26 July 2012

“I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine.”

-Jack Daniels, as we deplaned in Bangkok

One week down, 99 to go! J/k, I’m not doing a countdown. That would be super lame.
The bedroom in our hotel.

The living room in our hotel.

We are not yet in our permanent housing, and we are living in a hotel a couple of blocks from the Embassy. This has its pluses and minuses. Minus: our permanent housing is currently being vetted and leased by the Embassy, and there are several families like ours waiting to move in. It could take up to a month for this to happen. Plus: we found the website for our building and the place is gorgeous. Also, our air freight stuff arrived before we did! It’s still going through Thai customs, but should be ready for delivery by the time we move in, so we won’t be living sparsely. Minus: living in a hotel extends the “in-between” time we’ve been stuck in since we got married. I have yet to feel like I’m living in my own place. Plus: I highly recommend hotel living for a moving transitional location. In DC, we were in a Residence Inn, so we had a fridge and kitchen. And here we do as well (note: this place is both larger and cheaper than the RI), plus an in-room washer/dryer.

Since no one likes hearing people complain, I won’t say anything more than this: I will never ever again buy a phone from Verizon.

One of the best things about Bangkok is having Jack Daniels here to tell me what food to eat. If I had come here on my own, as a tourist, I would have missed out on a lot of things because a lot of places don’t have English menus. JD said that I could always just point to something, but I know I’d go for the blandest looking thing, because I’d be afraid the spiciness would kill me.

One day this week, we went out to lunch with some of JD’s coworkers. We went to a place that looked like a warehouse (with no walls, just a big ceiling on posts). Food stands lined the edges, and there were a bunch of cafeteria-style tables in the middle. JD showed me to an Isan place. He spent a year of the mish there and the food sounds really interesting. So I just told him to order me something awesome and he did! At one point while he ordered, he gestured to me and he and the stall guys laughed. I knew he was telling them to go light on the spices for his poor wife.

That lunch was SO good. It was still plenty spicy for my taste, but never to the point of unpleasantness (although it took two Cokes to combat the heat). His coworkers (a Thai, a Filipino, a Vietnamese guy, and an Indonesian) ordered their own food and ordered this dish that JD told me about back when we were first dating. It involves fermented fish sauce. I tried it and it wasn’t that bad, but JD had ordered a non-fish-sauce version of it and I liked that one more. His Thai coworker got me a dessert made with coconut milk, grains, ice, and these gelatin chunks, and it was delicious. JD hadn’t heard of this before, but he liked it as well. This was probably my favorite eating experience thus far.

A bonus to this experience was walking by some fruit stands on the way back to work/home. I saw a fruit I’d never seen before, and neither had Daniel. He asked the seller about it and the guy gave us a free sample! It tasted pretty good, and I will totally buy one later. It’s called salak and this is what it looks like:

Things I Really Like about Thailand:

Food is really damn cheap. And, obviously, I really like it.

Coke is different here but it still tastes pretty good, so I’m happy. (Plus, if I really need an American Coke, they have it at the Embassy commissary.)

People are really into Premier League football here, which is great because I arbitrarily decided a while back that I want to become a rabid Man U fan.

Being a dip is pretty cool. Basically, I can live in this awesome country, but I can psychologically retreat to America if I want to.

Things I Don’t Like or Will Take a While to Come Around to:

The smell of hot fermenting garbage on many of the roads. Thankfully, there are about four or five different sois (side streets) that we can take to walk to the Embassy, and luckily I discovered a non-stinky one early on, so that’s my commute of choice.

I have marveled a few times about the scary-looking things people will eat here. “Why can’t they just eat normal food?” I obviously haven’t vocalized this, since I understand that’s my Ugly American-ness rearing its head.

I’m bored without a job. Hopefully that will change at some point.

My hair has not yet adjusted, and is just a giant frizzball.

The view from our temp housing.

06 January 2012

2011 Year in Review: Regular Ol' Life Edition

These are some of the everyday highlights I had this year. Obviously I had some pretty major other events: going to Russia, moving house, dating a friggin' rockstar. But these are the little victories (or losses, in some cases).

