It’s That Time Again…

Another blog’s full. Check out the new one here.

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Penang, Again (Part One)

Before I get around to flashing my pictures of leaky-ceilinged guestrooms and Indian food I have a few things to mention.

1) I’ve filled up another blog. This will be my last real post here, making “Penang, Again (Part Two)” the first entry in the as-yet non-existant new blog, which feels a bit awkward to me, but there’s not much to be done.

2) I’ve filled up my passport! I suppose this is news that would have been worth incorporating into the actual body of one of my Penang entries since it happened with the insertion of my new Non-Immigrant B visa. I guess this means an impromptu trip to Bangkok in the near future for the addition of pages, a process that seems simple enough (but my own mother just called me a “sweet, innocent child” for believing that any process in Thailand could be classified as “simple,” so we’ll see).

3) Happy Chinese New Year! Xi nian kuai le! In Malaysia, where there is a large Chinese population, it was incorporated into just about every advertisement we saw or heard and I thought it was meant to be somewhat of a big deal in Thailand as well. Aside from the odd strand of loud fireworks (poor Ollieūüė¶ ) it doesn’t seem to be the case. Nevertheless, here’s hoping the Year of the Dragon is swell. Last year was the Year of the Rabbit (“my” year, as it were); I bought two rabbits as pets and they died. I won’t be getting any dragons this year.

Alright so let’s get on with it!

Penang. We left last time with the feeling that we’d been rushed through the whole experience and this time was no different (though we did spend three nights this time around as opposed to two). Looking back our trip was definitely very go go go go go, but we enjoyed ourselves and were able to devote our time to some different activities from the last go-’round to set the experience apart.

of course, first order of business: sort out the pup. thanks uncle henk!

We’d considered taking a train this time, but for reasons poorly-explained to us (they were full? there was no train?) this was impossible. So we went the same route as last time: 2.5 hour minibus from Thung Song to Hat Yai (130B; $4.30), 4-6 hour minibus from Hat Yai to Penang (350B; $11.70. And I’ve included a 2-hour span because it really depends how quickly you’re able to move through immigration and how many out-of-the-way stops the bus driver will make to drop people off on his way to George Town: the end-of-the-line stop that was our destination). Everything went quite smoothly, but we were blindsided by an hour time-difference upon arrival and weren’t thrilled to be milling about the streets at nine PM to find a guesthouse.

Though we’d been happy with our experience at and the service of Banana Guesthouse last time, we heard there were places that could assist with your visa for cheaper, namely Jim’s Place, a short walk down Jalan Chulia (George Town’s “main street”). The charismatic, shirtless Jim did offer us a 20RM (200B; $6.70) option where he took care of our paperwork and taxis but we actually went to the embassy to drop off and pick up. It seemed reasonable, and we went for it. (His fee for doing everything including the drop off and pick up was the same as Banana’s– 40RM). ¬†He also suggested we check out his rooms, which were also 20RM– a bargain, no doubt, but Wayne astutely observed they brought back memories of his bedbug episode in India, so we said we’d continue looking.

The joke appeared to be on us, however… a walk down Love Lane and Jalan Muntri found us confronted with many a full guesthouse. Finally we arrived at W[estern]&O[riental] Caf√©/Guesthouse, where there were two triple rooms available for 45RM. It was more than we were hoping to pay (and we didn’t need a triple room), so we said we’d keep looking briefly and come back. As we re-entered the backpacker-laden streets, seemingly full of others in search of rooms, the W&O lady’s last words were echoing in our ears: “Hopefully they’re still available later…” It didn’t take us long to come scurrying back and hand over the cash.

A few cans of beer and some mediocre pizza at Reggae Penang found us exhausted and ready for bed, but the night’s excitement was far from over. Sleep didn’t come easy in the sweltering room, and the pouring rain that came out of nowhere at three AM didn’t help. And it wasn’t just the noise of it that got us– suddenly something struck the roof, my face was covered with dust, and about three seconds later our feet were receiving the splashback of the deluge that was now pouring through our ceiling onto the floor between the two beds (a detail that didn’t escape the grumpy nightwatchman, who was inclined to let us keep the room since our bed itself wasn’t being dumped upon.) Thankfully the last available room had escaped the hoards of room-seeking backpackers and they moved us without a fuss.

chinese new year lanterns set up across from reggae penang.

splishity splash on the floor.

and into the hallway. it was a lot of water...

