Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reverse MSG Shock II

After discovering that the FDA allows MSG to be labeled under many different names, especially if the substance is 98% or less MSG, I started re-reading labels. First, I looked at the labels at Red Robbin, where I ate lunch the other day, then at all of the labels I could find at home.

At Red Robbin, the MSG laced products were:

Red Robbin Seasoning (It listed 4 MSG ingredients: 1 or 2 were definitely less-refined MSG, and some of the other 2 or 3 might be the 99% or more pure MSG itself.
Heinz ketchup (it had 2 or 3 suspicious ingredients. No wonder ketchup seems to make things taste better.)

At home, most of the packages that I looked at had one or more ingredients that are or could be MSG. Some of these are things that I used to eat, not knowing that they probably have MSG in them:

sandwich spread
low-fat cheese
ice cream
Cool Whip Lite
pancake syrup
microwave popcorn
seasoning salt
Asian seasoning sauces
plain soy milk (natural flavors?)
one type of bagged herbal tea
Spiced Cider powdered mix
some brands of bread (possibly)

I also looked at the ingredients of products sold in grocery stores, and found many more with MSG in them, such as:

candy bars
canned soup
some brands of "all natural" ice cream
flavored chips
most packaged sweets
salad dressing

There really ought to be a regulation that makes food manufactures warn MSG sensitive people like me that there is MSG in their food, but that it is listed as something else on the package. I'll just have to find and memorize all the different ingredients that are or that could be MSG, and not buy or eat anything with one of those ingredients in it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reverse MSG Shock

Last year, I was feeling kind of relieved to be getting away from a place where Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is often added to the food, especially in restaurants and in packaged food and snack food. I'm sensitive to MSG. Besides often making my head ache and feel spacy, it tends to make my heart palpitate or race (any nervous system stimulant does because of my heart defect), which also makes me tired.
Justify Full
After arriving home, I naively thought that, if the package doesn't have MSG listed on it, then it doesn't have MSG in it. I started researching about MSG the other day, though, and was shocked to find out that MSG, according to the FDA, is only glutamate that is at least 99% pure. MSG goes by other names when it is 98% or less pure. The first source that I looked at was, which has several articles about MSG. A few ingredients that always contain MSG are (to see more, go to:

hydrolyzed protein of any kind, also known as pea protein, whey protein etc.
textured protein of any kind
yeast extract, yeast food, and autolyzed yeast
sodium or calcium caseinate
glutamic acid

A few of the many ingredients that often contain MSG are:
spice, flavor, natural flavoring,
milk solids
citric acid
malt extract or flavoring or barley malt
soy and/or protein of various kinds

I was kind of skeptical of this, but looked it up in several books and a textbook on and read other websites about it. As it turns out, the FDA considers MSG to be natural because it's an amino acid, which is why it can be listed as natural flavor or spice. The problem is that it is a free amino acid that, in it's free form only (not when it is bound to other proteins) is able to cross the blood brain barrier and stimulate the neurons in the brain (and give me a headache), which causes the tongue and mouth to better appreciate the food in it and not pick up on staleness or off-tasts. It causes brain cell and neuron death in rats. It is suspected to do the same in humans, but this has never been verified. It is also a central nervous system stimulant, which makes it addictive, casues people to eat more (according to some studies), and upsets my heart because of my Mitral Valve Prolapse.

Of course, the increase in taste perception and decrease in staleness and off-tastes, the addictiveness, and the increase in the amount eaten are all reasons that the food industry loves to add MSG to our food. The bad reputation that MSG has, likewise, is the reason that food manufactures like to hide MSG under names such as natural flavoring or hydrolized protein. It makes sense, but for all of the people like me who are sensitive to it and who value the health of their brains and bodies, it is an evil deception.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Negative Thinking Part I

I've been familiar with Philippians 4:8 from the time I was a small child. I thought I did pretty well at not thinking negatively until I read Secrets of Attraction, which uses quantum physics to explain the laws of interpersonal relationships and how we attract and repel people. It uses romantic attraction as an example, but shows how these laws apply to all of our interactions with other people. I don't think that the author, Sandra Anne Taylor, is a Christian, but the laws of quantum physics throughout this book sound just like many of the principles that I've read in the Bible.

