Jul 30, 2014

So It Begins.

Angel, eager to try out his Mandarin, asked a security guard at the apartment building where we stayed overnight in Hong Kong, "Can guan zai na li?" ("Where is a restaurant?")

She looked at him in utter confusion. English brought the same result. He began miming eating while I realized I should have warned him that it's more likely he'll find Cantonese speakers here than Mandarin speakers. And I don't know a single word in the Cantonese dialect.

It was 6:22 a.m., and the breakfast restaurant we eventually found wasn't open yet, but I was starving, due to my boycott of any and all airplane foods during our long trip (why can't airplanes just serve rice krispie treats or apples or something guaranteed to not smell nauseating? I definitely have suggestions for improving the fare, although I can't complain about the frequency of meals served by Philippines Airlines, they even served a meal on our two-hour flight between Manila and Hong Kong!)

Because of my intense hunger, we finally found a convenience store where I bought Doritos and Gatorade--an auspicious first meal in Asia, don't you think?

 Gatorade, bright and early this Hong Kong morning.

Already Angel and I are learning bits and pieces of Chinese culture. Angel points out the characters that he can recognize on various signs and I'm somewhat dismayed by how many characters I still don't recognize. Angel noticed that the apartment building where we stayed overnight didn't have a 13th, 14th, or 44th floor--I assume that is in an effort to avoid the most unpopular numbers. I'm sure you all know that 13 is an undesirable number for many, but the number 4 sounds very similar to the word death in Mandarin (I don't know about Cantonese, though?) and because of that it's generally considered unlucky.

Our breakfast receipt.
When the breakfast restaurant opened, we ordered a set breakfast by pointing to the picture that looked most appetizing (being able to read Chinese characters is not much use when you and the cashier pronounce them completely differently), which turned out to be a huge bowl of ramen noodles, topped with a fried egg and two sausages, plus a cup of hot milk tea. It was enough for us both to share, because, of course, it was time for my second breakfast. The grand total cost of this meal? The equivalent of $3 in American money. At this point I felt quite justified in talking Angel out of the $9 bowls of noodles we'd seen for sale in Hawaii a few days previously.

We were only in Hong Kong less than 24 hours before boarding our bus into ShenZhen. I'm sure we'll be back in the future. But for now, on to explore our new home. (Is it just me or is this the never-ending journey?)

Jul 28, 2014

Oahu Adventures on a Budget

 (If you are offended by photos of people wearing swimsuits, I recommend skipping this post.)

I'm not sure why, but somehow, I thought that this would be a more laid-back vacation. I did comparatively little research ahead of time--I didn't have my usual filled-to-the-max itinerary that has been a signature aspect of every vacation I've been on since I was a preteen. We even didn't cancel our Netflix account before we left, thinking that we'd hang out in the room and watch movies sometimes.

Silly me.

We don't have laid-back vacations.

 During our 5 days in Oahu, we did:

Diamond Head Crater
Boogie Boarding at Waikiki Beach
Pearl Harbor
Dole Pineapple Plantation
Manoa Falls Trail
Ala Moana Shopping Center (food and wandering around)
Ala Moana Beach
Stand-Up Paddleboarding at Waikiki Beach
Kahala Mall (food and wandering around)
Koko Marina Theater (Angel had to see the Rock in Hercules)
The Koko Crater Railway Trail
Sandy Beach
Halona Blowhole
Halona Cove
Hanauma Bay

During the same 5 days, we learned:

-When food is expensive, we don't place a high value on it. We bought oatmeal, eggs, and snacks from a grocery store and ate out as minimally as possible. We did, however, treat ourselves to a few smoothies from Jamba Juice.

-I am not actually a very good swimmer. I can swim just fine in a pool...but put me in a ocean at a depth over my head and add real waves...and I kind of suck at swimming. I was wishing I had a life jacket. Also...I've never actually swam in an ocean before, so waves are new to me. (Yes, I did grow up a couple steps from the Indian Ocean but our beach was too polluted for swimming and wading).

-Stand-up paddleboarding is dangerous. We both ended up with bloodied feet after being knocked off the board by waves and landing on rocks that were near the surface. Also--full disclosure, I never even stood up on the paddleboard. I am definitely a sit-down paddleboarder. In spite of the blood, I absolutely loved it!

- A hike classified as "easy" in Oahu is not the same as a hike classified as "easy" at Mammoth Cave National Park. I don't know about you, but when I heard "easy hike"--I think of a wheelchair and stroller accessible, paved winding trail through the woods...because that's basically what an easy hike at Mammoth Cave National Park is. By those standards, the "easy" Manoa Falls trail is a muddy death-trap. It was awesome. Possibly the most fun trail I've ever walked, and the waterfall was amazing. But I saw parents with toddlers--and very nicely dressed senior citizens attempting this trail--I imagine they were also mislead by those who call it "easy". Easy, it is not, awesome, it is.

