Tuesday, June 27, 2006

a couple scenic shots from the past...

Just felt compelled to post some pictures taken a while back. These are on my laptop, which I don't use much anymore, but am using while house-sitting. I think this is probably the best sunset picture I've ever taken. And interestingly, it was taken in a Safeway parking lot... not exactly a place you'd expect to get a good shot of the sunset. It was 2 years ago in Rocklin, CA, where my aunt and uncle live.

And this is another shot that I really like. Taken in the hills of Danville, CA, in the morning, before the mist had burnt off. Also 2 years ago.

I think I've missed using my computer these past couple years -- it's nice to be looking through stuff like these pictures that I had forgotten about. And maybe I'm getting nostalgic for the States, since these pictures were taken the last time I was there, which now seems like ages ago! But it looks like I will probably be going back this summer, though I have yet to buy tickets. I do know from my travel agent friend that there are still tickets available in August... so we'll see if I actually make it!

"within walking distance"

I mentioned in my last post that the place where I'm house-sitting is within walking distance of my school. Technically that is true. But yesterday I discovered that the 15-minute walk caused me to sweat so profusely that the back of my shirt was completely soaked with sweat by the time I arrived at school to conduct oral exams.

So today I discovered another perk of living within walking distance. The close proximity between home and school means a 3-minute taxi ride costing only a flag fare. Nice.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


I moved into the Shepherds' apartment yesterday and began my Summer o' House-Sitting Fun 2006. I'll be here for about five weeks, until the beginning of August. I don't have too many resposibilities -- look after their two cats (both of which were given to them by me), water a few plants, empty dehumidifiers, etc.

After one night here, the cats have started to warm up to me a bit. Before coming I held a secret hope that they would both remember me from their kittenhoods, but that was not the case. The two of them went into hiding as soon as I brought my stuff over yesterday morning, and I didn't see either of them until last night, when I caught a glimpse of Tiger (or TCFKAKF -- The Cat Formerly Known as Kitten Face -- as I like to call him...) running down the hall. Then this morning I was relieved to finally see Chester (a kitten that went nameless until he went to the Shepherds), because I was beginning to wonder if he'd disappeared or expired somewhere...

So, the house and cat-sitting is off to a good start. I'm enjoying having a place all to myself again after 2 years of living at home (which, don't get me wrong Mom and Dad, has been great). And the Shepherd's place is within walking distance of my school, which will be convenient for the next few days at least. Students finish exams on Wednesday, and then next week they start a 2-week "post exam period" (which is basically half-days of field-trips and activities), and I'm really not sure if I'm expected to be at school for that. Guess I should check on that...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

cable tv and addiction

Big news -- my family has signed up for cable. A PCCW guy came by our house tonight to offer us a "today and only today" deal of free channels based on the amount my parents are already paying for internet. My dad was pretty tired, and told the guy straight off that he didn't want what he was selling. But Mr PCCW was persistent, and quickly had my dad under his spell with promises of free ESPN. So we got a number of channels free for 18 months, some other channels free for 12 months, and eventually, if we want to keep any of them after that, we'll be paying a monthly fee.

So, I guess in a couple of days (when the cable box is installed) I'll be saying goodbye to the simple two-English-channel life that I've been living. Though I'm excited at the prospect of seeing some good movies on HBO and a couple other shows that I've been interested in watching, the thought of having cable does frighten me a little bit. Why? I think the fear goes back to a six-month furlough in the States that my family took when I was 10. In theory, I was homeschooled during that period, but in reality, I spent virtually every waking moment watching TV. And then in college, I gave into hours of comedy central and TLC. So, with this in mind, living in places with limited English TV access has been good for me. Sure it's meant TV binges when I'd be in the States (Ji, if you're reading this, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about!), but then for the most part, my TV addiction has been under control. So we'll see what happens... Hopefully I won't turn into a full-fledged TV addict. I think I'll just have to be very intentional (ugghh... I don't like that word) about what I watch.

