Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor


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Just Another Manic Memoir

Just Pretty

There is beauty in the everyday.

Everyone’s doing it. Entire sections of the bookstore are dedicated to it. Blonde-woman-leaves-routine-life-for-abroad-or-the-wood memoirs. Think: Cheryl Strayed. Elizabeth Gilbert.* To stand out from other travel memoirs, you need to set sail all by yourself to Antarctica, Ernest Shackleton-style and survive something horrific like eating your own dogs or do some peyote in the desert and be able to clearly WRITE about that experience. Pen name: Huntess S. Thompson.

For the reasons above, I’m starting a new genre: the stay-put memoir. Lists of dull things we do everyday, written with a certain flair.

Consider the untold story in the soggy French fries curled on the bottom of my CRV, in the struggle of trying to get to my dry cleaner before it closes, in bagel dust between my keyboard letters. That’s real stuff. Bonus: I don’t have to do anything difficult to write it. I just keep on keepin on. It would be relatable, that’s for sure. Low-risk. Yes. Dull? No way.

Future memoir titles: 

  • Is It Weird To Smell Your Own Hair On The Bus? And Other Concerns
  • Skeptical Of Your Gluten Allergy, So Totally Sure Of Mine
  • Copywriter’s Dilemma: Having A Nervous Breakdown One Exclamation Point At A Time!!
  • Checking The Door Twice: Confessions Of A Public-Bathroom Phobic
  • Fear And Loathing On A Train. Mother + Daughter Ride The Rails Cross Country. (Read the sneak preview here).
  • Tears On My Mcdonald’s Cheeseburger. What Happens When You Get The Wrong Gender-Specific Toy.
  • Facebook Lies: That Time I Said I Had A Great Time Kayaking When It Was Actually Just Ok

Which one should I start on first?

*I like Elizabeth Gilbert.

**I’m actually headed to the desert next month (New Mexico + Texas). Where should I go? What should I do? Comment below.


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Kangaroo Kisses & Ethical Dilemmas

Seattle-travel-petting-zoo

Arthur. He reminds me of Splinter from TMNT.

I did something wrong. But cute. But wrong. No matter how I try to justify it.

I went to a kangaroo petting zoo. I’m a huge animal lover (meaning, I love animals, not that I love huge animals). I didn’t know it before I got there, but this kangaroo farm breeds and sells kangaroos. A mere $1,200-$3,000 gets you one of these babies (do.not.buy one). They sell about 6 a year to zoos and “other places” and were intentionally vague when I asked them what other places.

Only $9 gets you a whole day of kangaroo handling. I didn’t link to them because I don’t want to give them publicity, bad or good. I went. I didn’t see any signs of outward animal cruelty. But as the saying goes, “If you don’t love something enough to leave it alone, you don’t love it at all.”

Maybe I’m not an animal lover.

A kangaroo in a little baby sack was placed in my arms and the kangaroo keeper, a burly man with a bloody bandage on his forearm said, “his name is Forselly.” I didn’t get it then because I was holding a baby kangaroo and wondering to myself why I like holding animal babies more than human babies.

Then we walked around the property in groups, with sticky-handed children and their parents. One lady had the audacity of asking whether she could take a baby kangaroo out of a SEALED pouch, basically like asking to hold a baby while it’s in a woman’s stomach.

The first kangaroo I fed was Arthur, he had a muzzle of gray whiskers and squinty eyes. They all had squinty eyes.

He moved slowly and methodically, crouched like he had a walker. I fed him a piece of bread then touched his head, almost tempted to scratch behind his ears.

What the hell am I doing? It dawned on me that maybe this is wrong. Animals don’t belong to us, they belong to the world and this place didn’t seem to be doing much for conservation or education. I guess meeting Arthur and “Forselly” makes me feel closer to kangaroos, but really, it makes me more certain that animals aren’t amusement parks.

Lemur sun themselves

So cute. But are they “happy?”

Do kangaroos like being handled? Can they really eat bread?

Other than kangaroos, the farm has lemurs (not for petting, not for kissing), wallabies, peacocks, mini donkeys, pheasants, ostriches, emus and Alpacas. Fun fact: lemurs sit like old men. The animals seemed well taken care of and the lemurs even had their own red rocking chair. And they were purportedly acquired second-hand before owning a primate became illegal.

