Monday, October 29, 2007

Yearning for some Cambodian food

I love when I take pictures of food because it reminds me of why I like it so much. I'm really missing rice at the moment.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My first visit to the South: Birmingham, Alabama

(more pictures coming soon, I promise!)

These are some of the things that I noticed in contrast to California:

  • There are lots of green trees. Everything feels like you're in the middle of the woods. The irony is that the South is in the middle of a serious drought.

  • The streets do a lot of winding around like you're continually driving through residential areas.

  • The streets mainly don't have sidewalks or curbs and the houses have open front yards without fences.

  • The shopping areas are very inconspicuous. Suddenly they appear from out of nowhere and blend in nicely.

  • Southern hospitality is hit and miss. Some folks have warm charm and others were downright unpleasant. That accent is certainly addictive.

My schedule of activities

Tuesday night: I managed to get through security without my ID. You see, I had taken out my driver's license a couple of days earlier and it was left in the pocket of the jacket I was wearing. My only inconvenience was being put through the cattle shute, being patted down and having my bags thoroughly searched. Other than that, I was surprisingly allowed to fly. Who knew? I arrived just in time for a few minutes of sitting before it was time to board the plane and depart LAX for Detroit on a red-eye flight.

Wednesday morning: spend 3 or so hours in Detroit airport before the 2-hour flight to Birmingham. Picked up by Nick (with very long hair by now) on my arrival. Relax with the family.

Wednesday evening: dinner at Chick-Fil-A (a real one!) with MeiMei, where she reportedly eats at least once a week. I got the 8-piece chicken nugget meal with coleslaw and a 1/2 & 1/2 of sweet tea and unsweet tea. Then it was off to the Church of the Highlands for the mid-week service. Wow! Very awesome pastor.

Thursday morning: I spent the morning in MeiMei's 4th grade class at Hall-Kent Elementary in the Homewood district. I talked for 1 hour about Cambodia showing them some pictures and answering lots of really insightful questions.

Thursday evening: Dinner was at Jim 'n Nicks BBQ. The waitress didn't know how to respond to my question, "How are the collard greens prepared?" Hear the rest of the story on my other blog, Kitchen Surprises, to see how she answers. After dinner, CanCan and I enjoyed an evening of spa treatments and chocolate courtesy of the women's group at Valleydale Baptist. We enjoyed hand treatments, manicures and making our own bath salts and sugar body scrub. The chocolate mocha "punch" was so yummy. Too bad I ate so much at dinner.

Friday morning: Today was our tourist attraction day. First was the Vulcan. And, no, it's not a park dedicated to Star Trek. Think Roman god, ore mines, and steel processing. JoJo, CanCan's boy did really well despite everything being over his head. Our lunch was at Surrin West, a Thai restaurant in downtown Birmingham. Very good Thai food for being outside of Thailand.

Friday afternoon: After lunch we headed over to the Black Business District to visit the Civil Rights Institute. This was an incredible museum dedicated to the Civil Rights movement. There were some very powerful displays. Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech always brings tears to my eyes. When JoJo was showing signs of exhaustion, it was time to go. However, I wandered into the park across the street to take some pictures of the sculptures. Upon viewing one in particular, one of the park dwellers walked past with his bike and casually threw over his shoulder, "You know why that one's upside down?" Of course, I bit, and I was immersed in a personal tour of the park and enlightened on other happenings of the Civil Rights movement from an insider's perspective. I should have known it would have ended with a request for a donation. I offered a hot meal or purchase of his prescription but was declined. Cash was preferred. Sorry, but I don't give cash. We parted with a blessing and a handshake. Thanks Juan for your life and stories!

Friday evening: Meeting back up with MeiMei, we all went out to dinner at Dale's, a supposed traditional Southern restaurant. It was hard wrangling JoJo and getting him to be quiet tonight. I ordered the fried catfish, fried okra and squash casserole. Later we wandered into a bread company called Panera's to look for some breakfast options for the next morning. This followed with checking out a local independent bookstore. Finally, we walked over to the Publix supermarket so's I could buy some Southern food items to take home as souvenirs. I came out with pickled okra and Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning (It goes on everything!) Then it was bye-bye to the Brooms and overnight at MeiMei's soon-to-be old apartment.

Saturday morning: I enjoyed my mochaccino bagel from Panera's and a cup of tea while hanging out until it was time to go to the airport. My flight left at 11:20. We left the house at 9:30. The first flight was to Memphis where I had a 2-hour layover before the 4-hour flight to LAX.