We were told to be back at Jim’s at quarter to nine the next morning so we could be on our way to the embassy as it opened and have our paperwork filed straightaway. This went as smoothly as we could have hoped, leaving the rest of the day open for motorbike renting, mall perusing (we had our sights set on catching a film on the big screen and indulging in some sushi that evening, both of which we’re a bit deprived of on a normal basis, and both of which we were able to encounter at the First Avenue shopping mall– an eight story¬†structure that blows anything in Thung Song out of the water), Indian-food lunch having, coastal drive taking, and beach bumming. My photo upload capacity didn’t take me all the way to that last bit so I’ll halt my narrative here, start the photo reel, and leave you all in desperate suspense until the release of the third installment of this blog. (So… two days from now probably.)

i realized only way after the fact that the original subject of this picture was that man on the balcony in the distance.

a wrought-iron unesco world heritage sign explaining that "the black and white amahs were cantonese domestic servants from guangdong who did all kind of household chores and would refer to themselves with wry humour as 'yat keak tat' (one leg kicks all)"

view from the eighth floor of the mall. this sounds ridiculous but we couldn't even remember the last time we'd been that high up!

big chinese new year ornamentation in the mall

view from the gas station?

cruisin' round town.

entering little india.

a delivery bike, endearing you to 'let us to serve you our best.' and if you can't see, basically ANYTHING can go into a claypot briyani, the chicken is just the most enthusiastic.

a happy boy in little india!

the famous dripping faucet of penang.

(not really, just playing around while waiting for our food.)

and here it is! mushroom masala and potato/cauliflower something-or-other, and, of course, naan (goes without saying, doesn't it?).

driving along the coast on our way to the beach. 20 minutes of high rises.

Alright and that’s really all she wrote this time around… I’ll see you on the other side!

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Nam Tuum!

A lot of people (read: my parents) have encouraged me to become a writer and on occasion I’ve felt moments of inspiration and attempted beginnings of books. I had an idea when I first came to Thailand to write a book about… my time in Thailand (so, basically this blog), and had the idea for each chapter to be based around a new word in my budding Thai vocabulary and the circumstances in which I’d learnt the word. I actually still quite like the idea but said “moments of inspiration” were always fleeting and so I think I only got a melodramatic chapter-and-a-half into that book.

But, the word for Chapter One was “Nam Tuum,” which, if you were to hypothetically read the hypothetical book at some point in the future, you’d learn to mean “flood.” If you’ve been with me from the very beginning you may remember this post¬†outlining an unexpected rerouting of Wayne’s and my homecoming to Thung Song being redirected through Krabi as opposed to the closer Nakhon Si Thammarat on account of the airport at the latter being flooded from unseasonably fierce spring rains.

If you’ve been with me only in the past month you may remember this post¬†making a public declaration of the myth of Thai seasons; the rain comes when it wants in whatever quantity it wants. This year it’s proven to be often and in spades.

Well I’m here today to put my money where my mouth is, because it came down like we hadn’t seen before last weekend (of course, right as we though it had finally tapered off). And yes, I realize I’m coming up on a week late on these, but we’ve been busy and are actually finishing up another visa run in Penang¬†(which, incidentally, also involves a bit of flooding in a guestroom, but we’ll get to that later). Aaaand Wayne’s computer has held out brilliantly for 3 days but it’s running low and plugs are different in Malaysia so let’s get on with with. It rained a lot, the river behind our house got really high, I took pictures.

puddles collecting in our yard... not too bad.

cool clouds across the mountains

rascally puddle in front of our street... still not too bad?

inside the dinosaur restaurant! check the water in the back.

tables at the restaurant.

shrine alongside the river.

cutie pies

you can kind of see tables at the dinosaur restaurant across the deluge

But, by the very next afternoon (even after raining all through the night), the levels were down considerably.

some damage rendered.

Ollie, of course, was a bit puzzled by everything.

investigating.

But as soon as something bubbled…

fraidy-dog is scurrying away!

So that was that… no noticeable damage or really anything more exciting than a few submerged benches I suppose.

Back from Penang now; Saturday at school! Nothing better.