In light of the recent TBEX controversy, I’ve been reading a lot about mistreatment of wildlife as a tourist attraction. Sometimes the animals are treated cruelly, sedated so we can get that I’m-holding-a-tiger-selfie or F*ck yeah, I’m on an elephant.

I don’t think that’s the case with this place. I think it was a simple case of people who love exotics.

The whole point of this post is know before you go. I don’t remember the one time I went to SeaWorld (before Blackfish) and I barely remember those dolphin shows at the aquarium as a kid. But I’ll always remember the two times I saw orcas whales from the beach near my house. Or the time a bottlenose dolphin swam next to my raft tour off the Napali coast, so close I could have reached down and touched its back. Or the baby bison, on the prairie in South Dakota just kind of hanging out.

That’s the way to see animals. It’s unexpected, it’s magical, and when they leave, you feel like you’ve been kissed.

In October, I’m off to photograph wild horses in New Mexico. I’m excited to be an observer, to watch them thunder across the desert and to know without a doubt, it’s where they belong.

Ever see wildlife in the wild? Where, when, what? Comment below!


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Is That a Sunset Or An Oil Painting Made By Angels?

Another round-up of Tuesday Three Things That Happened Last Week.

I. THE NEW JOB

I don't know how to describe this

This is my sister’s chihuahau with a stuffed toy in it’s mouth & it makes me laugh so hard.

After a few months of freelancing, I have a new job. A dream job if you will. Freelance writing drove me a little too deep into my own head and working in pjs was fun until I woke up and realized I hadn’t worn actual clothes in a week.

Also, sporadic paychecks from writing gigs don’t really *work* anymore in Seattle, with our sky-high rents.

I’m a writer/editor for a cool company that helps bands and shows with ticketing and promotions.  The coolest thing about it that it embodies a Come As You Are mentality, so I could probably get a forehead tattoo and they wouldn’t blink an eye.

I’m working for the man in a creative capacity without actually working for The Man. Perfect. And this is a company that REALLY gives back to the community, so that makes me feel good, especially after my whole age-33-meaning-of-life crisis. I’m not bragging, I want other dream-followers to stick it out and find the job they really want.

I get a week off to volunteer and am already fantasizing about volunteer opportunities.

Should I: 

-Rescue/name/bottle feed orphaned baby monkeys in Costa Rica? (I’ll call this one Danger and this one Milly…)
-Volunteer to find out what happened to Lindsey Lohan?
-Work the cafeteria of some fancy writer’s conference? (Hey, Toni Morrison, I slipped you a copy of my latest. Hope you like these mashed potatoes).

I’m already enjoying perks like conversations with actual humans in the middle of the day, office dogs, and air conditioning.

II. It’s Not Goodbye, It’s Bon Voyage 

Street in Quebec

Bon voyage! (These are strangers, not my actual friends).

This is a bummer: I had to say goodbye to some really good friends of mine because they left our glorious state for another.

I am super happy for them because I know that moving long distances (thrice!) has made me a better, happier person because it’s incredibly frustrating and also fun.

As much as I would like to, I can’t be like:  “no stay and we can stay like this forever and nothing will change and then you’ll wake up at 80 and regret that you missed an opportunity because your friend got all emo about you leaving.”

It takes a lot for me to make friends (I’m a giant weirdo), especially here where the social scene is a maze of passive-aggressive invitations to happy hours followed by passive-aggressive refusals.

Sigh. Here we go again.

III. I WAS HERE FIRST

THIS does not do justice to the amazing sunset last night.

THIS low-res iphone photo does not do justice to the amazing sunset on Sunday.

Everyone and their brother is moving to Seattle and judging by Saturday’s packed summer fest, my neighborhood is the quartier du jour. It both pisses me off (I WAS HERE FIRST!! SECOND) and amuses me.

When I moved to Seattle eight years ago, this was the reaction from most of my friends:

I’d never leave Chicago. You know it rains there, every day right? And they don’t even have a basketball team. And the suicide risk is high. You might as well move straight into a mental hospital because those clouds are gonna drive you nuts. 

[Drops bags off, looks out window] OMG this place is amazing! Is that a sunset or is that God’s hand coming down to personally bless this place because it is the most.beautiful. in the whole world?

The view from my roof

Proof it’s not a fluke: last year’s winning sunset starring a rainbow ribbon cloud. 

Even with my awesome new job, I cannot afford rent that’s much higher than its current $1,600 a month for 700 sq.ft and I’m terrified I’m living in the next San Francisco.

