Saturday, January 31, 2004

The parasitic jaeger has a great name. Who wouldn't love to have their name prefixed with parasitic? (Though, being mammals, we all start off as parasitic alien spawn in our mothers' wombs, we are deprived of being called parasitic.)

The article on the parasitic jaeger refers to the birds as the winged pirates of the high seas, aerial swashbucklers, and feathered pirates.

Then my new favourite word enters the fray: kleptoparasitism (stealing food from others).

The authors ask if the parasitic jaeger, in employing kleptoparasitism as a feeding strategy, is too lazy or too clever. Personally, I see it as clever. Why should some parasitic jaeger get its feathers wet when some tern moron is willing to go hunting on its behalf?

As my father always says, the world needs idiots so that some of us can be smart. Kleptoparasitism will be my new food gathering practice. Just like the parasitic jaeger, I will hide in the parking lots of supermarkets and swoop down on unsuspecting soccer moms tending to their sullen brood. With my own deft high-speed maneuvers, the stunned soccer moms will drop their shopping bags or allow their shopping carts to roll away - allowing me to run off supplied with bulk cookies and armloads of canned artichokes.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Today's spam:

decoy erratic beard automata (from Audra Donnelly): I assume this has something to do with my ongoing protests against facial hair.

bicycle cast (from Amparo Bourgeois): not such an interesting subject line, but I like the name Amparo, plus the Bourgeois - that just made my day. Thank you, Amparo Bourgeois. Now is this a cast of bicycles appearing on stage? Or a cast of actors appearing on bicycles? Or an actor cast to play a bicycle? Or is it a blue cheese in a bicycle mould?

controlling assistant chunky bleeker (from Rick Stanley): I looked up bleeker and it seems to refer to many things. Mysteriously enough bleeker appears to have some Dutch connections. I assume this overweight assistant bleeker has taken its authority a tad too far, overstepping the boundary separating the merely domineering and the outright dictatorial.

Re: Re: bobolink bred (from Gloria): it seems like Gloria and I have been having an ongoing discussion of our bobolink ancestry. Perhaps we shared the same bobolink father but have different mothers (bobolink males are polygamous). Gloria may have been searching for her half-brothers and sisters. Did I disappoint her? Do I have another sister? Now that I have the bobolink song on loop, I really appreciate my potential avian talents - perhaps I too can give off "a tinkle of fairy music" "like sparkling champagne"?

bloodhound false arterial drill (from Boyd Kuhn): I would like to see a bloodhound arterial drill, as long as it isn't false.

Re: cowl (from Maryann): so I obviously wrote to this Maryann about some monk's robe and she replies. Was I drycleaning it?

Saturday, January 31, 2004

More on Value Village. And a reason to visit Kelowna.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Exploding whale.

Funny about those whale penises.

I stayed at a hotel once that had not one, but two whale penises displayed in glass cases. I didn't know what they were; JJ told me to read the placards. I figured it out by sounding out each syllable (the signs were in Japanese). They were taller than JJ.

If only I could figure out how to use this scanner thing beside me, I would put up a picture of that whale penis.

Oh, and a Taiwanese person said the whale smelled bad? I guess one's nostrils do get inured to bad smells, though I was under the impression that chou doufu smelled like decaying corpses. Imagined the Taiwanese would be used to the stench of decomposition by now.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

I am absolutely delighted to inform you, gentle reader, that my biweekly Value Village trip yielded many goodies. Two jean skirts, a weird velvet skirt with sparkly butterflies, about seven shirts, a pair of fisherman pants, and a $6.50 pair of gorgeous jeans. I also got a new Chinese tanktop that reminds me of a Hokusai. (Today's "Level of Missing Japan" rating is a high seven.)

Sara showed me her fuzzy green Value Village sweater, $5 pricetag still attached. It would make a good costume, she claims.

Sara also told me about her vintage clothing buying trips at a store near Broadway and Main. The shoes she wanted weren't there. The shop owner says all the drag queens buy those shoes. "Damn you, drag queens!"

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Thank you to Lisa for introducing me to the new love of my life: the Surrealist Compliment Generator.

"You are as dazzling as a pregnant cow attired in electrical sockets."

"Your arms lengthen daily like the edges of a festering table."

"Your fingers staple pine nuts into everything you touch."

"Your love is like 1000 caucasian carnivores playing mumblety peg with an eggplant."

Ah, I foresee hours of fun.

"Never pet your dog when it is on fire."

Thursday, January 29, 2004

The new bellydancing teacher, Debbie, likes similes: "In this move, your arms are like weeping willows." My response: "No, my arms are like gorillas."

