Entries Tagged 'Think' ↓

New Zealand Update (4)!

Ok, I know I’ve been slacking on the blog tip, but I just spent a long ass time on this computer and slow ass connection.. only for my post to not save and have the computer shut down on me.. ugh!!

So, let me try to remember it all and pick up from the last post:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

  • Drove from Wanaka up the west coast for our 3pm Half-Day Hike excursion of Franz Josef Glaciers. (Drive was approx. 5 hours or so)
  • About the glaciers: The Franz Josef (Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere in Maori is a 12 km long glacier, located in Westland National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier 20 km to the south, it is unique in descending from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres above sea level, amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest.
  • We got a lil giddy as we neared Glacier country with some sprinkles falling from the sky, thinking that perhaps the hike would be cancelled and we can use the day to rest from our previous adventures. So, I used the handy mobile phone provided by our campervan hire, and phoned the Glacier folks…. only to be told, “honey, it rains 200 days of the year over here, so yes, the hike is still on.” Sigh and Doh!
  • We parked our camper at 2:45pm, just in time for check-in, and get our gear on: rainjacket, waterproof over pants, socks, hiking boots and a fanny pack filled with spikes – specifically for ice climbs.
  • And onward we were! After a short bus ride to the glacier valley.. we walked through the valley under conditions of cold winds and rain spittings….
  • Some parts of the glacier were rather steep, and I had many a times asked myself, “why? why do i get myself into these things? whyyyy??”
  • But with a lil’ push (literally) here and there by Lundy, I made my way up to our finish point.
  • I only wished conditions weren’t so wet, so that camera footage could’ve been used more,,,, but ahh well.. our pics look like we’re meterologists on site!
  • The glaciers were def a cool (literally and figuratively) experience!  You gotta be in decent and agile shape for this one!
  • Tired and spent after the hike, we parked our camper at the nearby Holiday Park and cooked ourselves a fabulous glazed lamb chop + pesto fettucine meal! SOOO YUMMY!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

  • Woke and continued on with our Round Two of lamb chop + fettucine pesto for breakfast…. Delicious AGAIN!
  • Eventually started our drive up the west coast towards Hoktika and then eastward via the infamously roller-coaster, twisty turvy Arthur’s Pass, to bring us back to Christchurch at approximately 7pm. (The drive took about a good 6 hours with a necessary one hour nap somewhere in the middle of that drive.)
  • Lundy’s good eye on the road even found “Saigon Star Restaurant” and I happily agreed to switch things up a bit for a lil’ home-cooking esque meal of vietnamese food..I opted for the simple pork and vermicelli while Lundy went for the special that included pork, beef, egg roll and sugarcane/shrimp with vermicelli…and of course, we ordered some egg rolls for apps!
  • We took the food to-go.. or as “take away” as they say here and in the ‘Hai.
  • We checked ourselves in back at the So Hotel, dropped off our stuff in the room, loaded laundry, and head back downstairs to bring the campervan to a nearby park for drop off, where our renters would pick up. Just as easy as that!
  • After a short walk from the park to our hotel, we devoured our meal and settled in for the night with internet/laundry etc.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

  • We woke for a 8:45am Super Shuttle pick to the airport for our 10:15am flight to the North Island; first destination: Rotorua.
  • We arrived at Rotorua on time at 11:55am and swiftly got our bags and checked in with the Car Rental Booths… only to learn that due to high season, all cars had been rented and all that was left were larger vans ..that were uber expensive for our short stay.
  • Thus, we headed to the Super Shuttle outside and had him lead us to a rather dandy and nice hostel, YHA Treks. (YHA and BASE are the two major hostel chains throughout NZ.. and I highly recommend.. clean and good space..and CLEAN!)
  • We checked in and headed out to purchase our bus ticket for Manukau City (just outside of Auckland) as since this would be our next destination for the day after… to visit some of Lundy’s distant relatives. After which, we settled at Art Cafe for some grilled sandwiches. I had the egg and bacon, while Lundy opted for the mushroom, advocado and cheese. YUM!
  • After a quick internet run, we grabbed some popsicles on this sweltering day and chilled on the park benches of the nearby park … with surrounding geysers and mudpools! The sulfur is FOR REAL here! But pretty nifty to see!
  • At 7pm, we were picked up to attend a Maori Culture excursion.
  • About Maori: The Māori (commonly pronounced /ˈmɑaɔri/ or /ˈmaʊri/) are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand (Aotearoa). They probably arrived in southwestern Polynesia in several waves at some time before year 1300,[6] settled and developed a distinct culture. Māori society was destabilised from the late 18th century by the weapons and diseases introduced by Europeans, and after 1840 they lost an increasing amount of their land, and went into a cultural and numerical decline. However their population began to increase again from the late 19th century, and a marked Māori cultural revival began in the 1960s and continues.
  • We were introduced to the whole Maori Heritage via our enthusiastic bus driver lady, who picked a gray-haired man (after no one volunteered), named “Herb” from Texas (in the chocolate business) to be our chief. Herb would be our representative for the evening… along with 2 other chiefs from 2 other busses.
  • After a ritual introduction ceremony consisting of some chant and spear moves by Maori warriors, we were invited to enter in the village where various “ways of life” things were taught.. including participation in some Maori games. Lundy was bold enough to partake in one of the games..and well rather than explain now, I’ll post the video some other time. (Lundy truly believes he was a Maori warrior in his previous life…and ya know what? I think he might be right! All signs make sense afterall!)
  • Next up, was a very entertaining show of story-telling, song and dance.
  • Then finally, an all-you-can-eat  Hangi Meal aka “Thanksgiving-esque” buffet was had by all…. turkey, roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, veggies, fish, mussels etc..!!! and yummy dessert!
  • Overall, GREAT TIME with the Maori… thoroughly entertained and well-fed.. I can’t complain! Definitely a must-do in Rotorua!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Drown