Ironically, I just finished reading A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, the pseudo-memior of a man overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. I say "ironically" because as insensitive or just plain wrong as it may sound, I saw some parallels between his addictions and my own. I liked the book, it was a good read, and it helped me to sympathize (maybe even empathize on some level?) with people who are struggling with substance abuse. I'm not sure if what I felt could really be called empathy, but I could relate on some level to the desire to consume... though in my case it's probably in relation to certain foods or television more than drugs and alcohol... I think I'd recommend the book to most people, not to everyone, because it is a little on the raw and explicit side. However, one thing that annoyed me just a little bit was the way Frey portrayed himself in the book. Yeah, he goes into great detail about the horrible things he'd done to himself and to others while he was using, but in the end, I think he comes across as being a bit smug and self-important, not quite "self-critical," as some reviews claimed. But then the reviews I read were most probably written before the fact-vs-fiction controversy, so maybe the reviewers assumed he was being more honest than he actually was? Which brings me to another point -- the inaccuracies that made the book so contraversial did bother me a bit. Sure it's OK with me if an author takes some creativie liscence with his memories. BUT it's annoying that he (or some publisher) didn't think his story was interesting enough on its own, and felt compelled to sensationalize it in what seemed like a cheap ploy to increase sales. All that said, I liked the book and could hardly put it down this past week. And now I feel like I'm going through book-withdrawal and am eagerly looking for my next fix. Maybe a reading obsession can keep me from turning into a couch potato (though technically, I guess that reading and sitting on the couch are not mutually exclusive...).

Monday, June 19, 2006

fun with kitten

Most of these pictures speak for themselves. But just in case you're wondering, yes, that is a miniature yak (complete with genuine yak hair) that the kitten is sniffing in a couple of the photos... it's a souvenir that I picked up in Yunnan last summer.

It looks as though the kitten might be here to stay -- I don't think my mom is willing to give him up! In spite of this, he still remains nameless, though we do have a shortlist. Right now it's down to the following:

Spencer, Wolfgang, Rico, Theodore, and Sebastian

Any other suggestions?

Friday, June 16, 2006

26 and counting...

Well, I turned 26 today... or I guess, technically yesterday. For some reason, this feels like a big year for me, maybe because I'm definitely out of my early-20s, almost to my late-20s... and then I feel like before I know it, I'll be 30 (which will not be a bad thing, just a bit of a shock, since I still occasionally forget that I am no longer 18). But rambling about feeling old (!?) is not why I'm updating right now. I want to post some pictures from my very spontaneous birthday bash! The plans for this par-tay came together yesterday, when Joanna asked me what I was planning for the day. Athania and I have been planning a joint party for later in the month, so I said that I wasn't planning to do anything on the day. But as soon as Jo suggested going for a nice vegitarian Indian dinner, I was convinced that I should have an actual birthday party. And luckily for me, some friends were willing to join in the festivities on extremely short notice.

Here we are at Woodlands, a vegitarian Indian place I recently rediscovered. We have a nice, paper masala dosa on the table (the first of two that we attempted to consume), as well as mango lhasis all round.
We ordered some of my favorites -- paneer masala (they didn't have spinach for palak), and baingan bhurtha (sp?). And that's a northern Indian thali in the middle.

And for dessert (or maybe I should say the first course of dessert -- you'll see what I mean later), we had gulab jamun (sp?). I think the description for this dish was something like "sweet sticky milk balls." Yumm...

And then we walked over to the Star Ferry to XTC gelato, where Salome joined the party. It turned out that I was the only one who actually wanted ice-cream (caramella and chocolate hazelnut!), so I decided that we should take a photo of everyone else watching me eat it. Right after we took the picture, we realized that it would make great promotional material for the ICS alumni association (most of us had attended the ICS alumni dinner the evening before...).
And then we ended up at Hard Rock Cafe to catch some of the Ecuador vs. Costa Rica World Cup game. Anish, Kaiser and Salome had a good view of the game, but from a very small couch.
My accidental third course of dessert was this ridiculously sweet drink I ordered called "pickled tink." I forget what was in it exactly, but boy was it sweet! I like this picture, because for some reason, my camera was focused on Kaiser's shoe instead of the beverage in the center of the photo. So much for autofocus.
So, that was my big day! Thank you to everyone who made it out to celebrate with me -- I had fun, and hope you did too! And to those of you reading this who wish you could've been there, but couldn't because of physical distance or previous plans, thanks for um, taking the time to read this...? :)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Here are a few more photos I took this morning (at 5:30!!) before my sister and her family left for the airport.

Gabe and Olivia checking on Anna.

Little Anna sleeping peacefully.

