Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cute! and Funny!

Dun Dun Dun!

My Year

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

I went to Africa! And started hashing back in February. I also bought purple underwear.

2008 - got divorced for real, barehanded ice fishing, thought I flushed my own keys down the toilet, went paint balling, ate beondegi (yuck!), flew a plane.

2007 - Hahahaha. I've already been asked this one. The Hong Kong incident. Got divorced (I think, anyway!) Taught kindergarten.

2006 - went on holiday with my sister, bought a red bra

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I'm still working on the 101 in 1001 List and I've rejigged a couple of them. I'd like to finish off those goals before I start any more. The biggest fail was the book ban (reinstated, let's hope I prove to have more willpower now.)

2008 - the 101 in 1001 List, maybe a couple more
2007- No and Yes. It's not the keeping of the resolutions that is necessarily important, I think, but the making of them. The taking stock.
2006 - I didn't make any last year. I will be making some this year, though. I like thinking about my goals and where I am and where I want to be. I was too depressed to want to think about my life last January.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My high school friend Vanessa and Andrea & David. Congratulations!

2008 - If they did, it's escaping me, but it's also very late at night.
2006 - My childhood friend, Shannon. My brother's girlfriend. A couple of other people I don't know as well.

4. Did anyone close to you die?


2008 - No.
2006 - No.

4. What countries did you visit?

Kojedo, Jeonju, Rome, Ghana, Togo, Toronto, Vancouver

2008 - Boracay, Taiwan, Bamboo/Tea Plantation trip, Canada, Japan, Dokdo, North Korea
2007 - Thailand, Hong Kong, Canada, North Korea, The Philippines.
2006 - Scotland, Canada, Korea, Thailand. Only Thailand was for the first time.

5. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

A zero balance credit card, the ability to run hashes, a plan to leave Korea.

2008 - This one is going to remain secret, but there is something I'd like.
2007 - More of all the good things, less of all the bad, I guess.
2006 - I don't think there was much that I lacked entirely over the course of the whole year. There were lots of things I lacked during different parts of the year though. I guess I just want more of the good things, more often.

6. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Fourth Saturday in February - My first hash, the PMS MENstrual Run
August 22 - I started vacation!
October 5 - The day I started back at work.

2008 - January 3rd - finally divorced!
Friday, August 8th - the Ferraro Rocher countdown ended on my last day of work at Poly

2007 - April 10th - I left Heritage, thank fuck!
May 18th - Surprise arrival back in Canada.
August 10th - Back in Korea once more.
December 14th - All my loose ends were finally tied up!

2006 - February 14th, when I finally, really knew that I had to leave Alan. April 10th, when I flew into Seoul.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Going on vacation? I didn't really have any big achievements this year.

2008 - Well, I collected the entire set of Hello Kitty magnets. And found my own place in HBC.
2007 - Tying up those loose ends, perhaps.
2006 - Getting over the embarrassment of leaving someone only 5 months into marriage and doing it anyway because I needed to do it. Rebuilding my entire life all over again, in Korea.

8. What was your biggest failure?


2008 - Also will remain a secret. But it's related to the other one.
2007 - Perhaps being so stressed by the Korea/Hong Kong decision.
2006 - Not listening to my instincts and the warnings of other people.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

The mystery illness in Ghana & Togo - but Immodium cured that. Very nasty Yellow Dust cold. My toenail slowly growing back.

2008 - possibly I discovered I have a malformed eardrum, hairline fracture in my foot after dancing drunk in my apartment, Broken Toe Part I - The Sink, Broken Toe Part II - Martha's Dancing, recent sickness which is no fun, so we won't bother talking about it.
2007 - Nothing terrible. Did a transatlantic flight with a messed up ankle, did some North Korean hiking with pneumonia.
2006 - Yep. Some of the most notable - my first ever hickie and my now completely fucked up ankle. I'm a klutz, though, so there have been a few.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

Hair cut and straightening. New computer. Monitor which is also a TV. My students would claim it's my Transformers t-shirt.

2008 - new iPod, G-Whiz, North Korean honey
2007 - It wasn't what Oprah recommended ;) I'm not sure I've bought anything all that fabulous this year.
2006 - my laptop. my plane ticket out of Scotland.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration? Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Hashers are often pretty awesome and Ortencia was an awesome host. However, the two hashers running CHILD and their ridiculousness were fairly appalling.

2008 - Martha has been a rock star in the last couple of months! The pricks at Phillies being homophobic assholes and everyone who voted for Prop. 8 and like-minded resolutions appall me.
2007 - Many people's merited celebration. I find that sometimes the most surprising people will do fantastic things. Based on some info I recently found out, my ex is on the appalled list.
2006 - my friends and family, who have been very supportive of me. appalled: alan's. my own

14. Where did most of your money go?

New computer, six week vacation, books.

2008 - You got me! I guess the trip to Canada was the biggie, plus the shopping trip that resulted. The iPod.
2007 - Vacations!!! Clothes. Having fun in general.
2006 - into leaving Scotland.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Rome with Jen, Ghana and Togo with Ortencia, home!, and then Vancouver, with the chance to see Andrea & David, Orin, and Martha.

2008 - Seeing my nieces. Going to a city in North Korea. Moving to Haebangchon. Teaching teenagers. Leaving Poly.
2007 - Hiking in North Korea. Seeing my nieces.
2006 - being single again, meeting new people, teaching again, knowing that I made the decision to live my life the way I want to, full of travel and adventure.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

Slung Low, Erin McKeown; I Got a Feeling, Black Eyed Peas (listened to it constantly in Vancouver); and Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back), Eamon and Barbie Girl, Aqua because they played in Togo while I was travelling.

2008 - Whatever You Like, T.I. but in particular, that one the kids made about voting however you like. Made me cry.
2006 - The Mercy of the Fallen, Dar Williams

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?


2008- happier
2007 - happier or perhaps about the same
2006 - happier

b) thinner or fatter?

Maybe a bit fatter.

2008 - same same
2007 - maybe about the same - I'm not sure, to be honest.
2006 - fatter, a bit

c) richer or poorer?

Moderately less poor.

2008 - moderately less poor.
2007 - Hmmmm. Again, perhaps about the same.
2006 - maybe about the same

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Saving money. Reading books. Travelling. Hashing. Time with the nieces.

2008 - beach holidays, time at home with the family, coffee with Jenn
2007 - Exercise. Travelling. Decisive getting-stuff-done.
2006 - laughed

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Lazing around. Staying up too late. Social smoking. Negative self-talk.

2008 - overreacting, stress with friends over silly things, dealing with Korean immigration, teaching at Poly.
2007 - I'm not sure I regret too much from the past year. Maybe the odd drunken moment, but nothing in particular.
2006 - beating myself up for things I couldn't change and things that weren't exactly my fault

20. How did you spend Christmas?

After dinner at Brian's on the eve, I ended up in HBC. When the bar closed, the random people still left, two people I knew, and I tried to go norae bang. When everywhere turned out to be closed, I invited everyone back to my place for a random party at about 6 a.m. Christmas dinner at Laura's was fabulous and we played pictionary, hilarious. I walked home with Christie and Lorraine, singing "White Christmas" as it flurried. Then I napped before calling home at 2 a.m. and chatting with the family. After, because of the nap, I stayed up to watch some episodes of The Big Bang Theory. On Boxing Day, the hashers had the "Santa's Sloppy Seconds" dinner and sat around singing to things WHAM DJed for us.

