Sunday, October 28, 2007

I Forgot to Fall Back!



Did you know they do daylight saving time in other countries???

Well, I did...but I didn't know WHICH countries they do it in, and since I hadn't heard anything from anybody around here, I figured I didn't need to worry about it. I would have seen something on the news, right? Or I would have heard somebody mention it, right?

Or maybe I did, but I just didn't understand them. I don't exactly speak the language very well. That could have been the problem.

This morning I was supposed to meet a friend to go to an open market that is held every Sunday. We were going to meet at 9:45, but since I didn't know the area, I told her I would call her when I got off the Metro and we would find each other. I got off the metro, looked around a bit, and gave her a call. The conversation went like this:

"Hey, where are you?"

"I'm at home."

"Uh...but you're coming, right?"

"Yeah but not until 9:45."

I looked at my watch. "I thought it was 9:45 right now?"

"There was the time change. Did nobody tell you about the time change?"

"Uh...no. So, it's 8:45 right now?"

Needless to say, I was pretty upset about that lost hour of sleep. Every year, I look forward to ONE MORE HOUR of sleep, and this year, I missed it. I could not have been more upset even if my dog had died. Actually, last year my dog did die, and I would have to say that I was far more upset about this lost hour of sleep.

So I decided to make the best of it and sat down in a café, drank some coffee, practiced my language skills by reading a celebrity gossip magazine (did you know that Katie Holmes and Victoria Beckham are no longer BFF?? And Hilary Duff has a new boyfriend?? Serious stuff, I know.), and watched a special on TV about Juanes. If you read my previous posts then you know I'm his number one fan. I heard about 2 beats of one of his songs and immediately my head popped up from the magazine and I was enamored with the television for the next 20 minutes. It was great and almost made up for lost hour of sleep.

That's all for now, as I must sleep!

LB

Friday, October 26, 2007

Price Check!!


Today on the way back from running some errands, Katie and I decided to find somewhere to eat some authentic, cultural food. So there was this one place we've seen and there's always people in there, so we decided to give it a try. We sat down at the bar (it's always cheaper to eat at the bar!) and looked at the menu, but of course it was all unfamiliar to us, so we asked if they had a "Menu of the Day." Here, all restaurants are required to have a "Menu of the Day" for a set price, that usually includes 2 courses, a drink and dessert. It's also usually the most affordable way to eat. Usually.

So they told us that to have the Menu of the Day, we needed to sit down in the restaurant. We had no idea there was more to the place! We just thought it was a little hole in the wall (albeit a nice hole in the wall). So we go to the bag and there's this whole big extra room and the tables and chairs are so nice and there's fancy plates with the real cloth napkin (that's how you know it's high class - when the napkins aren't paper) folded all fancy on the plates with two different wine glasses at each place setting....I'm thinking, "oh no. What did we get ourselves into?" So the waiter shows us the Menu of the Day (no price, of course) and helps us figure out what to order. The food comes and while it's not the most delicious meal I've ever had, it's certainly one of the "nicest," in presentation and everything.

Before the meal they brought us a bread basket and a plate of roasted almonds. They were some of the yummiest almonds I've ever had in my entire life. No lie.

The first course was this dish with scrambled eggs, more mushrooms than I ever thought were possible on one plate (they LOVE mushrooms here), and shrimp. The second course for me was little things of lamb - I don't know what cut they were but there were bones - with potatoes. Katie's second course was bass - scales, eyeballs and all. Very nice.

Then came dessert. A big slice of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, the kind with chocolate crinkles throughout it. Then came coffee. SO good. Way better than coffee in the U.S.

So I'm thinking, "wow...this was a nice meal. Last time we had a menu of the day meal, it was like 7 euros. I bet this will be 10. 10 is okay - it's too much, but I'll deal with it."

So then the check came. 15.50 Euros each. That's like, 20 something dollars each!! TWENTY DOLLARS!! I've never paid TWENTY DOLLARS for just one meal!!! NEVER!! OUCH!!