Then she wanted us to picture that we were nailed to the middle of barrels and we needed to scrape the dripping chocolate off the sides of the barrel. I said that I felt as if I had elephants glued to me.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The jelly melted to reveal chunks of intact pig fat, skin still attached. Carefully picking my way through it. Luckily there are some quail eggs from which I can derive my daily nutrients. Mysterious stringy things I am trying to ignore as I chew the edible portions. To think, this is only half of Sunday's doggie bag. More left to consume tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Everyone is shooing me off to lunch. But the truth is, I am dreading lunch today. It�s a pork dish from Sunday�s Vietnamese restaurant. Allison ordered something to go just for her lunch the following day. Following her example, I called the waiter back and told him I wanted to order something for the next day too. When I said the caramel pork, he looked at me with incredulity and gasped, �Not for the next day?� I reaffirmed that it was indeed meant to be eaten Monday. He didn�t say more, but wrote down my order.

Yesterday morning when I was scooping out the pork to put into my Tupperware, the pork jelly had coagulated overnight in the fridge. It resembled the head cheese of my youth; my father would not allow me to leave the table until I finished off the plateful of pork jelly. Invariably these meals would end with a spanking. As a result, meat jellies always leave me with a trembling heart. Plus, the frightened look of Sunday�s waiter rather alarmed me. Today I would almost rather go hungry than risk flashbacks of a tortured childhood. I can live on one doughnut and a vanilla latte.

But the caramel pork is in the microwave...hopefully the jelly will have melted away.

This is one of those moments I wish I was Muslim.

Monday, January 26, 2004

There�s a Cockrum Street in Olive Branch, Mississippi.

*Sigh* so busy today: running about from seven in the morning til four this afternoon. No lunch, no breaks. But now I am off. Going to unwind at Value Village. Tomorrow will be even busier...

Monday, January 26, 2004

Rinky. If I could live part of my time in another body, I would like to be called Rinky.

Came across this name in our office contacts list. Almost as good as the surname Clinkingbeard. Piratey! Hardy-har-har!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Beth and Lisa would love this. I wouldn't mind washing the dishes myself.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Still working out what I want to say about Tokyo Monogatari and The Fierce One, I found this article about Lost in Translation. Though I liked the movie and found it quite relevant to my own experience in Japan, I have to admit that this writer has a point.

Regarding the admiration of traditional Japan at the expense of modern Japan, it reminds me of some arguments I heard both from from Japanese men and foreigners of both genders in favour of the older ways. There is a difference between the modern and old Japan that neither party thinks much about. The old Japan is the domain of the woman, implying that the new Japan is for men. Throughout the local government of Gyoda, where I worked, but indicative of most of Japan, men would express worry that Japanese traditions will soon be extinct. One coworker, a high ranking official, replied, when I asked him how these traditions can be saved, that women are at fault for not staying home more to cook traditional dishes and practice traditional handicrafts.

As some of you may or may not know, a proper Japanese woman will already have had classes in flower arranging (ikebana) and the tea ceremony by the time she marries. One of purposes is to increase her worth as a housewife, if only for aesthetic reasons: "You can tell when a wife has had tea ceremony lessons if you watch her putting a plate on the table."

In a review of the Iranian movie The White Balloon, a Vancouver reviewer brought up the fact that, while the Iranian boy children depicted in the movie wore jeans and t-shirts, the little girls resembled village women. The reviewer deftly linked Iranian girls' dress to the upholding of traditional culture. Little boys can try out Western dress, while little girls are expected to remain traditional.

In fact, in many large Japanese companies, male employees can wear suits of their choosing, while female employees of similar rank wear a company uniform. The uniforms seem generally based on Audrey Hepburn's in Roman Holiday (a favourite foreign movie of the Japanese and usually the sole Hepburn movie recognized by laypeople). Though boys' school uniforms in junior high school are also based on a traditional design borrowed from the Prussian army, graduation into high school means that Japanese boys can attend schools that have contemporary Western style suits or even no dress codes. High school girls, on the other hand, generally still have only the Donald Duck suit as a choice, which, in the West, went out of style in the twenties as adolescent girl fashion.

My snarky stab: Sophie Coppola is like so many Western women who think they support gender equality but are really pushing women back a step. Like those idiots who want Afghan women to wear t-shirts and jeans. Heck! Sometimes I want to wear a chador...and who wants to worry all the time that their tight lowriding jeans accentuate overly-abundant butts and their miniskirts display thigh cellulite? Of course, there are many Japanese women who can't wait to meet a white man, any white man, as long as they can escape the weight of tradition placed on their anorexic shoulders?

Sunday, January 25, 2004

I should have written this article - spam and encyclopedia spine poetry: "'Facile pumice mutiny': a rising perhaps of the Wau-Wau, armed with the only weaponry coming easily to hand in that region?"

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Back to work, manatees!

African giant pouched rats are clearing landmines and doing tuberculosis lab work, honeybees help out in elephant conservation, pythons and owls have their own pest control unit in Java,

But the Chinese could send their gerbils this way.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

I keep noticing that the ads at the top of my blog are for hamster cages. It's always hamster supplies. Did they pick up my one-too-many hamster references? Am I being relegated to a pet nut ghetto?

