Monday, April 28, 2008

Olympic Games Thoughts

As I turned on my computer this morning, my yahoo page popped up. I have it linked to the Bangkok Post and the UK news (mainly because that particular site gives really good international news). As I scanned the headlines of the BKK Post, I noticed the article titled "Olympic torch runs a protest-free leg in Vietnam." My first thought, sadly, was I'm sure there was some coersion involved in that! And I was proven right. There were attempted protests, but they were shut down by the police. Interestingly enough, the protests had nothing to do with Tibet but over Vietnamese vs. Chinese land claims. At least a change of pace.

The thought that I have had a number of times over this whole dibacal is how much are these protests actually hurting the Tibetan cause because of cultural reasons? A common cultural link between most Asian countries is the whole "face" concept. They cannot be seen to lose face. China has taken a stand on this whole issue. And while I don't see China changing it's stance any time soon, I wonder how much stubborness is being created in China's need to save face against all these protests and whatnot from everywhere else in the world?

Just my thought for the day...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The ironies of life

About two and a half years ago, my husband and I started to make a very concerted effort to really keep "better for us" food in the house and remove junk. Eat more fruits and vegetables, all that good for you stuff.

Well, I've recently been struck by the sheer irony of the fact that because I have been eating more healthy I seem to have exacerbated a problem which now means I need to not eat fruits and vegetables as much because they're making me sick! Any one else struck by the irony of this fact?

Over the last year and a half to two years I've started having some weird digestive problems. Nothing that I will really go into a lot of detail on (not exactly my idea of a choice topic!). I had my suspicions, but as it really wasn't bothering me that much and if what I suspected truly was the culprit, I almost didn't want to know about it. Besides, every time you wind up being nauseated or complaining of an upset stomach and you're married and my age, everybody has to ask if you're pregnant! So, I tended to keep my mouth shut a lot about it.

Well, the last six months in particular these issues have been getting worse and worse to the point where I've really needed to face the facts. With some careful observation and realistic examination of what was going on, I think I am fructose intolerant. I narrowed it down to sugar about a month or so ago and with some help from others and research on my own, I think fructose is the specific culprit. I believe the technical term is to have fructose malabsorption. In other words, my body doesn't know what to do with fructose. Fructose stresses out my innards and winds up with me being a rather miserable and grumpy in pain crab.

Now, I have not yet gone to the doctor to get a hydrogen breath test to confirm this; however, I'm working on cutting out as much fructose in my diet as I can for awhile to see how I feel.

Sounds easy, right? Just cut out anything with high fructose corn syrup in the label and any fruit and I should be good to go. WRONG!!!!!! Fructose is in everything, apparently.

All the good fruits and vegetables (including, ironically, those I have been so careful to include in my lunches on a very regular basis for so long now!) have more fructose in them than glucose (which apparently glucose helps balance out fructose? still figuring that part out). Apples - well, all fruit - carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, all sorts of lovely things which I adore to eat.

The worse one I've discovered though is actually wheat. Apparently the natural sugars in wheat are fructen - i.e. formed of fructose. Now, living without wheat is not my idea of a good time. Everything has wheat in it, and even if they don't spell it out in the ingredients, they instead put in different fancy words that when you look them up on the Internet are...tada...forms of wheat. Much of the research I have read has said that a lot of people really aren't affected as much by the whole wheat side of the food, but given my past history in all this and in tracking what I've been eating and what seems to really have been upsetting my stomach, I'm pretty positive that it is affecting me.

The good side of all this is that

(a) fructose malabsorption is a relatively common thing and once you've figured out your own tolerance levels for fructose and are careful, eating some doesn't seem to be a problem as long as you're careful.

(b) this explains a lot in terms of mood swings and depression that I have been fighting on and off the last few years. Yes, yes, I know there's been other factors to all that (believe me, I'm well aware of that), but there has been a number of times, particularly in the last year, where I've swung from one mood to another without any logical explanation at all, and it's been driving me CRAZY!

(c) the whole fructose thing might also have something to do with why I've really struggled with being able to lose any weight. It's extremely frustrating to be completely careful of what you eat, how much you eat, exercising every day, etc, and still not be able to drop more than a pound or two in a month.

So now it's to the drawing board in terms of figuring out what I can eat, what I shouldn't eat, and even if this is actually what the problem is.

Ah the irony of life. The lesson here is: Don't eat your fruits and vegetables!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

วันสงกรานต์

Friday was the start of a week-long Thai holiday called Songkran. It's a water festival in which everyone basically gets very wet...and for some...very drunk.

From what I understand of the history, it comes at the end of the dry (and very hot) season, and the pouring out of the water is actually symbolic of trust that the gods will send plenty of rain in the next season (the rainy - monsoon) season. The other part of it is that it is actually the new years, and so it involves things like showing respect to the elders, resolution making, etc.

