Posted by: patriciamar | September 25, 2018

Why do people keep trying to give me a fork?

foku (フォーク-katakana) – fork

hashi (箸-kanji/はし-hiragana) – chopsticks

Obviously, I know why people keep trying to give me a fork.  Not only do I often drop and randomly fling pieces of food with my chopsticks, but 65% of the time I hold them in a ridiculously impractical way that doesn’t allow the tips to pinch closed.

I do know how to hold them properly.  Honest.  I hold them correctly when I practice my chopsticks skills one edamame bean at a time.  But after 7 or 8 minutes, my hand starts to cramp.  I blame it on the day job.  All of the grading and writing has given me a form of carpal tunnel that won’t allow me to correctly use chopsticks.

I shall persevere.


By the way, that’s not beer. It was hop tea. You add water (or liquor, apparently).

Posted by: patriciamar | September 24, 2018

Welcome to Tokyo

Last week I moved to Tokyo.

I live in Tokyo.

For now, I live in Tokyo.

Simplistic thoughts like these have often appeared in my head over the past 7 days.

So I guess… that I live here.


I have been to Tokyo twice now, and the dominant impression has been how very easy it has been.   There are so many people living here.  Current estimates put the population of the urban area (23 wards) at more than 36 million people.  Wikipedia says 39 million.

Can you imagine that number?

If you have been to any large cities or metropolitan areas, this means one thing.  The city must be organized.  There must be public transportation, facilities, public services, green spaces, housing, eateries, restrooms– all the things that regular people need every day.  The great thing about Tokyo is that there is.  It’s organized and clean, and in some ways (like the garbage and recycling system), it’s a little strict.  I like this.  There are rules and pictures and diagrams and if you follow them, you’ll be fine.

My first night in Tokyo earlier this spring, I knew that there was a possibility I would be moving here.  It wasn’t 100%, so neither was I.   My task for that first night was to find out if I would make it.  I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve lived in other countries (Mexico, Holland), but this was a new country and I speak very, very little Japanese, so I needed to know–just for me– if I could handle it.

I could.  And that wasn’t because I’m a travel genius or anything.  It was because I walked slowly, looked around a lot, and whenever it became too much, I just maneuvered my way to a quiet pillar and stood still.  After a minute or two, the intimidating click of heels became comforting, and it was easy to see that there was, always is, a system in place.

Arrows tell you where to walk, bike, stand, pay, insert your card, eat, order, take the elevator, find food, find the restroom, flush the toilet, and take off your shoes.  It’s even clear how to turn on the musical water noise if you don’t want someone else to hear you peeing (This is a thing.)


I’ll be here for a year.  It should be fun.  Please come and visit.


Posted by: patriciamar | June 6, 2018

Crying on my Banana Phone

E flying

This personal narrative details the week that I, the childless Californian aunt, came to town to take care of my three nieces and nephews. Lessons were learned. Fun was had.

 Here at the start of June, one week in to summer break, there are takeaways for any parent or caregiver.

*        *        *

Last summer I made a trek to the Midwest to do some babysitting. My sister had a business trip, I was on break from teaching, and that was that. They flew me in to babysit their three children for the week. I should begin by saying that my nieces and nephews are great. During that week, they were amazing–helpful, sweet, and they went to sleep at night!

Now let me tell you how getting to spend a week taking care of three adorable kids brought me to a near breaking point, driving a minivan around the Twin Cities, tears streaming down my face as I sang along with Raffi to “Banana Phone.” They sang too.

I came into the week prepared. I had a notebook full of ideas, things I had loved as a kid that we could do during our summer days together. I had playdates scheduled. We would be painting and making art projects, biking to the local park to have a picnic, swimming in the little backyard pool and singing songs in foreign languages. I was not unprepared.

Of course with children, you can never be prepared enough. This might have more to do with life than raising children.  I’m not sure.

Obstacle one occurred before I even arrived. The air conditioning was broken. Say what you want, in Minnesota, you need air conditioning in the summer. The humidity is oppressive. You’re sweating constantly, yet somehow it feels like you might burst because the water in your body, 80, 85% or whatever, is so hot that it’s boiling, trying to force itself out of your pores to evaporate into steam. It’s not pleasant.

