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Showing posts from August, 2008

Naked America

During the last couple of weeks (have I already been back for that long?) I had the pleasure of partaking in that most American of traditions, going to the mall. It was exhilarating and deeply unsettling. But the strangest part about it was trying to pinpoint what about it was so strange. There were malls in Malaysia. Good ones too. Malls that could easily dwarf the one I wandered into. So why did the humble Arden Fair seem so intimidating? I think it might've been that everyone in it was pretty much naked.

I don't mean this as a judgment on the "clothes" people around here are wearing, though that's certainly a part of it. All of the people I saw from the food court to the Mac store hid so little of themselves. That's right. I'm invoking both meanings of naked. Levels, baby, levels.

The girl in front of me at the cheese steak fastfood chain (don't judge, I was hungry) talked about nothing important on her cellphone as if she were surrounded …

Lesser-Abled Super Squad, Away!

As I took the train from Emeryville to Davis, I had a moment to flip through the safety pamphlet tucked into the back of the seat in front of me. It's pretty much the same safety pamphlet as with planes, with the one notable exception being that it has safety instruction in Braille embossed all over it. It seems like a good idea, right? Amtrak certainly doesn't want to have a lawsuit about how it left a blind guy on the train because no one told him what to do when his tray table caught fire.

But let's think about this a moment further. One of the directions (for the sighted) was "Help disabled [or perhaps it was 'less-abled'] people first." And of course, stamped over this message in English was its apparent translation in Braille. I'm the first to admit that my Braille might be a bit rusty, so I'll propose two possible things it might have said, each deeply troubling.

Possibility #1: Direct translation. In Braille it simply says the same thi…

Home

On Wednesday, I came home.

The things of note that I ate:
Hot pastrami sandwich at Max's
The rest of the hot pastrami sandwich at home
Tortellini con pesto at Lococo's
Some kind of pizza and some garlic bread wedges, also at Lococo's
BBQ chicken tacos at Maya Restaurant
A sandwich
Chocolate truffle birthday cake
Another sandwich
Potatoes
Granola
Bagels (also in sandwich form)

Things that I have yet to eat:
A milkshake
A different kind of sandwich
Gnocchi
Pie
A burrito
Pancakes
Garlic bread

Things that I probably won't eat:
Curry
Fish

Things that I miss eating:
Bowls of noodle soup that I could drown myself in
Roti
Rice (but it shouldn't be too hard to find)

There's a lot to love about being home. The food is about 10 times better on the whole, so even though it's 5 times more expensive, I still come out ahead. Everything is ridiculously easy to do so far, since very few interactions involve money going to or coming from government bureaucrats. Everyone's English is really good …

Four-Night Stand

No matter how you cut it, Malaysia was a very intense, very involved long-term relationship. We both had a lot of issues and, well, things got messy. We stuck it out for as long as we could and in the end we decided it’d be best if I went my own way, and Malaysia stayed in Southeast Asia, attached to Thailand and parts of Indonesia. It turns out I was also really easy to pick up on the rebound.

Oh, Tokyo! You’re everything that Terengganu wasn’t. Your food is so good I want to cry a little. You’re expensive and classy but still fun. Your mass transit is a breeze to get around on (albeit a little tricky to navigate at first), and best of all, you don’t care that much about me. You give me room. Terengganu was a smotherer. I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere without someone asking “Where are you going?” “Did you eat rice?” “You can speak Malay?” It asked me questions but never listened to the answers. But Tokyo… Tokyo couldn’t care less about me. It’s there if I need somethin…

Dear Ezra, It's Just a Kidding. Love, Malaysia

Malaysia ended. In spite of feeling like it would last forever, it did not, since nothing does and nothing can, in fact, last forever. Malaysia was no exception. It ended quietly, all things considered. After the fake wedding everything else seemed comparatively tame. I was present for Sarah’s big blow-out assembly and there was also a goodbye snack in Kuala Terengganu with all of the ETAs and low-level officials. In case you’re ever wondering, low-level officials who are filling in for mid-level officials at events that no officials actually care about really do give the best speeches. The guy didn’t really know any of us very well so some highlights were:

"And there’s Gwynne who can only eat tofu… and Chris who is a lawyer and will bring down the American legal system… and Joe. Joe always reminds me of that black guy. You know, that very funny black guy. That actor-" at this point we were all thinking of Chris Tucker, who Joe is a dead ringer for- "Jack Black…

Wedding Drums

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Sarah's school, in it's infinite wisdom and love of the absurd, threw us a big goodbye party in the style of a traditional Malay wedding. What better way to send off their ETA couple than with an exuberant, bizarre, and beautiful faux wedding? It turns out there is no better way, and so we had hundreds of students, teachers, and faculty from both our schools come dress us up, cheer us on, and take pictures of us until their cameras exploded from overuse.

I honestly think that the number of flashes that went off in my face might be affecting my memories, but I'll do my best to run through the highlights of the "wedding" ceremony.

First, I got dressed in the traditional songket, which for us had to be bright pink. Sarah and I agreed a few weeks ago when her school first brought up the idea of a faux wedding ceremony that we would do it right or not at all. I can say emphatically that pink was the right choice, as it established from the get go that there was no w…