Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sharing IS Caring!

To quickly catch you up, I've come and gone from Hong Kong where we were hit by a typhoon! I ate wonderful food and met a couple of awesome people!
My next stop was Hanoi, Vietnam. The people here are really, really, really kind. I stayed at a little hotel in the Old Quarter which is quite a busy area. Crossing the street here takes a bit of faith. I just focused on a spot across the street, said a quick prayer and walked. Quickly. Didn't get hit once. Whew!

There's a lot to tell about Vietnam but too many to write in one post.

I want to tell you a meal I experienced one afternoon. In Vietnam there is a dish called 'bun cha' which is a lunchtime only dish that is easily found in northern Vietnam and a bit more difficult to find in the south. There isn't a lot to it, just some BBQ minced pork balls in fish sauce with vegetation and cold noodles. However, this is a dish not to be missed!

I sat down at a community table across from a man in his late 40's. They put a plate of raw vegetables and basil (yum!) in front of me along with the small plate of noodles, an empty bowl with a spoon, a bowl with the grilled meats and vegetable in a soup, another bowl with just the broth and the vegetable and small plate with a couple of fried spring rolls. I took a picture of it for you.

I started to eat my lunch and was immediately totally and completely focused on this meal. It was delicious! There were so many tastes and textures and colors to be mixed and played with. I watched the other patrons to figure out what could go with what and realized you can mix these ingredients in any way you want.

The platter of raw vegetables and basil was quite large. I kept reaching for the different ingredients and savoring every bite. All the while there was a stream of people coming in and going up the stairs to their tables. I was sitting fairly close to this stairwell and kept getting knocked in the back and the back of my head by their bags and elbows. Everything in Vietnam is fairly tight quarters so you just have to get used to it. To be honest I didn't care at all - everytime my head was hit and pushed forward I was in the middle of bringing my chopsticks to my mouth so the result was a mouthful of deliciousness. Would YOU complain?

The woman next to me got up to leave and her dishes were removed from the table. Another person immediately sat down in her chair and he was given the same set of dishes and food that I was given.

I then realized something.

There were 8 people at this table. There were 8 of the same meal on the table. BUT there were only 7 platters of the vege's and basil.

I had been picking from the platter in front of me not realizing that the platter belonged to the man sitting in front of me. The first few times I reached into the plate I noticed him look at me a little funny and smile but I thought it was because he realized I was a foreigner. Now I realized that it was because I was eating off his plate!

Oh. My. Gosh.

Not only had I been eating off his plate, I was using my fingers to pick the basil and reaching into it with my chopsticks using the end of the chopsticks that go into my mouth. When you are sharing with family this is ok, when you're eating with new friends or business acquaintences you should flip your chopsticks over and use that end to grab items.

But let's be honest, the main rule of thumb that really applies here is that you DON'T EAT OFF OF YOUR NEIGHBOR'S PLATE ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW THEM.

But did I stop eating off the plate? NO! Didn't I tell you that that was one of the best parts of the whole meal? He didn't seem to mind sharing so I apparently didn't seem to mind either!

I did start to flip my chopsticks over but I just kept on eating. I was hungry!

Mr. Rogers was right ~ Sharing really IS caring!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Story You Don't Know...

When you bring your child to the pediatrician for a check up they will plot out the measurements on a curve to see if their progress is on track. The measurements are the physical measurements of their head, height, weight, and probably some other things.

I practically have an aneurysm every time I have to bring Sabrina for her check ups because of this. Under the line is below average, on the line is average, above the line and you've given birth to Yao Ming.

First, let's talk about the paper that the curve is printed on. It's a bunch of evenly spaced boxes with a curved line on it. I was never very good at math and my math teachers made us do our homework on graph paper, which for some reason made it even more intimidating to me. I have not used a piece of graph paper since high school and when the doctor pulls out this piece of paper I am suddenly back in high school in math class, my heart is racing and my pits start to sweat. (I didn't say it would be a pretty picture.)

The first time I saw this chart was at my last ultrasound when we realized that Sabrina was too small and that the amniotic fluid was low. I was at the very beginning of my 38th week which was the good thing. It's officially a 'term' pregnancy if you make it to the 38th week.** Dave had to leave for work around the end of it so I was by myself. It was pretty obvious that the tech was concerned about the measurements she was getting. She kept remeasuring everything. In addition to all this I had been going to the hospital twice a week for evaluations because of my diabetes and the last time they found that the fluid seemed a little low, which was why I was having another ultrasound. After the ultrasound the tech walked me to a computer where she plotted the points and I slowly watched these dots show up UNDER the line. I think her plan was to calm me down but it backfired because she did not seem to expect to see the dots be so far under the line either. Her reaction made me really realize that something wasn't right.