* Any concert-goer has that fantasy where the lead singer jumped into the audience and dances with them. Well, for me, Linds, and K-Squared, that dream came TRUE in May when we went to see The Airborne Toxic Event. We’d made the trip because the DC show was on a Sunday. Well, how the Lord blessed us for this! First off, we found ROCKSTAR parking in front of the venue. Then we had a delicious meal at a Malaysian restaurant on the same block. The Philly Chinatown bus dropoff is in a small parking lot right where the line was, and while we were waiting, one of the Chinatown buses arrived. And who should get off it but Mikel Jollett, Noah Harmon, and Steven Chen! They saw us and waved, and we waved back and got all fangirly and fanboy-y. But that was just the beginning! We had prime spots in the crowd: about three “rows” back and right in the middle.

After the amazing concert (They had lighting effects! Oh how far the band has come since my first show at the Black Cat!), during the encore, Mikel jumped off the stage and climbed into the crowd! Remember, we had PRIME spots, and as soon as he started climbing the barrier, the crowd surged forward (my purse, which was wrapped around my ankle, was dragged behind me, as I had no opportunity to pick it up). And a moment later, I WAS DANCING AND SINGING NEXT TO MIKEL! K-Squared was on his other side, and we proudly proclaimed later that we were the bread in a Mikel Jollett sandwich. He was so close that his foot got caught in between my foot and my purse, and after a couple of seconds, I felt the purse strap snap free! Yes! A rock star broke my purse! (And also scratched my phone and my iPod screens. Now I look at them with fond memories.)

The mayhem was documented by this YouTuber:

For all the other people with cameras going, I’m amazed this was the only video to end up online. If you really care to sit and dissect, I can be seen at the following points: 0:16, 0:18, 0:25, 0:31, 1:07, and 1:40 (I’m wearing really thick eye makeup so it’s not totally apparent that it’s me); K-Squared is visible at 1:25. Mikel is the one in the white T-shirt.

* It is definitely the case that since I became friends with Linds, my concert attendance has skyrocketed. It makes me feel really cool to go to shows with some amazing lesser-known musicians (like Ian Axel, Andrew Allen, etc.). Linds is semi-famous for her concert trips up to New York, and finally, in early July, she and I did a day trip! It was just about the most perfect day ever. We took a mid-morning bus ride up there, got a delicious sandwich at Pret, did some shopping in the Garment District (I have learned to bring a reusable grocery bag with longer straps to carry my fabric purchases around in), found some gems at Strawberry (including a hipster slouchie beanie!), then dinner in SoHo, and grabbed some gelato before heading to the venue. The Living Room was a great place; cozy but not cramped. Linds’s friends Lois and Hadar were there, and several other people who Linds knows from the New York music scene; she’s so connected! The sets were amazing and I discovered two great new artists (Sierra Noble, a wicked awesome fiddler with a soulful voice, and Matt Simons, a delightful pianist with some great tunes).

The primary reason for going was to see Chris Ayer. From about March until this point, I’d become borderline-obsessed with his music, and I was disappointed to miss his Virginia show in the spring. He hadn’t announced any other Virginia show dates, and I’d been toying with the idea of going to New York, so when Linds mentioned it, it didn’t take me long to decide to go! I love so many of his songs, there was no way he’d play them all. The upside of this was that I pretty much loved every song he played! Those 45-minutes of music entirely justified the sore feet (we’d walked a lot that day), money spent, and sleep lost (we took the 1:15am bus back to DC, arriving at 6am).

* One night, I went over to the Jack Daniel’s (that’s his blog name, in case you’re wondering) house for dinner, and randomly in the middle of our meal, he said that his brother had called and was going to a demolition derby that night, and do we want to come along? Um, OF COURSE!! So we went to the Loudoun County Fair’s Demolition Derby! It was one of those fantastic things where you think your day is going to be one thing and then it turns out it’s something completely different and WAY AWESOME! Afterwards, we got deep-fried Oreos and poked around the animal barns and stuff. So great!

* After working for my company for almost four years, I finally stayed at its hallmark brand of hotels. I still have one major brand to go before conquering them all!

* Without warning or precedent, I developed a mango allergy in September. So random! I’m not giving them up, though. I love mango!

* I was involved in making this happen (I designed the pumpkin templates):
I’m SO proud.

* I also was featured in Linds’ awesome video (it was for a contest):

Gee, I wonder whether people know we’re Ian Axel fans….

