A spinoff in proper "Rhoda" style of my patented e-mail blastograms, this blog was created with the intention of keeping friends and family updated on and amused by my life.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Jiaozi Movie

This is kind of a random post, but this is a practice movie I made several months ago before I left travelling about how to make 锅贴饺子 (guotiejiaozi), or pot stickers based off things I recorded from my cooking class here in Kunming. I'm hoping to do a movie/slide show thang about my trip, which is what made me realize that I had this movie to share with y'all. Let me know what you think (besideds the fact that there's a weird skipping in the audio towards the beginning. That I already knew about!).

It is a quite large file, so it might take some time to download depending on what kind of connection that you have. If you're using dial-up, it might not be worth it to be quite honest.

This movie is in QuickTime format. Download
the QuickTime plugin.

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The Best and Worst

One day while on our trip (I'm pretty sure we were in Phnom Penh, Cambodia) we decided that it would be fun to compare the five countries that we went to (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines) by creating a list of the "best" and the "worst" things of each country. There are really some things that needed superlatives other than best or worst, but because I wanted to use a nifty table like the one you see below to display them I tried to stick to only best and worst. Sometimes form just has to win over function! So, if there are a few of them that seem weird, it's probably because I was trying to find some way to twist "craziest," or "most creative" into best and worst. Enjoy!

PS- I'm not sure why Blogger feels the need to so seriously screw up the formatting of tables and leave an enormous blank space before it, but there does not seem to be anything that I can do about it, so sorry!




  • Baguettes

  • Balconies

  • Hats

  • Cute tour guides

  • Seafood

  • Traffic/circulation

  • Internet

  • Elbow massages

  • Scammers

  • Taxis

  • Wine


  • Coffee

  • Beer

  • Monks

  • Hotel SERVICE

  • Smiles

  • Cookies

  • BBQ

  • Dining experience

  • Hotel welcome gift (bag of pot for Chesa)

  • Cave

  • Setting

  • Pharmacist

  • Hikes

  • Waterfall

  • Tourist traps

  • Hotel

  • Transport!

  • Bridges

  • General infrastructure

  • Roosters crowing at 4AM

  • Trash burning


  • Richest cultural sites

  • Overall prices

  • Cooking class

  • Creative massage

  • Uniforms

  • Political ads

  • Luxurious hotel (not that we stayed in!)

  • Taxis

  • Blong bling supa tuk

  • Transport!

  • Border crossing

  • Motorcycle experience

  • Dogs

  • Bus films!


  • Ancient ruins

  • Bas-reliefs

  • Trees

  • Toilets

  • Beds

  • Signs (such as ones instructing Cambodians not to stand on top of a western-style commode)

  • Lips

  • Baguette fillings

  • Breton Festivals

  • Tuk-tuk drivers!

  • Pollution

  • Beggars

  • "Roads"

  • Corrupt Passport Control

  • Toilet town

  • Leaky toilets

  • Prices


  • American-style food

  • Grandma

  • Alcohol selection

  • Meals with important people

  • Cinemas (going to a newly released movie only costs less than US$2!)

  • Polo match

  • Accomadations

  • Original public transport (jeepnies, which are essentially elongated American WWII jeeps)

  • Christians--Catholics if we want to be specific

  • Former American Colony

  • Fruit, especially the mangos!!

  • Laundry!

  • Banyan tree

  • Chocolate (especially "wet dreams chocolate cake")

  • Public safety

  • Class differences

  • Japanese gardern!

  • Destroyed in WWII

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Friday, February 25, 2005

Home on the Range

Well, after almost six weeks of travel, and five countries later (one of which, Thailand, I can now say I've been to three times!), I'm back home to the beautiful weather and more diverse wardrobe of Kunming. It feels like it's been a while, but finally I'm not dying of heat exhaustion (okay only almost died once in Phnom Penh from heat exhaustion but Thailand and the Philippines were still damn hot!) or being opressed by the humidity or pollution. Yay for mountains!