It starts off formal with a small amount of water being poured over the hands of the elders in return for a blessing. The King has his formal ceremony. Everything is nice and stately and sedate.

However, give it about a day, and the entire country goes CRAZY! Thai's love to party, and this is the biggest party of the year. If you go out in the streets, bring a change of clothes in a air-tight bag because you will get drenched. People drive around in trucks with huge water containers and throw water on anybody and everybody. And if you're out, don't plead work or anything else, you will get water dumped on you. Motercyclists (of which that is the primary form of transportation for many) have the worst time of it.

The other thing is the powder. I'm not sure where it originated from...maybe from the marks the monks put on people who come for their blessing? I'm not sure...but white powder gets smeared on everybody. At times the air is thick with the residue of powder. But not to worry because someone is sure to quickly dump a bucket of water around and clean the air out!

Of course some people are cruel and put huge cubes of ice in their water so when they throw it on you it is FREEZING COLD!

As a little kid, we would grab our yard hose or little buckets of water and throw water on any unsuspecting individual passing by and, if no one else was about, take turns chasing each other around the yard with the hose! (If you're having trouble picturing what this looks like, imagine an entire country involved in a massive water fight...that's the general idea!).

As a teen, I would generally go out in a truck with my Thai friends on the first and maybe second day of the holiday. Come back soaked to the bone, but having had the satisfaction of dumping gallons of water on people :) Of course being a white kid out in all this, everybody seemed to take immense pleasure in smearing me head to foot with powder and then dumping as much water on me as possible. But it was all fun!

However, after the second or third day, you pretty much don't want to go out (and if you do go out, go out in a car and LOCK THE DOORS - people will open your car door and dump water in on you) because the partying has been non-stop for quite awhile now and people tend to do crazier and crazier things when they're drunk. Or just high from water throwing in the case of some!

But despite the origins and despite the craziness, I can't help but have fond and wistful memories of this time of year. Friends, silliness, culture, and home...

Perhaps I'll dump a bucket of water on Chris; that might make me feel better!

So, HAPPY SONGKRAN!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rainy days and good books

It's a very wet and rainy day today. In fact, the entire Ozarks is soaked, and if the soaking continues, flooding is going to become a major problem in this area. Missouri truly is an odd place. We go from drought for several years to an overabundance of water...why cannot there just be a happy medium?

I like rain. I like rain under very specific circumstances:

1) when it's pouring outside (think monsoon) and I'm in bed all cozy with nowhere to go, or I'm curled up with a good book (with nowhere to go), or even if I'm just at home doing housework and whatnot, with nowhere to go (seeing a pattern here anybody?)
2) when it's a very light drizzle, just enough to tickle your nose and bring fond thoughts of a good misting in England. Not so much to soak you and leave you uncomfortable and make buildings smell of wet socks because everyone is slowly molding in their rain soaked clothes, just a gentle drizzle easy to walk in and somewhat refreshing to experience.

Today's rain was not either one of those rains. Oh it was monsoonish, but I have had to go to work, to drive in, walk in, get my pant legs soaked in it, and turn my little space-heater on in my office to dry off my more, soppy feet. This rain is not my idea of a good time!

On the other hand, I have recently experienced a highly enjoyable time with a new book, in fact a new author whom I think I'm going to be obsessed with for awhile. My Amber introduced me to this author - Jasper Forde - and for that I eternaly greatful.

He is great. I read his book The Eyre Affair. He has created a world that feels like Earth as we know it and vaguely resembles Earth's history, and yet involves people who can walk into (and out of) the pages of books - good books - books that well-read, well-educated people are familiar with, books that are mentioned with an expectation that the reader knows what is being talked about rather than dumbing all references down to pop culture and long explanations. His world has characters called things like Thursday Next and Acheron Hades (I personally think that is one of the best names for a villain that I have ever read!), and involves creatures like book worms which eat stories and poems and emit apostrophes and even hyphens when they are upset.

I am now hunting down whatever other books of his I can get my hands on because I'm pretty sure I'm going to have as much fun with them as I have had with this one.

So, rain, carry on, well, stop so I can get home tonight, but otherwise I'm going to ignore you and wander off into a more interesting world.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Cultural? Saturday

I'm watching Hitchcock's North by Northwest (Yes, I'm a multitasker, guilty as charged, I blame my mother...I inherited her genes of 'I can't sit still and just watch a movie'). I love this movie; I've seen it many times over the years, and it's always held a certain fascination for me. Granted, the older I've gotten, the cheesier the "hanging off the cliff" end of it becomes, and yet I still enjoy it!