Sunday, January 25, 2004

The French also included beards in their ban on religious symbols. I may like the French after all. Down with pussyfaces!

Sunday, January 25, 2004

We were talking about the new law in France that will make it illegal for females to wear veils to schools and their workplaces.

Jasbir muttered, "It's thinly-veiled humour."

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Recent movies in my life:

Every Little Thing (La moindre des choses)
Before I moved to Paris, one of my friends wrote in one of my books that I should have a jolly time with some Frenchman. If she only knew what the French are really like. A clue would be to look at the Marquis de Sade for clues to the personality of Frenchmen. A friend who had an extremely abusive French boyfriend supports my view. And looks? Gerard Depardieu is a small (or big) indicator of where the French gene pool went amiss. This movie, about the inhabitants of a mental health institute, confirms everything I thought about the French.

I almost want to add "Do you speak French?" to my list of filter questions for men. However, since I re-met Rob a few days ago and he seems decent so far, I will refrain from making too hasty a judgment about people's language abilities. Maybe a better question would be "Are you French?"

With a Friend Like Harry (Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien)
More proof to back up my hypotheses on the French.

Poor Prune. She is the voluptuous beauty on the cover. Will she ever see the Matterhorn?

The Fierce One (Lyuty)
The first movie this week during which I cried. I am still sorting out what I want to say about this one. I never did see the short at the beginning as I was still manning the popcorn stand.

Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari)
Hideki and that film guy I met both don't care much for this movie. Denise said she didn't like the beginning so much. Everyone thought it was slow.

I guess I am the only one who thought it was fast-paced, but then I got really into The Age of Innocence as well. I pointed out that the Japanese always think the glass is half empty, both in the sense that they must always fill the guest's glass and in the psychological sense. Denise agreed that she got that feeling from watching Tokyo Monogatari.

Aside from that, many things are bubbling within my head about this movie, but I need to mull it over for a bit longer. The second movie this week during which I cried. My Japanese is in better shape than I thought.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

I finally took off Shirley's defunct alpaca website. She told me about a month ago that she is no longer selling alpaca products. But I kept the link going nowhere for nostalgic reasons.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Beth, initial research shows promising results. Nary a pussyface in sight!

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Non-Arizona Cheryl likes being Non-Arizona Cheryl. When Arizona Cheryl returns from Arizona, both of them will live in Burnaby so I will have to find new names for them. I thought about North Cheryl (the Non-Arizona Cheryl) and South Cheryl (the Arizona Cheryl). (Good news: Non-Arizona Cheryl is not moving to Edmonton, so she will not become Edmonton Cheryl.) Or maybe I should stop referring to friends geographically and give them names regarding appearance or personality or occupation or hobbies.

Possible ideas for Arizona Cheryl: Gourmand Cheryl, Chocolate Cheryl, Sporty Cheryl, Native Rights Cheryl, Traveller Cheryl, Christian Cheryl, Blonde Cheryl, Dental Cheryl.

Possible ideas for Non-Arizona Cheryl: Red-headed Cheryl, Artistic Cheryl, Dancing Cheryl, Edward Gorey Fan Cheryl (or just Gorey Cheryl), Raven Cheryl, Sewing Cheryl, Costumer Cheryl.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

I got spam with the subject line "Get the lowest possible durer."

Durer? Not Albrecht Durer?

Because if it was a cheap Durer, say, under $100, I would buy it. Then I would fake innocence when the art police come to my door.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

How to tell if a woman is old:

1. Check her hands. Hand wrinkles never lie.

2. If she has good hand cream, check her neck instead. Neck wrinkles are harder to hide.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

My January 15th dream:

The Golden Girls were living in lower income housing. Sophia has a new hairstyle; short, blonde, with tight curls framing her face. She makes sure everyone knows she is going on a date as a result of her newfound beauty.

Then I left this part of the dream and went to a party in a dark room. Between the light fixtures on the ceiling and the rest of the room was a layer of grey gauze-like material. The light in the room, as a result, was greyish. I asked around who invented this coagulated dust and I found the young man.

He was thin and wore a suit. A sullen type: he answered my questions with gruff one-word answers.

The next day, he invited me, or I simply followed him, to the patents office. I may have been invisible at this point in my dream.

There was an old woman working in the office. She had long hair, still blonde, in braids that were wrapped into a flat bun at the back of her head.

Something was refused - I am writing about this dream a week after I had it - but the old woman got up and went to consult her filing cabinet. She opened the drawer third from the bottom, which was at chest-height.

Now, the reason I think I was invisible at this point is because my presence did not prevent what happened next.

The young man was suddenly behind her and, with a razor or a small knife, began slashing her face. The old woman gave a muffled shriek - "scream!" I thought. I moved around her desk too, but I didn't know whether I should try to save her from the front (and have my hands slashed too), or to attack this guy from the back.

