Saturday, June 23, 2007

Birthday Blahs

Aw crap. My birthday is this Thursday. As you can tell, I am not anticipating it with much excitement. I'm talking about the actual day. The weekend will be good as I'm going to Los Angeles. I will hook up with the usual gang of college buddies--and hopefully hit some good cupcake bakeries. I guess I'm being a sourpuss because I'm turning 29 and I wish I could be in my twenties for a few more years. I just remember when this age seemed really, really far a galaxy-long-long-ago far away. I'm not sure where I pictured myself at this age but definitely not in Arizona! I think that's another reason why I feel very gripey (that's not a word, is it?). I know the day will be boring as I have to work and I am in a place that I don't consider home. And nobody here knows me very well. And I'm certainly not going to go around asking for b-day attention like a hobo with a tin cup.

I was thinking about what kind of birthday present I would want. Just for fun...something really out of the ordinary. For example, I would love to spend a day behind the scenes of a bakery or cupcakery and see what it takes to run one and get to use their piping tips and frosting to decorate a few that will actually go up for sale. I actually did write to a bakery here in Phoenix but I never heard back from them. I guess you have to know the owner; they just won't let in your average Joe. (If anyone out there knows a bakery owner, get me in!) Or I would love to have a few lessons in hip hop dancing with a real choreographer. The woman I go to now is okay. But there's no structure and after a while, I feel like I'm learning the same steps in a different order. I'm sure it's not completely true. What else? I wish I could either get a lesson in entertaining or cooking from Martha Stewart herself (yeah, I know she must be anal and nutty, but's Martha!). Maybe someday I can go attend a taping of her show. Another fantasy gift would be to be an extra on the set of the "Superman" sequel or a "Harry Potter" film. Actually, I'd trade Harry Potter for a sit-down with J.K. Rowling. Get free lessons in photography so I could shoot pictures to go with my stories. A free trip to Spain. I guess now that I'm older, I don't care about things but rather...experiences. OK, things can be a nice pick-me-up too.

I remember back in high school, almost every birthday, I got something Disney or Winnie-the-Pooh related from almost everyone I knew. Now, I'm not knocking anything I was given because I was lucky people actually thought of me. But I was kind of like "Is that all people think I'm interested in?" It was at that point, I made a mental note to always keep an open mind for other interests, whether it be hobbies, culture, pop culture, food, etc. I don't want to be associated with one thing. And luckily, I did grow out of the Disney thing more or less. Pooh is still a presence which I'm fine with. However, I draw the line at wearing Pooh (ooh, that sounds weird) except for socks because those are more subtle.

Anyway, I'll just be happy if on Thursday, I do NOT get sent outside for an assignment and it's like 110 degrees. That. Would. Suck. For whomever is reading this, the next time you see me, share what your "fantasy" birthday gift(s) would be. I'd be curious to know.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The girl who came back from Ipanema

I've been back from Brazil for almost six days now. Despite how dirty Sao Paulo and Rio were, I do miss both cities. Yes, perhaps my nostalgia is augmented by how much beef and seafood I ate. But gawd, the weather. I'd do anything to be able to capture that in a bottle and spread it around Phoenix. More humidity and never hotter than 80 degrees. Now, I'm back a dry 100-plus climate. BOO!!

Anyway, here were some of the highlights for me:

-For our first half of the trip in Sao Paulo, my mom's second cousin who has lived there for 30 years was basically our guide and chauffeur for the entire time. "Uncle" (just easier if I call him that) drove us from place to place, led us on the metro and fought for and won the bill for every meal. Talk about generous. He was always very sweet with a smidge of eccentricity, hehe. For my family who might be wondering, his father and my mom's mom were first cousins. But he knew relatives on the paternal side of my mom's family. In fact, I think he shared living space for a while with either Third Uncle or Sixth Uncle (Kenneth's dad).

-Uncle's driving. He would so fit the Asian driver stereotype if he were in the U.S. Most Brazilians, from what I saw, drive pretty aggressively. But his driving was on a different level. He got lost one night trying to take Mom and I back to our hotel. At one point, he stopped in the middle of an intersection to ponder his next move. Luckily, few cars were around. When it ocurred to him where to go, Uncle backed up...and kept backing up. He drove in reverse for a block and then around a corner, LOL.

