Sunday, November 23, 2008

"I'm Yours"

Last night's service was called "Missing the Point of Work."

Here are the main points:
  1. Work should be done with GRATITUDE. (Ecclesiastes 5:18b-19) Wealth is what is accumulated, not a measure of who we are. This has been God's intent from the beginning. Your attitude affects your "fragrance." (2 Corinthians 2:14)
  2. Work should be done with DILIGENCE. (Proverbs 10:4; 12:24; 22:29a) Work hard, work smart & work healthy. (Proverbs 6:6-9) Remember these points about ants: 1) initiative; 2) planning-are you proactive or reactive?; 3) timing; 4) persistence; and 5) longevity-how long before you wear out?
  3. Work should be done with EXCELLENCE. (Ephesians 6:5-6, where slaves = employees, masters = employers) Work with motivation to be faithful and having integrity. Be an honest worker. Follow the "2nd Mile Principle" (Matthew 5:40-41, 44, 46).
  4. Work should be done as MINISTRY. (Colossians 3:17) Your occupation is WHAT you do. Your job is WHERE you do it. Your vocation is WHY you do it (as a minister of Christ). We all have different ways to operate, but the same function: to be ministers of Christ.

The evening ended with a song written by our worship minister, though he was not there. Tears found their way streaming down my cheeks because its message matches how I feel about my life.

I'm Yours by Kevin Ross

You, O Lord created me and passioned me

You, o Lord have blessed me with ability

So what else can I do

But give myself to you

And let my life display your woner

Everything I am is according to Your plan

I'm created to praise You

Everything I have is Yours

I wanna live my life for Your glory

I'm giving You my life, my dreams

I'm Yours

Everything I hope to be

Is under Your authority

There's nowhere else I want to be, I'm Yours

You, O Lord laid down your life as a sacrifice

You, O Lord have rescued me and set me free

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fun Contest Giveaways!

Mojave Tui from EcoGear

I try to regularly check in on my friend living in Laos who runs a regular blog called Mom Most Traveled full of eco-friendly and kid-friendly product reviews. She brings a fresh face to "mom-test, kid-approved."

She's got this great one for EcoGear which sells fun and eco-friendly backpacks that are super well made and comfortable to wear. I really want to get the Pig backpack from the Ecozoo line because it will be great advertisement for the Siem Reap Pig Project. The other backpacks just look really cool, and I could always use a new one since my North Fake from China has got a hole from where a rat chewed into it back in 2004.

The post for the EcoGear stuff is found here on Mom Most Traveled.
NEWS FLASH!!! I just found out that Just We Moms is having a contest to win this very same Pig Pack! Yippee!
I hope I win.
I hope I win.
I hope I win.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Get out and vote woman!

This was forwarded to me, and though I don't usually forward forwards, I did send this one along (after cleaning it up a bit) to some of my favorite femail addresses.

While I know that women had to fight for the right to vote, I don't ever remember hearing about specifics of what that fight entailed. After reading this I'm reminded that it is not only a privledge and a right to vote and that by exercising that right we honor the memory of these feisty, couragous and strong women. So no matter your political affiliation by all means GO VOTE!!!

A message for all women

This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.
Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.
The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead.

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.
For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was ---- with herself. 'One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.' The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.
The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'
Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know.

We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote.

History is being made.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oh the trauma!

Daisy, pre-attack, with one of her favorite toys.

This post is dedicated to my mom's dog, Daisy. She survived a horrific and traumatic dog on dog attack by a humongous Mastiff while we were walking on the beach Saturday morning.

It started as a normal Saturday morning where my friend met me and we took Daisy to the beach to walk. We started at the Grand Avenue beach ramp in Grover Beach and walked towards the Oceano beach ramp.

As we neared the Oceano ramp we both noticed a large dog on a very long lead which had spotted Daisy. The owner was fishing behind his jeep. As we came closer he stopped fishing and dragged his dog to the side of the jeep so that we could pass. Sadly, we were joking about how the dog kept "peeking" out from under the jeep to get one more look at Daisy.

At this point I had the choice of walking betweent he fishing pole (stuck in the sand) and the back of the jeep (approximately 10 feet wide), or going on the other side of the pole which was the ocean side where the waves could potentially break and get us wet.

I unfortunately chose the former.

What can only be described as an out of body experience was the sudden rush of the giant dog towards us. I attempted to flee to no avail. Daisy was in its grasp immediately as it clamped down and started to shake her violently. The owner rushed to his dog to begin pummeling it to get it to release Daisy. All I could do was stand there screaming, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" over and over again.

By a miracle the dog released and Daisy bolted. She ran and ran and ran as far away as she could get from that horrific scene. I was frozen. Thankfully my friend ran off after her (little did I know how far she would have to run until later). I stayed to call 911 and get someone out to the beach to respond to this attack.

The man was apologetic and claimed that he was an animal lover. He said he would take care of this situation and didn't want me freaking out. Too late for that buddy!

I was eventually forwarded to the Park Rangers who sent out two rangers in response. I gave my information and details of the incident. Of course I couldn't say how badly Daisy was injured since she had run off and was not captured yet. Meanwhile, the giant dog was sitting in his owner's jeep with gobs of drool spilling out.

A young woman approached me to say that they had Daisy in their car and someone knew a vet somewhere. At this point the ranger told me I could go take care of Daisy. All I could think was how hard the call to my mom would be. Thankfully I had my mobile phone with me.

My friend was sitting in this Good Samaritan's front seat holding Daisy in a bloody sheet. Daisy seemed calm but it was clear that she was hurt. The ranger came up and took a couple of pictures and we took off to the Pet ER.

Now, we didn't go to Daisy's regular vet because when I called them, the receptionist told me that there were other clients there and the soonest we could get in was 11:45am. It was about 10:15am at this point when I called. What!?! Even though I explained that this was a dog attack and an emergency, the woman had nothing else to offer. We're going to the ER.

The ER took Daisy in and cleaned her up. She was put on IV fluids and pain medication. My mom showed up and we waited for the update. In the meantime the attacking dog's owner arrived. He paid for the ER deposit (50% of the estimated bill of over $1,000); and promised to cover all of the costs for Daisy's recovery.

This was truly and amazing thing! The Pet ER staff was thoroughly impressed and shocked as they regularly see animals victims of dog attacks where the owners of the attackers do nothing.

We were able to pick Daisy up later that evening. The man returned and took care of the balance of the ER bill. He was truly sorry that this happened and was doing the right thing.