And with all the new condos/traffic/pedestrians darting into the street, my neighborhood feels a little less like MY neighborhood.

I’ve lived here on and off since I first moved to the city, when it was uncool amongst my hip writerly coworkers who (then) lived on The Hill and thought White Center was too dangerous and West Seattle too suburban.  I live on a peninsula and get to hang out at the beach pretty much every day so, I’ve been pretty happy.

Does wanting to join an anti-development coalition make me old?


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4 Funny Things That Happen When You Learn A Second Language

Language-learning-french

Am I fluent because I know all of these words ;) Am I?

1. You start to have really bizarre dreams, half in your language, half in the language you’re picking up. My last one involved explaining the rules of baseball in French to Chris Farley (R.I.P.) I like baseball, go to games, but it’s definitely not something I’d discuss with Chris Farley. Unless he liked the White Sox.

2. You become a pseudo-etymologist. Word origins used to lull me to sleep. Not anymore. Does “hommie” comes from the French word for man (homme)? I think it does. I think I might be a genius because of this fascinating discovery. Coupons, definitely from the French word couper for cut. And probably the most exciting moment of my life was when I learned that prom comes from se promenade, which in French means taking someone for a walk. Sure, that’s what those teenagers are doing.

3. You stalk other speakers of the language you’re learning. In Quebec, everyone speaks French all the time, so I didn’t realize how hard it would be to keep it up here. Now if I hear someone speaking French, I follow them down the street and telepathically hope they’ll turn around, lost and ask for directions. Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Frank goes into the nail salon to spy on what they’re saying about Elaine? That’s kind-of happened to me on the train and it makes all of this time and dedication worth it.

4. You hang around people you have nothing in common with just to practice. I like most of the French speakers I’ve met through MeetUp.com. But it’s not like me to wake up early on a Sunday, drive twenty miles to sit with a group of strangers, most of whom are either fresh-out-of-college francophile singles, probably looking for their l’amour or just about to retire and “summering” in Paris. It appears that all the thirty-somethings are hibernating.

There aren’t many people like me at these meetups or in the classes. I’m a person who learned French in Canada and whose highest intellectual feat is recalling specific episodes of 90210 at a pub trivia. These people went to Yale and studied mathematics (gulp), work at Microsoft, and picked up French as their fifth language just for funsies.

Summer side note:

You may wonder why I am not updating as frequently. Don’t worry. I don’t plan to go anywhere, especially not after investing $30 in a customized design. However, the truth is… I don’t have as much to say right now. Summer sunshine compels me to go outside.  I’ve also been freelancing full-time, not traveling enough, and suffering from internet-exhaustion.

Excuses, excuses.

I promise my next post will be soon and it won’t be as Buzz Feed-like. Happy Fourth of July!


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Circus Cats, Cowbells, & Cluck Norris, the Bowling Chicken

Last week, I went to a cat circus. Let’s put that on the list of things I never thought I’d say. I also never thought I would write about a cat who plays cowbell.

How much is that kitty who plays cowbell? 

acrocats-caturday-cat-cirus

That’s Tuna

Full disclosure: Acro-Cats gave me a ticket to review the show. I only write about experiences that I believe are worth the money and I only do honest reviews.

Let’s start with the cost.

$24 per ticket. What could one get in Seattle for $24?

  •  A decent manicure, maybe a brow wax too if you go to the place with the questionable cleanliness and the fungus risk.
  • About five lattes. So let’s just say a whole business-week of coffee.
  • A one-way bus ticket from Seattle to Vancouver. But you’d have to sit next to the smelly guy.
  • Tickets to see your coworker’s friend’s bad doo-wop/rap (doo-rap) ensemble
  • About two watered-down cocktails.

You will remember Acro-Cats, even if you hated it, you’ll remember. And you will meet the “stars” and you will see all kinds of people in kitty ears trying to get selfies with these celebrity cats and begging for their feline attention.

It definitely draws out the strange, but one can’t help but love Samantha Martin, the lady running the show. She makes fun of herself, she’s approachable, and she rolls around the country in a big cat bus. She’s a person of stories, a person doing her own thing, and I deeply admire that. I fantasized about running away to join the cat circus until I remembered that I have a dog and a husband at home and I’m prone to horrific stage fright. Still, I briefly fantasized about being their on-bus reporter, like in Almost Famous, except with less groupies and more cat hair.

