Well, That Was Unexpected

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

off hiking

today we went into the park after dinner and after putting on our requisite lifespan-shortening mosquito spray we ambled into McGhee meadow and walked into about 50 spiderwebs. and then we saw a moose and her baby, which was totally awesome. ah, i love this park. Most of this trip has been about adventuring to new trails and unmarked trails, and then retreading the familiar old territory of being confined in close quarters for 2 weeks with family and the love and challenges it breeds. hmmm. being back with the family, at least we can make each other laugh through the madness.

my mother today taught me that you should zip up pants when you wash them to protect the zipper. she has been slowly giving me new, helpful domestic hints.

today we met up for dinner with one of my dad's high school friends and his very tall family. they are incredibly attractive on the whole, and two of the daughters want to become physical therapists just like their dad. we had some awesome potatoes which you make my melting a pat of butter on a pan and then covering with parmesan cheese, putting potato halves on top and baking for an hour. that's my kind of dish--it looks sort of elegant and complex and in reality is very easy.

tomorrow we will be leaving for an overnight hike up on the Highline trail. we're taking a detour over to swiftcurrent overlook and it should come out to a two day total of 18 miles. i sure hope i can come back with pictures of my hair blowing in the wind on top of a mountain with canada and montana as mere dots in my wake. or our wake, if we all make it up there. we are so awesomely california, for our dinner tomorrow we have indian boilbag dinners from trader joe's. that's right, palak paneer for julie on the continental divide. riotous! did you guys know trail mix is insanely caloric? one package--easily edible in one snack sitting--of costco trail mix is 500 calories! and now you know i have been hanging around californians too long because i'm starting to know the ingredients and calories in all my foods. grrr, fie my superficial state and the neuroses it imbues in us!

my grandmother just made the most amazing banana bread. i think it is laced with crack. i cant believe i ever liked any banana bread before now.

well, off to bed and off to much higher ground. i'm sad for you guys because i bet none of you will be in a place as beautiful as i will for the next two days. but at least you will have flushing toilets. those are a big plus. but pray that i will meet some strapping mountain man who likes a woman with some serious curves, and we shall climb to the various mountain tops of teh world together forever! weehee.


iceberg lake

We are safely ensconced in Montana life. We have been into Glacier National Park three times in two days, have eaten various huckleberry-infused foods: pancakes, syrup, ice cream, salad dressing, etc. Today we made a big plan to go on my very favorite hike in the whole world, a 9 mile round trip adventure to iceberg lake. it has bright blue glacial water, icebergs that calve into it at will and float around, beautiful meadows and waterfalls along the way. and for the second time in a row that I have tried to go on it, it has been closed because of bear activity! this happened when charity came up last time. they could go and feast near grinnell glacier, but oh no, they love my iceberg trail too much, it shows good taste, of course, but this is my SPOT... and the park rangers don't want them habituated to humans. apparently one reason they are crowding on my trail is that they have found a "natural food source" we don't know if that menas they are killing the crap out of a band of squirrels (or elk, or goats, etc) or if it just means huckleberries. anyway, fie on those bleeding heart animal lovers, i don't care if the bears learn to love cheez-its if it means i can go back to my mountain cirque! oh well. keep wildlife wild and all that. yeah, so we had prepared like a whole day of food and fun and like 5 gallons of water only to find out after driving for two hours to get there that it has been closed for 3 weeks. that dampened morale considerably. we went on some halfhearted hike in a field for 4 miles, but it just wasnt the same.

i have been disturbed to see that the iron cross has lost its scary tabooness and is being used in such places as: Glacier National Park tourist tee-shirts. hmmm. i'm sure it's just them being au currant and "cool" but it makes me shudder.

we have played games at least once a day and i have only lost once. i skunked my grandfather at cribbage! what have i become? i am afraid people will stop playing with me if i keep trouncing them so mightily. i might have to "get distracted" so they can think they are doing well. i legitimately lost in phase 10 tonight. still, i feel bad about winning so much. i like it better when everyone wins, and then we are all happy and we sing kumbaya.

they have a very serious anti-meth campaign going on here. which is good because, hey, people need to get off the meth. apparently it's this one businessman or something who has decided to run this whole anti-meth campaign. very savvy. i'd say montanans lacked a bit of sophistication, but they really don't. two local seniors won a national competition for "best prom outfits made entirely of duct tape". and they were actually pretty incredible.