SUPER quick read of Junot Diaz’ debut work, Drown. I read this in a day. (Thanks to long ass end-of-semester meetings, conducted all in Mandarin, where I sit with tunes flowing thru my intact earbuds and a book in hand.) :-)

About:

With ten stories that move from the barrios of the Dominican Republic to the struggling urban communities of New Jersey, Junot Diaz makes his remarkable debut. In “Ysrael”, two brothers hunt a disfigured boy who hides behind a mask; in “No Face”, the mirror is flipped and perspective belongs to the tormented. In “Fiesta, 1980″, a spirited family gathering plays against the noiseless hum of a father’s infidelities. In “Boyfriend”, a young man eavesdrops on the woman next door and colors in the life overheard with the drama born of intense longing. And always, it seems there is the throb of waiting: in “Aguantando”, for the fulfillment of a promise; in “Negocios”, for rescue; in “Aurora”, for respite; in “Drown”, for resolution.

My Tops:

  1. - Negocios
  2. - How to Date a Brown Girl, Black Girl, White Girl or Halfie
  3. - Fiesta, 1980
  4. - No Face
  5. - Drown

PS. This book left me hungry for some platanos, empanadas, tamales and ummmm a cuban sandwich!!

. . don’t burn the day. .

Ni Hao, President Obama!

Obama landed in ‘Hai-town today… and will move onto Beijing next to meet with PRC President, Hu Jintao…as part of his Asia Tour. Obama will be in Shanghai and Beijing from November 15 to 18 during a four-nation Asia trip that will also take him to Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Two Powerhouses. Big Talks. Let’s all hope for the best!

Though, I gotta say, it’s kinda cool for me to be able to say that I checked the ‘Hai before the President. :-) ….and to think, it was only about a year ago when I was jumping off stage/steps in celebration for the man’s win… Good Times!

. . don’t burn the day. .

‘Hai Cuisine Festival Flop

…gets a MAJOR THUMBS DOWN!! Such a disappointment!

Last month, my friend Josh had told me about the Shanghai Cuisine Festival, and I thought, “ooh la la, I love food and wine and tastings… sure! why the hell not?!” I then told my roomie and some peeps about it, and then, not knowing ‘exactly’ what this exposition was going to be comprised of aside from the obvious: various “fanciful” restaurants + tastings, we went ahead and purchased our pre-sale tickets anyway, figuring it can’t be too bad with food involved.

