Friday, January 9, 2009

"i love you, dad"

"I love you, dad" has to be my favorite quote from Old School. Only a guy like Will Ferrell could make that sentence hilarious. Plus, I think it's hilarious in general to tell people you love and/or miss them. In college I was the president of a film club (there were 3 members, including me, and we didn't want/allow anyone else to join), and we always used to tell each other "I miss you" because we thought it was funny.

...I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, my dad is pretty legit. In his youth he moved to Hawaii and drove a pedicab for a living. He and his brothers started a "fire dance" tradition in my family that has been carried on at all big events, the men wear hand-made (usually poorly hand-made) masks, no shirts, and dance around with large planks of wood that are on fire at both ends. Don't worry, there's always a hose nearby. He dressed up like a woman one April Fool's Day (it was part of a bigger prank he was playing on his employees) and picked me up from school when I was in 7th grade. Actually, that was the first time I ever told my father "I hate you", but looking back on it makes me laugh. When he turned 50 he shaved his head and got his ear pierced to be funny. He showed up at his 40 year high school reunion in an A&W bear costume with two Elvis impersonators as sidekicks. This year he decided to get his first tattoo ever in Cabo San Lucas, a heart with my mom's name.

Okay, that last one he didn't mean to be funny, but it was definitely surprising. When he showed it to me before I left for China I thought I was going to vomit, which I realize is a strange reaction, but my dad? With a tattoo? What kind of alternate world was I living in that that could even be a possible reality? Mostly I was worried that he didn't like it, because he kept saying how he wished it was bigger.

Well, yesterday he decided to make it bigger by adding to the heart and putting the names of me and my sisters on it. Initially he wanted some lame barbed wire thing (a little too Pam Anderson for my liking), but after a few drawings by his tattoo artist and some coaxing from my anchor-loving twin, he decided to go for a whole nautical theme. I think it's suiting, considering he got the first one done right by the beach. Plus, it's very sailor of him, which I find amusing.

It's pretty damn awesome to have my name tattooed on someone's body. I worked some of my non-existent photoshop skills to blur my name out since I have a blogosphere identity to uphold, duh. I went ahead and blurred Twin's name out too, since it's practically the same as mine. Not that my identity is really even a secret, but my whole Strawberry alter-ego thing is one of the few consistent pleasures I have in my life, so I'm willing to spend 45 seconds to edit my name out of a picture in order to keep the whole thing going.

the stache is back!


A couple of days ago The New York Times published this article about mustaches "inching their way back onto the lip". The article is short and a fun read (so go read it!), my favorite part:

“You got to wear it with this attitude,” Mr. Della Valle said. “Your mustache is always there, saying, ‘Yeah, I have a mustache, so bring it on.’ If you have a sense of humility connected to your mustache, it doesn’t look as good as it should.”

But for all its reclaimed machismo, he added, “The bottom line is this: The best response to the question, ‘Why the mustache?’ is, because it’s fun.”

In other words, why should you grow a mustache? Because it’s not there.

Take note, fellas. Start the year off right and begin working on your stache now, that way you can enjoy it in its full glory all spring and summer long.

But Strawberry, why in the world do you love mustaches so much? you may ask. I just have an appreciation for finely sculpted facial hair, is all. I think it all goes back to my childhood when my dad had a mustache, which is weird to even think about since he hasn't had facial hair of any kind since I was about 5 or 6. I don't really even remember him having a mustache so much as I've seen photographs of him donning a mustache. Either way, it was awesome. Mustaches are always awesome.

Something inside me says 2009 will be the year of the stache. At least I friggin' hope it is.


interview: take three

The Rules

1. If you want to participate, leave me a comment saying, "Interview
me." (And your e-mail address, please.)
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone
else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them
five questions.

The Questions:

3. If you were given the opportunity, would you stay to live in China?

Define "opportunity".

