Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Three Day Whirlwind

The Olympics' Facebook page told me the other day sometime in the past week that the Opening Ceremonies happened a month ago. And that means that we were in San Francisco watching them a month ago, and it's kind of embarrassing that it's taken me this long to write travel posts about it. So I'm getting it done today - one final wrap-up for the last three days.

We started Day Three by actually getting to the Museum of Modern Art, where we split up and spent several hours wandering and wandering. It was fabulous. Of course, I also love art museums, so I was bound to think that. But this one really, really was wonderful.

And sparkly :)
We took a long train/bus ride to the beach, where we got our feet wet and generally ran around in a very silly fashion. I even walked through the sand. It was kind of terrible, especially since we didn't get back to our hotel to wash our feet for hours.

But there was a pretty flower.
We then proceeded to the nearby Golden Gate Park to hang out at the California Academy of Sciences. We spent some blessed minutes inside a 80 degree rainforest and then experienced a fake earthquake. The simulator thing was very hyped all over the city but it wasn't that exciting. The exhibit that went with it was interesting though.
You had to check for butterflies before you left to make sure none got out.
Since we were just more or less across the street, I said we should go to the National AIDS Memorial Grove. It was beautiful. We only stayed for a few minutes, but the trails there seemed very magical. It was almost like being back at Machu Picchu, wandering through the Inca mists.

Occasionally, and for good reason, I get sentimental about nature.
We were then very hungry and decided to find somewhere to eat near to where we were. After some wandering through a not very touristy area and almost giving up, my sister pointed across the street and said, "That looks like a restaurant." And it was. And it was a delicious, delicious fancy Italian place. And we ate tons and tons of food.

Day Four came, too bright and early, and we started off making our way to the Painted Ladies for my mumsy. They were painted and very popular with the tourists. It really wasn't all that exciting because there is just SO MUCH gorgeous old architecture in San Fran. Especially compared to the suburbs.

The best picture with the least amount of random tourists in it.
Then we got to my sister's favorite part of the trip: shopping forever and ever. Specifically, vintage shopping forever and ever. Which I am okay with up to a point. I almost got a fancy designer dress - Marc Jacobs, maybe - for $20, but it was too small. Also, a beautiful, beautiful of Italian-made Robin Hood boots exactly like the kind I've been wanting for ages and ages, but again, too small.

This is the street to shop on. Even the guidebook said so!
Meanwhile, my father went and found a place to eat, which was the lovely Red Victorian that I had pointed out across from our last shopping stop. We had some tasty, tasty vegan BBQ chicken. And it tasted just like chicken. Then, because the place was quirky and cutesy and owned by a lady who had previously lived in a commune in Hawai'i [because, why not?!] we took a tour of all the funky themed rooms. So if you're ever in San Francisco, you should stay there.

We took the bus through El Presidio, just to check that off the list, then hurried through the Palace of Fine Arts, because I thought it was lovely. Then we tried to find the Maritime Museum, but failed through some mislabeling on the building. It had closed earlier that it was supposed to anyway. [Okay, well, earlier than the information desk thing we called to ask what time it closed told us.]

Fancy, fancy, fancy.
This lack of finding things upset my sister, who wanted to go to the only Gay/Lesbian History Museum in the country, which would have been cool, but she had just spent too darn much time shopping for us to get everything done. From the pier area, we walked over to the trolleys. However, because it was super crowded and we apparently like doing everything backwards, we hiked uphill to the twisty Lombard Street and took the Trolley back down, because taking the trolley is something every tourist has to do.

Photo proof. We were literally on it for two minutes. Or thereabouts.
Then we had a tasty, tasty seafood dinner at this place my mom noticed while we were on the bus. And we went back and got a table in the tiny, tiny restaurant and it was wonderful.

Saturday was literally a whirlwind day. We got up even earlier, sped downtown, and then split up. My dad and sisters went back to Golden Gate Park and saw some buffalos or something. Meanwhile, my mom and I went the historical route and toured the Mission Dolores and her Basilica.

I took about 100 pictures here, but not any good ones of both the Mission and the Basilica. The original Mission is the smaller white building.
We did a little wandering in the Mission District and then headed back to our Caltrain station to await the rest of the family. After some goofing around and picture taking, both on and off the train, we got back to the hotel, grabbed our stuff, hopped on the hotel shuttle and got to the airport. And then we had to wait in the security line for ages, meaning we didn't have lunch for ever longer. [I do not enjoy being hungry, clearly.] And that's about it. The plane didn't crash, we I savored the warm weather, and now summer vacation is a month in the past.