Once air conditioning was out, all plans were off. The basement was livable, so all action would have to take place there–eating, sleeping, playing, reading–everything. First I had to change the menu. Those beans I was soaking to make into pork enchiladas, nuh-uh. That was probably too ambitious anyway. Sandwiches. There would be sandwiches for lunch.

Sleeping arrangements were altered. The two older kids share a bedroom downstairs, so they were set, but the littlest sleeps upstairs, and it immediately became apparent that she does not appreciate the heat. A sweet, giggling one year old becomes a shrieking ball of sadness when her cheeks turn rosy. I get it. I feel the same way, honestly.

Within 24 hours I learned to watch for the signs as we cycled inside, back outside to the backyard, into the pool, out and down to the basement for lunch,, upstairs for a diaper, back downstairs for coloring time.

I moved a pack ‘n play downstairs for her, and then of course the monitor, the monitor cam, diapers, wet wipes, pacifier, favorite blanket–I could continue. Life as a one year old is tough.

Next, consider life as a one-day old mother of three. As you can surely imagine, logistics got sloppier and sloppier as things moved downstairs.

And in the end, it still wasn’t enough. There wasn’t enough to do. The basement was still too hot, and the one year old got testier with every increased degree. Here’s a science question: How many degrees does the temperature of a basement raise per minute of a temper tantrum?

Plans changed. We called my brother and his wife and they graciously volunteered to take us in.

Obstacle two: I am a terrible packer.

I started early in the morning, knowing that children need stuff and I need stuff and children need food and fruit and milk and juice in sippy cups. And diapers, I have to remember the diapers. We might swim, no–we’ll surely swim. Where are those little swimmers? Nighttime routines–they should be maintained. Four people need pajamas. Vitamins.

Did I mention that I’m not a good packer? Even when packing for myself, headed on a trip to San Francisco for two nights, my husband comes in and repacks my bag the moment I leave the room. I always bring two notebooks and three books to read, but no pens and no socks.

I forgot toothbrushes. What’s worse, I forgot swimming trunks for my nephew. One cannot go down a homemade slip ‘n’ slide in their shorts. This is absolutely, terribly, horribly, undeniably impossible. He told us all with all the tears the poor kid could muster.

Obstacle three: I’m still terrible at packing.

The heat subsided after our first overnight adventure (sorry, teeth!), and we went back home for a night before the heat returned. Packing for the second time (after the swimming trunks debacle) I worked harder. I started the night before. I walked through the day in my mind: play time, lunch time, swimming time, swingset, the park, bedtime, the next morning. My mind was sharp with two Keurig k cups. I was focused, organized. I accounted for little “accidents” and I made sure that I brought those toothbrushes.

The outcome? I had seven pairs of underwear and three pairs of swimming trunks. I had 0 pullups and 4 little swimmers (They look so similar!). I had asked my dearest, eldest niece to pack two outfits for herself. I thought it would be nice for her to have some freedom with her wardrobe.

Yes, I understand that you’re laughing. I wasn’t smart enough to catch that before it happened.

She was a good helper and old enough to pick out her own clothes, no matter whether they matched or not. Thank goodness she had, because other than those colorful outfits with gauzy sleeves, she had nothing. I had no pajamas for her, no socks, and due to bad guesswork when confronted with a family toothbrush holder, she still had no toothbrush. Apparently picking the three smallest ones wasn’t a substantiated method for selection.

“I’m sorry Sweetie, could you please just use your mom’s toothbrush? Just for tonight?”

I felt awful, but at least there were no tears this time. She was simply shocked that I wouldn’t know that the small pinkish toothbrush was her mother’s, not hers. She took it well, and I did eventually find a pullup in the many bags.

There were many lessons learned during this trip, and a lot of epiphanies relating to so-called freedom, the ins and outs of planning, and flexibility.

As an instructor on a university campus, the hours of the day that I am required, truly forced, to be somewhere doing something are minimal. In a way, they are almost non-existent. Of course I have to go to work, I have to teach my classes and I need to be there, in that location, to do so. However, I make the lessons, I plan what we do and when we do it. That opens life up to an extreme level of flexibility.