So the lesson of the day: ALWAYS find out the price before you order. I'll be recovering from this one for at least the next week...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bu Hao, Flat Iron, and Juanes

"Bu Hao" means "no good" in Chinese. The reason I say "bu hao" right now is this: for the past two days I've been trying to upload these two videos of Garrett and Vivian onto my blog. They're quite possibly the cutest kids ever, and I'm really sad that you can't all see Garrett singing "Jesus Loves Me" and Vivian clapping for him. She's his biggest fan. It's so sweet.

On Monday I start language classes. I can hardly wait! Finally, I'll have something to work with besides "my name is" and "I'm from Texas" and "where is the (fill in the blank)?" I'm so excited!

Today I went to a store to look at hair straighteners. Since my hair is so thick and curly, I have to have a high-heat straightener, but being in a new country with new brands and what-not, I had no idea what to look for. After examining nearly every flat-iron in the store (there were a lot!), I think I picked the best one. I didn't buy it, though. I try to not buy expensive things without thinking it over for a bit. So I came home, did some research on the web, and I still think I'm going to stick with that one. It gets up to 446 degrees F!!! WHOA! That's 230 in Celsius. Hopefully son I'll be a pro at Celsius, but for now, I still have to look it up on the internet and convert every time. However I learned that for small temperatures, such as less than 100 F, all you do is take C, multiply by two and add 30 and it's fairly accurate. The higher you get though, the less accurate it gets. All that to say, I'm super excited about buying a flat-iron soon. Then I can do fancy things with my hair again! Yay!



In case you didn't know, I'm a HUGE Juanes fan. Not only is he gorgeous, but he makes amazing music, and he's super involved in issues such as AIDS education in Latin America and land mines in Columbia. Did you know that Columbia is the only country in Latin America that has land mines? Not only that, but on average, 3 people stumble upon them each day - usually poor children/adolescents in rural areas. Juanes has established a foundation called "Fundacíon Mi Sangre" to educate children in Columbia, provide limbs for children affected by the land mines, and other stuff. There's a link to it on his website. Check him out.

So yeah...if Juanes ever makes it here on tour (and I'm sure he will - he's the first Spanish-only artists to top the charts in not only Spanish speaking countries but also the US and most of Europe), I TOTALLY want to go see him. The only problem is, when he was in London last year, tickets sold out in ONE HOUR!! ONE HOUR!! WHOA!! That's better than BONO!!! Yes, I just said that. In my personal opinion, Juanes is better than Bono. As an artist, that is. I can't judge them as people because that's not my job, but as a musical artist, I prefer Juanes.

That is all.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cultural Faux Pas!!



Having spent the past four years at Texas A&M and being by nature an extreme extrovert, I greet people wherever I go, whether I know them or not. When I'm in the U.S. I say "howdy," "hello," or "hi." When in another country, I greet people in whatever way is acceptable in that language, such as "habari," "ni hao," or "hola." Thus begins today...

Katie and I were standing outside waiting to meet some friends and go somewhere. Most of the people who were passing us greeted us as they went in the building, and some kept on walking. I greeted people in return, or in some cases, I was the first to greet. So these two men were walking past and I made eye contact with one of them so naturally I greeted him. He took a few steps, then stopped, came back, and started speaking to me. The problem with this is that I don't speak the language very well yet, so I couldn't understand what he was saying because he was speaking so fast. I said, "I don't understand," and he responded saying, "You said hello to me, right?" and I said, "yes." He said, "why?" I was confounded! I said, "because?" like a big dork. He started speaking really fast again, I told him I only speak a little of the language, and he again asked why I said hello. I said, "to be nice." He laughed and then started speaking quickly again, asked me again why I said hello, and by that time our friends had arrived. They speak the language so they were able to explain to him that in our culture we greet people on the street whether we know them or not. He thought maybe I greeted him because I knew him, or maybe I was trying to hit on him or something. Here, if you greet a man you don't know, they might think you're a prostitute. YIKES!

Lesson learned: don't say hello to strange men.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Roaches!!