Well, we were wrong. While this two-day expo was very well-advertised in various city guide/publications, in-taxi tv’s, restaurants, spas, gyms – basically any place appealing to the foreign/affluent crowd, it was really such a joke upon attendance.
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First, the directional tips on their website were confusing and inaccurate to the actual address of the exposition site. (Josh had gone on Saturday but had been having phone issues, thus not being able to give me my requested full report and pointers on the event.) On Sunday, Nate and I eventually arrived with our pre-purchased ticket receipts in hand. We approached the entrance and were told that we had to walk all the way around to opposite side of the building for entrance, because that current entrance was for on-site purchases. (Temps also happened to have risen on Sunday too, and we were both over-dressed and uncomfy.) Puzzled and a little annoyed at the fact that the outside signs had noted “ticket holders,” we grinned and walked out, hoping that it was an easy find. But, my friend Karen wanted to join on the last minute tip and she phoned me being 2 minutes away. While we waited for her, Nate saw some friends that he knew walk out of the expo, stating, “we want our money back.” I’m thinking, UGH, GREAAAAAT! Nate and I had a mini pow-wow and agreed that we had come this far, already having paid the pre-sale, so we might as well stroll in and out. Two minutes later, Karen showed up; we told of her our plan and advised her to stay outside and wait, so as to save her money. Now, we all tried to find this “other” entrance.. but it was ridiculously hard to find with crazy construction and landscape underway… having to walk over busted concrete with no signage assistance, we got a little pissy, and decided to return to that first entrance — with Karen, ABC from SF/NYC who speaks a bit of Mandarin to help figure out this separate entrance mess — meanwhile THIS is the side that the invite and receipt said to enter through. We head up there, and again were directed to this “other entrance.” But, I wasn’t about to have it. It was hot. I was over-dressed. I was told it was a bust, and I wasn’t about to go on a scavenger hunt for another entrance. We had pre-purchased a ticket, NOT to be inconvened. I made my stance to them and they eventually got some other chic to take Nate and I in. She walked us in and THROUGH the exhibition to the “other” entrance, where workers were at the counter with clipboards of pre-purchased ticket holders’ names. The chic found Nate’s. We waited for her to find mine. We waited some more, and then some more. Finally she asks ME to find it. I flipped the page and pointed to my name. (*shaking my head again, just thinking about it* — Sorry to sound all snobby, but I just wasn’t in the mood at that point.) She gives us each an envelope with our name. Inside each envelope is a plastic card with our name/bar code. I thought, “wow, they really spent money on this! printing names on plastic cards as invite; at least this is kinda cool.” We walked in, and the dude takes our card and never gives it back. OMG. That is sooo stupid. No swipe, no “souvenir.” Nada. What a waste of production money, seriously. (me thinking, I shoulda ran this event!!) Finally, Nate and I made our quick little round. We were lucky to find some restaurants with bite size tastings; the majority were selling small portion samples at a discounted price from their regular menu. Can we say, rip-off? Anyhoots, N and I managed to get a slice of pizza, cheese, this other “eh” thing and a lil sip of some French wine. I had texted Karen that we were going to be out in 20min. We made it out in 10.

Here’s a few shots nonetheless…
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Next stop, we hit up brunch on our own accord, then boogie’d our way to the Foreign Bookstore on Fuzhou Lu. (I’ve been spending alotta time there this year.. and I’m liking it! Though, book selections could be better, I’ll take what I can get. I miss B&N @ Union Square soooooooooooooo much!!)

A bit bummed over the whole “Cuisine Catastrophe,” Karen and I decided to make our first lil’ Sunday family dinner at my place. After the bookstore, while N went home for the gym, K and I hit up the store for some groceries. Gotta love City Shop! – the foreign market. I swear, I feel back at home when I walk in there. But, EVERYTHING is so super pricey as since all is imported. PS. A bag of tostitos is $8 USD!!! Anyway, we went in for some fresh salmon, veggies etc..

Got to my place and started the cooking festivities; soundtrack by Lykke Li. We went all out, topping off with a bottle of Prosecco.. Take THIS, “Cuisine Festival Flop”!!!…
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and say hi to my girl, Karen and roomie, Nate…
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..and ended our evening with a throwback viewing of Almost Famous. :-)

(Sorry, pic quality is kinda ehhhh. I gotta change my settings…)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Louis Vuitton: Where Will Life Take You?

Introducing Louis Vuitton’s first TV ad, recently filmed in a few spots that I visited this past year: Hong Kong, Guilin and Yangshuo…… Beautifully shot!! Take a peek:

. . don’t burn the day. .

Cultural Revelations

OK, it’s been a while since I’ve typed a real post on my ‘Hai Life Observations, and I do apologize – but it’s kinda hard to live it in full and type it at the same time. (no snip there, i’m just sayin!)

Soooo, ya’ll know my love for intellectual discourse especially when it comes to, exchange of cultural perceptions et al. And ya’ll know of my likes and gripes about the ‘Hai…. but in all honesty, Shanghai is oddly, both an easy and tough place to live. Easy because well there’s not much to worry about. You go about your day and no one really bothers you (aside from metro riders who rub up against you) – and crime is seemingly non-existent. However, tough, resulting from the misunderstandings that come from culture clash, and of course language barrier.

I do feel bad that I’ve sort’ve depicted this Lord of the Flies-esque picture in the minds of you readers out there, because it’s really not ALL bad here. (Yeah, I know I’m trying to do some damage control here, but hey, I’ve been abroad for one year and I guess been feenin’ for an America-fix.) What it comes down to is gaining understanding of their innerworkings – the how’s and why’s of the things they say/do. Think about it, this country has been held in isolation from the rest of the world and has only in recent decades, open its’ tight and still-monitored doors… Thus, understandably, Shanghai and well, China as a whole has come and still coming a LONG way from its’ revolutionary times and this city is seriously gaining ground on the international playing field. (I’m learning by the day here…)