* We also made it into the final fan compilation:

I’m in here seven times, but clips from our video are featured at least 15 times (plus, Linds made another video with the kids she nannhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifies, and they’re featured too). My favorite bit is the one with Jack Daniels practically knocking me over in a hug.

* For the first time ever, I ran over a squirrel with my car. I think I’m the victim here, though. The little turd jumped out, not even in front of me, but next to me, in what I can only assume was an economy-related suicide attempt.

* This is a lowlight, I suppose: they tore down my freshman dorm this year. Tragic!

* My car hit 100,000 miles this year. I’m so proud of my little Roxanne!

Fun Stats
Celebrity Sightings (expected): Daniel Radcliffe, President Obama, Carson Daly, Kermit the Frog, John Laroquette
Celebrity Sightings (unexpected): Will Swenson (you know, the guy from Singles Ward), Ben Affleck
Countries Entered: only two (US, Russia)
New States Entered: 0 (boo!)
Number of Things Crossed Off My “List of Things to Do in Life”: 4 (#10- Stay at a world-class five-star hotel, #23- Go to the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, #46-Kiss someone in the rain under an umbrella, and #67- Kiss someone in the middle of a crowd)
Most Border Crossings in One Day: 13 (June 25th, involving three states and the District)
Percentage of New Year’s Resolutions Accomplished: 71%. I started a new thing this year where I broke my resolutions into categories, then decided I must accomplish at least one thing in each category. I’m happy to say that I accomplish at least two!


05 January 2012

2011 Year in Review: Pop Culture Edition

So, I totally bungled by 2010 stats. I completely left off movies (The Art of the Steal), books (What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell), and concerts (two Legwarmers shows and a house show). I will not fail this year!

Movies Seen in Theatres
1. True Grit
2. The King’s Speech
3. Oscar Nominated Shorts: Animated
4. Source Code
5. Thor
6. X-Men: First Class
7. Midnight in Paris (twice)
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two
9. Captain America
10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
11. The Help
12. Crazy Stupid Love
13. Contagion
14. Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part One
15. Hugo
16. Like Crazy
17. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
18. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (IMAX version)

Analysis: I liked most of the movies I saw, a result surely of deciding not to go to movies just because my friends are. However, this was before I discovered how fun mocking Twilight movies with Linds and K-Squared can be. I was on the fence about seeing Breaking Dawn, but in the end, I went, and I was glad I did, because easily half the audience was there for the same reason we were, and it was loads of fun. My favorite scene was the gory birth scene, but mostly I think that's because I liked watching Kristen Stewart pretending to be in pain.

And if you can get yourself to an IMAX theatre for Mission Impossible, do it. My hands were sweating with nervousness during the Burj Khalifa scene. Plus, the six-minute preview of The Dark Knight Rises was intense! I’m still thinking about it!

My fave of the year was probably Midnight in Paris, in case anyone is wondering.

Concerts Attended
1. Joshua Radin with Andrew Allen and Justin Nozuka, 9:30 Club, Washington DC
2. Ian Axel with Mike Campbell and Chad Vaccharino, House Show, Arlington VA
3. Ian Axel with Sub-Radio Standard, Jammin’ Java, Vienna VA (the very next night!)
4. Ingrid Michaelson with Ian Axel, World Café Live at the Queen, Wilmington DE
5. Secondhand Serenade with Andrew Allen and Plug In Stereo, Jammin’ Java, Vienna VA
6. The Airborne Toxic Event with Voxhaul Broadcast, The Trocadero, Philadelphia PA
7. Julia Nunes with Ian Axel, Red Palace, Washington DC
8. The Legwarmers, State Theatre, Falls Church VA
9. Matt Duke and Rosi Golan with Hope Waits, Jammin’ Java, Vienna VA
10. Andrew Belle and Trent Dabbs with Bobbie Allen, Jammin’ Java, Vienna VA
11. Matt Simons, Sierra Noble, and Chris Ayer, The Living Room, New York City
12. Taylor Berrett, Tally-Ho Theater, Leesburg VA
13. Guster and Jack’s Mannequin with Lady Danville, Wolf Trap, Vienna VA
14. Intergalactic Tour of the Universe and Beyond Your with Ian Axel, Bess Rogers, and Allie Moss, Jammin’ Java, Vienna VA
15. Ten Out of Tenn, Café Iota, Arlington VA
16. Kekoka Music Festival with Greg Holden, the Spring Standards, and Bess Rogers, Kilmarnock VA
17. Matt Nathanson with Vanessa Carlton, 9:30 Club, Washington DC
18. The Milk Carton Kids with Gaby Moreno, Jammin Java, Vienna VA
19. Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson, DC Temple Visitor’s Center, Kensington MD
20. Greg Holden, Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2, New York City NY
21. The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” Brucker Hall, Ft Myer, Arlington VA
22. Graham Colton with Steve Moakler, Jammin’ Java, Vienna VA

Analysis: Man, I go to a lot of shows these days. Think I see Ian Axel enough?