For the record, here is Philippians 4:8 from the English Standard Version Bible:

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

The verse before it is about not being anxious, which seems to be related. Other verses in the Bible mention similar ideas. To simplify things, I'm only including that one verse.

Taylor elaborates on seven patterns of negative thinking. Here are the first two:

1. "Devaluing"-To devalue is to reflect negatively on our experiences, ourselves, or other people. It is to be judgmental and to focus on what is wrong. It is to not see the value in yourself, in your life, or in another person. To overcome this, one must accept "your real and eternal worth." Specifically, accept yourself as you are and find value in your life and in other people. Be grateful.

I think that I sometimes devalue myself and my life. Before reading this, I thought that we shouldn't judge others, but hadn't exactly thought of devaluing oneself and ones life as being negative. But when I devalue myself, I make myself feel bad, and the worse I feel and the more I judge myself, the harder it is to change myself and my life.

And people generally don't evaluate their own actions when they know that they'll judge and condemn themselves if they find themselves wanting. In fact, I think that our blind spots come from not being able to evaluate ourselves without judging and devaluing ourselves as a consequence. I've noticed that in some cases, if a person keeps on saying that they don't do such and such because that would be bad, it is often something that they do without realizing it.

As for other people, I've noticed, even before reading this, that it is always possible to find something to value in another person, even if that person has major issues and other people don't like him/her. It benefits me when I focus on what is good about someone else and try to forget what is wrong with him/her because that way, I learn positive ways of acting, even from "unlovable" people. But in reality, there aren't any "unlovable" people in the world. Everyone has something about them that is lovable and valuable .

Of course, any type of gossip and slander always devalues another person, even when done with the motive of "helping someone." If and when the gossip gets back to the one who was supposed to be "helped" by it, it will hurt that person. That person might then feel devalued and even feel hate towards the people who did the gossiping. I've noticed that it's easy to self-justify gossip, but think that even gossiping about small differences devalues another person. We ought to accept one another.

2. "Catastrophic Thinking"-This means to think of everything that could go wrong with what you're thinking of doing in the future, with a relationship, with the current day, or any "future activity or event." It also includes imagining disasters that could happen. This type of thinking creates fear and anxiety. It also makes it difficult to make positive changes. We ought to instead change our negative "what-if-ing" to "What if it turns out great?" or "What if my dreams do come true?" Worrying about negative outcomes really doesn't help us.

This is something that I have a problem with, but didn't think of it as negative thinking until I read this book. I thought I was just being realistic and practical, even "true." After I read this, I noticed how much this type of thinking has been pulling me down and making me fearful and passive. And it's not "true," it's imaginary. The times when I have made some of my dreams into reality were the times when I've turned off the catastrophic thinking and trusted God to take care of everything that could go wrong. This doesn't mean that I should be stupid and not plan, but I do need to quit thinking of all the ways that I could fail or be rejected or whatever else could go wrong because that just causes me to run from what I ought to be doing and to do something that I don't want to do simply because there are fewer opportunities for disasters or excessive stress or failure etc.

It's good that I ran into this book. I might have been thinking negatively without knowing it for the rest of my life. I was familiar with Philippians 4:8, but didn't realize that devaluing myself and thinking catastrophically are not true or lovely or excellent things to think about.

Friday, March 20, 2009

assumptions of stupidity: talking down a ten-foot pole

I didn’t question it the first time I was told to talk to adults at a fifth grade level. That was in the advanced speech class that I took in undergraduate school. The class was designed as a preparation for our future preaching or teaching ministry. The professor told us to speak at a fifth grade level, especially in the area of vocabulary. The rationalization was that most people have about a fifth grade vocabulary and prefer to hear simple speech. He also suggested that we repeat our points a few times because, in our modern culture, people have short attention spans because they are used to copious stimulation and television. His description of the people we would be speaking to gave me the mental picture of a bunch of poorly educated people with severe ADHD who spend the week watching sitcoms and trying not to think too much.

