Friday Five

Five Things I Didn’t Realize Would Be So Awesome About America

Clever Wordplay
Puns. Wit. Sarcasm. Emphasis. Double entendres. Adjectives. Where have you been for the last two years? It took a few weeks for me to get all of these as the flew past my ESL teacher senses, but now that I have I find myself giggling at random moments about things I heard that are tickling my brain. Or thinking of new ones on my run. Because that’s not creepy to see someone running on the road chuckling to themselves.

Calling People Out
Especially while utilizing said clever wordplay. And realizing that not only are my verbal capabilities coming back, but they’re able to correct another person’s. Unless I totally misread the situation and end up falling on my face, ‘breaking’ my own in an attempt to do so with someone else’s. Awkward.

Getting the Whole Picture
And being able to ask questions if maybe I don’t totally have it the first go around. I eventually stopped asking many questions in Thailand because I either wouldn’t get an actual answer or there would be a lot more to the situation than what I was being told. With a little thing called ‘being surrounded by native English speakers,’ I’m almost overwhelmed by the amount of information I get on a daily basis without putting in nearly the same amount of effort as with Thai. Half-awesome, half-TMI.

Nearby Friends
To visit most of my friends in Thailand, it required the scary task of walking out the front door, getting a ride 30 km away to the nearest town, and then however many more buses and hours of Thailand required before even seeing the face of that glorious one you spent all this time to get to… and all you wanted to do was lay down afterwards. Outside of my best friend living states away, it continually amazes me to throw spur of the moment plans together with new work friends and having a crazy thing called, a social life. Sometimes, I even go out after dark.

Going Out to Eat
I guess I sort of knew this was going to be amazing, but maybe not the depth of how spectacular it is to glance, go back over, read more in-depth the pages and pages of menu options waiting to be devoured. Seriously, everything I eat bursts onto my tongue with flavors I long missed in Thailand. Especially fruit and veggies with seasoning. Granny Smith apples and strawberries never have tasted so good.

Friday Five

Five Books for 2012

The Hunger Games Series
I didn’t like this series the first time around when I read it in 2011. You can see that in the poorly maintained book section page. Somewhere along the way of rereading it before our Mid-service conference when I planned to see the movie version with other PCVs, I fell in love. Not ‘rock my world Harry Potter obsessive’ love, but somewhere a few notches below. It quickly became my fall-back read when I would want a short little tryst into reading until I would find half the day gone as I would reread one of the books once again. It broadened my perspective and I tried a few other dystopia, futuristic young adult series (Matched and Divergent) that I enjoyed. I must say though, the first cut is the deepest.

Sense and Sensibility
Oh Jane, you’re just not in my life enough. As with any period novels, I had a few minor troubles with some of the words, but Austen’s story tickled my brain and kept me satisfied imagining my way out of rural Thailand. I knew the general direction of Sense and Sensibility well from my Mom’s and my love for the movie version, but I liked the book even more. I was surprised how much difference there was with the original story, but that’s what always happens when Hollywood gets involved. I think Emma will be next.

Shantaram
Is there any other way to say: a 900 page epic? An escaped Australian convict flees to India becomes a slum doctor, falls in love, is thrown in jail, rises through the ranks of a mob family and goes to war. A fascinating saga just in broad terms, but what really hooked me in to finish was the stories within the story. Getting a ‘bear hug’ and the lessons learned from seemingly simple situations and people. This book forced me to sit back and digest things about my life and the world during and after finishing it. A sequel is scheduled for release in May. I look forward to the feast.

Unaccustomed Earth
A collection of short stories by Indian author, Jhumpa Lahiri, I found amongst Jeff’s things when I hid out for the week at his house. I got so invested in all of the characters, their lives, and relationships, each one had me hoping for more when I turned the last page. I especially enjoyed the last and longest story, which twisted me back to Thailand. I really look forward to exploring more from Lahiri.

The Plot Against America
This was my first Phillip Roth novel and it left me craving for me. Another sort of dystopia/alternate reality type of novel in that Charles Lindbergh wins over Roosevelt’s bid for a third term. Each page is so dense, you feel like you have to reread paragraphs to make sure you caught everything, but not in a ‘I don’t know what’s going on in this book’ kind of way. The only question now is, which of his do I read next?

Friday Five

Five Albums for 2012– Same thing as last year, some of these were released or popular before 2012, but they didn’t hit my ears on this side of the world until this past year. Here are the tunes that have been my savior in 2012.