Plays Seen
1. The Tempest, Blackfriars Playhouse, Staunton VA
2. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, McLean Community Players, McLean VA
3. Wicked, Kennedy Center, Washington DC
4. Newsies, Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn NJ
5. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Al Hirschfeld Theatre, New York NY

Analysis: How to Succeed was probably my favorite, with Newsies in second place. I want to see it again when it premieres on Broadway in March!

Books Read (with Analysis; high recommendations bolded)
1. To Draw Closer to God, Henry B Eyring. This is a collection of talks from Elder Eyring, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. It has changed the way I listen during Sacrament meeting talks, and has made me less of a hater.
2. Peter the Great (kid’s book), Diane Stanley. Brief intro to Peter the Great. I didn’t have it in me to read a 1000-page biography.
3. The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, Robert K Massie. Gobs of interesting stories about the murder of Nicholas II and his family, the DNA analysis done to find the bodies, and the story of Anna Anderson.
4. The Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism: A History of Twentieth-Century Russia, Gary M Hamburg. Actually, this was a book-on-tape lecture series, but it gave a great overview of Soviet Russia; perfect for culture studying.
5. A History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev, Mark Steinburg. Another lecture series, and another recommendation if you want to learn more about Russian history. I knew very little about the history of Russia before this year, and listening to this series helped me learn a lot in a short amount of time.
6. The Help, Kathryn Stockett. I loved this book, as did millions of others. Very entertaining and engaging.
7. Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens. I had a goal to read a Dickens novel this year and I’m glad I chose this one. I love the Douglas McGrath movie adaptation, so there’s always the worry that the book will ruin the movie for me, but it didn’t happen. It was laugh-out-loud hilarious at times, but also very touching and moving at others.
8. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Wow, this book engrossed me. I dated a guy a while back who was always stuck in his head the way Rodya was, and so therefore I pictured him throughout the book. I don’t really know how to describe it. It’s dark, certainly, but not just that. Ugh! I can’t think of the words! As my introduction to Russian literature, this book kicked the thing off with a bang.
9. The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde. My old roommate SJ read this book several years ago and liked it, and I was intrigued by the plot (a literary detective enters books to catch criminals). I liked it, but didn’t love it. I may pick up the next book in the series if I’m stumped for something to read. It was a good beach read.
10. Right Ho, Jeeves, PJ Wodehouse. I frickin’ love the Jeeves books. I need to start carrying a scrap of paper with me when reading them so I can copy down the tasty early 20th century phrases and incorporate them into daily usage. Light and frothy, these books are becoming my favorite beach books.
11. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender. Wow, I thought this story went off the rails at the end. I joked to Sir William, who read it shortly after me, that the song “On Your Way” by Chris Ayer contains a spoiler for the book (“Somewhere there’s a desk chair with your name on it”). I had more fun saying that to him than I had reading the book.
12. 10 Days That Shook the World, John Reed. A play-by-play account of the October Revolution. A bit difficult to follow at times. I still don’t totally understand the context of the Revolution, which doesn’t help.
13. Nicholas and Alexandra, Robert K Massie. Classic biography of the last Romanov monarch. I’d recommend it if you’re into him, but it’s long.
14. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy. I liked this well enough, but not as much as Crime and Punishment. I actively disliked both Anna and Vronsky, but it sounds like maybe I’m supposed to. In which case, Tolstoy succeeded with me. I may give War and Peace a try at some point, but I think I’ll knock out another Dostoevsky first.
15. Blink, Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell is always really interesting. This book is about how our brain works quicker than we can comprehend, and how sometimes it’s okay to rely on a snap judgment or gut reaction, because it’s possible our brain processed the information faster than we could think out and analyze.
16. A Long Way Down, Nick Hornby. I didn’t like this as much as Juliet, Naked, but the characters were compelling and realistic (if occasionally infuriating).
17. Gunn’s Golden Rules, Tim Gunn. I just love love love Tim Gunn. He has opinions and he’s not afraid to share them. Anybody out there who is fake-nice to people need to read this book, because he clearly differentiates the difference between fake-nice and real-nice.

