30 August 2013

If I Were on Television....

 I was highly, highly attracted to this news anchor desk at a local children's museum. Just put me in front of the camera and I'm happy!

If you could be on any TV show, which one would it be?
I shall pick two.

#1 Jeopardy. Because I love playing Jeopardy from the couch and I'm fairly good at random info. Though, of course, if I were on the show, the categories would all be on random info that I don't know anything about.

#2 The Amazing Race. Angel and I watched this show regularly for two seasons, and it looks like quite the adventure! Between the two of us, Angel and I know enough of languages spoken in Asia and South America that I figure we'd have a communication advantage, and I decided that I can assign him to all tasks involving dexterity and physical strength, while I'd do the language, culture, and generally more academic-type challenges. Problem is, I'm not a very good swimmer and I can't really drive a stick shift, both of which seem to be useful skills on that show. Angel insists that if he were to do The Amazing Race he would not have me as a partner....I'm trying to convince him that brains are just as good as brawn. In certain situations.

And Angel's pick is:

WipeOut. Why, I don't know. This would probably be on my top #1 list of tv shows I would never, ever want to be on. Right up there with Survivor and the Bachelorette. Eww. Miserable. But he thinks it would be fun.

What TV competition would you want to try your hand at? Or do they all sound like torture?
29 August 2013

Shocking Culture

Fishing Village Penang Malaysia

Little India Penang Malaysia

Punjabi Suits Penang

Most of the time, when I mention that I've lived in Malaysia, people say something like, "Oh wow! I bet an experience like that really makes you appreciate everything that you have here in America!"

My response to that is usually a polite, non-committal, "Hmm" or "Umm" or "Yeah..."

But what I really want to say is, "Actually, the years I spent living in Malaysia really helped me appreciate the opportunity I had to live in Malaysia."

However, that feels too confrontational, and I generally try to avoid shocking people, so I never say it.

I don't mean this in any anti-American way. I am grateful for many aspects of the land of my birth. I really, really like having religious freedom, and the right to vote. There are stories of integrity and valor from American history that still bring tears to my eyes. We have beautiful wonders of nature scattered all over our country, and a wealth of natural resources. The Chevy Corvette has always been my idea of the coolest car ever made, and I'll always be convinced that the American system of spelling the English language makes much more sense than any other system of English spelling. 

I especially appreciate the American public bathroom. I can go to public bathrooms in this country for free--and I can expect that they will most likely provide both a western-style toilet and toilet paper. I can also expect that they will almost never be flooded or a home to large spiders, cicaks, cockroaches, or monkeys.

But one thing that I don't appreciate is any version of the point of view that all countries in the world are in a competition, and America is clearly winning, so obviously everyone who isn't American wishes that they were, and every American who travels outside the U.S. comes back realizing how much better America is than the rest of the world.

What I learned from living in Malaysia is that I truly loved living there. I learned that there is beauty and joy and love outside of the U.S.A. I don't return from Malaysia feeling pity on Malaysians--No, I feel only gratitude for the part in my life that Malaysia has played.

It's not like Malaysia is a perfect country. They've had repeated problems with governmental corruption and racism. Sometimes there are too many monkeys too close to people, and there's too many rats at the meat market. Some of the beaches are so heavily polluted that no one will dare venture into the ocean for a swim.

But the way I see it, Malaysia is not in competition with America. They are two different countries, each with their own problems and with their own blessings. The unique characteristics of America have played a huge part in shaping my life and my worldview, and so have the unique characteristics of Malaysia.

The fact is, I believe it's arrogant for the wealthy West to assume that they automatically have it better than other nations. Sure, stuff like central air-con and well-developed infrastructure and large ovens and grocery stores full of convenience foods might be nice, but after a certain point, more money doesn't buy you more love, more community, or more joy and contentment, and it's for that reason that I don't think Malaysia needs the pity of the West.
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28 August 2013

The Reluctant Traveler

A rare thing, ya'll. A short video of me, talking, for your entertainment purposes.

On the subject of travel, States and Countries I've visited thus far:
Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Canada, Singapore, East and West Malaysia, Thailand.

27 August 2013

My New Name

I’m on my 2nd surname, how about you?

To me, one of the most difficult things to get used to about being married was the new last name. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would take my husband’s last name. I was never romantically attached to my maiden name—I still know that I’m part of my own family, whether I share their name or not. I was happy to share Angel’s last name when the time came, but the road to becoming used to seeing myself as Rachel G. was not without incident.