Volume 1 & 2She & Him
Starting off with two albums. After watching 500 Days of Summer, I should have realized that Zooey Deschanel was going to have a record. Or did by then. I don’t know. What I do know is her haunting voice is perfect for tuning out blaring music on a bus or floating my subconscious away from rice fields and just float away on a cloud. Or something else a manic pixie dream girl might conjure up for you.
Favorite Tracks: Take It Back and You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me

Boys & GirlsAlabama Shakes
I wasn’t the biggest fan at first. And then I stumbled back upon them after having the album for a while. Then I couldn’t turn it off repeat. To describe the singer’s, Brittany Howard, voice in a word: powerful. I feel like I should be in a bar in a broken down drunken depression and slow dancing with some fool to ease my sorrows. In a good way. The perfect background music to a self-pitying homesick PCV after a long day ‘in the trenches.’
Favorite Tracks: I Found You and Heartbreaker

I love the simplicity of this album cover. From: http://prettymuchamazing.com/reviews/albumreviews/boys-and-girls

I love the simplicity of this album cover. From: http://prettymuchamazing.com/reviews/albumreviews/boys-and-girls

Some Nightsfun.
The name of the band is a pretty good description of how I feel about this album. Upon listening to this group, I can’t help but get in a better mood and feel my spirit lifted. For a bit this was my go-to morning bike music so I would be peppy and smiley for school. Or just dance around in my house to ‘We are Young’ and remember how grand this thing called life is.
Favorite Tracks: Some Nights, We are Young, and One Foot

RedTaylor Swift
‘But Erin, this album was only released in mid-October. How could this possibly be one of your albums of the 2012?’ you might be thinking. Well friends, that’s because Taylor Swift is really freaking awesome. I’m just going to come out and say it, I think I have a girlcrush. I made sure to get this album before I started traveling with my Mom and I’m so, so, so glad I did. It has been my first choice background music since I acquired it and my friend on all my long bus rides around Thailand. I might even venture to say I’ve listened to at least one song from Red every day since October. I’m not joking.Taylor’s sound is really different this time around compared to her last and very decent/listenable albums. But homegirl has taken it up a notch. She’s growing up and captures those feelings unlike any other current artist, especially for her female fans. I’m so grateful I’m getting to grow up with her. Do your thing girl.
Favorite Tracks: How do I choose? 22, Stay Stay Stay, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, and State of Grace

Did I mention how she's become such a style icon for me too? I would kill to take a gander in her closet. Photo from: http://idolator.com/7210192/taylor-swift-red-album-review

Did I mention how she’s become such a style icon for me too? I would kill to take a gander in her closet. Photo from: http://idolator.com/7210192/taylor-swift-red-album-review

21Adele
Where do I even begin? I first heard of Adele when I was living in London and she was winning British awards for her debut album, 19. I got it, but wasn’t too impressed with the whole and put her on my back shelf of music interests and people to look out for. Then I listened to a podcast that mentioned her ‘Someone Like You’ as the best sad song the person had ever sung along with. I was intrigued. Hook. Line. Sinker. I love this album with the power of a freshly made convert. And my ears love to worship the sultry sounds of Adele. 21 is easily my most listened to album of 2012 and possibly in my entire music library. I’ve lost count how many times goose bumps have been raised in an emotional moment when listening. This is the only album that could break me out of my Taylor Swift binge session the past few months. And it’s still not gotten old for me. I don’t think it ever will.
Favorite Tracks: Someone Like You, Don’t You Remember, One and Only, and Rolling in the Deep

Another simple yet stunning album cover. Girl. Love you. Photo From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21_(Adele_album)

Another simple yet stunning album cover. Girl. Love you. Photo From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/21_(Adele_album)

Also, this video:

Friday Five

Five Photos from 2012- I went through and picked my favorites from previous photos of the month and here are my pictures for last year. Can you tell I like sky pictures?

January 2012

January 2012- Laos, literally, a stone’s throw away

April 2012- Could a year of photos in Thailand be complete without a bug photo?

April 2012- Could a year of photos in Thailand be complete without an up close and personal bug photo?

July 2012- Might be one of my all time favorite photos I've ever taken. This girl is not the brightest crayon in the box, but she's responsible for all (four) of her younger siblings in a way I never have had to be.

June 2012- Might be one of my all time favorite photos I’ve ever taken. This girl is not the brightest crayon in the box, but she’s responsible for all (four) of her younger siblings in a way I never have had to be.

July 2012

July 2012

October 2012

October 2012

My Little Monsters... I couldn't resist one extra.

My Little Monsters… I couldn’t resist one extra. I love my boys in this shot.

Photos from the last part of the year with my Mom’s trip feel like a separate entity. They shall be posted soon.

10 Drinks We Can’t Wait For

With that food we’re so desperate to gobble, you need something to swig along with it. Here is our follow-up to the foods, drinks we can’t wait to gulp down by the gallon.

Again, Jeff is bold, I’m italics.

Rolling Rock

Wine: red, white, violet I don’t care, anything to savor over dinner

Red wine, pinot noir, shiraz and the dry wine I drink with pasta

Mountain Dew and Diet Coke… just once to remember what they taste like

2% milk

Vanilla Milkshake with Reeses’ added in

Newcastle

Hot Chocolate on a cold day

Tap water (I took it for granted)

A beer at a bar with my friends

A Grain Belt or Summit beer at a St. Paul Saints game

Some fruity shitty alcoholic drink to have while dancing like a fool with other young people

Real black coffee – not an Americano, but a dark cup of coffee from my own home or a locally owned coffee shop and maybe a shot in the dark (cup of coffee with a shot of espresso)

A glass of ice-cold 2% or whole milk to have with any kind of warm dessert

Fitger’s Oatmeal Big Boat Stout in Duluth

British Breakfast Hot Tea with my Mom

An A&W root beer from an A&W stand/restaurant

A pitcher of sangria at an outdoor bar

Any beer that’s handed to me by a friend

Tap water without thinking about it

Click here to see the Sprinkle’s list of beverages.