We have roaches!! We've only been in our apartment for 3 nights, but one of the first things we noticed was roaches in the kitchen. YUCK! Hopefully today we'll get some roach spray along with some roach traps and other business. Argh! I'm mad at these roaches! Luckily we haven't found them in our bedrooms or anywhere else, but still...it's gross.

I want to show y'all pictures of our awesome apartment, but at the moment, most rooms have half unpacked suitcases and boxes in them, so I'm going to wait until we have things a bit more organized. Until then, you'll just have to be patient!

Yesterday we went to IKEA to buy some things, like a comforter, some pots and pans, kitchen utensils, etc. It was super exciting! I had never been to IKEA before, and now I understand why people like it so much. I got these way cute pink boxes to put in my room to store scarves and hats and stuff and I'm thinking I should get some more next time I get a chance!

I'm also hoping that at some point we can put slip covers on the dining room chairs. We got bright blue and hot pink place mats and they don't match our chairs at all...like...at all. So maybe we can fix that.

Today Katie and I went on a run at the park that's near our house. It's like central park but way cooler. We saw a statue of Satan, supposedly the only one in the world, and a puppet show for kids just like in the movies! We also saw a crowd of Mormons and eavesdropped on one of them trying to convert somebody. That somebody seemed to know their schemes, though. It was interesting. I think I'm going to LOVE living near the park. It's so huge and so beautiful. It's amazing how outside of the park, I'm in this big dirty mega-city, but when we went into the park, it was like we were in another world. A wonderland of trees. We also saw a palm tree next to an evergreen tree. Kinda random and funny.

That's all for now!

LB

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm Here!!



Well, I've arrived, and let me tell you - it was quite an adventure. I'll post pictures later, but for now...I'll relay the trip.

So I was supposed to fly Tyler to Houston to Detroit to London Heathrow to here. First the power was out in the Tyler airport. The WHOLE airport. How does an airport operate without electricity??? I don't know! So they checked us in by hand. Yes, by hand. They can do that. They wrote my luggage tags by hand. I knew this had to be bad. I had to pay for excess baggage in cash (thank you Mommy! I wouldn't have had it without you!), but since my booking was with British Airways but I was checking in with Continental, I had to pay Continental, despite telling them that the BA assured that I would only have to pay BA and not anybody else. So now I was afraid that I would have to pay twice, which would amount to a total of almost $500. Yikes! That's almost my whole paycheck this month! I can't do that!

Albeit delayed (and with no electricity), I made it out of Tyler and on to Houston. I had to check in again with BA and the guy asked me if I had paid for my excess baggage. I explained to him the situation and he said that I still had to pay BA but he would speak to his supervisor. Well, there were terrible thunderstorms all over Texas so flights were being delayed like crazy, so he was one busy man. My flight was delayed, and then delayed, and then canceled, so he had the lovely task of re-booking everybody on my flight. Amidst the craziness, he chose not to pursue payment for my luggage. Finally I made it on a plane to London Gattwick. They gave us all bus passes to go from Gattwick to Heathrow to catch our connecting flight, but that meant I would have to pick up my 3 suitcases and guitar in Gattwick and transfer them with me.

Upon arrival in Gattwick, my luggage was nowhere to be found. So I spoke with the lost luggage desk and after much searching (both physically and in the computer), it was discovered that my luggage was truly lost. I also was going to miss my flight out of Heathrow, so I was re-booked on a later flight out of Gattwick. If you didn't know, the London airports now have new carry-on regulations. You can only have one bag (no purse - so it has to fit inside your carry-on!) and that one bag must be small enough to fit inside this tiny little box. I had a big Adidas duffel bag so when I arrived at security, this guy put it on top of the box and said, "You're going to have to check that." I said, "what? But it fit on the other plane." And he said, "I'm sorry, but there are new rules and you're going to have to check that." To check it would cost me approximately $240. Wow. So I just stood there and stared at it. I just stared like a big dope - my bag was still on top of the box and everything. The guy asked me to take my bag and I just started to cry. Still standing there, staring like a dope, except now I was crying.