Saturday evening: A long 5-hour way lay ahead of me at LAX before the Coast Flyer bus would pick me up at 9:45pm. I read and read and read some more. Finally I broke down and got a soy Chai latte at the Starbucks in the international arrivals area where I was sitting. When the bus did come, I was the only passenger for the entire ride back to Pismo Beach. Lucky me. Unfortunately the only TV channel was a canned CNN-like news broadcast. Boring! I dosed off and on 'til my 1:00am arrival.

The Rav4 was waiting for me and I drove myself home. Upon arrival, mom was still up. She could have picked me up after all. I was bushed and after a short overview of the week's activities, went up to bed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Married and a boyfriend: A story seen on Oprah

A Muslim couple on Petaling Walking Street, Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

OK, for some this might be very disturbing. But it is a story that really got me to thinking a lot about how the world and individuals define love and relationships. I saw an episode on Oprah in which she was talking about sex among other things. She had a fairly young (and normal-looking) couple from California near the end to talk about a unique style of relationship that they have.

The story goes that they've been married for about 10 years and have children. One day on a long drive they started talking about redifining their relationship and the possibility of adding more people into the marriage. As it is, this marriage was the first partner the woman had and she was feeling like she wanted to have additional "experiences".

The result was that she now has a boyfriend whom she regularly sees, in addition to maintaining her relationship with her husband and children. The boyfriend is a friend of the both she and her husband and comes over to the house. When they want to "play around", they use the guest bedroom. Currently, the husband does not have an additional girlfriend.

When describing why she chose to have a boyfriend in addition to a husband, she makes the claim that she wanted to experience additional sexual partners in a "safe" environment. Not only that, but she felt that she has a love for this boyfriend that is different than for her husband but not more or less. It was obvious that all of their friends seemed to get along and accept the relationship.

This is a mind blower. I didn't quite know what to think when I saw it, and still don't. I have been wanting to write this blog about it for a long time. There doesn't seem to be any lack of love in her marriage. And obviously she is still involved in her family and with her children. It is just wild to think that spouses would discuss openly and actively pursue additional boyfriends and girlfriends.

Part of me thinks that if your marriage is secure, you have talked it over and the new partner is a friend, then go for it. Why not try to spice up your love life if you feel that you have more than enough love to share with others? I can understand wanting to have two guys who are very different but each have different traits that are desirable and ways of fulfilling a person in which one alone cannot.

The other part of me (that Christian conservative background) wants to scream and stomp and say STOP. What about the children? How do you explain to your kids that mommy and daddy have special friends that sleep over in another bedroom with either mommy or daddy? What about the emotional ties that will eventually have to be severed? It's just complicated.

So, if anyone reads this blog, I'd love to have an open conversation about this topic. Share your thoughts on this style of relationship. Do you agree with it? Could you see yourself having this same type of arrangement?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Garage Sale Day

After weeks of pulling out things from my mother's closets and piling it in the living room and many postponed days for the sale, it finally happened.

There was so much stuff and it was tiring to pull it all out and set it up. The bad news is that we only made $176 dollars. It would have been nice to earn more. We arranged for a thrift shop to come an pick up the stuff we didn't want to keep around. That was great!

Next month we'll sell again but include Christmas items, Tupperware and even some homemade gift baskets.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

As if time never passed

An old Mazda RX-7 in too good of condition
I called up a long-time friend last night. I had been intending to do since I got back to the states in August. I figured since I was staying at his parents' house taking care of their animals, it was a good enough excuse to finally call.

All I had to do was say, "Hi, it's Nikki..." and the rest was as if time had never passed. It's amazing how really good friends can pick up where they left off without skipping a beat. Of course, a good portion of the start of the conversation was the quick up-to-speed refresher of what he, the wife and kids are doing now.

Then it was on to cars and work stuff. I can never get enough of the mechanic-speak. It's a habit of being explained things by my father as if I would have understood.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Things I don't miss

Boat Races at Siem Reap Water Festival originally uploaded by Nikki

These are some of the things I don't miss about Cambodia:

-tissues instead of napkins at restaurants
-disorganized and chaotic traffic
-noisy neighbors
-being called after "Hey lady! Wanna buy pos'card?"
-being seen as a dollar sign ($)
-trash heaps in the street and along the side of the roads
-unpaved, pothole-filled roads

Party at Prey Daek originally uploaded by Nikki

However, here are some of the things I do miss, and think fondly of:

-seeing my sweetheart and hearing his voice everyday
-Saturday morning breakfasts with Carol
-cheap food
-Cambodian food (particulary the samlor m'joo greun and trey broma)
-the pork chops, coconut rice with fried fish, pita with hummus dip and BLT at What Bo Cafe
-riding my bicycle at breakneck speeds
-buying my food really fresh at the Old Market
-my students who adore me
-the heat