First, there’s the fact that Angel’s last name is very difficult to pronounce for native English speakers/non-native Spanish speakers. I distinctly remember him giving me lessons on pronouncing  the name over the phone, and I imparted those lessons to my relatives. The whole Social Security and driver’s license procedures are, of course, not particularly fun either. I remember feeling like I was carrying my marriage license with me everywhere for the first month of our marriage as we went from office to office, attempting to get my name changed on all necessary legal documents.

Some months after we got married, we both got new cellphones, and while I was recording my voice mail message, in my nervousness, I blurted out my maiden name. To this day, that’s the voice mail message on my phone. At this point, I figure that everyone who calls me should know who I am, even if the name is slightly misleading.

Also very memorable is the day, over a year after we were married, when my professor called me over after class, holding an essay I’d turned in, and said, “Rachel, I think you did a good job with this assignment, but unfortunately I’m going to have to deduct points because you forgot what your name was,” as he gestured to my maiden name typed neatly in the top right corner. He was just joking about the points deduction, which is why this is a funny story and not a tragic one, but considering that he did have 90 students, I’m impressed that he was able to deduce that that name, not registered in the class at all, was simply a previous name belonging to me.

Do you have any stories of awkward moments to forget your own name? Did you take your husband’s surname or keep your own?
26 August 2013

One Outfit, One Way

 My family has long had a tradition of posing and taking pictures next to stop signs (you can tell this photo was taken in America, otherwise the sign would say 'berhenti'), I saw this one on the way to the grocery story and thought I'd add to the tradition. And yes, I was holding my glasses behind my back for these pictures. There are few accessories I hate more than my glasses.

Okay, most of the time I attempt to be a polite person. I don't think rudeness or making fun of other people is fun or cool, so when I have something snarky to say, I either keep it to myself or say it to Angel. He doesn't really count because we're one, ya know?

But I honestly do not understand the appeal of outfit posts with the theme of "One pair of shoes, four ways." or "One skirt, 3 ways."

I mean, really, does anyone ever go to the store, buy a skirt, and only wear it one way for the rest of their life? Is making one article of clothing a usable part of many different outfits supposed to be a revolutionary idea? Because I was pretty sure that that was just a necessary part of getting dressed.

Imagine that you've done a load of colored laundry, but you haven't done the load of lights yet. You want to wear your freshly washed fuchsia blouse, but the white pants you wore it with last time are still in the laundry. Oh no! What to do? 

Actually, that's not a dilemma. You just put on a pair of blue jeans or a skirt or something and move on with your life.

I don't understand, because I've never gone shopping and bought a pair of sandals because they could be worn with one....or maybe even two, or dare I say it, four!!!....of my outfits. No, I buy a pair of sandals because they are comfy or because I'm in love with them and then I wear them whenever I want to.

I always thought that the normal way of getting dressed is that you do have to wear the same clothes over and over again...because your closet is obviously not unlimited if you are a person of moderate income. Clearly, nobody would wear the same shirts with the same pants all the time because that's terribly boring. Plus, who could memorize all of those precise outfit combos if each piece of clothing only could be worn with one other piece of clothing in the closet.

I don't know. If I were to write a post like that, it would be more like:

"One pair of cowboy boots, 25,031 outfits."

"One pair of fuchsia tights, 186 outfits."

"Superman t-shirt, 38 outfits."

When it comes to clothes, all I say is: Wear them. Wear them all.

What do you think?
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23 August 2013

The Flaw in my Spelling

 Was it these very educational charts that conferred upon me such a strong foundation in linguistic ability?

I'm rather good at spelling. I've long believed that the ability to spell is some sort of inborn trait, and not necessarily one that can be taught. My Dad can spell, my Mom can't. Of my siblings, who were all taught by the same teacher from toddlerhood through 12th grade, approximately half of us can spell and the other half cannot.

I don't know what it is about spelling, but it seems that, in the wacky world of English phonetics at least, some people "get" spelling and others don't. And I don't think that those who can spell should ever condemn those who do not share the gift of spelling.

Besides, it's my theory that we all have our weaknesses. I'm pretty sure that even the greatest of spellers have one word, or maybe two, that tends to trip them up. Just one word that they always have to take an extra moment to think about and reflect on before they are sure that they are writing it correctly.

My word is: vacuum.