Try to imagine what would be going through your mind at this moment if you have already spent your entire life with the fear that you would die during childbirth which is why you never wanted to get pregnant in the first place.
Yes, this was my fear. No joke.
I have always thought this ever since I was a child. I seem to recall having a dream when I was really young that this would happen and I have always believed my dreams - even to this day. I never spoke out loud about this because I knew people would tell me I'm nuts and because I am very superstitious I was afraid if I said it out loud it would DEFINITELY come true.

I went home in a daze after the appointment. I was thinking, "This is it. It's happening." Dave came home and I told him what happened with the tech and then broke down. The next morning my OB called me and told me to go to the hospital because she was pretty sure I needed to be induced. I hung up the phone and Dave was looking at me waiting for me to tell him what she said. I had half a mind to just not tell him because...well, follow my thinking here:

1) If I didn't tell him then...
2) he wouldn't make me go to the hospital, which means ...
3) I wouldn't have to die.

Makes sense, right? I know! I may not be good at math, but I sure know how to rationalize anything to make it work for me and my situation, can't I?

Of course I told him. Reluctantly and totally freaked out. We took showers, pulled everything together and went to the hospital. The entire time from when I left for the hospital to when they told me I needed to push I was SURE I was going to die. Absolutely Positive. I had even secretly written a will during my pregnancy and hid it in Sabrina's baby book where I figured Dave would find it easily. Before I had my epidural I was in a lot of pain from the contractions. We were up all night and at one point I got annoyed with Dave because he kept yawning while I was trying to breathe through the contractions. However, I never once got mad at him or yelled at him or swore at him. I knew he was tired too and I didn't want his last memory of me to be of me yelling at him for yawning in my face. OK, I may have snapped at him ONCE for yawning. But I didn't swear. I just asked him, "Are you tired?!!?"

When the nurse asked me if I was ready to push I looked her straight in the eye like she was out of her mind and said a simple, "No." Then I started to cry. Dave said I looked so scared. I WAS, but I didn't want to tell him why because I didn't want to scare him too. That nurse was really starting to piss me off too because she kept trying to get me ready to push and I just wasn't having any of it. I can't believe that while laying on that table I seriously considered getting up, grabbing my iv tower, walking over to her and just bitch slapping her for being so pushy. I know...she's just doing her job. But in my head she was trying to KILL ME.
Obviously it all worked out, but I have to be honest here. The entire 45 minutes I was pushing I was silently chanting that I wouldn't die before I could meet Sabrina.

I just wanted to see her. Just once.

And then after I saw her I was silently chanting that I could spend one hour with her before I died.

And then when I didn't die after an hour I was praying for 1 day. 2 days. 3 days. 4 days.

I never asked for more than one more day. I didn't want to be greedy and this line of thinking seemed to work for me...I think I was trying to set 'reachable' goals. I don't know. Each and every time I woke up from a nap or night of sleep I was soooooooooooo surprised that I hadn't died yet. And very grateful. But everyday I was sure that 'today is the day'.

The first night we went home from the hospital I couldn't sleep. I was up the entire night because I thought maybe I got my dream mixed up and it was the first night at HOME that I was supposed to die. Dave, to this day, thinks it was because I was just in such awe of my daughter. Well, yes and no.

I know this doesn't sound rational. But this story isn't about being rational, is it?

These days when I bring Sabrina for a check up I watch the doctor plot his points while I silently chant my ass off. Sabrina always plots right on the curved line. The doctor then proceeds to tell me she's...AVERAGE. And then they have the nerve to say this with a smile!

Oh, bite me. What do you know, doc? You obviously don't see the genius things Beana does at home all the time - pick up cheerios with 2 fingers AND get them into her mouth, pick up anything and everything she can get her hands on and get them into her mouth, manage to have pieces of cut up chicken stick to her eyebrow and the top of her head (how it lands there, I have no idea), wave bye-bye, clicks her tongue to the beat of the music while dancing (seriously), says "dada", "mama", "Hazey" AND "xie xie" (which is mandarin for 'thank you').

Yes, you read that right - my kid is bilingual. I'll bet your 11 month old can barely blink without assistance while my Beana is doing translations for the UN.