I’d never heard anyone speak that way until I went to a church where the pastor repeated absolutely everything he said three times. I know I wasn’t the only one who found that a little annoying. He was a good speaker, though.

Then at work, one of our managers gave me some simple instructions, but instead of saying them once, he said them three times, very slowly. I stood there with a blank look on my face, not because I was mentally handicapped, but because I had understood the instructions the first time he said them, and they were so simple that I definitely wouldn’t have forgotten them. Finally he gave the customary, “Ooookaayyyy?” I walked off in a daze, frantically worrying that I must look autistic or somehow extremely slow and stupid. I felt a little better after someone else told me that the same manager treats her the same way. In fact, we were both glad that we weren’t the only ones treated like mentally handicapped people.

I started to wonder if the managers were I work are taught to talk to us as if we have the brains of children just like my speech class professor taught us to preach or teach as if everyone in the congregation had the education and mental capacity of a fifth grader. Wouldn’t it be better to assume that people are at least reasonably intelligent instead of automatically talking down to them? After all, I don’t know of anyone other than slightly autistic children or mentally handicapped adults who would need a simple instruction repeated three times, very slowly. And many people who go to church are educated and intelligent enough to at least take a few high-school level vocabulary words and to hear what the pastor said the first time (or maybe the second time if they are extremely fatigued or stressed). After all, it’s insulting to be talked down to, and I think that something is wrong with assuming that other people are so much stupider than you that you have to talk down to them.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Self-Esteem vs. Ego

I just finished a great book: You Can Read Anyone by David J. Lieberman, Ph.D. In this book, Lieberman devotes several chapters to the topic of self-esteem and ego, along with factors such as interest, confidence, mood, and humility. He goes into more detail, but basically defined self-esteem as our sense of self-worth, and equated ego with arrogance and insecurity.

The interplay of self-esteem and ego produces three types of people:

1. A person with high self-esteem cannot have a big ego. They are the ones who generally treat others the best, make good decisions, and are humble enough to recognize when they've made a mistake.

2. A person can have low self-esteem and a big ego. In this case, that person will generally act arrogantly, get irritated easily, have difficulty in seeing the needs of other people, and need to feel better than others by finding fault with them in order to feel good. This type of person tends to direct negative feelings outward, usually in anger.

3. A person can have low self-esteem and a diminished ego. These people tend to be "doormats" who will cater to other people's wishes out of the fear of being disliked. This can appear like humility, but it is not. This type of person tends to direct negative feelings inward, and tends to be withdrawn or introverted.

The same person can fluctuate between the second and third type depending on mood and other factors.

I found the following paragraph from p. 131, also about self-confidence and ego, to be very interesting:

"The more engaged in life you are, the more meaningful and thus pleasurable your experiences will be. The more you withdraw into temporary comfort or pursue illusions driven by the ego, the less pleasurable life becomes. In this state, you sometimes feel productive, but deep down inside recognize that your pursuits are not fulfilling. No matter how much effort you expend, the satisfaction is fleeting because the end objective is not meaningful. Being comfortable and having fun are not enough; our soul gnaws at us, not just to do more, but also to become something more."

I was fascinated by the descriptions of the three types of people in this book, as well as the preceding statement, because I've observed it in real life, but didn't understand exactly how it all worked. Self-esteem is extremely important if you want to be humble, treat others well, make good decisions, and pursue something that will be fulfilling instead of temporarily satisfying.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Frogs (why I lost my oilcan)

When I read this in Frogs, 405 B.C., I absolutely howled. It might loose some of it's humor here because I pulled the passage out of the play, but it's about when Dionysus traveled down to Hades to bring back a good poet because all of the poets left on the earth weren't any good. After arriving in Hades, he engaged Euripides and Aeschylus in a contest to decide which of them would leave Hades with him. This part of the play appears somewhere in the middle of this contest:

EURIPIDES. Bosh! I make good prologues

AESCHYLUS. I’ll not maul your text word by word, but with heaven’s help

I’ll smash them all with an oilcan.

EURIPIDES. My prologues with an oilcan?