The unsettling thing to me, however, was that his dog was not taken from him. In fact, he made a comment to us in the Pet ER that "No one could take his dog from him unless it was out of his cold, dead hands." The other thing that he had said earlier is that even though his dog had never attacked another dog, it did show aggression to other dogs, small dogs in particular. Very chilling. I just hope that he never brings his dog to the beach again!

This event was even more traumatic to me considering Daisy is my mom's dog AND this is the weekend I am supposed to be working on one of my midterms for the Public Policy Program.

So, PLEASE, if any dog owners read this and think that their dog is good enough to roam freely in a public space, THINK AGAIN! Keep your dog on a leash at all times in public areas. And if your dog is difficult (and you know what I mean), LEAVE IT AT HOME!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Week 5: Grad school update

I'm at the start of week 5 in grad school and this means midterms. Actually they're next week, but I still have to get my notes together and make sure I understand everything (which I don't).

I'm feeling better about my classes, but that may change once I'm in class tonight. I know that last week was an emotionaly draining one for me when it comes to public policy. I was so frustrated by my lack of comprehension of economic and market issues, especially since I need to have a grasp of it for what I would like to be doing.

I have reminded myself that I don't have to be the best, but just passing will suit me fine at this point.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Polo is for dummies!

I've been playing this new game of polo for a couple of months now. And a couple of weekends ago the match was played in my hometown again. Either I wasn't in the right frame of mind for playing, or the game just became less interesting, because afterwards I felt a bit disappointed. It just wasn't as exciting as I had remembered from previous games.

Part of the let down was that a particular strategy that I prefer not to engage in was attempted. The irritating thing is that this was the second time that I had to warn the other player and stop the game midway. There are just certain game plays that I don't like even if the overall game is enjoyable.

The game went on way too long, and rather than staying to finish it, I left early. I returned the next day to play in the 2nd match, but the interest level and excitement were much too diminished. In fact, the day's playing was preceeded by a lengthy discussion about different strategies by other players from other games. The opinion was that I would achieve greater satisfaction by utilizing and accepting more game strategies, and that somehow by not employing these strategies my life experiences would be diminished.

Um, I have traveled the world as well as lived abroad for long periods of time. How would not utilizing certain game strategies diminish my overall life experience? This is what I was dealing with that left me so disappointed. As it was the 2nd match was only half-hearted and listless.

Lesson learned: pick your players well and choose game time wisely. Too many matches reduce the excitement of overall game play.

Economics for Dummies

I have just finished my 4th week and I'm feeling totally overwhelmed. All this reading about markets and economics is making my head spin. The frustrating thing (well there's more than just one) is that for what I want to do I need to know all that stuff, but I just can't seem to grasp it.

I need the Cliff Notes for Economics, or Econ for Dummies, because it's just not gettin' into the noggin.

Now I'm also trying to develop my research question and topic for 2 classes. The topic and literature can be the same, but I have to write different information for each one.

At this point I feel like bailing out of the program. However, I know I can hang in there and manage. I think what gets me in such a bind is my high expectations of myself to always do well. I don't like the idea of scoring less than A work. In this case, I will settle for average.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A little camping trip

After the stress of starting classes I decided I needed to get away by myself. Camping would be just the cure. I found a spot and made my reservations. I needed to get away and just relax. The sound of the ocean waves soothed me to sleep. The weather couldn't be more perfect as it's sunny but not too hot. I will come home refreshed.

My first week as a grad student

I think I will like grad school, despite the voluminous reading lists. I'm not certain how it will pan out with my cohorts: I am trying to be friendly and seem interested. After all, these are the people I'm going to be spending the next 2 years with.

My first class on Monday was International Business. It was filled with a bunch of what seemed like undergrads: little tykes to me. I really like the professor, and it seemed like a straightforward course with mostly textbook reading and quizzes.

After attending my POLS class that evening I decided to drop the business class. There would just be too much reading. Plus, I need to give myself a chance to get used to grad school.
Unexpectedly the Monday night POLS 515 class turned out to last only 1 1/2 hours, what should have been 4 hours. It's now going to be 3 hours. Yeah!

Tuesday night's class was quite nice, too. It was POLS 510 with the program director. We had an icebreaker where we had to ask yes/no questions to figure out the identity placed on our backs. I guessed mine within 3-4 questions: I was Sarah Palin. This class will also have a lot of reading, discussion and writing.

I hope I'm ready.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not a freshman, but a cohort

Friday was the orientation to the Master in Public Policy graduate program at Cal Poly. Of the 18 people who are in my cohort (part of the new graduate vocabulary I will begin using), there were 12 who showed up to the 1/2 hour meeting plus "reception" afterwards.

There is quite a variety of interests by my fellow cohorts, and it looks like the males outnumber the females, too! I feel like the only one who has a clear direction, but that could also be because I am one of the few who have been graduated for more than a year. Many are recent bachelor's degree recipients. A few of us are locals (meaning from San Luis Obispo county and hold bachelor degrees from Cal Poly already), but most are from out of the area.

Our "reception" was a little funky at first because it was really just us and a few professors from the department. So, we had to mingle and force interest in each other since we were encouraged by the director to form social relationships with each other early on. I found one or two people interested in talking. Some just didn't seem like they cared to get to know anyone. I even met a man who worked with my dad at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. We shared some fun stories, and I even found out that he was the Easter Bunny at the PG&E Easter Egg Hunt when I was just a wee one. That'll be an interesting friendship.

Eventually after asking around I found out that some of the folks would be going out afterwards. Heck, I wanted to get a jump on the social development aspect of our program since I know I'm usually lacking in that department. Spike's was the place, the pub down on South Higuera Street. I'd actually never been there before but was game.

Turned out I was the first one there. I hate that. So I went to Ladies room to kill some time. In the end there were 9 of us, 6 being part of this year's cohort, and 2 from last year's cohort (aka 2nd years). The remaining individual, in case you thought my math had suddenly gone fuzzy, was the husband of a 2nd year cohort, so take that!

We ordered beers: some of us ordered food. I got a Stella and fish n chips. I don't really know my drinks. I tried asking if anyone had ever had wheat beer with orange (it was recommended by my Polo player). The guy from Berkeley who went to school at Monterey State then ended up in Massachusetts said that it wasn't that great as traditionally citrus was added to wheat beer because it had gone bad and the flavor was supposed to mask that off-putting rottenness. Whatever. He spent his time with the owner of a bike shop, not with us.

So, the night was not a late one. It was pretty pathetic to think that we left at about 9pm. I guess the younger crowd will be more interested in beer nights at the local watering holes as they made sure that they got the run down of the bars in downtown SLO. Yippee! Just what I'm looking forward to.

I think we are all chomping at the bit to get started. Monday's the big day! It will feel strange to be a student again. Although I do look forward to the part where I get to study and learn new ideas.

