If Marlow had wifi…

26 Jul

In the first grade, my class spent a few weeks learning about the rainforest.  We even successfully executed our own production of The Great Kapok TreeI played a very convincing bumble bee. Sixteen years later, my siblings and I decided to round off our Argentinian adventure with a visit to the exotic, semi-remote Iguazu Falls.

Based on my extensive knowledge on the South American wilderness, I knew how to prepare for our hike through the jungle. The morning of our expedition, my sister and I donned athletic gear and packed my North Face backpack with vittles and survival essentials. We shamelessly piled our plates with chocolate cake at the hotel’s breakfast buffet (carbo-loading.) We even mentally prepared ourselves by engaging in a freestyle smack talk rap battle. Yo. If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the jungle! We were ready to conquer this waterfall. My brother, on the other hand, did not share our mindset. I mean, he wanted to wear flip flops on the trek. How are you going to outrun a jaguar in sandals? Amateur.

Ancient tribal ceremonial site or amphitheater for the 1:30 exotic bird show?

When we arrived at the park, I realized that we were not actually in the Argentinian heart of darknesswe were at Disneyland. First of all, though we left Buenos Aires to seek refuge from the city’s hoards of people, the crowds found us here in Iguazu. (Evidently, the national park isn’t a secret!) The other tourists, sporting heels and sundresses, did not seem to be taking the hike that seriously. Plus, despite the natural surroundings, the park itself felt artificially rugged, like a jungle-themed amusement park.

Where were the exotic flora and fauna? Pathways to danger? Excitement? Instead, all I could see were colorful signs, paved trails and food courts, selling overpriced concessions.

Oh yeah, and amazing views.

Every time we passed one of these bad boys, I couldn't help but look for branches or rocks in the water that I could cling to should I fall in. Survival instinct.

Two thumbs up! Fun for the whole family.

Eat, Eat, Eat.

22 Jul

Today, a cab driver told me that the men here in Buenos Aires understand that Argentinian food is the best but the women are too busy dieting to appreciate the cuisine. Believe me, I’ve been too busy stuffing my face with chocolate covered churros filled with dulce de leche, glorious glorious meat and empanadas to even consider holding back. Who needs to diet when you can just put on the pants with the elastic waistband? I’m basically having an “Eat, Pray, Love” experience minus spiritualism, minus the romance. Yes, my travels are less cathartic than they are caloric.

(Meat) sweatpants

This doesn’t mean, however, that I’m not deathly afraid of returning to the States, looking like the small cow that I have undoubtedly consumed over the past week. And as this is obviously not the time and place for dieting, I must resort to exercise to remain human-shaped. Fortunately, our apartment complex has a rooftop gym. Unfortunately, this otherwise lovely building is home to the crappiest treadmill in the entire world.

Crappiest? That’s an awfully bold statement to make, you say? Well, trust me. If you had to run on it, you’d be on my side. I don’t particularly enjoy running and this treadmill isn’t sweetening the deal. First of all, the display doesn’t work, which means that you can’t tell how far or how long you’ve run.

This face accurately depicts how I feel about this treadmill.

But hey, we know that rate x time = distance, so as long as you carry your own watch you should theoretically be able to calculate your distance, right? Who needs a working display? I do…unless someone can tell me how fast a “fat burn” pace is.

The devil machine's speed adjuster.

Plus, unless they have their own personal televisions, treadmills, in general, bore me. This particular treadmill does not contain a TV but it does face a floor-length mirror. This way, I can admire my sweaty unattractiveness while suffering excruciating boredom. The other day, I literally had to yell (aloud) “KEEP RUNNING!!!” to keep myself from quitting. Mirror Courtney was looking pretty beat.

Is Argentinian food really worth all this trauma?

Decorative "sugar" crystals? Nope, it has to be meth. It's the only reasonable explanation as to why these churros are so addicting!

Why yes, yes it is.

