A Day in the Life

To replace mass update mailings to my friends/family :)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Proud Auntie Bragging. :)

I had the opportunity to go with My Sissy and my niece (aka Mini Me) to my niece’s first “cattle call” audition Thursday and it was a blog-worthy experience for sure.

The show is X Factor and there were literally thousands of people from all over the country auditioning in Dallas. This was my first experience with a situation like this and I was not impressed with the lack of organization on the show’s part. It seemed like they didn’t properly anticipate the amount of hopefuls and nothing went as smoothly as it could have throughout the day. Still tho, it was fascinating…

They got all registered on Wednesday morning and brought me a copy of the image release, I’ve never seen such a thorough document in all my life. It actually said they have the right to use any image they got of me throughout the universe and for eternity…I could not make this stuff up. I signed it even though I’m not thrilled by the thought of images of me running around without my control but I had to go support the Mini Me. :)

We got up at 4 am (omg how is that possibly the beginning and not the end of my day?) and caught the 5:15 train to the convention center. Thanks to my awesome neighbor for that brilliant idea because the train drops off inside the convention center and we didn’t have to deal with (or pay for) parking. We arrived at 5:30 and the epic waiting began, corralled into the Blue 2 section.

We found a lady who had brought her guitar (even though the instructions said not to bring instruments) and she had a small group around her that were hanging out and singing and having fun. Obviously we gravitated to the fun. The group was about 10 of us who all ended up hanging out for the 6 hours we were stuck in the parking lot. We got to be friendly, got to exchange stories with each other, and built a basic camaraderie during that time. I’m pretty sure Mini Me traded Facebook info with some of them so hopefully we can keep up with them and how they progress in their careers and with the show.

The crowd was the most interesting thing. The fashion ranged from classy to klassy and even included some people who could have been contestants on Let’s Make a Deal. I swear some of these people did not have mirrors in their homes or any friends or family, otherwise they would not have left the house looking like they did. Yikes! We had too much fun being the fashion police.

They moved us to the tunnel outside the convention center and then left us sitting there for another 2 hours before they finally let us into the building. I’m thankful we were in the shade though; you should have seen the sunburns the people got who were left out in the parking lot, poor things! Once we got into the building we finally had a place to sit down (other than on the ground) and wow what a complete and total relief. We made more friends around us once we got inside because we got stuck there for an additional 5 hours before they finally called her into the last line to get in front of the first-round judges.

Through the whole day people would just spontaneously burst into song and most of the time it was a happy pleasing noise, however, there were others that made you wonder what they were doing there. I gotta say, some of these people made me feel better about my own singing voice…which is hilarious and sad all at the same time. Our seats had a great view of the lines to the curtained “rooms” that had judges in them and we got an interesting fashion parade and got serenaded with some super loud singing during our wait.

Once they called Mini Me to the final line, My Sissy went with her and I adjourned outside where I ran into a friend who was also there auditioning and we talked and passed the time. Mini Me wanted to go in alone so My Sissy stepped away during her audition. Mini Me did well enough that even though the judge didn’t choose her, she did tell her that she’s young and they would be back in a few months and she should try again. We’re all encouraged by this because the judge told several people “No, just no.” while they were waiting.

Mini Me was understandably disappointed but to me, this was her first audition outside of school and I really didn’t expect much other than experience for her. She was a trooper, she stood most of the day while My Sissy and I sat on the ground so as not to mess up her dress. She didn’t sing with the other people much to save her voice for the judges, and even laughed at the people who were just belting it out and said they should blow out their voices to give her a better chance. She didn’t get all weepy when she didn’t make it, she sucked it up like a pro. And I think this experience has made her even more determined to make something happen with her singing career and that’s worth a million bucks right there.

A couple of people we made friends with made it to round two auditions and I’ll be curious to see what happens with them. We met some amazingly talented people during the day.

My function at the event was simple, observe the crowd, and take mental notes for the next time we do something like this. I also got to be cheerleader after the bad news was given and I am the ninja at that. Before we got in the car, Mini Me was laughing and we were all talking about strategies for the next audition.

She’s a very brave girl for even having the courage to do the audition; it’s something I’m not sure I would do no matter what the audition was for. However, I remember as a kid wanting to be famous and it seems she has that same ambition. I’m going to help her out however I can to make sure that happens for her. I’m the proudest auntie EVER and can’t wait to see what the future holds for her! Go Mini Me!!

