While “foreigners” make up about 1% of the population in Shanghai — which is a huge concentration by China standards — we are still extremely rare in most of China. This leads to a great amount of curiosity about our lives. Since there are very few foreigners in my neighborhood, and even fewer foreigners who can speak Chinese fluently, I have begun to encounter what I call “frequently asked questions.” These are questions I have been asked within five minutes of meeting new people in my neighborhood. Enjoy.
Today’s FAQ is “why do you shave your legs?”
Every time I get a massage, this is one of the first questions that comes up. Chinese women tend to have much less leg hair than us Western gals, and they don’t tend to shave it. So when the massage girls start in on my legs, they usually let out a yelp of surprise, run their hands repeatedly up and down my leg, and then they ask what happened to all my leg hair.
I’m not going to get into feminist politics right now, and I don’t usually get into it with them either. All I can say is, it just looks better to us. They usually think I’m sort of strange. Isn’t cultural exchange fun?
So lately I’ve been going to the gym a lot — crazy, I know.
But that’s not what this post is about at all.
For the past several days, our office’s copy machine has been out of toner. It might not sound like a big deal, but as someone who makes about six trips to the copier a day, trust me, it is a huge deal.
So anyway, the new toner finally came in the mail today, and I was just thrilled. I ecstatically skipped to the back room, toner in hand, and began fumbling around trying to get it into the copier. Realizing I had never changed a copy machine toner, I decided I should endeavor to follow the directions printed on the toner compartment door.
These directions were in picture form, but nonetheless they were easy to follow:
1. Shake toner
2. Insert toner into copier
3. Proceed with copying
So, my heart fluttering with anticipation, I vigorously shook the toner cartridge.
Toner flew everywhere — I looked like Wiley Coyote just after he falls into the old road runner TNT trap. I mean, I had toner on my hands, my neck, my face, and all over my crisp, white sweater. Not to mention all over the copy machine and break room. I guess most people don’t get as excited about new toner as I do, because the seal on the toner definitely couldn’t withstand my level of enthusiasm.
Obviously this recalls the Great Ranch Dressing Disaster of 1993, when I accidentally shook a bottle of ranch too vigorously, covered half my plate in dressing, and cried inconsolably.
However, in the years following the Great Ranch Dressing Disaster, I have come to realize that I do embarrassing and clumsy things too often to cry about them, and spent the entire day today laughing at myself.
What a great day! What a great toner cartridge. My life is awesome.
I used to think inline skating was only for the ’90s, but today while in Golden Gate Park I happened upon the International Freestyle Inline Skate competition, and it was super cool! I guess this is a really new sport because the competition was really small, but there were still skaters from all over the world there! Some of them are in the video below:
Embarrassing fact: I LOVE Skymall magazine. I’m a frequent flyer, and it never gets old — I’m not one of those people who reads Skymall after they’ve exhausted all other options, I tend to pick it up as soon as I’m in my seat, and pore over every page, often rereading it later in the flight. Of course, I never imagined that among the electric nose hair trimmers, tacky garden statues and pet stairsets that I’d find something I needed to buy.
Yet, about a year ago, I discovered in Skymall the dog DNA test. With a simple cheek swab and $70, the product promised to discern your dog’s breeding. Immediately I knew I had to have it. You see, my family has a very cute mutt dog, and her breeding a topic of frequent and bitter debate. Though the pet store advertised her breeding as “chow, lab-terrier,” my father insists she must be half golden retriever, and we have spent several hours a week debating this point for about ten years now.
You can judge for yourself:
$70 is a small price to pay to irrevocably beat your dad in an argument, and so I purchased the DNA kit, hoping for long-overdue vindication.
Finally the kit arrived, and the family gathered around to swab the dog’s cheek. Naturally, we all had to be present to ensure that neither side unfairly tried to skew the evidence.
After a long wait, our results arrived — Chow was the clear winner, genetically speaking. The rest of the breeds the test picked up were Pomeranian and Husky, both of which are related to Chows. That was $70 down the drain.
The last time I was on a flight, I noticed a new Skymall product, or I guess I should say, I noticed that they have repurposed the dog DNA test for humans. A friend of mine has tried the DNA test offered by National Geographic, which she strongly supported, but I have my doubts.