And really, I'm finding it a) nice to be home, and b) that it really does feel like home. I actually had the pleasure of checking the "return home" box on the Chinese Immigration Form under reasons for visit.

It's amazing how much mindset matters. Just yesterday I was sitting with my friends at a table at a local restaurant sipping on my LanCang Beer (which actually isn't very good compared to some of the other local specialities) and thinking: "Man, I can't imagine living in the US." I don't know why it struck me at that particular point, but the thought surprised me. It just really is starting to feel like it's been a while since I've been there, and I might have even recently crossed the mark for the longest single period I've been outside of the US in my life. On March 5th it will have been 9 full months. I think I only stayed in France for 8 and a half months.

Actually, to emphasize this point, I had a funny experience leaving Bangkok to go to Manila that I don't think I wrote about. At passport control the "controller" (does that word exist in English?) looked at my passport and said "From Colorado? Going home, eh?" I stared at him with a dumb look on my face trying to process what he had just said. "Sorry?" "Going home?" Finally I was able to gather my wits enough to blurt out "No, Manila." "Then home?" Again I had to think for a minute before: "No, back to Bangkok then up to Kunming where I LIVE." "Kunming, huh?" "Yeah." The thud of the stamp against the thick stack of papers shook me out of it. "Thanks," I said, walking away musing on the fact that what seemed like a normal and perfectly reasonable question came at me out of left field. In my mind it wasn't possible to be heading back to the US, not yet at least. I think it's going to be one of those things that I'm going to have to work up to :o).

On Monday I start classes again, and am trying to get prepared for all that. My schedule only has me teaching Monday-Wednesday mornings, ending at 10AM Wednesday at that. I think I'm going to have to try to find something to do so that I don't go crazy with boredom! I also got paid some money due to me from last semester and so was able to go out and buy new glasses to replace the ones that broke in Thailand, a new SIM card for my mobile (my old one wont work anymore because I left it with no credits on it for too long), and get a new shoulder bag to replace one that was horribly fallen apart (shortest lifespan yet, only like a month. Usually they last me around three :o) ).

Also, I've started doing my daily photos again at my Fun Fotos for wHeNeVeR blog as I now have tons of interesting photos from my trip to share with all y'all, so check it out!


Sunday, February 20, 2005

Homeward Bound

Well, it's hard for me to believe, but Marie-Liesse and I are actually leaving the Philippines tomorrow to head back home. Due to a snafu that I think I already explained, I think we have to spend one more night in Bangkok tomorrow, but then we'll be off to Kunming the next evening. After six weeks of travel it's somewhat of a relief (to the pocket book at the very least!), but I'll miss the excitement of seeing new things every day and being in a new environment. At the very least it should be a bit cooler out, and that I will appreciate!

Things have been going well here in the Philippines though for the most part. I must admit that I indulged last night and went to the ritzy downtown super-developed business part of town known as Makati (where the bomb went off) last night to enjoy a sushi dinner with a martini and later off to a place for a heavenly chocolate cake (called, and I'm not making this up, a wet dreams chocolate cake. I was a little shocked and even a touch embarrased to say the name to the lady working behind the counter, but it just looked so delicious I had to go for it!).

We've mainly stayed around Manila while here, and there has been much to occupy us. Between parties and polo matches and lunches with important people, there hasn't been a need to go much farther. Marie-Liesse and I did manage to make two excursions however out to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay (the last place to fall to the Japanese back in WWII), and down to the Taal Volcano. The Taal Volcano was interesting because it is, as Ripley's Believe it or Not describes, "a lake within a volcano within a lake within a volcano," which indeed is what it was. It was actually very cloudy there and it even spat at us at one point but it was a generally enjoyable excursion.