Have you missed me? Well don’t cry…for me…Argentina.

17 Jul

My brother, sister and I recently arrived in Buenos Aires, beginning our two week adventure of sibling bonding, bickering and bullying. With the help of a 15 hour rejuvenating sleep, a little bit of wine and a lot of beef, we’re finally appreciating the city and its wonderful offerings. To enhance our Argentinian experience, we have attempted to adopt the local lifestyle and you know, blend in. However, I am gradually realizing that this goal of “blending in” is a merely pipe dream, because despite our greatest efforts, we are unfortunately not going to fool anyone.

"No hablo español :("

First of all, the three of us collectively have a at most, rudimentary grasp of Spanish language, (although our miming skills are becoming increasingly sophisticated.) My brother, the most advanced, repeatedly responds “Gracias Señor” when he runs out of things to say. And, while I looked up how to say “How much is this?” in Spanish, I soon learned that it’s a pretty useless phrase if you can’t count past ten.

Me: ¿Cuánto es?

Woman: Ciento cuarenta pesos

Me: ¿?¿?¿?¿?!

Woman: One hundred and forty.

Plus, coupled with our lack of Spanish-speaking abilities, our colorful city map, which we cling to like a security blanket, clearly designates us as tourists.

To top it all off, my sister keeps screaming in public about how she wants more “chocolate con churro.”I don’t think locals (or normal people, in general) get this hyped up about churros and hot chocolate. Calm the f down, Shelby.

Meet my future brother-in-law, "Chocolate Con Churro"

In my sister’s defense, I think being irrationally excited runs in the family, especially in light of my own life-changing discovery: Buenos Aires’s flourishing back-alley mannequin market. On our way to buy Harry Potter 7 tickets yesterday (“tres tickets por Harry Potter, por favor”), we encountered an alley filled with various shops selling mannequins: big ones, small ones, fat ones,  tall ones. Super PC. I felt like I was trapped in a Dr. Seuss book about mannequins and my emotions ran rampant; I felt sorrow, excitement, enchantment, horror and inspiration, all at once. I am pretty sure my brother and sister were more unsettled by my enthusiasm than by the actual mannequins. I would have included a picture of the mannequins for you but they were naked, and this blog is classy. And I may have forgotten to take a picture. Let me assure you, it was awesome.

Are real Argentinians this amazed by creepy plastic bodies? If so, then I daresay I’m actually on my way to fitting in.

iPhone? Soooo over it…

10 Jul

I blame my miniature blog hiatus on my recent trip to New York City. Unfortunately, the concrete jungle where dreams are made of deprived me of all creative inspiration and instead, motivated me to spend my days shrinking my wallet and fattening my waistline.

NYC was exactly how I imagined it would be - a life-size Gossip Girl set and therefore obviously, a dream come true. Please refer to me as "C" from now on.

I learned a few important life lessons on this very educational trip:

1) New Yorkers think it’s creepy if you smile too much. (Don’t do it!)

2) Your friends think it’s creepy if you constantly text them random pictures of cats (with captions like, “Meow! Thinking of you at the Met!”)

3) “Cash Cab” is apparently a hoax. (There goes my innocence and child-like wonder.)

4) If you tug on the ears of the Mickey Mouse mascot in Times Square, he WILL curse at you and flip you the bird. (For the record, I was just a witness in this scenario.)

5) Smartphones are really really useful.

You see, I have yet to jump on the smartphone bandwagon. I swear it’s not my fault. My parents refused to get a computer until 2001, and we were using dial-up until 2005. I’m a just product of my environment. It wasn’t until this past week, that I truly understood the necessity of owning one of these gadgets. Apparently, a smartphone can provide you with directions to show your cab driver. It can help you Yelp a new restaurant in Little Italy. It can even lead you to said restaurant, sparing you the exhaustion of aimlessly wandering the streets after your brother abandons you. But, I’m sure you already know all this because you, unlike me, do not flee from technology.