Polo anyone?

For the past month I have been enjoying a sort of new game called Polo (no connection to the one where you must mount a horse, or elephant, and swing a really long mallet).

This game of Polo involves a telephone, and occasional face to face contact. Currently, I leave messages and then wait to be called back. While other times the calls are initiated by the other player. I was slightly chastised int he past for making the other player do all the calling, so now I must make a call every so often to demonstrate that I can play fairly, too.

Ideally this game should involve some travel as well. Each side must take turns to visit the other's hometown. I am currently waiting for a return visit. Until then, phone calls must suffice to update each player on current status: well-being, education, work, etc. With tricky school and work schedules neither of us can do much traveling at the moment.

My most recent call was on Saturday. It was nice to hear a happy sound compared to the previous call full of meloncholy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just another day

Have I ever mentioned that I love Pirate's Booty? It is one of those things that I got hooked on from Trader Joe's, although they no longer sell it under that name anymore. I am addicted to this white cheddar taste of the rice and corn puffs. Simply irresistable!

I've been away for awhile because I was traveling. Nothing fantastic like going to Cambodia or anything. I visited family. Before you begin groaning "ugh", I actually enjoy visiting these family members and spending time with them. Maybe it's because I am older now and can actually participate in the lively conversations as a near-equal.

Here's the run down:

August 30-September 3: Eureka.
We stayed at my uncle's house (my mom's youngest brother), along with my other uncle and his wife, and my cousin and her husband. All bedrooms were taken so I got the lovely sofabed in the living room with the parrot. Actually, it was a comfortable sofabed, so I'm not really complaining.

The highlight of the trip was our exciting tug ride out to meet a pulp ship and bring it into the harbor. I nearly lost my cookies on the 8-foot rolling swells on the way out to the ship. Thankfully the immense size of the ship calmed the seas and brought shade so this poor puppy could return to a natural glow and not a sweaty green. I did not fear the experience because I trusted my uncle's skills to navigate safely through the churning seas. It also didn't help that the cabin was packed with 10 people (my uncle, his 3 deckhands, the 2 pilots, and 4 passengers), and sealed to avoid water spraying inside. It was definitely a ride I won't forget soon.

September 3-4: Lake California, Cottonwood.
This is home to my mom's cousin (whom I usually refer to as an uncle since he's the same age as my uncle). We drove from 65-degree temperatures into 100+ temps over here. It was quite a contrast, and his house wasn't all that much cooler. We enjoyed our evening of catching up and even ventured into "town" for dinner since he wasn't feeling creative enough to plan dinner at the house. Now, usually he does all the cooking, but just couldn't get it together for us. Breakfast was at the same eatery the next morning. This place serves tons of food, and we all left there stuffed. I had a great BBQ chicken salad the night before. In the morning I went with an omelette with sausage, peppers, onions and potatoes. Yum!

September 4-5: Elk Grove, Sacramento.
Remaining in the heat we drove on to the sisters' house (formerly known as Aunt Betty's house). These are the sisters of the cousin just visited. They are part of the Kingdom family. It was a pleasure to visit with them. We even went on a little excursion to the Borders book store where I found some fantastic California postcards to use on Swap-Bot. They made their traditional cold dinner of sandwiches, potato salad and fruit. It's fun to build your own sandwiches every now and again. Again, I got the sofabed, but I really didn't mind. Breakfast was a quiche-like thing with more fruit. Then it was off to our final destination.

September 5-7: Madera.
It's still hot, but my aunt's house is much cooler. They have a new kitten who appeared in their garage soaking wet. The three cats that they already have are in the midst of a peeing war, so a new kitten can't help things. Never turn your back on their cats as you never know when they will pee in your shoes or bag. Our excursion upon arrival was Costco to pick up items for the weekend meals. We had BBQ chicken that first night which was really delicious. The next night would be roast as my cousins were coming over.

Riding in a car that my aunt is driving is a stressful experience. I don't think she's used to power steering or power brakes because you spend the entire time jerking back and forth within the lanes, or sliding forward in your seat after the breaks are slammed.

On Saturday, we were to meet my cousins at my grandmother's house to go through some of the furniture so we could decide what we'd be able to take. Everything had to be checked in case it was something my cousins wanted for themselves. If they didn't want it then we got the go ahead. The main purpose was to look at my grandmother's bedroom furniture to see what kind of moving truck we'd need to bring it back home. I was hoping we could take it that weekend but the cost of renting the trucks was way too high (like $300).

One cool thing is that I managed to get one of the baby blankets that my grandmother crocheted. My cousin had taken all the ones that were in my aunt's store when she got sick and intended on keeping them all for herself. I spoke up to kindly request at least one for myself and she handed over a yellow one. My cousin's wife is due with her first baby in December and he is chomping at the bit for the second baby.

By the time we arrived on the Central Coast on Sunday afternoon, the temperature had gone from an extreme of 108 through the central valley to Paso Robles, all the way down to 68 in Arroyo Grande. It's amazing what living next to the ocean can do to the temperature.

Now I have one more week before classes start. I've applied for a job and am in the hiring process (or so I think). It's nothing glamorous, but it is work.

I celebrated another birthday on September 12. Nothing exciting. I went to McLintock's in the Village with my mom. We saw a Herlihy and another old friend who also joined in on the birthday song for my ice cream sundae. The next day we went to see Burn After Reading. My friend, who I had been walking on the beach with, also joined us. It was great to catch up with her since the past month she's been working mad hours. We agreed to start walking weekend mornings again starting with Sunday.

Sunday also saw me going to the movies again with my mom. This time it was her pick, Righteous Kill. I felt the end was predictable half-way through the movie. We followed that with a drive out to Gopher Glen for some fresh apples. Oh, how I love this season!

Now I've got to go to San Luis for some errands and to complete my drug test for the potential new job.

Friday, August 29, 2008

24 Hours

I took a 24-hour trip the other day. Only myself and one other person knew about my destination. I did not know what to expect upon arrival, as one should always travel without expectations.

I won't call it a one-night stand because it wasn't. But I recall hearing someone on the radio say that nothing good happens after 10:30 at night. There was some good and some surprises.

We were on foot the entire time. I like to be able to be in a place where you can walk to your destination. My partner was hungry, having only eaten a bowl of cereal all day since getting up at 3am for work. We headed to the beach to find some nourishment of the edible kind and settled on a falafel place. Ordering our schwarmas and drinks, we sat a table to wait for the food to come. I don't eat a lot of Middle Eastern food, but do appreciate how delicious it is, and this hit the spot.