In Minnesota, I was responsible for lives. Yes, three little human lives, plus myself! This, for me, carried a shocking amount of… emotional weight, you might say. I was in constant fear of all the things that could happen, that might happen. I well understood that they probably wouldn’t, I could reasonably understand that this heavy burden on my mind was a first-time parent issue. Parents get used to being parents, this I believe.

I was not used to it, and that fact didn’t necessarily get easier as the week went on, mostly because as the days passed by, I got more and more and more tired.

Like I said, they slept well. But what if they woke up!? What if they woke up at 2 a.m. and never went back to sleep? What if the littlest one woke up in the night and I didn’t hear her? After they were in bed at night and the house was quiet, the adult figure needs some time to decompress. I needed time to read and think about my upcoming teaching schedule and reply to emails from colleagues. Add to that the desire to actually relax–listen to music, read, watch tv, or write. There is. no. time.

When I was a child, my mother and several colleagues and teachers wrote this book called “Links of Love,” now out of print. There are two versions actually, the second is “More Links of Love.” It has numerous sections with games, stories, ideas, recipes, anecdotes and child development information and advice. It’s basically a guide to being a great parent. Not just a good parent, a great parent. Basically, I was raised by a professional mom. I can confirm after only five days that this is very, very hard.

This is something that absolutely amazes me. Parenting is something that almost the entire population does. It’s a process that so many people complete that it’s not even a thing.

In the car on the way to my brother’s house, (for the second time) I breathed a sigh of relief. Mediocre substitute parent #1 was about to go meet up with two more parents. Two real full-blown parents, each with more than a 2 ½ year old of experience. It was going to be a dream.

Obstacle four: I get lost sometimes.

“Why aren’t you turning here?” My four-year-old nephew asked.

I had driven to my brother’s house on a number of occasions. In fact, I drove there already in this article. But I haven’t driven there more than ten times total, so I’m no expert. Why didn’t I listen to him? I’m unsure. He has been there more than ten times. Perhaps I thought I knew the way better than a four year old.

And that’s how I ended up driving a minivan around in the country on the north edge of the Twin Cities, somewhere near Scandia or Big Marine, three kids in the car, all buckled in, tears running down my face as I sang along.

“Ba-na-na phone…” You parents know it.

There are a few moments of note that sustained me, kept me alert and awake and smiling hour after hour. I will always remember those special moments.

First is bedtime, when we listened to the Frog and Toad audiobooks and the littlest would scoot her diapered butt backwards like a little short bus to sit on my lap, so we could listen together. And shortly after, when my four-year-old nephew turned to me with the biggest eyes and asked why Toad doesn’t like sledding.

When everyone, myself included, was splashing in the pool and thus, no one was sweating.

When they played with play-doh. I often played with play-doh as a kid and now I understand why. I have three siblings. It’s so quiet when kids are building things–thinking, planning, plotting their cities and monsters and fields of snowmen.

I will remember every time during the week when I got little hugs. Kids are never short of hugs to give away.

These are the moments I will remember many years down the road, when my niece calls the wild great aunt from California and asks her to babysit for a week. Absolutely, I’ll say.

On the plane on the way home I was so sad. It was not because I was tired or annoyed or because I had forgotten my toothbrush. I was sad that I hadn’t spoiled them enough. I should have given them more cookies, and played Candyland a few more times. I should have let them stay up late with me and fall asleep on the couch watching Wild Krats.

What would they remember from this week? Would they remember the fun? All racing to the pool and jumping in at the same time? Or would they just remember when I made them brush their teeth again because they did it too quickly the first time, or when I told them they could only have one cookie? I’m not sure. That, I conclude after my pitifully short week of single parenting, is the catch 22 of parenting.

So for all the good parents out there, keep it up. I’m sure you can do it. Apparently we’re made for this sort of thing, as human beings, I mean. If I could make it through the week, I’m sure you can keep up the good work that you’re already doing. I hear that it gets easier.

And for all the great parents, wow. That’s hard work. Your kids will remember it. Don’t think they won’t. Eventually, at least.

Posted by: patriciamar | April 27, 2018

Book review: 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso (a Minnesotan!)

It took me forever to read this tiny book. According to the back cover, the goal was to produce a book that would read like a book of quotes: the best lines from 300 novels, let’s say. It is exactly that. For a full month I carried it around with me and took it out for a piece of wisdom whenever I needed one, which was often.