AESCHYLUS. With just one. Such are your iambics that an afghan

Or reticule or oilcan can be fitted in.

I’ll demonstrate.

EURIPIDES. You say you’ll demonstrate?


DIONYSUS. Time to speak.

EURIPIDES. Aegyptus, according to the prevalent story,

Touching at Argos with fifty sons—

AESCHYLUS. Lot his oilcan.

EURIPIDES. What’s that oilcan? Damn it!
DIONYSUS. Give him another prologue; the point will be clearer.

EURIPIDES. Dionysus in fawn-skins clad, with Thyrsus and torch

Bounding and dancing—

AESCHYLUS. Lost his oilcan.

Ah, I am smitten once more—by the oilcan.

EURIPIDES. No Matter. You’ll not be able to fit your oilcan to this:

No man is in all respects happy. One nobly poor is needy,

Another, of low birth—

AESCHYLUS. Lost his oilcan.

DIONYSUS. Euripides!

EURIPIDES. What it is?

DIONYSUS. Better reef your sails; that little can will blow a gale.

EURIPIDES. I’m not worried, by Demeter. I’ll smash it in his hand.

DIONYSUS. Recite another, then, but beware the oilcan.

EURIPIDES. Upon leaving Sidon’s town Agenor’s son Cadmus—

AESCHYLUS. Lost his oilcan.

DIONYSUS. Better buy that oilcan, fried; he’ll chip away all your prologues.

EURIPIDES. What, I buy of him?

DIONYSUS. If you take my advice.

EURIPIDES. Never. I can produce many prologues to which he cannot fix his oilcan.

Tantalid Pelops faring to Pisa with swift mares—

AESCHYLUS. Lost his oilcan.

DIONYSUS. D’you see? He did tack the oilcan on. Buy it, do;

You can get it good as new for an obol.

EURIPIDES. Not yet; I still have plenty. In his field one day


AESCHYLUS. Lost his oilcan.

EURIPIDES. Do let me finish the whole line. In his filed one day


After reaping an abundant harvest, while offering first fruits—

AESCHYLUS. Lost his oilcan.

DIONYSUS. In the midst of sacrifice? Who stole it?

EURIPIDES. Let be, mister. Let him try this one. Zeus as Truth hath said—

DIONYSUS. He’ll ruin you; he’ll say Lost his oilcan. On your prologues

That oilcan grows like sties on the eyes. In heaven’s name,

Turn now to his melodies.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reverse Accent Shock

After living in the Philippines for three years and in Canada the year before that, I was shocked to hear the accent that people have in the place where I grew up. Canadians and Filipinos definitely have an accent, but I had always thought that the people in the area where I am from speak basically the standard English of this country, not because I was arrogant, but because I didn't hear the difference. After being gone for such a long time, I suddenly noticed some disturbing patterns, and even started to hear them coming out of my own mouth. Now I'm beginning to think that the accent in this area, and consequently my own accent, sounds horribly abominable, and find it hard to believe that I didn't hear it before. The following are some of the patterns that I've been noticing:

1. The word "to" is often pronounced "teh," the e being the schwa. One of these days I'll analysize exactly which to's becomes teh's, but the native speakers of English always know when to say "teh" and when to say "to." This is not necessarily a mispronunciation, but does sound funny when you're not used to it.

2. The word "just" is overused and ambiguous, and is almost always pronounced "j'st," at least in this part of the country. I'll let you try to figure out the meaning by yourself, but be warned that it can often be eliminated without changing the meaning of the statement that it is used in. In fact, I once heard some Filipinos picking on the Christian song that has the words, "I just want to praise you," because they understood "just" as a diminutive, as if praising God is a lowly thing. Of course, maybe the song is supposed to mean that the only thing that the singer wants to do is to praise God, but I'm sure that wouldn't last long because, pretty soon, the singer would also want to eat, sleep, poop, pee etc. A better rendition might simply be, "I want to praise you."

3. I often hear "um", which I formally thought was only used as a verbal pause in English, used as a substitute for "them." How did "them" become "um"?