Just kidding! I graduated, so I'm on permanent vacation until I can find a job! Commence teasing sister who has to wake up at 5:30 and begging people to hire me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Brain Dump

I had my first job interview yesterday! Hopefully, the first of not too many before I actually get a job. Plus, my sister got dropped off at college today! But since that meant I actually had to get up before noon for two days in a row AND do lots of driving, I am completely exhausted. So I've just been moseying around the Internet and I want to share some of the things I've enjoyed reading in the past couple of weeks. There's lots of disturbing and inspirational and intriguing stuff out there.

[Okay, and I want to get to post something without having to do any work. That's how I roll. I was going to say that but upon further reflection, it just sounds stupid coming from me.]

VICTIM OUTS RAPISTS ON TWITTER:  A teenage sexual assault victim took to Twitter to out her assailants and now faces jail time. "The public humiliation culminated this June, when her assailants struck a plea deal on charges of felony sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism that Dietrich felt amounted to a “slap on the wrist.” And the court had an order for Dietrich, too: Don’t talk about it, or risk 180 days in prison and a $500 fine."

ELEGANT REMINDER OF OLYMPIC HISTORY: Larisa Latynina won 18 Olympic medals in gymnastics for the Soviet Union, but she attended swimming Tuesday night. Michael Phelps was racing. He was trying to beat everyone in the pool and Latynina’s record as well. And when the moment came, she knew exactly what a great champion should do. She put on her lipstick. 

I still think her medals are way more impressive, but I am a bit biased.
EVERYDAY SEXISM PROJECT: The Everyday Sexism Project exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis. They might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalised that you don’t even feel able to protest. By sharing your story you’re showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss.

PUSSY RIOT CLOSING STATEMENTS: Charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were first arrested in March. Five members of the Russian feminist punk band staged a guerrilla performance on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. For less than a minute, the women danced, singing “Our Lady, Chase Putin Out!” and crossing themselves until they were apprehended.

PATERNITY LEAVE IN SWEDEN: In Sweden, men must take two months' paternity leave to receive generous paternity benefits offered by the government. Some men are now pushing for a third month. It has given rise to a culture of "latte dads" who hang out in Stockholm's plentiful coffee bars.

MANATEES!!!: Sea cows help mow local backyard after flooding.

You cannot tell me that this isn't the cutest thing ever.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tourist Mistakes

***Thanks for the comments, and the record number of hits on yesterday's post. It's weird that even in this insanely connected world, sometimes all we really need is to reach out. You guys are awesome!***

The long-awaited picture essay: San Francisco, day two!

We started the day not quite as early [thank goodness!] and after some scrambling online, found out that the bus we'd taken back the night before had a stop RIGHT NEXT TO our hotel. Actually, it was maybe a ten minute walk away, but still. That's more time I could have been sleeping. Alas.

Once we got into town, I guess my parents hadn't figured out the transit system map, so we walked to Chinatown. Which is not that far, except then you'll also be walking all around Chinatown. Poor planning, instance number one. [We were making every touristy mistake possible that day...]

It was a very lovely place to walk, at least.
After lots of wandering [and lots of stopping to sit in once place for 20 minutes...], we found a fortune cookie factory and then a little authentic place for lunch. And I ate Chinese food. And I really liked it. It was miraculous. Then next door there was a place that had gelato, and so we got a couple of cups of those. These were giant cups. I should have taken a picture. But it was almost difficult for the five of us to finish 3 of them. I got the Coconut, which was the family favorite. Because, duh, coconut flavored anything with Asian food is always wonderful.

Now for mistake number two. We started heading back to the main road to go to the MOMA. [What I consider the main road is the one all the metro stops and sketchy-bus stops were on. Market, I think it was called.] Maybe we even took a bus, I honestly don't remember at this point. Then we got almost there and stopped at the Yerba Buena Gardens.

Not a mistake, although we did linger for ages. Nothing much happened in that 20 minutes, other than a guy occasionally doing acrobatics.
No, the mistake was forgetting to check the schedule and trying to go to the museum on the day it was closed. After a pause to snap a picture and a quick peek inside the gift store [and, let's be honest, we all took advantage of a public restroom], we proceeded on to the Golden Gate Park.