I'm not even kidding, the first time I typed it, I spelled it wrong. I don't know what it is about that word, but I spell it wrong at least as often as I spell it right. There's no other word I struggle with on a regular basis, but if I ever have the need to write vacuum without the aid of a spell-check feature, I can guarantee you that I will write it a couple different ways and stare at the different versions till I figure out which one looks right.

So, now you know my spelling weakness. I may have good instincts for how words are spelled, but they regularly fail me every time I try to write a list of household chores. And what a coincidence! Vacuuming is also the chore I detest the most--far more that cooking, scrubbing the bathtub, doing laundry, sweeping and mopping...

What's your word that trips you up? Or are you one of the few who experience no weaknesses, no hesitations whatsoever when it comes to spelling the words of your native language?

p.s. People, I was amazed at your response to yesterday's post. Your comments made my day, and gave me a lot to think about as far as where I could improve and grow if I'm taking this seriously. Honestly, I was very nervous about publishing that post yesterday. I mean, who just comes out and says that she wants to be a professional blogger? It doesn't seem quite like polite behavior. But I truly believe that if I can achieve this, it won't be on my own, it'll be with all of your help and support! So of course I had to let you in on my secret plans to be world-famous....
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22 August 2013

I Want to Be a Blogger

It's true, I'll admit it. I really want to be a blogger.

 A blogger could wear a shirt probably meant for children with red and blue cars printed all over it, couldn't she?

Don't misunderstand. I don't mean by that that I want to grow my hair long so I can wear a topknot, or that I want to drink Starbucks (coffee? Eww!), or that I want to shop at J. Crew or or do any of the things it's often said that the stereotypical blogger does.

I want to be a blogger in that I want to blog seriously. What I've learned from the past year since beginning my involvement in the world of online self-publishing is that I really, really like blogging. I love opening up my laptop every day. I like coming up with blog post ideas out of the random things that happen in life, and I enjoy having a reason to write constantly. I get excited about sharing my perspective with the world and encouraging others that it's a good thing to be a little different and to live outside of the box. I'm a writer. I've always loved writing, but this last year's experience has simply been a confirmation to me that writing is really my passion in life. Sure, I'm just another impractical dreamer who wants to have a career doing what they love, but I'm an impractical dreamer who's serious about it, who's willing to invest the time it takes.

What I've seen in blogging for the last year is that blogging can be a career. People do make incomes off of their blog, people do get book deals and speaking engagements and start writing careers by first building a blog audience. That doesn't happen to every blogger, of course, not even to the vast majority of bloggers, but it does happen.

I desire to have a writing career. Now don't worry, friends, my blog will never turn into one big online advertisement. I think writing is too much fun for me to ever think I'd want to "waste" all of my blog posts by only writing sponsored content, or that I'd hire someone to write for me. Boring! This doesn't mean I wouldn't post any sponsored content, but any posts about brands will be accompanied by a plethora of uniquely Rachelish writings, I assure you. Also, I honestly don't think constantly hosting blog hops and giveaways is the best way to build a readership, and I would be sad to see my blog turned into one hosted blog hop after another, so I won't be going that route, either.

I do want to turn this little hobby of mine into a career, but I know I'm not able to do it alone. I may love writing, and I may think my own writing is hilarious and insightful and a joy to behold...but I don't really count as a worthwhile "audience", just as one person who's obviously biased. I need your help, in a few different ways:

1. Each of you have your own networks, and I believe personal recommendation is a powerful thing. My sister recommends books and I read them, my brother recommends Youtube videos and I watch them. If you like my writing, if you don't think that my dream is utterly crazy, and you want to be part of helping me out on the road to accomplishing what I'd love to do, tell a friend who reads blogs about a funny one she should know about. I'd be thrilled if you guys would tell your friends about me, or write a facebook post, or tweet a link to a post of mine that you especially enjoyed, or even mention The Random Writings on your blog. You guys can do more to promote my blog to people who actually might read and enjoy it than I ever could, and I'd be ever so grateful if you would use your influence for the cause of helping me get serious about building a reader base and pursue this as a career.