As her face started bleeding, I thought, "She's lived such a long life and now that she's near retirement, some young psychopath is going to destroy her face."

He didn't stop and neither seemed to notice I was in the room.

I then thought, "Oh my god, she won't be just disfigured, she'll die. Her whole life, wasted in this one moment!"

Then I woke up. It was 5 AM.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

If you really follow the directions, you'll be floored by the results. Warning! Do take the quiz as you read, there are only 3 questions, and if you scan all the way to the end before finishing you won't get the honest results. Don't cheat. Scroll slowly and do each exercise. Don't look ahead. Get a pencil and paper and write it down. You will
need it at the end. Enjoy!

Question I: Arrange the following 5 animals according to your preference:






Question II : Write one word to describe each of the following:






Question III : Think of somebody (who also knows you) that you can relate
to the following colours:

Please don't repeat your answer twice. Name only one person for each colour.






Question I : This will define your priorities in life

Cow means career

Tiger means pride

Sheep means love

Horse means family

Monkey means money


Question II :

Your description of Dog implies your own personality

Your description of Cat implies your partner's personality

Your description of Rat implies your enemy's personality

Your description of Coffee is how you interpret sex

Your description of Ocean implies your own life


Question III :

Yellow - somebody who will never forget you

Orange - someone whom you can consider as your real friend

Red - someone you really love

Green - a person whom you will always remember for the rest of your life


Vancouver Karen (not West Van Karen) sent me this quiz. Oddly enough I picked horse first, though it was tied with tiger. Family is most important for me? Not surprisingly, I picked monkey (money) last.

My description of dog was "friendly" so I suppose that means that's what I am...Transylvanians, after all, are stereotyped to be friendly, hardworking but stupid. But my partner will be mean. Dang! I should have had a better opinion of cats. I couldn't think of anything better to descibe coffee than with "perky." What would "perky" sex be?

I always associate JJ with yellow and Beth with green. Does this mean we have a love triangle? Does this mean Beth will forget me while I pine for her? Maybe I will write her love sonnets after all; then, with my pleadings to divorce her husband and marry me - now that we can have same-sex marriages in Canada - refused, I will sew boulders into my pockets and jump off a bridge. But instead of dying I shall discover I can breathe underwater and join a company of half-barracuda, half-mermaiden beings in foraging for sea kelp. I'll be a Burrard Inlet legend: the spectre of the waters, crawling out of the dark waters on moonlit nights to growl at the moon. When the fogs roll over Vancouver, I shall raise my head out of the waters and allow myself to be seen. These isolated and mysterious sightings will ruin the credibility of many a respected journalist. I shall sneak onto rich people's yachts and create havoc, perhaps putting the slimiest of seaweeds into their bedsheets. I shall assist barnacles in finding their way to the bottom of expensive sailboats. I shall pelt swimmers with rotting starfish and perhaps touch their legs, briefly, with some reluctant squid. I shall deposit pebbles into oysters and give the pearls to passing pelicans.

And, oh, my imagination is a little too extravagant this morning.

Monday, January 19, 2004

I ran out of my darling shampoo & conditioner (that I bought while in Chicago). The same brand is sold here in Canada. Yet something is different. My hair is throwing a tantrum. Same brand, same type, but different hair effects.

It�s like Nutella. The Nutellas in North America, Australia (Japanese Nutella supplies were imported from Down Under), and Eastern Europe (manufactured in Poland) are all different.

Different from the much-preferred original, made in Switzerland, that nectar of the Gods.

The other Nutellas are bitter or don�t have the right texture or hide that miraculous tinge of hazelnut.

My new shampoo & conditioner suck.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Last week, a new expression courtesy of Ben:

"Thick as shit and dumb as cum......"

Ben says Australians are called "convicts with bad accents."

Sunday, January 18, 2004

After this, I must get back to Nelson Mandela. I am too busy refreshing my Japanese. I'm glad no one is around to here me repeating after the teacher.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Just as I thought. This guy has a cat and knows something about philosophy.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Last night I proclaimed that I am no longer opposed to plastic surgery. Because I need Botox.

Allison told me her when her estimated face lift will take place.

Hmm, only a mere hint of wrinkles and I abandon my principles at the door.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Petcetera did not have any rabbits. Instead, I scared a black guinea pig. I already have my eyes on a feisty baby hamster who looks exactly like Anisoara. The brown mice that look like slum dwellers might be fun to keep the next time I'm petless. With mice, however, I may need to buy a new cage, as they can escape through hamster cage bars. The spiny mice were looking mighty frightened.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Jennifer, the girl packing all the frozen waffles, just phoned and informed me that she was only packing waffles for one day. She is back at the phonebook company for seven days.