2008 - Eggs Benedict with Liz and Martha, Geckos with Brian, Cleo, Martha, Melissa, Rebekah, then Seoul Pub, then a taxi with a TV on the ride home!
2007 - Brian, Samarra and I went to see the Golden Compass, wandered around iPark, went to dinner at Geckos and then had drinks with people at Queen. Oh, and I got to talk to my adorable nieces :)
2006 - A turkey buffet at Geckos with friends and coworkers and later on some phone calls home.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?


2008 - Yes.
2007 - Hahahahaha. No!
2006 - i thought i did, I'm as subject to rebound relationships as anyone, i guess. didn't last long, which was for the best!

22. How many one-night stands?

More than zero.

2008 - A few. They can be one hell of a lot of fun.
2006 - I don't kiss and tell.

23. What was your favorite TV program?

Battlestar Galactica, 30 Rock, Big Bang Theory, NCIS (Don't ask. It's an obssession.), Six Feet Under

2008 - Big Love, My So-Called Life, Grey's and Private Practice, Ugly Betty, Brothers and Sisters
2007 - Grey's Anatomy, I think, though I am now equally into Private Practice. I've been watching the first season of Lost recently and been impressed since about halfway through. Flight of the Conchords is hysterical. Oh, and I finally got around to watching Buffy - it was really good.
2006 - America's Next Top Model in Korea, before that Alias/The L Word/Desperate Housewives

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?


2008 - This year homophobia has upset me more than usual - but I hate the game, not the players. No point in hating the haters.
2007 - No. I don't hate anyone at all right now, though there are certainly those I don't care for.
2006 - perhaps my boss, though hate is far too strong a word. i can't bring myself to hate my ex, though sometimes I think that might actually be kinda a step forward.

25. What was the best book you read?

Kathy Reichs and Lynsays Sands books, obsessively
1984 & Lord of the Flies (at work)
Bridge to Teribithia
The Great Influenza
Subject to Debate, Katha Pollit
Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich
Payback, Margaret Atwood
The Pollysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby
Plainsong, Kent Haruf
Fox Girl, Nora Okia Keller
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
The Great Fortune, Olivia Manning
Pyongyang & Persepolis
The Omnivore's Dilemna, Michael Pollan
The Truth About Stories, Thomas King

2008 - S: A Novel About the Balkans, by Slavenka Drakulic
The Little Friend, Donna Tartt
This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood by Hyok Kang
Dreams of My Father, Barrak Obama
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Maus, Art Spiegleman
Kafka on the Shore, Murakami

2007 - "The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank" by Ellen Feldman. It was maybe the best power read - one of those I-can't-put-it-down novels.
"Eva" by Peter Dickinson was the best children's book and it was a reread from the Poly library.
"Oscar and Lucinda" by Peter Carey for the best I-should-have-known-but-didn't ending.
“The Friar and the Cipher” by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone for best historical non-fiction.
“Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” by Christopher Moore was the funniest.
“The Brooklyn Follies” by Paul Auster for introducing me to my newest fav author.
"Lucky" by Alice Sebold for the best sad book.
"A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah for the most gut-wrenching emotional response.
"Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert for personal resonance.

2006 - picking just one is so evil. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Everything is Illuminated, The History of Love and those are just the ones that come to mind...

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Since I spent most of my year with no functional computer or internet, I've listened mostly to the same 200 songs that were on my iPod before Chester died. I've been downloading like crazy since, though, so I hope to discover new stuff that I love sooner rather than later.

2008 - The Genius button on iTunes.
2007 - Not sure. I love "Smile" by Lily Allen, and the new Alicia Keys album is pretty damn cool. Tons of stuff, really.
2006 - Jack Johnson. I had heard of him before, but never got around to listening until this year when I discovered downloading...

27. What did you want and get? What did you want and not get?

I wanted a vacation to a new place and I certainly got that. I also wanted willpower (gym, financial, etc) and that didn't happen.

2008 - I'm not sure, but they are both wrapped up in the same thing.
2007 - I didn't get a job I wanted, though I suspect that worked out for the best, particularly from a financial point of view. I wanted a new wardrobe and I got that.
2006- What did you want and get? a computer, a job in Korea, out of a relationship, a trip to Thailand (I even got two!) What did you want and not get? an easy breakup

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

Amazing Grace, Hallam Foe, Milk, Frost/Nixon, Transformers (1&2)

2008 - Juno, Children of Men, Kung Fu Panda were the best, but nothing really moved me.
2007 - The Golden Compass, I think. I don't actually see many films, in the cinema or out of it.
2006 - Everything is Illuminated, Tsotsi, The Constant Gardener, Hotel Rwanda

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

No debt.

2008 - A longer trip home.
2007 - A year long trip around Asia, with the magic ability to pop back in on the family for a couple of days at will.
2006 - if Alan had stayed in Scotland. if i had left him earlier.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

31. On the day of, nothing special. But I went out for dinner and dancing with friends the weekend before.

2008 - 30! I drank shots out of a porcelain penis. Then I skipped out on the big Saturday night extravaganza.
2007 - 29 in Hong Kong, went drinking and dancing.
2006 - I was 28. I went to TinPans and drank too much tequila, I went to Stompers and don't even remember being there, I met a cute boy.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Before vacation, I usually maintained a big divide between work clothes and home clothes. Since I've returned, I've been a jeans girl at work as well as at play. I have some cool panya purses and a skirt from my trip.

2008 - Many t-shirts, but I will have to wear something Martha hasn't stolen!
2006 - a concept implies I was thinking about this in some sort of orderly way. The same 7 or so outfits to work (with flip flops in summer and black shoes in winter), the same 7 or so low cut tops to bars, and my fave comfy socks whenever I'm home.

33. What kept you sane?


2008 - Martha and other friends. Pure stubbornness.
2007 - Who says I managed to stay sane? My coworkers, perhaps, when I was back in my old job. My friends. Lots of navel gazing.
2006 - a combination of good friends and too much booze.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Katee Sackhoff (Captain Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace, Battlestar Galactica)
Sasha Alexander (Agent Caitlin Todd in NCIS)

2008 - Hillary Clinton. Jennifer Beals.
2006 - i don't really fancy celebrities.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

The Democratic primaries in the States and gay marriage. You know, back when I was saying that Obama wasn't very lefty and I prefered Clinton, everyone told me that he was progressive. But I'd read his books and I knew he wasn't as progressive as people thought and now it turns out that indeed, he isn't.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

2008 - Prop. 8, the Democratic Leadership Race, proroguement
2006 - i have been too busy navel gazing to really pay too much attention. Perhaps the possible nuclear weapons test by North Korea.

36. Who did you miss?

Once again, everybody not here in Seoul, but especially the nieces. Oddly, lately also my dog.

2008 - everybody, but especially Sarah, Emily and Chloe.
2006 - Most people. I live overseas!

37. Who was the best new person you met?

All the hashers!

2008 - Martha
2006 - All the new people I've met have mostly been amazing, though in totally different ways.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009?

Just keep following the trail marks and you'll make it to the goal.

2008 - Be stubborn. Love.
2007 - When travelling, follow the noise.
2006 - No one will judge me as much as I will judge myself. Trust your gut. People you don't expect to will do little things that will make you believe in goodness again.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Slung Lo, Erin MCKeown

I was slung-lo and
So gung-ho
For anything to get me to start
I had my rock
I had my roll
But I couldn't find my spark

A flip of the hi-fi
A glimpse of the good life
And the clouds began to fade
I'm turning this B-side
Around to a de-light
Blue skies are here to stay

"She was so down, look at her now
She's never been so high!
Everyone knows, give it some time
The clouds'll clear the sky!"