2005's finest!

Instead, I’ve been using my cousin’s friend’s old LG flip phone. (Thanks for hooking it up, Shannon!) While it’s incredibly reminiscent of my first cellphone, it allows me to call, text and even take low-quality pictures (of cats.) It’s good enough for me, but it’s no smartphone. Consequently, I was surprised to receive so many compliments on it in New York. After a few “cool phone” comments, I picked up on Lesson #6: There are A LOT of hipsters in New York. I’ve concluded that they must think I’m using the phone ironically…which I’m not. And this is why (contrary to the title of this post) I need an iPhone.

Seizing the NOW

30 Jun

So 1960 and late?

Growing up, my parents kept the radio dial permanently tuned to the oldies station. Even when I eventually realized that the Temptations and Marvin Gaye were not contemporary artists, I willingly conceded all radio rights. The reason was two-fold. First of all, I actually liked oldies music. More importantly though, I didn’t want to explain to Mom and Dad the meaning of “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,” partly because I myself wasn’t exactly clear about the definition.

My world crashed when a classmate told me, “Oldies are lame. I listen to ‘newies.'” His harsh but clever words pulled at my insecurities, attacking my fragile adolescent psyche. I decided to seek out the latest hits in order to survive the 5th grade. Without the radio, I was forced to rely on other sources: Fox Family’s Sunday morning video countdowns and of course, “Now That’s What I Call Music” (NOW) CDs.

In case you’re unfamiliar, NOW CDs are compilations of the latest chart-toppers. Not only did these babies provided me with endless hours of listening entertainment, but with the help of my portable CD player, they also allowed me to pose as a sulky, angsty preteen.

Aaron C.'s in the house. Here we go!

Years later, I rediscovered my NOW CDs (Volume 4-10)  on a weekend trip home from college. After listening to Aaron Carter on repeat, I decided to bring my collection back to school with me. (I planned to use the music to accompany a party, an “Aaron’s Party,” if you will.) I forgot to unpack my CD case from my backpack, and when I found it during my morning lecture, I excitedly showed the CDs off to a classmate. I mean, who wouldn’t brag about a NOW collection? When I returned home, my CDs were nowhere to be seen. Devastated, I tried to find them. I frantically tore through my backpack. I retraced my steps back to the lecture hall. I even mass e-mailed my class. All was in vain.

That was then, this is NOW (HA!). To this day, I’m convinced that one of my classmates kept the collection, either out of sheer musical appreciation or to play mind games with me. I find the latter theory more compelling. The class was notoriously competitive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of my classmates engaged in emotional terrorism. However, years have passed and I was on the road to recovery. This was until a few months ago when my insensitive friend and classmate, Angela had the gall to remind me of my loss by forwarding me this e-mail:

Please take note of my inarticulate babbling at the end of the e-mail. Can't you read the shamelessness? The desperation?

The Weedle Position

27 Jun

The world is a frightening place. I am always afraid, afraid that the commissioned oil painting of my sister and mom running together means I am not actually the favorite child, afraid that my Beanie Baby collection isn’t worth thousands of dollars, despite what my 1998 official handbook suggests and afraid of somehow becoming a cat lady because frankly, felines intimidate me. Talk about being a scaredy cat.

As a blogger, the thought butchering the English language in front of the critical eyes of the blogosphere also strikes fear into my heart. I already know that I most likely harbor many flagrant misunderstandings about the language. This became especially apparent in college. The dorms were each equipped with a peer health adviser who not only distributed band aids, Advil and condoms, but also decorated the bathrooms with educational health articles. One week, the topic was “What does your sleep position say about you?” Now I’m a pseudo woman of science not a woman of pseudoscience, so I felt inclined to ignore this article and the hocus pocus it propagated. But, just as I can’t resist reading my daily horoscope in the paper — my Gemini dual personality can make me somewhat of a hypocrite — I couldn’t help but read the health report.