It has really been a different experience here than all the rest of our travels. We've been staying with Chesa's grandmother who is a simply amazing woman with lots of good stories. She likes to describe herself as a "relic of the Spanish-American War" as she grew up in Cuba and the US then married a Filipino and moved to the Philippines. She was here during the war, moving through eight houses before she landed at the house where she remains at today, and at which she has been welcoming numerous guests since. It's really quite an honour to be on the list and I can only hope to go on and accomplish things like some of the other guests she has been telling me about (like the owner of the Atalantic Monthly for example).

But for now, I guess I'll just have to go back to Kunming and go forward from there!


Monday, February 14, 2005

Where is the love?!

Well, first let me wish you all a happy Valentine's Day! I hope that you all find your own way to celebrate appropriately. Me, I spent the day downtown with Chesa, Marie-Liesse and Chesa's grandma. We went to see "Meet the Fockers" at a mall in downtown Manila. After the show we ate frosties at Wendy's (God bless America!), and wandered around a bit. We got in the car at the mall at around 7:15PM and slowly worked our way through traffic back home. We got there around 7:50PM.

After chatting for a bit, Chesa's dad (who works in security) called from his office to check if we were okay. He informed us that a bomb had just exploded in downtown Manila and that we should turn on the news. Reports are still a bit sketchy but they said that the bomb went off in a bus parked under an MRT station at Ayala Avenue and EDSA (don't ask me what that stands for). The mall we left from just half an hour prior is about two blocks away. Currently the information is still fairly vague in the international press, but for more information you can check out either:


MSNBC doesn't seem to be so quick on the uptake. I don't know how much y'all know about the situation of the Philippines but here's a quick summary:

A long time ago there were indiginous tribes living here somewhat related to Polynesia. Then came Suluyman ddup through Indonesia to convert everybody to Islam. In the early 1500's the Spanish set foot on the island, tried negotians and burnt down the city of Manila two days later, deciding the patron saint of the Philippines would thenceforthe be St. James Killer of Muslims. The church then controlled the Philippines for centuries until the turn of the 19th century, when at the same time as the Spanish-American War the Philippinos were fighting for independence. The Spanish, realizing they'd lost the Philippines and the Spanish-American War ended the war and gave both Cuba and the Philippines to the US. It is for this that it is often said here that the Philippines spent 400 years in a convent and 50 years in Hollywood. At which point WWII started, MacArthur underestimating the Japanese, quickly lost it to them saying "I shall return," (eat that Schwartzenager), which he did en force, making Manila the second most destroyed city in WWII after Warsaw. There were around 100,000 civilian deaths in Manila alone. Then the US helped them rebuild and dgain independence. Shortly thereafter a dictator surnamed Marcos took control of things. He fell in the end of the 80s I believe, and they've been under the flag of democracy ever since.

What all this means, besides the fact that everybody is confused (I didn't even mention the enormous influence of the Chinese traders), is that there is a huge mixture of cultures here with tenuous relations. The southern island of Mindinao, close to Indonesia, is Muslim while the rest of the country is uber-Catholic. Led by Abu Sayyaf there has been an independence war for a while which has recently flared up.

The group has claimed responsibility for the most recent bombings. I have to admit that half an hour is the closest I've ever come to one, and the only thing that I can ask is, where IS the love? (to quote Black Ey'd Peas whose lead singer is Philippino by the by!)

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Friday, February 11, 2005

On the "Road" Again

Well, it seems to have been a while since my last post. In fact it's been so long that I'm two countries past Cambodia. I guess, to be fair, heading back to Thailand was just for transit, but still!