We continued on, strolling along the sidewalk above the sand. There really wasn't much to do but walk, so it was suggested we go to the cinema to see a film. By the time we arrived at the theatre it was 8:00 and all of the shows were already in progress with the next showing starting at about 10:00. That's not too late. After all, I'm on vacation and tomorrow is his day off. Where to wait for 2 hours. A cafe!

There's a great place with a really relaxed atmosphere, but on the way I was distracted by another sign. Oh, I've never eaten there before but always wanted to. It always sounded so delectable. We ordered hot chocolates, mine bittersweet, his milk with whipped creme. It was like drinking chocolate soup. Yummy!

Now it was time for the show: Tropic Thunder. Despite all the rally cries against it in order to preserve our pc behaviour, I still enjoyed it. Sure, it had its distasteful moments, yet it was intended to throw our haughty consciences in our face. Besides, who doesn't like watching Tom Cruise shake his thing to Low Rida!

The movie ended. We walked back to the motel. Then it was morning. Checkout time. We still had five more hours. Too late for breakfast so lunch was Indian buffet. [insert Indian word for delicious here].

More walking. Downtown. Cafe. Iced Tea. Newspaper. Talking. Pigeons making out (seriously). Walking. Another cafe. More newspapers. Less talking. A white mocha and a chai latte. Waiting. Then I was gone.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A secret weekend

I entertained a secret visitor this past weekend. I had been out of contact with this person for awhile and wasn't sure if I should re-connect or not. The last time I had spoken with them I didn't really end the conversation in a positive manner. However, curiosity outweighed propriety and so the invitation was extended. Surprisingly enough it was accepted. Hence the weekend would come to fruition after all.

Initially there was nowhere to put this person as I wasn't ready to share the news with my mother. All I could hope for was a pet sitting job where I needed to stay at the house, thus avoiding any parental issues. The person was supposed to be arriving on Saturday afternoon. On Tuesday I received a call from a new client requesting my services for the weekend. Such perfect timing!

The house was perfect. It was a really cute small house in a very nice neighborhood. The two weiner dogs were very sweet and adorable. If I were to have a house of my own, that is what I would like it to look like.

Saturday, I picked up my special guest just after 1:00pm. I had it all planned out. Walk around Downtown San Luis Obispo to find a place for lunch. We ended up eating at Mo's Smokehouse BBQ. Yummy! Two pulled pork sandwiches, homemade potato chips and two local draughts of Firestone Ale. Delicious. The lunchtime conversation was amiable and very frank at points. Bring it on!

We continued walking before heading back on the road to hit Avila Beaches to check it out. We went out to Port San Luis pier to walk out on it and back before continuing south to Pismo Beach. I got back on Highway 1o1 because I love the drive up out of Avila because just as you come up the hill you have the first view of the Pacific Ocean after having driven inland for quite a long time. We took the first exit for Shell Beach to look at the views from the cliffs.

I drove along the frontage road into Pismo Beach to cruise downtown. I wasn't going to stop because I didn't want to pay for parking. Plus I wanted to continue down to Grover Beach to actually stick our feet in the sand and walk down to the Pismo pier. That was what I really wanted to do. It was a lovely day with the sun out and clear sunny skies. We came back to Grover and ended up having some Margaritas at Fin's Seafood Restaurant. It was great because there was live music and the sun was on its way down.

The plan for that night was to see the evening performance at the Great American Melodrama: "Showdown at the Slick Rock Ranch". Before the show we needed to head back to the house to rest a little and so I could take care of the dogs. They needed their dinner and a trip outside.

I love going to the Melodrama because it's such an intimate atmosphere with a small crowd and live acting. There always crowd involvement through sing-alongs and birthday and anniversary cheers. We got there just in time to pay for the tickets and order some grub before the house lights dimmed. Showtime! With two intermissions and then the final Vaudeville, the performance ended at about 11:00pm. My guest was very pleased by the evenings entertainment and vowed to return for another performance in the future. Now I would heartily welcome that.

That evening was filled with some TV viewing of the Olympics, sipping of a nice red wine I bought (and spilled!), with a bit of late night fun thrown in. I think bedtime was somewhere in the 2:30am range. Tomorrow (oh wait, that would be today!) would be the last day.

It started bright and early for me: much earlier than I really wanted. I think the dogs got me up so they could be let out. As a result I spent the rest of the day sleepy. After some morning coffee and my homemade banana bread we eventually headed out to breakfast at F. McLintock's in the Village of Arroyo Grande. I got the oatmeal and then my partner ordered eggs and bacon with another cup of coffee. How original. From breakfast we headed straight to church for the 11am service. The topic of the message was greed.

After church it was back to the house to do the final packing and resting before heading out again. I wouldn't return to the house since the owners were returning that afternoon. Now we headed back to the beach for some more strolling. This time I went down to the Oceano offramp. It wasn't as nice down there as there were lots of trucks and RVs heading back home. Not only that but it was windy. Now we were hungry for lunch and seafood was craved. We returned to Fin's for fish and chips with Corona beers.

I don't think I had ever had so much alcohol since my days in Denmark. Not that it was really all that much, but for me it was a lot, plus I was doing all the driving. Total for me since Friday afternoon: 1 pint of beer, 1 Margarita on the rocks, 3 glasses of red wine, and 1 Corona.

The final attraction before the visit ended was a drive out to the Gopher Glen apple farm. I love apples this time of year and will probably eat one a day until the apple season ends in November. See Canyon apples are the best I've ever had. I bought some Galas that are a nice sweet and crunch apple, and also bought some Elstars, which are more tart, as a gift for my mom. The actual last stop before departure was to Food 4 Less to buy a bottle of the wine we drank at the house: Peachy Canyon's Incredible Red.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The single-word answer challenge

The rules say you can only type one word.

1. Where is your cell phone? pocket
2. Your significant other? Da
3. Your hair? flipped
4. Your Skin? warm
5. Your mother? stagnant
6. Your favorite thing? driving
7. Your dream last night? odd
8. Your favorite drink? rootbeer
9. Your dream/goal? satisfaction
10. The room you're in? office
11. Your ex? Venezolano
12. Your fear? temptation
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Cambodia
14. Where were you last night? guestroom
15. What you're not? mean
16. Muffins? chocolate
17. One of your wish list items? job
18. Where you grew up? California
19. The last thing you did? scanned
20. What are you wearing? pearls
21. Your TV? Olympics
22. Your pet(S)? dog
23. Your computer? outdated
24. Your life? progressing
25. Your mood? anticipation
26. Missing someone? naturally
27. Your car? Rav4
28. Something you're not wearing? watch
29. Favorite Store? grocery
30. Your summer? quiet
31. Like someone? madly
32. Your favorite color? blue
33. When is the last time you laughed? today
34. Last time you cried? recently
35. Who will/would re-post this? Can-Can

Tag! You're it! I now challenge you, the reader, to create your own list of single-word answers to the above questions. Comment with a link when you do!

