Archive for October, 2009

I miss you

I realize that three posts in one day is a bit excessive, especially considering it’s been weeks since I last wrote, but WordPress has this great feature that I just discovered. It tells you how people find your blog. It even tells you the words they type into google to find your blog or to stumble across it, probably.

Here’s a favorite. Tongue zits. Thank you, whoever that was. I can only pray this person happened upon my blog by accident using that search, because, really? Tongue zits? I will take black hairy tongue any day. But it made me laugh, and it made me think of all of you and how much I miss you.

I woke up recently and thought, “What? I’m still here?”. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be here anymore because I still wake up every other day and think, “Yes! I’m here”. It was more about just wishing that I was home with all of you. To be able to go out for Dairy Queen blizzards (you know who you are) or  to play on a play ground or to just know what is going on in the lives of those closest to my heart.

I know most of my stories are silly, which is largely because I prefer to laugh, so that’s what I share. But I want you all to know how well I am doing here. These stories are only indicative of a wonderfully beautiful life here. If you’re not already, you should be jealous. Read between the lines and you’ll see bright saris and naked babies and men urinating at and between every street corner. Not all the best images, but so normal here. Everyday is an adventure, every moment worth capturing, except maybe the frequent and apparently uncontrollable urge to urinate.

I would take pictures constantly if I wasn’t trying to avoid creating even more barriers with the people around me. Everywhere you look, everywhere, is something worth remembering. I don’t think that’s just true about living here, though.

Certainly, it’s the newness that makes me keep my eyes open, but it doesn’t make the familiar any less wondrous. That is why I am so thankful to be here. To be plopped down in this foreign land with my eyes wide open, trying to catch every detail. I go into my day expecting to be astounded; although, my heart doesn’t twist in my chest as often as it used to. I have to keep reminding myself to open my eyes and see what I’m looking at.

Anyway, this started out as a way to tell you all how much I miss you. I hope you know it’s true.


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Today was, like I mentioned, a bit of a long day. I came home after my language lesson and went into the kitchen for a glass of water. We all know what’s coming. A few, might I say barely, dirty dishes were in the sink, with a cockroach eating off of one of the knives. Usually watching something eat can humanize it a little, even make you feel for its need to survive. Not so with cockroaches. Revulsion is a better word. I carefully cleared the plates and glasses out of the sink, checking the back of my arm frequently in case the cockroach had magically run up my arm and was about to appear on my shoulder like in any good children’s movie. No such luck. It was in the drain.

Now, I just want to pause here to say I’m losing my faith not only in the security of my apartment building but in my neighbors. While certainly unnecessary, the screams that this hunting expedition evoked drew absolutely no response from the surrounding flats. Apparently, I could be robbed blind without a soul to take notice.

For a few minutes, I contemplated trying to save this revolting creature’s life. I thought, “Yeah, that makes sense. I’m a vegetarian. It fits with my worldview…” But, after a few rounds of trying to catch a freakishly fast cockroach, I said, “Hell, no. Today, you’re going to die.” I went and grabbed a shoe (my Birkenstock, which I thought was quite appropriate) and returned to the sink. In a flash, as if he knew it was now or never, the cockroach scurried up the side of the sink and behind my two cutting boards. Not that I need to offer an excuse for my rampage, but let’s just return to that verb for a minute. Scurried. Enough said.

I painstakingly removed dish after dish from the fortress the cockroach had found until, just at the last moment, he jumped down to hide behind my gas burners. Bastard. I decided to throw the shoe aside and go for the big guns. I have this thing about killing animals. If you’re going to do it, make it a fair fight. Granted, me with a birkenstock isn’t that fair of a fight against a six legged insect, but life isn’t fair, and this one was really fast. I grabbed the cockroach spray and jiggled the cutting board under the stove. Nothing. Do cockroaches have tactics? I tried for a few more minutes, and finally gave up, thinking I could clean up the dishes and wait him out.

