30 January, 2019

Random Questions for a Wednesday

Clearly, my "blog twice a week" plan is harder than I expected. The good news is, I'm making progress with the book-writing. Today, I was visiting some of my regular blogs and found inspiration for a quick post!

Cathy Kennedy at Curious as a Cathy shared a prompt that is a bunch of questions. Actually, someone challenged her with a different set of questions, but these are the ones she challenged her readers to answer. Join me if you want. Let me know if you do!

The questions:
  1. Would you rather drink raw eggs or eat sushi (uncooked)? Why? Sushi, as long as someone else is buying. I like sushi, but in the western world it is overpriced.
  2. Would you rather live in a hot or cold climate year-round? Why? Well, since I currently live on the central coast of Vietnam, solidly in the tropics, I think my life has answered that question. 😉
  3. Would you rather wear slacks or dresses? Why? I have always been a jeans girl. Living in a hot climate, however, I have discovered that loose dresses are infinitely more comfortable on the hottest days. They have their place.
  4. Would you rather be single or married? Why? Single. I'm really good at being single. Eventually I met a man who enriches my life so much it made no sense to stay single, that's all. I cherish the man I married, and I love our life together. I don't think I'm very good at it though. Five years in and I'm still figuring out who I am.
  5. Would you rather be on Facebook or Pinterest all day? Why? Pinterest. No trolls.
  6. Would you rather be unique and thought weird or like everyone else with no personal identity to call your own? Why? Just like my answer to number 2, I'm already thought to be weird by most people who actually get to know me. My life has chosen my answer to this one.
  7. Would you rather wear all black or any other color? Why? This question confuses me. I'm going to assume the question isn't asking about wearing "all black" wearing "all any other color". I've never migrated toward a single color, black included. Here in the tropics, I sometimes see tourists wearing black leggings and shake my head in disbelief. When it's 90*F under direct sunlight, why would ANYone where ANY black!
  8. Would you rather be mute or deaf? Why? Mute. Then I'd keep my big mouth shut. Also, I wouldn't be expected to talk to people at social gatherings. Also, I need my music.
  9. Would you rather binge watch your favorite TV show or be outdoors on a cold, snowy weekend? Why? HAH! I moved to the tropics. I would NOT prefer to be outdoors in the cold!
  10. Would you rather be trusting or suspicious of all people? Why? If I had to be one way to ALL people, I would wish to be trusting. Suspecting every single person I ever meet sounds exhausting.

Please let me know in comments if you accept the challenge.

25 January, 2019

Non-Alcoholic What?

Twitter, lately, seems rather abundant with tweets about "non-alcoholic bars". The first one I paid any attention to was a poll:

No, I would not opt to hang out in a non-alcoholic bar. Not that I need to be drinking all the time, but as I commented on the tweet, why would they call it a bar?

I'm meeting a friend later "for drinks". That implies alcohol. Now, English is a tricky language, as I well know. If English is not your first language, good for you! Kudos for learning such a difficult language! Idioms are tricky in any language.

Since I can't offer an English Idiom lesson via Twitter, I'm doing it here. For all the non-native English speakers...

That statement: "Hey, let's get together for drinks tomorrow!" might make you think you are agreeing to going out to swallow some liquids and not eat. It is important to know what you are agreeing to before you agree to it. If you have been invited out "for drinks"...

  • Alcohol will be involved.
  • You will not have to drink alcohol, but the person who invited you probably will, since they chose the place.
  • If you have a problem with being around alcohol, the time to speak up is when you are invited. If you wait until you get there, you may feel awkward suggesting a change of venue.

That's not the only one. If we say "Let's have coffee tomorrow," we are not requiring the drinking of coffee. People in China prefer tea, yet Starbucks has a booming business (in Beijing, at least). If you are invited out "for coffee", a non-native English speaker should note...

  • Coffee will be involved.
  • You will not have to drink coffee, but the person who invited you probably will, since they chose the place. Most coffee shops in the western world also serve tea, cocoa, juice, etc.
  • If you don't like the smell of coffee, speak up when you are invited. That way you won't feel awkward asking for a change of venue upon arrival, or your friend can choose a place with outside, non-coffee-smelling seating.

These are basic assumptions that English speakers understand.

Likewise, if a friend tells me she wants to go out to "a bar", my assumption is that I will have the option to drink an alcoholic beverage. If we got there and it was non-alcoholic, my expectations would be disappointed. Naturally, I wouldn't abandon my friend, but I would feel that I had been brought there under subterfuge. 

If that friend had invited me to "a non-alcoholic bar" I wouldn't straight up say no, but I would definitely have follow-up questions. Why that particular bar? What is the draw? Do they have phenomenal music? Food? I mean, I don't know too many people who have been through AA, but if it wasn't a friend I knew to be alcoholic, I would be surprised and probably push for a place I could get something stronger.