10 Foods We Can’t Wait For

A fellow PC Thailand blog, Sprinkles in Thailand, posted this ‘salute to our gastronomical brethren overseas we offer this: The Top Ten Things We Want to Eat When We Get Home.’ They are a married couple and though Jeff Jackson and I are not, sometimes it feels like it. Upon Jeff’s suggestion, we’re teaming up for another post together (remember that Walmart one?) for our respective food and drink lists we daydream, drool, and talk about. As with Morgan and Dan’s blog, we came up with these separately and then mashed them together for rainbows, sparkles, and unicorns.

Since I can’t seem to figure out how to make columns in WordPress, Jeff is in bold, I’m in italics.

J: Bratwurst with Silver Spring mustard

E: Cheeseburger from the Aspinwall Grille

My pancakes with real salted butter and Aunt Jemima syrup

Pizza, preferably from Milanos in the downtown branch

Papa Murphy’s pizza hot out of the oven

 

Breadsticks from the place I don’t know the name of, but call ‘the breadsticks place’

A baked potato with butter, pepper, Lawry’s and more butter

French Onion Soup (One each from Panera Bread and Max & Erma’s for Saturday lunch with my Mom)

Three scrambled eggs, quality & healthy wheat toast (with butter) and half a pound of bacon, three strips mixed in with the eggs with the greased used to lubricate the pan and flavor the eggs

Pasta… Cheese Tortellini, Chicken Alfredo, Lasagna, Spaghetti with meat sauce, real meatballs

A bowl of Corn Chex (with 2% milk) lightly sprinkled with sugar

Fruit not from Thailand: green apples, strawberries, seedless green grapes and oranges

Jimmy John’s No. 9 sub sandwich – I’ve forgotten what it is, but I know No. 9 = delicious 

Homemade mac and cheese

Mom’s homemade lasagna

French fries and to dip into a vanilla milkshake, preferably at King’s

Raspberries

Grilled chicken on a Cesar salad

Hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven, peanut butter cookies

The homemade creation titled ‘Greek shit’ on a cold Fall day

Just reading the list reminds me of more things I’d like to add to it. Stay tuned for the drinks version!

Friday Five

Five Things that Scare the Bejesus Out of Me– In honor of October and the human desire to try to frighten ourselves silly

Diving Board
Ever since I was a little kid and taking swimming lessons at summer camp, the diving board is something I did not like. We had to jump off at least once to move on to the next level, but some awful vision of jumping/slipping off the board, cracking my head on the edge while on my way down, and blood gushing from my head wound as I drown gives me the heebie-jeebies when I consider going off the board. Sometimes I can’t even watch the Olympic divers because I wince every time they make a jump.

Sudden Loud Noises/Thunderstorms
A story I heard growing up was, one family reunion, when I was still a baby and a summer thunderstorm started to move in. The noises and lightening scared me so much my Mom thought that I was trying to burrow myself into her chest. I can make it through the thunderstorms alone now, but they still make me extremely uncomfortable. It’s the same with the random explosions or people jumping up behind me. I’m the person jumping three feet in the air every time and my heart rate taking forever to go back to normal. As there are a lot of out of nowhere ridiculously loud noises in Thailand, Thai people get a real kick out of my reaction. I do not.

Paranormal Religious Movies/Books
Blood, guts, and zombies eating brains, I can handle with relative ease. It’s the creepy stuff that raises the goosebumps and hair on my arms. Movies with the man downstairs like The Devil’s Advocate or most Japanese remakes with creepy ghost people like The Ring are the ones I need to watch during the day… and then a happy movie afterwards. I think it’s even more effective in the written word. Being alone at home and most of my free time, it’s really hard to talk myself down off the freaked out ledge.

Willful Ignorance 
We’re moving into the abstract. This has become increasingly evident with the upcoming Presidential election in the U.S. as some voters refuse to stop and assess by a candidate’s goals or policies, but choose to follow what party they belong to. I think the most obvious example of this is people still refusing to believe that President Obama is an American citizen despite all actual evidence. I think any moderately logical person, on either side of the political fence, can figure that one out, but some people just don’t want to. For someone to try so hard not to be properly informed or expand their own horizons and education about the world is, frankly, terrifying to me. How can a country move forward when it is dependent on people to be willing to do so?

Fear Itself
I think it’s healthy and positive to have fears and to experience the emotions that come with it. But I never want those challenges to stop me from doing something I should. The diving board makes me uncomfortable, but that’s never stopped me from trying it. I might take a while to do that thing that makes my heart race, but I will do it. What scares me more is the day I won’t try something, dance in the rain, read a book or watch a movie, because it intimidates me in some way.