Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: Cheerleaders: The New Evil (Fear Street Superchiller, #7)

Cheerleaders: The New Evil (Fear Street Superchiller, #7)
Cheerleaders: The New Evil (Fear Street Superchiller, #7) by R.L. Stine

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Killer cheerleaders? A main character named Corky?

It might have been three stars if they hadn't lied to me about killer Santa there. I was hoping he'd be a big part of the story.

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Review: The New Year's Party

The New Year's Party
The New Year's Party by R.L. Stine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's 2 am and the house is so quiet I could be alone. I hate to admit it but that scared me a little. Yes, I'm a giant wimp.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Review: The Sentimentalists

The Sentimentalists
The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Petra sent me an unexpected american thanksgiving present! I've wanted to read this for awhile.

So, I had the weirdest reading experience - the first part of the narration I thought was by a dude - right up until the narrator finds her boyfriend sleeping with another woman. And my mind still tried to assume that it was a bisexual man cheating. Looking back, I don't see anything that made me assume a male narrator, except perhaps knowing that at some point the book was about the Vietnam War. It might have been that there are two kids, and one is the sister Helen, so perhaps I just assumed boy + girl makes sense (in my family we were totally gender balanced in my generation, even cousins.) Who knows.

I liked the book overall - but I wasn't surprised to read that Skibsrud also publishes poetry and I'm not sure I liked the poetic prose as much as I often do. I also went in expecting Vietnam War and you don't even get to that aspect of the book until halfway through. And the symbols - the boat that never sails, the submerged town - they seemed a bit too obvious to me.

And forevermore, I think I'm going to have a harder time picturing books set during the Vietnam war. They all seem to include an element about how oppressive the heat and rain are, and I LOVE the heat of Vietnam. LOVE. And while not fond of the rain, I've now done 7 years in that part of the world with a monsoon, and before that Vancouver and Scotland, so rain, meh.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Things Better Not Remembered

Well, the worst souvenir is easy - clearly it was the gastro-intestinal thing I picked up in Ghana. The Imodium package may tell you that you shouldn't take it for three weeks straight, but it seemed an easier idea than attempting local doctors in Togo.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Things They Can't Sell

I left my home country right after university. For over a decade, I've slowly pruned down the things I thought I *had* to have from home to pretty much nothing. An ideal vending machine would have my mom's cooking, my dad's wisdom, my siblings' jokes, and my nieces laughter.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Worth the Wait

My friend told me about the spectacle of market day in the tiny village in the mountains where she worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. I hopped on a plane in Asia, stopped over in Italy and flew to Ghana, then spent two solid days in bush taxis. Worth it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

25 Shades of Grey - Hogtown Analversery

here's the weekend story: Interment of ashes - odd thing to go to. Doesn't take long. Lunch was nice. Then went and read in the Indigo before heading to the hash. Nice trail around Yonge and Eglinton, lots of singing, drunk, got hit on by man and woman. Slept in, wandered down to hotel (where I crashed with someone, so yay! free hotel room!), got our jackets/pint glasses, started drinking beer. Changed into tacky dresses and were bused to the CN Tower. went up to Church on Church gay bar and hashers danced around with tranny. Hashed over to the Duke, interesting evening in seedy bar on Queen. Walked home, made McDonald's girl sell me a cheeseburger on foot in the drive-through, burnt my nipple while flashing someone my tits and smoking at the same time, very late bedtime. Woke up, not hungover but so dehydrated. Buses to trail were and hour late. Trail was near old landfill site. Two jello shot stops, one chocolate pudding shot stop, two beer checks. Keg broke a window in the bus. Crossed a river - discovered it was a false trail - crossed back. Final giant hill, then hotdogs and long, trafficy bus ride back. Changed to S&M gear, went to the legion. Dinner, more beer, smoked far too much weed. Strippers at party upstairs - and I got invited. Crashed out before hotel room crawl. Up early for hangover hash - nice walk around The Beaches, Caesars, sandwiches from Subway. Half asleep, but had to get myself to Yorkdale - an hour of public transit, right as everyone else in the city was trying to take their kids to the Santa Claus Parade. Drove home. Now trying to rehydrate and avoid all socializing.


I grew up spending my summers at a cottage on an island. Watching the sun rise over the water, the shadows of the trees on the water, eating toast and waiting for the day's first swim. The sun rising over water always reminds me of those childhood mornings.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mind Like A Sieve

I've forgotten plenty of things - batteries, a towel, flashlights, deodorant (in a country where it's not common), even the American money I had been instructed to bring to North Korea, but really, the only serious thing to forget is your sense of humour (and perhaps your passport/Visa card.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

When I was in university, I applied for an exchange program that it seemed likely I wouldn't get into. I did, and that was what started it. I moved across an ocean and I never looked back. Once I graduated, I continued to move across the oceans: first to Edinburgh, Scotland and then a brief stop in Vancouver before heading over to Seoul, Korea. Being an expat has been such an amazing experience. I've met so many people who I might never have become friends with had I stayed at home, I've seen so much of the world on my vacations, and I've learned so much about other cultures, which has, in turn, deepened my understanding of my own. The biggest drawback to being an expat is how many other expat friends you make. Because expats, by their natures, don't stay still. They move, and when they do, they move to far flung destinations. They take a part of your heart with them because with family so far away, they become your family. I'd love to have the chance to fly to Europe right now. Three of my closest friends are now within short train rides of each other and a dozen other very good friends are there too. All I need is that ticket to Germany and I'd have the chance to see people who have been along for the wild ride that has been my life and reminisce - and make new amazing memories to boot. Because the thing is that the worst thing about being an expat is also one of the best things about being an expat. I have friends all over the world, in all kinds of incredible places.

