Canadian Sugar Mama (Day 2)

June 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

car

Carpool selfie! (cr: Xixi)

According to Chen, Seattle is boring and can be toured in about a day, so we somewhat hastily planned a visit Vancouver. (I use the word “planned” lightly as we were all too busy/lazy to figure out an itinerary until the last minute. We might not even have ended up going if I hadn’t booked a hotel??)

The four of us (minus Shirley) left the morning of the second day. The two-and-a-half hour drive passed by relatively quickly, probably because I was sleeping in the backseat, hehe. (Thanks for driving, Chen and Lucy!)

3-Me-Xixi

Backseat buddies!

It was kind of scary having to turn off all our mobile services after crossing the border simply because we were so unprepared. On the way, we furiously Yelped a few places to eat while Lucy took screenshots of all the maps we’d need.

We were so preoccupied with simply having our passports (I might’ve threatened to maim anyone who forgot hers…only because I had a previous time-wasting experience of a friend forgetting his!) that we forgot one major detail: None of us had any Canadian money, and we had no idea where to find currency exchanges. And it turned out that I was the only one with a credit card that had no foreign transaction fees.

Conclusion: I became a sugar mama for 24 hours.

Everything from parking to souvenirs to meals were billed to me. (Give me all the points!) It was actually kind of fun? But only because I knew they would pay me back later! And it certainly made things easier not struggling to split the check at the table. (I kept all my receipts and spent some time with Excel upon returning to Chicago.) « Read the rest of this entry »

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Journey To The West (Day 1)

May 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

A few weeks ago, Lucy, Xixi and I (sadly, minus Yawen) took a momentous trip to Seattle to visit Chen and Shirley. It was our first getaway together without our parents — we’re finally adults!!

Lucy and I flew out on Thursday night and treated ourselves to some in-flight wine (a local Washington red) and fruit/cheese platter because we’re ~fancy~. Just kidding, it was because our flight was delayed an hour and I really needed a drink. Regardless, that snack was the start of an epic eating adventure, as any good vacation should be.

Our first day in Seattle started with a bus ride from Bellevue to Ballard, a charming neighborhood with lots of vintage stores and cute restaurants.

1-Bus

The first of many selfies (cr: Lucy)

...what

…what

« Read the rest of this entry »

Hasta Luego, Mexico

April 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

This is a compilation of my final thoughts on my trip to Mexico.

The Mexico City airport security rides on Segways! I tried to get a photo but couldn’t. Also, all their TV screens have huge LG and Samsung labels attached [only relevant if you’re interested in Korean things lol]. I thought national tourism videos were cheesy when going to different countries, but the “welcome to America” one was pretty unbearable too.

Our hotel room had two beds, and my father discovered a narrow fold-out bed from the wall. Amazing! My brother was originally supposed to sleep on it, but he complained that it was too hard. I tried it out and thought it was acceptable — honestly, after sleeping on the slab of concrete that passed for a mattress at Hong Kong University, any other mattress is comparatively comfortable.

Me & my bed

★★★

On Tuesday, we [minus my brother, but obviously he had to come along] wanted to go shopping for some souvenirs. We had heard that public buses traveled from the hotel strip to the downtown flea markets, so that morning, we boarded a bus and asked to be taken to the downtown market. I imagined a colorful, vibrant place with people selling authentic Mexican goods from small shops with both tourists and locals mixing together in a wonderful cacophony of commerce. It was an exciting prospect.

The bus took us past dozens and dozens of resorts, each constructed with just enough exotic Mexican flavor and with names like Fiesta Americana and Beach Palace. We seriously drove for half an hour and saw nothing but hotels and big name restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe. Seeing any sign of native life was clearly not an option for the majority of tourists.

A particularly massive resort + golf course.

When we arrived at our appointed stop, I stepped off the bus in a daze of disappointment. All I saw was a small, deserted strip of touristy shops. The bus drove off, and the four of us were left alone. And unlike in Asia, there was no way we could pass as locals. We were the only foreigners in sight.

Shopping has never been so lonely (thats me in there).

I don’t know if it’s because we were there somewhat early in the day, but we were seriously the only shoppers there. And while the shop owners weren’t overly aggressive or desperate, I still couldn’t enjoy myself. Some would follow us around the shop, one guy kept putting his hand on my back [ew], and most would try to get me to haggle with them even though I despise haggling.