She also inquired about my hamster.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Ondine's father (a famous Korean writer) made ten drafts of all his novels. Maybe these people should make twenty or thirty drafts.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Still on that poverty article, this got to me:

"Wages and hours are set by the marketplace, and you cannot expect magnanimity from the marketplace. It is the final arbiter from which there is no appeal."

I am no good at the slamming-my-fist-on-the-desk-and-demanding-more-pay-or-I-lead-the-workers-on-strike-the-next-day tactics.

According to my T4 (tax slip for all my earnings in 2003) I am definitely well below the poverty line. If it weren�t for my property management position no trips even to Value Village for me. No new clothes to replace the entire wardrobe I sent to a poor girl in Romania. No eating out even once a month. No occasional book-buying.

And yet, my salary is slightly better than some.

One of my friends here in Vancouver gave up on the office work temp agency (they didn�t provide her with jobs). She went back to Labour Ready, a manual labour temp agency. Now she is packaging frozen waffles.

How can people live (and own a car, smoke, have a computer with internet access and pay rent) on minimum wage?

I am having a hard time on upper lower wages.

I don�t bother with cable TV - heck, I don�t watch TV! I�ve stopped buying books, unless I get something like Friday night�s 13 items for $3. The library has plenty of free things to entertain me. I also do volunteer work where I get movie and concert tickets, as well as dinner. I shop at used clothing stores. Relatives and family friends supply me with food. A tin of soup provides me with two meals. I grow my own parsley. (Scurvey, avast!) I do also buy only the best shampoos, but supermodels have taught me how to prolong my shampoo supplies. I saved money for my trip to Chicago by not indulging my vices for two months prior to the trip.


So the marketplace is the final arbiter from which there is no appeal.

In a discussion on the Spanish courts of the eighteenth century, someone told me that the Spanish had rigid rules but granted many pardons. The English, on the other hand, had more liberal laws, but there were no pardons.

Thus the marketplace resembles the Spanish, in that it strictly adheres to the rules (meeting the bottomline). And it resembles the English in that once everyone is sentenced, the sentences are immutable.

So many more questions, but the answers are not satisfactory. An Otto Dix commentator said that everything in the world revolves around the vagina.

But isn't it that the world revolves around money?

Sunday, January 18, 2004

JJ hated Julia Roberts: her mouth is too big, her eyes are too big and her nose is too big. This is, however, the same person who told me that Japanese plastic surgeons can make my jaw smaller.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

"A thousand-watt beam of friendly delight."

Which reminds me: one winter, in Alba Iulia, my dad went to his accountant and I opted to stay in the car. There I could read until he finished. If I had gone in, my father and the acocuntant would ask me a few questions about my travels. Usually my father dominates all conversations. He would answer my questions for me. Then he would chide me for being so modest.

My book was boring. So I got out of the car to explore this affluent street. Early twentieth century homes in the Transylvanian school of architecture. Turrets and the like.

Two blocks off, there was a horse tied to a fence. I photographed the horse.

"What do you think you're doing? How dare you take pictures! Get away from our house? Have you no shame?"

Seven gypsies: a fat matron; a skinny, moustached, ragged father, various snot-covered children, and the young woman screaming at me all came out of the house. I noticed then that the house was not one of the well-kept houses of that neighbourhood. It was a little shack. The fence was broken. And the biggest giveaway that it was a gypsy residence was the horse.

I was surrounded. The young woman was yelling at me still.

What could I say?

"I'm really sorry for photographing your horse."

"Oh, you're not a journalist?"

"No, I was just walking around your neighbourhood and I like animals and I decided to take a picture of your horse."

Delight all around. The prankiest little boy performed acrobatics on the horse so I could photograph him. Repeated invitations to come into their house. Repeated polite declining of invitations.

"How old are you?" asked the young woman.

I believe at the time I was 25 or 26.

"Are all those your real teeth?"

"Why of course," and my eyes went to her mouth, where there were no teeth.

She was 22 and already all her teeth were gone.

If a Romanian has a toothache, he will pull out the tooth. (Or they use arsenic to cure themselves, see posting of Sunday, November 10, 2002.) My dad pulled out two of Lulu's teeth. No one flosses. Anisoara (the girl, not the hamster) buys only the cheapest toothpaste, an Eastern European creation, that is more chalk than mint. In the winter, the markets have no vegetables (last winter, I lived for six months on almost only meat and a few pickles). Scurvey, mates!


Before I left the gypsy house, the young woman introduced me to her brother, also coincidentally 25 and unmarried. His toothless smile filled the entirety of his bearded face. I gulped and mentioned that I was to be married by the next full moon to a man in Japan. Then I ran off before my erstwhile gypsy suitor could talk me into a passionate love affair.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Last night = scared + tired + slightly tipsy = spent the night at Allison's.

Where I sat in the kitchen, I kept seeing some dark figure going up the stairs.