At the top of the article was a diagram depicting different sleeping positions (see right.) As I glanced over the illustration, I noticed “fetal” labeled under the first position. I love finding printed spelling and grammar errors (which is why I deliberately scrutinize every page of Chinese restaurant menus) so I was feeling pretty smug.   “Fetal,” I thought to myself. “Someone did not proofread th..the the hell?!?!”

It had dawned on me. For the past ten years, I had incorrectly referred to the curled up human form as the “weedle position.” You know, like the bug Pokemon. (I do realize that I referenced Pokemon in my last post but I can assure you, it’s purely coincidental and not at all reflective of a secret obsession.) However seeing the labeled position on the chart, I could clearly see the connection between the fetal position and a fetus’s positioning.

In my defense, it’s a perfectly reasonable misconception. As you can see from my scientific diagram, the weedle’s curvature is highly reminiscent of the fetal position’s form. It’s therefore entirely feasible that a Pokemon was named after a bodily position, a position named “weedle.” Can’t you also imagine someone rocking back and forth in the “fetal” position, quietly chanting “weedle, weedle, weedle”? No? Just me? Then, can I also point out that “weedle” and “fetal” are practically homophones, which could be another source for my confusion?  Come on…wee-dle…fe-tal. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if other people make this mistake.

(FYI, this is the least disgusting picture of a fetus that I could find. You’re welcome.)

If I messed up weedle…I mean fetal position, who knows how many other words I’m unintentionally mutilating? I’m terrified of unavoidable future language fouls.

On another note, I am now also in the market for new friends. I obviously can’t trust any of my old friends, who were either too cruel, too dumb or too indifferent to correct me and for ten years, allowed me to get away with, “Saw II was so scary that I spent two hours in the weedle position!” So, if you have an above average command of the English language and aren’t afraid to show it, feel free to apply to be my friend. The position starts off as an unpaid internship, with potential for full-time employment and compensation in the form of Beanie Babies.

Let the record show that I used to be a good person.

22 Jun

Living at home for the summer, I sometimes have to give in to my mom’s ridiculous requests by doing dishes, showing her common respect, and not operating a meth lab from our basement. Welcome to my suburban oppression. In compliance with her latest demand, I dutifully started to clean my room last night and uncovered my elementary school yearbooks. I, of course, had to abandon my chores and leaf through every page of all seven volumes of my childhood. I evidently have a firm grasp on my priorities.

The fifth grade was the year of the millennium so the entire yearbook followed the theme of “the future.” Completely uninspired, right? I would have dedicated the book to the impending apocalypse or more realistically, to Pokemon. I’m pretty sure that I was ignorant of the Y2K scare because I was preoccupied, trying to convince my friend to trade me her Charizard for three trainer cards, four energy cards and a Weedle. Anyway, back to the future…theme. Mrs. Johnson decided that our class should document “our dreams for the future.” Though I obviously should have aspired to be a stand up comedian (come on, my “Back to the Future” joke was gold), I told Mrs. Johnson that I wanted to teach in a foreign country, because it sounded so terribly romantic. She suggested I join the Peace Corps.

So let it be written, so let it be done. Well…not exactly. My friends taunted me and my parents (unsurprisingly) discouraged me from realizing this dream. At the time, I was utterly baffled because I was under the impression that striving to improve global education was an admirable ambition. I also still didn’t completely understand the mission and operations of the Peace Corps, which further magnified my confusion.

Today, I still have unanswered questions, namely, why weren’t the other kids’ goals ridiculed? In retrospect, my wish was fairly achievable (and not to mention practical), when considering that two of my classmates aspired to be Dr. Doolittle and another had delusions about living in Atlantis. Read the other ones – it doesn’t get much better. Sure, their ideas were cute, but at 10 years old, we were a little too mature for cute.