Friday, May 06, 2011

My Asian Adventure - Part Twelve, 80s-o-rama

Okay yes, I realize I'm not in the Philippines anymore but I ran across this post that I wrote while I was there and thought I might as well post it anyway. Hope y'all enjoy!

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Here locally, it’s very clear that the 80s came here to die. It’s so strange to me to hear Air Supply, Asia, and Journey on the radio on a regular basis. Okay, seriously, am I in a time warp? The strangest thing is that they don’t play any of the really good music that came out of the 80s (there was a ton), they only play the really sappy love songs. And it’s not on the oldies station, it’s on the popular station, mixed in with hip hop, dance, native pop music, and a Xmas carol thrown in every now and then for variety. So very strange, this soundtrack…

A couple of weeks ago, Eric and I were sitting in a bar having lunch and the parallels between now and our time in Cali together (sans romance, of course) were notable. We’re on an adventure together in a strange place where Madonna plays over the loudspeakers. I had to have a good long giggle at the thought of it. Thankfully we both have much better haircuts these days. ;-)

The fashion is all straight up 80s although I’m happy to report the ridiculously large shoulder pads are *not* present and accounted for. Gods, I hated that style, it made me look like a linebacker. Lol! Off-the-shoulder stuff and shirts long enough to belt are definitely in every store here. I’m sad to report I have seen no paisley, however, I would *rock* that style again. There’s almost nothing for sale that doesn’t have some sort of pattern printed on it and they love some bright colors so the stores are a little visually overwhelming. Add the Christmas soundtrack and decorations to the mix, and a buncha short native folks and it becomes very clear that I’m not in Kansas anymore!

Speaking of the malls, it’s interesting to me to see the differences in fashion between here and home. The flip flop section is quite impressive; it’s actually rows and rows of a wide variety of styles and prices. It’s a myriad of colors and patterns, and they’re all flip flops. Then there are more of the higher quality (leather and 1”heel) styles mixed in with the regular shoe section. It’s the land of painted toenails out here. :)

The pricing on things is *so* cheap but the bad news is that the quality matches the price. I’ve never seen things fall apart so quickly and easily as the stuff I’ve bought here. Seams come undone, things stop working, etc. I joke that we live at the dollar store and it’s really true.

When dealing with the non-corporate vendors, it’s very much a haggle society out here. There’s a non-native price (“gringo price”, as I refer to it) and a local price. This is true for literally everything not bought in a commercial store and it sometimes annoys me, but it is what it is so I’m learning to work with it. I also have my local friends call on things when I’m trying to get pricing so I get the local pricing. My inner jew is hard at work here. :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My Asian Adventure - Part Eleventy, Religion

The national religion here is Catholicism and oh boy, it shows. There are pregnant women and kids literally everywhere. The religious imagery at the stores is a bit overwhelming and elaborate. Of course, I live in a mainly Hispanic neighborhood back home, so it’s not complete culture shock.

Here’s something strange: every day at 6 pm, there is a moment of prayer. The first time Mike and I witnessed it we were at the grocery store and this disembodied voice came over the loud speaker which caused everyone to literally stop in their tracks. We just looked at each other not really knowing what was going on and if we should keep shopping or what. Total wtf moment. Apparently it happens in all the public areas like stores and malls daily.

The girls in the cafeteria at work listen to Christian radio every morning, so we’ve started joking that we eat breakfast with Jesus. It’s actually quite surreal but sometimes when they’re on the “thought of the day” part there’s a message there for me. Guess it really doesn’t matter what religion you are, the basic tenets are the same: be a good person, try and live a good life, and do it without completely screwing anyone over. I can get on board with that. :)

They do have some beautiful churches here and I got to go to downtown Cebu one day with a local tour guide who was the awesome. I saw the oldest street in the entire Philippines: Colon (pronounced cologne, fyi). I also got to see Magellan’s cross which is located by this amazing cathedral. I want to go back with Eric’s camera because there’s no flash photography inside the church, and my point and shoot just didn’t cut it. I did get some super cool pix of the outside and of Magellan’s cross, tho. :)

Halloween seems to be primarily a kid holiday (much to my extreme disappointment) but omfg the Christmas is already killing me. I’m told the stores started playing the music over the loud speakers at the beginning of September, and there is an amazing variety of it. I’ve heard it remixed with pop songs, and Mike actually purchased that cd because we knew no one would believe it. Hilarious. It totally cracks me up hearing the winter songs about snow and snuggling by fires, because it *never* gets cold here. Oh the irony. LOL!

