tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
I figured I should make a continually-updating list of new foods I've tried during the trip. I've probably forgotten a few, but here goes:

Denver, Colorado, USA
* Meatloaf - tastes like somewhat undercooked hamburger
* Quesadillas - pretty good, but hard to dip
* Salisbury Steak - YUMM
* Chicken Pot Pie - not bad
* Quiche - host family: yum. Facility: not so yum.
* Biscotti - yum when given by United Airlines
* Rhubarb - uh no thank you
* Ice Cream Sandwich - the vanilla & chocolate ones are YUMM
* Hummus - GIMME MORE
* Diet Coke - surprisingly tasty; I can see why people order this a lot even with unhealthy foods
* Giant Stuffed Fajitas - how on earth are you supposed to finish the whole thing?!
* Black Beans - not bad

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
* Enchiladas - too cheesy and spicy for my taste
* Jalapeno chocolate - !!!!! but surprisingly addictive!
* Some other Mexican food whose name I can't remember - I don't think my stomach agrees with it

more to come as I travel...
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
1. We still do not know what internships we're getting.

2. I've been offered a special project but nothing's confirmed yet.

3. No one's applied to be technical interns. Poor Gaby.

4. We had a vocal teacher, Anna, come in to teach us the songs. Quite interesting. I had to go and volunteer to sing this super-strange alto-soprano harmony for one of the songs...urgh.

5. Quiche made by my host family is yummy. Quiche made by the Adams 12 facilty is not so yum. This is a shame, as usually their food is VERY yummy.

6. There was a burning smell in the room yesterday. No one could tell what it was.

7. We may have a new song, if Danni and the rest of us can figure out the lyrics.

8. If your name is Emily, Asha, Victor, Marzuki, or Patricia, and you know me well, check your postboxes.

9. Rob's out of the hospital...and then he went back in again. Tonsil trouble. Oh dear.

10. I made my profile page, and it looked crazy. However, it was the most decorated one of the lot so far, and it got a fair bit of attention.

11. The ballet/hip-hop dance is HARD AS HELL.

12. We had a photoshoot yesterday, with some of us in national costumes. It really looked like some sort of a Miss/MR Universe deal.

13. I went through about 3 or 4 costume changes yesterday.

14. Microphones can be really heavy if they're in a suitcase.

15. Neshat, Huning, and I were the Red Roses of the photoshoot because all our outfits had red roses on them.

16. Speaking of red - yesterday night most of us went to the Red Rocks Auditorium, a natural auditorium of sorts since it's made up of these huge red rock formations. We saw Savage Henry (quite good) and The Goonies (fun).

17. There were people at Red Rocks who obviously watched The Goonies and were cheering at certain points of the movie.

18. Tom and Melissa are together. Awww! They're not that obvious about it though, so when Tom told me about it I was quite surprised.

19. People like chanachur.

20. The gay couple, Andy and Rick, are holding their (what seems to be biannual) Pizza Party next Friday. Of course I will be bringing the chanachur.

21. We went up to the Hayman Fire Site today to set the equestarian trail. This involved placing rocks and planks, clearing grass, and collecting rocks. Ow.

22. I have claimed a mound of soil near the trail as Mount Tiara. There's even a giant Rosetta Stone-ish rock in it which is now mine.

23. The river is so PRETTY. I was brought there by the CUSP crew (semi-secretly, since everyone else was working) and it was quite a sight.

24. Udi's makes good lunches.

25. Someone had stuck a tiny US flag to one of the rocks formations near the river. This amused Ginger, my guide, greatly.

26. I was not used to manual labour, especially in high altitudes, and I had a hard time at first - at one point I accidentally dropped a plank Nina and I were holding because I was just too shaky.

27. Collecting rocks at the Rock Mountain (not the Rocky Mountains) was a bit better though.

28. We kept finding rocks for Stone Soup.

29. We're all rocked out.

30. Nina's found her calling - she lifts rocks (and people) from the ground. Whee!

31. Reuben is trying too hard to get an American accent. He's been going "absolutely" all day long.

32. ODV's a good band.

33. We saw a rainbow!

34. Tom went missing for a while and everyone in the staff was looking for him. I went in to search for him and found him running down the stairs. He didn't believe me at first when I told him everyone was looking for him.

