Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mexican birthday

After taking the California bar, the most terrible ordeal in my life to date, I fled to Mexico. I'm living with my step grandmother, Tila, in Merida, Mexico for one month. I landed 3 days ago and, so far, it has been a quiet trip. It is so hot here that you can only go out early in the morning, and in the evening. Well, as you know, I like to sleep in. So I decided to explore in the evening. But, there were massive thunder and lightening storms each night after I landed, which prevented me from really getting to explore. That is, until today.

This morning, I went with the volunteers - a rag tag bunch of 7 Brits in their early 20's - to the orphanage, where the orphans sang happy birthday to me. We were with the 6-10 year old girls. Some of them are so affection hungry that they attach to your hips and legs sight unseen, and ask to kiss your cheek, or hold your hand, etc. It was incredibly touching. After that we traveled to the caves by bus, then these little catamarans, and finally by donkey-pulled carts on train tracks. We cave dived for about 3 hours. It was amazing. Afterward, back in the city, we had a delicious Italian meal. It was a very good Birthday.

As for the mosquitoes, I learned from the volunteers that most foreigners react like I did, i.e., welts the size of a silver dollar, for about a week after which the mosquitoes become less interested and also the physical reaction to each bite becomes less severe. I'll be sure to post pics of my left leg. It looks like I have leprosy. I hope these kids were right because they bites are literally driving me mad. I can't sleep both because they itch so bad and because I'm always brushing mosquitoes away (they're like super mosquitoes, impervious to repellent or citronella).

Tila has been giving me 2-hour Spanish lessons each morning and has advised me that soon she will stop speaking to me in English! It turns out that I knew more Spanish than I thought. I know enough to get places, order food, ask basic questions, and I even managed a joke!

Finally, in maybe 10 days or so I plan on renting a car and doing a little tour of the Yucatan. My step-cousin, Gita, is in school, so I'll probably have to do it alone. I'm kind of scared but also excited. Tila seems to think it's a good idea so long as I stick to safe towns.

Anyway, that's all for now from Mexico.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hallmark Holiday Special

I'm back in the States and yes, I plan to post tales from my travels. But today I feel the need to post a fond farewell to the Parks family's (or more accurately Jessie's) sweet golden Dazie.

I was teetering on the threshold of a Chicago nail salon on Christmas Eve when I got the call. A heads up from Dad. Dazie was sick. The kind of sick that earns family dogs a permanent trip to the farm. Mom and Dad hadn't told Jessie yet and, since I was flying in on Christmas day, they wanted to steel me for the impending tragedy. I'm sure the ladies at the salon appreciated my ashen face and occasional stifled sob on such a festive day. Oh well.

The scene that greeted me at the family home in Seattle was dire. Dazie panted with the effort of raising her head. Jessie lay wrapped up in her rainbow blankie, her body wracked with grief. We were all there. Mom, Dad, Connor, me, even the cat. We crouched round Jessie and Dazie and tried to support her through the ordeal of loosing her best friend.

Animal, our impossibly small cat, who used to toy with Dazie's feelings, cuddling her one minute and biting her the next, now hovered near Dazie and licked her face. It looked like a scene from a Hallmark special.

We never had to take Dazie on that last sad drive to the vet. She didn't have to close her eyes in unfamiliar surroundings. The day after Christmas, Dazie took one last breath and slipped away in Jessie's arms.

I'm not saying that the death of our family dog was a good thing. But Dazie pulled it off with spectacular timing and bravery and united our usually scattered family so that we could all be there to carry Jessie through her grief.

Good girl Dazie.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The humble abode

The hood...

The walk up...

The (spacious and well lit) living room...

...not bad eh?

My bedroom...

Cristy's office-turned bedroom...

Kitchen stocked with Ikea everything...

The ladies' room...

Halo, ik spreek geen Nederlands?

Key observations on Amsterdam and the Dutch:
  1. Karnemelk is not delicious refreshing milk. It's disgusting buttermilk;
  2. You have to purchase your own grocery bags and bag your own groceries. Failure to comprehend and execute this norm with speed makes for a grumpy cashier and a traffic jam at the market;
  3. The Dutch have...interesting taste in fashion. Bright colors and lots of them stick out like a sore thumb;
  4. The Dutch don't "lunch" as we do in the states. A simple meal of bread and cheese will suffice;
  5. Dutch cheese rocks;
  6. The weather here sucks;
  7. Buy 2 locks for your bike, one for the back wheel and another for the front wheel and frame, and always lock your bike to a stationary object lest your frustrated thief decide to just throw the thing into a canal;
  8. Bring Tylenol! Weed and shrooms may be legal, but you have to have an Rx for Tylenol

Saturday, August 29, 2009


As promised, the first of many Dam entries. Pictures to come. The dust is still settling so pardon my brevity and lack of wit.

This study abroad thing got off to a very rocky start. Apparently it is neigh impossible to find housing in Amsterdam on one's own.The custom here is to hire a broker and pay him/her a commission equal to one month's rent at your new abode. Add that to the traditional 2-month's deposit and first month's rent and you're looking at a very pricey move-in.

Ignorant of the realities of Dam's housing market, like true head-strong Americans, Cristy and I rejected the univerisyt's housing service, which places students in rshared ooms across the city. I'm 26 (again) for crap's sake! I didn't want a dorm. And I wanted to room with Cristy, not someone's Dutch grandmother (I'm sure Dutch grandmother's are wonderful people). So we breezed into town on August 26th expecting to find our own housing in the picturesque city center. It was a wearying and discouraging task.

We responded to approximately 45 ads on Craigslist and Expatriates.com, of which only 4 turned out to be real. The rest? Frauds. The malfeasors would respond to our e-mails with some sad story about how they had to leave Dam and had no one with whom to leave a set of keys. But no fear. If you but wire them a deposit, they will FedEx you a key. Oh, and you must also supply your passport number, sex, birthday, last residence etc. Disgust!

Despite our naivete Cristy and I landed on our feet. 3 days into the hunt yours truly was loosing her mind. Unable to sleep due to fears of impending homelesness. And then we found a real ad, from a real woman, a Brit at that. The apartment is not in city center, which turned out to be a good thing. It's a much quieter neighborhood. The apartment is charming, fully stocked and furnished, and a quick bike ride to school.

Finally I can take a breath and look around at the city. I'm on my way out to get a bike, and tomorrow I'll tour the city for real.

Oh, one last thing. The exchange rate! Holy crappy cow! It looks like the money I saved up this summer will go to life in Dam, and not to the many European adventures of which I dreamed. Which is ok. This city may be abominably expensive, but it is beautiful.

Until next time.