Allison saw my eyes always looking in that direction. "What is it?" she asked with worry.

I said it must be my hair, always hanging over my eyes.

Allison told me that when she sits in that chair she always sees something going up the stairs. She also has dark hair that dangles over her face.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

All my life I've said computer with a Romanian accent when I was trying to convey the idea of computer in Romanian. Then, in 1996, I decided to really learn Romanian. Of course, being so far away, most of my studying has been from translating Romanian stories into English.

In September 2002, on a quest to get internet access in Alba Iulia, I learned that the Romanian word for computer is not computer, but calculator, pronounced with Romanian phonics. The English calculator is something else entirely in Romanian (which I can't remember at this moment).

After I returned back to Canada, during my few interactions with Romanians here, I am careful to say calculator if I mean computer.

My uncle's wife always laughs at me.

Because Romanian-Canadians prefer to spice up their Romanian with English. Because calculator is calculator, as it is in English.

Friday, January 16, 2004

$3 at the library tonight got me:

  • Madame Bovary (in French)
  • Moliere's Dom Juan (also in French)
  • Maupassant's Boule de Suif
  • Make Your Own Toys and Games
  • Donald Woods' Biko (as a bonus, I found a letter inside: Screen cooler - dain tile goes to board supporting cooler. Under board, margarine tub with keys. Back window slides. Paddens - next to Merz's. Fuse box behind Alfoldy Print. Switch on "water Pump." When sure it [sic] functioning, turn on "hot water tank." When leaving, turn off hot water. Vent on stove pipe open.)
  • Eight issues of the New Yorker with articles by Annie Proulx, V.S. Naipaul, Susan Orlean, Anthony Bourdain, Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Schama, Art Spiegelman, Erik Larson, and Ryszard Kapuscinski.

Friday, January 16, 2004

What Anime Vampire Are You?

I had better go to the library...but there's one more I want to try!

Friday, January 16, 2004

My exciting Friday nights go something like this:

1. Return my wacko racist neighbour's mail.
2. Return overdue library books.
3. Pay fines.
4. Browse through the sale bins.
5. Shop at Value Village.
6. Wash my new clothes.
7. Take fun little quizzes.

I decided to be adventurous tonight. I am starting with #7:

What San-X Character Are You?

Thursday, January 15, 2004

So, Lisa described my situation today as a clusterfuck. The person responsible for this clusterfuck is an assclown. I needed to italicize and bold.

Glad to get that off my chest. Thank you.

Now, then. My heart problems are probably due to stress. But my doctor wants me to get some testing done. I love getting medical tests when I know I am completely healthy. If the heart problems continue, however, I will even get to wear a little gadget around my neck for 24 hours to monitor my heartbeat.

I also get to complain about my wisdom teeth woes. Though that might actually be a real problem. But no pain yet so I can put off surgery for a while.


My mom's friend invited me over to give me something for my mother. I knew she would have dinner ready for me so I made sure I got her a present. I thought a bag of pomegranates might be suitable. Such fascinating fruit - the trap that ensnared Persephone!

At the supermarket all the pomegranates were gone. I wandered about perusing my choices. A papaya was suitably weird. The guavas looked too puny. (Usually the guava selling point is that in Chinese its name means bitch.)

A pomelo!

The biggest pomelo went into my bag.

"What is that?"

A middle-aged woman pointed to my pomelo.

"Why this is the fruit of the Gods," I answered. "And it doesn't taste at all like those horrid grapefruits."

"Oh, I hate grapefruits, too," said the woman. "Do you peel it"

I explained my method: cut it in half - the skin is about an inch thick - and peel the segments.

Then the woman wanted to know what one should look for in a pomelo. I told her I usually gamble on which is the biggest pomelo of the bunch. She thanked me for my advice.

Now I had a pomelo and a papaya for Nela. I needed one more thing. Grapes are too prosaic. Korean pears cause flatulence. The assclown ruined bananas for me. Strawberries in January are a mockery of Nature.

Then I thought, what about something complementary? Say a gourd?

I ambled over to the gourd section. Each gourd was attractive in its own way. Next to the gourds were the onions and - what have we here? The perfect wheel-like yellow onion, as large as an uncut Parmigiano Reggiano, as fragrant as a herd of lusty hogs. The perfect third gift for Nela!

Nela did have chicken cacciatore, a radicchio salad, French bread and a glass of wine ready for me. We watched hockey and Keeping Up Appearances, and discussed Michael Jackson. When I left she gave me two containers of soup, a pasta salad, a Greek salad, some couscous, fried chicken, potato salad, and an apple salad. Now I can put aside this week's grocery cabinet to replenish my vodka and fruit juice supplies.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

My last posting has disappeared. I wrote about influencing people's choice in books, christening rodents, worrying corporate types with my ineptitude, and preventing hamsters from feasting on my dead eyeballs.