There will always be teaching positions available in China, so me staying is definitely an option, though not a very appealing one for me at this point. Being in China makes sense for me right now: I'm working on my masters degree, I'm getting international experience, I don't have bills to pay or responsibilities to worry about back at home. However, in six months, I'll be done with my masters coursework and soon after that I'll need to start paying back my student loans. Living on an English teacher salary in China isn't a problem if your only expenses are eating and getting a ridiculous amount of clothes made at the fabric market, but if you have bills piling up in the United States, 900 bucks a month just won't cut it.

I was recently offered a teaching assistant position that would begin in Irvine some time in July, so I will for sure be home for that if all goes according to plan. Then I have a cousin who is having her second baby some time in August and another cousin who is getting married in November, two events I'd like to be in America to see. Okay, maybe I don't want to actually SEE the birthing of the child, but maybe after a day or two I'd go check the little dude/lady out.

Ultimately, unless I get a marriage proposal from a very rich and sexy Chinese man, no "opportunity" in China would really seem worth staying longer in Shanghai at this point in my life. But check back with me in six months, I might feel differently then.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"you are being a total 'C-word' right now"

I must have been throwing around a few too many "C-words" recently because my site is once again blocked for me. How annoying is that? To have your own blog be inaccessible.

I guess I'm more political than I thought I was.

Other than longing stares at my golden locks, I'm pretty much ignored by most Chinese people. Ignored is the wrong word I guess, perhaps "misunderstood" is better, or just plain not understood. English isn't as widespread as I would have imagined it would be in such an international city as Shanghai, but it's actually convenient for me because I can say whatever I want, whenever I want, to whoever I want, with none of the social repercussions I would get if they actually understood what I was saying. Usually my freedom of speech is limited to insults ("Hurry up and ring up my groceries, bitch" or "Excuse me, twatface"), but sometimes I throw in a few sexual advances (this is mostly reserved for visiting Korean men). Maybe they do understand me and just don't care, I guess I'll never really know for sure since I can't exactly ask them.

Amazingly, though, if I happen to say something that begins with a C and ends in "ommunism" or "ultural revolution", everyone knows what I'm talking about and will turn and stare, waiting to see what words will come out of my mouth next. This is usually when I shut up and try to look as innocent and sweet as possible. I'm not looking to leave China in a body bag, thankyouverymuch.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

interview: take two

The Rules

1. If you want to participate, leave me a comment saying, "Interview
me." (And your e-mail address, please.)
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone
else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them
five questions.

The Questions:

2. What are the things you enjoyed back in California that you haven't been able to find in China?

Woah. This could potentially be a huge list. It's strange considering that everything in the United States is MADE in China, yet I can't find half of that stuff here. Or if I can find it, it's super expensive. Perhaps I've just been looking in the wrong places, or maybe living in Shanghai has something to do with it, but Walmart and Target have cheaper stuff (clothes, houseware, etc) than what I've seen in China.

I miss a lot of edible things that I took for granted in California. The fruits and vegetables here are all pretty sad looking, and berries are nearly impossible to find. They have strawberries at the market right now, but a small container of them is 35RMB, which is an outrageous price. I miss Trader Joe's a lot. I miss cheap and semi-healthy frozen foods. I miss salad so much. Salad here is a luxury, it's cheaper to buy an entree at a restaurant than it is to buy a side salad.

I think if a person looks hard enough, they could find anything in China, but it all comes at a price. Sure, maybe I could find pop-tarts (City Shop, an import grocery store, carries all kinds of American goods), but they will cost me more than it costs to get a massage, and at that point I'd rather just have a massage and call it a day sans strawberry filled toaster treat goodness.

Perhaps the thing I enjoyed most in California that I haven't been able to find in China at all is a pair of shoes that fit. There was a good week back in November where I was on a mission to find some cute winter boots, and every shopkeeper I told my size to laughed in my face. Literally laughed. And then pointed. It was all pretty embarrassing, but in a country where a size 7 1/2 is considered big, a size 9 1/2 is gigantic. I eventually gave up hope. Every once in a while I'll ask out of curiosity if a shoe store has my size and have yet to receive a yes from anyone.

interview: take one

I've seen this interview on a few blogs I lurk on and never asked to be interviewed (okay I did once but then didn't answer the questions, sorry!), but when Andy at Life Isn't So Terrible After All posted it, I just had to jump on board. She asked me some good questions, so in order to do them justice I'm going to be posting the answer to one question per day for the next five days. That way, it's more likely that you'll actually read it.