You’ll laugh and you might really cry. All of the cats in the show are orphans or fosters.

Throughout the show, you get their Behind-the-Music-esque backstories:

“Nugget* here was found on a box in the side of the road after his mother was killed. Look at him now. He’s the backup guitarist in an all-tom rock band.” 

UnFuRgettable Moments:

cat-playing-piano-acrocats

-A semi-famous feline named Tuna plays cowbell. He also bowled against a chicken named Cluck Norris.  I kid you not.  I was on team Tuna, but Cluck Norris was a competitor for sure. (Psst… follow Tuna on Twitter.)

-An adult cat push the.cutest kitten ever around in a baby carriage.

-Rock Cats. They’re not the most musical felines, but they sure are cute. One cat did a stage dive and then they had to bring up the back-up guitar player. And yes, you can get a t-shirt.

-Multiple cats skittering around in the audience at all times. Watch your step!

-People way into nerdy cat culture. Not just in a wear-a-heavy-wool-sweater-with-a-cat on-it way, in a having-legit-conversations-with-the-kitties way. Nothing like a cat circus to bring out the strange.

-Cats walking tightropes and jumping through hoops.

 Final Thought 

One of the Rock Cats

If you’re going to see it in Seattle, it takes place in the Seattle Center in a tiny theater you have to hunt down. It’s really the perfect size for this event, so no complaints about the theater. But I’ve been living in this city on and off for seven years and couldn’t find it even using Google Maps. Leave early.

For $24, I laughed out loud more than seven times. I think that makes it worth it. They’re going to be in Seattle for about a week more. Tickets and more info can be found on their website at http://www.circuscats.com.


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No “Kitting,” A Cat Circus is Coming to Seattle

acrocats-cat-circus-seattle

But are they better than Josie and the Pussycats? 

You guys, I haven’t been so excited about something since … since, well… I don’t know when. The election of the blue (ahem purple) M&M? The time I met Junot Diaz? When it was revealed that there’s going to be a Girl Meets World? Nope, nothing compares to this cat circus. (Ok, I almost wept meeting Mr. Diaz, but that was a different kind of excitement).

YES! A cat circus & cat rock band is coming to Seattle. It travels the country in a tour bus that rivals Pharrell’s in terms of luxury. And there’s a rockin’ cat band with a lead performer named (get this) Tuna. Rumor is, Tuna plays a mean cowbell. She learned her skills from clicker training and this hour-long show includes a demonstration of the training, so the audience will get a little education they can bring home to their beloved hairballs.

I haven’t seen the show yet, but I’m really looking forward to it and you can expect a full review this Saturday (err… Caturday). But it’s already generated a lot of buzz.

I’m ready to see cats strumming guitars, playing, drums and generally being kind-of silly. The show appeals to me because Samantha Martin (Chief Executive Human) for the Amazing Acro-cats promotes animal education and adoption and donates a portion of the proceeds to feline shelters and rescues across the country. Purportedly, all of these cats are fosters and rescues.

That convinced me. I normally stay (er stray) far from animal circuses, with the exception of Cavalia because the horses seemed happy, glossy, and generally loved.

Tickets are $24 and can be purchased on the Acro-Cats website. There’s limited seating, so buy your tickets soon if you plan to attend the Seattle show.  It sells out fast and I’d hate to see you miss the weirdest coolest event of the year.

Address: 

Theatre 4 at Theatre Puget Sound

305 Harrison St. Seattle Center, Seattle, WA

You can find the schedule here.

 

travel-friendship-voluntourism


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The smiling language of butterflies

Last week, I took Rasmi* to the library for the second time. It was an unusually warm spring day, the kind where everyone stuck inside working asks if you’re out enjoying the weather.

She hands me a bar of coconut ice cream and a Red Bull. Something about that bar zips me back to the porch of my grandma’s bungalow on Chicago’s South Side. Whenever the ice cream man pushed his cart by her house, excitement erupted. Flavors were called out. Crumpled dollar bills were unrolled and counted. One of us would bolt from the porch to catch up to the guy, who would be down the block by then.

I can’t tell Rasmi that she found the ice cream of my childhood.

Rasmi is Nepali, a refugee from Bhutan. I volunteer to help her and her family through their first few months in the US. I read their mail and take them to the doctor’s and try to help find english classes and jobs.

There are a lot of people like Rasmi in Seattle. Newcomers shakily trying to navigate our complicated and expensive way of life while maintaining their traditions, holding on to things that remind them of home, a place they probably won’t see for years. And they encounter so much impatience, ignorance, apathy day-to-day.