Yay solidarity! If it weren't so cold, San Fran would be a perfect place for me.
This time we were forced to take the bus. Although maybe this was the day that we also stopped at this cutesy bookstore that my parents had stopped in YEARS ago when they were in San Fran with friends. Not even intentional. [Yes! While editing I just remembered! It was! But before we got to the park.]

But anyway, it was about this point that I started taking maps from my mother, the official paper-carrier, to figure out how to get places. So we got ourselves to the De Young Museum with minimal movement, which was good because the place was huge. And full of beautiful, beautiful art.

This was only the entrance. I wish I could've taken pictures everywhere!
They kicked us out at closing time, when we found out that our handy City Pass covered this and a different museum - but only if you went on the same day. AND the other museum has lots of Impressionists. I was brokenhearted. But I got over that quickly because we were hurrying down to the Castro District, first for some sustainable, good-cause-supporting food.

Vegetarian sandwich with avocado. BEST. SANDWICH. EVER.
And then we hurried, hurried, hurried down a couple of blocks so we wouldn't walk in [too] late for a lovely, lovely service at the Metropolitan Community Church of San Fran. My sister found it online, so she knows what the service was called, but it was kind of nondenominational/universalist/spiritual. It was the perfect pause in a busy day - simple, focused, inclusive.

We also met a super friendly guy from Norway whose hometown had been taken over by Texans.
We walked back to a metro station, taking pictures along the way. Then we took the T line in a roundabout way around the city and got dropped off at the last stop, which coincided with a sketchy-bus stop. We were a smidge early, which was good because if we had missed the bus, it would have been an extra hour of a wait. But we were early, which meant a longish wait in the dark and cold. Luckily, we made it back to our hotel with no mishaps AND it was cheaper where we got on. All's well that ends well.

Partying in San Fran, day three, coming soon to a theater blog near you!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Time for Brutal Honesty

***I'm sorry I forgot all about writing about San Fran. I've been a smidge busy and also a smidge disconnected. I'll get back to that...eventually! But I have a few more serious things I need to say first.***

I cried myself to sleep the other day.

Let me reassure you that nothing bad happened to me. I had a typical day, full of playing Internet Spades and cleaning and eating and watching the Olympics. From the outside, it’s hard to see how a bunch of little things pushed me over the edge emotions-wise. It’s not life itself, but my perception of it, that depresses me so much.

It’s weird how that works. Cognitively, I know how good I have it. I want to be very clear that I’m not complaining about the circumstances of my life. I am well aware how much privilege I have, in almost every aspect. I get that.

But emotionally, I’m miserable. Not all of the time, and probably not whenever anyone else has seen. I like to think that I have a really solid mask up when I need to hide my emotional state. Also, it’s a lot easier to feel happy around people that I love, even the ones that I just like :). But at home, by myself, it’s not as easy to be positive about things. I tend to focus on the future, which seems so far away, and it’s hard to enjoy the moment.

 I feel the need to interrupt the seriousness with a lovely song.

Especially because the two things that I have always wanted most – my dream job/non-profit and my family – feel like they’re getting pushed further from the present. I’m still just checking off the steps as I inch closer to those goals. Ever since I can remember; well, probably since about 7th grade. First, it was 2 years to high school. Then it was 4 more years to college. Then it was 2 years that turned into 3 to get done with college. Now it will be at least 2 years until I [hopefully] will be leaving the country as a Peace Corps volunteer.

[I also, naively, thought that I would get married super young. Clearly, that is not about to happen. And really, I'm totally okay with that, it's just so different from what I thought I wanted.]

All this waiting just tires me out. In retrospect, it wasn’t all that long or all that bad, but in the present, it feels like it’s taking forever. There’s always another step I have to take, another delay, another requirement of living in American society. And I have enough trouble tolerating this society without the added burden of depression.

I figure I could get diagnosed with mild depression, but I don’t know for sure. Some days I feel really crippled – it’s hard to get out of bed, it’s hard to get anything done, it’s hard to care. These don’t happen often when I’m busy and have things to distract my over-active mind. Other times, the mean side of my brain yells at me and tells me to quit whining, I'm just always looking to have a pity party focused on me, that I don't deserve to be super insanely happy. Then the nice side points out that that’s really making a case for the opposite point of view and they just go back and forth and give me a headache.