Light the radio
Til it explodes
I'm dancin' til I drop
One small step
First right then left
I'm never gonna stop

"She was so down, look at her now
She's dancin' til she drops!
Everyone knows, give it some time
You'll find what you have lost!"

It is my style to take awhile
To put the feeling down to page
I get around to making sound
When the fancy meets the phrase!

"She was so down, look at her now
She's never been so high!
Everyone knows, give it some time
The clouds'll clear the sky!"

I'm gonna burst
Right out of this world
And I won't do it alone
A kick to the heart
A lift for the charts
One listen and we'll be gone
And then who cares?
We're debonair
And we're dancin' our way back home

"She was so down, look at her now
She's never been so high!
Everyone knows, give it some time
The clouds'll clear the sky!"

2008 - 9 to 5, Lady Sovereign
Ok yo....
I wake up late every morning
managers calling I'm still yawning
Get up wake up hair and makeups
Waiting for you don't be sawing
This performance is important
I don't think I can put my all in
Hold on I was drunk last night
Now its all kicking in and I don't feel right
Gave my number to a breh who wasn't my type
Now my phones on silent I'm being polite
Now private callers get no love from me
Just let me be...

Oh my gosh my days are getting longer
There's no turning back cuz I'm working da 9 to 5
To keep my contract did I say 9 was getting of 1:30
I'm no early birdy I'm lazy dats all dat I can say
So make sure you heard me
And deres no turning back cuz I'm working a 9 to 5

2006 - The Mercy Of The Fallen
Dar Williams

"Oh my fair North Star
I have held to you dearly
I had asked you to steer me
'Til one cloud-scattered night

I got lost in my travels
I met Leo the lion
Met a king and met a giant
With their errant light

There's the wind and the rain
And the mercy of the fallen
Who say they have no claim to know what's right

There's the weak and the strong
And the bets that have no answer
And that's where I may rest my head tonight"

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lists of Many Things

The Holy Virgin Mary / Affro-dizzia, Chris Ofili
Copia, Brian Ulrich (mother jones)
Fuselli painting, the Nightmare
Troika on St. Petersburg Street, Carl von Hampein
Cupolas and Swallows, Konstantin Yuon
Catalina Viejo, Kissing Amber
EV Day, Bride Fight
Allan D'arcangelo
Malvin Gray
Family No. 9, Charles Alston
Open Road from the Series Landscape of the Apocalypse, Martin Hoffman
The Head of Medusa, Peter Paul Rubens
Medusa, Michelangelo Caravaggio
Medusa mosaic
Perseus beheading Medusa, temple in Selinute, Sicily
Gorgon 6th Cent BC, Museum Syracuse, Italy
Shauna Frischkorn

Angry Black Bitch
Bitch Ph.D
Pinko Feminist Hellcat
Don't Believe the Hype

Random Notes
Alexandra Hai, Venice's First Woman gondolier
Rigoberta Menchu tum, 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner
Religious Life Rocks: Adventures of One Fun Nun
I don't even have the self control to floss daily.
You need a break. Body -99 Thinking 75 Feelings +22
Marcia Williams, comic
the four that roar: tigers, jaguars, leopards, lions
what was Dustin Hoffman's received famous one-word piece of career advice in cinema history?
Laotian, Laos
How American Women Artists Invented Postmodernism, 1970-1975 (Judy Chicago, Nancy Spero, Joan Semmel, Miriam Schapiro, Joan Snyder
great pacific garbage patch
Hello Kitty ambassador to China and Hong Kong
Smart Girls at the Party
kenguru - electric car for the disabled, carrie brownstein
SoYeon Yi
Coobe Pedy
Burning Down the House: Building a Feminist Art Collection (kiki smith, tracey emin, tracey moffat, lorna simpson)
the riches
green porno
dr. tatianna's
KTF Love Detector Service

Lily - I feel sad when my father sleeps late and drinks beers."
"My conscience is clear," the purchase announces. "I am the change I want to see in the world." Taking part in supposedly enlightened commerce might seem like a progressive gesture, but in reality, it's chiefly defensive." Greener than Thou, Joe Keohane, Boston Magazine
"i've been spending the past year not watching Mad Men. Before that, I was busy not watching Project Runway. Occassionally, I managed to fit in ignoring Lost, too, though once all my friends stopped talking about it, I was able to drop it from my schedule of avoidance and move on to not reading Twilight or watching the movie... maybe I have commitment issues, since more than once I've actually bought the book or the video of the must-not-miss thing and, er, still missed it... free from this bizarre sense of obligation that accompanies so much of our entertainment these days." Wendy McClure
"Anything on the web collects comments the way a whale collects barnacles."
"If baseball wants to claim itself as the national pastime, it can't keep shutting half the nation out." Ria Cortesio, sole female umpire in organized baseball
"In America, pop culture is our culture, and as such, it's a potent reminder of women's place in history." Debbie Stoller
"The people who pass for femailes in traditional comics look like men with watermelon's strapped to their chests, carrying big guns and posing like that, so I won't put them in my books." Neil Gaiman
dick flicks - just movies, chick flicks
"I've been a wicked girl," said I; "But if I can't be sorry, why, I might as well be glad!" Edna St. Vincent Millay

Games People Play, Eric Berne
The Healing of America, TR Reid
The Black Album, Hanif Kureishi
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid
A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Mohammed Hanif
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, Daniyal Mueenuddin
The Wish Maker, Ali Sethi
Listening to Grasshoppers, Arundhati Roy
American Rust, Phillip Meyer
Home Comforts, Cheryl Mendelson
Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner
The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
Deliverence, James Dickey
The Heart of the Matter, THe Comedians, The Power and the Glory, The Quiet American, Graham Greene
To the Lighthouse
Lord Jim
I, Claudius
The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Studs Lonigan
Tobacco Road
Zuleika Dobson
The Naked and the Dead,
From Here to Eternity
The Ginger Man
On the Road
Ap;pointment in Samarra
The Man Who Loved Children
The Making of Americans
Song of Solomon
The Maltese Falcon
Henderson the Rain King
The Assistand
Pictures from an Institution
Cultural Selection, Gary Taylor
The Magnificent Ambersons
Cry, the Beloved Country
Malone Dies
Memento Mori
The Waterfall
The Towers of Trezibond
May Sinclair
Bella Abzug, Suzanne Braun Levine and Mary Thom
A Hell of a Woman, Edited by Megan Abbott
Learning to Drive, Katha Pollitt
Choice, edited by Karen E. Bender and Nina de Gramont
A Dangerous Woman, Sharon Rudahl
Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, Tristram Stuart
William Gibson, Spook Country
Sadie Magazine
From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World, Marilyn French
The Love Children, Marilyn French
The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood
When Gay People Get Married, MV Lee Badgett
Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleaseures of a Handmade Life, Jenna Woginrich
Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid, Lisa Jean Moore
Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics, Jennifer Baumgardner
The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory, Frye
The Unit, Ninni Holmqvist
Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave, Edited by Ellen Sussman
Brilliant Women: 18th-Century Bluestockings, Elizabeth Eger and Lucy Peltz
The Muse of the Revolution:The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Foiunding of a Nation
Once Upon a Time in England, Helen Walsh
Death by Chick Lit, Lynn Harris
Girls of Riyadh:a Novel, Rajaa Alsanea
The Keep, Jennifer Egan
The Handsomest Man in Cuba:An Escapade, Lynette Chiang
Leave the Building Quickly: True Stories, Cynthia Kaplan
Unveiled, Cheryl L. Reed
People are Unappealing: Even Me, Sara Barron
The Otherside of Paradise, Staceyann Chin
The Blue Tattoo, Margot Mifflin
I'm Down: A Memoir, Mishna Wolff
Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before marriage, Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas
A Map of Home, Randa Jarrar
The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel
Feminism and Pop Culture, Andi Zeisler
Generation Kill, Evan Wright
Where the Wild Things Were, William Stolzenburg
Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives: Sex, Gender, and Archaeology, Rosemary A. Joyce
I Don't: A Contrarian Hisotry of Marriage, Susan Squire
The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs
Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation, Olivia Judson (manic samurai lesbian love monkeys)
Wetlands, Charlotte Roche
Selling Anxiety, Caryl Rivers
Geek Chic, Edited by Sherrie A. Inness
Lucky Girl, Mei-Ling Hopgood