***

This afternoon we spent a few hours at Silver Dollar City. Chris and I bought season passes to SDC this year; we don't normally splurge on them, but it's a fun park to enjoy. This time of year, they have a something called World Fest with lots of groups from all over the world that come to perform, and lots of tasty food to go with it all. It's my favorite festival that they hold at SDC. The nice thing about season passes is that we can just go for a few hours and always go back another day to catch anything we missed.

The first group we saw was a children's
choir from Uganda. Very cute. Especially the little girl in the front, left who was very into her performance!















The next group was fascinating to watch: Acrobats from China. I had to laugh because some parts of the performance were just so, well, Asian. It reminded me of many performances I was involved in back home. Homesickness hits at the oddest of times.

Anyways, always an implied story can be found interwoven in most Asian performances- however loosely (confusingly and sometimes apparently pointlessly); in this case, creatures in some type of forest? thing? crawling around on the ground and possibly courting? chasing? girls. Any ways, a story of some sort combined with over the top costumes, lights, music, sometimes with a rather startling affect. But the acrobats themselves were amazing.

The first group that came out did all sorts of stunts involving two poles. Throwing themselves around, 10-15 feet off the ground; I always find simultaneous gasps from the audience an amusing experience! The strength of those men/boys is breathtaking. And yes, the one on the right in the middle is suspended by the neck off of the neck of the guy hanging upside by his feet.















The second group were supposed to be caterpillars? worms? Something involving what looked like green garbage cans with bold ends cut off. Again, fascinating tricks despite the rather odd set-up!

















There was another group of women doing acrobatic tricks on bicycles...very cool.















But the best part, from the point of view of a dancer of course, was the ballerinas. Well, acrobats first, ballerinas second. But phenomenal none the less. Look closely at the picture. Yes, she is in pointe shoes on his - HEAD! (Children, don't try this at home!)














And then, just to complicate everything...they added a second girl!











The last group of the day that we saw (having briefly passed by the Yodaler, the Russian children's orchestra - which frankly sounded frightening, and I'm hoping we just caught it at a weird time in their performance - and the Ecuadorian musical group) was an Irish group.

Singing,harp playing, dancing and playing with fire.






I love the beat and rhythm of Irish music; there's something about it that just gets into your blood and its hard to not either be driven to dance or to tears depending on the tune...

However, the true entertainment of the show was the rather large (please take that in all ways possible), truly classical, Ozarkian hick family sitting behind us. As everyone was sitting down for the show, the harpist came out and began to play. And, to the best of my recounting abilities, this was the, mostly in total serious, conversation they had.


Father: "What does a harp have to do with Ireland?"

Daughter (rather a bit of a know-it-all, "duh" sort of attitude): "Well, harps were used by the Celtics (pronounced Selts) and all that."

Father: "The Selts were the ones who believed in ghosts and witches and superstitions."

Daughter; "Yeah, you know, Druidic things."

Brief moment of silence.

Father: "Well, why the harpest? Must be casting a curse on somebody."

Daughter: "Doesn't look like a mean witch. Must be a happy witch."

Another short silence.

Father: "Halloween started in Ireland."

Daughter: "Oh yeah, something to do with those druids in the Catholic church."

And Chris and I sat there, shaking with silent laughter from drinking in this deliciously enlightening conversation, and not daring to look at each other for fear of laughing out loud so hard we would insult (and even worse, break up) the conversation! of the ones behind us.

It was, all around, a most educational experience!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Of Bitter and Sweet and Chocolate

My poor sad, neglected blog. How I have missed thee!

I can’t believe it’s been a full month since I’ve even looked at these pages. A month where I’ve watched the trees and bushes creeping into bloom, robins have started popping up all over the place and teasing my dogs in the backyard, and I’ve started getting over my winter-blues (I’m not diagnosed SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder; however, I think I definitely hit those depressed phases in winter where I’m just so tired of being cold, dark, wet, dreary, and lacking in outdoors). On my way to work every day, I drive through the area of town known as “The Square.” It’s literally a square park area in what used to be the center of town that is surrounded with trees, older buildings, and a fountain. The last few weeks the trees have all started to be covered in fluffy, white blossoms, and yesterday, as I drove around the square, the fountain was working. Such a happy sight.

Just when I think I’ve gotten used to this country and it’s crazy seasons, I hit about mid-winter and feel my sanity start slipping as I realize how much I truly hate having being cold…all the time. On the other hand, as much as I love the tropics, I will admit that I have gotten to the point where I enjoy 75 degree weather as a pleasant temperature to be outside in. Still don’t mind it a little bit hotter than that as a rule, but I no longer feel like I’m going to die from cold at 72 any more!