Instead I will write about my nightly reading material.

I am a winner in emotional rubbernecking: I was in the vicinity of a bomb planted by Islamic insurgents that killed two people on September 11, 2002.

I feel my opinion of Michael Jackson slowly shifting.

A new word: boastcard (see last letter). I like!

Names! Can one live without a name?

Monday, January 12, 2004

I think I can safely assume that there are unfortunate changes ahead for me again.

Last night, my sister (the photographer) phoned with some good news but mostly bad news. I'd rather not get into the bad news here, though there are a few of you who are going to get an earful of my moroseness.

The good news I can say: Niki will have her first exhibition opening on February 2nd. In Chisinau. Looks like I won't be attending.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Value Village is wonderful! For $33 I got

1. A lowcut burgundy velvet shirt with chrysanthemums on it
2. A $2 t-shirt
3. A black shirt with a paisley frame
4. A cobalt blue velvet shirt with an embroidered white flower
5. A wine-purple unusual-cut tanktop
6. A sparkly brown skirt.

Later this week I plan to visit another location with my discount coupons. I forgot them today. Oops, I guess I'll just have to go again before the coupon expires at the end of the month.

If only I had enough patience to hunt down nice pants.

Next on my list are my dream knee-high boots...but they are over $100, so I'll have to save up a bit of money first. I hope that shoe store still has them. Preferably on sale. Then next winter I can wear skirts. Woo hoo!

Um, I am pretty excited that there is a Value Village in Flagstaff. And there are four in Las Vegas...because tickets to Vegas are only $49 return now. I don't gamble, but returning to Vancouver with a new wardrobe might be reason to go. Hmm, a weekend of dirt-cheap shopping.

Pity, dear Beth, that there isn't a Value Village in Illinois.

Gosh, who would have thought that shopping is now my hobby. I blame Japan.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

My dream last night: I was in south China, somewhere near Cuiheng Village, where I lived 1988-1989. The village looked different, but if you check that link about Cuiheng, it seems that my village is now a town.

Beth and Issa were in my dream. I don't know where Hideki was. But Edward, the computer technician at my company, was there. There was also a wealthy, older woman. I think she may be Margaret, my company's HR manager, but I am not sure. Nevertheless she lent us her Mercedes convertible in the dream.

Beth and I drove along the country roads in this convertible, with Issa on her lap. We then realized we were in an Islamic part of China that looked like the African savannah and had a population of people who looked like Turks.

The car stopped and we fretted as to how we would get to the nearest town. We got out, put on our backpacks. Beth carried the baby and I pushed the car. We couldn't leave Margaret's convertible in the wide open. It might disappear the next day.

We pushed our way into the nearest village. The houses were made of dirt, like Yemeni houses. Some of the women had scarves over their heads. The dark bearded men wore Western clothes. The open doorways had curtains over them. It was quite hot.

I went to a doorway and asked for shelter for the night. Beth was right beside me. The family scowled. They did come to the door to have a better look at Beth and me. Beth seemed a little worried, but I kept trying to talk to this family. The tall, scary partriarch of the family we disturbed walked out past me. I looked behind me. There was a crowd of snotty street urchins.

The convertible disappeared. In its place was a toy convertible, big enough to fit a Barbie doll and heavy enough to still be a burden. I tucked it under my arm - at least I could move faster now - and we followed the scary man to another house.

Regarding the size of Margaret's convertible, I kept thinking that it was magic that had shrunk it. I thought, if it can be shrunk, it can be enlarged. That's perhaps where Edward comes in. He's always curing my computer woes in the office. In my dream I must have regarded him as a voodoo master who could also unshrink cars.

But in the other house - which looked remarkably like the house in Harar where I chewed Qat with the crass women - our scary man talked to a woman.

I forgot what transpired next, but I do remember the part where Beth, Issa and I were back in the Chinese part of China. I was in a dark Romanian room, with all the rugs on the walls. Edward was, as usual, frowning at me. I dropped some of my things when I left in the convertible and Edward picked them up. Now I wanted to retrieve them.

"Edward, have you seen my red lipstick?"

Edward pulled a little toy car out of his backpack. I handed it back to him. "No, my red lipstick."

He pulled out a stick of lipstick.

"No, this is not my shade of red. The cap is rounded on my lipstick."

Then he pulled out my lipstick.

Other things happened in my dream, but dang it! I am already forgetting what happened in the part where we went to the Mongolian walled town.

PS Here is what a traditional Harar living room looks like. You can't see the cage where young mothers nurse their babies, nor can you see the cane used to beat them when their babies cry. Chills.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Ethan Crowe sent me spam titled "cube grizzle."

With these alluring subject lines, I find myself dangerously close to opening and reading spam.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Someone asked me why there was so little about me trip on this blog. Well, towards the end I noticed the American flags much less.

The religiousness of the whole place was still very evident, however. Church activities seem to make up a part of people's lives.