For one thing, The World Expo will be hosted in Shanghai from May through October, 2010 and is expected to welcome approx. 70 million visitors – the largest number in the history of the world’s fairs!! The thought of cramming MORE people in this city is NUTZO! Here’s a little excerpt:

World Expositions are galleries of human inspirations and thoughts. Since 1851 when the Great Exhibition of Industries of All Nations was held in London, the World Expositions have attained increasing prominence as grand events for economic, scientific, technological and cultural exchanges, serving as an important platform for displaying historical experience, exchanging innovative ideas, demonstrating esprit de corps and looking to the future…

Expo 2010 Shanghai China will also be a grand international gathering. On the one hand, we shall endeavor to attract about 200 nations and international organisations to take part in the exhibition as well as 70 million visitors from home and abroad, ensuring the widest possible participation in the history of the World Expositions. On the other hand, we will put Expo 2010 Shanghai China in a global perspective and do our best to encourage the participation and gain the understanding and support of various countries and peoples, in order to turn Expo 2010 Shanghai China into a happy reunion of people from all over the world.

Saying this reminds me of a recent convo I had with some fellow expat friends here – it comes back to ones’ mindset when making a conscious decision to experience life abroad. I wish I could be quick to agree with those who say, “Well if you don’t like it here, then go home!”  Because some days I see it this way and others, not so much. Why must it be “Be or Bust?”  It’s only NATURAL to seek (and sometimes, long for) a little bit o’ home comforts when you’re thousands and thousands of miles away from home. So why should I be reprimanded just because I whole heartedly miss the people and places that I’ve fostered such great relations with?

Secondly, I had a great dinner a few weeks back, with my local lawyer couple-friends (who I befriended upon arrival via another friend – networking skills blah blah); You’ll remember Jeffrey and Hua helped me out tremendously (ie. dealing with the shady sheisters of my pickpocket episode and assisting with the apartment hunt etc). Anyhoots, lovely, worldly, open-minded folks they are, we got into great discussions on certain cultural differences between the East and West. Everyday things that happen were explained:

MAYBE / ABOUT

For instance, “maybe/about.” I’ve noticed that the Chinese hardly ever give a definitive answer to anything that you may ask them. Instead, “maybe, about….” is more like it. “I think… maybe….”  “I think….it will be about….”  Depending on the circumstance, I admit, these responses have aggravated some nerves of mine. But now, with Jeffrey and Hua’s explanations, I totally “get it.”  You see, back in the day when emperors took reign, the lay people were just that – lay and afraid of being “wrong.” This also explains the big thing about “saving face” here – The worst thing that you can do to a Chinese here is embarass them / call them out for being incorrect aka make them “lose face” in front of others. So back in the day when an emperor asked for an opinion by a lay, the lay would reply something along the lines of, “Well your highness, I think we should turn left, but then again, maybe the right side might be ok too. Maybe.”  To that, the emperor may respond, “Really? Well I think there is no question for the fact that we should most certainly turn right.”  The lay would then cover up out of fear of being be-headed (or equivalent), “Well sir, but I did say that maybe the right would be ok too.” Ta-Da!

This totally dinged in my head and explained for why I am hardly ever given an exact answer! For instance, while negotiating a new contract, I kept pushing for an EXACT number of classes that would be required of me. However, the interviewer would only respond, “I can only tell you the maximum that we maybe require you to teach, but can’t give you the exact yet. But it will be about X number, something like that.” I was growing dizzy. I kept pressing for exact and he kept not giving it. Finally, the interviewer said, “I think this is a different culture thing.” GO FIGURE! Why can’t I get an exact number of classes, so that I KNOW what I’m getting myself into and what is required of me??!!  But sigh…its maybe/about…. At last, Jeffrey and Hua Chen spoke: “We think Westerners are INflexible in this way. They always want a rigid answer.” Hmmmmmmmm… (Mind you, they both work in international law. In fact, Jeffrey works for a firm with Spaniards, so they are just as confused/frustrated at times when collaborating work with westerners.)

As a piggyback story, ya’ll know how crazy detailed I am when it comes to contracts and notes, with the little bit o lawyer in me that comes prepped with my red pen and highlighters. Going back and forth on every friggin detail, I was having him edit the contract before signage, when it finally came to a point where he had it and explained that I would have “his word.”  Aye!  Being the jaded Westerner I am, I wanted everything to be in writing!!  But again, this was another “cultural difference” battle: Word vs. Writing. Apparently, “word is bond” here. SIGH. I mean, I do recall my current boss mentioning a couple times to me, “Mimi, you have my word here” and in the end, I did have her word. SIGH. Have I become this jaded Westerner where I can’t even TRUST a person’s spoken promise?!?!— Though, at the same time the Chinese can be shady, lying sheisters too.. Le Sigh…..can’t win.

Hmmmm, now let’s see what’s next.