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Lemony-Herbed Potato Salad

Sunday Braai is becoming a tradition at our house. We had one that one time for no reason at all, we had one for Christmas, and when Wayne suggested in the earlier hours of this past Sunday that we go for it again I had no arguments against it. As it turns out, some home-cooked grub outside on the patio is just a real nice way to wind down the weekend. And since our garden saw some noticeable improvements this weekend as well, the experience was that much more gratifying.

our reclaimed elephant ears have come in nicely

wayne's brilliant idea of coconut shells to line beds, which will hopefully be overflowing with gorgeous flora in a few weeks' time...

my first bed i filled with stuff from the garden shop (each of them just over a dollar... holler!). now just hoping ollie stays out...

the blossom on that mini tree (that should, god willing, be a full-sized tree one day) that the previous shot doesn't do justice (spoiler alert: i might be working on another time lapse video...)

terrible shot but the new hanging plants that add definite ambiance to the patio

and, since i'm gloating about the garden, might as well break the news that we're working on our very first tomato! i think i saw the slightest hint of red emerging this morning. it's only one (so far) but we've waited a long time for this moment. got some cukes and lettuce looking strong as well. and basil. more basil than we know what to do with (and that's not a bad thing).

So anyway, we still have Glen’s grill, the environment was inviting, and we went for it. But you may have noticed the title of this post has no punny braai references (for a full rundown of the braai experience check Wayne’s account of the affair), for in fact the meat and potatoes (minus the meat, and just because it’s not in the title doesn’t mean I’m not good for a pun!) of this entry will be not the shrimp skewers that have become a staple of our cookouts or the toebroodjies¬†(more on that, pronunciation and all, later), delicious though they both were. This is an ode to potato salad.

all three dishes, ready to be served.

And not even necessarily this particular potato salad (though it was tasty, and I’ll include the process and ingredients). Maybe just because I’ve recently come to look at potatoes as the ultimate in comfort food, maybe because potato salad isn’t something I was really raised on and thus is still somewhat of a novelty for me, ¬†maybe because I know it’s something that’s generally frowned upon as jazzed-up junk food but I’ve come to believe it’s possible to make a perfectly wholesome potato salad… I don’t know exactly why, but I’ve just been really gung ho about potato salads lately.

Wait no I think I have it. Maybe¬†it’s because they’re so easy to make and to cater to one’s own taste. You take potatoes, boil them, scrounge up some things you like and/or have laying around the house, and mix them together! It’s incredible. And if you don’t trust yourself to get it right, (and, I guess, somehow miraculously trust my¬†input) I guess I’ll spare no time getting to the details.

I should include here that I’ve never been a mayonnaise fan. Or shall I say… I convinced myself at some point in my teen years that by simply omitting mayonnaise from any dietary choice I was on the fast track towards obesity avoidance. And then someone brought an oil-based potato salad to a cookout back in the day and made the point that it wouldn’t go bad in the sun, which seemed logical to me, so in my potato-salad-making-days I’ve left it out. Oh except that one time, when I made this coconut/olive oil mayonnaise (Wayne thought the coconut oil overpowered the flavor; I liked it quite a bit but maybe beauty is in the eye of the creator?), and we tried to do a crazy potato salad with all sorts of colorful Thai potatoes but I steamed them too long and it was an overwhelming mushy mess of a potato salad. But hey, trial and error right?

ingredients for this particular potato salad: potatoes, eggs, olive oil, lemon, mustard, garlic, turmeric, salt, pepper, fresh dill (i've been on a huge dill kick lately), and scallions.

Step one: Boil potatoes/eggs
This is hardly a scientific method, but I boil them, then check them every 5-10 minutes with a fork. When the fork begins to slide in without much resistance, I throw in the eggs. At this point I do take the time to look at a clock; 7 minutes later I turn off the heat and remove the eggs and potatoes from the water. If you want your eggs nicely hardboiled maybe go a bit longer; the very center of the yolk still ends up a bit soft at 7 minutes, which allows it to break down into the dressing in a way that I find delicious.

Step 2: Mix together olive oil (about 2-3 tablespoons), the juice of half a lemon, three minced garlic cloves, half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of mustard (I love mustard and would probably actually have gone for more if the tube hadn’t run out), a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, and a few minced sprigs of scallions and dill.
Step three: Carefully cut potatoes into cubes of your preferred size. You do run the risk of scalding the fingertips here. Peel the eggs and do the same. Add them to the dressing and give everything a good turn with a wooden spoon.

coming together...

And there you have it!