4. The word "can" frequently becomes "c'n."

5. Of course, "going to" sometimes becomes "gonna," and "want to" sometimes becomes "wanna," and "got to" becomes either "got teh" or "godda."

6. Another phenomenon is the use of "'im" for "him." I need to listen more closely to see if this is common.

7. A few people say "-in" instead of "-ing," but not everyone is in the habit of dropping their g's, and it's not something that I've ever heard myself do.

Of course, there are probably other differences in pronunciation, and I don't want to talk about grammar.

When I was younger, I used to think it was cool to not talk properly, though fortunately I never know much slang. I did, though, have the unfortunate and confusing experience of being told out of the blue by some snobs that I took a few classes with that I really ought to talk better. I tried not to think too much of it at the time because I thought that if I were to talk better, I would sound uncool and starchy or that other people would simply think that I'm a foreigner. When I read Remotely Controlled by Aric Sigman, though, I began to see that the television has influenced us to think that it's cool to talk and act less educated than we are. Intelligent people in this country used to and often still do practice their pronunciation, spoken grammar, and vocabulary. This book went on to indicate that everyone must at some point decide between exuding coolness or intelligence, and pointed out that you will get much farther in life, such as in a job interview, if you speak, act, and look intelligent rather than cool, because in the real world, people do still judge your intelligence by the way you speak, look, and act (not to mention whether or not you can spell :-( ).

Because of that, I am left to quake and tremble every time I open my mouth. That abominable accent keeps coming out.

Friday, January 09, 2009

only a little room left for dessert? eat another double quarter pounder w/cheese instead

I saw a tiny piece of cake being sold individually. It was regular cake, not cheese cake, and had the deluxe sounding name Velvet Creme Cake with creme cheese frosting, though I doubt that it's much different from any other store-bought cake (yuck!). I looked on the bottom of the package, and was shocked to see that it had 580 calories and 29 grams of fat. I showed it to someone else, who said that it looks like about "three bites for a man." And indeed, it looks about the size of a piece of cake that I would take so that I could try some without overdoing it, or probably half the size of a typical piece, or a third the size for some people. (I won't mention any names, but you know who you are.)

Then today, I just saw a healthier alternative to the Velvet Creme Cake, an equally small piece of Carrot Cake with creme cheese icing. It has 720 calories and 40 grams of fat. If I were to buy the whole cake and cut it myself, an ordinary sized piece would probably have 1440 calories and 80 grams of fat. For those who want a big piece of cake, I would cut a piece with 2160 calories and 120 grams of fat. Never mind that your tiny sliver of cake would have only 20 calories and 2 grams of fat less than the McDonald's Double Quarter Pounder with cheese that left you too full for a normal sized piece of cake, or that a large piece of the same cake would have more calories and grams of fat than 5 regular Quarter Pounders.

I recently finished the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, Ph.D., who figured out that if a person eats 100 calories per day more than he or she needs, which isn't enough to change a person's metabolism, that person will gain 10 pounds in 1 year. That means that if you were to eat an extremely healthy diet of only as many calories as you use every day, but allow the limited indulgence of about 1/6 of a sliver of Velvet Creme Cake every day, which is probably a small mouthful or half of a bite for a man, you would gain 10 pounds in one year. Otherwise, I suppose you could have one sliver of cake per week all at once and gain about 9 pounds per year. Or, if your healthy diet had one bite of cake every day, and you quit eating your cake for a year, you would loose 10 pounds. I didn't know that an ordinary piece of cake could be that rich.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy New Year!

It seems as if 2008 has been two or three years in one for my husband and myself. We began the year finishing a couple of classes, one of which (my class) had been extended far into the second semester because the teachers had been in Bangladesh and other places during most of the first semester. We were staying with some of the extended family in Bambang and traveling to Manila frequently for classes and for my husband's visa application. I was also suffering from a terrible allergy to smoke and pollution, which made me feel sick much of the time.

n April, we celebrated both our first anniversary on April 7, and our graduation on April 6. I graduated with my first Master’s degree, M.A. Applied Linguistics, and my husband got his second Master’s, M.A. Community Development.