Honestly, the last few days before finally arriving in Manila, the Philippines were mainly just travel travel travel. We left the morning of the 6th (methinks) from Phnom Penh at like 7:30AM on a bus back to Siem Reap. We were like the only farang on the bus, and when we got there the tuk-tuk drivers were hounding us like I've never been hounded before. They were knocking on the windows of the bus while we were still on even--like they could even talk to us through the window! *Rolls eyes* After stepping of the bus, there were like 20 tuk-tuk drivers addressing themselves mainly to me, none of which I wanted (we needed a taxi to the border). At one point I literally had to hide behind Chesa's Vietnamese-style conical hat until the number whittled down to like only five talking tukers. Then the negotiations started for a taxi to the border at $100 for the full taxi (it had taken us like $25 to get there). After we laughed, a tuk-tuk driver offered to take us there for 100 Thai baht (roughly US$2.50) which is perhaps my favorite offer I've gotten on our entire trip, I think it would have taken us like seven days by tuk-tuk, and we would have been simply covered in dust (not to mention saddle sore, it's hardly a road). Wouldn't that have been fun?! We did eventually get a taxi at a reasonable price.

The driver we got though had some, ahem, interesting character traits. When we first got in we were convinced that he had consumption and were sure he was going to keel over midway as he was coughing horribly. Actually, it was a sniff/cough combination that resulted in him lowering his window several times to properly hauk his luggies (sps?! it's not often that one spells such words!). He also seemed overly nervous at first and was travelling ridiculously slowly, not to mention the fact that he was quite "honkative." Every time he was about to pass anything he honked for several seconds. Being from China, I was kinda used to that, but this guy was OVER THE TOP, so I decided to do a scientific survey, and will soon be producing The Honk Report for your viewing pleasure. Quick preview from memory, I'll check my numbers later: average honk time- about 1.62 sec, average honks/minute-around 1.9, rough calculation of total honks- 344, total honk duration- around 9 minutes.

Although I enjoyed Cambodia, I was quite frankly relieved to get back to Thailand where good food is abundant and the beggars and tuk-tuk drivers are nowhere near as pushy! We were only there for about 1.5 days to get back to the BKK airport from where we flew to the Philippines. I had suggested that when we were there, we should check to see if we really had seats for our BKK-Kungming connection upon return since the travel agent seemed somewhat unclear about it. Good thing we did, for when we finally found the China Eastern Airlines office, they told us that the flight had been cancelled. They said that they'd put us up for a night in BKK though with meals and send us out the next day--and since we just found out that the hot water is out in our apartment building back in Kunming and will be out until "March 1"(read end of March at the earliest) it didn't sound like a bad deal.

But now I'm in the Philippines and staying at Chesa's grandmother's house. It's a wonderful house full of priceless antiques and lots of good stories. It's a pleasant change of pace for us weary travellers. There's like actual hot water for one! But also there're maids, and cooks, and drivers, oh my! We took a wonderful tour of Manila's (reconstructed since the US destroyed it all during WWII) Old Town known as intramuros (inside the walls). The tour guide was great at weaving Philippino history together in such a way that each of its very different periods have started to make sense to me. After the Spanish, American, Japanese, and American occupations not to mention the Chinese traders that infultrated the upper classes I can see why modern Philippinos/as are having an identity crisis!

But now I am out of time for I HAVE TO :o) go to a party held by someone in the American Embassy here. I'm looking forward to it.


Friday, February 04, 2005


Alright, well, I typed this entry before and lost it (I told you the internet connection in Cambodia was iffy!). But I will do my best to recreate it.

Little did I know that growing up in a family that insisted on buying Japanese-made cars only (with an emphasis on Toyotas, Camrys in particular. I might add that my mom totalled the only Nissan we ever had...) would one day prepare me for a trip to Cambodia. As it turns out, Toyota is, with a very few exceptions that I've seen in the capital, the only car company that has ventured into Cambodia. It means that all the taxis and like 95% of the cars are Camrys (the other 5% are Land Runners in case you were wondering). It meant that I felt right at home cruising down what I would losely define as a road on my way from the border of Thailand to Siem Reap in a nice Camry. Who knew?

