellion was so cool. And now, having been subjected to the Russians, I love laws. Give me laws! Lawyers, legislators, God bless you all. God bless places where the price that is printed is the price you charge or you can be sued.

So, I keep hearing that Cars is an awesome movie. Can't wait to see it! Also want to see X-Men 3, but am super pissed that Brett Ratner directed it. That man is a lesion on the ass of humanity. I can't help but wonder at how he has tinged this production.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Taiwani Vice

My Diet Cokes of late have been unfortunately festooned with a picture of a woman who probably would have figured prominently in Saddam Hussein art or on the cover of any number of fantasy books that would have been denied like Jesus by Peter by one CJH in her high school years. and underneath this rather uncomfortably dressed, buxom woman there is an ad for "Lord of Warcraft." Because I bet a lot of video game players are diet coke freaks. hmm. branching out to a new market? in other news, I'm pretty sure that the man who sells delicious turkish style chicken sandwiches next to my work does so illegally--but how do you get away with showing up nightly with a huge chicken spit in the back of a truck with like 10 chickens worth of meat on it and coolers full of condiments?

Keanu Reeves has announced that he is ready to start a family. Luckily, I am ready to be the matriarch of his clan, bearing his babies and traveling around the world distributing millions of dollars to the needy and to his underappreciated movie crews. I think this will work out splendidly. He's the only old man that I would consider dating. I mean, 40 is really halfway to death--possibly even more in chain-smoking Keanu's case. But the man is adorable and on the prowl. I wonder how many women will suddenly take a look at the putz they've been dating and drop him like a bad habit. If Keanu is lonely (or, ronery as my high school students might say), there have definitely got to be other unheinous guys out there. To incorporate Pearl Jam into this debacle of a paragraph, if the reason you stick with someone is because you "can't find a better man" then I think you can just use Keanu as a big excuse to dump his ass.

In other news, if you want to drink tequila, you need to befriend myself and miss Naomi Biesheuvel. Because we are the hookup. At our last, and my last ever, trivia contest, we placed 2nd, but the real coup was our winning two free rounds of tequila for our team, which by the way, included these two--don't get your hopes up--totally undesirable Australian guys, and one of their newly minted Taiwanese girlfriends. One was in the Aussie airforce and was stationed in Malaysia. He was visiting his friend who has been teaching here for 4 months and went from single to yoked-to-an-asian-woman-he-can't-actually-communicate-with in a mere 6 weeks. In any case, since our other loser coworkers didn't show up, we were quite glad for the company. Naomi managed to win us a round of tequila by being the only person to know Lucy Liu's last name on Ally McBeal--Wu, by the way. I won us a round of tequila by being the first to identify Jackie Chan's face as it was being slowly revealed. It was in the Who Are You section which involves everyone shouting simultaneously while the two Swedish babes who assist the host try to discern who said it first. If I will be in your vicinity soon, it might be worth a reenactment of me screaming IT'S JAACCCKKKKIIIIEEEEEE CCCHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNN like a complete lunatic at the top of my lungs...multiple times. I felt like an ass, but the table next to us, the eventual winners, were duly impressed and were rooting for me when other people tried to claim victory. awwwww. and that would include Ainsley, who freely referred to his habit of looking at porn online, which breaks my heart because really, that's just setting himself up for fiction. and ainsley deserves, and quite frankly, as a white pagan man in taiwan, could very easily obtain, a real woman.

In self-revelation news: tequila is my liquor of choice. I had three shots of tequila (all free, mind you) and one pint and was totally sober, if exhausted, at the end of the evening. After two glasses of wine? I'm dialing up everyone I love babbling on and on about how much I love them, man. After 4 glasses of wine, I have no idea what happened the next morning. I don't think I've ever had a hangover with other alcohols. So bizarre.

Hmm, this blog is full of vice thus far. Let's go on to something more sordid: politics, shall we?

Mayor Ma is trying to oust President Chen from office because of all the scandals with his relatives. Clearly Ma has nothing better to do. I'm not convinced Ma cares about the people of Taiwan. I think he only cares about himself and his party. I never read about him promoting any of his social platforms. I only read about how he shows up at athletic events looking hot and taking photo ops and about his moves to usurp the KMT. "I'm Mayor Ma, look at me, I'm running a marathon and hating Chen Shuibian." The other day I saw a huge billboard with a DPP legislator's picture and it was a huge apology for their party doing so poorly in the last round of elections and saying they would try to do better in the future. I wonder what Americans would do if our government officials apologized for sucking.

Smells of chicken sandwich are wafting to my nose. Jessie and I have lately been having to fend off all the people who want to have lunch with us. People whose names we sometimes don't even know. I wrote down that I was having lunch with Iris one day when really it was with Sophie. A girl Jessie didn't know asked her to go to a naked spa with her before she leaves. Heh heh.