Notorious MSG, Die Hungry, 5 Fingers of Revenge
Rye Rye
Riskay "Smell Yo Dick"
Khia, Thug Misses, Gangstress, Nasti Muzik
Kid Sister, Koko B Ware "Pro Nails"
Yo Majesty
Eleni Mandell, Miracle of Five
Queen Latifah
Afrika Bambaataa
De La Soul
Naughty by Nature
Biz Markie
Sugar Hill Gang "Rapper's Delight"
DJ Jazzy Joyce
Girl Monster, Various Artists
Like, Love. Lust, and the Open Halls of the Soul, Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter
Ys, Joanna Newsom
Point of no Return, Shareefa
Marnie Stern, In Advance of of the Broken Arm
Marnie Stern, This is It and I Am It and you Are It and So Is That and He Is it and She is it and It is it and That is that
Morningwood, Sugarbaby
Civet, Hell Hath No Fury
Deerhoof, Offend Maggie
Jem, Down to Earth
Uncle Earl
Bill Monroe
Alison Krauss
Rhonda Vincent
Jolie Holland, The Living and the Dead
Nightmares on Wax, Thought So...
Mold the Gold, Pink Nasty
Dengue Fever, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong
Viva Voce, Rose City
The Vaselines, Enter the Vaselines
St. Vincent, Actor
Abnormally Attracted to Sin, Tori Amos
Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors
Fly Girls! B-Boys Beware
The Ettes, Danger Is
My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura
Zee Avi
Marykate O'Neil, 1-800-bankrupt
Theresa Andersson, Hummingbird Go
Rachael Yamagata, Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into heart (A Record in Two Parts)
Yo Majesty, Futuristically Speaking...Never Be Afraid / Kryptonite Pussy
Patti Smith
Emiliana Torrini, Me and Armini
Vivian Girls, Self-titled
Gabriella Cilmi, Lessons to be Learned
Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
Marissa Nadler, Little Hells
Orchestre Poly -Rythmo De Coonou, The Vodoun Effect
Yeah Yeah Yeah, It's Blitz
PJ Harvey and John Parish, A Woman A Man Walked By
Siouxsie Sioux
Florence and the Machine, 4 song EP
Here We Go Magic
Tegan and Sara, The Con
Tiny Vipers, Hands Across the Void
This Honest Age, Jen Woodhouse
Sara Bareilles, Between the Lines
The Boswell Sisters
Keyshia Cole, A Different Me
Melissa Czarnik, Strawberry Cadillac
Julie Doiron, I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day
Larkin Grimm, Parplar
The Fray
The Bird and the Bee
Donkey, CSS
Hercules and Love Affair
Electrocute, On the Beat
Brazilian Girls, New York City
To Survive, Joan As Police Woman
Real Life, Joan As Police Woman
Little Jackie, The Stoop
Lykke Li, Youth Novels
Conor Oberst
Stereolab, Chemical Chords
The Virgins
Give Me Love: Songs of the Brokenhearted - Baghdad
Taj Mahal, Maestro
All Rebel Rockers
Donita Sparks and the Stellar Moments, Transmiticate
The Cool Kids, "Black Mags"

sarah utter
stella marrs (amoeba necklace)
ellecools (etsy)
pinkbeltrage (etsy)
XOHandworks (etsy)
extra arms, matryoshka skirt bluntz, booze, and bitches t-shirt frida kahlo

Queen to Play
My Beautiful Laundrette
American Team
The Last Mistress
Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North
Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman
Rise Above: The Tribe 8 Documentary
Blessed is the Match:The Life and Death of hannah Senesh
Trouble the Water
Frozen River
Sliding Liberia
Manhattan, Kansas
Everlasting Moments, filmmaker Jan Troell


I thought it was tomorrow and not tonight that I was going out for dinner and now I'm going to have to put my damn pants back on. There is nothing more annoying than having to reverse the comfy pjs process. Plus, I should have just taken a book to a coffee shop in Itaewon and waited, as instead I'll spend about an hour trodding the same path between here and there in the cold.

Also, I have homework tonight and now I only have an hour to do it, since it's inevitable that I'll stay out for some drinks rather than come home right after dinner. Gah! Really ought to get off the computer...

Monday, December 28, 2009

But is it even making a difference?

Have the restrictions improved safety at all? And are the airlines going to enjoy it if people piss in the seats?

Slow travel - time to start embracing it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seasons Greetings


"Saint Nicolas is the patron saint of pawnbrokers-there's a touching legend whereby he provides dowries for three poor girls who can't get married without them... There's nothing watsoever to the other legend about Saint Nicolas-that he comes down the chimney every December 25 with a sack full of stuff he's nicked from the pawnshop. It is however true that the nineteenth-century colloquial expression "Old Nick"-meaning the Devil-is directly connected with Saint Nicolas. There are other clues. Note the red suit in the case of each; note the hairiness, and the association with burning and soot. We get the slang term "to nick," meaning "to steal," from.. But I digress, pausing simply to add that Saint Nicolas, as well as being the patron saint of young children, those sticky-fingered elfin creatures with scant sense of other people's property rights, is also the patron saint of theives. Saint Nicholas is always found in the vicinity of a big heap of loot, and when asked where he got it he'll tell an implausible yarn involving some non-human labourers hammering away in a place he euphemistically calls his "workshop." A likely story, say I." Payback, Margaret Atwood

It's the season of grace coming out of the void
Where a man is saved by a voice in the distance
It's the season of possible miracle cures
Where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown
Where time begins to fade
And age is welcome home

It's the season of eyes meeting over the noise
And holding fast with sharp realization
It's the season of cold making warmth a divine intervention
You are safe here you know now

Don't forget
Don't forget I love
I love
I love you

It's the season of scars and of wounds in the heart
Of feeling the full weight of our burdens
It's the season of bowing our heads in the wind
And knowing we are not alone in fear
Not alone in the dark

Dad Was Right Again!

Oh dear. So my late hours, late dinners (I work until 8-9 a lot of the time, with only five minute breaks between classes), and ability to sleep with the sun pouring through the window (no curtains, but then I love waking up to sunlight) are probably not things to celebrate. Sigh. I suppose I could try making 2010 the Year of Health.

Enter the Chronotherapists

Here’s my prediction for the Next Big Thing in health care: chronotherapy, or therapy by the clock. Yes, in the future, your medicines, your operations, your mealtimes and when you step onto the treadmill or the badminton court — all will be overseen by your personal chronoconsultant.

It’s been known for ages that our bodies have daily, or “circadian,” rhythms. Body temperature is lower in the morning than it is in the afternoon. Blood pressure is low during the night, and rises just before you wake. Muscles are stronger in the afternoon than they are in the morning, and you may have greater dexterity then, too. Badminton players tend to serve more accurately in the afternoon, for example.