“What’s the lowest price you’ll pay? C’mon!” NOTHING! Nevermind! Just leave me alone!

The shops didn’t even have anything great, just t-shirts and shot glasses and touristy junk that I couldn’t bring myself to buy because they were simply useless. Surprisingly, most of the stores sold cute little glass or stone pipes, and I was interested in buying some for my friends just for the novelty of it, but the prices were too high to justify a purchase that would never really be used. At least, I’m pretty sure none of my close friends smoke >_>

Not sure how to use these little guitar pipes.

The whole experience was just horribly unpleasant, and we only bought a few small things before making our way down the street to look for more shops. We came across the equivalent of a dollar store, which sold cheaply made products at a low price. The hilarious thing was that most [if not all] of their products came from China. LOL. Some even had Chinese words printed on the packaging! I didn’t take a picture because the employees kept watching us.

We then made our way across the street to a grocery store. It might seem weird that we’d visit a local supermarket while on vacation [and my brother certainly had thoughts about that], but it was probably the closest thing to authentic Mexican culture we were going to see that day. There were some interesting sights:

How many different ways can you cook chopped hot dogs? How about 12? o_o

Ginormous jugs of juice! Dad is there for size comparison.

★★★

At breakfast on Thursday, mother commented on some guy’s shirt. “Did you see it? It says Bikini is better.”
Dad cut in. “That’s probably because of his wife.”
I had seen neither the guy nor his wife, but I assumed my dad meant his wife was hot. On the contrary:
“She was so stocky that he probably meant for his wife to lose weight so she can wear a bikini,” dad continued. I rolled my eyes at his lame attempt at a joke.

A few minutes later, we were discussing the two Canadian girls I had met the other day.
“I saw them tanning on the beach,” dad said. “Really fat, both of them.”

At this point, I had had enough of these comments. I used to take for granted that my parents would ask me about my weight every time I came home from school, but recently I’ve realized that only my dad asks me anymore. Additionally, I’ve come to realize that he’s pretty socially conservative [he voted for McCain, for heaven’s sake], but could he also be…sexist? I decided to call him out on it.

“Dad, why do you care so much about people being fat?” I asked. “You talk about it a lot.”
He blinked. “I just want people to get thinner and healthier,” he replied.
“But you only talk about women being fat,” I pressed. “You talked about those female dancers at the show on Tuesday night. And that bikini shirt guy’s wife. And those two girls from Canada. And you always ask me if I’ve gotten skinnier.”
Mother laughed. “Your dad clearly has a problem.”

Dad was taken aback by my confrontation. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, and I smiled back at him. I can’t have my own father being sexist…that would be simply unacceptable!

★★★

Gross.

I’ve never really been sunburned before — the first time it happened was when I was lying on the beach in New Jersey and my butt got slightly burned, which I didn’t discover until I showered. I definitely learned  to cover my bum with sunscreen after that. And despite all the other times I’ve ever spent in the sun, I’ve only ever gotten tan, not red.

Thus, I took for granted the fact that my skin would be immune to the sun’s UV rays. Well, that didn’t work out so well, because the sunshine near the equator is NO JOKE.

My sternum was the first thing that showed while we were still in Cancun. Initially, there were blotches of red that made me look like a horrible tie-dye experiment. Other parts of my body — mostly extremities — tingled when I showered, but I thought that would be the worst of it. I just rubbed ointment and lotion everywhere and figured my body would get over it soon. Alas…

The following week, I thought all hell had broken loose on my upper chest. My skin was caked with white as if I had just walked through flour. It was both shocking and frightening to look at, honestly. It made my skin crawl — the skin that wasn’t already dead, that is.

Soon, however, I became slightly obsessive about picking at my peeling epidermis. It was captivating to rip shreds off my own skin to reveal the new layers underneath. When my chest area cleared up, I thought that was the end of it. Again, I was proven wrong. A few days later, it spread to my arms. Then my legs. Every time I got out of the shower, new cracks in my skin were revealed, which was at once disgusting and morbidly fascinating. I could spend hours examining my skin and picking at it. The Internet says I should leave it alone, but the wounds are no longer raw — they’re just dead, hanging skin, and they need to get off my body.