HONKING

Oh this is a goodie. It’s AMAZING how limited number of accidents happen in this city because drivers are all MANIACS on the road!!! Speeding, weaving, cutting off, brushing pedestrians – you name it, they do it! With that said though, they can be categorized as rather good drivers for being able to weave out of NEAR DEATH accidents of all sorts here!  Sitting in the front seat of cabs is guaranteed to give you multiple heart attacks, and the freedom of honking is taken to a whole different level over here. See, in the West, we tend to honk when we’re pissed off at someone for cutting us off, etc… but here…. it’s more of a sign of “being polite.” Yup, ass backwards if you ask me. But here’s their logic: They honk incessantly to let the other car know that they are riding up from behind and/or about to pass them and/or at people to say, “moooooooooove bitch! get the way!”  Generally speaking, cars DO NOT slow down for pedestrians here; nope, but just the opposite. This goes back to the reason being that there are just sooooo many damn people in this country — there is NO acknowledgement of personal space here! NONE! So yeah, honking is there way of saying, “excuse me… i’m coming in!!!”

CRIME is a RARITY

Now, if I were to publish this post any time prior to last night as I had originally planned to, I would not have needed to put “assault in public” as a category. However, as my FB Status Message indicated 22 hours ago:

just witnessed ridonkulousness! – upon return to ‘hai, off the metro… saw some chic on the ground in the middle of the street, bent over as if she’s been hit by car. NOPE! some dude is kicking her, pulling her by her hair to stand up, then lands a punch in her face!! a crowd grows and NO ONE does/says a damn thing! i had thought of crossing the street to say/do…but then again.. i’d be just a crazy “lao wai”

This was soooooooo ridiculous!!  I woke up this morning, still in awe; this also prompted quite a few remarks from friends on the IM, email and post comments section. Of course as Westerners, we know this ‘ish would NOT be tolerated on our public streets, and are immediately appalled that this would happen with little/no interjection. But this is when we must stop and look at things from the locals’ perspectives. This country is rooted in a sort’ve “selfishness” and being territorial when it comes to family and close friends. Strangers — they don’t have the time of day for… well not so much in Shanghai it  seems at times. Countryside, perhaps. But Shanghai is a beast of a city in its own right. As much as I try to wrap my finger around it, it doesn’t matter because it’d be like me making up excuses for the masses here. Now granted this particular incident was of SUPER RARITY (first that I’ve been here), we also have to admit, it’s not like ‘ish like this doesn’t go down on our Western soil. I’ve got a good friend who once worked at a shelter for battered women in LA….. one woman’s husband was an LAPD-wife beater. So yeah, let’s not go there right now. Either way, it’s bad and shouldn’t happen….and people shouldn’t just stand and watch. I know, I did …but really… I would’ve been easily been taken in cuffs to a prison and without a translator. Frankly, that’s not my cup of tea.  I’m not even a fan of some public bathrooms, let alone a jail cell over here.

OHHHHHHHH so many observations on the daily and soo little time to capture them all in writing…. but in all seriousness… this city is amazing in its land mass size and astonishing on how relatively, well things run here — given its size and population.

The METRO SYSTEM alone is about to turn impressive overnight.. I see it with the construction everywhere!!! – as close as my neighborhood corner!! Check these stats:

Shanghai will boost the number of Metro trains 150 percent by 2010 to handle the expected 70 million visitors to the city during World Expo.

The city will have about 200 more Metro trains within this year.

During the Expo, Shanghai will have 200,000 more visitors per day and 400,000 on the busiest days. The subway system will be expanded to 400 kilometers by that time and will shoulder nearly half of the flow.

The Shanghai government invested 30 billion yuan (US$4.22 billion) in Metro line construction each year. The Metro will consist of 35 to 40 percent of the city’s transportation annually once fully developed.

NEIGHBORHOODS

Similar to the Great NYC, Shanghai has its pockets of “neighborhoods” that make life for an expat a relatively easy adjustment. The bohemian/artsy, East Village-esque, “Taikang Lu” is one of my fave chill spots; then you’ve got the plentiful international cuisines and night spots in the “French Concession” and European-esque, “Xintiandi”; cool uptown, “American Concession”-in the making where my friend Sean runs, AWESOMELY DOPE creative complex, comprised of fusion restaurant, recording studio, art gallery and film forum called,  The Factory definitely reminds me of home – sucha great hang-out spot… vibe is correct on all accounts here!!

EXPAT NETWORKS

There’s PLENTY AROUND!  I just wish I had more time to explore and delve into them. Looking forward to more free time to do this next year.

CHEAP EATS AND ITEMS

I can grab dinner on my corner for 60cents usd! Stir-fried noodles, fried rice… kebobs etc.