Friday, August 08, 2008

All fired up!

How would you like to start your morning being called by some strange trucker who demeans you for parking within two feet of his tow hitch, insisting that anyone with a 2nd grade level of education would know not to park next to it.

Well, exuuuuuse me, sir, for not being aware of the international truckers rules of parking next to a truck etiquette and right of way. No, it's not because I am lacking a complete elementary education. It's because I do not drive trucks, and because there were no signs or flares or even a driver to wave me away from the tow hitch. I was parking in the spot that I park in regularly every day, the same lot where the EMPLOYEES who actually work here park every day.

I'm so fired up because I offered to move my vehicle at least 3 or 4 times and each time he said no, it wasn't necessary. Well when he got ticked because I wasn't listening to his tyrannical lecture and resorted to playground tauntings and threats of vehicle destruction, I was equally disturbed. Why should I listening to a rude trucker who only wanted to insult me?

When I ended the conversation, I immediately got up and walked out to move my car. It was just that easy. There was absolutely no reason for him to call me just to ridicule me. I hope he gets a flat tire in the desert!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A 10th Anniversary

I started this day unaware that today is the 10th anniversary of my dad's death. I was informed of this by my mom in an email this afternoon. It's not that I don't think of my dad or that I don't miss him, because I do nearly every day. I just don't want it to keep me lagging behind because I'm focussing on the past.

He was an amazingly capable man despite his social inaptitude. Sometimes I think I've inherited his limited social skills and abrasive manners. He was highly intelligent and capable of doing so many different things from plumbing, electronics, construction, car mechanic, and more. I'm thankful I've picked on some of those good traits, such as being capable of doing a lot of handywork and figuring out mechanical type things.

This entry is dedicated to those family members who passed before and after him:

  • James Dennis Biddison - father - b.1946, d.August 7, 1998
  • Eleanore Mack - great aunt - d.1980's?
  • Kirk Buccholtz - cousin - d.May 1990
  • Paul Eugene Groszmann - grandfather - d.December 1990
  • Helen Adelaide Groszmann - grandmother - d.November 1999
  • Elizabeth "Betty" Kingdom - great aunt - d.2005
  • Robert "Bob" Biddison - grandfather - d. July 2005
  • Constance "Connie" Buccholtz - aunt - d. January 2007
  • Woleta "Lee" Biddison - grandmother - d. May 2007
  • Lori Kingdom - aunt (really a cousin) - d. December 2007
  • Judy Groszmann - aunt - d. June 2008

Three (Stuffed) Puppies Need Homes - Right Away!

Three life-sized stuffed puppies are being given away at 5 Minutes for Mom from their A Rocking Horse to Love store. They are brand-new and still in their packaging, but the customer who ordered them was from a large company who was going to be using them in some event that was canceled.

I'd love to adopt these adorable puppies because it would be a great way to promote my Home & Pet Care by Nikki business. I was just thinking of having a stuffed dog that could ride in my car. I could even do a giveaway as a promotion to get my name out there! Not only that, but I love doggies. I used to have a life-sized stuffed dog that I bought from my hard-earned allowance many years ago, but I have no idea when I got rid of it. Of course my mom would say that's the reason why one should never get rid of anything!
Not only that, but the Boston Terrier would make a sweet gift to my uncle who just lost his wife to cancer. They have a real Boston Terrier and this would be lovely gift as a reminder of her.

If you'd like a chance to win these adorable pooches, go to their site and write your own entry.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Too much stuff

I have too much stuff. I need to reduce the number of my possessions so I can be better prepared for intensive studies come September. I cannot continue to live surrounded by so much stuff that just gets moved from one place to the next or simply collects dust until that rare moment when it is picked up and looked at or used.

I hate getting rid of stuff because inevitably the mother hen feels inclined to pick it over and keep half the stuff to store in her "gift" room: the room where gifts are collected yet rarely given. It's always a fight if I refuse to let her take my things. She feels like I'm throwing money away by tossing things out (actually taken to the thrift store) because I've paid for them. Well in that case, nobody should throw anything out because it is therefore wasteful. That's the clutterers psychological rationalization for keeping so many things.

I don't want to rationalize my junk. It's not being used. I don't really need it. I've lived on much less and survived.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


I have encountered a site which I am beginning to love called Postcrossing where you can send and receive postcards all around the world.

So far I've sent postcards to Finland, Germany, Taiwan, the Netherlands and even the USA. I've only received so far from California, so I guess there are more Americans registered than other users, but I look forward to the day I get my first international postcard.

You too can join in on the fun by clicking on the link and setting up your account. You can send out 5 postcards at any one time once you are new, but later once you've sent/received more, then that number goes up.

If you'd like to turn your postcardee into a penpal you simply add your address to the postcard and make the request.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reggae = Torture

Listening to repeated reggae songs played by an office mate is what I think it would be like to experience Chinese water torture. This music is not good office music, especially when it's the same songs played over and over again. Why does the beat have to be the same in every song?

Help! Rescue me from this unfortunate style of uncreative musical genre. They are copycats, too!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The ice cream dilemma

If I like ice cream but know it's bad for me do I simply avoid it altogether, or do I partake of it every once in awhile for occasional pleasure?

You see, I have this ice cream that is really delicious and I enjoy eating it. However, I know that when I eat it, I really shouldn't be and think about the challenge created by tasting it.

On the other hand, it isn't that often because I've vowed to eat only sugar-free or frozen yogurt so it is less unwholesome for me. The only problem is that I frequently think about the real ice cream and wonder about how it would taste. When I did eat the real stuff, it was so delightfully delicious going down.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Handmade Postcards + Quote

On the rare occasion I delve into the realm of arts and crafts to create. This time it was a swap that I hosted on Swap-Bot. I was very excited about making my postcards as I had an old Asia tour magazine that I had pulled pages out of in hopes of turning into something cool.

Here are my creations:

Swap-Bot Postcard
Swap Bot Postcard uploaded by me
Quote: When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you. Lao-Tzu

I just wish that my camera didn't leave a glare.

Swap-Bot Postcard
Swap Bot Postcard themed Thailand uploaded by me

Swap-Bot Postcard
Swap Bot Postcard uploaded by me

Normally I don't have much to do with Buddhas or buddhist images, but I thought these made for great postcards.