Then in June, my husband had the wonderful opportunity of flying to Thailand to present a paper about preserving cultural heritage, especially the traditional music and musical instruments of the Kalanguya, with an SIL Ethnomusiclogist who works in the Philippines. We decided to make it our belated honeymoon/anniversary celebration, and flew over a few weeks early because of the expiration of my student visa and denial of my permanent resident visa.

After the first week in Thailand, we had some adventures traveling across the Thai border into the communist country of Cambodia to visit an American couple who had gone to school with us in Manila and are living in Phnom Penh, the capitol of Cambodia. After we took a bus to the Thai/Cambodia border, we crossed the border into Cambodia on foot only to be followed by a man for more than an hour who sent us to the “only” bus station and was trying to get us to pay an outrageous price to take a taxi to Phnom Penh. We ended up having to stay the night in a little guest house in the muddy border town in Cambodia where the water from the sink drained onto my toes when I tried to wash my hands. The landlady’s sons drove us on their motorcycles to the real bus station early the next morning.

Then in July, I had to be out of the Philippines before my husband's visa interview, which was scheduled for July 14, because the embassy would not issue a visa to him if I were still there at the time of his interview. I arrived home on July 7 after traveling for about twenty hours. It’s nice to be back with family and friends and to be in a place where I blend in and can easily find pants and shoes that fit etc. after being a foreigner for such a long time. I was amused, though, when a couple of fellow Americans asked me what nationality I am. I must have been gone a little too long….

I actually haven’t experienced much reverse culture shock other than noticing for the first time the rather strong accent used in this area. I guess I’ve spoken that way all my life and didn’t even notice it before.

A few days after arriving home, I learned that my husband's visa interview would be postponed because his medical, which he had a few days after I left, showed something on his lungs. It turned out to be TB that is resistant to one of the four TB antibiotics. He consequently had to move to Manila where he goes to the hospital every day to get his antibiotics. His treatment should be done by spring of 2009. His latest sputum test already shows improvement.

For now, I’m staying with my Dad (and Grandma lives in the basement) and am working full-time (4 am to 1 pm). I hope to save up a little money so that I can go back to school and so that Bob and I will be able to move away and rent our own place after her gets here. I also hope to find a job teaching somewhere so that I can use my degree. (If anyone knows of a place that is looking for ESL teachers anywhere in the US, I would definitely be interested). I haven’t been sick once yet since returning home, probably because I haven’t been around enough smoke, pollution, and second hand smoke to trigger my allergy.

I do have my own car now, which is a huge blessing. Dad sold me his car, which is a good, reliable one, for a much better price than I could have gotten one elsewhere (with the condition that I pay him the profit that I make when I sell it later), and he replaced it with a one-year old car that he also got for a very good price.

My husband just moved to a different place in Manila because of the late-night noise and second hand smoke that he had to put up with in the place he was staying. The new place isn’t close to the hospital, but has a cleaner, quieter environment. He is also starting to search for a job over there.

In December, he was also spared from a terrible accident. He was preparing to ride a jeepney (bus-like vehicle) to a wedding in one of the villages. In fact, someone was calling him to leave, but my husband delayed and ended up making them both miss the jeepney that they were supposed to ride on. As they were waiting for the next jeepney leaving for the wedding, he learned that the first jeepney had been in an accident and that 18 of the 25 people riding it had been injured, and some were in serious condition. He ended up going to the hospital and helping the injured passengers instead of going to the wedding. We’re thankful that God spared him and his companion from being on the jeepney that was in an accident.