I don’t know why now is the time I feel compelled to share this with the world. I just…as I was lying in bed trying to sleep, I started composing this. Then I typed it up the next day, but I just couldn't post it. I guess I needed a day where I felt really great about things before I could talk about the not-so-great stuff. It’s a part of me, part of my story, part of my life. I don’t necessarily give a lot of thought to it. I don’t talk about it, except occasionally with my sister, who always knows how to make me laugh. I’m not looking for an intervention or sympathy or anything. It's one obstacle out of many, and certainly is not among the most insurmountable [for me].

But it's something that I've always hidden before, and I shouldn't have to want to, because it's not a curse or a disability or what have you. It's some shoddy wiring in my brain, that's all.

Or something like that. I am not one for explaining complicated medical things very well.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Beside the Bay

The one week this summer that my family has been all in one place, not doing five million opposite things, was the only time we had for our last family vacation before I get a real job and my sister starts college, making it even more difficult to coordinate schedules and vacation time. So we went to San Francisco, because my sister has been wanting to go for a while [and London, her other choice, is not the best place to be a casual tourist at the moment].

Notice the fog and the bridge.
Because it's so far and we had so little time, we got to fly! I love airplanes. For one, they're a lot faster. I also like the staring at the window as clouds and fields and cities go by. And I never have to take a turn at driving.

[I used to also love getting pretzels and snacks in the plane, but now they're so cheap, we only got sodas. I made up for that by buying a soft pretzel at the airport before we left.]

But enough of the boring stuff. I imagine I have enough pictures to make each day a separate post, or else I would be subjecting everyone to one super-duper long essay on the trip. And that's no fun for anyone.

We started our first day on a boat ride around the bay. Typical tourist stuff, it actually was included on this CityPass thing that we bought that was really handy. It was cool to go underneath the Golden Gate bridge, where I finally found out how was named for the name of the area and not, somehow, the color. I knew there was a logical explanation for that seeming contradiction!

Although , as we were passing under, the people in possession of my camera at that moment were sitting inside and didn't take a picture...I did, however, take pictures of the famous San Francisco sea lions.
But anyways, we touristed over to the Ghiradelli factory, where they sell you overpriced desserts [minus the free samples!] and let you look at a little chocolate making machine.

Then we had lunch at a cutesy 50's diner.
On our walk back over to the Aquarium [no one in possession of a map was trying to figure out public transportation at this point...], we went into a bunch of art galleries that had cool paintings by unknowns and tiny sketches by some of the most famous of my favorite painters. That was pretty nifty.

We walked the pirate route, apparently.
Then we went to the Aquarium! Woohoo! I love aquariums in general, but this one had a video of a giant octopus squeezing itself through a tube and into a giant beaker AND had an area where you could touch sting rays [well, they weren't sting rays, but they were basically sting rays with a different name].

This fish is as big as my sister. It was also stalking her through the tunnel.
Then we hiked some more through the hills and some trees to get to Coit Tower, which is apparently pretty famous. We didn't pay to go to the top, but there's a great view of the city just from the top of that hill. Instead of taking the easier route down, we waited 30 minutes for a bus and then finally had dinner at a sourdough bread bakery place which was super tasty. And very crowded. Also, I had a sip of my dad's beer cause it's totally legal now [!!!] and it was terrrrrible. So I'm totally justified in my decision to not drink during college because I would have just been making ugly faces every time I tried something.

It maybe is supposed to symbolize a firefighter's hose.
And then we finally headed back to our hotel to crash super late after this super sketchy guy told us to take this bus rather than the BART, which seems like it should be just like DART, except it's super expensive. So we tried the bus instead, and could have gotten off really near our hotel except we didn't know it, and got off at the airport to take yet another shuttle back to the hotel. Which was clearly unnecessary and took forever so we didn't do that again. More later on our adventures with San Fran public transport :)

I almost forgot we passed this place! Thank goodness for photographic evidence.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Excerpt Numero Deux

I'm working on some posts to talk about the lovely city of San Francisco, which I just visited, but between the drama of Olympics gymnastics and a desire for sleep, I haven't even gotten my pictures loaded onto my computer. So those are going to have to wait some more.

Instead, I'm going to post the most writing with the least amount of effort: another bit of already-written story! This is the beginning chapter.

More Blessed

Year Fifty-five, Month Nine, Day Twelve

The sparrows scatter, squawking in terror as I fly through them. I screech in amusement.

Dumb sparrows. Not afraid of a tiny ant until she becomes a potential threat.

I land on my favorite tree and shift carefully so that my talons cling to my perch until I have arms to wrap around the trunk. I survey the forest beneath me, alert for any signs of movement, signs of being seen.