-Climbing the Koko Crater Railway trail at 2 in the afternoon is crazy. I didn't actually make it all the way to the top. I made it a little more than halfway before deciding that it would be wiser not to allow myself to faint on the side of a mountain. Angel finished the hike--he's tough.

-What mystified me was that many of the public bus stops have no shelter or shade. The only bus system I'm very experienced with is that of my hometown in Malaysia--a similar tropical climate with sun rays of death. Shelters over bus stops are a lifesaver (or, at the very least, they make a 30 minute wait way more comfortable!)--I was very surprised that they aren't the norm in this American town.

-Angel really seems to like places where it's semi-socially acceptable for him to not wear a shirt. He also got pretty sunburned on his back, while I escaped all sunburn except some slight rosiness on the back of my lower calves...the lesson here is that wearing clothes is healthy for you!

-It IS entirely possible to go to Hawaii without spending one's life savings. Stopping over en route to China so that our flights were next to free...renting a tiny guesthouse through Airbnb instead of a hotel room...walking and riding the bus everywhere instead of renting a car...cooking in the room instead of going out for every meal...and choosing the freedom of making up our own adventures instead of joining tours allowed us to have a trip that fit both our love for adventure and our wallets. No, we didn't do any cruises or shark encounters or luaus or trips to other islands--we skipped anything with a significant ticket price...but as you can probably tell, we had more than enough to keep us busy from morning till night! (Hiking is free!!)

Jul 25, 2014

That Time My Hips Were Suspicious

 Angel, guarding our luggage during our 6 hour plane delay in San Francisco. After both the hip incident and the delay, I've decided that SFO is not in the running for my favorite airport. Thus far, Singapore and Gerald R. Ford International are the top two.

I had to get patted down after going through the scanning machine at security.

I try so hard each time to figure out what to wear so that I don't get patted down. I was wearing a cotton dress with jeans underneath--apparently this combo didn't work for me.

I'm silently submitting to the pat down when the lady asks, with her hand on my hip,

"Ma'am, have you removed all items from your pockets?"

"Yes." I confirm.

"Well, it feels to me like you have something hard that sticks out of this pocket right here, can you please remove that?" she says, patting on my hip.

"Umm, that's my hipbone," I say.

 Her other hand moves to my right hip, as if to confirm that my body is roughly symmetrical in shape.

"Oh, well, then, you're good." she says, and waves me on by.

Now, perhaps my hipbones are a little pointier than average, but that's the first time I've ever had them considered a suspicious item on my person.

I feel like there's a joke to be make out of this...but I'm too sleepy. And it's fairly awkward to write an entire blog post about hips, so give me a few minutes to get over that.

(Also, please, no worries about my health. I've been the same weight and size for over 10  years and it's very normal for my bones to be a little on the pointy side.)

Jul 23, 2014

Goodbye, Michigan

Our driveway, our yard, our home-that-was.
6: Years--Of living in West Michigan semi-continuously (I spent two entire summers in Malaysia)

8: Semesters of College

11: Months of Beauty School

2: Years of Blogging

2: Homes--Grandma and Grandpa's (2008-2010), and my home with Angel (2010-2014)

3: Times our car broke down within a few miles from home and had to be towed

9: Cats-- Amoxicillin, Morphine, Narcan, Morphine 2, Narcan 2, Clyndamycin, Clyndamycin 2 Penicillin,  Pipperacillin Tazobactam

3: Vacations with Angel: Kentucky Honeymoon, Minnesota Trip, Malaysia trip

2: Vacations without Angel: A trip out west to Wyoming, and DisneyWorld

5: Trips to Texas to visit family (twice by plane, 3 times by car)

5: TV shows we got slightly addicted to and watched every single episode of: The Office, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Psych, Once Upon a Time

3: Wedding anniversaries: 1st: celebrated at Craig's Cruisers Arcade, 2nd: at Great Wolf Lodge, 3rd: with a much-belated weekend in Chicago

Countless: bonfires and parties with friends and family, movie nights on the couch, bike rides down country roads, visits to the beach, sledding in the backyard, shoveling snow, cooking quesadillas with my husband, going to Bible study with friends


I honestly thought that I wouldn't feel sad when the day came for us to leave Michigan. Out of all of the places I've lived, it took me the longest to adjust to this place when I arrived here in 2008.

However, now that the time has come, now that it's real, even though I'm so excited to go, I have my moments of sadness. They come when I'm driving down a very familiar street, when I suddenly realize that where I'm going, there are not yet any familiar streets. They come when I'm awkwardly saying goodbye to someone I love--giving them a quick hug and trying to imagine that I'll see them again soon...but knowing that it won't actually be soon.

