Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A "Weighty" Decision

Seeing that my marathon days have now come to a conclusion (there's not much pleasure in long, long runs when there's a gray sky and lots of curious onlookers outside), I've had to stir up some creative juices and broaden my athletic horizons. A few friends in the states had previously spoken highly of this 12 disc work-out program called P90X. Having always associated exercise videos with Richard Simmons doing the pony in neon spandex, I wasn't quick to jump on that bandwagon. But I finally bit the bullet and tried it out, only to find out that these things are hard. Really hard.

I needed to purchase some free weights to go along with my little endeavor so one Sunday I rode my bike to a nearby market where I was told I could find them. After wandering around several shops for some comparative shopping, I started developing that dull headache that I often get on shopping expeditions. For one, I was speaking my new language. Second of all, this purchase required higher level math. This weight cost this many local dollars per pound but this one cost this many local dollars per kilogram. Converting kilograms to pounds, local dollars to real dollars in an effort not to spend too much, all the while trying to understand the sales ladies (and defer their questions why I wanted to buy men's weights) and articulate myself became quite a challenge. I finally made a selection, bargained down the price a bit, and happily left the market with my purchase all boxed up.

Well, to be more specific, a helpful sales guy carried my purchase out of the store for me. Perhaps if I had been the one to carry my box, I would have forecasted the challenge that lie before me: getting a 60 pound box home with only my bike to assist me. The trek home went something like this:

Walk my bike 20 feet or so until the weight on the back somehow sent the back tires air born.

Recover box. Painstakingly place it in my basket.

Venture another 50 feet or so. Become unwarrantably confident.

Spy a cart full of peaches for sale. Only 2 local dollars a pound (roughly thirty cents). I can't pass up an offer like that!

Depart from the peach cart with an extra four pound of peaches, bringing my total weight load to 64 pounds.

My unwarranted confidence gets the better of my as I decide to attempt to ride my bike. My box of weights, my peaches, and myself end up on the ground. Right in front of a bus stop and quite a few chuckling onlookers.

Repeat process of re-loading box into basket but this time with the assistance of a concerned bus patron who decides to offer me the helpful comment: "It's too heavy." Thank you, sir, I know.

My confidence in check, I cautiously walk the rest of the way home.

Making it up the bike ramp of my apartment building and into the elevator was also a challenge but I'll leave that to your imagination.

The moral of the story: if one ever wants to make a purchase exceeding a certain weight limit, it is best to take a cab.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Thankful Day

I think living overseas, if you let it, can make you a more thankful person. The things I once took for granted or even considered my "rights" in America are not so easily come by here. We ex-pats can either become bitter & cynical or thankful for the realization that any good thing we have really is a blessing. So here is my thankful list for today:

1) the sky is blue!!
2) there is water in my pipes!!
3) I got to take a shower this morning!!

The list could go on but it's study time now...

Happy Thankful Day to you!

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Woes of Illiteracy

Today, in the ultimate manifestation of irony, there is plenty of water outside but none in my home. Interpretation of my sage prose: it's raining outside but the water is turned off in our entire apartment complex.

It's days like this that I wish I could read because apparently there was a sign on our door informing us of this small inconvenience. Unfortunately, however, the sign gave no indication of when exactly the water will come back. I'm thinking about starting a "pool" among the neighbors (thank you, amazing pun!). You know, we can all make bets about when we'll have water again, winner takes all! That could definitely be a good way to meet the neighbors and get some language practice...

It's really not that big of a deal since we don't drink the tap water. It's just a matter of not being able to bath, brush our teeth or do the dishes. And who really needs to do those things anyway? We thought back to our Viva Europa adventure and figured if we could live out of a tent & backpacks for three weeks, then a few days of creative general hygiene won't be so bad.

Well, my dirty little self is off to do some more studying...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Tour Guide Barbie

Remember that part in Toy Story where Mr. Potato Head, Hamm, and Slinky Dog cruise around Al's Toy Barn looking for Buzz with Tour Guide Barbie at the wheel? Well, that was me a few weeks ago. Except we weren't in a toy store, we were in one of the world's biggest cities. And I wasn't giving tours to cowboys and piggy banks but to some American friends that came in town. And I'm not made of plastic nor are my feet sporting the perma-high heel wedge. But all of these things are beside the point...

My tutor Anita (who also happens to be one of my best friends here) and I took a three-hour train from our city to the Big City where our friends were flying in from the states. Their flight didn't come in until nearly ten (which in reality ended up being nearly eleven) so we had some time to kill. I took her to my current Big City favorite spots--TGI Fridays and the import grocery store!

Now this place is certainly no HEB or Kroger but it makes my familiar-food-loving-rice-overloaded heart (or stomach rather) go pitter-patter (or perhaps "Feed me, feed me!!" if we're going with the stomach theme) at the sight of all the familiar and yummy food. I walked Anita up and down every aisle and gave her commentary on everything I could think of:

"This is Honey Bunches of Oats, my favorite cereal in America but I only buy it here on special occasions."

"This is Chef Boyardee, a staple for busy moms with kids to feed."

"This is Kraft Mac & Cheese. Somehow a package of orange powder magically turns into cheese when large quantities of butter & milk are added."

"This is turkey deli meat, my all-time favorite. This one especially only gets purchased on special occasions because it's nearly 10 USD for a meager box."

"This is Spam, I'm not sure what it is or why people eat it."

With a suitcase full of my must-haves (this is how we grocery shop around here--with empty suitcases!) and a Dr. Pepper for Anita, we headed to Friday's for lunch.

After picking up our friends at the airport, we spent the night at the luxurious Holiday Inn (note: I am not using luxurious sarcastically! After some of the hotel beds I've slept on here (otherwise known as plywood!), I'd come back to this hotel anyday!)

The next day was a busy one. The Great Wall of...ummm...Asia, a famous city square, and a five-story tourist shopping place. But since this was my third time to visit all of these places, I was more excited about visiting Subway for dinner!

Once we were back home, we spent the next week showing our friends around the city and meeting people. After a tiring ten days, our friends went back to the Big City to fly back over the big ocean.

So if anyone else is in the mood for a 24 plane ride, I'll pick you up at the airport and show you the town: TGI Fridays, import grocery stores, and Subway Sandwiches! If you're lucky, I'll even take you to that big, boring wall.