But now it’s clear that the body clock is in charge of many other, more subtle processes as well. The content of human breast milk changes during the day. Evening milk is full of compounds that make a baby sleepy; morning milk isn’t. The liver, too, has a strong daily rhythm: many of its activities shut down during the night. Levels of several hormones, including melatonin (involved in sleep) and ghrelin (involved in appetite), rise at night. Testosterone, in contrast, is highest in the morning and lowest in the late afternoon. Cholesterol is made more rapidly at night. Even cancers have a rhythm: breast cancers, for instance, grow faster during the day.

The implications of all this are huge. Living against your body clock — as so many of us do — can affect your health and well-being in myriad ways. Some of these are trivial: unless you’re professional (or super-competitive), it probably doesn’t matter if your badminton serve is a little off in your morning games. Besides, your opponent’s will be, too. (It may, however, be better for your heart if you play in the afternoon.)

But living against the clock can also lead to major health problems. Obesity, breast cancer and certain kinds of mental illness are all associated with circadian disruption.

Disruption can be a consequence of shiftwork or jetlag — or of not spending enough time sleeping, or in the dark. Darkness is important because even a brief exposure to light during sleep-time can be enough to reduce melatonin levels and reset the body clock. Exposure to light in the night has been linked to breast cancer; consistent with this, women who are totally blind have a lower incidence of breast cancer than those who can see even a little bit.

Badly timed light isn’t the only troublemaker. Eating at the wrong moments — like the middle of the night — makes it harder for the body to process food and leads to weight gain. A recent experiment shows this nicely. Two groups of mice were fed identical diets but on different schedules: one group was allowed to eat only during normal waking hours, while the other was restricted to eating during normal sleeping hours. After six weeks, the mice allowed to eat only during sleep-time were significantly fatter than the wake-time eaters — a result that may help explain why obesity is so common among shift-workers who, because of their jobs, are forced to eat against their clocks.

In fact, sleep itself has been implicated in obesity: not sleeping enough is associated with getting fat. (Which suggests the sleep diet: stack those Zs and see the pounds melt away!) More worrying: obesity may actually interfere with the clock mechanism. In mice, the genes involved in regulating the body clock function differently in obese animals as compared to thin ones: the clocks of obese animals are less rhythmic. Perhaps, then, one way to treat (or prevent) obesity would be to impose a strong circadian rhythm on mealtimes and bedtimes.

To my knowledge, chronotherapy has not yet been tried for obesity; but it has, with great success, been used in psychiatry. Several mental disorders, including bipolar disorder, can be rapidly ameliorated by a resetting of the body clock. Indeed, it’s been argued that manipulating the body clock affects the same parts of the brain as antidepressant drugs — but that chronotherapy works faster and with fewer side effects.

Even conventional medicines work better when the body clock is taken into account. For example, evidence suggests that some statins — drugs that help people reduce their cholesterol levels — are more effective when taken before bedtime. Several of the drugs used in chemotherapy also have a “best” time of day: give the drug at the right moment, and you can take a smaller dosage, get a greater benefit and have a lower risk of unpleasant side effects. Sounds good. But don’t forget: regular good sleep in a nice dark room can inhibit tumors, and may thus help you avoid chemo in the first place.

Much more, no doubt, remains to be discovered, and it may, in fact, be a while before a chronotherapist opens an office near you. (That’s often the nature of the Next Big Thing — you see it on the horizon ages before it arrives.) But while we’re waiting for medicine by the hourglass, there are still steps that can be taken. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to darken my bedroom, cancel the midnight feasts and put sleep at the top of my list of things to do. It’s about time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I came home drunk, at 2 a.m.

But with a mango.

Though we lost second in a pint-of-beer with a straw contest.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I Broke the Shower Head

Except for reading A Wrinkle in Time for a class, I am done with anything but fun on this week's vacation. I tidied, washed dishes, did two loads of laundry, cleaned the fridge and ate the last of my vegetables, swept, cleaned the kitchen, mopped, and cleaned the bathroom. Sadly, the shower head fell off. Not a big issue, since I can shower with the hose, it's just a bit more annoying.


The plan for today was to sleep in, chill out for a bit, and then clean.

So far it's 5 p.m. and all I've done is sleep until 3, read in bed, make myself a tuna melt, and now watch some NCIS while checking Facebook.

Sadly, now I have to clean. So far all I've done is stuck a load of laundry in.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

It's the Last Day of the Semester and I'm Stoked!

Toronto Women's Bookstore in Trouble

Dear TWB community,

The Toronto Women's Bookstore is in crisis and we need your help!

Independent businesses and bookstores have been closing their doors this year, and after 36 years it is possible that we will have to do the same if we are not able to raise enough money to survive. TWB is one of the only remaining non-...profit feminist bookstores in North America, but despite all of the events, courses, workshops, community resources and additional services we offer, the fact that we are a store means that we do not receive any outside funding and rely entirely on sales and the support of our customers to stay in business.

Over the past few years, our sales have not been enough to sustain us and this is why we are coming to you, our community, for help. If every one of you donated $10 we would raise enough to keep going for 3 months, $20 each would keep us in business for 6 months, and $30 each would be enough for us to keep our doors open, hopefully for good. All donations will go directly towards covering the bookstore's costs, and are a part of a larger plan of action and structural change to make the business sustainable in the current economy.

In the past, when feminist bookstores were closing down all across North
America, the support of the community is what kept TWB alive. You are the reason that we are still here today, and we believe that with your help we can once again work together to save this organization where so many of us as readers, writers, feminists, artists, and activists have found a home.

You can make donations over the phone, on our website, or in person at the store. Unfortunately, as a non-profit store we are not eligible for charitable status and cannot offer tax receipts.

You can also help by spreading the word to your friends and community,
contacting us if you know of any funding we might be eligible for, promoting this fundraising drive in your paper or on your blog, website or radio show, organizing your own save the bookstore fundraisers or just passing the hat at your holiday parties, giving a TWB donation as a gift, and of course, coming in and bringing all your friends to the store for some holiday shopping!

Thank you all for your support,
The Toronto Women's Bookstore Board, Staff & Volunteers

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Just Like Korea!

Chilly YK

Damn, is it a cold time of the year to hash! Good circle at GI Ho's afterwards though. Goodbye drinks later tonight on the Hill. Napping first!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oy is just Yo backwards.

It was "easier to purchase my vehicle than it was to purchase my iPhone."

Why E class visa holders can't get iPhones.

Most hilarious quote from the article:
From a logistics standpoint, because of the recent merger between KT and KTF, it's been said that the KTF computer system is more capable of handling phone registration for expats.
Now, you may wonder how this is a hard thing for a computer system to handle, however, after my yellow fever vacination debacle, I consider this run-of-the-mill. It took the guy about 6 tries to shrink the font enough to fit all four of my names (becuase he insisted it must exactly match my passport) and then when he handed it to me, I noticed a spelling error.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Books, Books, Books

I've totally done this before, but that doesn't mean I can't do it again.

Name a book you have read more than once.
Whenever I'm in a hibernating mood, as I have been the last couple of weeks, I like to reread. It's comforting. I've spent the last couple of days skimming through some vamp porn - for all that I get regularly mocked for my love of the vamp books, I'm not embarrassed to admit that I love them.

I do a lot of rereading at work: both books I read as a child, like Ramona Quimby, or things I read in high school. I have to say, I wasn't very impressed after reading The Catcher in the Rye now that I'm out of my teens, but I loved my reread of Lord of the Flies and 1984.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
Dignity through candor is my new motto and I picked it up from American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent. Payback by Margaret Atwood also gave me some new ideas to mull over. Eat, Pray, Love made a big impression.