Of course, I suppose it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t pay a bit of an homage to the rest of the braai…

presiding

Oh and the toebroodjes¬†snafu! Each time we’ve braai’ed there’s been talk of toebroodjies, an Afrikaans word pronounced something along the lines of, “Two-broikies.” I understood it/them to be more of just a piece of bread toasted on the grill, optionally topped with cheese or tomato. I also somehow missed out on the first syllable of the word and thought they were simply called “broikies”. That is, until we were at the market shopping for the occasion and Wayne came out and said it, nice and clear, “Well we only need tomatoes if you want toebroodjies.” Which I heard as, “Two¬†broikies,” (as opposed to one or three). And I got a little confused, and didn’t understand why I needed to declare just how many pieces of toasted bread I wanted hours before the occasion, and must have mumbled something that nearly resulted in us not buying the necessary tomatoes, but then we realized, and after a few minutes of sorting out the disconnect (the vendors must have been wondering what the heck we were doing) had ourselves a laugh and… got the tomatoes? Man that story seemed better before I started telling it. (But it stays.)

yeah and if you couldn't tell, toebroodjies are really just sandwiches cooked on the grill. ours had cheese tomato and onion.

holler! (in case you were wondering they're in our/wayne's standard lime juice/chili/garlic marinade)

wayne said it first and he said it best: one happy customer!

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New Year’s Weekend on Koh Lanta

It was a good one! Definitely, as predicted, much different from any of my previous New Year’s experiences, but it was a scenic, relaxing, and enjoyable weekend made all the more pleasant by new friends, little jungle cottages, the best diving we’ve had yet, and more than our fair share of “exotic” (in Thailand, anyway) foods like pizza and tzatziki.

As I said in my previous entry we were able to skip out of school a little¬†early on Friday, on account of a meeting-related absence on the part of nearly all the other teachers. Had good conditions for the duration of the two-ish hour drive, and made it on the ferries just in time for yet another of Thailand’s awe-inspiring sunsets.

again, at this point the weather was still good so i'm not sure why it looks like eugene's being swept away in a windstorm.

We met up with Eugene’s friends Jess and Fin upon arrival. They’re newcomers to Lanta– “stuck” in Thailand, as it were, with passport issues, but in the fortunate position of being dive instructors, which has allowed them to find freelance work in their period of limbo. This was in turn fortunate for us, as their temporary residence on the island has them renting a house, which they generously shared with us. I keep saying “they,” but Fin actually was off as soon as we arrived to spend the weekend instructing on a Live Aboard diving boat. We spent the evening on Jess’s porch with a bottle of Sangsom, and it was a good way to kick off the trip.

But the next day, New Year’s Eve, was for diving! Jess had to lead a dive anyway for Lanta Fun Divers, and they ended up being very¬†cool about how they let us go about things. Since Eugene is also a certified dive instructor, they led him lead Wayne and me and we got to do our own thing. Additionally we each got a 20% discount because we weren’t being led by one of their¬†instructors. It was a pretty sweet deal.

pretty much the same boat we were on.

there it is! in the distance!

coming closer...

And what an incredible dive site! We went by speedboat to a nearby island, Koh Haa, which is a national park. As usual there were two dives; Eugene was quickly briefed about the dive sites, which were on either side of the island, and we were off! The visibility was incredible and from the very beginning we knew we were going to see some cool stuff. He took us to newfound depths of 30 meters on the first dive, which involved kind of crawling down a noticeable and seemingly endless decline, for the first time really giving us (or… me at least) a sense of the enormity of it all. We noticed how the colors differed down there, and how our mental responses were a bit slower (an easy numbers puzzle that took me 3.7 seconds on the surface took me 8 seconds down below!). Then it was time to explore.

On the first dive, the coolest thing we saw was probably the enormous barracuda. I’d say it was 4 feet long and a foot around (but I’m a terrible estimator and things look bigger underwater so… who knows). And like most barracudas it had these intimidating teeth poking out the front, but it didn’t give us a second look. It didn’t do much of anything; just sat perfectly still, waiting for the appropriate prey to come by. Seemingly, we were not that prey.

(Source)

The second dive was the more impressive of the two, however. We knew there were caves ¬†and were a little nervous/excited to go through them. Eugene had proved to be a good guide thus far, and the caves were actually quite spacious with large openings that made them easier to navigate. It was definitely an added element to the experience, especially as you turn to exit and come upon a veritable fish playground. As I said before I’m a bad estimator so it’s hard to say just how many there were, but if I had to give it a go I’d have to say about a zillion. Partially because we were a little deeper than we’ve gone before, partially because it was a much more open area than we’ve been to before, and partially, I’d say, because of the area’s national park status (and the subsequent preservation), there were more (and more beautiful) fish than I’ve ever seen before all swimming within and around all varieties of gorgeous soft coral. The one I’ll hold above the rest on this dive was the enormous Bluestripe Angelfish I made an attempt to follow around for a bit. It was the size of a dinner platter! The picture doesn’t really do it justice but it was awesome.