Monday, July 21, 2008

UPDATE: Indochina Tour

The Indochina Cultural Heritage Tour has changed dates!

It will no longer take place in September.

The new dates are set for next year: June 15 - 29, 2009.

These are planned to coincide with my summer internship schedule.

Contact me NOW to make your reservations!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Harrassing Phone Calls from RPM

I'm being harrassed by a debt collector and I don't even owe them! Here's what I wrote on Pissed Consumer and Ripoff Report:

I have been called on my cell phone numerous times by this company over the past 3-4 weeks. They are calling for a "Marcos/Marcus" who lives/lived on South Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo.

I do not know this person, nor do I have any relationship with this person. When I ask the company why they are calling, they simply say it's a "personal matter," and ask me if I am his wife. I have asked them why they are calling and what is the nature of their call, but the person gives no further information.

I have asked this company to stop calling this number and to remove my number from their list. It is very clear to me that they are simply calling his old number and that I have been given it since many old cell numbers are recycled. I have only had my number since October 2007.
The number they are calling from is 410-202-0027 and possibly 866-471-9387.

I have definitely been called the following times by someone who said her name was "Rita" from "RPM":
8:28 am, Jul 1, 08
7:37 pm, Jul 8, 08
7:17 pm, Jul 9, 08

There have been messages left for a "Marcos/Marcus" to call back an 866 number with the same following digits as the 410 number. Unfortunately I erased those messages.

I would like these calls to stop. I am tired of being harassed by the employees of this company who cannot take "do not call" for an answer.

Here's a link to that complaint:
RPM debt collection calls
Pissed Consumer - 07-10-2008

At this point, as a consumer, all I can do is report my complaints in as many ways as possible because it is obvious this company doesn't take "no" for an anwer and hires completely impolite employees who seem to be trained in evasiveness and nastiness.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A bubble-blowing day wish

Tepadey Village March 2008
Tepadey Village Children Chasing Bubbles originally uploaded by Nikkster

I wish every day was a bubble-blowing day. It is just so relaxing to dip and blow with a bubble wand.

Best Office Gadget Ever Award

And the winner is....

This particular kind of staple remover is my office best friend.

I received one of these years ago from a business fair as a promo item and have loved it ever since. I even took it to Cambodia with me because those other "claw" removers just don't do the job right.

Recently I've been doing some office work that requires removing lots of staples and started using the claw kind until a fellow office mate provided me a Swingline remover.

Unfortunately it just didn't do the job right either.

So when I happened to be volunteering at a Baby Boomer Expo the other weekend scanning the different books, my eyes glommed onto the prize. It was one of the fantastic "freebie" promo staple removers.

I think the vendor thought I was a little nutso for being so excited over such a small office gadget. He just doesn't realize how magnificent those little tools are when one is dealing with staples.

For me, the promotional staple remover is

the Best Office Gadget Ever!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

15-Day Indochina Cultural Heritage Tour

September 3-17, 2008
Angkor Wat at Night Feb 2008
Angkor Wat at Night originally uploaded by Nikkster
Bangkok - ChiangMai - Luang Prabang - Siem Reap - Phnom Penh

Join me as I lead this tour through some of the spots I love the most. We'll see the sights and shop the markets in Bangkok; hit an elephant trek in Chiang Mai; take a river cruise in Luang Prabang plus explore its historical streets, hitting the tribal night market (I'll finally get to buy more handmade paper lanterns that I left on the bus in Jan '05); visit the amazing Angkor Wat plus hangout with the family at their house for lunch in the village; and finally ending the tour by taking in the vibrant life of the capital in Phnom Penh.

It's priced at a mere $2750 (land only), and that includes your 3-star hotels througout, local tour guides throughout, bus/flight transfers, land transportation and most of your meals. What more could you ask for? (Well, I suppose FREE.)

Reserve your space now!
There's tons of interest in this personalized trip!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Royal Crown Revue - LIVE!!!

I just saw Royal Crown Revue in concert last night for FREE! Yeehaw! I just so happened to be temping at a radio station when the program director commented that he had tickets to RCR but had so many free tickets for other events that there was no time to give these away. I was shocked and when he asked if I was interested, I was so thrilled. The concert was only a few days away.

I took an old high school friend. She had invited me to a concert and so I treated her right back. The concert was held at Downtown Brew (formerly SLO Brew). It wasn't a huge location, but just intimate enough.

The Hydramatics opened the show at around 9pm. They were an excellent all around band: a little swing, a little rockabilly, a little country. . .

But, RCR was truly rockin'! There were real swing dancers mixing it up on the floor. And a few not so talented dancers attempting: the "matador" & the "flip-flop girl". Named for their style of dancing. The matador had some smooth moves but a lot of it look a bit like a poor paso doble. Flip-flop girl was wearing flip-flops with a little black dress and danced as if she had imbibed too much. He was flinging her all over the place and she was either landing on the floor or in the audience. The real swing dancers just danced away.

Overall, an awesome night. Even saw another old high school friend who I took a Spanish class with and we enjoyed humming favorite songs and making fun of New Kids on the Block. Oh, oh, ooohooohoooh. Oh, oh, oohooh. The right stuff!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Travel, Wait, Work, Interview,...

Did I really return from Cambodia on April 7? My first 2 weeks back was spent sitting around waiting for something to happen. I sent out resumes (only one responded last week and it's part-time). I contacted the temp agency. I cooked. I sent out a grad application.

Now I am working (thanks to a job by the temp agency). I have an interview for that part-time job (a driver's training instructor). I met up with my undergraduate advisor re: the grad program and was recommended to do another program (which I was actually thinking about instead). I got a parking ticket for letting the meter run out (I thought it was more important to speak to the dept chair about something than dash off).

I'd like to get a puppy. The current dog is not all that exciting and I think I'd like my own dog. I need to exercise but just don't feel like it (ever).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekend Wedding: Day 2

Another early start for me at 5:30am as I would be picked up at 6:10am. However this is pale in comparison to the bridal party who gets up at 4am or so to start the hair, make-up and getting dressed. The music usually starts blaring at 4:30am just in case the village had no idea there was going to be a wedding in their midst.

The first order of the day is organizing the procession of fruit trays and other food items. The close friends and family trot on over to a selected house where the groom and the bridal party (sans bride who is waiting upstairs at her house) get ready to lead about 40-50 people including dancers and musicians down the road and to the bride's house. Since the groom does not live nearby, we borrowed a relative's house (which happened to be the same location where my engagement procession started from 3 years ago).