CHEAP LABOR

Umm I have a maid, tailor and Mandarin tutor. Maid comes once a week for $4.40 usd. (My share is just a tad over $1usd) and 90min with a tutor costs me $10usd.

FOREIGN FACE – having one gives you some perks at times. But of course, other times, you get ripped off. But isn’t that the way it is in most foreign lands?

FREEDOM - I know this is a puzzling one. But in some respects, some would argue living in China has granted them more “freedom” for the reason of being able to do whatever they want, whenever they want. Folks walk out into the streets in their pajamas, scream, shout…and no one cares/dares to stop you. Surely, you may get stared at as a foreigner doing “local things”… but you’ll eventually get a cracked smile as warm welcome gesture. And again, with a foreign face.. they definitely don’t want to stand in your way. Reason? I don’t quite know just yet.

So there ya have it. I know I was all over the place and you may still be left scratching your head…(probably my least organized entry)  but just hear me out…and/or wait till we speak in person in the summer. I just needed to post something up…and this type post was long over due.  :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .



True Rewards

Yeah, I know I’ve been taking the cop-out route with regards to updating my blog lately via my co-signs rather than personal reflections/observations etc. out here (though, they are just as important components in the make-up of yours truly, teeheehee). Sooooooo here’s a little something more reflective…

Some of you may recall of my mini freak-out session a couple weeks ago that lasted prolly no more than 48 hours….umm ok, maybe 72; but still, it was a freak-out sesh nonetheless. Reason for the freak? Welps, my contract will soon be expiring and the million dollar question of “What will Mimi do next?” that everyone likes to ask me, will soon have to be answered….for real.  <insert: Ahhhhhhhh Freak Out!> Not only that, but as I’ve said numerous times before, one of the best and worst parts of the living abroad is the friendships/relations that you have with other expats out here. The Good is obvious; but the Bad is the varied timeclock that all expats are on. Trust me when I say,  I acknowledge that I’ve been super fortunate and blessed to have had a seamless transition upon arrival — with exception of the 1st week of jetlag, adjusting to disgusting humidity, culture shock – wondering where all these Chinese came from, ha!, thrown into summer class fire — but I buddied up with some expats quick by the end of my first week…and all the rest is now, historic chapters in my life story! :-) Though a good bunch of them left… some made return visits…and well, we’re all still in touch despite continent divides — I’m not gonna complain too much about that! Just gives me more reunion/cool folks to visit! :-)

The last few weeks have been pretty socially demanding but wonderful nonetheless. Many times, I honestly feel as if I never left NYC. My social calendar is rather non-stop for who knows what reason!  But I find myself constantly “obligated” to hit up if not one thing, than another…. but yet, somehow still not enough. I don’t even know how I gathered all these people over here. I’ll just chalk it up to my magnetic spell, ha! :-) But seriously, I do enjoy my down time and sometimes do have to put my foot down for some much needed “chillax to the max-me” time.

But! In all, I am very grateful for the friendships I’ve built here…..and going back to my freak-out session: just as my contract is nearing expiration, so are my buds here. The only difference is that the majority of them have made the decision to head back to homebase after this experience….. which made me re-think a lot of which I had intended for. The fickleness of friendships here really kills me… esp since it’s rather hard to find “cool” and “down” expats to kick it with…. without finding them too annoying too quick. But truck on, I shall….right?! – I have no choice, but to cross my fingers for a good, new batch of cookies to come out of the oven.

Aside from the socially rewarding experience of meeting different folks, exchanging different outlooks etc….. let’s go back to what allowed for me to experience all of this, in the first place: Teaching.  I’ve taught a plenty to my little cherubs and I truly believe they are going to be stars when they grow up. I will be the first to say, I put great expectations (maybe too much) on all my students (ranging from 5-8 years old). I treat them and speak to them as mini adults, and many times, I don’t realize this until I have a one-on-one conversation with their parent about their “little baby.”  In, then, pops in my head, “Damn Mimi… he/she is only a ___ year old!! Take it easy!”  But at the same time, the support and never-ending praise from the parents make it all worthwhile and encouraging. Ie. a couple weeks ago, during parent-teacher conferences, there was not one single parent that was displeased with my dedication and efforts I’ve put forth into their child. If anything, it was the total opposite. Each were amazed with how much I know of each and every one of my little munchkins (all 29 of them) inside and out; and can pinpoint all areas of strengths as well as challenges. I came out of those little chats – a very proud teacher. A teacher who has most certainly influenced not only my lil students’ but also their parents — a few parents remarked on how their kids would come home from school and correct their parents with.. “But Ms. Mimi says……….” :-) Cute!

So there ya have it…. I’m nearing the 2-month mark to close out the school year… and I’ve most certainly felt some true rewards from this whole experience. And CONTRARY to MANY’s beliefs…. I work my arse off over here!!  5.30AM Wake-Up calls, 5 days a week, putting in a long days of lesson planning and running dizzily to and from classes on the daily….coming home at 7pm / 8pm….the commute – THAT’S WORK, man!!!!