How do you choose a book? (by cover design and summary? recommendations? reviews? etc.)
Since I spend most of my book choosing time in used bookstores, I generally scan the shelves fairly quickly and pick up anything by a familiar author or with an interesting title (in which case, blurb and cover do influence me.) I've been sticking with stuff I've heard of lately - when I went to trade in books and pick up an order today, I got Tall, Dark, & Hungry (vamps!), Faster by James Gleick, and three books by Philip Roth: Exit Ghost, Everyman, and Indignation. Interestingly in the link above, I was hugely excited by a book by Roth. I do add books to my Amazon Wishlist based on comments on blogs and from Bust or Bitch reviews - though I seldom purchase directly off it, once I become more familiar with the title and author I am fairly likely to pick it up eventually.

Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?
Both and usually one of each at the same time.

What's more important in a novel, beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
At least one of the two - both is better. I can quite happily read a book that goes nowhere but reads like fine wine and chocolate, but I also enjoy a good plot and mediocre writing. The writing can't be horrible though, because bad enough writing will pull me out of the plot too often and that I don't enjoy. I do have problems sometimes adjusting to really abrupt changes in tone when switching from novel to novel, so I've been trying to read things in related groups lately.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)?
Recently, Franny K. Stein. Most recently remembered, Ramona Quimby and Leslie from Bridge to Terabithia. Maud in Possession by A.S. Byatt and Jeanette from Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson.

Which book(s) can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Between the nightstand and the bed, I've got a stack of Anita Black vamp books that I picked up used. On the bed (and they've been there for several nights) Lynsay Sands's vamp series. Plus, I'm reading Ramona & Beezus, The First Woman Doctor and a Wrinkle in Time at work and at home, Tall Dark & Hungry, A Year of Living Biblically, Guilty Pleasures, and Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy.

What was the last book you've read, and when was it?
At work, The Magic Finger, to which I say "meh" and at home, Payback, which was fabulous.

Have you ever given up on a book halfway in?
Pride and Prejudice I started several times before finishing it. I accidentally stopped reading War and Peace - I was enjoying it and then I went hiking and by the time I returned, I had forgotten too much to keep going without rereading and that just seemed too annoying. I seem to recall not ever finished a Lloyd Alexander novel as a kid. There might be one or two others, but I'm usually too goal oriented not to finish - I even read magazines cover to cover. I've more recently been sidetracked while reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - they're still in the bookshelf though, and I'll get them. Oh, and I never did finish The Picture of Dorian Gray which apparently I was reading the last time I did a book meme.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I Love This Guy

Streetcars, the Eaton Centre, and Socialized Healthcare, Oh My!

I watched the first season of Being Erica and now I'm homesick.

It's a nice break from NCIS, to which I am addicted, though they keep killing off all the good looking women (there's gotta be something to that, I think) and mocking Canadians. No, NCIS, Canadians aren't all in bed by 9 p.m.!

The best thing about this show so far? Since I've never been to a therapist in my pjs, I figure I'm an (almost) 32 year old who has it together.

Best quote: "Or, is it possible, that your alcohol consumption, though very important to you, might not play a role in influencing world events?"

LSL has written exactly how I feel right now.


I'm doing a lot of it.

Channelling the Kindie

I was incredibly close to throwing a hissy fit today.

At today's staff meeting, there was a point about how teachers can't tell students or parents that they are unfamiliar with a new curriculum; that is never an excuse for not having a handle on the material.

Today, I was trying to get essential info on a class that I have tomorrow - an SAT prep course that I will have no time to prep tomorrow. However, I had two hours between classes today to do it and you will not believe the grief I went through establishing what textbook I was using and if I could write in it when prepping.

When talking with the admin woman, kicking her in the shins and running away was briefly entertained and then common sense intruded and I threatened to tattle to the boss instead.

Real mature.

But seriously. Admin folks: your damn job is to do tasks that allow me to teach. Well. So freaking do your damn job already, because I am not stupid enough to take the flack if it isn't my damn fault.

I wouldn't be telling parents or students that the class was new to me; I'd be telling them the damn admin couldn't be bothered to give me the textbooks in time for me to prep.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Shopping In September

My penultimate morning of waking up to a rooster - and the call to prayer. The only downside to staying at the New Haven seems to be their really, really insistent serving of breakfast. On the door it states that you get a free breakfast until 10 a.m., but I got two knocks on the door asking if I wanted breakfast brought to my room before 9. The second time I gave in and got up to read and eat. It was nice to once again have a shower in my room, cold though it was. I wandered around, bank hopping. I exchanged my actual cash at the Paloma Forex, but I needed more cash for my day of shopping at the Arts Centre. Finding a working ATM seemed difficult, but when I finally got one to work, I had this odd sensation that perhaps I had been sticking it in the machine the wrong way. Either way, I was back in the money.

On my own in Accra, I got considerably better cab quotes but much worse quotes on souvenirs. The bowl guy was quoting me 12 cedis instead of the 6 he mentioned to Ortencia when we had been there a week before. One guy even quoted me 8 cedis for a wooden bracelet that everyone else in the market was starting at 2 for. I am not much of a fan of bargaining - it always ends up feeling a bit too much like being badgered into buying. I decided to stop by the restaurant for Coke and cookies - the waitress remembered and asked where my friend was, as did one of the guys we had met sitting in that restaurant the previous time. The whole point of that last day in Accra was to shop, and shop I did. By the time I hit my fourth continent in a month, I intended to have done most, if not all, of my Christmas shopping. I love not having to spend a fortune on postage.

I taxied back to the New Haven to drop off my stuff, finish off Travels in West Africa while eating a couple more cookies and returned to use the Internet again. I wasn't sure how confident I felt about walking around Accra alone in the dark, even if it was just three blocks, so I tried to time my Internet use so I'd be headed home as it got dark - I didn't succeed. However, I managed not to fall in any holes and there was only one slightly dodgy incident where a guy asked me if I wanted to fuck him, as he had a big dick! The whole slutty Western woman stereotype certainly proves interesting when you travel. Naturally, I declined and instead just returned to the Paloma for a pizza and yet another Coke.

I had budgeted incredibly carefully - I had just enough the next day for my hotel bill, a cab to the airport (I had asked the receptionist for an idea of what that was going to be) and some money to have breakfast once I got to the airport. I was pretty sure there wasn't an exit fee in the airport (I've been burned by that one before and had to stick it on my credit card in two separate countries in Asia). When I hit the airport, there was a slight problem - change. Getting change in Accra had been a problem before, but I wasn't offering that large a bill at all and I'd never had a problem in a taxi before. Naturally, I'd end up stuck in a cab who was cruising around for change just as I was trying to get somewhere quickly - but, dammit, that change was my breakfast!

I don't much love airports. I've come to be quite good at amusing myself in them - granted, when you live in a non-English speaking country and have my addiction to books, there is always the pleasant browsing in the bookstore. And I do have an unhealthy love of magazines. Accra airport was a pain in the ass in terms of slow moving lines, but I suppose that's a good thing, as it also wasn't very big. I bought some booze and a t-shirt and then it was time to board.

The moment I stepped off the plane and onto the ramp leading into the terminal in New York, I knew I was in some trouble - it was bloody freezing and my backpack contained one sweater and one pair of jeans, along with a lot of t-shirts and skirts. I only had the one pair of socks even and at that point I was still in flip flops. However, I got to wander around bookstores and get coffee at Starbucks and buy chocolate bars that I hadn't had in just over a year - I like La Guardia quite a lot. And then, one short flight, later, I was home, picking my mom out of the crowd, finally back in Toronto.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Words of Wisdom from the Third Eagle of the Apocolypse

Please do not expect to be raptured if...

This is funny. Funnier than most comedy shows on Korean TV.

Seen the RAWA Video yet?