The Rules

1. If you want to participate, leave me a comment saying, "Interview
me." (And your e-mail address, please.)
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone
else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them
five questions.

The Questions:

1. Do you think you've grown (figuratively) during your time in China? If so, in what aspect is it more evident?

China has FOR SURE been the biggest growing experience in my life to date.

I've been abroad before and consider myself a very independent person, but my notions of "abroad" and "independence" were completely thrown out the window when I landed in Shanghai back in August. I love Europe, I feel at home in Europe, and maybe that's why I don't feel like I grew as much there. Being in Europe is sort of like being in America, except everyone dresses better and eats less. That's pretty much the only significant difference I encountered during my many European travels. Sure, you'll run into a native once in a while that doesn't know English, but that's rare. At least it was for me during my 9 month stint in France and subsequent summer European road trips. Besides, no matter what country you're visiting in the EU, you can sort of guess what signs, menus, and labels say because English has borrowed so many words from other countries. In China? Not a chance. You have to know a ridiculous amount of characters (something like 2,000 or 3,000) just to read a newspaper here, so being able to "guess" what you're ordering isn't going to happen. Unless, of course, there's a picture.

Strangely enough, the most significant lesson I've learned in this chaotic, topsy turvy, bordering on anarchism country is to be more patient. I have to credit a lot of that to Romy, who introduced me to Eckart Tolle's concept of living in the present moment, but I've also made a lot of life changes in order to accept life for how it is and not expect anything, good or bad. Living in such a fast-paced and cut throat society like China, a person needs to made a conscious decision to stay grounded. It's easy to get caught up in it all and let it either drive you mad or change you into someone you don't want to be.

Right now, I'm happy with me. I don't let negativity into my life and have stopped defending myself when/if I am criticized ("Is that so?" said the Zen master). I don't let anyone pressure me into doing anything I don't want to do and I don't feel bad saying "No" to invitations or requests. I stopped eating all meat but fish and have focused on eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruit and plenty of fiber and whole grains. I eliminated dessert (for the third time) from my diet and have made an effort to keep my alcohol consumption to a minimum. I stretch every day and meditate several times a day. I try to go to the gym as often as possible.

Maybe I would have made this changes if I had stayed in America, but maybe not. It's easy to get into a routine and just drift from day to day without really having any kind of self awareness. In China, drifting is pretty hard. Everything is changing too rapidly for a routine to ever really set in. There's positives and negatives to that, but at least it keeps life interesting.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

nobody likes you when you're 23

I'm pretty sure I've had a blog post that was titled "nobody likes you when you're 23" over summer of last year when I met Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker, but whatever, it's appropriate now, too.

Friday was my 24th birthday. I love my birthday. Love it. It's my favorite holiday of the year that isn't actually a holiday (but should be). After 21, birthdays for some people stop being fun. They feel like they don't have anything cool to celebrate anymore. I hope I never reach that point. Birthdays are always cool to celebrate!

24 is definitely another year older, another year closer to the big three-oh, but you know what? I'm okay with that. I actually really like it. I'm older, things are happening in my life, I'm making a difference in people's lives. On Friday each time someone asked me how old I was (after I drunkenly shouted "It's my birthday!" in their faces), I screamed "24!" because it rules being 24.

You know what else rules? My birthday headware:
This is pretty much how every conversation I had with a guy went that night:
Dude at bar
: What is that?
Strawberry: What is what?
Dude at bar: That thing on your head.
Strawberry: It's a flower.
Dude at bar: Ya, but is it a hat or headband or what?

I didn't have any altercations with cab drivers, thank gawd, but I did muster up the courage to take a solo cab ride home. Even though I know my out and out brawl with a cabbie was a complete fluke, I've been hesitant to take cabs anywhere by myself, especially when I'm three sheets to the wind. At around 5AM, after 5 jello shots, 6 martinis, and I don't even know how much plum wine, I couldn't wait another hour for the subway to open, I had to get home.