anyway, montana is just beautiful. i can see so many stars at night that the sky looks blurry. my grandparents just got an offer on their house! oh, we hope it works out! pray for them!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

driving to montana--in utah

We are in the midst of what must be at least our twentieth road trip from San Diego to Montana, 10 hours of driving have landed us here in Cedar City Utah on sweet I-15. Ah, middle America. trucks, tattoos, poor hygiene, exploitative pictures of females plastered on cars shirts and billboards: everything important. The hotel is right next to an IHOP and the rest of the eateries within walking distance are establishments like Dennys and Burger King: places that smell like grease burn. I have a strange love for IHOP. Part of the reaosn is because I used to go to a church called House of Praise: HOP. I called it IHOP because I couldnt abide by calling it The Hop as everyone else did. I also love IHOP because I love pancakes sooooo much. I never loved pancakes until I went to Taiwan and ate at Jake's and had the whole wheat nut and raisin nut cakes.

We are illadvisedly trying my mom's laser treatment cream that will apparently melt the hair off our legs. It has been successful and now we have to wait for 24 hours to see if we have an allergic reaction to it. We probably shouldn't be using anything that requires an allergy test, but hey, it's a road trip and i'm sure there are lots of fine doctors in Utah.

my father decided not to bring his hearing aids which has resulted either in hilarity or frustration. most recently when we read the cracker barrel menu and said "corn muffins" he asked "what is a horn button?"

loving the free wifi at the abbey inn! weehee, yeehaw america. more tales from the frontier as we pass through mormon land. bizarrely enough, we've never had good utah service experiences. apparently all the happy mormons are kept elsewhere, the pissy remnant of Others are left to tend to the disgraceful passing public who arent allowed even to glance at their special mormon underwear or second and third wives.

happy sunday!

Friday, July 21, 2006

i have a price

Yesterday I was watching tv and I made a few important discoveries. 1. If someone paid me 20,000 dollars, I would agree to appear in a genital herpes commercial. to say the line "I thought I was being careful even when I didn't see any sores breaking out" would cost an extra 5 grand. 2. the lady freely doing yoga in the commercial made me realize that all people who do yoga are dirty whores. don't date people who do yoga, most of them have genital herpes, and friends, they are not being careful sores or not, which is why the commercial caters to them. One should never trust those who wear patchouli oil. That's a life lesson I learned...not the hard way because I saw high fidelity and john cusack telling tim robbins to get his patchouli stink out of his store.

after getting our toes beautified and feet buffed by Mai and Kim at Number One nails--they have massage chairs for your sitting pleasure--we went to this awesome little creamery called Cold Mountain creamery. The proprietor clearly loves his job and every day he invents some special flavors. yesterday i had almond/fig and maple/cinnamon, all made with the real deal, super soft and delicious. my mom had honey roasted sunflower seed ice cream. it sort of tastes like gelato. anyway, it's in this real hole of a strip mall in El Cajon, a totally unexpected addition. I hope he lasts, though. I love supporting small businesses.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

buying in

It is no secret that when I imitate a Vietnamese accent, it sounds a little bit like someone who has Down's Syndrome. The fact that my mother has also picked up on this resulted in much hilarity this morning. She called me from her office and asked if I would want to get our toes done at Number One Nails on her lunch break. And I was like "heck yeah." Then she says "Okay, I'll call Num One nails to make an appointment." oh my gosh. as julia said, my sweet mother, with not a single mean bone in her body. and i mean, point in fact, that is how they say the name of their shop. but the fact that she busted that out shocked even the julie.

Another surprise on my return home is that my family has basically gone completely soy and organic. there is a gallon of soy milk in our fridge--and only one sad liter of milk. I never thought this day would come. My father was bred in Montana, he generally scoffs at anything that isnt what the manliest of mountain men would drink or eat or say or wear. you know, he likes to imitate that barking thing that tim allen used to do on tool time. but i personally find soy milk sort of hoity toity in the states. in taiwan it's a whole different deal b/c you would use it for the same ourposes, mostly just for drinking with bkfast and lunch. anyway, things have changed here in the hartle household.

Do you ever forget how much you like cereal? I know Rachel doesn't, but I do. I rediscovered the love this morning. oh man, and we get this awesome punpkin granola at the grocery store. grrowl, delicious.

I have achieved a whole new level of loserdom and have actually registered at drpepper.com so that i can check the contest codes on my diet dr pepper bottles to see if i have won a prize, like a hummer. a hummer i would immediately sell and would rather die than drive. i mean, right when the website makes you register i should have thrown it to the wind. but no, i persisted. i now shall go and check codes on two more bottles. cry for me argentina. a vintage drpepper tshirt would be sort of sweet. what makes me sad is that i know this means i have fallen victim to a "brand." but i love drpepper so much, even if it was called dr fart juice or something i would still drink it. fie all this branding making me feel like an automaton rather than a purist.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

see you in a few weeks

I've been using a phrase recently that I really adore, it goes something like this: I'll see you in a few weeks. Yes, I love that, because I will see people in a few weeks. I am not running into town apportioning the people who have loved and supported me for years a mere few hours to sum up their lives. No, we are beginning dialogues that we will continue when I return in a few weeks. I love that.