2. Technologically, I really don't know what's the best use of my time as far as aspects of blogging besides writing blog posts. Writing blog posts is 100% my favorite part, but I realize that more than just writing needs to happen. You all have different areas of expertise. Blog designers, be honest--is my blog design going to turn away readers? Is it worth investing in a better one? Bloggers who already have experience with brand partnerships and making a few dollars in this business--how do you get started? What networks should/could I join? When should I approach a brand and when should I wait for them to approach me? How do I continue to build a readership while working on improving aspects of blogging besides content alone? Photographers--What could I do to make my photos more visually appealing? To the general reader of this blog--What's good here, and what's bad? What do you think I should do more of...and what do you skip over? What topics should I write about? Do you like the serious stuff better or the silly stuff better? What ideas would you want to hear my perspective on?

Thank you, every one of you, for reading. I'm really looking forward to your advice on how to pursue this goal of mine. I know I don't have nearly all the answers, but I have a feeling that with a bit of teamwork, we can at least come up with a good supply of info on the intricate workings of this industry that I'd love to enter.

So, yeah, I may sound a little crazy right now, but hey, who knows? Maybe a few years down the road, you'll be able to say, "I read Rachel G. before she was cool."

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21 August 2013

Hairstyle Adjustment

While I was at home, I did an astonishing amount of hair services, considering I was on vacation.
Just kidding...I wanted to do hair for my family and friends, and I could have had several more clients than I did, but I was too lazy. During my vacation, I did 4 haircuts plus 3 bang trims only, one haircolor and one set of lowlights.
But this kid, man, I love her hair. On the last day of my trip, I spontaneously decided to give her a haircut. Angi had mentioned how much she liked Elizabeth from Delightfully Tacky's hairstyle. I myself had admired her hair when stumbling across her blog in the past, and I thought of my sister Anna as an ideal candidate for a similar style.
Anna loves long hair, and wants to grow hers out even longer, but she wanted more fullness and more curl from the the top than she was getting with her one-length hair, pictured below:
Pretty significant difference, right? I think her hair was beautiful before, but adding dramatic top layers to her hair and blending them with her length allows her to have more volume throughout. She has a lot of hair, but ironically, chopping off some of that hair gets rid of the length that was just weighing her hair down and making it flat, and lets us see and really appreciate the curl and volume of hair she naturally has. 
Because her haircut was a last-minute, I'm leaving in less than 24 hours cut, the only picture I have of her with it isn't the best. That picture was taken about an hour after her shower, with her hair not completely dry, no hair product, and after I'd shown her how to flip her head over and scrunch for volume. That means it'll only look better if she has enough time to thoroughly air-dry it and run some curl-enhancing cream through it.
So there, I just thought I'd let my readers in on the process of tweaking a hairstyle and working with someone's natural hair characteristics to make the most of what they already have. I'm not someone who believes that layered hair is for everyone, but I love the way it works in Anna's hair.
(And I wouldn't even want to see myself without layers. That would be the stuff of nightmares.)
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20 August 2013

How to Entertain Yourself on a Long Solo Airplane Trip

Clearly, I was not traveling alone when I was sleeping through a 12 hr layover in Hong Kong Airport. But I've made plenty a halfway-round-the-world trip on my own (usually, the transit time from Michigan to Malaysia is 25-36 hours). Mostly, such trips suck. However, they can be made better.

1. Food. I've always found food to be very entertaining, plus, airplane meals are so yucky that I refuse to eat them, so packing granola bars and cookies and crackers and candy in my backpack offers a great source of entertainment, as well as enough 'nutrition' so that you won't faint on your 16 hour flight.

2. Music. The in-flight radio stations are good enough entertainment to last you for as long as it takes them to play the ten song rotation that each station may offer.

3. SkyMall. Of course! This is one of the things I look forward to most when flying in a plane in America. I love flying Asia-based airlines, but their in-flight catalogs are more about expensive perfumes than they are about weird inventions. Peruse the SkyMall catalog carefully. Be amazed at the marvelous inventions that mankind has created. Think deep philosophical thoughts about whether the listed prices are a fair exchange for the supposed convenience such inventions would bring to your life.

4. Activity Books for Big Kids. A book of 398 crossword puzzles will keep me busy for a while. Others might choose Sudoku. Also, I just recently discovered activity books that let you play hangman by yourself with scratch-off keys to let you know if you picked the right letter or not. I think that sounds awesome. Here's one, for example.

5. Work. Don't let all those hours go to waste! Get our your notebook or laptop and start writing a blog post or your next great novel. Time is money, ya'll.

6. Walk Around the Airplane. The airplanes that you take on these dozen-hour flights are huge. Get up and go exploring when the seatbelt sign is off. With all the stewardesses and other passengers blocking aisles, it will take at least five minutes for you to make it around all the interesting aisles and back to your seat.