I hailed a cab and tried to relax even though like every other cab driver in Shanghai, this dude was flirting with disaster at pretty much every intersection. But I survived. The driver was actually really nice, I wish I knew Chinese, or at least enough to have told him it was my birthday. I could tell he wanted to talk, but since he knew no English and I know no Mandarin, he kept smiling and asking "Ding Xiang Lu?" (the street where I live) to which I kept responding "Dui" ("correct"). I'm not much of a talker that early in the morning, anyway.

Monday, January 5, 2009

things people say

Romy on why she wasn't impressed with the new James Bond movie: "Maybe I just can't get into a guy who drinks martinis."

the case of the missing wallet: part 2

I went into the foreign teachers office today to ask about my wallet again, on the off chance that the gate guards happened to find it since I last had it right near their guard booth/hang out. Before I could even open my mouth to ask, I saw it sitting on my desk in all it's black and pink Roxy logo glory.

All the money was missing out of it, but that's to be expected I guess, lame as it is. In their hurry to nab all my cash the thief rifled through the pockets of the wallet so all my credit cards and IDs were in the money area. A bunch of business cards were missing, I'm assuming they fell out while the thief was going through my stuff. A few wallet-sized pictures are missing (prom circa 2003, senior portrait with Twin), and I'm hoping it's because they fell out and not because some creeper is slowly creating a shrine to me. Though, on second thought, that might be pretty sweet.

Despite the missing stuff, I'm super happy to have my wallet back, mostly because I had my social security card in it. Yeah, I left that detail out yesterday, because, dude, how stupid was that of me to have my social security card in my wallet? Pretty damn stupid. So I'm very glad to have it back, and I'm hoping the thief didn't even see it since it doesn't look like it was unfolded or tampered with.

If I had to lose my wallet in China, I'm glad it happened this week and not next week. At least now I have time to get my new credit cards and ATM card shipped to me because they take about a week I think...and I'm going on a month vacation to South East Asia on the 16th! WOOHOO! So far on the very rough itinerary are: Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

Trust me, this vacation is very much deserved. I have a whole new appreciation for every teacher I've ever had after teaching a semester of high school kids.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

what a loser

Generally I'm a very organized person. Occasionally my closet can get a bit messy with my clothes sitting in a pile on the bottom (sometimes I'm too lazy to hang them up), but for the most part I'm tidy and neat, with everything thing in its place and a place for everything.

I even have a little coat hanger thing stuck to my wall for me to hang up my keys as soon as I get into my room. I really like maintaining order in my life and have a strict daily routine.

Which is why I'm so shocked I lost my wallet. I remember exactly the last time I had it out. I was paying for the cab ride back to school and the driver acted like he wasn't going to take my subway card (you can pay for cabs with the same card as you use on the subway), so I got out my wallet to pay him in cash but then he grabbed the card from me and just used that as payment.

That's where my memory gets fuzzy.

Obviously I didn't put the wallet back in my purse, but what did I do with it? Did I set it on the seat of the cab? Did I drop it on the street as I left? Did I carry it with me to the dorms where it fell along the way?

I guess none of those questions really matter since the thing is gone. I've never lost a wallet before and it definitely SUCKS. Surprisingly, I didn't cry. I've turned into such a hard ass here in China. I just called my credit card companies and reported the cards lost and they're sending me new ones. I had maybe 120RMB in there, so that's not much of a loss. I'm going to miss my CA driver's license, mostly because the picture on it is so old and funny (I was 15 1/2 and had a pixie hair cut).

Friday was my birthday and I stayed out until 5 in the morning, came home slept for two hours and then went shopping all day with Romy and some other friends. I was pretty exhausted and also drunk/hungover the entire day, so if I was going to lose my wallet some time, it makes sense that it would have been last night when I was a total zombie.

Well, now I have a legitimate excuse to buy a cute new fake designer wallet. I guess that's the silver lining to all of this.