TV Shows I Started Watching
New Girl
Downton Abbey (season two can’t come fast enough!)

Non-pop-cultury post coming soon...

20 December 2011

Things That Must Go 5

Since I don't have time for anything, but I had one of these entries laying around, I thought I'd slap it up here. Not sure when I'll get to the Russia entries, but Becks blogged about it here.

Anyway, here it is:
Girls who say they love Jane Austen but have never read any of her books. The movies are great, y’all, but they’re not Austen. They have the same plotlines and occasionally the same dialogue, but they’re someone else’s interpretation. Jane Austen would never in a million years have written the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett is not a tomboy, and Caroline Bingley knows to wear sleeves when she is in public! There is magic and humor in Austen’s writing that is impossible to translate to film. I think the most famous example is the letter-writing that goes on at the end of Pride and Prejudice. (I know that I’ve used two examples of the same book here, but trust me, I’ve read them all. Multiple times.) At least, thank heavens, there’s an adaptation of Northanger Abbey out there that doesn’t woefully miss the point (copies of the 1989 adaptation should be rounded up and burned), but even that one lacks much of the delight and intrigue of the book.

On a highly-related note, girls who say Mr. Darcy is their dream man. Mr. Darcy is a tool for 80% of the book. Colin Firth and Matthew MacFadyen are hot, but a lot of tools are devastatingly hot, too. What’s the draw? The social awkwardness? The band of mean girls that follow him around? The emotional manipulation?

If you work for a certain government agency and aren’t supposed to talk about your job, you probably shouldn’t tell people that you work for a certain government agency and aren’t supposed to talk about your job.

Also, Same Person, if you are involved in an elaborate marriage proposal plot, and sworn to secrecy by the would-be groom, you probably shouldn’t tell people you’re involved in an elaborate marriage proposal plot!

The water dispenser at work. It’s WARM. So not only has it driven me to actually put ice in my water bottle, but it’s so warm that the ice is almost always melted by the time I get back to my cubicle.

If you are trying to prove a point about something you are angry about (especially when the anger is directed at me), your point will lose all value when you compose your email in Comic Sans.

Buying an album only to have it go on sale on Amazon two weeks later. Or worse, become the NoiseTrade free download of the week.

Posting four-year-old photos on Facebook. I sure enjoyed looking at those recently-tagged photos of people I no longer hang out with or had turbulent “relations” with in the time between when that photo was taken and now. Especially when photos of a certain beach weekend are posted right after this year’s certain beach weekend and one of your friends asks you why you’re groping a married man. (He wasn’t married when that photo was taken!!)

Standing ovations. What do standing ovations mean when handed out like pretzels? They’re woefully overused. I used to be a staunch sit-in-a-seat-while-everybody-else-stood-up kinda gal, but I’ve been peer-pressured too much lately to continue that. So I now regularly “fake a standing O.”

“Happy Birthday.” Man, I hate that song. It’s so cliché. Why can’t there be another birthday song? Why does everyone have to sing that one? Please, people, for my next birthday, I want one of the two following things to happen: 1) Learn the words to They Might Be Giants’ “Older” or 2) do “Happy Birthday” Hogwarts-style and choose your own melody.

Mormon jerks who park illegally in the neighborhood surrounding Temple Square and the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.
Because I have to hear about it on Facebook from my brother and sister-in-law. I thought Mormons wanted other people to like them. But when you park in front of my non-member relatives’ driveway during Conference Weekend and thinks it’s okay because you assume they are going to or watching Conference too, you look like a real jackass. And it happens every single Conference Weekend, so it’s not a fluke.

Ugly sweater parties. I went to my first ugly sweater party in 2005. It was clever then.

29 September 2011

Unintentional Blogging Hiatus

It's been almost a month since I got back from Russia (and over a month since I was SUPPOSED to come back from Russia), and I haven't even gone through my pictures. My life rocks pretty hard right now, so there's no room to complain. But boy, is it busy!