35. While looking for Tom, a random person asked me if there was a UN Conference going on.


37. Salisbury Steak and mashed cauliflowers - yum.


39. EDIT: Grr. Flickr will only show the last 200 uploaded photos, which means a lot of the earlier stuff will go missing very soon. The only way I can get them back is if a get a Pro Account - and I am NOT paying $24.99 for something online. Anyone know a good free photo hosting & display service that does not hold my photos hostage?

And yet again, this isn't everything, so feel free to ask questions.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
There's been quite a number of news articles that have compared Up With People to American Idol:

St. Paul Pioneer Press:
It was surreal moments like that — a little more subversive, a little less "Up with People" — that made this year's "AI" concert more than just a guilty pleasure.

Hollywood Reporter:
While such Up With People-style entertainment might not be in huge demand these days, it's crucial here because onstage individually, with virtually no production around them, most of these recent amateurs do not have the skill or presence to carry 15,000-seat arenas. Nor should they be expected to.

Toronto Sun (about Idol 2):
It was all good, clean, preppy fun, like seeing the Up With People Players work a Super Bowl half-time show. In 1978. In the Retro Dome.

E! Online (about Kelly Clarkson and Idol 1 finals):
Then, doing their best Up with People impression, the 10 finalists sang a medley of songs they had performed throughout the competition.

When fandoms collide, indeed.

Mhairi, the girl of the family, came by to visit during the weekend with her husband Chris. She's cool, and quite funny. The whole family's addicted to Sudoku and they're getting Mhairi to try it too. Har.

Chris liked stir-fry so Val cooked some stir-fry beef and broccoli. She was following it from a Weight Watchers cookbook but it was nothing like how I knew stirfry so I was trying to give some tips on how to make it more authentic. I'm surprised she didn't shoo me out of the kitchen. The American instructions just make it too complicated (marinating for an HOUR? Taking out, then putting it back in again?) but it's all simple really.

Their soya sauce is really salty. Seriously SALTY.

I have a new phone charger! We went to Best Buy to get one. And they seriously have EVERY ELECTRONIC GADGET KNOWN TO HUMANKIND. I have never seen a shop quite like that before. They have every part for everything - and they all look rather nifty. Even my new phone charger looked different, like some sort of alien pod or something. At least it works (and it was a lot cheaper than I expected), so that's great.

They refer to the Barnes and Nobles nearby as "The Library". These are my kind of people.

Speaking of books - Derek a.k.a. Host Dad has a very interesting hobby. For the past 13 years, he has been watching the Books Bestsellers List in the papers, and had kept an extensive chart of all the books that are listed - complete with rankings. He says it's to find new reading material; well, he's got 2222+ books to choose from. I don't know if that's dedication or insanity.

On the subject of Brand New American (or British) Food Tried In Denver - add quiche to the list. It's some sort of savoury pie-ish pastry with eggs and cheese and meat. (Ours was meatless since I don't eat pork) It's REALLY yummy. The cheese and the eggs separate so there's this really interesting effect. Add some sausage and pepper and it'd be my kind of meal.

Today we went to the Denver Nature & Science Museum. I'm a science museum nut; I insist on visiting one everywhere I go. This one focuses more on nature - geology, wildlife, that sort of thing. There was a nifty space exhibit, a Native American exhibit that gave me the chills, and a Health exhibit where apparently if you complete enough checkstations, you get a health profile of yourself. I've grown an inch (or that could be my shoes), gained 5 kilos (that's odd), and am decidedly unfit, since I was already exhausted part-way through the 3-minute stair walk.

There were exhibits where you got to choose (virtual) food to eat; I remember one exhibit was a breakfast shopping game, and they asked if I wanted chocolate chip cookies. I said Yes, and it adminished me for making an unhealthy choice. Oh come on, I deserve a treat. There was one exhibit styled like a Chinese restaurant (two more were Mexican and Italian restaurants) and for every food item you chose, it'll tell you the nutritional information. When I chose a regular Egg Drop Soup, it said "If you have no problems with MSG - spice is nice!". For goodness sake. MSG is NOT a SPICE. It's a FLAVOUR ENHANCER. Get it right.

Tomorrow we'll find out what internships we'll get. I have decided to do internships - I chose External Relations, Performing Arts, and News Crew. We'll also probably find out if we're going to be dancing, singing, or speaking publicly for the WorldSmart Celebrations.

tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
Today was a bit of a tense day.