That is the understood purpose of a bar.

Why would anyone label their business for what it does NOT have? 

"Hi, we're a non-shellfish seafood restaurant."
"Welcome to my non-dairy ice-cream shop."

You have just deliberately divided your clientele. I get why people would choose to go to the "non-X" locations,
but why not offer the "X" as well as the non-X? No bar that I know of requires a patron to drink alcohol.

I mean, I get it. I really do. A recovering alcoholic may like the vibe of a bar but not want the temptation. However, that is your only clientele if you advertise that way. I'm not saying not to offer it, but maybe you need another, non "non-alcoholic" bar to bring in the big dinero, no?

As an English-speaking person, doesn't "bar" offer certain expectations? What would you do?

22 January, 2019

Balancing the Scales

Do you ever hear a phrase so often that it becomes a nothing phrase? You maybe think you have a handle on it, but then talk to someone else who reads it differently? I think in this day of memes and ancient quotes (or misquotes) being plastered all over the internet, it must be a pretty common phenomenon. 

Above images all from Pinterest

One struck me today. "Live a balanced life." You see this one in conjunction with motivational memes or those video ads for the latest free online self-improvement workshop.

What is "a balanced life"?

I have joined online fitness groups that motivate you to exercise more and watch what you eat. Set goals for weight loss! Define those goals clearly and break them down week by week, day by day! Read these articles about how you should be eating, what you should be eating, when you should be eating!

I still participate in groups like that, because it is helpful accountability for me, but I take everything with a grain of salt. One study says eat a big breakfast is key to losing weight. One study shows that intermittent fasting is effective. It's all very personal - what works for one doesn't work for another.

A few years ago - before we moved overseas - it dawned on me that this focus on food and fitness should be ... how can I put it ... just one piece of my overall health. I know, basic, right?

But I realized I was neglecting my spiritual and psychological side. All those things that actually bring happiness to life. The joy of a tasty snack (peanut butter on graham crackers felt like a healthy option) turned into guilt over abusing my body. (When you eat a whole sleeve of crackers with your peanut butter, it's not as healthy.

Other, non-"health" related things I enjoyed were a minimal part of my life. The things that didn't bring guilt. I usually was reading a book, making slow progress when I had time, but I hadn't sought out a new author or genre in ages. I wasn't attending church as regularly as I had in the past, although I still read my Bible.

For me, I found that taking time to meditate every day, and ensuring that I spent some time doing fun things - reading, cross-stitch, coloring, baking - helped me feel better about myself and about life.

To me, that is "balanced". I hope I will never be able to be pigeon-holed as "XYZ" type. I hope my interests and activities will vary sufficiently to keep challenging my perceptions. No one will ever fully know what's in my heart and on my mind, but if I am tending to those parts of me as well as to my physical body, I think I am achieving balance.

That's just what works for me. How do you understand "a balanced life"? What am I missing?

19 January, 2019

Passion! ...Fruit

Living in the tropics as I do, passionfruit flavored/infused/juice drinks are everywhere. I tried passionfruit once and loved the tartness of it. I have also tried Tamarind flavored things, and liked them, too.

Yesterday morning, at the market, I finally remembered to try buying some passionfruit and tamarind, as I've wanted to. Now, I had never eaten fresh tamarind. I don't know if anyone ever does, but I thought I'd try a passionfruit-tamarind juice. Since I like them both.
Pods about 4-5" long, meat inside is sticky and pulpy.

I bought the fruit, then came home and looked up recipes. I did not immediately find anything combining the two fruits, possibly because - get this - they are BOTH known for being sour! haha. Joke's on me.

Both basic juice recipes call for a blender, and sweetener. We do not keep sweeteners at home, because ants are everywhere all the time, and I don't want to mess with the hassle of keeping them out of liquids, or trying to keep sugar crystals dry. I keep my life as simple as possible.

Without a blender, I did the best I could to collect the meat of each fruit. Tamarind is tricky, because it's pulpy. I really think I need to invest in a blender if I want to use tamarind again. But you know what? Unsweetened was perfect for me! I gave Brett a half-glass to taste, too. He didn't mind it, but commented that the passionfruit seeds are better than the juice itself. True. It's like pomegranate that way. He didn't drink any more, leaving me to basically drink 4 passionfruits. (I didn't take any pictures, sadly.)

Then, when I sat down at my computer, I looked up the nutrition of passionfruit, just for fun. It's fruit, so I figured it's healthy. I found out obvious things: high in antioxidants, protects against cancer, boosts the immune system. Blah, blah, typical tropical fruit things, right? Further down, I read that a small percentage of people have an allergic reaction. Okay, no problem, I'm not prone to allergies. 

Next sentence:

"Those with a latex allergy appear to be most at risk of a passion fruit allergy."