Gabe smiling for me one more time. I think I started to try their patience with all the picture- taking, and will probably be remembered as "the strange aunt with the camera". It was fun to think of interesting (and manipulative?) ways to get them to pose or smile. Our method of choice was to ask them to "say MT*"


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

from the mouths of babes...

Here's what I heard Gabe saying to no one in particular this evening:

"The kitty's name is Jock. His name is Jock.
The kitty's name is Jock. This is Jock.
His name is Jock. He has a long tail. He has a long long tail."

And here's Anna and her dad. I like the face she's making in this picture.

Unfortunately, the family reunion will soon be coming to an end. Amy, Aaron and the kids will be leaving bright (or possibly still dark) and early tomorrow morning. But on the bright (hehe) side, they'll be coming back in July, on their way back to China. I wonder how much Anna will have changed with another month under her belt... I mean, onesie.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

another note from aunt michelle...

I've got a couple more photos to share.

Here are Olivia and Gabe getting ready for bed. I took some pretty-darn-cute videos of them singing today. And sort of tricked them into doing it. I knew that if I asked them to sing for me, Olivia at least would probably have refused. So instead, I told them about a special project that I had for them to do. It was so amusing to see how seriously they took their performances after I refered to it as a "project." Olivia sang "Jesus, name above all names," complete with a series of very intricate hand motions , and Gabe chose "Ba ba black sheep." I'd heard him sing this song before, but was happy to finally have his rendition -- "Ba ba black sheep, have you any woof?" -- recorded for posterity. Maybe I'll get the videos online eventually.

And here are Amy and I with our babies. Hehe.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

a note from aunt michelle...

My sister, Amy, and her family of 5 arrived from Tianjin yesterday, and I got to hold baby Anna for the first time!

Now, without further ado, I'll will loosen a screw in the proverbial dam, and let what's sure to be a torrent of pictures begin its flow...

This is Gabe giving his little sister a kiss. There was an earlier kiss that I wasn't quick enough to catch on camera. But because of his aunt's urgent pleas, Gabe agreed to give Anna a longer kiss, which resulted in two things: 1) Me getting a nice picture to post here and 2) Anna starting to cry.

And here's another one of Gabe. He is sleeping on the futon in my room while they're here, and when I came home tonight, I found him asleep like this -- the little picture book that he'd been reading still in his hand. Gabe's 2 1/2 now, and he's really grown up a lot since I last saw him. I've been taken aback by some of the things he says -- he talks in complete, almost adult-sounding sentences now! I think I'd gotten used to him saying cute little things like: "Doing Aunt Shell doing?" Which would translate to: "What are you doing, Aunt Michelle?" Well, now it seems like he's saying things like: "Excuse me, Aunt Michelle. Would you possibly be so kind as to tell me what you're doing?" OK, so that might be a slight exaggeration, but that's how dramatic the change seems to me! I'll try to document some more accurate Gabe-speak in my next post.
Photos of Olivia are noticeably absent in this post. She's almost 5 now, and is quite particular about when and where she allows herself to be photographed. I've noticed that she's become a lot more independent and self-sufficient than she was only a few months ago... maybe the result of going through pre-kindergarten this past year? This morning she wanted to use some stamps of mine to make a card for her dad. I started giving her some directions and help, but stopped when she gave me a tired look that seemed to say, "Please stop patronizing me. I can do this on my own."

I guess I'm not the only one who has a hard time keeping up with growing children. All of this reminds me of childhood trips to the States, where it seemed that endless streams of vaguely familiar adults would approach me, and with the appropriate hand motions, say, "You've grown up so much! I remember you when you were this big!" Now I understand the feeling.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

reality check

My brother, Steve, is home from college. He just finished his freshman year at Biola, and is really enjoying it. As you can see from this photo, he's experienced a lot of change in the 12 months since his graduation from high school.

In case you're worried that my little 19-year-old brother has really tied the knot, you can put your mind at ease. This is a picture from a show that he and some friends at Biola did called "Reality Check." In the 6th and final episode, Spencer (his character), and his girlfriend, Gwendolyn, get married.

Though completely fictitious, this photo does do a little reality check on me. It makes me want to light candles and sing "Sunrise, Sunset."

Is this the little girl I carried?(well actually, I've never met her)
Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older. When did they?