Yesterday I tooled around town in my car for the first time since becoming insured. It felt like I had been doing it all the time, or like I had gotten amnesia for a few years and my memory started from exactly when I used to drive before. And since I paid for a new engine a few years back the daewoo is still running pretty well. I'm pretty happy about it. Charity and I were discussing yesterday the stigma that walkers have in towns and cities with driving cultures. The stigma of being total losers. Like, I felt so watched when I walked to get my breakfast burrito. And it seems like the people you find walking are generally people who can't drive whether due to finances or being delicensed for some sort of addiction. i.e. meth addicts and alcoholics. But I'm so accustomed to walking everywhere and I love walking. I guess I'm just accustomed to lots and lots of other people walking with me as they get where they need to go.

Today I paid for school. I guess that means I'm going? Doesn't feel real yet. I am so mentally unprepared to be a student. Anyway, today is class registration and job search day. weehee. without further ado.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

odds and ends

I just won a very satisfying victory over my 18 month old nephew in a lengthy power struggle oevr breakfast. He thought that the tofu/banana/blueberry/applesauce/honey concoction I mashed up for him was beneath him--he kept shaking his head at it. So I left him in his little seat until he bent to my will. And then of course he liked it. And then my mom called to tell me you arent supposed to feed honey to kids under 3. great. Now we are watching a program called The Backyardigans, a set of five little quasi animals who have pretend backyard adventures. they do some stellar little dances.

yesterday I decided I needed to get out, so I took a walk to get a breakfast burrito. on the way back I ran into a meth addict who tried to sell me marcasite necklaces, pore cleaner, and ginsu knives. quite an ecclectic little collection of items. if i had any money i would have bought one, because i'm quite an avid supporter of entrepreneurs who work for their meth.

i always thought that Taiwan had a lot more cool, quirky little innovations to make life easy than the U.S. But recently I've encountered a few nifty little ideas, like the plastic wrap with the easy cutter. and the lazy susan bagging at walmart.

my days have been full of job applications and scholarship applications and trying to choose a class schedule that will accomodate the job i don't have; babysitting my nephew and whatnot. it's been good so far. yesterday we went out for middle eastern food and had the feast for three...actually a feast for 30. we came home with 6 boxes of leftovers. oh sweet american portions. i duly noted the enormous God Bless America poster over the register. i mean, they probably do love america, as i do evermore since my fateful trip to russia--which, as jane pointed out, was characterized y a lot more than racism and unfriendliness, so hopefully i will recount some tales soon--but it's also probably true that they needed to cater to hick bias. this partyicular restaurant is owned by chaldean christians, but no one in el cajon knows that. anyway, the blessed people give you a huge plate of hummus with amazing flatbread. it is sure to be one of my favorite eateries in the near future.

anyway, i hope everyone is well! stay cool.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Back in San Diego safe and sound. Loving it. surprised at the short shorts being worn by san diego teens in full view of parents. amazed at the selection of 5 cheeses at subway sandwiches. surprised at the lack of scary scroogelike man unwilling to part with a few extra olives. that's the extent of the culture shock so far. cant believe my hometown is so beige. really, not very pretty. 2 stories and beige all around. not that taiwan and their rotting tiling was prettier, it wasn't at all. but they need some color up in here.

flight to SD uneventful--sat next to a girl who kept reapplying her pink nail polish on the plane. thank you, captain inconsiderate! stood in line behind two teenagers who had the most inane conversation i had ever heard about straightening and curling their hair. they were being very judgemental about other people's outfits for two girls who had spent a lot of time making themselves up to look like vagrants. i lost IQ points listening to them. i decided it was probably best that i couldn't understand most of what my students talked about in Taiwan.

andrea is a miracle worker. she packed all my stuff tightly and compactly into three bags. only one vietnamese bag casualty, all dishes and everything came through in flying colors despite the fact that we packed 60 pounds of stuff in a bright yellow nylon sack which ripped apart when i got it home. perfect timing.

i love san diego. i love my house. i love groceries and pantries and comfy furniture.

things not loved by the julie: escalation of middle eastern conflict. i get off the plane and am informed israel has bombed lebanon. shit! bad things seem to happen to other people when i take trips. afer the russia,ukraine,vn trip i found out that things had gone to hell at work in a way not seen since the fateful summer of '04 when i pretty much realized i didnt ever want to renew my contract. heinous.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In Vietnam and Pravin the Lemonade Maker