7. Plan your next vacation. So, you might be coming home from vacation, but that doesn't mean you can't use that notebook to start creating a schedule of where you'd like go to next, when, and what you want to do when you get there!

8. Sleep. Time your amount of sleeping perfectly so that you don't experience jet lag when you arrive. (and when you figure out the scientific formula to accomplish that, let me know.)

Honestly, I kind of thought that this last solo trip might kill me. Three out of my four planes arrived late and had me rushing through immigration and customs and security lines, not even sure I would make it to my next flight. Oh yeah--before this trip, I hadn't experienced the new body scanners. Hint: don't wear jeans with buttons on the back pockets and if you wear a stainless steel ring, you might want to put it in your purse before going through the scanners. I kept getting pulled over to get my hands swiped and my butt patted down. 

It was the candy, the crossword puzzles, and the thought of seeing Angel again that helped me survive.

What are your essentials for solo travel?

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19 August 2013

Why I Don't Shop at Thrift Stores

I may or may not have made this clear before, but I generally do not shop at thrift stores for clothes. I don't know where all the people who do find awesome clothes at thrift stores live, but it is not in my town, because in my town, people do not generally give away awesome clothes in my size.
Also, our thrift store is remarkably expensive.

On my day off, I decided to visit the thrift store. Even though I know it's basically hopeless. But this time, I found a skirt. It was brand new, still had tags on. It fit me, and it was different from anything else in my closet, so I decided I'd give it a try. Even better, it had an orange sticker that said "Clearance: $1.00" on it. 

The pricing system at this store is confusing, but I clearly recalled seeing a sign in the front of the store that said "All items marked with orange clearance tags at $1.00." So, I thought I knew how much the skirt cost.

Imagine my surprise at the register when the elderly volunteer check-out lady said "That'll be $2.39 today."

I asked her what was meant by the $1.00 clearance sticker on the skirt.

She said, "Oh, that's not our clearance sticker. Ours looks different. That must be the original sticker from the store."


Did you see what I saw? The whole story of this skirt is clear. The skirt came to the thrift store brand new, tags still attached. Someone had bought it on clearance for $1, and later decided that it didn't look right. So they donated it. And then the thrift store decided to double the original purchase price.

I didn't say anything. That thrift store is staffed by a number of elderly volunteers, and I'm rather frightened of them. I meekly bought the skirt, but I thought to myself: "This is why I don't thrift."

What I've always suspected has been proven. I and thrift stores do not get along. With coupons and sales, I recently bought a pair of Levi's capris for my mom and a pair of wedge sneakers for me from Kohl's and paid $2 total. I just seem to do better in the clearance department than I do at thrift stores.

Do you have much success at thrift stores, or don't you?
16 August 2013


I don't tend to handle "Goodbye" with poise and dignity. Though I've never actually been stabbed, I always compare the emotional pain of saying goodbye to your home and family to the physical pain of a knife wound. Years ago, Goodbye left me kneeling in an airport terminal, sobbing uncontrollably, convinced my heart would never be whole again. Today, I walk through that same terminal, and I feel familiar feelings, hoping this time I can hold my tears back till I'm on the plane.

The TCK life isn't for the faint of heart. No matter where I am in the world, I feel the absence of another home, of another family. Because of this, I've occasionally asked myself whether each "hello" is worth the "goodbye" I know will come sooner or later. But even as I ask the question, I know the answer. "Hello" is worth every single tear that "goodbye" brings.

Home is worth having, even if someday you have to leave. People are worth loving passionately, even when you honestly aren't sure you'll ever see them again.

Don't let the fear of goodbye prevent you from hello. Goodbye won't kill you--I'm proof of that. But if it feels like it will kill you, you're doing it right.