So... yeah... I'll post later.

11 August 2011

Things That Must Go 4

Haven't done one of these in a while...

Being asked for networking connections and then not following up on them. Several months ago, I knew a guy who wanted to change jobs, and I happen to know the head of the appropriate department at my office. So I gave him his email, and told the department guy about him. But he never followed up! It was kind of embarrassing, because my department friend was totally willing and even excited about it. Then, a while back, someone posted on one of the listservs looking for contacts with my company. I debated about whether or not to respond, but when I saw we had several mutual Facebook friends, I decided to go ahead. But she never emailed me back. What’s the point in begging for job help when you’re not willing to accept the help being offered?

People telling me I should go on Project Runway. Would it be kind of awesome to spend my days with interesting upcoming designers? Yeah. Would it be LIFE-ALTERING to meet Tim Gunn? Of course! (Seeing him in person last August was life-altering in itself.) Would it be cool to get to buy fabric using someone else’s money? Yes! But come on, people, I am NOT contestant material, nor do I wish to be. A few years ago, I worked for a pattern designer, and she tried out for the show and couldn’t get on. If she, a professional with decades of experience, couldn’t get on the show, what makes you think I could? And the grand prize is money to start your own line. Do I want my own line? No! I don’t want fashion design to be my career! What would I do for fun? Systems administration?

The colon-P emoticon. Boys like this one in particular, and use it in place of a traditional smiley. What makes sticking your tongue out at someone the same thing as a smile? And when I picture the person sticking their tongue out at me, it’s not, like, CUTE or anything. What is the reasoning behind the colon-P, boys? I am befuddled!

Websites with long intro animations. On a daily basis, I enter company profiles into our system, and I go to their website to confirm addresses and such. It’s really annoying when I have to wait 90 seconds to get through their animations. Innovate, grow, sustainability, working together… I feel like I’m watching the Jabberwocky presentation from Better off Ted.

Also, when said websites don’t have their address in text format. Then I can’t copy and paste, and I have to manually type in the information. Their web designers are douches.

Checks. Shouldn’t we be all-digital by now? Related to that, Zions Bank for charging for electronic wire transfers. Also, related: me, for taking a billion years to switch banks away from my Maryland-based credit union. These three Things That Must Go conspired against me when I got my tax return a few months ago. My dad’s office manager had to mail it to me because I didn’t want to pay $15 for the electronic transfer. Which meant I had to go to a physical bank to deposit it. The supposed partner CU in my neighborhood couldn’t read my CU info from my debit card (I could only deposit through an ATM), and when I schlepped it up to Rockville (tangent: I still love that town, and identify myself as a Rockvillain), the location was closed because of a power outage. It took three trips to get the damn thing deposited. Why did I delay opening an account through my company’s credit union, which has a location IN MY BUILDING??

28 June 2011

Why DO Boys Always Tell?

God loves me. You know how I know? Because he led me to this book, recently discovered in my church building’s library:

Published by Bookcraft in 1961, but on its seventh printing by 1966!

This is leading to a new blog series: Words of Wisdom From Days Gone By. Today’s golden nugget comes from the inside cover:
“Why do teenagers go steady? Why do they marry so young? What is the best age for marriage?... How damaging is petting? Why do boys always tell? What are Satan’s meetinghouses?...”
Ooh! I hope rock concerts are Satan’s meetinghouses!! Oh wait, this book was written before rock and roll hit it big.
“Parents everywhere will welcome this book as a genuine guide in helping their children avoid the pitfalls of unhappy marriage. Young people will value it as an eye-opener to the problems of dating, courting and marriage. Teachers and counselors will recognize it as a comprehensive and basic book on the problems of youth.”
Geez, Brother Eberhard sure thinks highly of his book. He makes it sound like it’s an instruction manual for life or something. I hope he’ll define “petting,” because I have no idea what that is, and no one I know knows what that is, and no one has ever been able to define it for me.
“What Shall We Do With Love belongs in every home and school library as a handy reference.”
It IS a handy reference! Hooray for the church library!! I can’t wait to read this sucker!