So, what has this last month consisted of…

Birthday:
Well, my birthday started the month out. That was fun. I had probably one of the best birthdays I’ve had in several years. I find it amazing how one certain area of stress can really affect how a person views something. As a child, I always enjoyed my birthday. Obviously presents and parties and all that are fun, but I just thought having a birthday was a day that should be enjoyed; it’s your special day to celebrate your very existence, and that’s worth something. It’s that milestone that, granted, everybody hits every year they are alive, but it should be enjoyed, looked forward to. Unfortunately, the last few years, my attitude had changed, somewhat, concerning birthdays. I won’t go into details of why, suffice to say that there was some stressful events that always surrounded my birthday that basically started turning my birthday into a point I dreaded rather than enjoyed. This year was not like that, and it was nice. I got to feel like it really was my day to enjoy rather than an obligatory event that would occur sometimes without a whole lot of my input or personality being involved. Instead I got to pick out where I wanted to eat, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to do it, and who I wanted to be with.

I actually wound up with four separate birthday celebrations (per say) which was kind of funny. Chris and I went out to eat the night before my birthday and then we went to the mall where I picked out my present. We ate at this yummy Italian restaurant, and just had a delightful evening together. For dessert we had Auntie Anne’s pretzels, which I love but rarely indulge in.

Then on my actual birthday, I went out to eat with three of my favorite girl friends in the world. We ate Thai food, walked around down-town a bit at the monthly Art Walk we have (all the art stores open up for the night and do special shows), and then we gorged on chocolate fondue (I blew the candle out, so I guess that counted as my cake!). All in all, a nice evening of being with (sometimes goofy) great friends.

The next night, our best friends –Amber and Donald- came over to hang out. Amber wasn’t allowed to give me my present the night before because Donald had picked it out, and he wanted to be there. So I got to open that present and hang out with them! We had leftover Thai food and these rather interesting vegetable wraps that Amber had bought at Social Suppers. We were all a little suspicious of them at first, but they were actually really good! For my birthday, they bought me a Star Wars version of Risk (I love Risk, and yes, I proudly admit to being a nerd and loving Star Wars!), and also a great mini fondue set. I love it because the fondue pot(s), which incidentally look like huge margarita glasses, are microwaveable, so rather than having to keep it plugged in or having to deal with candles, etc, you just heat the chocolate/cheese in the microwave and voila – you’re ready to go! Needless to say, we had to test them out.

Then, the week after my birthday, my brother, his wife, and my sister, and Chris all got together to go out to eat (Korean – can anybody tell I have rather eclectic taste in food?) and spend time together and, of course, celebrate my birthday (my sister was out of town the previous week or else we would have done something then).

How spoiled am I? It was fun, non-stress, and I felt loved. Thank you all J


Job Change
The same day as my birthday was also the last day at my old position! I have now been working in my new job for almost a full month. And let me say, I LOVE it. I am the Advancement Coordinator, which basically means that all the fund raising, PR stuff, etc that we do as a school, runs through my office. I’m not the only person in charge of it, but I coordinate all the pieces together. Lots of organization, varied duties, tons of responsibility, creativity –all in all, I feel like the skills I have are being well-utilized. My boss is great, very supportive and willing to believe in my capabilities and use them. While it can be a high stress position at times, the rewards are well worth it. And I love having my own office again!


Other Stuff
Easter Sunday – so early this year – was freezing cold but fun. We had several friends come over and had a huge feast and much fellowship.

Peoples - We’ve had a pretty steady stream of guests and friends in our house this whole month. I love it! I am looking forward to a nice quiet Friday night tonight, but I love having a home that we can open up to other people whenever. Wednesday night I got home and was making dinner (for us and some guests), and Chris came up and mentioned that a friend of ours had called last minute to know if he could spend the night. Of course we were happy to have him, but I like that my husband knows that he can okay things like that because he knows we both want a home where others are welcome and comfortable.

Families – my husband’s grandmother has been sick in the hospital. She is fortunately doing much better; she had us worried there for awhile. Sadly, that came right after another less than positive encounter with my husband’s parents. It truly frustrates me watching two people who should be able to communicate not be able to do so, and it frustrates me even more to hear accusations and half-truths being dumped on our doorstep in such a manner that it literally makes it impossible to have a reasonable understanding with someone else. Anyhoo…I won’t spend a long time on that right now other than to say that as far as I can tell, our life with his parents and sister is over, at least until something changes. I know Chris would be willing to work through some stuff, but not in the same-ol-same-ol way it’s always been. And I don’t think his parents are willing to accept that. It hurts and it’s sad, but we have to move on our lives will be stuck in a rut forever.

My family is doing good. I’m eating my heart with jealousy right now as my parents have been to Manila and now are in England, and as soon as they return to Thailand, my brother and his wife are going to Thailand, and then my sister goes out. And I’m stuck here L Ah well…my turn will come again. I miss them so much though.
I can’t believe my baby sister is about to turn 19 and have finished her first year of college. I feel old!

OK, I have so much else to say, but I’m going to post this, and rejoice in finally, having something new on my blog!