Maybe I’m being a bit cruel, heckling 5th graders and all. Unfortunately, this is who I have become, and I am now far from the kind, altruistic person that I could have been. Sorry World. 

My father is painfully honest.

19 Jun

I want to thank my dad for always keeping it real,

for telling me that I stink after workouts,

for pointing out that my left eye is bigger than my right,

for never letting me win at basketball, lest I delusively start to think I have a “shot” at the WNBA,

and for always acknowledging my tone deafness whenever I start to sing in the car.

Happy Father’s Day!

A Very Retrospective Birthday

16 Jun

In honor of my 22nd birthday, I would like to share a quote by actress, Ingrid Bergman:

“I have no regrets, I wouldn’t have lived my life the way I did if I was going to worry about what people were going to say.”

Well, unfortunately, I’m not a movie star so I have some, actually many regrets. In particular, I am most upset about a missed business opportunity. I never developed my high school invention, the waffle spoon.

What is the waffle spoon? It’s only my multi-million dollar brain child. Let me explain. With regards to ice cream eating accessories, we have…

the ice cream cone,

the waffle cone,

and the latest creation, the waffle bowl.

Now, the waffle bowl is great because it takes ice cream consumption to the next level, incorporating the best of both worlds. No longer does the ice cream enthusiast need to deal with the messiness of the cone or dreariness of a normal bowl. Instead, the waffle bowl allows users to neatly eat dessert in a fun AND edible bowl. The only problem is, you have to use a spoon and let’s be honest, plastic, metal or silver, the standard spoon is lackluster in comparison to the dynamic waffle bowl. So, what if, there was a spoon counterpart to the waffle bowl, an edible spoon, a spoon born from waffle cones, a waffle spoon.

In case you’re still a little confused, I illustrated the concept. Get the picture? (Get the pun? Heh.)

Some of you naysayers may be wondering, “Won’t the spoon get soggy, impeding its ability to successful deliver ice cream to one’s mouth?” Well, the ingenuity of the product is that the composition of the spoon will be thick enough to avoid disintegration but thin enough to remain edible. Although I have yet to create (or even attempt to create) a working model, I am confident that it will work. I am also certain that it will be successful because seriously, who wouldn’t enjoy an edible spoon?

On second thought, in the process of writing this post, I’ve convinced myself to follow my dream and reconvene the development of the waffle spoon. I just need some investment capital. Any takers?

Obnoxious Obligations

13 Jun

I’m really trying to avoid using my blog as a medium for complaining because well, if I start whining too much then pretty soon, I’ll have one of those emo blogs, resembling my xanga from the seventh grade. So, forgive me as I dedicate this entry to my hatred for graduations.

It’s that time of the year again. I not only had to attend my own commencement last month but a few days ago, I was also obligated to go to my sister’s high school graduation. Now don’t get me wrong. I am proud of my sister’s milestone and I even enjoyed yelling out embarrassing childhood nicknames as she crossed the stage, (maintaining my title as Sister of the Year.) However, despite the relative ease of the 1.5 hour ceremony, I’m just not a fan of the ugly robes, the cheesy, pedantic  speeches and the obnoxious air horns. Sorry! Plus, graduations, by nature, symbolize the ends of eras and life transitions, and I’ve never been one to deal well with change.

This isn’t a recent development either; I’ve always harbored an intolerance for graduations. When my older brother graduated as valedictorian of his elementary school, my father was supposed to make a speech at the ceremony. Unfortunately, he never made it to the stage, because as soon as he left his seat, some brat started screaming her head off. Parents seriously need to learn how to control their children…oh wait, that kid was me. In my defense, the ceremony was three hours long. In what world, does a class of 25 need three hours to graduate?

Now I recognize that I’m probably being more obnoxious than the obligation, itself. But hey, don’t worry. Over the years I’ve somewhat matured and learned to cope. At my brother’s  high school graduation, I was much quieter, and I bet that by the time my sister finishes med school, my behavior will be nearly flawless.

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