Hello All! I am currently resting in Vietnam after my psychotic adventure in Russia and Ukraine. I will write a full update on that later, but right now I just wnated to check in and say hello. What's funny8 about me checking in and saying hello is that I can't actually read the comments anyone posts until I get back toTaiwan in three days because, as far as I can tell, the communist Vietnamese government has blocked all blogspot addresses. hysterical.

anyway, yesterday i slept for 7 hours midday after going for 11 sleep deprived days with the girls all over kingdome come and having a particularly grueling last day in which I made what I believe to be a first-of-its-kind voyage across moscow from SVO airport to DDO airport, roughly 100 miles away from each other on opposite sides of the city. While I did feel like a hairy, yawping explorer, I also felt like it took me 5 hours to get from one airport to the other in order to save 100 dollars. and guess what? it did.

On my flight to hanoi yesterday I sat next to an absolutely precious girl with an enormous smile named Pravin. Get this, she's a Punjabi girl raised in Malaysia and now attending medical school in some assbackward town in Russia called Kursk, which is a 9 hour bus ride away from Moscow. That is what I love most about traveling: the crazy interesting people you meet. Anyway, this adorable girl kept smiling at me from across the seat and finally asked to switch with the Vietnamese guy in between us so she could talk to me. She said she had wanted to talk to me the whole flight, but it was too hard to talk over the guy in the middle. I thought this meant she had some pressing question to ask me. But she didn't, so for about 15 minutes we sat awkwardly as I tried to figure out why exactly she had traversed the seat to come talk to me. Maybe, for instance, she wanted to ask to marry me for a visa like my Ukrainian cab driver Bogdan did, and like my aeroflot seatmate, pavel, did, and like the guys outside of my hotel here in Hanoi did(technically they asked if I was single and wanted a *wife*, which i thought was quite an interesting proposal and broadminded even for communists). But she just wanted to talk. Little did she know that she is far more interesting than myself. She goes to medical school in Russia with about 40 other malaysians because it is cheaper than in malaysia or India (who knew?). She simultaneously takes classes in Russian language and also take science classes taught in Russian, which sounded horrific to me and I told her so. She said it was indeed difficult, but actually maybe it was good because it would really force her to learn russian. and maybe if she learns russian well enough people will be nicer to her, because now people are not nice or friendly at all and her only recourse is to form alliances and family bonds with fellow persecuted international students. anyway, she said she attends class roughly from 9am-7pm daily and cant go outside when it is dark because she might get "whacked" which does not exactly mean "killed" like it would on the sopranos, but does indeed mean beaten, the literal meaning of whacked. And this is because the Russian boys hate foreigners, darker skinned foreigners especially. And she said that they knew when they needed to run away because the boys' faces would get red and you would know they had been drinking and were probably angry--and since russians start drinking at roughly 9am and carry open cans and bottles of alcohol wherever they go, i assume this isnt a rare occurrence. some of her classmates have already been beaten and had their teeth knocked out and neither the police nor the doctors cared enough to do anything about it. so she lives in fear in some godforsaken Russian city thousands of miles and an opposite climate away from her family, whom she seems not to blame for forcing her to go to russia to be a doctor. and she feels grateful that she has met a punjabi boyfriend at school because her parents arent cool with her marrying a nonpunjabi boy, and indeed her sister has become serious with a malaysian boy who is not punjabi and they arent sure her dad will let her get married. Pravin knows that this is unreasonable but seems to be taking it in stride and says she will be different when she is a parent, but for now respects that her parents are "traditional". One of her uncles has already married a chinese malaysian woman and they have had babies who are "damn cute" according to Pravin. Pravin's mom is a schoolbus driver and Pravin loves playing with all the kids. She wants to be a surgeon, and I told her she could be a children's surgeon and she said "why not?"! If she lives through her stint in medical school, of course. She is very excited about the prospect of going to Punjab when she graduates in 6 years as her present from her parents. she is going to see a golden temple in amritsar. anyway, i felt that this little girl was teh most adept person I'd ever seen at making lemonade when life gives her stinky rotten lemons. her general good attitude about learning russian and her shitball plight in russia--people who hate her, no forms of entertainment, food she hates, etc--were highly impressive. i woudl give her an award if i had one. I had no idea that malaysia was so multicultural, by the way. her friends were all sorts of colors and religions, and styles as they trekked back home after their stint in russia, and they were positively ecstatic to be going home. as am i, but for far less intense reasons.

write more soon