Is my fear gone? No. Not at all. Even as I write this story my chest and throat are tight with emotion. I know you may think I'm silly for believing in my dreams and being superstitious...but I could also write a few stories where my dreams have been right on - to a tee. So, I just try to have a lot of fun with Sabrina and teach her what I can while I can.

My kid is an AWESOME kid. My husband is an AWESOME husband and friend. So long as I keep getting my 'just one more day' I'm going to try and enjoy it all.

**I'm no doctor so please consult with your physician before you take any of my medical jargon as being correct in any way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Taxi! Taxi!

My luck with taxis on this trip so far, in a word, sucks. I get car sick easily and if the driving is a little erratic I get even more sick to my stomach. I don't take cabs in Seattle and usually do the driving or sit in the front seat to avoid this but I have spent a good amount of time in the back seat of cabs on this trip. I have been chewing loads of Pepto pills since I got here and am about to run out. If you love me you will send me a care package, pronto.

My last day in Seoul I worked during the day and then met up with 4 of Dave's cousin's for dinner. Yunsuek, Eddie, Cory and Hanna. We ate dinner, went to a coffee shop afterwards and just chatted. While we were talking I found out that there was a night market where you could shop until 4a.m. Sweet! So I decided to go and Hanna offered to come with me. Oh my gosh, that was such fun!

We went to Dongdaemun and after spending 15 minutes trying to figure out how to cross the street (there is an underground tunnel) we entered a department store building that has 6 floors. Every floor is specific to what is being sold. We spent most of our time on the accessories floor and the children's clothing floor. There are a bunch of booth style sections where people sell their goods. You usually want to try and negotiate them down, especially if you buy multiple items. Luckily, Hanna's mom taught her well and she helped me make some good deals (not counting the one guy we were buying baby socks from who basically laughed in our faces.)

After we finished shopping (Sabrina made out like a bandit, by the way) we caught a cab to my hotel. It was 2:14 a.m. On our way to my hotel I started to notice that our driver was swerving and weaving a bit. I've noticed that most drivers in Korea drive with a bit of wild abandon but I didn't see a single accident. However, we were honked at a couple of times which is what caught my attention. I glanced into the rear view mirror and realized that the cab driver WAS FALLING ASLEEP!!!!!!!!!!!

I looked at Hanna and said slowly,

"Soooooo, I think our cab driver is falling asleep."

She gave me a wild eyed, kind of freaked out look.

I looked in the mirror again and said,

"Yeah...he's nodding off."

I think/hope I said it calmly but was freaking out inside.

I know what you're thinking - why didn't I just get out of the cab? Well, by the time I realized this we were out of the very populated area and I didn't see any cabs around us. Just a bunch of cars. And remember, it's 2 a.m.

I said to Hanna,

"Talk to him, talk to him."

I meant "talk" as in engage him in conversation to keep him awake. Hanna turns towards him and says in Korean,

"Are you falling asleep?!?!"

I think we both were a little unsure what to do because our driver was a man who was at least 70 years old. We can't scold an older person, that would be like yelling at your grandfather! So instead, we started to bad mouth his obviously ungrateful children who were not fulfilling their duty of taking care of their father in his old age. Damn kids!
Mom & Dad, you have nothing to worry about. Pinky promise.

So, we managed to get to the hotel and Hanna got out and we called her another cab from the hotel.

Now for cab #2 story. I left Seoul and arrived in Hong Kong around 11 p.m. I took a cab from the Kowloon train station to my hotel.

Before I talk about this cab, let's digress for a moment. I want to help set the scene so that I really get your sympathy/empathy.

You remember back in the day when you could smoke indoors? And when you went out dancing or to the pubs with your friends you just knew that you were going to smell like an ashtray when you got home? And even though you just wanted to pass out in your bed upon arrival, the smell of your hair and clothes force you to jump into the shower in your drunken stupor to get that God-awful smell out of your hair and skin? Yeah...those were the DAYS!

Back to Cab #2 (aka Hong Kong cab #1). I get into the cab and it was like stepping back into my clubbing days all over again. The cab driver obviously smoked in his cab with the windows rolled up and the recirculating AC air. So even though it is something like 130% humidity out here I had to open a window and hang my head out to breathe. Even though I smoked years ago, for some reason since I quit cigarette smoke gives me a headache almost instantly. I think he also ate his food in his cab too because there was also the smell of beef noodle soup in the air. Why do I think it was beef noodle soup, you ask? Good question! Not sure why, but it smelled like old meat and there was just something that made me think "Beef noodle soup".