But!!!! Of course the OTHER true reward is: TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL!  and I don’t need to say much on this, aside from ya’ll KNOW that I’M DOING IT every chance I get!

And as a little PS. to this entry. I was talking to a good friend, Chad the other day and he had mentioned he was amped to embark on a 18-day volunteer assignment at an orphanage down in Kenya this summer. He’s excited, and I’m excited and proud of him for doing so! Many folks say they wanna do this, they wanna do that (and understandably some really would ..but can’t for srict personal reasons/obligations) but my boy is gonna do it… and return with a widened perspective and truly rewarding experience, guaranteed!  For those interested, the program that he is going through is called Volunteering Solutions — with varied destinations in Asia, Africa and Latin America. His motto: “Someone’s gotta do it.”  — and that’s why he’s my friend! :-)

What’s your true reward? (and I don’t mean credit card points.)

“Somebody’s Gotta Do It” from album, Tipping Point by The Roots (07.13.04)

. . don’t burn the day. .

Feeling Persepolis’ly Suppressed

UGH. A REAL BIG UGH!  Sooooo for the last 2 days and some change, Youtube has been blocked here in Comm-Country and I am barely hanging onto my sanity! (Youtube has been shotty before, but never for this long a period!!)

And to add fuel to my fury, the powers-that-be have decided to block Facebook usage at the j-o-b too. This is soooooooooo UNCOOL man!  I mean, ever since, let’s say umm last November’ish, I started to really get into the FB world after finding it best to post up photo albums up there to share with Stateside peeps…. and now it’s become a daily routine to be kept “up to date” with Statesiders in addition to all my new friends I’ve managed to rack up in my global travels.

Plus!  More importantly, it keeps me sane at work as well. I excel in multi-tasking situations; I neeeed to have the music cranking, the chats flowing and the work in front….. that’s how I AM MOST PRODUCTIVE. None of this…… only-have-your-work-in-front-you BS!!  If they think it’ll “increase productivity” at the job by blocking, I’ll either be checking into good proxies and/or will be taking more “walks outside…” and contemplate on coming back in time for the next class..

Oh! And what’s with the Persepolis connection, you may ask? Welps, right before I departed NYC last year for Shanghai, I checked this lil indie flick. And I had made a comment on my own post:

…theres is a specific scene in the film, when Marjane returns from the “free-er” world of Vienna back to Iran…and at customs desk, she is asked something along the lines of, “Do you have any illegal foreign objects, anything against the moral conduct of Iran.. culture, music, film, art, porn?” I chuckled as I prep for my way to well, ya know… land of restrictions… This flick made me that MUCH MORE excited to tell my OWN tale!!

and I can say that RIGHT NOW, I am OFFICIALLY FEELING SUPPRESSED!!! And this is NOT A FUN TALE TO TELL!! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!! I feel lil’ Marjane……

. . don’t burn the day. .

Spotlight on Shanghai

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A few days ago, New York Times featured Shanghai as the “Next…”

NOW that the Beijing Olympics are but a memory, the spotlight in China is moving to Shanghai as that city gears up to host the 2010 World Expo. With an anticipated 70 million visitors and 200 participating countries, the six-month World’s Fair will be enormous by any measure — not that Shanghai has ever needed an excuse to party. While the global economic slowdown has had its impact, Beijing’s naughty sister is still up to her tricks: from the flashing neon signs and light-bedazzled skyscrapers to the throbbing clubs and houses from the foreign-concession era hiding their decadent secrets. But beyond the clichés, mainland China’s most cosmopolitan city still offers a breadth of experiences.

Read the full article here, detailing the must see and do’s if all you had were 36 hours in the ‘Hai.

Interestingly enough, after reading highlighted suggestions, I can quite confidently say that I can check off Shanghai off my list, in addition to remixing the list for the real must sees and do’s.  :-) So who wants to come, to give it a go?

PS. Photo Credit goes to Cinderz’ view from The Rad + Article Credit goes to Sharon for passing it along to my inbox. :-)

. . don’t burn the day. .

“God Put A Smile Upon My Face”

Coldplay comes to mind as I type this entry overlooking the breathtaking, clear aquamarine green Andaman Sea, off of the (relatively) undiscovered island of Koh Lipe in Satun, Thailand… Thailand Paradiso, really!!!

Where I left off….