Guess who has an allergy to latex? Oops. My darling husband, whom I just poisoned. I sent him a quick message, so he'd be alert if his body acted weird. He said he already had a headache, on a day when he had just been talking about how GREAT he felt.

I'm a horrible wife.

15 January, 2019

What Year is it, Again?

I know it's silly, and there are jokes and memes about the trite-ness of not knowing the year, but now that I'm not working in an office where there are dates on a bazillion documents, it is really hard for me to think of this as 2019. 

Because I don't have to think of the year.

Except when I'm going through facebook memories and I want to calculate how many years ago something happened. That's kind of weird. I think of 2016 as the year we moved to China, but my current 2016 memories are long before we had even considered that idea.

Life. Weird, right?

I don't do new years resolutions, but right now, simply because I'm starting a new planner, my current goal is to blog here 2 times a week. I've set that goal before and got waylaid by life. We'll see how it goes this time around.

Disclaimer: I'm on my second cup of coffee, and am totally amped up on yoga and writing. And Star Wars. (The Empire Strikes Back is playing as my background noise this morning.)

I think I might start a new blog that focuses on writing, because I just want to gush about this new love I have! I'm sorting out the book I wrote during Nanowrimo, in order to set it aside for a while so that it will be ready to edit in a few months, and it's so fun to nitpick character arcs, and mix up the timeline to see if things flow together.

Since I have no day job, and I usually write for a couple hours during the day, I've started blocking out a couple hours in the evenings, for editing earlier books. THAT'S enlightening, too. I just want to get one book to a point where it's presentable, and where I can see what actual professionals think. 

For now, I'm enjoying it. It's just fun.

And the ideas are flowing! These first three, if I have a niche, I'd say they are about women finding strength on their own. It's something I feel I know, having been a "strong, independent woman" my entire adult life until marrying at 39.

But I have one more complicated idea that will take world-building and a lot of research. I've had that idea for a while, and I'm picking away at it slowly.

Recently, I had a different idea for an anecdotal book incorporating all kinds of different stories. 

Ideas are everywhere! I love it! 

I have found that my strength is in writing characters. It's my theatre background, probably. Sometimes, I'll have a great idea for a character, but I have no idea what might happen to that character to make an actual story.

Do you write? What do you write? I was doing professional, business writing prior to moving overseas, then short children's plays for Chinese kids. All very different types, but I have enjoyed all of it. THIS is my joy. THIS is my gift. What about you?

NOTE TO SELF: Less coffee before blogging.

09 January, 2019

Lessons Learned

We had our first guest!
This was very exciting. No one ever came to see us when we lived in Beijing, and if they did, they couldn't have stayed with us anyway. We had only been in Vietnam for six months before hosting our first guest.

We intentionally got a house with an extra room so that we could do this. The Central Coast of Vietnam is a much better vacation destination than Beijing, and we already know of at least three more trips to visit us that various friends and family are working on.
Part of the guest room

I'm so glad my eldest sister was our first guest. She was an easy guest, not too demanding, but she and I are close enough that I could ask her honestly for advice on improvements to the guest room. Also, she was very relaxed about scheduling things, so we didn't have to plan the heck out of her week.

I learned a few things that I will do differently regarding future visitors.

1. Weather. I am a bad judge of weather now. I can look at an app with the best of 'em, but now that the humidity doesn't bug me, I was advising my sister to pack capris with a few shorts. It was delightfully cool with all the rain that happened! She was melting in our upper 70s. The humidity is intense for a midwesterner! Huh. Guess that's why it takes three days for my clothes to dry if it's rainy.

2. Distances. I measure distance in time. "How far is Old Town?" "About a 25 minute walk." (It's about two and a half kilometers.) I have always loved walking. I don't notice distance because I'm looking around me enjoying the life I see. It was that way in the States, too. Moving to Asia, walking has become a necessity. I walk a lot. I walk fairly fast, usually. Not everyone does. My sister has an iffy knee, and moves more slowly than I do. (She would decide whether a walk sounded do-able, but based on my distance estimation.) I don't think she enjoyed the interesting things that we passed while walking. She was very intent on the motion itself, it seemed. Maybe I'm wrong.

3. Environment. I love where I live. I notice things like the variety of colors of the houses and their gates, the distinctive shrines that are everywhere, any new fruit I see on a street-side cart, the shape of the clouds or fog in the morning. I love the smells of incense and spices and exhaust that make up Asia. I breathe deep as we pass by the rice paddies or sit by the river. I am enchanted by our cultural differences. Not everyone notices these things, or indeed cares. I think, if a person doesn't find joy in detail, or mark the uniqueness of beauty, perhaps Vietnam is not a great place to visit.

I do believe that overall, we had a good time. We did some stuff, went some places, and also relaxed a good deal. I hope my sister enjoyed herself. I honestly don't know. She didn't love the things I love about this place, but maybe enjoyed enough in her own way. With my family, I may never get a straight answer.