For teachers, it could serve as a conversation starter, for siblings or friends, or maybe even a Lorelei and Rory-like mother daughter relationship, it is the short, sweet start of hundreds of philosophical discussions on life.

I simply loved its bits and pieces. Take a look.

Posted by: patriciamar | March 12, 2018

The Live blog you always wanted: Colonoscopy Prep

Sometimes writers are afraid to write what they really want to write.  They hide their opinions, wild dreams and fears behind characters and fan fiction.  Why yes, Mrs. Grey, that is what they do.

Today, I will take advantage of a prime opportunity and write the live blog that you have all obviously wanted to write and read:

Colonoscopy from prep to…


Colonoscopy from pizza delivery to…

the underground world of the teenage mutant ninja turtles.

At least we can all agree that preventative procedures save lives.

After tonight, you’ll all be ready to put your best colon forward, or maybe, downward.  I think we know which way is in and which way is out.  (If not, you should probably start your cleansing a week earlier.)

Fortunately, this is not my colonoscopy.  I am the hand that writes longhand the emojis that the scoped one sends.

Let’s start with some background information for interested parties.  Preparing for a colonoscopy can be a complex process.  You will need to start your adapted diet 3-5 before your procedure, starting by eliminating seeds, nuts, kernels, and any other small items that are likely to projectile shoot out at your practitioner.

Be sure to watch the videos that will be provided by your health care provider.  They will continue to send these until you do.  If you don’t prepare properly, they will send you home.  Seriously.  Bowel preparation instructions should include detailed lists of items that will make you wonder more deeply about the state of the American diet.

The colonoscopy process and progress will be a gradual addition to this post.  Pertinent updates, feeling, and status will be conveyed from the receiver of the colonscope– to me–via emojis, stickers and the sporadic gif, with the possibility of toi-toi selfie if we’re unlucky.  Cats will be present throughout the entire procedure.  Only their smelling whiskers will be harmed.


Three days before the big day, you should eat low-fiber food.  You should also cease drinking alcohol and stop it with the colorful frosting already.  You’re 40 years old.  You don’t need pink sprinkles on your banana cupcake.

Other prohibited items include fruit (berries) with skin, pasta, pineapple, onions, lentils, beans, and both split and black-eyed peas.

On the A-ok list?  Veal.

Also fruit juice with no pulp, ripe, peeled stone fruit, creamy peanut butter, cooked vegetables, and the kind of potatoes that your Midwestern Grandmother makes, peeled and mashed with butter and cream (both allowed).

I don’t really understand why cheese is allowed at this point.  Why, for example, can you not eat a piece of spaghetti, but a grilled cheese packed with aged gouda is somehow ok?  Is it really going to be processed more slowly than a pasta nest?  I have my doubts about this.

The day before the big day, you’re done with solid food.  And who cares!?  Soon most everything in your world will be loosening up.  You can drink clear liquids and eat hard candies and popsicles as long as they don’t contain any brightly colored dyes (red and purple, in particular, should be avoided.)

The consumption of the NuLytely begins the evening before and the portions and times are strictly defined.  You should fudge this schedule equal to or less than the amount of fudging you did to your diet for the previous three days.  I know there is a bag of colorful gummies in your desk!  How many did you eat?  


You might want to further prepare yourself by continuing on with your usual Sunday evening meal prep.  #mealprepper

Fill cups with the correct amount of liquid.

There are 8 cups of important liquid.  You will need to drink half a cup every 10 minutes.  Add flavoring if you like, but remember, no food coloring or chunks.

You will then repeat during the night.  I wonder if I’ll still be up blogging then….


To be continued…



Update #1

7:25  Drunk by 7:37 – vanilla orange flavoring – quite drinkable

7:47 #2 – pineapple coconut additive unsuccessful.

7:49 – stomach gurgling ensues.

Gurgling increases.


Whoa.  This is really a lot of gurgling– baño emergency style

Heater on in the post-prep room.  Lid up.  Window open.



Update #2

Radio silence.



Update #3

It just occurred to me (yes, just now) that I’m about to get a lot of information that I might not want to hear.  Well, not hear– receive.

I should probably go get a beer.



Update #4

Jiggles in the stomach, small intestine, and large.