There are several chairs set up along the walkway which have one tray each of fruit or food on them. As people arrive they sit down in the chairs from start to finish filling in the empty spaces. We were handed little red envelopes which had 500 Riel in each (about 12 cents worth). Because there weren't enough people to carry all the trays, there was some shuffling around and doubling up so that some people carried more than one tray (and more cash, too). I was in between 2 young girls. As we walked the section of my line decided to become less of a line and more of a blob of people. Obviously they didn't care about keeping two neat lines of people walking along the road.

Our procession became the object of some tourists' fancy as were were passed by a bus heading out of town. What a lucky break for them as they got to photograph Cambodians participating in a traditional activity wearing an array of brightly-colored silk dresses. The bus ended up stopping up ahead so that they people could get off and get better shots. I wondered if they would spot the one single white person in the mix. By the time my section of the line got close, though, they had already boarded the bus and were on their way.

We get to the house and everyone sits in chairs along an aisle that has been set up under one of the tents. This is so that the dancers/singers can do a little jig while collecting a piece of fruit from each person sitting in the rows. This collection of fruit is then offered to the bride's parents for approval to allow the bride to come downstairs.

What goes on next is just a bunch of staged photo opportunities of the bride and groom placing jasmine leis on each other's neck and holding flower arrangements. They then head back up into the house for the rest of the ceremony which includes some blessings and tying red string on their wrists. Everyone else scrambled over to the tables to eat the breakfast provided. I wasn't interested in eating as I saw what it was and it didn't appeal to me.

The rest of the morning I chilled out until the music started signalling the beginning of the lunch for all the hundreds of guests who would be arriving. At that point I needed to escape as I didn't care to have my hearing impaired by the unchecked excessive volume and bass that the Cambodians seem to think is perfect for a wedding. I scurried around the back of the house to shield me from the avalanche of noise and to the area behind the speakers where the grandfather's house is located. Underneath the house is the perfect area to sit as it receives the freshest breezes from the field, especially useful then as it was also excessively hot, too. I also wanted to see how long I could hide out and avoid putting my silk dress back on as I knew it would be stifling to wear it. I was supposed to be standing in the front of the party welcoming the guests to the wedding.

Aha! I was found out! Back on went the dress. To the front with all the music and to be a pleasant sight for all guests entering. But, no, there was a little girl standing next to me in the receiving line. Whose daughter she was, I don't know. I think she was a child from the groom's side of the family. She was neither dressed appropriately nor greeting guests in an appropriate way by holding up her hands in a prayer position in front of her lips. Why was she there? Then when she started telling all the guests the obvious fact, that is that I was a foreigner, I decided to attempt to teach her a lesson using my limited Khmer which essentially meant "shut-up." She got the message and shortly disappeared.

Most people acknowledged my presences, while a few didn't care or weren't really paying attention. I recognized a few people who were friends of mine or Da's. But overall it was hot and tiring to stand there. I was thankful when the guests trailed off which meant I could trail off and away from the sound, too. I found a bench in the shade (or what I thought was shade) on the other side of the house where it was only slightly less noisy. The other bonus was that I found a fan, too.

The peace and calm lasted for awhile until I was discovered by an older school teacher who was the host for my engagement party. He could speak English well enough to be understood and we spent some time catching up on old times. He even assisted me with some pronunciation problems in Khmer. However, it soon became very clear that I was merely a resource for him to asking an unceasing amount of grammar and vocabulary questions from me, seeing as I was the English teacher. At first it was cute, but it eventually became dull and my throat was parched. Some child brought him a Coke, but nothing for me. My throat was already on its last legs after the strain of the weekend.

Thankfully my savior arrived in the form of Da asking if I had eaten yet. He politely explained to the teacher that I was being requested to join the wedding party for their lunch now that most of the wedding guests had eaten and left already. Then the new husband also appeared and requested my presence. Yippee! However I had one stop and that was the table full of Da's good buddies and a few of my friends too. I needed to share a drink with them and have chat before they left as a courtesy.

Finally, I sat down and ate some food. It was the leftovers from the party. I didn't really care for much of it, but it certainly was impressive for the wedding food. As we ate, the music and tents were in the process of being torn down. Tables were being cleared away. All this stuff had to go to the next event as this is the peak of wedding season. I think I have filled my quota for participating and attending Cambodian weddings, even my own. If I don't have to do this long and drawn out affair ever again, I will certainly be content.

Going postal in Cambodia

Today I had my first official irritating Cambodian post office moment. Now I would say I am lucky since I've managed to last more than four years without feeling I've been ripped off. However, today was the icing on the cake.

I mailed a few postcards with a couple of packages for Swap-Bot, which I had been doing since I got here in February. Along with that I found out that the postal workers had been overcharging me for all the previous postcards I had been sending since I arrived . Normally postcards were 55 cents when I was last here in July 07, but the women started charging me $1 this time. I thought this was high, but figured since many prices had increased, this was one of them, until today. The laday today charged me the normal price and I was slightly shocked even when she said the special stamps were $1. I had never asked for special stamps and figured the women were charging me for special stamps and putting normal stamps on the postcards.

Oh well, I supposed they needed the extra cash more than I did.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Wedding Weekend: Day 1

the bride

My Saturday morning started early with a 6:25am pick up by a former student driving a minivan. He was my transport to the house where I would attempt to participate in the preparations for the big wedding event of my sister-in-law.
Being the only daughter, her wedding was a huge celebration that brought out the assistance of the entire village quite willingly, though I was less inclined. I thought I would be more helpful, but my morning was full of emotional chaos. For what reason, I do not know. I spent the morning on the brink of tears. Mom-in-law attempted to put me to work on the old standby of garlic pealing. It seems to be something harmless that the foreigner can do without too much harm. Of course everyone wanted to talk to me but I wasn't in the talking mood. Then it came down to the "big" comments by everyone. Not today!!!! Please!!!!
Once the garlic was finished, I was finished too and walked away from the area towards the irrigation canal to stare at the fish jumping and colorful dragonflies landing on leaves. A boy came over to ask me why I was here and I replied with, "I don't want to listen." And that was true.
I continued to stand there for awhile and then walked down the lane for a bit til some dogs announced my entry and I turned around. I came back and sat around some more. Da was busy with all kinds of errands so he had little time for me. Eventually he showed me a little attention by taking me tamarind picking.
We drove over to the tree and the village climbed up to shake the branches for the tamarinds to fall. We scurried around in the dirt picking them up to place in the basket. It was sweaty and dirty work. I came back drenched in sweat and it was still morning. Did I mention that it was hot and humid. It's slowly gotten hot so this wedding weekend will not be fun since we're out in the countryside without fans.
Lunch was served. I ate a little, but wasn't extremely hungry. After I went upstairs in the house to rest and read away from the stares. Eventually I was found and told that it was hot. Yes, of course it's hot. Then I was showed the new bed so I could take a rest. Somehow I didn't feel right resting on the newlyweds newly purchased bed. The bed that looked as if it was built to the exact dimensions of the room as it filled it in its entirety.
With no nap, I was invited down to help the old ladies prepare the rice cakes. Actually I was put on the soy bean paste ball rolling station. All I had to do was roll balls of the filling until there was none left. Of course the old ladies had to put their two cents in of comments about me and my size. I'm so over the never-ceasing need to talk about my size.