(Source)

one of the islands at koh haa... cool lava formations!

hidden pristine beach on the island

We made it back by mid-afternoon and had the requisite post-dive beers and before we knew it it was time to get ready for the big night! We went down to the closest stretch of beach where a number of beachside bars were set up and decided it was a great place to park it for the night. Some music, drinks, good company– and of course the midnight fireworks– made it a night to remember.

haha, trying to squeeze everyone, including the driver, into the picture on the tuktuk ride. watch where you're going man!

and... the second and final shot of the night due to improperly charged cameras. whoops!

And then… it rained. For two days straight.

New Year’s Day was spent alternately playing musical chairs on the porch (three chairs, four people… it forces you to be opportunistic) and seizing the odd dry spell to escape for food. And catching episodes of Sex and the City¬†in between all that? Anyway it was a fine excuse to do nothing in our post-NYE… slumps, but we started considering leaving the next day, rather than on the 3rd as initially planned.

Of course, it was a bit of a Catch-22: we’d come by motorbike so if it was really¬†rainy we essentially couldn’t¬†leave. But if it was sunny… well then we wouldn’t want to leave! The morning of the 3rd offered no promises (it’s actually when I took the above picture, when Wayne and I got caught shopping and had to duck into a side alley for refuge and a fruit shake); but by early afternoon it looked just¬†clear enough to make for what we expected to be a relatively easy departure. Jess was sick so Wayne, Eugene, and I set off to run some last-minute errands. Until… the clouds opened enough to give us hope of a beach afternoon, and we thought a beer at the Gecko bar seemed like a good idea, to give us a sense of what the weather would do. (Plus I had to get some¬†pictures of the beach, you know!)

And guess what happened. It cleared right up! We decided we absolutely couldn’t leave, but instead had to enjoy some sunshine and saltwater. (And, in my case, a much-needed beachside massage… mmmmm.)

my glasses broke an hour after i got them on koh tao 2 months ago. i refuse to let go.

on second thought... maybe it's time.

what's this?! another terrific sunset!

koh haa, in the distance.

We finally left the beach and indulged in some tzatziki and souvlaki at the Greek Taverna that had been catching our eye each time we drove by. Considering that we did need to rise early and get on the road the next morning (I had a puppy to get back to, after all!) our final night was quite chill. Breakfast at the German bakery in the morning had us in good shape to head out, and we did so on a perfectly clear (though sunburn inducing) morning. It was indeed a great way to kick off the new year!

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New Year’s Party at School

Back! Happy New Year everyone, hope the celebrations were magical and everyone’s in the best of spirits as our little planet begins a new revolution around the sun.

I know you were all probably hoping for lovely, sunny, beachy tales to warm up what I understand to be a finally-arriving winter over yonder, but today is not the day for that. They’re loading and will be up by the end of the week (a glorious, three-day, four-class week!), but for now you’ll have to settle with photos of Thai kids and balloons.

Unsurprisingly the new year at Tapae Municipality School was marked by classes cancelled for the purpose of celebration, and, of course, confusion pertaining to exactly what was being cancelled when. I’m quite sure I accidentally skipped a morning class on Friday after all the kids (who are normally, I hate to say it, the most reliable ones around!) told me they didn’t have to study that day. But it ended up being a laid-back, fun-filled day for all as the kids set up shop in rooms to eat, play games, and sing karaoke. As teachers we got roped into a bit of all of this (and then ducked out early since all the other teachers were at a meeting and we were itching to get on the road… Muahahaha.)

okay this is a left-over christmas picture i guess... made stockings and wanted to sexistly tape coal to the back of all the boys' (and then give them candy later of course) but it didn't end up happening.

also not new year related but some funny 'why i study english' posters hung up in one of the rooms.

me and the mattayom 2/2s... there are boys in the class, just mysteriously late/missing (as usual).

decorated mattayom 2/3 board

karaoke in the mattayom 2/1 room!

having fun with 'proud mary'

mattayom 2/3s

you're not really supposed to have favorites but...

look who showed up to sing 'piano man'

So yeah, woo hoo, crazy party time at school! For your time:

olliepup with a lollipop!

sweetest little guy.

Oh and in completely separate news, I’ve marked this new year by getting a new email account because this made me sad and anxious:

So now the bottom of my browser looks like this:

Which makes me so so happy. That was really just me abusing an opportunity to take and display screenshots, something I have a strange attraction to, but also to let you know in case you got left off the reminder email. The new address is just my name, first then last, no periods or underscores or anything crazy, at gmail. Dot com. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Bring on Song Ha Ha Ha— What’s Sure to Be a Very Funny Year!