Update #5

We all know what’s happening on-site, so let’s take a moment to look at the hard facts.  We’re halfway through the prescribed NuLytely intake.  It is 2 hours and 10 minutes since the first sip.  That’s not a bad turnaround!  BUT!  That’s too fast if you are unprepared.

Before you thrown the first one back, make sure to:

  1. Put on warm socks
  2. Arrange for proper ventilation
  3. Fill your water bottle and lean it on tp dispenser (you won’t need that until the end, anyway)
  4. Stockpile a decent amount of reading and bingewatching material, or lure in an entertaining creature like a turtle or cat
  5. Suggestions?

130 minutes*–take this into consideration when planning your own evening of sipping colon cleansing cocktail.

*Results vary.  #gentle



Update #6 “The Giggle Sprint”

At this point in the evening, I, the colon reporter on duty, can no longer receive firsthand information.  I am getting hashtags and quotes from my secondary source**, some of which can be shared online without censor.  I can at least tell you that this experience will not be that bad.  You may find yourself exclaiming enthusiastically at the speed at which your system progresses.  You may have to #gigglesprint or just stay put af, but I can confirm that at the minimum, you can continue to check on your incoming Amazon packages at will. #deliverytomorrow #can’tchatnow #poohbearsaysgoodnight

**DB in the LR not the BA


Good luck!





Posted by: patriciamar | February 25, 2018

Library books as a competitive sport

Approximately every two years, everything changes and instead of measuring life in hours and days and classes– or even the commonly utilized checklist– everything becomes very simple and clear.




There are but three levels, and if you don’t place, no one remember you.


If I need to grade papers, I grade them in competition with myself.  Ten in a row will get me a bronze; 15, a silver, and 18–the whole bloody stack–I get the gold.

When I cook dinner, I plan my diet like a competitive athlete.  Am I getting the nutrients that I need?  I weigh out the carbohydrates, thinking of the individual event (work), the team event (meetings) and the weekend finals (beer and biking biathlon).  Hydrate.  Hydrate.

I take my reading to the next level.  As is the norm, I read library books like it’s a competitive sport.  For the last 15 days, I have been an Olympic readathonlete, working hard to earn my place on the podium.  I have only fifteen days to read all of the library books that are due on Monday the 26th day of February.  

It’s going to be a challenge.

This is all really based on terrible habits.  I check out too many books and then renew them the maximum number of times, all while reading The Economist and Harry Potter on my Kindle.  Then, at the critical moment, when all due dates are gliding down an icy path at a critical speed (sounds familiar, right?) toward the same end, I finally crack them open and start to read.

During this particular winter Olympics, I have seven library books due: 4 physical books, 2 audiobooks, and 1 ebook.  It’s a disaster.  All my training, four years of checking out Yolo County Library Books, and I’m in the tightest competition that I have ever taken part in.

I had some foul-ups early on–eating too much hotpot for Chinese New Year stole precious hours.  Why did I get the spicy?

I finish one book and take a short bike ride to return it.  Yes, I could return them all at once, but where’s the procrastination in that?

Back to the books.  

I cannot let up.

I read during commercials, (Minnesota U.S. women’s hockey wins the gold!  Now the gold medal curling match!), I read in the morning before work and during my lunch break.  At night, I stay up late putting in the extra hours, Mike Tirico chatting happily from the lodge in the background.  I pause to spend brief moments missing Bob Costas.  It was the end of an era. The audiobooks and ebooks really hold me accountable.  There is no such thing as keeping them past the due date; they simply disappear.

I return another, and the worst happens–an audiobook disappears before I can finish the last chapter.  I finish another, so as not to let the same mistake happen again.  I’m no Tessa Virtue.  There is no Scott Moir there to catch me midair.  I finish an audiobook, glad to feel the weight lifted from my shoulders.  My annual Goodreads goal is looking good.  

I admit, a few of the characters and plot twists are mixing.  Why did Bronwyn not reveal her secret?  Did Miss Peregrine prohibit it?  Wait, no, that’s Branwen, not Bronwyn.  

And why does Terry keep wishing Tara happy anniversary?  That doesn’t even make sense.