procession to the hair cutting ceremony

The next event of the day was the evening's wedding activity with the hair cutting ceremony. I don't have any idea why this is part of a wedding. I don't think anybody really knows either. The groom and bridesmaids took off down the lane with some guests decked out in wedding apparel outfits to take part in a small procession back to the house. The chairs were set up as two aisles with the bridal party at the end. The bride comes out of the house and joins the groom. A lot of the events are poses staged by the photographer for the typical wedding shots. There is a host and two dancers who sing and do a bit of a comedy routine leading up to the "hair cutting." Then there is a show of fake hair cutting and spraying of perfume by the dancers. The utensils are handed off to the parents for their turn at clipping away. And then a whole procession of family members and guests go through the motions of cutting the bride and grooms hair.
That's it. The first day's events are over. We eat a meal and people go home or stick around and keep preparing for the next day. Another early rise.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Give and it shall be given to you

Last Saturday I spent the morning at Tepaday Village to the north of Puok District. This is the home village of Da's father and it is considered quite poor. We have been looking into building a well for the village, but the conditions are not ideal as wells have been tried before with limited success.
However, our purpose last Saturday was more of a goodwill gesture as I had organized some donations of small hygiene items and school supplies for the children. Twenty mothers were chosen who had children for us to give a school bag full of goodies to them.

Before handing out the bags, though, fun was in store as I brought a secret stash of bubbles. When I pulled out the bottle the crowd of children and women eyed me with uncertainty. "What is this barang going to do?" As soon as I started blowing the bubbles, the cries of the children were all the answer I needed. It was so noisy that I had to move out to a more open space so as not to irritate the older folks.

Leaping and dashing to their delight (sometimes in the oncoming traffic of motorbikes), the bubbles were a hit. I passed the first bottle off to another child and pulled out a second bottle which I eventually handed to another boy. It was fun to stand back and watch them try it out. It was even more enjoyable when they started making their own bubble wands out of pieces of palm leaves. How inventive!
After the bubbles, it was time to hand out the school bags. Once we finished that we gave out some crank operated LED flashlights (no batteries required!) and a couple of solar powered and crank operated radios. There were 10 flashlights, but unfortunately one didn't seem to work, and that was the one we gave to the monk. Oops! An aunt gave up hers to the monk and then he got a radio, too. All was saved.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bamboo Shoots (BASTIGO, NGO)

I had a fun morning a couple of weeks back when going out to visit the Bamboo Shoots school preparation program in villages behind the temples of the Angkor complex in Angkor Thom District.

The program aims to prepare children to enter the public school system by teaching them hygiene and basic school manners for how to act in a classroom. They have had a very good success rate with many of the children going on to enter the public school. The ages of the children range from 3-7 or 8 years old, with a few young teenagers who have never attended school before.

Started by a local couple who had been working with the Rajana group, the schools have been funded by donations from a couple of German churches among other assistance. It is easy to envision the benefit of this kind of education, but convincing the parents to fully support it is not always the case as they often need the children to care for the youngest siblings while the parents go to work in the fields. Despite this, the children seem to really enjoy the time spent at school.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Everything old is new

I see many new faces and places and some old (well, not really). It's good to re-connect with those who I saw regularly before and fun to re-visit the favorite eating establishments. It's also fun trying out new ones that have cropped up in the six months of my absence.

The old standbys:
  • Khmer Kitchen: still slow in serving food, but tasty as ever
  • What Bo? Cafe: pork chops and fried fish with coconut rice are delicious, though the pork chops went up a dollar
  • India Gate: arguably, I suppose, the best Indian food in town with a new location, but same friendly Indian staff with superb memories and fantastic naan
  • Cafe de la Paix: still serving up half-priced goodies after 8pm with lovely service

And, some new ones that are hit and miss:

  • Red House Pizza: a big NO on this place cause who puts peanuts on their pizza?
  • Common Grounds Cafe: a new coffee house supporting the NGO People for Care & Learning has great looks, tasty drinks and food, and comfy seating with WiFi

I'm on a mission to volunteer my skills and services to whomever might want to partake of them while I'm here. So far I am working on a promotional and marketing campaign for a 4-year old NGO called Angkor Association for the Disabled (AAD). This organization has been spearheaded by the extraordinary efforts of a landmine victim whose giant heart wants to see the end of discrimination of the disabled among Cambodians. However, awareness of the issues and obtaining financial support are the first priorities in order to feed and house the beneficiaries. Not only that but they are battling bad press by a former dance troupe manager who has attempted to discredit the organization and has nearly succeeded.

I watched a practice of their dance performance and it was fantastic. These young victims of disease and landmines are beautiful to watch as they pour their hearts into sharing the very personal story of overcoming tragedy on the road to triumph. Their talent goes beyond dance into wood carving and handicrafts. They each have incredible stories to share.

It is my hope that I can assist them in finding regular venues to showcase these talents locally and maybe even beyond.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Back in the Heat (and LOVING IT!!!)

What fun it is to be back in the 'ol stomping grounds again. Though this time I am not required to do a single thing but enjoy the sights and sounds, and smells (but that is more like disgust).

Greeted by family upon arrival as my surprise, I was sweeped away to the brother's apartment for rest and relaxation. I was still trying to shake a cold the came on two days before departure so I wasn't feeling the best. It was a combination of a head cold and jet lag that made me feel uneasy. I still managed to go out on the town (more like the big mall). We had pizza (The first time for the parents. Watching them trying to figure how to use a fork and knife to cut and eat pizza was novel.) I was definitely happy to have some homemade Cambodian food. I certainly missed it.

After a lovely afternoon, evening and morning in Phnom Penh with the family, it was back to Siem Reap on the long bus ride. We arrived in the evening and after waiting for another brother to pick us up, I was escorted to the place where I'd be staying. My first night we had pork chops. Oh, those wonderful pork chops at What Bo? Cafe. I love 'em!

Now I'm getting settled and riding my bike around town for errands and such. It's almost as if time didn't stop, except for the fact that there are more businesses, buildings and cars on the road.

Stay tuned for more updates!