I breathe in the moist air. I shift even slower this time, watching as my legs became scaly and merge together. My tail loops around the branch as my upper body changes, my arms fusing to my sides and my face losing all aspects of humanity. I snake through the treetops, noiselessly making my way towards the ground. In this unpredictable forest, I am the deadliest predator imaginable. If I wanted to, I could snatch any number of small animals from my surroundings.

A pretty disgusting snack, but I don’t think snake-me would mind.

Refocusing on my task, I uncoil myself on the dirt.

Now let’s see, which part to change first…legs to support my body or a head to grow onto?

I decide on the legs. Slowly, my bottom half stretches out again. The snake head flops awkwardly on the body of a rodent. When I finished changing into that form, I grow and grow into my favorite, the wolf. I give a howl and bound away.

I long to be free like this forever, gliding, swinging, darting through the forest. My spirit feels at home here; my body can be at peace with itself.

I notice the sun beginning to sink and reluctantly slink back towards town. Before leaving the protection of the trees, I turn back into me. My mother would have a fit if I shifted anywhere near the house, even though that’s probably more protected than the forest is.

I’m lost in thought as I wander through the streets, already missing my brief time in the woods. I wish I could be alone like that here, but there are always people jostling or being loud or –

“Hey!” I yelp as someone pours a bucketful of soapy water from a window above me. Krik Marama, with some of my more obnoxious classmates, stands laughing at my sputtering. The chants of "Looney Delaney!" start immediately.

The wonderful city of Siran, always a joy to return to you.

I glare and imitate a sign for a witch’s curse. Some of the boys keep laughing, but I take a fierce pleasure in Krik’s discomfort as I hurry away from his house.

Paranoid idiot.

I finally reach home, just before the last rays of sunlight disappear over the mountains to the east. I fumble for my gate key in the dim evening, muttering curses at the absence of a lamppost. I have no idea how my mother manages to unlock it when she comes home well after dark.

Once I’ve wiggled the key into the lock, I close it snugly behind me and make my way through the maze of our yard to reach yet another locked door. Unlike most of the houses in the far south of Ayakrim, ours has a terrace garden in the front and a jumble of hedges in the back. My godmother, Tanya, says Mother bought the house envisioning the barriers she could create around it. Front door, barred and bolted. Terrace staircase, blocked off. Back door, concealed by a hedge maze. They must be popular in Tsgeniz, where my mother was born, because I’ve never seen anything like it in Siran.

It’s a good thing we never have guests over. People would wonder what we’re hiding. Buried treasure? Stolen paintings?

Well, we aren’t.We're hiding me.

I shake the pointless reminders out of my head and flip to the next key. Before I can turn the handle, the door flies open.

“Laney! Hurry, hurry! The hobgoblins will be out for you soon!” Tanya yanks me over the threshold and slams the door shut. She fusses over me, checking for goblins and all manner of supernatural creatures that haven’t set foot in the city for decades.

Satisfied that I remain curse-free, she turns back to the pot of noodles sitting on the stove. I throw my things in the living room and flop onto the couch, grimacing when I think of all the homework I’ll have to do. I theoretically have already done it, since I’m only allowed out of the house to go to school, do schoolwork at the library, or hang out at my friend Cleo’s house. The first, I can’t get out of without my mother knowing. As for the second, unless I have a hideous group project, my godmother’s permission and Cleo’s silence give me free reign of the forest.

A noise from the yard jolts me out of my reverie. I groan a little on the inside and plod back into the kitchen so it looks like I’ve been home for ages, helping Tanya prepare dinner. She hands me a bowl of carrots to chop just as my mother walks through the door and drops her bag on the table.

“Hi Mother.”

“Hello dear, good evening Tanya.” She sighs. I can tell without looking that she has collapsed in her favorite chair.

“You had a really long day today, huh?”

“Yes. Councilor Marama heard reports of a witch sighting in Bayarm that we needed to research. Pray the gods it is only a prank.”

“Mmm.” I don’t believe in witches, but I’ve seen how superstitious Krik’s family and other traditionalists are. Including my mother.

After a quiet dinner, I retreat to my room, paging listlessly through all the homework I have to do. Essay on historical literature, mathematical problems, memorization of yet another patriotic chant. Today, only one thing helps motivate me.

Tomorrow it’s my birthday. I can’t get any incompletes. Tomorrow has to be perfect.