Yesterday I found a store down the street that should just be called "lots of Japanese crap." Seriously, they had lingerie next to cookies and knicknacks. 100-dollar tea sets next to a big basket of bath salts and racks of Burberry knockoffs. It reminds me of a store we used to pass in Montana called Gems and Video or Hiram's Liquor and Guns in El Cajon.

Hey, you guys should go vote for my friend Lamont's animated short, Mydas Touch. Lamont will work for Pixar someday--so you should vote for him so he can hook us up with free movie passes and cool gear. yeah!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

oh the sensitivity

I'm sitting covertly in my former apartment, using the fast and convenient web access. I just love doing illicit things. I feel like a secret agent.

Happy Birthday to Beth and Jane. I bet Jane is excited that The Omen opens on her birthday. wow, once in a century...and you lived to tell the tale. am also betting my friend Damian is cursing his parents right now. in a much less serious way than the kid in the movie, of course.

hmmm. things you would never see in the u.s.:

the bestselling taiwanese toothpaste called Darlie. formerly named Darkie. yes. and in chinese the name is still "black people toothpaste." because black people have such shiny white teeth. oh hey, did i tell you the most disturbing fact i've heard in the last month? A report in Time that says 500 million rural Chinese people have never brushed their teeth. it seriously makes me want to start a charity organization called Project Toothpaste or Toothbrushes Without Borders and send in volunteers to demonstrate toothbrushing techniques. it would take ever so much less training than say, a project where they fix all the cleft palates of a village through intricate surgery. but i digress.

in addition to our heinous darlie toothpaste that has a black man with a tophat as its mascot, recently there have been commericals for a hair product and it starts off: did you ever wonder how the American Indians had such long, full, shiny hair? and it has a big picture of a native american with warpaint on. and then it goes on to talk about how they have culled the secrets of the chippewa haircare regime and brought it to the people of taiwan. faaantastic.

today i told one of my students that his wearing an iron cross necklace with a swastika in the middle was unacceptable. i took it in my hand and said "these people would have hated you. do you understand what this means? do you hate yourself? do you hate others? you need to be very careful." that kid thinks he is such a badass when he is in fact a flapping moron. if i was in the states i would probably have been sued for touching him. oh well. he needs to be beaten. but i felt so adult.

better go to sleep.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Franz Ferdinand and the Russians

I guess my friend Sonya who lives in Karachi won't be going to see the Da Vinci Code. Because it's been banned in Pakistan in deference to the protests of the 3% of Pakistanis who are Christians. And because Jesus is one of the prophets of Islam, they say that defamation to him is like defamation to all. Fascinating. I haven't seen it due to the fact that half the movie is apparently in either French or Latin and the subtitles here are in...Chinese. And somehow I don't think my reading ability is equipped to handle codebreaking and specific theological terms. I thought the book was a fun read. Then again, I realized it was a fictional novel when I was reading it, so my faith has remained in tact. Phew. I wonder if the reason some people are professing to believe in what Dan Brown has written is just because they want to have masked basement orgies and feel condoned by the Lord. Much to everyone's relief, that is not one of my deep desires. When I read about the rich group of people gathering for their ritual I couldn't help but think of the scene in So I Married an Axe Murderer when Charlie's father goes on about the secret society that runs the world, The Pentavarate, "The Queen, The Vatican, The Gettys, The Rothschilds, *and* Colonel Sanders before he went tets up. Oh, I hated the Colonel with his wee *beady* eyes! And that smug look on his face, "Oh, you're gonna buy my chicken! Ohhhhh!"

I don't want to brag, but I have an incredible ear for music. For instance, I heard a song in the background at TGI Friday's and I loved it and found it very peppy, but had no idea exactly what the words were or who sang it. But I had this sneaking suspicion it was either Franz Ferdinand or Death Cab for Cutie or something--thanks to Lisa for the music mixes that introduced me to said bands. And indeed, after a mere 2 minute search I found the Franz Ferdinand song I was seeking. It's called Do You Want To and I've been listening to it for like 2 days intermittently with the new Dixie Chicks album, which is really good! A few songs are a bit too twangy for me, but actually I can listen to almost the entire album. I have to say, this is one instance in which the online sampling made me buy the cd. They had it streaming for free on MSN. I know, publicity ploy, but I was like, dude, I should listen to it for free because some of their old songs are awesome and hysterical (no one can do a crazed look like Natalie Maines in that Goodbye Earl song) and it's FREE... and then I sort of streamed it like 5 times in a row.

Your many prayers for strength during packing were answered. I just have to heave a few more items over and then it will be done.