After 6 years here, I guess it's expected that I've grown a little attached to my place. No, I never saw Angel and I settling down in the farmhouse where we've lived--but still, it's the house we arrived home to for the first time together on the evening of our wedding. It's the house where I fell off ladders as I embarked on my quest to paint each room a different color of the rainbow. I always knew it wouldn't be home for very long, but it has been our home, and now it's not, not anymore.

A couple years from now, we won't be able to take a little drive and show our kids the place on the lawn of our college campus where "Mommy and Daddy first met." I am going to miss seeing my little cousins regularly and being a part of their lives as they grow up. We won't get to meet up with our college buddies every couple months anymore.

I'm so happy to go. I have no doubt that this is precisely what Angel and I ought to do with our lives. But that doesn't stop the little pang of sadness that always comes with leaving.

I was wrong. I thought that leaving Michigan would be the easiest thing I've ever done. I've had some not-so-good times here--my freshman year of college and beauty school and every single never-ending winter among those times. This hasn't been the easiest place for me to fit in. But I got used to being an oddball, and I thank God that I will miss this place a little--that alone shows that there was plenty of good stuff mixed in with the bad. I think it shows that my years here haven't been a waste--I very much hope that some of the people I'm leaving behind will miss me, too.

With Michigan, I know it's never a permanent goodbye. I'll always have family here, and that means I get to come back again someday. But when we do come back, it'll be for short trips and visits, not a permanent stay...it'll be different. The Michigan countryside that I've grown pretty familiar with isn't ever going to be my everyday view ever again. I knew I was going to miss my family and friends--saying goodbye is always the hardest part of going anywhere new, but I must say, I'm surprised at how hard this goodbye is to say.

Jul 22, 2014

A Summer Tradition

This past weekend we went to a Steam and Gas Engine/Tractor Show.

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

 One of my little cousins and my Grandma's John Deere H.

 My uncle driving Grandpa's John Deere D

As I wandered around the grounds of this particular show, which hasn't changed much, if at all, in recent decades, I had a sudden feeling that most of the world probably has no idea that "tractor shows" or "steam and gas engine shows" exist.

Hard for me to imagine, as I attended this particular show on the day before I was born, and many of the summers since.

A tractor and engine show comes about when a bunch of people who own tractors and engines load them all up on trailers, truck them over to the prearranged spot, and arrange them in neat displays in a field or fairgrounds.

Then tractor and engine enthusiasts spend a weekend driving each other's tractors around--oftentimes there's quite a bit of buying and selling and trading of one engine or another. At this show, huge steam engines roll steadily around the field periodically. Most people wear the logos of their favorite brand of tractors, and you'll see plenty of cheeky slogans among the different groups, such as "Why farm half when you could FARMALL?" and "If it ain't red, leave it in the shed."

Did you know that brand wars existed between tractor fans? I imagine it's somewhat like fans of different sports teams. My family is a John Deere family, which is why you might notice the preponderance of green and yellow. My Grandma had her 1941 John Deere H at the show and my Grandpa had his 1931 John Deere D, so there were plenty of rides to be had for all of us.

Engines and tractors aren't the only draw, and driving them around and talking about their horsepower isn't the only thing to do--in the opinion of this not-particularly-mechanically interested girl, that's a good thing. There's also a blacksmith at work, and a running sawmill to inspect (am I the only person who instantly thinks of the tragic accident that took place in Lemony Snicket's The Miserable Mill every time I see a sawmill?)

Activities go on throughout the day--there's a tractor parade, and a tractor pull (which involves tractors pulling a huge weight, to see which tractor can pull the heaviest weight the furthest--with the strongest tractor winning.) This year was the first year they had a pedal tractor pull. Angel and I joined in....because how many adventures can you have if you don't join in?

Only three women did the pedal tractor pull, and I placed 3rd...if that tells you anything about my capacity to pedal a tractor while pulling 313 pounds behind me. But still...I got a 3rd place ribbon!

A lot more men did the pull, and Angel placed 4th from last...to be fair, the guys who won it were a good 100 lbs. bigger than Angel and he didn't really stand a chance when it came to brute force.

My favorite part of the show is the model radio control airplane show they have the in evening--it boasts quirky model planes like lawnmowers and flying John Deere tractors and irons...another key feature is excessively corny jokes and explosions. They also have specialty planes, some with real jet engines and helicopters that can do some pretty awesome tricks. They've been doing pretty much exactly the same script since they started the show, but I always think it's fun to watch!

There's the lawnmower, about to take off! And below, you can hopefully make out that it's a plane in the shape of a truck:

Have you ever attended a tractor show and experienced this little piece of culture?