20 June 2011

Traveling for Dummies: Preparing for Your Trip the Nerd Way (Doing Your Cultural Research)

A few weeks ago, I went to a presentation given by Ed Fuller, author of You Can’t Lead with Your Feet on the Desk. (It was a work thing.) He has spent a couple of decades building business relationships all over the world. During his presentation, he said something that I’ve always taken for granted (paraphrased): “When you travel to a foreign country, study its history. In it, you’ll find the passion of the people.” This made me wonder: how often to travelers study the culture of the place they’re visiting?

Upon some further research (asking people I know; highly scientific, indeed), I discovered that apparently I’m in the nerd minority. I almost always do cultural research before heading abroad. Even when I only had three weeks to plan for the Danube Adventure, I still managed to squeeze a viewing of Amadeus and download some Strauss to my iPod. Bex and I took turns on train rides reading about the history and customs of the people on our itinerary.

Bex and I are going to Russia. Oh, didn’t you hear? Yeah. X10 is coming too. We’ve been planning it casually since before the Danube Adventure (when I did some in-depth research on a real-life Russian!); and formally since about January. Trust me, there will be some nerd statistics in a future blog post. But the gift of time has allowed me to fully immerse myself in Russian cultural history.

So this is what y’all should do:

* Check out the Frommers recommendations: After the Rick books, the Frommers guides are my faves. They’re not heavy or huge (in general), and they have great cultural research recommendations! If you look on their website, in the “In Depth” section of your destination (try the country one before a city one; they’re more likely to have this), there’s a “Recommended Books and Films” section. Which leads to the next suggestion…

* Read books. Really, you should just read Crime and Punishment anyway; it’s friggin’ awesome. When reading some of a culture’s best-known literature, you’ll find the pulse of that culture. Or at the very least, you’ll be familiar with something that most members of that culture are familiar with. Can you imagine how much cooler it is to walk around certain neighborhoods in London with a healthy knowledge of Dickens under your belt? And to drive through the moors of Yorkshire after reading Jane Eyre? It’s amazing!

I dare someone to read Samuel Johnson’s dictionary as cultural research for England.

* See movies. Go to the filming locations on IMDB section if you’re stumped at first. Or if you don’t have time to read biographies or novels from that country, watch biopics or film adaptations. It’s the cheater’s way, but it’s better than nothing.

* Look at art. If you’re going to spend hours slogging through the world’s great art museums, knowing a little bit about the artist or other artists of the same time period will add a lot of richness to the experience.

* Look at buildings and study major architects. For the same reasons as the art thing. Also, this way, you will be more astounded by buildings you see walking down the street, and not just the major monuments.

* Wikipedia famous people: Who is the most famous actor in the world? There’s a very good argument for Amitabh Bachchan, the Bollywood star with over 150 movies under his belt. To quote this article:
… Does he find it strange that in India millions of people would do penance for him yet 90% of the world doesn’t know who he is? “No,” he shrugs. He looks to an aide: “In India, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie wouldn’t be recognised in most places.”
If you’re going to India, you better darn well know who Amitabh Bachchan is. And Shah Rukh Khan, ‘cause he’s the freakin’ MAN.

* There’s a line of audio lectures by The Teaching Company that are super awesome for preparing for a trip. These audiobooks are readily available at libraries, so you don’t necessarily need to fork out the money to buy them (they are rather expensive). There’s a huge history section, as well as language and politics sections. They are as broad as “A Brief History of the World” and as specific as “The American Revolution” and “Churchill.”

In preparation for the Russia trip, I checked out “Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life.” Because I have neither the time nor inclination to read Gulag Archipelago (I’ll take my darkness in the form of Dostoevsky and biographies on Stalin, thank you very much), I listened to the entry on it, summed up in a tidy half-hour.

Imagine these two scenarios:

Scenario #1: There we are, me and Bex and X10, standing tired and cranky in a gigantic ballroom with gilded columns and tiled floors. We look bored. X10 says, “Why are we here again?” “It’s the Winter Palace,” I say, “and it’s, like, big and stuff.”

Scenario #2: There we are, in the same room, still a bit tired ‘cause we’re jet-lagged and have already walked a mile inside this building. Bex is saying how this is the room in Russian Ark where the Shah’s ambassador is presenting himself to the tsar, and I’m talking about how this room was originally built by Empress Elizabeth and then burned down later, and X10 is firing up the iPod Touch so we can play “Once Upon a December” and waltz around the room like in Anastasia.

Which sounds more fun?