Anyway, we've been here since last Sunday and are enjoying ourselves mainly. We started at Angkor Wat (which you might know from the movie Tomb Raider if you saw it) and its surrounding temples just outside of Siem Reap. It was really quite spectacular to see all of the old temples and whatnot built at about the turn of the last millenium. I hadn't realized before going there that Angkor Wat was just a little piece of what the area had to offer, that the actual ancient city was called Angkor Thom, and that it was really quite large. My favorite I think had to be the temple of Bayon (see pic above, not my pic but an accurate representation of what I saw) in the very center of the old town Angkor Thom. Each of its towers are carved with big faces with slightly smiling lips. I'm having trouble describing the sensation I felt walking through there. It's slightly creepy for the faces are always watching, but then its simultaneously a warm sensation as if they're protecting you with their pleasant smiles. Chesa appreciated the volupuous lips of the statues and swears that's where the Cambodians of today get their gorgeous ones from. No collagen needed here!

Siem Reap itself came as somewhat of a shock to us though. It's a seriously expensive (compared to the other places we've been travelling) place! Ironically, at the same time its an extremely poor town. I don't think I've ever experienced as many beggars at one time in my life. Joelle, a fellow traveller, "gave in" to a boy who was begging on the street and took him to a little market to pick something out. She expected him to go for a cookie or sweet thing. He pointed to baby food.

At first the beggars were really bothering me, but then I realized that they were not just targeting foreigners, they were also asking other Cambodians for hand outs--and the other Cambodians were responding. I also then learned a little bit more about their tragic history, and though we are far from the days of Pol Pot and his evil, horrible regime, change takes time.

My favorite thing that happened in Siem Reap though was while I was bargaining for some whicker placemats and baskets. We were at a little stand in the middle of nowhere, and we started haggling over the price. When I couldn't get the price I wanted, I gave a vaguely pouted look at our vendeuse. She pouted back and won (remember the Cambodian lips are quite large). We kept at it, and she actually hit me (in a playfulish manner). She even slapped me in the face at one point. It was a good time. I learned later that she was charging a very reasonable price and that I really shouldn't have been haggling at all (I hadn't known at the time) when I went to a different place and they started at $5 for the same placemat I had gotten from her for under a dollar.

We have now left Siem Reap and Angkor Wat and are in the capital Phnom Penh (pronounce pah-nome pen, the h's in SE Asian languages actually, as I've discovered indicate aspiration and does not change the consonant shape) to learn more about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. We went to one of their prisons this afternoon, and it was quite an eye-opener. It was a converted high school where the prisoners were shackled one after another on a long iron rod across the ground of the classroom. They were not allowed to change positions even and just laid on the floor most of the time until they were exterminated.

I knew from back in high school that Pol Pot was one of the most terrible of the dictators, but I'm really starting to learn and understand what that meant here. I watched The Killing Fields in Siem Reap (which by the way, Athol Fugard plays a bit role in. I saw his name in the credits and was like 'like the playwrite who wrote Master Harold and the Boys?' I had to research online later to verify, but it was indeed him. Athold Fugard is just one of those names you don't forget!), and would highly recommend it. I'm just astonished, as always, with how vicious human beings can be to one another. The scariest part is how large of a role the kids seemed to play in everything. They were the guards' aides, and selected who to kill. *Shudders*

And with that note, some "Fun" (aka informative) Facts for Cambodia:

25- The percent of the population killed during Pol Pot's reign.
14- The number of beggars we had while sitting at a cheap street vendor having dinner in Siem Reap. It was less than an hour.
VII- The number the God King Jayavarman who built most of Angkor Thom and Wat. On a side note, he was forced to sleep with a woman incarnation of a naga (snake/dragon thang) EACH night lest the kingdom fall apart!
10,000 sq km- The amount of land the Tonle Sap Lake expands over during the rainy season in Cambodia. In an interesting geologic/meteorlogic phenomenon, the Tonle Sap river, which links the Mekong River to the Tonle Sap Lake reverses direction depending on the season. When it's the wet season up in Laos and the Mekong River is high, the river runs into the lake to fill it. During the wet season in Cambodia, when the Mekong is running low, the lake drains into the Mekong. Crazy desu ka?

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