In the morning we had the Stereotypes activity, where mahjong papers with the names of the countries represented are put up, and people walk around writing their perceptions of the country.

Not many people wrote stuff about Malaysia and Bangladesh - both papers had some "talk fast and loud" comments, which I suspect has more to do with me than anything else. And no, Mahatma Ghandi is NOT Bangladeshi. I was surprised that people thought Malaysia had good governance, after hearing the complaints in the country about the government, and someone wrote "Kjak Rtak", whose meaning I haven't the slightest idea of. Huh. Generally, though, people weren't too surprised at the reaction - they've heard it all before.

What was tense was the discussion at the end of the day about the Capitol visit and guest speaker the day before. Katie had talked about the offensive language the guest speaker was using (e.g. referring to prostitutes as "recycled women") and Marcelle replied that basically we give meaning to words, we should try to understand what their intentions were and whether or not they meant to offend. Katie was upset (she thought she was being lectured - she kinda had a point) and Noelle and Brandi were crying too because Marcelle had mentioned how "nigger" was inoffensive in Brazil but "black" was, and that touched a nerve. It led to a discussion on ethnocentrism (basing things on your own culture) vs. ethnorelativism (basing things on the other culture), and how we should be more conscious of potential triggers.

I personally thought that while everyone had a point, there was still a level of ethnocentrism int he comments. "This is bad because it's bad in my culture therefore it should be bad in yours". It's a definite learning curve and I think all of us will have to learn how to relate to each other without needing to push their buttons. I wonder how they'd survive in a culture which would be offended at their notion of being offended - "You think our culture is WRONG? You think you're BETTER than me?!" - that'd be something.

Thankfully the day wasn't all that stressful. We had our first major Whisk Prep - we were taught the chorus of one of the songs, and also the moves to a few dances. One of them was really complicated - you really need to get the rhythm down right. The other was simpler, but it all depended on your partner and group and if they mess up, you mess up too. There was so much thigh-clapping that my thighs are now bruised...red spots everywhere.

I've handed in my Internship application, and tomorrow there's going to be auditions for singing, dancing, and public speaking (and photography though I'm not too interested in pursuing that fulltime). Let's see how that goes.

Also - I made fried rice for my host family today! It was a bit different; garlic paste, Bombay onions, brown basmati rice, baby carrots, no oyster sauce. I thought it was a bit off, but they loved it, so hey.

Does anyone have any remedies for bruises?
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
1. Denver's really pretty. However, it also makes me really sleepy for some reason.

2. The only thing I had for "lunch" on arrival day were baby carrots in dip, small pretzels, and some Cheetos.

3. I'm already pairing up people in the group (in my head). Only one pair so far, and het, but hey - OTPs are fun.

4. Huning from China was supposed to be on my flight but she was nowhere to be seen. Turns out she missed her flight due to the sheer chaos in the checkin area. She couldn't take the second flight out because it was full with people who were pushed over from the downsized first flight. She only got here sometime in the evening.

5. There was a soccer ball in the hall where we were - around evening, a bunch of the girls decided to hold their own soccer match. Indoors. Quite fun, that.

6. There was a Yathzee and Ludo game set on one of the tables. Chris was trying to teach us how to play Yathzee but none of us got it. Yoga taught us Ludo (I was already familiar with it because I grew up playing it) and we ended up playing that instead.

7. I was messing around with the Yathzee dice holder and got all sixes.

8. While playing Ludo, Chris and Yoga dominated the game while me and Brianne were stuck - you needed to throw a six to start and neither of us had managed that for a few rounds. After a hwile both of us were throwing sixes like crazy and we caught up pretty quickly!

9. I was so sleepy (I didn't sleep much in LA) that I actually too a nap on the table when I was there. When I woke up, Katie had arrived. She was the first person there I hugged, since we were chatting a lot online. She's pretty, and quite hyper, heh.

10. Katie brought along a whole digital video camera set - professional quality. She was demonstrating to us how it worked. I got to use it to record the soccer match going on behind us.

