Just another Friday afternoon

Yesterday, we traveled to another part of town to spend the afternoon with friends who live there. It was, in all respects, an average Friday afternoon. Gray. Soggy. Cold–the kind that gnaws your bones, not the kind that bites.

Michael left earlier in the day while I stayed back until the last moment. Some friends, Talia and Valerie, also postponed setting out. We usually take the bus to this part of town–on a good day, it’s an hour and 15 minutes spent reading, listening to the iPod, and fighting car sickness during the half of the trip that is a pothole-filled equivalent of an automated bull ride. Potholes, by the way, are a nice name for it. It’s more of a partially paved mud-road with pits than potholes. On a bad day, this particular bus is–it’s words that should be spelled with asterisks, that’s what. It doesn’t come for an hour. When it does come, there are no seats left. You’re left standing for the next hour-plus (on a bad day, the bus takes closer to two hours than one), probably crammed in between some hapless college student who is about to vomit and a villager who’s brought their ducks or chickens along for the ride. Actually, probably for dinner. But anyway.

All that said, plus the fact that extra construction is underway on this route (pleasepleaseplease I hope the reason is because they’re repairing the 10 miles of potholes) making the bus ride longer than usual,  Talia, Val, and I decided to split a cab.

Cabs, my friends, are a whole other world. We’ve invented tactics for fighting cab drivers over the ever-increasing fares. Currently, our favorite is pretending we speak none of the language, thereby forcing the cabbies to use the meter (as they are legally “required” to) and preventing them from trying to bargain up and down with us. It’s usually a winner and ends in cab drivers muttering frustratedly to themselves, which in my opinion is a much better option than the random screaming outbursts which occur when we tell them we won’t pay more than the meter price. (Insert note: not every cab driver is like this and I actually often enjoy chatting with cab drivers during our trips.) We didn’t win with this option, yesterday, however.

Instead, we ended up with a hapless driver who didn’t know where we were going or how to get there. I felt sorry for the poor man at first, although his reluctance to ask for directions soon brought my reserves of patience to an end. We arrived 45 minutes later than estimated after driving around in the countryside, amidst migrant workers and buildings half-demolished, half-constructed, and clouds of exhaust and… well, you know, that’s just how it goes when you get lost around here.

We arrived 45 minutes later than planned–not that bad, actually–and all was well. There’s no point to all this, I suppose, just a bunch of discombobulated ramblings about a random weekday excursion. So now you know.

Technicolor Dream Kitchen

So, parents, you’ve already seen our house via Skype video tour but hopefully these photos give you a clearer view. For anyone else who’s interested… well, here it is!

Our kitchen is lined with bright blue, retro kitchen cabinets. At first I kind of hated it but I’ve slowly grown accustomed to the color and now actually like it. If nothing else, our kitchen is cheery. Which is a good thing in a city where gray days are the norm.

The view from the living/dining area. I love that our kitchen has a big window and is full of light.

On the left is our oven, stacked on top of our microwave. Out kitchen is a good size for Asia but counter space is still an issue. Michael tried to toss out our oven this morning when the door fell off (ahem, again)–knocking my coffee cup over and spilling coffee all over the kitchen–but look, there it is, still holding on! Hurray! I keep worrying that our microwave will catch on fire someday from all the heat emanating from the oven perched on top of it but I’m not sure where else or how else to arrange things while preserving enough counter space for mixing bowls and rolling out pastries and doughs. So far nothing bad has happened. Let’s hope that stays true.

The kitchen sink. There’s no dish washer, thus the drying rack on the right. Most days, I don’t miss having a dishwasher that much (remind me of that the next time the sink is filled with dishes for two days straight–yes, that happens). Somehow, washing dishes is a soothing and calming activity to me.

On the left is our water tong, where we get all of our fresh water for drinking and cooking since the local water is unclean. The tongs run out every couple of weeks and we just reorder them from a friendly local shopkeeper down the street. He loads up a couple on his motorcycle and then carries them up the four flights of stairs for us. It’s really a great system and I don’t even think of how unusual it must seem compared to America–the only problem comes when you don’t realize you’ve run out of fresh water until the last minute and then have to wait for TG (our friend the shopkeeper) to get here. Sometimes it’s fast… sometimes it’s more like an hour. I guess that’s how you learn, though, right?

Oh, and the candles on the window sill. I filled up a couple of glass vases with beans and then stuck some candles inside. I like it–but every time I cook with Asian friends they are so confused as to why I decided to do this instead of just eating the beans like you are supposed to. I’ve tried to explain that in America it’s not that unusual to use edible items like coffee beans/nuts/etc. for decorating… but the weird looks just continue. I have to admit that they really are right. It is odd. How did that whole trend get started, anyway? (That doesn’t mean I’m getting rid of my bean/candle arrangement anytime soon, by the way.)

She’s A Star

You know what’s huge in Asia?

Karaoke. Or, as they call it here, for some reason which I don’t know, KTV.

Last week the moms of two of our friends here came to visit and we treated them to a girls night out at the local KTV bar. I think it was a bit surreal for them. KTV here consists of renting a private room equipped with couches and your own sound system and mike. Below are a few pictures of us (and by us I mean Valerie, Audrey, Sarah, and Talia–because I sure stayed away from the camera and I can’t post pictures of our Asian friends here) in the limelight.

Valerie and Audrey, belting it out to Britney’s “Lucky.”

You know who else is big in Asia? Avril is an enormous rock star. We probably did 5-6 Avril songs (although I think we might have started skipping them eventually) that night. I’m not sure which Avril song this was but as you can tell, Sarah is rocking it.

Talia, doing some headbanging. Or leg kicks? Whatever (similar to the rest of the night), I’m not sure what’s happening here.

Of Blenders and Such

Posting has been scarce of late because, well, there hasn’t been a lot to share. We’re still in the beginning of a brand new semester and life has been busy: class, friends, so on and etc.

Two new things we’re  loving this spring are our new blender and bread machine. The bread machine was my Christmas present from Michael and it has been put to great use. I’ve loved making cinnamon rolls almost weekly and using the dough setting makes a world of difference when making pizza crust or other yeast breads. I’m really thankful for this because, although I hauled over our KitchenAid mixer as my guilty pleasure when we moved, we’ve never been able to make it work here. Heartbreak.

The blender–well, that was all Michael. At least to start. Our friends, the Musgroves, live in  a nearby part of the city. They arrived in country in December, brand new baby boy and fancy Vitamix blender in tow. After we spent the night with them on New Year’s Eve and were treated to delicious, and healthy, fruit/veggie shakes for breakfast the next morning, Michael decided we had to have one. And guess what? Although I think a new one costs about $350 in the States, we were able to find a knockoff brand here for about $100!

Although I was hesitant to make the investment, Michael persuaded me with the promise that he would serve up breakfast shakes every day.  I’m so glad he won me over! I’ve shared a little about how much we (especially me) have consistently battled sickness this year. I’m not declaring victory just yet, but I’m convinced that the steady diet of fresh fruits and veggies we now eat each day is giving our immune systems a large, and much needed, boost. (Yes, we do eat other fruits and veggies here, but they are usually well cooked and thus have lost lots of their nutritional value.) After battling sickness so regularly this fall, anything that helps keep us healthy wins a huge vote of approval from me!