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14 August 2013


I think it's a rare experience to actually like your family and still not see them for years at a time.
Going home for the first time in 3 years has been an odd though wonderful experience. You don't really know what to expect--what will have stayed exactly the same, and what will be completely unrecognizable? 
This is still home to me. Three years has't been enough to change that, not at all. In many ways, life over here still seems much the same as I remember it. But it's surprising to see my sisters in their new, significantly more grown up forms. Now they have their own cellphones, they help organize youth group events, they make dinners and bake desserts. They get babysitting jobs and volunteer in Awana and children's church programs. One of my sisters is seen checking her email, and another one is lying on the couch reading Black Like Me in her spare time.
I remember that at their age I considered myself very nearly grown up. I started college in the U.S. when I was a few months older than Anna is now. But it's strange to me to see them as the soon-to-be grown ups they are.
But I must. It's time to face facts. My 2nd and 3rd siblings, Isaac and Lizzy, have been taller than me for a good five years already. Now my 4th and 5th siblings have passed me up in height, and #6, MaryGrace, isn't far behind. My only hope for not being the shortest in the family is little Sarah. Maybe she won't grow quite so tall as the rest of these teenagers have.
It's a strange thing to come home and find that your baby sisters are very nearly grown up. Anna is 16 now, and she's the first one that I can remember taking care of when she was a baby. Lizzy, Isaac, and I were pretty much all babies and toddlers together, but from Anna onwards, those were my baby sisters.
Lizzy asked me to make sure that we took pictures of each one at their present age--the modern day version of the yearly portraits from Sears or Wal-Mart that Lizzy and I had every year when we were little. (May I say that in this case, I think my younger sisters are getting the better end of the deal). Dad was in charge of the camera, and I was in charge of the style. I told the girls to get dressed in their best, and they all came out wearing bindis and bangles and the prettiest of their Indian tunics.
Sometimes you don't know how your siblings are going to turn out. You remember what they were like when they were babies, and you can tell from pictures that they are just as cute as they always were, but you don't actually know what they're like as people. But after this trip, I know. 

I know that Anna has a witty sense of humor, she laughs at life. She loves babies and takes very good care of any of the ones she happens to get her hands on for the moment. And she outran me by a good thirty feet when we discovered that we didn't have keys to get in our apartment and we needed to stop Dad's car before he drove past the guardhouse.

MaryGrace is kinder and more thoughtful than the other six siblings combined, no exaggeration. She's the baker in the family, and she's hardworking at whatever task she's given. One evening she drank too much caffeinated tea, and stayed up the entire night doing her AWANA homework and making scones and no-bake cookies. I don't know about you, but if I couldn't sleep, I would have watched movies or done something useless like that.

Sarah is far friendlier than she was a few years ago. Several of my friends here have commented, "When she was a baby, she wouldn't even look at me. Now she wants to talk to me all the time!" She's very like me in her love for words. She's growing up in a family of significantly older siblings, and that's probably partially why she tends to act older than her 6 years the majority of the time. When she cut her chin on a tile floor a couple weeks ago and needed to go to the emergency room, she didn't even cry. She reads, and writes--one day a few weeks ago, she declared Sarah Day, and wrote us up a detailed activity schedule, including a picnic, a tea party, a trip to the library, scheduled times for playing board games and card games, and a 10 p.m. bedtime. What choice had we but to obey such a schedule?

Rebekah showed tenacity in her job of organizing our beach excursion last weekend. It was her job to make countless phone calls and convince people to commit either to going or not going, to find out who could drive and who needed rides. It was not a job I would have liked to handle, but she did it!

Linking up with Katie today!!
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13 August 2013

My Gilligan's Island

The first island I ever fell in love with was Gilligan's Island. The pristine beaches, the tropical fruits, the tight-knit community of people who eventually had to decide to get along because there's no space to yourself when you live on a tiny island....everything sounded perfect. And, of course, to a kid at least, the slapstick humor was very successful at inducing giggles. 

Sure, Gilligan's Island is a goofy sitcom from the 1960s. Getting shipwrecked for real on a deserted island is probably significantly less humorous and less glamorous. Nevertheless, when I think of my home, I think I've found my own Gilligan's Island.

Here, the beaches aren't so pristine. And the traffic jams demonstrate quite clearly how non-deserted the island is. But it's my island.

I think I fell in love with it just a little more on our beach outing last weekend. So, the boats we rode in to get to the beach didn't provide life jackets, and a little part of me wondered what kind of a test ocean waters would prove to be if I had to put my swimming skills into action. And yes, my siblings and friends found a whole bunch of random shellfish-type creatures in the ocean and decided to grill them and eat them right on the beach; and I thought about the likelihood of food poisoning.

But besides those few random, unnaturally grown-up-ish thoughts, it was a grand adventure. We bounced from one wave to the next in the super-fast speedboats. I strolled in the Indian Ocean (I'm not the biggest fan of swimming). We explored and found a lagoon which bore a distinct resemblance to the ever-present Gilligan's Island lagoon. We stared at the threatening clouds and wondered if we'd be caught in a rainstorm. We spent hours grilling satay and chicken wings and marshmallows, and climbed giant rocks in the meantime.