11. The van that brought us to the training center was decorated with silly slogans outside and streamers inside.

12. Part of the Welcome Packet included a pen that doubled as a bubble wand.

13. They were showing videos and photos of previous semesters, and one photo was of two students - one dressed as a leprechaun, the other as a fairy. Between this, #12, and #11, I am convinced that the WorldSmart people are secretly glamourbombers.

14. My host family is Scottish-English. Derek & Valerie Flockhart. They came to the US about 10+ years ago. Valerie wasn't home yet because she was in London for her father's operation and her brother's silver wedding anniversary. She'll be back on Monday.

15, They have two children: Andrew, who's 23, and Mhairi (pronounced Varie) who is a few years older. Mhairi's married and lives nearby; Andrew's moving back home.

16. Andrew's a trumpeter - currently he's playing music for musicals (Wizard of Oz this week!) at the theater. He also used to do karate. And he has an awesome book collection. Clearly he rules, or something.

17. They have two dogs, Sam and Simon. Sam is very manja - affectionate. Simon gets jealous very easily. They're very big, and they scared me the first time I saw them (they were jumping all over me) but we're used to each other now.

18. They occasionally have hummingbirds, foxes, squirrels, and coyotes coming to visit.

19. There's a swing outside the house. Whee!

20. Derek is an inventor of sorts - he works in telecommunications. There are patent certificates all over the office wall. And he's very interested in geneaology. There's an extemsive family tree in the living room and he runs a family tree website.

21. We went to Estes Park today - PRETTY! We went up about 9000 feet but my chest couldn't take it so we went back down. The effect it had on my circulation was interesting, to say the least.

22. They've hosted Up With People kids last semester - one from Texas and one from Brazil. Apparently the Brazillian was a real socialite and went out all night.

23. I must be really boring compared to them because I've just been sleeping the past few days.

24. My parents keep calling everyone they can get a hold of just to get to me. Mum and Dad? CHILL.

25. The WorldSmart crew seem to think Malaysia's this really hightech country after seeing my PDA. Not many people are familiar with the device. They were especially overawed when I showed them that it was a camera too. Man, I am a geek, but I can't possibly be THAT geeky...

26. I haven't had time to write in my actual journal (or heck this one) because I'm either sleepy or busy.

27. We had giant turkey sandwiches for dinner last night. People here eat a lot.

28. I have run out of things to report, so if you want to know more, ask!

EDIT: I could have left this till later, but I just found this out and it was so cool that I had to add this in:

29. One of the host families is a gay male couple.

OK, officially, WorldSmart rocks.
tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
I've had some sleep (ok, 4 hours) and it's about 8:25 in the morning here. Everyone's gone off for their own work so I'm home alone.

Here's the second chunk:

On The Flight

I was seated in the first Economy Class row - originally 26C, right opposite where the flight attendants sit. However, there was another guy that came in and had my seat too. (He shall henceforth be known as Double-Seated Guy, or DS Guy for short.) The flight attendents checked out passes, and it turns out my seat got swapped - so now I was at 26A, right behind the exit.

Quite an interesting spot, that.

The first leg of the flight was to Taipei - 4 hours flight, pretty much like flying to Dhaka. (Incidentally, I encountered a couple from Bangladesh on the flight - will elaborate on this later.) In our row:

Me, checking out the view while contemplating using the exit shelf as a temporary table. Well, not really. But I took out the inseat table as soon as I can and started writing in my journal - I needed something to do.

Middle Guy 1, who spent the whole flight watching movies (Beauty Shop, and something else with Jimmy Fallon). Incidentally, Malaysian Airlines are airing Sepet this month, but only to routes in Australia, UK, and Africa. Sigh.

DS Guy, who is quite the cutie spent quite some time looking out the exit window, admiring the view. We chatted for a while. He also spent a lot of time studying the GMAT - turns out he's starting on a Masters degree soon. Whoa. He's also travelled around the world - Peru, Brazil, Thailand, all sorts of places.

The leading flight attendant for this leg was a lady named Precious - heavy blue eyeshadow, seemingly British until she launches into her very Malaysian-Indian accent. Like Asha when she's making a point. She could have been either very hilarious or very patronizing...but we didn't interact long enough to find out.

We had a "light snack" (more like something that makes up for lunch) - chicken, fish, or curry. I took the fish; eh, it was OK. It tasted like it was swimming in oyster sauce - not bad doe me, as I eat oyster sauce on occasion. mmm umami.