Today is the day.  The closing ceremony is upon us, and I have my last ebook expiring tomorrow evening.  It’s beautiful writing, and you know what that means for a #writer.  I flit back and forth from “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” to the computer, typing ideas and notes and quotes.  I don’t know if I’m going to make it.  I also have one paperback to finish.  

This puts me in medal position if I finish ONE of the two.  I cannot win the gold.  That first audiobook expired.  I will never find out Which One of them is Lying.

(until I make it back up to the top of the waitlist, that is)   The gold is impossible, but I will work for Bronze, and maybe Silver.  Sleep is for the readless.  

Posted by: patriciamar | November 26, 2017

Tennis the Band at The Fillmore and soon, at Harlow’s

This weekend I got to see Tennis the band play at The Fillmore in San Francisco.  The venue is great, and I will definitely be looking for more shows there in the future.  The upstairs Poster Room is cool, and of course they sent me home with a Tennis poster.

The show was opened by The Wild Ones (Portland, OR), who were great! The lead singer had a cute haircut that was made for her style of dancing, and she was truly stoked to be playing at The Fillmore (The Fillmore being a legendary San Francisco venue–more on this later). I also loved how she wore a hood for the last few songs. It made me smile.  

Tennis (the band) (I feel like I have to say this every time: Tennis, the band) is led by a couple (Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley), vocals and guitar. The chemistry on stage was possibly the most interesting part of the show, though Alaina’s hair was a close second.  People loved when she danced and her hair moved.  It seriously had its own cheering section!  It is a pretty impressive head of curls.   

I am not sure why so many people were thrilled to see the bobbing curls, and likewise, I’m not sure why it was so intriguing to watch a real couple on the stage together. It’s not like a band has never before produced a leading couple.  It could have been the fact that they had been together for more than a decade, or that the girl behind me knew them growing up and talked about how close they were as a couple. Her example was that they shared a cellphone (We did this when we had no money as well). Perhaps all the terrible things that you hear on the news about men and sexual harassment have made me think about relationships in a deeper way. Perhaps her hair was curly and his was straight and I was watching opposites attract in person.  I don’t know.

The chemistry that they had on the stage wasn’t hot.  It was… supportive.  It was endearing.  I liked the music more for it.

At the beginning of the show, Alaina seemed a little standoffish to me.  She said nothing the first three songs, I think.  It was really surprising, since usually there’s something from the lead singer after the first song or at least the second.  

When she finally spoke, she gushed.  She was so thrilled that they were playing for a sold-out show (!) at The Fillmore in San Francisco that she didn’t have the words to speak.  My initial thoughts about her attitude were swept away.

Later in the show they played, “My Emotions are Blinding,” and explained that it was a song that she wrote to her emotions, after suffering from anxiety and panic attacks for a long time. Everything was making sense now. I can’t imagine being on stage singing in front of any number of people, and the anxiety that I’ve suffered in the past was little more than a reaction to an ACL tear and a slightly above average amount of claustrophobia.  I can’t imagine what it is like for her.  

I love music in a very real way.  The idea that a song can make me break into a smile or dance or even sing randomly and unexpectedly in public is a very real thing.  Tears too, of course.  When a show is really good, I eventually cry, often for the entire second half.  It just happens.  As soon as I met the real Alaina, this  moment happened for me there at The Fillmore.  

After the band left the stage, they came back for a couple more.  

And to end the night, the adorable two played the last song on the stage alone, just the two of them singing bad girls.

Bad girls.*

It was very beautiful.   

*See my earlier comment on reading the news.

And then the concert ended and I was left standing there, alone, with the plastic cups all over the floor around me. How can people recover that quickly from the experience of music?  Perhaps it takes me longer to right myself after an emotional shift.  I suppose the tears need to dry as well.

I hope I’m not wrong about the lovely love that Alaina & Patrick have.  I have been wrong before.  Music has a bit of trickery up its sleeve when it comes to love.  When I saw Fleetwood Mac in 2013, I thought Stevie and Lindsey were still in love, after all.

Tennis is playing in Sacramento tomorrow, Monday, November 27 at 8 p.m. at Harlow’s.  Tickets are $15.  Check it out.