Since Christmas is my least favorite holiday, it’s like a whole new level of hell to be in the retail areas and have to deal with this. I’m happy to report I’m starting to get used to it and even have a laugh at the crazy decorations here. I’m gonna have to collect pix, it’s so notably foreign and familiar at the same time. This country is so hard for me to understand!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Asian Adventure - Part Ten, Pictures

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Asian Adventure - Part Nine, Island Hopping

We chartered a boat and spent a day out on the ocean and wow...it’s breathtaking out here! It’s so beautiful I almost can’t get my head to register that it’s real. I’ve been taking lots of pics but they really don’t do the reality justice. It’s like a movie or a video game or something, heh, Philippines the video game. LOL!

Everything is crazy cheap…we got the boat rental for $50 for the whole day. Six of us went, so we split it and it became ridiculously inexpensive. We made friends with a local who lives near our house and he organized the whole thing for us. Francis is totally the man for that, and we’ll most definitely be using his services again. I’d really like to do this boat thing at least once a month while we’re here.

We got a late start because we went the morning after the Halloween party at the house, that’s also the reason for the small group. The flake factor was high that morning. I wasn’t a hundred percent myself, but there was no way I was gonna miss the adventure.

Everyone but me snorkeled while we were out on the boat and it was hilarious to watch. It looked like a group of dead bodies floating around in the ocean. I think everyone ended up getting burned on their backs as a result, even tho the sunscreen was flowing all day. They said it was amazing to watch the fish and see the coral and stuff but I seriously doubt I’m gonna indulge in the ocean again. The first weekend we were here we did a night swim at one of the resorts, and I got sea urchin spines in my foot that are still working their way out. I’m creeped out by all the critters in the water and since I won’t be able to see without my glasses anyway, I’m opting out until further notice. Thankfully I’m a tanner so just being on the boat and getting sun is totally fun to me.

We went to the strangest “restaurant” for lunch. It was a platform built above the water with tables and a kitchen. The boat pulled up to some stairs(ish) and we climbed up to the place. The food was buckets of live sea critters and you picked out what you wanted to eat from there. Um, okay? I was super grateful they had prawns and were willing to peel and devein them for me so I was able to eat a little lunch. What’s with people eating shrimp here with all the parts still on? Creepy and gross. I’ve never eaten so much rice in all my life. Lol.

All in all it was a successful day, everyone had fun, and I made some new friends. :)

I’m really glad I’m starting to form a social group out here, it makes me far less homesick and gives me alternatives of stuff to do. I’m kinda shying away from the party crowd because I don’t need to drink like a fish the whole time I’m here, tho I am being friendly with them and will still do that from time to time. The alcohol out here is stronger than back home and I think, even tho I drink a lot of water, that I’m probably dehydrated a lot. Drinking out here so far has not been a positive experience because I can’t gauge it like I normally do. I’ve been drinking more at home to try and figure out where my limits are…the last thing I want is to get out and overdo it and be a burden on the group or an embarrassment to myself. I’m *so* not that girl.

Monday, November 01, 2010

My Asian Adventure - Part Eight, Pictures

Hey all! Sorry I'm having trouble finding my voice right now...my cat back home passed away and I've now basically missed celebrating my favorite holiday. In the interest of not saying anything if I don't have anything nice to say, I'm staying quiet. I hope to be able to change my attitude soon and get back on track.

In the meantime, for those who aren't on Facebook, here are some links to my photo albums:

Our overnight in LA:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=226579&id=588038946&l=b5f20aa0be

Us at the airport in Korea:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=226581&id=588038946&l=d1689d94e3

The neighborhood we live in:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=229634&id=588038946&l=1b65144242

General pics of the trip:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=226582&id=588038946&l=5010c126ca

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Asian Adventure - Part Seven, Food Issues

Yes, it’s true, I have been mostly starving since I’ve been here...which, with my blood sugar issues, is definitely not a good thing. Let me see if I can explain why.

I have an overdeveloped sense of smell and when things smell bad to me it throws my appetite off. The smells here are very strong and mostly fish-like, whether it’s the local food or the tide being out, it’s all fishy and therefore stomach turning to me. Thankfully the longer I’m here the more I’m getting used to it, so I’m now able to eat in spite of the smells. Also, the local fare has a lot of fish/squid/random sea creatures so it’s like having my nose assaulted at every turn.