I'm spoiled rotten that I've lived here.

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12 August 2013

In-Law: That Mysterious Relationship

We went back to the park and the bench where Angel proposed and performed a reenactment, this time with a couple sisters to photograph the event. The original was just over 3 years ago.

I haven't seen Angel in two weeks, though my Mom would roll her eyes at the number of emails and facebook chats that have taken place in those two weeks. 

The in-law relationship is a funny thing. All you want to do is marry someone that you like, and for better or for worse, you end up gaining a whole new set of family members for the rest of your life. This visit to my family was the second time this part of my family has got to see Angel in person. After he left, my Mom said, "He seems quiet, he doesn't talk very much. Is he still scared of us?"

My family is a little frightening when you meet all of them at once, and this is only Angel's 2nd time meeting them, so I think it's quite possible that it might be a few more years before everybody really gets to know each other and feel at home around each other. 

However, from my observations of this trip, I wouldn't have exactly described Angel as "quiet" or distant or on his best behavior....not at all. He didn't have any sisters till we got married and he gained 5 younger ones at the same time, but to my perspective, he's very quickly learned the role of sometimes annoying but useful older brother.

For example:

He hung my little sister's baby doll from the curtain rod, along with her hippo named Ralph. He threatened to take Ralph to America and blog about Ralph's adventures in the U.S. He hid baby Sarah's teddy bear that she sleeps with every night till she she was nearly in tears because she couldn't find it. He taped my Mom's Korean drama DVD to the ceiling of her bedroom. He constantly took panorama pictures of everybody, whether we wanted our picture taken or not.

But my sisters know very well what to do with a strong older brother:

Use him at the base for a four person stack in the pool. (p.s. I love the "Adults must accompany children" sign in the background)

Little Sarah doesn't like to walk. She thinks if she walks too much she'll get too skinny (those are her words). So she liked having a ride while he was here.

I'm so glad my family loves my husband. And that apparently they can be tricked into thinking he's on his best behavior when he's constantly playing pranks.

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09 August 2013

10 Reasons to Eat at Hawker Stalls

1. Comparatively inexpensive
2. Possibly very tasty (Possibly not)
3. Introduction of new bacteria into your body for the purpose of strengthening your immune system.
4. Convenience
5.Anything's better than McDonald's
6. Supporting family-owned businesses
7. Opportunity to use foreign language skills
8. Check off on bucket list
9. Variety 
10. Life is for living, right?
Here in Malaysia, you're nearly always within walking distance of somewhere that sells food. You might not be able to predict or determine what type of food will be available, but trust me, unless you're in the depths of the jungle, there will be food. Small restaurants and marketplaces which consist of an open floor with a bunch of tables, surrounded by individually-run stalls that each specialize in particular dishes, are everywhere. And there's also a lot of portable hawker stalls that appear daily on street corners and in parking lots.
Recently, I've gotten a little pickier about what I'll eat and drink, just because of some health problems. There are a few places here where I do only order canned drinks rather than drinks made with tap water because I haven't had a long enough relationship with the restaurant to know what safety precautions were taken with the tap water (i.e. was it boiled?). But you're missing out on a lot if you travel to another country and only stick to eating things that look something like your own culture's definition of food.
I love Malaysian food. I lost weight when I moved to America because I have found it hard to adjust to enjoying many Western dishes. I've spent this trip enjoying just about as much of my favorite foods as I can manage to eat while I'm here.
When traveling, I do recommend sticking to canned drinks if there's any indication that the water used to make drinks isn't particularly clean. I recommend eating at places that are kept busy by local people (obviously, they know where the good food is). You can always order something, and if you don't like it, give it to your friend. Don't let any lack of knowledge about the types of foods available prevent you from adventuring. I've lived here for a long time, I already have my favorite foods, and I tend to stick to them. Angel, on the other hand, isn't quite so set in his ways, and instead of letting us order for him, likes to take the menu into his own hands and try something that sounds interesting. You might end up surprised when you find out what the food that you ordered actually looks like, sure, but hey, it's all in the name of adventure! There was a time when I didn't know that my favorite foods: char koay teow, roti telur bawang, bok choi, and palak paneer existed, but now I can't imagine my life without them.
Tanjung Bungah Market

Tanjung Bungah Market

Tanjung Bungah Market

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