Monday, February 22, 2010


As part of my pre-departure for a year in Korea, I wanted to see my dad in Florida. I don't like to go more than a year and a half without visiting. Plus, it's always nice to have a reason to go somewhere sunny in the winter. I found out the hard way on my first visit here in 2004 that it's not a good idea to come between July and October. It is hurricane season and I showed up just in time for Hurricane Frances, spending a portion of the visit evacuated at my dad's friend's house. From then on I have made winter-only visits.

Over 2 years ago, I met a neighbor of my dad's here at the resort named Charlie. He recently died of prostate cancer and I just want to take a moment to remember him. We met because he offered to give me tennis lessons, and even at 71 years old in the Florida heat was in great shape, probably more fit than I was. He also was a state Backgammon champion and gave me lessons in that as well. I had only played one other time, when I was taught by a couple Austrian boys at a palapa on the beach in Zipolite, Oaxaca coast, Mexico. Charlie’s house was right on the lake and we also went swimming together. He was the ONLY person who swam in the lake, which during the winter months every one else considered too cold. Of course for me, the lake was the best I could hope for in summer in the PNW, and there was no keeping me out. I swam across, my heart pounding all the while, probably more from the thought of sharing the water with gators than from the workout. Anyway, Charlie was a fun, spirited, wryly funny, smart man who I am happy to have met.

A trip to this resort community is always pleasant- seeing my dad, running, learning Petanque, sunbathing, and swimming. But this trip was extra special. We had a small family reunion with my great aunt and uncle, my dad’s two sisters, and some cousin—better called a “union” because we have never all been together to begin with! We all met near Fort Meyer where my aunt and uncle were staying, and sat by the pool, looked at pictures, told stories, walked along the water, and went out for a nice dinner. The highlight was probably my Aunt Natalie, who is a ridiculously good storyteller. She is animated, quick, and her perfectly timed voice inflections leave you on the edge of your seat. I loved hearing stories about the older generations growing up in the Italian neighborhood of Chicago- the mafia ties, the family pride, the hard work, the immigrant experience and learning English.

Another great part about the whole thing was being able to bring my new computer down to my dad. I feel a little like it is my new baby that he helped christen. My old computer was broken and I definitely need one for Korea, so I finally upgraded to a MacBook and I haven’t been able to tear myself away from it ever since. My dad showed me some things, helped me download a couple programs, and in a very sweet dad-esque move, burned me at 430 page PDF on Everything I Need to Know about My Mac. Then on Mondays, there is a guy at the resort who does a free computer class to boot! I learned all about router types and how they affect internet connection speed, as well as keyboard shortcuts. He then sat with me for another hour after the class to walk through the computer. I haven’t felt this technologically savvy since I decided to take every free class offered at the Student Technology Center my last year at Western.

The last thing I want to mention is that I just added another link to my blog reading list, called Orangette. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a food blog by a Seattle resident who also recently just published a food stories/recipe book called A Homemade Life. I started reading it on the plane and accidentally spilled my orange juice on it, which I found to be a strange coincidence, and spilled some on the pants of the man sleeping next to me, which I found to be a relief that he didn’t wake up. Anyway, it’s a sweet compilation of food dishes that relate specifically to people, places, or events, and overall a funny and enjoyable read.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Valentine Tradition

I started at the flower shop in Bellingham as temporary help for Valentine's Day 2004 and haven't been able to stay away since. I've been there full-time, part-time, and taken chunks of time off, yet going back for VDay has always stayed the same. This year was my 6th holiday o'luv, missing one year in 2005 when I was in Mexico. Whether I'm dating some one or not, my first love affair is with all the women at the shop. Just look at 'em! They are a delightful, hard-working, fun-loving, humorous bunch. And when necessary, we take things very, very seriously.

Incidentally, this year I was dating some one, and he came over from Orcas to spend the holiday with me. Alex and I stayed with friends Katie and Alan again, our gracious hosts from Thanksgiving. It ended up being a Vday double date, with Alex and Alan making a beautiful dinner for Katie and I. Alan even stood up after dinner and barred our view of the sink, absolutely forbidding any one else from doing any cleanup. What a guy! Alex and I tried to see a show at the Bellingham Circus Guild, but alas, it was sold out by the time we got there. I was bummed, but drinking winter beer at Boundary Bay was a very consoling alternative. Our coupleyness reached new heights the next day when we borrowed a tandem bike from my friend (thanks Victor!) and pedaled around town. I lived in Bellingham for about 6 years, but being on a tandem made me feel gleefully like a tourist. Later when Alex was at yoga I returned the bike by myself. Few things must look as sad as one person alone on a bike made for two, but I was brimming with too much love to let it bother me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reading, Writing, and Robots

I'm attempting to learn some Korean before I leave. Since the writing system is based on phonetic letters rather than characters or iconographs, it is reasonable to be able to recognize letters and even read relatively quickly. There are more letters if you count diphthongs, iotized vowels, and double consonants, but here is the basic run-down.

I started studying it and then I came across this roadsign. Instead of interpretting it as a junction in the road, my first thought was, "A Korean letter!"

In other news, a friend recently sent me a link to this article in the Korean Times. It's about how robots will be introduced in English classes in Korea as teaching assistants, and eventually be full-on teachers. It will apparently be more cost-effective to just have robots teach English. I thought it was a joke at first, but it seems pretty serious. Good thing I'm going to Korea sooner than later before my job is rendered completely obselete and replaced by a machine.