So, I've decided to burn down Russia. Russia does not deserve to be a country. I am just going to bring lighter fluid and matches and leave a trail of scorched earth behind me. I will create a new Russian diaspora. All of their drunken, grumpy people wil have to flee elsewhere to be terminally pissed off and dye their hair unflattering shades of electric red. Why? Why would I, who consider myself a citizen of the world--with a few notable exceptions for countries that suck, i.e. china, sierra leone, colombia, RUSSIA!!--want to inflict wrath, the depth of which has been largely untapped, upon the Russians? Because they are trying to CHEAT us. Because they are trying to extort money from us to get into their poor-ass, corrupt country. (By the way, who bribes ice skating judges, anyway? At least bribe the hockey officials or break the legs of a snowboarder or something, but figure skating? This is a sport where men wear makeup and women put glitter in their hair to compete. of course, the extremely tight, ostentatious nature of the outfits is indeed, very near and dear to the russian ideal for daily fashion.) Because the amount they extort doubles when you get into their country and have no recourse. Because they deny people visas if they have a substandard lunch at the visa office even when they approved them a year before. Because they allowed Stalin to remain in power. Because Vladimir Putin is ugly and used to kill rats in the stairwell for fun. Because if they are poor as ass they should just ask for charitable money rather than cheat and threaten people. Because they killed children when they used flamethrowers in that Chechen school hostage situation.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

chinese culinary tricks

Many of you know the love/hate relationship I have with Chinese culture. And I think Chinese people would say that it is a testament to the inherent superiority of their culture that despite how much I despise about it, I just can't seem to get away from it. Anyway, sometimes there are little pockets of understanding--usually in the form of someone being unnecessarily kind and sacrificial, loaning me an umbrella, or eating delicious food.

Anyway, this morning I realized that something I fully appreciate about Chinese (well, Taiwanese, to be fair) people is their ability to make totally plain food into an ethnic extravaganza. This is evidenced in this morning's breakfast. This morning I decided to try a mantou dan (pronounced man toe don) which is a thick, totally tasteless, piece of spongelike bread with egg in the middle. this egg happened to be scrambled with chives. Still, pretty basic. pretty plain. But then: the lady soaks it in soy paste and hot sauce and voila, it is a totally salty, spicy flavorful creation. If any of you know me well enough, then you know about my passionate love for sauces and condiments in general. I had to marvel in awe at the simple and lightning quick transformation of my breakfast from something so ho-hum that even a westerner would find it bland, into something crazy and bizarre. and because of the spongelike nature of the bread, the sauce soaks in and even changes the texture. It's fascinating! Anyway, some other examples of this phenomenon:

hot pot: essentially, this is just boiled, flavorless food--cabbage, eggs, weird reconstituted fish stuff, mushrooms-- in a (very) lightly flavored broth. The first two times I ate it, I thought Taiwanese people were insanoids because hot pot restaurants are all over the place. and i was like, what kind of genetic freaks like to go out and pay extra to eat boiled food? but the trick is that they have a super special sauce stand--including soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, weird bbqish sauce, garlic, radish, chives, hot sauce--full of ingredients with which to make an extraordinary dipping sauce. Ah hah! And then, once you have created your own alchemist's brew, you dip everything in it and ladle it into your broth thereby bringing your boiled food to life and making a drinkable soup. The English should have thought of this centuries ago. The difference between hot pot and lu wei, which follows, is that most hot pot places offer a buffet that includes unlimited low quality espresso drinks, popcorn and some form of dessert.

lu wei: again, boiled food. they have stands. stands where you fill a little basket full of food you would like to have boiled. tofu, veggies, all boiled. but then they throw it in a bowl, dump a heckuvalot of soy sauce and garlic and ginger and pickled veggies in it, send you off with a bowl to go--you have a basically healthy, delicious meal in like 5 minutes. there's one place near our house that serves only beige colored boiled food. boiled taro, radish, fish balls, etc. but then you put this mysterious red sauce on it and voila! the place is always packed.

fried goodness: the fried food stands. after they fry your food in a large vat of oil in which they have already fried everyone else's food that day, they put salt and pepper and hot spice and, oh, probably msg, on the food. it's phenomenal. sweet potato fries, tofu squares, green pepper, mushroom, rice sausage, chicken breast, even squid if you want some cheap calamari, oh my! You also get to stare at the fun stuff like chicken necks and chicken butts and blood rice that is out on display and which people who are not Julie do indeed order daily. whoa, that's quite an epiphany: my food has been fried in the same oil as chicken butts. I don't know how I feel about that.

danbing: a breakfast food consisting of a tortilla and egg, and whatever meat or filling you want: corn, tuna, ham, bacon, etc--also loaded with soy paste and hot sauce--cut up and eaten with chopsticks.

There are probably countless other examples. I think the lesson from above is that once you reconcile yourself to soy sauce/paste and the sweet/hot hot sauce, you're golden.

So, I put my resume out yesterday and I got one interview offer already. I can't take it because it's an ASAP thing, but it was still a nice confidence booster. Please, God, please let there be more!