Review: Wise Blood

Wise Blood
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars? 3.5 stars? 4 stars? I don't know, because I feel like I have no idea what the hell was going on in this book, but I liked it, I think. Maybe.

WTF was up with the gorilla costume? A policeman seriously pushes a car over a cliff? Did he really believe the whole time, or not? Why did he feel unclean? Why did the girl want to sleep with him and how old was she? Who the hell blinds themselves with lime? Or steals a mummified tiny person?


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Pimp My Ride?

Living in a small town, without a license; my only option is my legs. Thankfully, I love to run. Because I'm a Hash House harriette, I do it in style. Sports kilts, sparkly skirts - you name it, I'll wear it. (With a warm hat, because it is Canada.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Local Legends

Touring around Scotland, the tour guide enjoyed teasing us. He had us dunking our heads into ice-cold waterfalls to protect ourselves from faeries on the Isle of Skye and feeding pieces of bread to hairy coos in the Highlands from our mouths. And then there was the rare haggis sightings.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: Eternal Kiss of Darkness

Eternal Kiss of Darkness
Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was better than the other Jeaniene Frost I read, largely because there were no British characters for her to mess the slang up with. But there were still a few places where a phrase was so weird it pulled me right out of the plot. And those are some BAD sex scenes.

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Local Legends

The best local legend I've heard is the Korean tales of fan death. Apparently if you turn on a fan inside a room with all the windows and doors closed, the fan can suck all the oxygen out of the room and kill you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Travel Advice

Always follow the noise. Whether it was an unexpected parade of giant puppets in Barcelona or a drum festival in Korea, this piece of advice from an old friend has never failed me. It's a big, noisy world out there.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: The Good Companions

The Good Companions
The Good Companions by J.B. Priestley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I FOUND IT! I read this book back in Scotland, or maybe even before during university and I could never recall what it was or who it was by, except the fact that it was about a theater group in England. And now because of a Flavorwire article about Roald Dahl's Matilda and the books she read, I know what it was. Mystery solved.

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Friday, November 09, 2012

Local Festivities

There is a festival every weekend in Korea; the best advice was always to follow the noise. But my favourite festival will always be HiSeoul. I did all kinds of things at HiSeoul over the years, but most notably this past year it was the host of my first half-marathon.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Kombe! Cheers! Salut! Prost! Sláinte!

I arrived in Bukit Lawang with an evening to kill before trekking to see orangutans. Another traveller suggested we check out the market, where we found a bottle of something for $2. We bought one and went to the hotel to experiment. It turns out it was best on ice.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

It's All Going to the Birds

When I moved to Scotland, there were endless postcards of puffins. After two years, I finally got out to Shetland to see some - and I couldn't believe how small they were! A year later I saw more on Vancouver Island, near Tofino. They are such cute birds!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Local Ingenuity

The bush taxi concept is clever. A guy with a car waits until it fills with at least 6 passengers and heads out. A van that might normally seat 14 can hold at least double that - and children, chickens and goats don't count. It's slow, but you get there.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Farewell the Day

When I was in Vietnam over the summer, I went on a day trip to see the My Son ruins and met a fascinating Australian. We sat in a restaurant for hours, solving the problems of the world over beers and great food and a gorgeous view of the river.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Silly Packing

Last year for Christmas a group of friends banded together to buy me a Kindle. I read incessantly. Starting in April I was backpacking around SE Asia for three months - and yet, in addition to the Kindle I still took at least 10 books. Perhaps I can't be taught.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

"On the beach, you can live in bliss." Dennis Wilson

I grew up with a cottage on an island with a tiny beach, so I thought beaches bored me. Then I started working in Korea and on a week long vacation went to Boracay and discovered just how wonderful beaches could be. The beauty, the relaxation, the massages. Wonderful.

Review: Autobiography of a Face

Autobiography of a Face
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is incredible.

About a hundred pages into the book, for no particular reason, I read the afterword by Ann Patchett. She talked about the author's frustration with the book being read purely as a cancer autobiography, because she had crafted it to be a work of art that said something timeless and not cancer specific about truth and beauty. And she accomplished that, brilliantly. She also said some very important things about cancer.

Forget pink and moustaches and ribbons. If you want to raise cancer awareness, go read this book and tell everyone you know to read it too.

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Friday, November 02, 2012

An Ideal Meal

The best food I've ever put into my mouth before noon was a $1 bowl of assam laksa in Penang. I'd been wandering pre-breakfast and was starving as I walked up to a crowded stand down near the clan jetties. That sour tang to a spicy fish soup is heaven.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Lost In Translation

My friends warned me about British slang - I knew not to say I was wearing a fanny-pack or my pants had gotten wet in the rain. They hadn't warned me that several common drinking terms would come across as sexual - double fisting and breaking the seal. That's me.