Bienvenidos a Cancún

March 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

We took a red-eye flight to Mexico, leaving the house at 10:30PM via Aeromexico. I guess it was due to the size of the airline, but we were relegated to the outer terminal at O’Hare. It was relatively empty. When we got in line for Aeromexico, the nearby usher guy gestured to us and said, “The line for Shanghai is over there.” I raised both eyebrows. I mean, we did look out of place, but really? Damn.

I barely slept that night. For some reason, I forced myself to stay awake during our four-hour stopover in Mexico City, and after we arrived in the humid mid-morning of Cancun, I pretty much wanted to die. We’re staying at Royal Solaris, which is the first all-inclusive hotel we’ve stayed at. All necessities are included — drinks (alcohol), pools, food, entertainment, etc.

As my parents sat down with one of the staff to go over hotel information, my brother and I wandered over to the bar to order some soda.

“Where are you guys from?” asked the bartender, a young-ish Mexican guy.
My brother and I answered simultaneously. “Chicago.” “USA.” “Chicago,” I corrected myself.
He asked again. “Where are you from?”
“Chicago,” I repeated.
He looked at us. “You’re really from there?”
We nodded. Did he not believe us..?
“You were born there? Not Japan, somewhere?”
Inwardly, I scoffed in disbelief. The ethnicity question can be an awkward one to ask, but the “Where are you from no where are you really from” tactic is just rude. I didn’t expect to encounter it here, but I guess I shouldn’t expect too much racial sensitivity in this tourist haven.

Going on vacation can bring out either the worst or best in people. Spending five days at a resort in Cancun should undoubtedly make any family happy, and my parents and I would be at maximum cheerfulness if it weren’t for my selfish prick of a brother. Now that he’s arguably stronger than me and our aging father, he takes every opportunity to poison the mood.

“Shut up,” he says to anyone in any given situation. He acts ostensibly chagrined to be anywhere near us or do anything with us, always sulking in a corner somewhere. He threatens to smash the camera if we try to take a picture of or with him. He’s no longer afraid to swear audibly in our presence. I’d really like to punch him in the face, but I don’t think that would teach him to be a better son.

I used to attribute this behavior to mere teenage moodiness, but there is no foreseeable improvement. I don’t particularly care what he says to me, but the tremendous disrespect he delivers to my parents is appalling. They choose to ignore it half the time.

Now that I’m 21, I’ve started to drink somewhat openly with my parents. I ordered some banana-pineapple mixed drink at the pool bar today. My mom’s eyes widened when she realized it was alcoholic, but she got over her initial surprise pretty quickly. I ordered a margarita at dinner [it turned out to be disgusting], and later traded it for a Miami Vice [it was delicious]. My brother tried some of my margarita and got a mouthful of salt LOL.

I’m not sure if it’s the journalist side of me or if it’s simply a personal habit, but when I look at some people, especially those in the business of service, I can’t help wondering who they are outside of this job. How did they get here? Do they like the job? Is it enough to provide for their families?

I thought about this as I watched the waiters work the buffet area during dinner last night. I thought about it at the beach today as I watched the handful of Mexican men selling sunglasses and other trinkets to sunbathing tourists. I also thought about it while watching the Mexican dance show provided by the resort’s theater.

In high school, I occasionally read the blog of a guy who worked as entertainment staff at Disney World — he and the other workers seemed to hate it. Indeed, donning a Goofy costume is not considered a very good job in America. But is performing in hotel shows in Cancun considered good work in Mexico? Do these people hate their jobs too, despite the bright smiles they show the audience? How much money does a sunglasses-seller make every day? What are the ambitions of the waiters who serve us drinks? All this thinking makes it difficult to enjoy the social privilege I have as a tourist here.

Anyway, these are my thoughts from the first two days here. I haven’t done much except eat, drink and tan. I wish I had photos to share but I haven’t used my camera at all, and I haven’t had time to get the pictures I’ve taken on my parents’ Nikon. I’m currently sitting with them while listening to the two-person band in the lobby/bar area, which is the only place with wi-fi. A 24-year-old Vietnamese girl from Toronto that I met this afternoon told me that the nightlife here is better than Vegas, but I don’t think this is the right opportunity to go clubbing, as much fun as it sounds. A girl at the table next to me just said that the cover for the VIP club is $49, which is pretty heinous anyway.

That’s all for now! I’ll have more to share in a few days :)

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