Just as I was finishing the last dish, I heard a strange sound from the stove. It was a scratchy, metallic noise, like what you would expect a cockroach’s scurrying little insect legs to make. I froze, slowly reached for the can of spray, and waited…

Before you worry too much, Laura, he never came out. For all I know, he’s rummaging through my granola bars right now, chuckling with his friends, while I’m holed up in my room, too afraid to go make an omelette in case he decided to jump on my head or something. Thankfully, some of my granola bars are in my room.

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Kindly do the needful

I mean, without question, there are things about living here that are just funny. Little phrases like, “kindly do the needful,” bring just the needed boost of joy to even the bleakest office hour. But, to be completely honest, the funniest thing about living here…is me. I, with my expectations, assumptions, loud mannerisms, and pale skin, walk into any and every situation with a giant target on my forehead (the later pun is unintentional and unavoidable, as I couldn’t think of a better way to phrase this sentence). A few bus stories to illustrate my point.

The other day I was trying one of the new-fangled white buses, with these showy handles hanging down from the roof. Just to set the stage, pretty much from the moment I open my mouth to ask where they are going, I have the entire bus’s attention. On this particular evening, I stepped on, painfully aware that all conversation had stopped and every eye was on me. As the bus lurched forward, a swinging handle struck me between the eyes. It’s like when you see someone trip walking up the stairs or on the sidewalk. I spent the rest of the ride as the girl who got hit by the handle. No one wants that.

Another night, my roommate, Dian, and I climbed on a bus that was almost entirely empty, and the rows were situated facing in rather than the front. We all sat in awkward silence, staring at one another, until I said, “Good evening, everyone. I’m Kari and this is Dian, and we’ll be your entertainment for the duration of your bus ride.”  It’s wonderful to be in a place where, chances are, no one has any idea what you are saying. The awkward silence continued except for our indiscreet laughter and efforts to have a normal conversation with an audience.

Even tonight, after a somewhat long day, I climbed onto a blue bus (I avoid the white ones now) and looked around for a seat. It’s amazing how instantaneously it becomes a group effort to find the strange foreign woman a seat. Everyone directed me to the back where a woman slightly shifted her legs into the aisle so I could slip into the seat next to her. The seat was over a wheel, so I had to step up unto the hub (I don’t know), bump my head (clearly the next step), and slowly settle into the seat. Except the last part didn’t happen. I sat down, expecting to hit seat at any moment, but I suddenly stopped, suspended a few inches above the seat. My hips were wedged between the side of the bus and the woman sitting next to me. I wasn’t even sitting on her lap, just wedged. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her and plead for my dignity, I just looked out the window, trying not to think about my wedged hips and obvious discomfort. Finally, after what felt like an excessively long time, she shifted just enough for me to slide down onto the seat, just enough. I don’t know if combined our hips were too wide for the seat or if her right thigh was just enjoying a holiday on the outside, but that was the tightest ride I’ve experienced since coming here, and we recently fit 8 people in a taxi.

I like having my eyes though. After being here for almost four months (how crazy is that), I’m starting to miss so many things. My eyes glaze over on the ride home, and all I can think about is what I’m going to eat next (sad, but true). I want to keep my wide-eyed way of looking at the city here, shocked at every corner. I want to go out expecting the unimaginable, which, here, is almost guaranteed.

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Conspiracy Theory

A bird shat on me the other day. (Is the past tense of a profane word okay? I just don’t know how else to describe what happened.) It was…distressing. I was walking down the street, on my way to Hong Kong Express, and warmth hit my upper arm. I tried to rub it off on leaves and posts, but was unsuccessful. Bird defecation on my arm.

Ever since then, I’ve been paranoid. I hear the loud splattering all around me. In one day, I narrowly missed two well placed attempts that fell just to my side. I felt like I was running through an air strike zone.