World Leaders

Something for me to study, since I keep misidentifying Calderone of Mexico at quizzes.

Leaving Lome

When I woke up on my last morning in Togo, Ortencia was outside reading and Maas had arrived by the time I had showered. We went to our regular stand in Lome (it's funny how quickly things become routine), where I had my usual omellette, though no liquid, since travel in Togo and Ghana doesn't really involve bathroom stops.We took a taxi to the border, where Maas sweetly gave me a goodbye gift. After trading CFA for cedis, I went to cross the border - it was incredibly sad to leave Ortencia. While I get a bit bitchy when tired and travelling, Ortencia is a dream to travel with. After three weeks together, it felt odd going off on my own.

Once I had crossed the border, I picked a car going to Accra as quickly as possible and settled down to wait for the car to fill up. And I waited and I waited and I waited. I think I read half a book waiting. The driver informed me later that he was concerned at one point that one of the sellers who was trying to get me to change money was a thief and he praised my handy technique of ignoring everyone while reading my book. He told me he was positioning himself to chase the guy, should my bag get stolen. I was quite set, after a week of crowded travel in Togo, on having my own seat. A full seat, all to myself. Both butt cheeks on a seat! I even paid slightly extra to get to have the front seat. It was pure heaven.

The road to Accra involved a lot of stops. Two involved checking the trunk and once I was asked to get out of the car and inform the officer as to the contents of my bag: "mostly my clothes." There were also several passport checks - at one, the driver was concerned that I had been asked for money, but the guards just noted down the details and asked for my email address. I was dropped off right at the New Haven, which saved me another taxi ride from the bus stop. He was a delightful cabbie, minus the very odd conversation (after I had claimed to have a boyfriend back home) about marrying me and having me take him to Europe - while his wife and newborn baby in the car! This time I got a single, my goodness, it was big. No hot water in the single, but the bed was a double and you could easily put two people in it.

Naturally, as I left my bags in the room and was following the receptionist down the stairs to officially check in, I fell on my ass, down several stairs. I am grace personified.

The New Haven is the pleasantly cheap place stay (popular amongst Peace Corps volunteers), however the Paloma is the place to eat. I had not just dinner, but two Cokes - after the big bottles in Togo, just one of the normal size wasn't enough. However, I was on a bit of a budget - I had both euro and dollars on me, but very few cedis and it was a Sunday - so there weren't any exchanges open. After dinner, I had just enough cash to walk two blocks over to Busy Internet - the best connection in Accra, I'm fairly certain. After puttering around on the Internet (long enough to see the tequila body shot photos from the night before I left Seoul), returned to the New Haven for one more Coke and to read - I was determined to finish "Travels in West Africa" by Mary Kingsley before I finished travelling in West Africa. However, as per usual, I was in bed well before midnight. I don't think I've voluntarily gone to bed that early for that many weeks since... well, perhaps never, if the stories my father tells of sitting outside my bedroom, holding the door shut for a couple of hours while I finally fell asleep, are unexaggerated.

Mary Kingsley

Friday, December 11, 2009

It Takes a Day to Travel

As per usual, Ortencia did all the work. I woke up to find her out buying credit for her phone and headed off to have my bucket shower (hot water was ready for me!). The thing about bucket showers is that you have that limited amount of cleaning that you can do. With my long hair, bucket showers certainly presented a problem. First off, conditioning wasn't an option, because getting both shampoo and conditioner out of that much hair took too much water. Shaving also required that I skip washing my hair in order to have enough water for my legs.

We had lots of chores to get done - packing while waiting for our clothes to dry, burning the garbage, doing dishes, and then all the sudden, we had to leave in a huge rush. Ortencia was told there was a trou-trou leaving right away for Atokome, but naturally, after we rushed, it turned out that it was going nowhere fast. While we were waiting, the door of one of the vans fell off. After some discussion and waiting around (I cannot stress enough how much waiting is involved in any and all travel in Togo - in Ghana too, though less so), we decided to take motos out to the junction and hope that perhaps there would be more cars there. And there weren't. We were even passed by the trou-trou from the village passed us by.

So, there we were, hanging out at the junction. Sitting, wandering around, eating unpasteurized cheese, the only kind of cheese in Togo and made by herders, and finally, we ended up in a very crowded and incredibly shitty, broken-down vehicle. At one point, though, it seemed that we had passed the van from the village that had passed us once, now broken down. And then we, too, broke down. It was a nice pee stop, and I have to say, if you're going to pee at the side of the road, it's all about wearing a skirt. Finally, we made it to town, passing at one point over a bridge that was half collapsed - not a reassuring sight, as Ortencia had told me many times about the eleven bridges that had collapsed the previous year. The infrastructure of Togo was largely constructed by the Germans - and since the French had been the last colonial power, that demonstrates just how run down it all is.

Maas met us at the station and we went for a pee break while he found us a car - a much more comfortable travel option. We were also able to pass trou-trous - some loaded with so many goods on the roof, it made the van twice as tall. We even passed a truck with a goat on the top, not attached in any way, just up there, riding along. We made lots of stops to buy things for various passengers, such as a giant bag of charcoal. We were travelling on the one paved road, so we were making really good time, though at one point we had to take a big detour around one of those collapsed bridges - which involved driving over a bridge that seemed on the verge of collapse next.

When we hit the outskirts of Lome, where the trou-trou dropped us off, it was dark and it was impossible to find a taxi to take us to the hostel at a decent rate. No one would bargain at all with us. But, finally, we arrived at Mami's and went out to have Coke and bread as a substitute for dinner. Back in Lome - and on my way home.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Market Day in Kougnohou

By the time I was up, it was apparent that I was the laziest person in all of Togo (though how I slept so well in such a hard bed, I don't know.) Our entire pile of clothing had been washed, Ortencia had made breakfast, and there was a boy outside in the yard who had cut down pretty much all the growing things. I was treated to oatmeal with melted chocolate and bananas in it and after that was over, my sewing showed up. For the first time in a couple of days I was wearing completely clean clothes, with no rips in them, after a warm bucket shower (Ortencia heated the water up both mornings we were at her place and it was really, really nice.) Hilariously Ortencia was wearing a dress that matched her sofa - the dress was made with the leftover material back when she had the sofa cushions made.

Friday is Market Day in Kougnohou and that was our plan - to go to the market. It's very much a see and be seen sort of experience. I bought some panya (local cloth) and belly beads to bring back as my gift to the PMS Hash. We drank chuck, which is a fermented beverage of some sort, and ate sodja, tofu with very spicy sauce. After that, we decided to go visit Komi, in a village nearby. We went home first and there was a big debate about our laundry - we were leaving the next day and we wanted everything to be dry. The debate was over whether or not we should move the clothes inside or leave them out to finish drying, but risking that it might rain while we were gone. They were almost dry and there were possible storm clouds... We decided to risk it.

We took motos to Kotora and the view was incredibly beautiful. If there had been a way to take photos, I certainly would have. Being in the mountains of Togo really is perfection. Minus the fact that I was not wearing a bra that was at all ready for roads that bumpy and it started to rain. When we arrived, Komi wasn't in his room, but a small boy offered to go get him while we waited. A large group of children gathered to stare at us and one of the babies was quite scared of us. When Komi arrived, we chatted in a mix of English and French, before going for a walk around the village.

The village was in preparations for a big funeral that night. As a result, the village was quite busy, with guests arriving and people out cooking and getting ready. We walked around greeting everyone we met. The kids all wanted to shake hands, though I did manage to scare another baby as well. We were invited to sit in a gazebo and drink some boxed sangria with some of the older men, one of whom was Komi's uncle. More and more children kept showing up to shake hands.