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I ended up out with the boys and girls from the spot I was staying at in KL. I swear, they are like my family as well. Kept harassing my arse to go out with them…and even waited for me to get all my jungle’ness outta me and island planning etc. (I felt special, ha!) Ended up at Gypsy Bar at first.. (characters: Hady, Nilly, Asad, Shayan, Patrick, Phil and some other dude I can’t remember..) then crossed over to Twenty-One Lounge/Club where we met one of their local friends, Mirza. Just another night of pranks and drinks… the fellas kept having this dare game that us all entertained for the majority of the night.. though, I was hitting my sleepies especially since I had to be up for a 5:45AM taxi pickup for the airport… But of course… we ended up back at Equator nearing 4ish.. which meant… I wasn’t about to get any sleep. Stayed up chit chatting and dosing off with Asad and next thing I know.. taxi was there to pick me up…and I was Langkawi-bound!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Arrived in Langkawi, checked-in and headed my way out for a 3min walk to the main beach: Pentai Cengang. First Impressions: “Ahhhh a beach at last!! and everyone here is sooooo chilled out!!” But then as I checked the water, it wasn’t as nice and lovely I had hoped for….but was content I was at the beach. (The nicer spots are up north, but didn’t have time with my one day-stop before I hit Thailand sands.) The pictures are beautious and definitely nice… butttttttt I’m a bit of a beach connoiseur and this wasn’t the best beach I’ve been to. Sands are nice, but the water could be clearer. But again, I wasn’t about to be too picky; I was without any sleep the night before and was just happy to be outta the wildnerness and city. Ended up passing out the majority of the time on the beach anyway… but most definitely caught the sunset for some flicks to share… Then of course some dude, Vishal was his name, decided to make his way over and chit chat. Though I was still mentally in my “regain my peace of mind” mode… I entertained the convo and we ended up going out for dinner. (My appetite tends to be even greater after a hard day on the beach.) After which, met up with his friends at this reggae bar called Babylon, that I had laid myself out for the majority of the day (for tune relief: btw, they LOVE their Norah Jones, Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson here in Southeast Asia!).  His friends were talking some inhebriated chics from Wales…and I got my cue for my exit when I heard them talk about “their plans for their upcoming 21st birthday……”

Friday, January 30, 2009

8AM taxi pick-up to the speed boat for Koh Lipe, Thailand! My Thai local, Nilly from the Equator gave me the inside scoop on this 45min ferry ride from Langkawi to Paradise….and I took her word for it! And SOOO GLADDDD I DID. My mouth went on auto-pilot smile as we approached the coast….. ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! NOW THIS WAS A BEACH!!!!!!  Clean, clear … waters…. greens and blues… white, powdery soft sands… I love Thailand!!

I had met some folks on the boat ride, Nina and Matic (Slovenia) and Suzanne (UK). We’ve been a crew since then..

I found myself a room, checked-in and got into my beach gear for some eats and much needed chillax…. Of course, I had to get myself an oil massage on the beach as well. Ahhh, did I mention I love Thailand???!!

Dinner with the characters above at Bundhaya Resort where majority of wait staff were lady boys (def back in Thailand now)  and made our way to cool, chill out spot called “Peace and Love” Bar. Very nice… carpets laid out on beach… bright starry night.. I saw a shooting star! :-) Ahhhhhh  love, love!!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Went with the above crew for a day of snorkeling! I got my lessons in primary colors again with all the colorful fishes!  “Millions of fishes… fishes for me” was the tune remixed for that part of the excursion. I was on a quest to find Nemo…. but sadly… did not find him.  :-(   No Flounder nor Sabastian either, but I believe I did see Dori.) Anyhoots, I totally wished I had stolen Lisa’s underwater camera… but ahh well.. I’ll have the images stored in my memory chips and you all with just have to imagine! But for real… we island-hopped a bit for the snorkeling and checked out beach monkeys; of course I was the only one who got a few nicks from the coral and slightly stung by a jellyfish.. .. but  oh my God, the last stop was the topper! (I can’t remember the name off the top of my head.)  Absolutely Breathtaking!! There was no way for me to take a bad picture there!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My last full day on the beach… soooo I’mma dip out and enjoy it!!

PS. I’ve been mistaken for Thai and Malaysian here soo many times, I can not even count. Ie. Yesterday — local dude here asked me, “Where are you from?” I responded, “America.” He stutters a bit and says..”but you look …. you look… ahh same-same..” To which  smiled and said, “ahhh but I’m different.” :-)

OK.. kids… love ya’ll…. and love Thailand! I’m off for another wonderful day on paradise island and to break some more hearts on this local front. Current count of Thai boyfriends here on this island: 3 and 1 Italian but currently Thai resident. If only I had the time to type up those stories!!  Let’s just say Nina, Matic and Suzanne have had plenty of hearty chuckles at the expense of my embarassment. They’ve become my “messengers” of crush notes from these gents here. And now I’m known throughout the island as “The American Girl.”  Hilarity…

“God Put A Smile Upon Your Face” from album, A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay (08.27.02)

. . don’t burn the day. .