Now, this might be a little dramatic, but I feel like the birds are using a really cruel form of psychological torture with me. Have you heard of captors telling their prisoners they are going to shoot them and then just repeatedly misfiring in order to make them go crazy? I mean, it is a bit of a stretch, but it’s working. I do feel a bit like I’m losing my mind. I see anarchy behind every glittery black crow’s eye. Every close call makes me flinch. It’s pushing me to desperation. I might just carry an umbrella everywhere I go.

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People are really into them here. Many people will have more than one lanyard around their neck with whatever is attached stuck into their chest pocket. It’s been suggested that I get one for my keys.

A week ago, we had two new interns arrive, and they were staying with me since they didn’t know how to get around yet. We went over to a friend’s for dinner, and mid-way through the take out order I realized I had locked my keys in my flat. I frantically called around, but eventually had to resign myself to the reality. We were staying there for the night. It ended up working out, with us rushing home the next day to change quickly before their first day at the office. (this is the black tongue day)

Now, our office is quite small, and the room I’m in fits 5 people in a space meant for one. So much stuff. It’s my job to organize it all, so a friend and I took a carload to my flat to store the stuff there. We were just pulling the last of it off the elevator when I realized I left my keys at the office.

So, my friend drove back to the office and I sat on the ground and read for an hour with intermittent breaks to try to kill the mosquitos swarming around me. I think that must be one of the funniest things to watch people do from a distance.

One comforting thought, my friend tried very diligently to break into my apartment and failed, so rest easy, I’m safe.

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within 30 minutes

Our refrigerator broke probably 5 months ago, but we only just recently found a repair man that would admit it. Apparently, all of them would tell Julia and Emily that the water pouring out of the bottom was normal. It is also apparently normal for the sides to be burning hot and for your milk to spoil within a few days.

So, today, I’m home from the office, with the refrigerator repair man. I’ve been here since 1:40, but he didn’t come until 3. I called him at about 2:30 to see where he was, and he said he’d be here within 30 minutes. So I waited. He brought new shelves, which is great. We have to carefully balance our food on the sides so they wouldn’t break all the way through. But the tubing he brought to fix the leak was too short, so we’ve been sitting around for about an hour waiting for his colleague to come. I finally asked if it was finished, and that’s when he told me he was waiting for a longer tube, but that it should be here within 30 minutes. Fantastic.

That’s my news. I also had Subway for lunch and a mangosicle for dessert. I hope you have the joy of eating a mangosicle someday soon.

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Black Hairy Tongue

Most frequently referred to as black hairy tongue, lingua villosa is apparently quite a common ailment. While a number of precipitating factors have been found to contribute to black tongue fungus, as it is affectionately referred to, “there is no predictive value to the finding of hairy tongue.” (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Hairy tongue. First of all, not a completely accurate description. There were no hairs. Plenty of discoloration, as you can see, but no hairs, praise God.

As I read through the Wikipedia description of black hairy tongue, I had literally taken every necessary precaution to ensure that a black fungus could survive on the surface of my tongue.  

1. Tobacco use. While not a regular smoker, I do enjoy the occasional hookah, so Sunday night, some friends and I went out for hookah. After which, I realized I had locked my keys in my flat, so I was forced to stay at a friend’s house.

2. Poor oral hygiene. (This is the embarrassing one.) Since I was staying with a friend, I couldn’t brush my teeth after the hookah, and apparently toothpaste on a finger didn’t cut it. (I promise, I brush regularly and thoroughly.) Additionally, I had been up throughout the previous night with stomach related issues, so I took a Cipro to kill my new little friends.

3. Antibiotics apparently contribute to the development of BTF as well as taking antacids. So, obviously, to help with my current symptoms I chewed one

4. Pepto Bismol tablet before falling asleep. Mix thoroughly and let sit overnight and you have black hairy tongue.

As gross as these pictures are, I must admit, they were taken almost at the end of the day and after I had brushed my teeth and eaten several times. It was on the mend at this point. My friends were incredibly gracious, as you would expect anyone to be about a black hairy tongue.

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