After much debate and rearranging of plans, it was finally decided last week that Wayne, our friend Eugene, and I would be spending our New Year weekend on Koh Lanta. We leave this afternoon after school (you may recall it’s a quick 2-hour motorbike ride away!) and there’s a good chance I won’t be back online before 2012 is in full swing so I guess I must do the requisite New Year’s post now. No, it won’t be a full recap of the year (I pretty well accomplished that with my birthday post), but just a few short (maybe?) words for… closure I suppose.

When trying to convince Henk to saddle up and join us on the Lanta adventure he scrunched up his face and said something to the effect of, “Ughhh, I don’t see what’s the big deal. It’s just another year.” And how true, good sir! In the same way that, at least for many Americans, any birthdays following the big 2-1 become a bit less significant (I know there are some of you out there crying, “At 25 your car insurance drops!” or something silly like that but I think we all know that’s not a truly¬†significant milestone?) it is easy to say, especially as we grow older, that perhaps all the hullabaloo pertaining to the New Year is a bit superfluous. It’s true, we all know that on the first morning of the new year we’ll all wake up to a world unchanged, and in fact, unchanged ourselves (aside from a pounding headache that may or may not have been present for our last memories of the Old Year). We know the resolutions will probably go unkept– exercise regimes and diets will last maybe two weeks, nails will continue to be bitten, profanities will continue to flow– and that world peace will not be attained. (I mean, call me a cynic, but it’s just not looking good.)

Sure, there’s nothing inherently special about changing that somewhat-arbitrary last number in the year. Well, I take that back, the Thai calendar will roll over to 2555, which I guess is a little¬†special, as 5 is pronounced “ha” in Thai, making the year “song ha ha ha!”, which draws giggles from the students and their easily-amused farang¬†teacher. For me, each New Year celebration becomes special because it’s one of the few times of year where I can be sure to be able to retrace exactly where I was and whom I was with for many years previous, and in doing so map a sort of personal progress and development. It’s a reminder that every moment in our entire lives, no matter how detached and unrelated, has led up to the present; and that no matter what moments of struggle and misfortune might have interspersed the times of celebration, the important thing is that we still make it a point to find¬†reasons to celebrate, and to simply be happy with the ones we love.

Last year I was alone in a stranger’s house with two high school best friends I hadn’t seen in over a year, after a failed attempt to beat DC New Year’s traffic from work to an allegedly unworthy club (for which I’d already purchased a ticket, but as my mom always says, “Easy come, easy go.”). The year before I was with a friend I’ve had since I was 11 in the midst of a mob in Shanghai’s most famous shopping district, kissing some guy who would become my boyfriend for the first time at midnight. Fourth year at university– sharing an illegal, but management-approved, champagne toast with all my customers and dear coworkers at Siips; a comma in what was a surprisingly enjoyable and lucrative shift at work.¬†Before that I was in another stranger’s house thanks to a generous invitation from my college roommate to my newly heartbroken, returned-from-Rome self. Before that? In a house so crowded I was forced to sleep in the back of a car and woke up so stiff and exhausted I called out of my New Year’s morning shift… and lost my job. And, one more for good measure, the end of 2005 found me in a borrowed dress in a house of what felt like North Carolina royalty, with the girl I can easily say is my oldest friend, learning the hard way that a six-pack of Smirnoff ice contains way too much sugar to be able to hide one’s hangover from one’s mother the next morning.

This year I’ll be on a Thai island, (hopefully) having just finished my seventh and eight scuba dives, with the guy with whom I shared my flask– and then thrust myself upon– two years ago and a new friend I feel lucky to have. It all makes me realize that I can honestly make no predictions as to my whereabouts or companions next year, but I’m genuinely excited for the journey that takes me there and everyone who becomes a part of it. (And though I said all that stuff about resolutions I am going to make an effort to be more disciplined with my Thai-learning, and to put my Christmas-present yoga mat to work after months of flab-cultivating.) Yep, I’m ready for 2012, or “Song Ha Ha Ha!“, or however you care to classify the next 365 days.

And since I hate media-less posts, here’s the final scene of a very, very good movie. How I suppose everyone secretly would like one New Year’s Eve to culminate:

Oh, and as promised, 4 minutes of Ollie playing with Christmas presents. And yes, I say, “Squirrel” at one point in the video, but for you observant types you’re right, it is¬†a fox.

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