May you all have a wonderful 2009!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Obssessive Compulsive Puddy Tat

When I arrived, my old man puddy tat was missing for the second time, but he showed up on the back porch the Sunday after I came. I noticed several changes in him. One was that he had lost his voice and had aged since I'd been there. He now has white hair and gray fuzz in his beautiful black coat. The other change that I noticed, other than his fur all over, was that he had become obsessive compulsive. Almost every time I sit down, he crawls into my lap. If I remove him from my lap, he crawls into it again. If I finally remove him enough times that he gives up, he'll settle down close to me and purr much longer and louder a normal cat would purr. If I'm sitting a the kitchen table, he'll stretch himself up so that his paws are on my thigh, then pull himself up into my lap. When someone gets up at night, my cat immediately follows that person and purrs. He hardly ever goes outside anymore, either. All he does is eat, sleep, and purr at people.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Sevn Bays, August 7

Dad, Grandma, and I spent the day with Aunt Katy and Uncle Doug on a really nice beach that we had all to ourselves. Then we went back to their house and ate BBQ chicken, yellow tomatoes, potato salad, and peanut butter pie.

a bald eagle
dad on on air mattress and me paddling around an on an inflatable boat

Thursday, July 31, 2008

My good friend in this picture was in the area for two days this week (she doesn't live around here anymore), and invited me and some of our other friends that we went to high-school with to get together on Tuesday night. It happened that one of them was having a Birthday party for her 3-year old son in a park that night, but said that we could all join. Praise has a very cute 15-month old boy, Anna Lee has 3 children, Rebekkah has a 4-year old and a 2-year old, and Charity has a 5-month old girl. I don't know where Natalie was, but she has 4 children. And I went to High School with all of them and graduated in the same class as most. It was great to see them and catch up a little. I should take more pictures next time.

I'm Home

I'm home. My Dad took this just after I arrived. The flight took around 20 hours, which was shorter than when I went because my layovers were both short this time.

I saw the greatest sunrise from the plane. It had vibrant yellow stripes on top, deep orange stripes in the middle, and deep, bright red stripes at the base, with one exceptionally bright red stripe where sun was coming up. The strange thing about it, beside the unusually intense colors, was that under it, everything was dark brown. Above it, there was a strip of light blue, but the color faded into dark blue and the sky above was almost black.

Bangkok, Thailand and Cambodia

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bangkok, Thailand

This is the part of the Grand Palace where the "royal residences" are.
These were my favorite restroom signs in Bangkok! :-)

They often sell these cockroaches or whatever they are in the same place along the sidewalk were they sell fruit (Bangkok). I don't eat cockroaches or anything that looks like them.
The fruit in this picture is good. It's juicy and has about the sweetness and texture of an asian pear. Its skin tastes a little like basil.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Travel Adventures in Cambodia

Our travel to Cambodia was full of adventures. First, we took a big, comfortable, air-conditioned bus from Bangkok to Aranyaprathet and stayed the night in a guest house. It wasn't a great place, but okay for the price. Then the next morning, we crossed the border into Poipet, Cambodia only to find out that the only buses to Phnom Penh left by 7:30 a.m. even though the border doesn't open until 8:00 am.

There was a guy who followed us all the way from the Thai side of the border into Cambodia and kept wanting to reserve a taxi for us going to Phnom Pehn or a bus to Siem Reap, which would have been out of our way. All the while, he kept saying demeaning things to us and demeaning things about us to the Cambodian people we passed by, speaking in English so that we would understand. He directed us to a free bus ride to "the transportation," and got on the bus with us. We had hesitated for a while before getting onto the free bus, and were wondering where all the other foreigners who had been crossing the border were. There was only one other person. When we arrived at a small bus/taxi/tour station, and the guy followed us in and tried to get us to reserve a taxi. They said we could get a taxi for 1000Bhat ($30) each, but would need 4 or 5 people. My husband went out to call our friends in Phnom Penh. I was waiting in that bus station with that guy hanging around for at least half an hour, wondering why there weren't other foreigners, and putting mosquito repellent all over to get rid of a swarm of vicious mosquitoes and wishing that I had some way of sending away the guy who kept pestering us. The guy had insisted that this is the only bus/taxi station.

We decided to stay the night in Poipet. We found a decent little guest house for about $4.50 for both of us. I was only surprised when I tried to wash my hands in the sink, and the water drained out onto my toes:-(. The helper in the guesthouse drove my husband on a moto to the real bus station, which was about a kilometer farther down the road then the supposedly only bus station in Poipet. Then we rode two motos the next morning and got on the bus at 6:30 bus to Phnom Penh, which was a fairly nice, air conditioned bus. The road was paved after about the first hour.