Posted by: patriciamar | November 20, 2017

A short, short story about the minds of #Readers and #Artists

Two strangers sit silently on a park bench. One is engrossed in a book, the other is sketching–drawing the scene in front of them. There is a couple on a blanket and a man walking his great dane. Two friends play chess on a picnic table and some bros barbeque.  There is also a man feeding a group of quacking ducks.  In real life,  it’s a lovely fall scene,  except on the sketchpad, everyone is naked.  The artist is smiling.
After a few minutes the reader slams the book shut and exclaims delightedly, “Oh! I can’t believe it!” then shoves the book roughly into a bag and walks away in a state.
The artist continues to sketch, undisturbed.
#nanowrimo inspired
Posted by: patriciamar | October 14, 2017

Taiwan: Time in Taipei & Taichung

In Taiwan I learned about generosity.  I have taught a pretty good number of students, even in my relatively brief (so far) teaching career of seven years.  In Taiwan, I got to see five of my previous students.  In Korea I got to see nearly a dozen, and in China I saw almost twenty.  When you teach English, you act as a linguistic and cultural guide, whether you do it consciously or not.  Students see your city, you recommend the sights, you teach them the words to say your favorite foods (double double animal style!) and you use examples that demonstrate how you grew up in this culture and country.  

Flipping that classroom and travelling to spend a few days in their territory is an absolute treat.  

In the three days that I spent in Taiwan, I was taken care of in such a way that this time will always be remembered like a family vacation.  I was never alone, I saw unbelievable sights, and I was constantly sharing laughter, memories, dreams and goals, and of course so- much- street- food!  

It took me days to recover from the amount of fried chicken, octopus balls, glazed strawberries, tea, boba, goosefat with rice (Yeah, huh?), grilled stinky tofu, pomelo, mooncakes, suncakes, pineapple cake, white pepper snails, cold and hot mochi, sweet potato doughnuts, freshly wrapped and cooked spring rolls, Asian sausage, wild boar sausage, wax apples, fish balls, egg and oyster pancakes and red bean paste smoosh that I ate.  

I feel like I forgot something.  Ha!

I had a lot of favorites, but the glazed strawberries were amazing, as were the octopus balls and the grilled stinky tofu with crushed peanut.  Asian sausage was very strange but also delicious.  It is a sausage in a “bun” of rice sausage.  It’s hard to describe, but the flavor and texture was great!  I love snails, too.

From Taichung, I went to Sun Moon lake, which I’ve been dreaming of doing.  My friend and I drove around the lake at dusk, and then continued around the south side back toward Taichung through a thunderstorm that made the trip all the more exciting.

In Taipei, I travelled to the coast with another friend, where I drank a can of Taiwan’s finest while dripping sweat onto the beautiful sculptures of wind and water eroded sandstone that decorate the coast.  I think it was 11 a.m.  I was too sweaty to understand time.

We also visited a little town on the tracks near Pingxi, best known for its sky lantern festival.  I got to do the whole shebang, choosing a lantern by the colors, hoping for happiness or love or health or wealth.  I took the lantern into the little store, and it was hung in a spot where I could paint or write all my wishes and dreams.

In words.

(or pictures)

At just a moment’s notice.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked to write all my wishes and dreams down, on command.  I began, and wrote a few words and thoughts.  However, I hadn’t put enough, so I was sent back to my lantern immediately.  More!  More!  Fill it up!  Everything that you could ever want!  It made me laugh and think more deeply.  Is it possible to write all that you could ever want onto a tissue paper lantern?

I gave it my best shot.  Now, three weeks later, I guarantee that a few of my line items are still floating around in my head.  What do I want most out of my life?

Then I took my lantern outside to the train tracks running through the green valley.  My friend helped me hold my lantern up, the flame was lit, and it floated up into the sky, soon to ignite in flames with my dreams.

What I will remember most from Taiwan is a feeling (and not just feeling full).  I will remember how kind and friendly the people were and how generous and welcoming my students were.  I had a wonderful time and I can’t wait to get back to circle the island on my bike!

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Taiwan  –  September 18-21, 2017  –   Taipei and Taichung


Posted by: patriciamar | October 13, 2017

Korea Part 2 → Busan

Busan freaked me out and then sucked me in.  It’s the type of beachside spot that someone apparently called Thailand in the front, Afghanistan in the back.  I’m not sure why this is… I think I’m missing an integral part of the joke.