The food being mostly Asian of all types (Filipino, Korean, Thai, etc.), it doesn’t sit heavy on you or stay with you. No matter how much rice I eat, I’m having trouble feeling full and when I do feel full I’m hungry again in a few hours. Normally I eat about every 4-5 hours, but here I need to eat every 2-3 and I almost never feel full.

I never realized how much cheese I ate until I moved to the land of no cheese. The cheeses they have available here (unless you go to a specialty store and pay high prices) are cream cheese, American slices, and an inferior version of velveeta that is basically inedible. The cream cheese is exactly what you’d expect, which is thankfully very edible. There is no ranch dressing, although you can buy a thing that’s labeled “ranch” at the store, it is nothing like anything you would actually eat. The mayo is also questionable and I’ve been avoiding it as well.

The meats here are not what I’m used to either. The chicken is *awesome* but they are the thinnest chickens you’ve ever seen and even when you get a whole rotisserie one from the roadside vendor (which are delicious, btw) you get very little meat off of it. The meat on a stick places have things like livers and intestines on the sticks, ugh, gross. The pork is all served with the fat still on it so by the time I trim off the part I will eat, there’s very little food on my plate. There are a lot of sausages which are not my favorite by any stretch of the imagination, and I’ve seen spam quite a bit which is something I’m not willing to eat no matter how hungry I get. I’m not a big fish fan but there is an abundance of it here so it’s very limiting to me. Also, squid and eel are huge here and I’m completely out on those.

I finally found a health food store at the big mall over in Cebu City where I can buy protein bars. Granted they cost about $4 each, but it’s worth it to actually feel full and know that I’m getting enough protein. I’ve been eating a lot of peanuts, cashews, and pistachios lately which are helping with my protein intake also. We do cook at the house which is terrific, but since we usually work 10-hour days, by the time we get home and cook it’s quite late. On those nights we cook, eat, clean up then go to bed. Oh and did I mention that we work 6 days a week? :)

I know it won’t be like this forever and I’ll get to come back to civilization eventually. When I get there, Katie bar the door cuz I’m gonna be an eating fool! I’m drooling just thinking about it...

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Asian Adventure - Part Six, Random Observations

I'm finally back in my body again after finding protein bars at the health food store. Having my blood sugar crashed while adjusting to culture shock and dealing with homesick is definitely not a good thing for me. Wow, crazy Jen BAD! LOL! And now back to the blog...

They have really reliable public transportation here, called Jeepneys. Basically they’re small flatbed trucks that have been modified to have a roof and they pack people in the back like sardines. I swear one day I thought someone was gonna sit in my lap, LOL! It costs pennies to ride them and they have a regular route around the island. There are no regular stops so when you want to get on one, you flag it down and when you want to get off, you tap your change against the roof or make kissy noises so the driver knows to stop. The best part about these vehicles is that they’re all art cars and each one is different. We’ve seen Hello Kitty, Bob Marley, and Pink Floyd just to name a few. I’ll start getting pics of them so you can see how interesting it is.

The water here is not safe to drink, so we only drink bottled water. It’s a huge local industry because even the locals can’t drink the tap water. The stuff that comes out of the tap doesn’t exactly smell rank, but it also doesn’t smell fresh…it has a hint of the ocean which is not my preferred scent. Since it’s what we have to bathe in, most of the beauty products are heavily scented to counteract it. Thankfully it’s a better water smell than the one Jon and I used to get in Washington in the summer…when the water table got low it smelled like rotten eggs. Now that was truly foul! :)

Speaking of bathing, there are no shower curtains here. The bathrooms are designed to get wet and they all have floor drains. We had to get rubber mats to go in front of the toilets because, combined with the humidity, it takes forever for the floors to dry.

More random bathroom observations…they don’t flush the toilet paper here. All the bathrooms have a trash can next to the toilet, omg it’s unbelievable and creepy. Rebels that we are, we don’t practice this at home because it’s just nasty. Most public restrooms don’t have paper in the stalls, there’s usually some in the main part of the restroom that you have to grab before heading into the stall or you’re stuck dripping dry. Also, most of the public restrooms don’t even have seats installed, you’re just supposed to squat over the bowl. My thighs will be amazing by the time I get home, lol! Seriously tho, I’ve gotten really particular about where I’ll go to the bathroom, and when I’m at the mall I’ll buy something at one of the stores so I can use their private restroom. Also, they’re called “Comfort Rooms” here so you have to ask for the CR or no one knows what you’re talking about. :)

Here’s something annoying…much like in Mexico, they use their kids to beg for change. We don’t see it as much locally, but in Cebu City it’s ridonculous. As white people we’re automatic targets, but Eric thought of a brilliant way to get around it. When they walk up and hold out their hand, he holds out his hand and asks them for change. It’s funny and it works every time.