To add to the "cigarette smoke/beef noodle soup eau de toilette" aroma the driver drove his little car like a madman. He would speed up really fast and then practically brake to a complete stop to make a turn and slam his brakes repeatedly when approaching a light. I'm sure I was turning green with motion sickness within the first few kilometers.

We made it to my hotel and I do have to give my first Hong Kong cab driver some props though. Holla! The meter said the fare was $490 HKD. This seemed awfully high ($7.8 HKD = $1 USD) but what could I do? So I handed him a $500 HKD bill and his eyes got really big when he realized I thought the fare was $490. He shook his head and looked at the bills in my hand and grabbed a $50 bill. Apparently the fare was $49, not $490. He totally could have given himself a big fat tip but didn't. Thank you for not ripping me off, Mr. Cab Driver!!!!

Please send me good taxi cab vibes for the next few days I'm in Hong Kong. I will have to take a few a day and will need your good mojo.

I have a week full of work ahead of me but will definitely be back to tell you more stories. I've been getting a lot of good material for a post on Asian hair cuts/hairdo's. I want to get some photos first. Seriously, you'll die. Till then ~ Ciao!

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I left Seattle at 1:40pm on Saturday and 10 hours later I'm in Seoul and it's Sunday evening.

Leaving Dave and Sabrina was NOT easy. I know I'll see them in 2 weeks in Taiwan...but this is the first time I've ever been by myself without one or the other. And the fact that I'm a 10 hour flight and basically a day away doesn't help. I was just fine until we separated at the airport when I went through security. I just cried and cried while I loaded my bags on to the x-ray machine. I kept looking back and Dave was holding Sabrina waving her hands at me. Oh...here I go again. Dammit.

The flight was fairly uneventful except for the man next to me. I was in the window seat. He was a Korean man in his early 40's who was watching a movie on the mini tv that is on the back of the seat in front of us. Throughout the the entire flight I only got up once to use the restroom and stretch my legs. I unbuckled my seatbelt and then motioned to him and the girl in the aisle that I needed to get out. She got up and stood in the aisle. He unbuckled his seatbelt...BUT DIDN'T MOVE. I was looking at him and the girl in the aisle was looking at him. We waited. It looked like the movie must have been at a good part or something...he almost looked like he was waiting for a commercial to come on.

Does this seem a bit odd? Rude, maybe? Well, I sure thought so. Especially after I had already spent the first 15 minutes of the flight being smacked in the face by his newspapers which he insisted on reading with both sides completely open. Anyone with an iota of manners (or has ridden the NYC subway at 8am) knows that you are supposed to fold back your paper so that you don't give your neighbors tiny papercuts all over their face and neck.

So, here he is...headphones still on and holding the remote control, (why is there a remote control for a mini tv screen that is less than an arm's length away? Literally, it's sitting 10" over your knees.) making us wait for him to get out of the row. Did I forget to mention that there are no commercials and that the remote control allows you to rewind and fast-forward? So, was this dude really going to be missing anything? Did I also mention that I needed to go to the bathroom and it had been 5 hours into the flight? Dude - get out of the way.

He did. Finally.

I got my revenge - although it wasn't on purpose. We were served our meal and I chose bibimbap. There was a packet of sesame seed oil and a little tube of gochujang for the dish. I added them to my bowl and then put the packets to the side of my tray. I grabbed the little container of kimchee and it accidentally sent the empty package of sesame seed oil flying...which landed directly on the guy's knee and proceeded to drip whatever remaining oil was left over to form a perfect circle in the middle of his knee on his pants.

I said, "Oh no! I'm sorry!" then grabbed the packet off his knee. It really wasn't on purpose but for some reason I felt it was karmic retribution. Take that!

I arrived in Seoul and Dave's cousin, Yunsuek, picked me up at the airport. Yunsuek visited us in Park City this past winter and we got to know each other a bit. He is a cool guy. We went to dinner with his mom and dad and ohhhhhhhh, it was GOOD. We had sundubu (one of my favorite things to eat, ever), bossam, pa jun and makgeolli (unfiltered rice wine). It was D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S.

I have a full day of work on Monday and then there are plans to go to dinner with a bunch of Dave's cousins. Hopefully I can stay awake. I woke up at 1:30 am and haven't been able to go back to sleep...which is why I'm writing this at 3am Seoul time.

See ya!