Komi's younger brother and a friend were enlisted to drive us back to Ortencia's village by moto. It was a much nicer ride - I suspect because Komi insisted that they drive very carefully. So, when the rain started, they insisted we stop and take shelter at a compound along the way. That seemed a good idea, as we wanted to go to the bathroom. The family pointed out the shower room and as I came out, there was a little girl standing there. She held her arms up, so I picked her up. She immediately stole my glasses and put them on. The rain stopped for a bit and so we set off again, though it did drizzle for most of the ride home, which is why we got to see a beautiful rainbow and then a sunset highlighting the trees against the mountains.

When we arrived back, it was almost after dark. A man working with Ortencia dropped by and as she talked to him, I watched the end of the sunset and lightening flashing. We walked with her coworker to see his new offices, though since there were no electric lights, I wasn't able to see much. We went to the Marche just as it was closing to grab some bread and onions and then went home to hang our now soaking wet laundry inside.

When we went to bed, electricity was still on. However, once 11 p.m. hit the loud TV in a nearby compound was finally quiet and I could hear the funeral band in the distance - it's an odd change in culture to think of a funeral being the most happening place in town. Oddly, I spent the night dreaming not of the snakes that Ortencia kept mentioning, but oddly of being attacked by a bear.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Where Are You Going to Put That Chicken?

Before you start reading this, please hit play. The music is, indeed, part of the experience.

When we awoke on our last morning in Kpalime, Maman was awake and waiting for us so that she could say goodbye before heading to work. We had French toast and coffee - which Ortencia had told Maman I loved just the day before. We packed and walked down the road to get a trou-trou. We ended up with a driver who was a friend of Maman's and he both found us a taxi and ensured that we got a good fare. It was a long ride and the taxi driver picked up and dropped people off along the way. At most, we had eight adults and a kid - compared to trou-trous, taxis were a nicer way to travel. The music was slightly odd, as you can see. We listened to Aqua's entire album.

I took photos through the window of the waterfall we had visited, a second we passed, the beautiful mountains and trees, and then a series of photos which were meant to show the huge termite hills that I kept seeing. Once the taxi driver even stopped the car so that I could take a better photo of the waterfall. As we travelled, occasionally children would shout out, "yovo," the world for white person (in Ghana, obroni). I spent some time daydreaming about being in a bookstore back home, shopping. At a junction, we managed to switch cars rather than having to go all the way to the regional capital to get one, saving ourselves several hours on the way to the village where Ortencia is staying.

It was the most incredibly crowded trou-trou - so crowded, it was rather funny. Trou-trous are basically a trou-trou is a broken down old van. As many rows of seats as can be put in are there and on top of that there are as many rows as can be fit; thus, since the front row generally has extra space, an extra seat or board is often put there to fit more people. Ortencia and I got the last two seats in the trou-trou (after using a shower in a compound to use the washroom), so we were sitting in the front row, with a row of people facing us and sitting on a board. There was so little room between us, we all sat with our legs apart and a leg of the person opposite us between them. Under the seats were chickens. The passengers laughed when I took a photo.

We were both getting very hungry as the trou-trou climbed its way up through the mountains - it was one hell of a view, but sadly I was unable to get any photos - there was no room to get a camera out of a bag. We hit a junction just ten minutes from Ortencia's village and changed trou-trou and finally arrived, after a solid day of travelling along a road once paved and another that never was, home. We met her friend Gloria and family and many others.

Ortencia's house is in a small compound, just her house and Saki's. It had a front garden, with a gazebo for greeting visitors, as well as an outside shower room and latrine. We went on a walk to buy some bananas, and a someone Ortencia works on a project with came by to bring us some oranges. The young boy who does her yard work dropped by - apparently she once discovered a snake near the latrine and so the foliage has to be kept cut back. In the two weeks she had been away, everything had grown quite a lot.

We did a quick undies wash and Ortencia made pancakes with honey and then we went to see her seamstress, as I'd managed to get holes in a skirt and a pair of pants. When we arrived, she informed me that the family had just had a latrine built, but she was sure I could help with another project. Like so many others, she wanted to know what gifts I'd brought from Canada. After visiting the seamstress we walked "downtown" in the dark - Ortencia's village has limited electricity and that only during the hours of eight and eleven. So, it was mostly dark as we passed shops, children watching TV through the gaps in the boards of a building, a band playing in front of a church (either for a funeral or witchcraft - for which the region is renowned) and we finally stopped to buy kakawatts, eggs, and canned tomatoes. On our walk home, I saw fireflies.

At night, the latrine wasn't the nicest place to visit. Beyond a few cockroaches, there were also giant spiders and we were still sharing the flashlight on her cell phone. However, she did kindly inform me that peeing in the compound rather than the latrine itself was common and allowed, which was indeed convenient, due to my rather fearful regard of giant spiders.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Waterfalls, and Fufu, and Factories, Oh My!

The next morning, absolutely everyone was up before Ortencia and I. The taxi was scheduled for 9 a.m. and so we sat down to our breakfast of oatmeal (made with lemon water, quite good), bread, spaghetti and peas. The view was gorgeous - the clouds were lower than the mountain tops.

We left with the entire family, so there were seven of us in the taxi. We first headed to the Kpalime Art Centre, which was full of wood carvings and batik. The prices were about the same as in Ghana, though since I had little cash, I decided to wait to buy souvenirs on my last day in Ghana, before flying out. Plus, saved me from carrying the stuff around. I did pick up some fair trade coffee, the only you can buy in the country, according to Ortencia. In fact, for a part of the world so close to beans, it's interesting that the only coffee to be had is instant.

Our other planned destination was a waterfall nearby. In the Lonely Planet, the directions reminded me of a treasure hunt: "Go to this village. Speak to someone to find the road. Walk down it for a half hour. When you get to the gate, there will be a fee." We, however, had the luxury of a taxi ride - which turned out to be less luxurious when Victoire got car sick and Maman was thrown up on. Ortencia cheerfully reminded me to watch out for snakes when we went to bee in the bush. Then at the gate, the price had doubled, though after some debating by Maman, we did get a discount.

The waterfall was beautiful and very, very wet at the bottom. We spent some time taking photos and wandering around, finally leaving in the taxi. We stopped several times on the way back - to pick up a snack made of manioc and so that Ortencia could go to the bank. After we returned, everyone started to make fufu. You start with yams, take the skin off and cook them over the fire. After, they are pounded into a goo, that you dip in sauce and eat with your right hand. They taste like gluey mashed potatoes.

After the fufu, Maman sent us to say hi to her boss, a trip that resulted in a tour of a palm oil plant which is presently not working. It was quite an extensive tour - there are even a train with full tanks of oil that is stuck there, as the rail system no longer works. We were given some oranges and apparently they are sucked for their juice, but not eaten. We ran errands - to get Ortencia credit for her phone and pick up some for Maman, to get some eggs and drink another Coke. Ortencia actually mixed Malt Guinness and condensed milk, which is something I won't be taking up any time soon. We we returned, we both had a bucket shower and then a dinner of salad and rice - they key at any meal was to eat enough to make Maman happy, which involves multiple servings. A seamstress was visiting Kpalime to test some apprentices an we chatted with her before watching some more Brazilian soaps and then Cosby, We even looked at the family photo album, read for a bit, and went to bed.

One thing that is notable about the time I spent in Togo is just how many people had malaria. The niece that was visiting had it, Maas thought he might have it, several of Maman's relatives had it. It was everywhere, as I took my daily pills (ones that might have been responsible for why I was also taking a daily dose of Immodium.)