Rasmi lived in a camp before she came here. Rasmi doesn’t have a computer, or an email address. Before here, I don’t think she had electricity, or a stove, or a washing machine.

It’s easy to dwell on what she doesn’t have, what she’s never had and how it’s unfair. (And it is. It disgusts me how unfair it all is).

It’s better to focus on the task for the day. Go to the library. Get that email address.

It’s better to focus on her family, her brothers and sisters and the revolving door of neighbors, cousins, and friends, all there to help each other through their transitions. Rasmi  will be ok without me. I don’t want to fool myself into thinking I am her savoir. I don’t want to pity her because pity diminishes pride.

I’m there just to be her friend.

travel-friendship-voluntourism

Rhododendrons. Nepal’s national flower.

Rasmi wears a short sleeve shirt with a floral print and gray straight-leg jeans. She has a butterfly tattoo on her arm. I also have a tattoo, on my back—a monarch butterfly I had done when I was nineteen and because I wanted a tattoo, any tattoo. I won’t show her that though. I want to ask about her tattoo and what it means to her. Is it a regrettable symbol of teenage rebellion like mine? Or something else?

Instead, I eat the coconut ice cream bar, piloting the car one-handed. The windows are down and a cacophony of birds, dogs, kids, and bass rushes in.

“I like this.” I remind myself to annunciate and speak slowly.

She smiles. I am not talking just the ice cream. I want to tell her I like this whole experience. That it makes me nostalgic for driving around in summer with my best friend. Rasmi is only a few years younger than me. That means we were growing up at almost the same time. That’s something. I want to know about her home, her friends.

At the library, a man openly checks her out. Rasmi is cute. Her hair is twisted into pigtail braids, fastened with bright-red bands. He asks about her tattoo and she starts to respond. I usher her forward.

All of the rows are packed with people clicking or typing away. She pulls up a chair and gestures for me to sit. “We’re going to set you up with Gmail,” I declare. I type in Google then pull up the account page. Her name is already taken. There’s another Rasmi. “It’s not working, someone has your name.”

She doesn’t understand. I say it again, shaking my head no. “It won’t work.” After she plucks each letter, she looks at me expectedly. I click enter, knowing it won’t be accepted, that she needs to pick another name. Her brow furrows in frustration. I tell her we have to add numbers to her name. I add the required numbers and write the address down on a piece of scratch paper.

Then there’s the password, the verification code, the pop ups. I take over to get us through all the prompts and legalese I wouldn’t have glanced at twice before. “Yes, Yes, Accept, Yes…” Too many times in Quebec, when they didn’t have a translated version of a form available, I would sign it in French, not knowing if I just agreed to sell my kidney or if I was getting a phone contract.

I was lucky because many people speak English in Quebec. I don’t know what it is like to make a home in a place where no one but your family members and a few neighbors speak your language.

Only later, when driving home will I realize that maybe I could have had Chrome translate the page to Nepali.

She writes her first email to me as she doesn’t have her friends’ email addresses. I watch over her shoulder as she types a message to me and shakily clicks send.

You are good. You help me therefore thank you very much. 

I sort it into my “Emails You’ll Cry At Later” box.

When the session is over, we go to the reference section to check out English Learning DVDs. Rasmi wants a movie and writes it down, but the librarian and I have trouble figuring out what she means. The librarian tells us they have a call line for interpreters. Rasmi brightens at this. In three minutes, she’s speaking to an interpreter in Nepali. On the phone, her expression changes from tense to open and friendly.

“She wants a horror movie,” the Librarian tells me and pulls up some titles. This new fact fills me with delight and surprise. She informs us that the library doesn’t have many horror movies. Instead, Rasmi selects a classic black-and-white, a movie about a farmer and his wife.

Inside the car, away from the public, she becomes brazen with English. She says many people are afraid of horror movies. Not her. I notice she’s smiling more these days, almost making sentences. I met her four months ago. The first few times she came to the door and said “hi,” shyly or went into the kitchen. The first time we drove somewhere together, she barely said a word.

I want to thank her English teacher, even though I don’t know who s/he is.

I want to thank the Librarian for finding out that Rasmi likes horror movies.

I want to tell her she’s brave and strong and smart, but I just turn to her and smile.  There’s so much that can be said this way.

*Name changed

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