I took the KTX train from Seoul, which cost about $50 for economy class.  The train was full, almost every seat in the car was filled the whole 2 ½ hours. It was a Sunday afternoon, so I’m not sure if that mattered or increased the number of travellers. The train ride to Busan was a run through beautiful deep green-blue hills, then slipping through constant tunnels.  There are so many train tunnels in Korea.  They clearly did the math and found that going through the hill was faster and more economical than building tracks over or around them.  The ride was fast, something like 300 km/h and comfortable, with constant wifi.

There were many trains going from Seoul to Busan each hour, some fast and some Mugunghwa, which must be the Korean way of saying stoptrein.  I went to get a ticket for the next train about 15 minutes ahead of time, and was informed that economy class was fully booked.  I got a ticket for the train after that, which was only another half hour wait.  It was interesting to find how busy the KTX Busan trains were.

I’m not sure that there was a cafe car. What I found was a hot/cold vending machine that looked antique. I think it worked. Dunno.  

In Busan, I was greeted by a rainbow and a view of a bridge that I cannot for the life of me find an English name for.  Still, the rainbow was a welcome smile to the area after splitting off from Matt in Seoul to continue my journey solo.  I got a coffee, went out to admire the view and spilled a lot of hot coffee down my legs almost immediately.  At least I had a sip left.  Plus, I was outside, so it wasn’t too big of a deal.  Some children laughed at me.

After circling the train station about 4 times, I found signs for the metro. I could take a bus to my hotel in Songjeong, but I was sure I could also take the metro. I just couldn’t find it.

And then I did!  It isn’t in the train station.  You have to leave the station, heading away from the tracks, and you’ll soon find a stream of people heading in one direction–that’s it!  

The metro was gloriously simple.  The signs, the tickets, the machines, the trains, everything was exactly the same as it was in Seoul.  I relaxed.  

Finding the Haeundae Line was tricky, particularly because of the current state of construction at the Haeundae station.  It’s a pretty modern and classy spot, actually.  But again, I found it!  I followed a very old man and a college girl.  Together we made our way through the mud from the freshly finished afternoon rain.  

Thanks to numerous screenshots and the constant free wifi of Korea, I easily found my sex hotel.  

Yup.  I had booked myself some type of love hotel for couples, right in the heart of the motel district.  This means something.  You can figure out for yourself what that is.  

The lights were red.

There were mirrors everywhere.

The jacuzzi tub was awesome and big enough for two.

There were condoms and tissues by the bedside.

In my welcome pouch (fairly typical for a Korean hotel), there was a toothbrush, razor, toothpaste, lube, douche… hahaha and something liquidy for a man that I’m going to bring back and gift to someone.  I’m sure they will be unsuspecting.

The hotel was great in the end, but for the first few minutes, I was so embarrassed that I could hardly make myself leave and find Songjeong Beach.

Ahhh, the beach.  This particular Korean beach is mild, with surfers, children playing, and windsurfers in the afternoon.  There’s a beautiful breeze that cools the beach and the coast well, so at 27℃, it was an idyllic day.  The water was warm and at least where I was at, there was hardly any undertow or strong current.  I could sit on the smooth sand in about two feet of water and let the incoming waves rock me back and forth.  

The waves looked nice for baby surfing.  There were many surfers–dozens- maybe 40 or 50, but for most of the time, they were gliding around without paying much attention to the idea of getting up on a wave.

When I finally made my way out of my seductionist hotel, I went on a big search for food and a beer.  To my great surprise, on this evening just after dark, I found a little streetside trailer that sold coffee and toast.  

And another that sold coffee and toast.  And another that sold…. coffee and toast.  There were no fewer than 12 of these little trailers. They sold coffee drinks, hot and cold, and breakfast sammies in a cup, basically.  

The one I got was cheese, ham and egg, cut in half, then each half folded in half and shoved in a small paper cup with a 4” wooden skewer shoved through them. Clearly this was a thing.

For a few minutes there on the beach eating my toast, I thought I might be in Ocean Beach, California and not Korea.  For a one-night stop, it was a relaxing beach moment on a long trip.  And like Ocean Beach, Busan is the type of place you might visit and never leave.  Maybe next year I’ll try again.

Busan, Korea  –  September 10-11, 2017



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