When we got to Phnom Penh, we took a "tuk tuk" ride to where our friends were in language school, and the driver insisted that we pay about 6 dollars more than we should have for the ride, which was a short distance. My husband and I were really frustrated by the time we got there. But we had a great time with our friends, and ended up finding Cambodia to be a really interesting place.

The bus ride back to Thailand was fine except that we reserved the 6:30a.m. bus so that we could make it to Bangkok on the same day, but the 6:30a.m. bus didn't leave until about 9:50. Then when we were about an hour from Poipet, they transferred us to another bus, which was supposedly air conditioned, but was hot and stank and immediately got a flat tire. We waited at the tire repair place for a long time. Then my husband saw someone he had discovered on the bus who spoke English getting into a taxi. They let us ride with them, and it was only $5 for both of us. The taxi took us all the way to the border crossing. There were 4 men in the front seat, and 2 men, 2 women, and 1 child in the back seat. After crossing through the border, someone showed us where there were big, first-class, air conditioned buses waiting for passengers to Bangkok, and we were on our way in half an hour. It was the kind of bus that I would think even tall, over sized foreigners could be comfortable in.

Aranyaprathet, Thailand

Aranyaprathet is the border town in Thailand where we stayed the night before crossing into Cambodia. HEre we are on a tuk tuk going to a guesthouse, and in the second picture, we're riding a tuk tuk to the border.

Poipet, Cambodia

Poipet is the border town which people usually go through when coming by land from Thailand. It's a fairly large city. In fact, the population is supposed to be about 60,000. We were surprised to see that the roads are not paved. It had been raining so much that the roads were extremely muddy and full of mud puddles. It seems like a very poor town. You would think it would be better off with all the people coming across the border and all the casinos that appear as soon as you walk through the border crossing.

Battambang, Cambodia

Battambang was one of our first stops when we rode the bus from Poi pet to Phnom Penh. It might be smaller then Poi pet, but it looks better.

We saw many houses on stilts. Our friends told us that in some places, when the heavy rains come and it floods, people untie their houses and let them float.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It has four (I think) buildings. It was a school that was converted into one of the many prisons used to torture and kill men, women, children, and even infants who were suspected of possibly being against the Khmer Rouge communist revolution. At least 10, 499 prisoners were there from 1975 to 1978, and most of them were tortured and killed.

The large rooms were for political prisoners, and the small cells were for others. People in the Khmer Rouge (KR) regime apparently used the metal boxes to squish the prisoner's fingers. They also used electrocution, hanging and other methods of torture.

In addition to the prisoners who were killed, most of the educated people in Cambodia were also killed or sent to the country to do manual labor. In fact, 1/4 to 1/3 of the population died in the Khmer Rouge revolution.

Not only that, but the Khmer Rouge separated children from their parents and spouses from each other and arranged marriages, which were done in mass ceremonies.

Pol Pot was the main leader of the revolution. He was a Cambodian who had become a communist while studying in France. He thought that he was doing his country good by getting rid of educated people, taking away private property, torturing and killing etc.

The picture I am looking at shows some of the human bones found in the mass graves. It is really a field of many bones.

We went to Friend's restaurant with our friends and a group of Singaporeans. It is the third and final training ground for young Cambodian people who had been on the street. It enables them to be employed high-class in hotels after their training.

Just after we got inside, the rain came down hard, almost in a solid sheet. The heavy rain only lasted maybe half an hour, but it flooded very quickly. We had to wade through the water when we left. In Phnom Penh, wealthy people usually raise up their land by piling more dirt onto it. It is causing many areas that didn't used to flood to flood.

We visited a Cambodian church in Phnom Pehn. The sermon was about an hour long, but I didn't understand any of it because it is in their language.

We went to Swenson's in the second of the only two malls in Cambodia for B's birthday.

B trying to feed a monkey in a park in Phnom Pehn, Camboida. The monkey became angry for some reason and went after him.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dragon fruit. I bought 6 for only 20 Bhat from a street vendor. They taste similar to kiwi fruit.