Then we had the best after-meals snack ever - ICE CREAM! Crunch - vanilla icecream with a crunchy chocolate centre and cover. I turn into a little kid when given icecream...come on, who doesn't?

We stopped over in Taipei around 8 pm for about an hour. Already I was being bombarded with text messages from Maxis and FarEasTone (Taipei's telco provider) - apparently I can get free weather reports, and now's the time to activate GPRS on my phone. There was an Internet section, but you needed your own computer, and it wasn't clear on how exactly you were expected to pay for it. The only store worth visiting - the bookstore, of course - was closed; however, they did have a rather intriguing store that was connected to their Museum of History.

We all hung around the departure lounge for a while. Security checks were normal - I did set off the metal detector, and the guard thought I still had my cellphone with me, but I showed him the phone on the Xray carousel and he let me through.

There is a Daniel Bedingfield lookalike on our flight.

The next leg - Taipei to LA, 11 hours or so. It seemed faster than before; last time, it took about 24 hours. Or at least it felt that way. Still, 11 hours straight on an airplane can get boring.

We had a new Middle Guy (2), who brought along a book titled "50 Facts That Should Change The World". He too spent the flight watching movies. He was also sniffly; and now, thanks to him, I have a blocked nose too. Bah.

I spent most of the flight reading my downloaded materials on my PDA. I couldn't spend long hours on it though; my eyes started to hurt. I did spend some time playing trivia games (since when was a question on Little Women considered "Science"?!) - DS Guy wanted to play multiplayer with me, but it wasn't working.

Another leading stewadress, Lee Ling, complimented me on my rainbow toe socks. YAY SOXES.

We had fish again for dinner! Not our choices this time; they ran out of choices. The fish was mediocre, not even umami. I'll be darned if we have to take fish again for brunch.

The immigration papers were a bit confusing, mainly because there wasn't enough space for all my pertinent information. And I wasn't sure how to value the host family gifts I brought over (you have to provide the value of anything you're bringing over to the US that's staying there - gifts included). I eventuallyw wrote that they were all worth about US$40, but even that seemed a bit much.

Sleeping was an experience in and of itself. I didn't have a lot of legroom, and there was that exit shelf in the way. After trying to twist into various positions, I eventually tried putting my feet up on the shelf. Whee, slippery - and whee, I'm too short. But what to do? I had to fall asleep somehow.

The skies made very interesting patterns. There was bluer-than-blue sky below, then light blue and white slies on top, split in the middle by a brilliant orange sunset. (DS Guy alerted me to it) It was like nature's idea of a straight line...perhaps not completely straight mathematically, but perfect. LAter on, as the sky got darker and we went towards night, there was this lone star...small little jewel on a velvet blue sky.

Taiwan at night looks like an electric lung. The island is shaped like one...there were dust-red capillaries of its lifeblood, traffic and people...its cells, the skyscrapers and buildings, lighted up with activity.

The clouds look like swans.

We were reaching Los Angeles, and there was something curious about the cloud system there. Apparently, due to the water being cold but the land being hot (LA is a desert city), clouds don't cover the land. This creates an interesting effect when viewed from an airplane - it looks like there are lands that come up to sky level. Like another world.

LA by plane is an experience in itself. There are sprawling deserts and mountains...one wonders how they travel back and forth amongst all that dust and sand. There were also squares and rectangles of grass, desert, concrete...and nothing else. Just squares and rectangles of space. SO MUCH SPACE.

There were also interesting seeing the patterns of the buildings - huge sprawling mansions and multi-level buildings, constrasted by blocks and rows and small little houses. One of them belonging to my uncle; another, to my future host family.

There was quite a buildup at the washrooms just before we landed. We almost formed a Bathroom Brigade right there and then. One of the stewards was in charge of cleaning out the sinks; it must be a sight, walking out of the washroom door only to be confronted by a guy in a suit and plastic gloves.

Brunch was spinach omelettes with tomatoes, chicken, and hash browns. Much better.

The descent looked like we were going to land on the highway. Illusions are interesting in the air.

The flight felt very freeing...I was alone, I had to fend for myself, but it was alright. I didn't need anyone, I wasn't homesick, I wasn't worried. I didn't have to depend on anyone to get by.

Everything was fine.


tiaramerchgirl: (Default)
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