A man in a fancy suit (so you know he must be important) saw me crying and pulled me to the side saying, "there, there, what's the matter? We can get this sorted out." So I told him that I was going to have to check my bag but I already had excess baggage couldn't afford to check another. He was so kind and merciful to me - I thank the Lord every time I think of him. He said, "I don't see why you should have to pay for this bag, I'll come with you and we'll get it all sorted out" in his handsome British accent. So he went with me to the check in desk and spoke to the man saying, "I don't see why she should have to pay for this bag," and in a few moments all was well with the world.

While checking what became my 5th piece of luggage, the fact that the other 4 were lost came up and this kind gentleman took me with him to speak with another man (other than the 2 I had already spoken to up to this point) to try to find my luggage. They did such a good job of helping, however they still couldn't find it. Eventually I had to go get on my plane, and while my luggage took a day and a half to get to me, I am still so grateful for all his help, and also that I finally have clean clothes!

Well, that's the tale of my arrival...I'll put some pictures up and describe my AMAZING apartment later.

Adios!

LB

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More Fun with Family!

We had a great time at the zoo the other day. The Tyler zoo makes me sad for the animals because they don't have room to run around and stretch their legs. The big male lion is almost always sleeping, and he stares us as if he's saying, "if I ever get out of here, I'm going to eat you and your family for lunch, but for now, I've got free steak so why over exert myself?" Yesterday we actually saw him stand up and walk around for the first time in all my years of going to the Tyler zoo. We had a great time, but poor Garrett was really tired.



They have this "exotic bird walk", which is really just a screened in room full of parakeets flying around where you can get these popsicle sticks with bird seeds on them. We had a lot of fun trying to feed the birds:

video

And Garrett tried too:



video



Some of my friends who know me well know that I don't like birds. I had a bad experience once when I was in high school. Every morning one Summer (yes, I still capitalize Summer because that's what I was taught in elementary school) I would go for a run around our block. Each time I approached a certain tree, this crow would start flying around in circles above me. It was still quite high but it made me uncomfortable, so after a week or so of this I decided that I would cross the street when I came near the tree. Even still, the crow would fly around in circles above his little home as if to say, "this is my home, not yours." So I started crossing the street further and further back as if to say, "I realize that tree is your home, so see, I'm going to cross the street and stay as far away from your tree as I can." Well, one morning as I was still about 10 houses down, I saw a crow flying around and thought to myself, "that's it. That's the one." I crossed the street unusually early that day, and the hideous creature followed me from a distance until as I reached the place directly across the street from that controversial tree, he began kaw-ing loudly and swooping towards me, attempting to peck my head. I took off running as fast as I could (I was already running, but now I ran fast!) and the bird followed me to the front door of my house, about 5 houses down. After that, I started going up to the school to run on the track.

All that to say, in the little bird walk-through, I did relatively well until a few of the birds got excited by all of the field-trip children there that day and began flying around. I left before the rest of the family.

Does anybody else have traumatic bird experiences?

Well...I've been trying to pack as much of my stuff as will fit in 3 suitcases and now I've got to finish off those last minute items, as well as clean my room so my poor sister and pretend like it's a guest bedroom. I'm afraid I won't be able to remove all traces of myself, however, but maybe I can make it presentable. =)

Have a great day! I'm moving to Europe in about 14 hours! WHOOP!!

LB

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Last Days in the States!

Last weekend I got to go to College Station to see some friends:

We went to the A&M vs. OSU football game, and while the first half was pretty miserable (we were at 0-17 at halftime), the second half was pretty great, since we came back to win 24-23. I'll be honest, though, I don't have high hopes for the rest of the season. My Aggies just haven't been impressing me much lately. But we had a great time hanging out:

Since coming back from College Station, I've been working on packing A LOT (it's hard to pack for 2 years in just 3 bags!) and hanging out with my family. Vivian, my niece, has a new obsession with bows:


I tried to put some other pictures on here to better display her bow collection, but I can't get the formatting right, so this one will have to do.