After all, dogs have been much more carefully bred into distinct genetic types, yet this DNA test was pretty useless. I can’t help but wonder how accurate the human test can really be, but it is exciting to think about the future possibilities for learning family history with the swab of a Q-tip.
Those who know me well know that at least 60 percent of my dreams involve marine life, usually whales, and that a common nickname for me by my family is “whale.” So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a lifelong dream of mine has been to go whale watching, and on Saturday, I did!
First of all, what an amazing day, made possible by Monterey Bay Whale Watch, which I can’t praise enough. They have marine biologists on each trip and share tons of information about all the wildlife you see. Plus, the crew was really helpful and took great care of us!
The day started with a delicious breakfast of waffles and strawberries — don’t forget this, it’ll come up later. After a leisurely morning, Jeff and I headed to Monterey and boarded our small whale watching boat, the “Sea Wolf II,” a humble vessel that looked like it had seen better days.
From the very outset, the trip was great. There were several otters in the bay, and though I didn’t get any good pictures, they were approximately this cute:
The Monterey harbor is just lovely, with lots of boats that look like this:
In addition to otters, we also saw sea lions and seals:
The sea lions had taken over this wall of the harbor and were having a nice old time sunning themselves and splashing in the water.
Once we got into open water, the numbers of cute animals went down, but we still saw some albatross and pelicans.
It took us about forty-five minutes to get out to the whale migration highway, and though the day was clear, there were huge swells. I actually didn’t mind too much, and the pay off was great! We ended up seeing several different groups of whales over the course of the three-hour trip.
All the whales we saw were gray whales, which are no longer endangered and are currently migrating north. Did you know that gray whales only feed half the year? It’s true! Pretty incredible, but they go thousands of miles north to Alaska on empty stomachs!
After about an hour, the swells finally got to me, and I got gloriously seasick. Remember how I said breakfast would come up again? Well, it did twice with a vengeance. I actually didn’t mind too much, because it tasted good the second time around — more or less like a Jamba Juice actually — and as Jeff pointed out, the strawberries turned my upchuck a lovely shade of magenta. Plus I’d like to think that the sea creatures got a chance to have a taste of my delicious waffles and strawberries, a rare divergence from seaweed and krill.
Despite the seasickness, I LOVED my whale watching trip, and I think I’ll go again some time. But of course, the next time I’ll take some motion-sickness medications ahead of time to avoid the impressive puke fest that occurred this time. See how much fun were having?
At any rate, I highly recommend everyone try this! Whale watching was so fun, and March is the month to do it. If you go in summer, you can also see blue whales and humpback whales, so get out there!
Winter came somewhat suddenly to the city a few weeks ago, and since I have about 20 minutes of walking twice a day in commute, I resolved to trade in my cute flats for rain boots.
Originally, I planned to buy them in-person so I wouldn’t have to wait for the boots to come in the mail, but I was foiled by pre-season sales. For some reason, though it was pouring rain and still January, Target was stocking bikinis. Nordstrom, Macy’s and DSW sold only $100+ rain boots. Marshalls, Old Navy and Kohl’s disappointed, and before you know it, I’d been to scads of stores with no rain boots to show for it.
Finally this week I broke down and bought some boots online, and I’m so excited it’s raining right now! Soon they will be here, and though I suspect the rain will stop once they arrive, I also hope that it will continue so that I can actually use them.
Aren’t they just lovely? Too bad I lost my rainbow umbrella… I’m having to make do with rainbow polka dots — such a sacrifice! ugh.
While we’re on the subject of defining Caitlin and being cool on Facebook, here’s my photo for doppelganger week:
No, that’s not me. It’s a French pro tennis player Natalie Dechy. She doesn’t usually look like she did a Nic Cage-John Travolta swap with my face. Usually she has her own face. But this picture really creeps me out!
My entire life, I’ve been saying “nip it in the butt.” That’s 22 years of people probably thinking, “Did she just say what I think she did?” and then shrugging it off and not telling me I had it wrong. Oh for lollerskates….