-Our second day in Sao Paulo, Uncle showed up at our hotel with two cardboard trays. He had so many gifts he wanted Mom to bring back for relatives in California, it took him almost 10 minutes to explain what was what and for whom. Mom was laughing hysterically because she didn't know how she was going to back four rocks and a jewelry box among other things in her luggage.

-Meeting Uncle's son, Marcelo. Apparently, Marcelo and I must've met when he visited the Bay Area in 1993. According to mom, he came to our house for dinner, which he remembers. But I can't. My 15-year-old self was probably thinking that Marcelo, who is now 37, and I wouldn't have anything in common. This time, we sort of bonded as he actually speaks English and he helped show us around. When he were there, he was in the middle of moving to Toronto. He literally got on a Canada-bound plane the night before Mom and I did. Poor Uncle, had the double whammy of saying bye to his son and then to us. But at least I have someone who can show me around Toronto!

-Every restaurant offering not only your standard orange juice (freshly squeezed or with sugar) but flavors like pineapple, passionfruit, guava, mango, watermelon and strawberry.

-The service at a lot of these restaurants surprised me. Talk about attentive. And it's so convenient how the gratuity is already added on your bill (it's always 10 percent). We had wonderful service at this pizza restaurant (best pizza I've had I think). One medium size pizza plus three bottles of mineral water and gratuity cost us $17 USD.

-Going to a dinner theater show on the history of Brazil (a cheesy tourist event akin to taking in a show in Vegas but with even more feathery costumes -- see the picture below) and seeing tour groups from Japan and India go a little crazy.

-On our last day in Rio, where we stayed on Copacabana Beach, both my mom and I had the same idea at the same time on how to pass the last half hour before our ride to the airport shows up: let's go walk along the beach by the restaurant where all the hookers supposedly congregate to look for clients. Sometimes my mom surprises me!

Anyway, off to go write captions for the pictures I decided to post.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Stitching but no bitching

Sheesh, I haven't written since May 18. But as you can see from my last entry, very jam-packed week. Memorial Day weekend was no less busy as I was trying to put together my cousin Tina's baby shower while also preparing my gift. My urge to do something handcrafted has led me to vow to never say anything negative about the Arizona Republic newspaper--at least its marketing department.

A few days before I was to fly back for the shower, which was on May 27, I went to the Republic to show my emerging knitted baby blankie to my friend Alyson. As I was displaying it, this matronly woman walks through the office and comments on how beautiful my blanket looks. I bitch about how I need to buy a whole new ball of yarn just to finish up the corner. Out of the blue she says, "Tell you what. Go buy your yarn, finish up your blanket and give me the rest. I'll have a pair of booties and maybe even a matching hat in an hour." I thought she was kidding. But the next day, I realized I had all this extra fleece yarn. So, I went back to the Republic but I couldn't find her. Alyson hadn't met her before. All we know is that her name is Diane. We go through the staff directory and there are like seven Dianes. We consider calling one of them and bluntly asking if she knits booties. I finally just agree to leave the yarn with Alyson, who promises to track Diane down. I say goodbye and get into the elevator to go down to the lobby. It stops after one floor, the doors open and voila! There is Diane. She says to me, "Hi. Remember me?" Um...yeah, I've only spent the last 20 minutes looking for you. So, in short, I tell her Alyson has my yarn but I won't hold her to her offer. I get a call from Alyson the next morning, the day before I need to fly out of Phoenix, saying there is an adorable pair of booties and hat waiting for me on her desk. See the entire cutesy set below:

I even showed these to my boss. He was definitely amazed; I'm probably the first AP employee to go to a subscribing newspaper and come out with knitted products. Yes, I can't say anything bad about the Republic. The interval of time Diane, who works in marketing, took and the quality of the work is stunning. I would have been a knit-wit (pun intended) to not act on her offer.

OK, I'm not sure when I'll be here next. I am off to Brazil tomorrow. YIPEE!!