Every time Vivian wakes up in the morning or from her nap, finishes her bath, loses her bow, or basically anytime she's not wearing one, she wants a bow. She's only 18 months so she can't quite talk yet, but she does have a few words, her favorite of which is "bow." However when she says it, it's more like "bou." Every time we're in her room she sees her bow collection hanging from her closet door and immediately her finger points towards the bows and she says, "bou? bou? bou?" over and over until I put one in her hair. After I put it in she says, "dah dou!" which means "thank you!" While the words are nowhere close to being phonetically correct, her inflection is perfect. It's funny how much you notice about yourself based what children pick up on. When I'm talking to Vivian, I always say "thank you!" with the same inflection. Most adults use this inflection when talking to children, but I never really thought about it much until I heard Vivian say "dah dou!" and I knew exactly what she was saying based soley on the way she said it. Garrett is the same. He's only 3 1/2, but he's picked up on the way adults talk to babies. When he's being sweet to Vivian he'll take on a higher pitched soft tone and say, "Here you go Vivi!" "There there, it's okay" or "Do you want this Vivi?" It's pretty much the cutest thing ever when he starts rubbing her back and talking sweetly to her.

Tomorrow we're planning on going to the zoo. Let me tell you - I am OBSESSED with zoos. And aquariums. Not just any aquarium, though. It has to be a cool one. Like the one in Monterrey, CA. It's amazing. I went there a few times as a child and I still remember the glow in the dark fish and the petting zoo where I got to pet a manta ray. When my mom and sister and I took a trip to California a few summers ago, the first place I wanted to go was the San Diego zoo. As a kid my family took a lot of road trips, and on a few of those road trips I was able to convince my dad to stop at some of the major zoos and aquariums along the way. There was one aquarium in Alabama that was pretty cool. My ideal date would be a trip to the zoo or aquarium (boys, take note). When I get married, my husband needs to enjoy this as well (or at least pretend he does), because I plan on getting a season pass to the nearest zoo, and zoos are no fun if you go alone. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about the zoos and aquariums in Europe. They've got pandas at the zoo in Madrid and Vienna. Yay! I'm super excited!

Also, my sweet Mommy decided to purchase a winter coat for me as a going away present. Here's a link to my pretty new jacket. It's way cute, and even cuter on me. =) Thank you Mommy!

Have a happy Panda day!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I'm home!


I just realized that I never mentioned my trip to Washington DC! Well, several weeks ago I went to Washington DC! How exciting! We went and looked at Embassy Row, ate at a really good North African restaurant and had some really great conversation with the waiter, saw the President in his helicopter (well, we really only saw the helicopter, but he was in it!), walked by the White House and several other important sites. We didn't have time to really tour anything since we were only there for less than a day, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope that I get to go back sometime to really look around.

When we were planning our little trip, my friend Angela said "we can go to the mall." I thought to myself, "I love shopping, but we're in Washington DC for goodness sake! The mall!?!? I want to see the city, not shop!" Then I found out that in DC, "The Mall" is the grassy lawn in front of the Capitol Building with the Smithsonian museums on either side of it and the Washington Monument. I felt really silly for not knowing, but hopefully I'm not the only one. Right? Anybody else not know that fact?

Well, I'm no longer in Virginia. Here is a picture of me with some friends a few nights before we said goodbye:
I had a great time during those 2 months and I'm certainly going to miss both the place and the friends I made.

But now that I'm home, I get to hang out with Melissa and Toby, and play with Garrett and Vivian! They have both grown so much! Vivian is walking now, and she actually has hair! Before, she just had a little more than peach fuzz, but now you can't even really see her scalp anymore! It's crazy!



Well, speaking of the kiddos, it's time to babysit them.

By the way - I'm moving to Europe in 11 days!!! ELEVEN DAYS!! I'm super excited and desperate to find an affordable winter coat...I don't know what I'll do without one!

LB