People are incredibly polite here and they address you as “MaamSir” or “SirMaam” depending on your gender. Because everyone uses the public transportation, they have “Courtesy Booths” at the big stores where you can check your bags for free and continue to shop. The customer service in the stores is unparalleled, they have fleets of people just waiting to answer your questions and help you find things. I have to bust out my vocabulary tho because they don’t always know what you’re asking for. Sometimes there’s even a little charades involved, lol. Thankfully I used to do tech support so I know how to use simple words to describe things…

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Asian Adventure - Part Five, Hiccup

I’m truly sorry I haven’t been blogging. I’ve been trying to get situated with work and adjust to the extreme culture shock that is living in a completely foreign country. I feel hungry all the time because the food is so different here that I almost never feel full, which is jacking my blood sugar in a totally unhappy way. I have an overdeveloped sense of smell and omfg there are so many smells out here that are vomitous...I’m working to find a solution to this issue. I’m incredibly homesick which is making my attitude suck and rather than sharing all those feelings, I’ve been trying to keep it to myself. I’m making a valiant effort to adjust and find things to be excited about so I can share again in a positive way. Sorry I’m experiencing technical difficulties but please give me adjustment time and I’ll be back and better than ever soon. Miss you all like crazy. :-(

Saturday, October 09, 2010

My Asian Adventure - Part Four, Food

The food here is very hit or miss for me. I’m sort of meh about fish in general, and there’s an awful lot of it. Go figure, we live on an island. Thankfully there’s a lot of chicken, and sometimes pork and beef available, so I’m not completely starving. The chicken is all free range, so it’s much more flavorful than anything we can get in the stores back home. The fruits and veggies are all the freshest *ever* and there are new and unusual things for us to try. So far, we like the local produce a lot. They are crazy for the mango, and there is almost a whole aisle at the store devoted to it.

The snack foods are mostly foreign and the Pringles section at the grocery store had the strangest flavor options I’ve ever seen. Seaweed, prawn, and crab are just a few. Eric says seaweed is good…I’m hesitant but I’ll probably try it eventually and will report back. They have a lot of “cracklins” out here which I can only assume are pork rinds like we have back home.

The Asian food is truly incredible (ya think? lol) and I’ve already experienced the very best Pad Thai I’ve ever had in my mouth. Omg I thought I was gonna die from happy, it was soooo good. We also had Filipino food and I gotta tell you after waiting 20 years to eat lumpia, pancit, and adobo again...my tummy had a serious happy. I hear the Korean food is really good here and I’m looking forward to checking it out. The kim chee from the mini mart by the house that Mike brought home was excellent. Nom nom nom.

As random as this sounds, Italian food, and more specifically pizza, is hugely popular here. There’s actually a whole aisle at the grocery store of nothing but pasta and tomato sauces. We tried some veggie pizza today and it was super thin crust but quite good. I never thought to put artichoke hearts or zucchini on pizza before, but it worked brilliantly. I’m taking notes so I can incorporate ideas into my cooking when I get back.

Another oddity is that burgers are a big deal here. They don’t taste like anything you’ve had before because they use strange spices in the meat patties and the cheese isn’t what you’re used to. Get this, they have this thing called banana catsup here that is apparently sort of sweet and a little more like jelly and less like actual catsup. Mike was so excited to try it when we were at the store that he bought this huge bottle. Now that he’s tried it, he’s jazzed he got the large size.

Speaking of the grocery store, that was a crazy experience. They have the produce prepackaged in plastic so you have to just pick a package and hope for the best. So far, we’ve had excellent luck tho. They have whole fish all laid out on ice and even have whole squid laying there staring at you. Creepy. Mike said there are pig legs in the pork section but I missed them somehow. I was pleasantly surprised at how many familiar products or at least familiar brand names I found although the packaging is much different here. Not a lot of things are in glass, they’re mostly in plastic and pouches. Also, the milk and juices are all in cartons on the unrefrigerated shelves but we’ve tried them now and it’s all good. It seems like a good idea because the milk lives much longer that way, and Eric tells me that’s how they do it in Mexico too.

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore... :)