The last time I went to church before visiting Illinois was last spring...for my grandmother's wake. The priest used the sermon (we're talking a standard Romanian Orthodox sermon of four hours, none of your Western European sissy two-hour sessions) to rail against those of us who failed to attend each Sunday. I shifted weight from one foot to the other. I whispered with my aunt. I teased my new little nephew. Then I didn't even kiss the icons! Bad ass moi. This strikes me as normal church behaviour. But the full house in that US church which I attended on Christmas Eve concentrated on the sermon.

At least the hymnbooks were in English.

One more thing. What's with all the Nativity scenes? I've never seen one on any Vancouver lawn. Beth's brother's family even dressed up as the holy family and shepherds! We Canadians prefer the commercial aspects of Christmas, thank you very much.

Then there was the "Happy Birthday, Jesus" sign.

In 2001, for my students' Christmas quiz in Japan, one of the multiple-choice questions was, "Whose birthday falls on December 25?" Not even the teachers got that one.

The Americans infuse Christmas with a strange religiousness, the Japanese think it is a sort of Valentine's Day when boyfriends take their girlfriends to love hotels. Between these two extremes I say "Heed the example of butter and margarine: both in moderation and you may avoid a heart attack."

Saturday, January 10, 2004

After my luncheon, I surprised myself. I had made a five-course meal:

1. Romanian devilled eggs
2. Thai coconut-ginger soup
3. Avocado-radish green salad
3. Spaghetti with a tuna and portobello mushroom sauce
4. Rice pudding

It only took me two hours. In the words of my ex-friend, Cosmin, I am now ready to be a wife.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Allison says I should meet Jill from Kelowna. That she is also Bethesque. So I will be first introduced to Jill the modern way: through email. Jill wants to join the book blog. Then, through Jill, I can meet Texas Beth (not Illinois Beth), another rare character.

There must be more of us around. Is there really only one of us per several hundred kilometres?

But I always look forward to meeting weirdness wherever it may occur.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

When I told Sona I wanted to move, she sounded genuinely distressed. Allison was just as shocked. Maybe I don't want to really move after all. (Though that doesn't mean I am completely ruling it out.)

Only one person (you know who) said "Good riddance!"


Saturday, January 10, 2004

Beth wants me to write her love letters so that, when we are famous dead people, scholars will study our letters and wonder if we were really lovers. That'll drive them mad!

Saturday, January 10, 2004

People used to boil crepe paper for hair dyes? I'll have to try that out.

Many Easters ago, I was in a country without egg dyes. I made a batch of red eggs from onion peels and exactly five eggs from Japanese konbu. Konbu stench is too repulsive to work with much.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Ben says no one understands our humour here in the office.

Ben at Work says:
i took a sheep to the junior prom

Ben at Work says:
they are really into the drugs though

The Angel of Death says:
i once found a book on norwegian sheepherding

The Angel of Death says:
the first chapter was about how little Norwegian boys experimented with their flocks

The Angel of Death says:
sheep are bad

The Angel of Death says:
seducing innocent little boys

Ben at Work says:
yeah well........

Ben at Work says:
i got a sheep pregnant

The Angel of Death says:

Ben at Work says:
and now i have a wooly [sic] daughter

Ben at Work says:
my child payments go completely on shearing

The Angel of Death says:
how old is your daughter?

Ben at Work says:
was 1

Ben at Work says:
then i had lamb for dinner

Ben at Work says:
im telling wayne [the senior manager] you encourage the eating of children

Ben at Work says:
but thats ok cause he lives in a gingerbread house

Ben at Work says:
nobody in the office gets our humor....... i guess ppl think im weird....... its good........ hehe i love it

You have failed to receive file "spoo.jpg" from Ben at Work. [Poo icon failed to download.]

Thursday, January 08, 2004

The Geneva Public Library had a hamster (now deceased). This time they want a less nocturnal animal. Beth will buy a gerbil for the library.

Beth charmed me by insisting she was in the pro-hamster camp.

And good god! I forgot I let Anisoara out of the cage!

Must make sure she didn't escape yet again.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

When my parents phoned last night to wish me a happy name day, I told my mom of my decision to move somewhere else. For the first time ever, she agreed that I should go where I feel more at home.

"Do you know why people aren't friendly in Vancouver?" she asked. "Because they are all English."

My mom thinks only those of us with Latin blood have passion.

I grew up hearing about the difference between us Latin types and the "white people," as we call the rest of you. I always laughed at such an absurd generalization.

This morning Meaghen (a manager) and Brett (a salesman) talked about their holidays. Meaghen went to an Italian party. She was amazed that it lasted all night. She was surprised there was an open bar. And she couldn't believe that everyone was dancing. The salesman added that it was like My Big, Fat Greek Wedding.

In my head, I leapt up and shouted, "Ha! Now that's a party, not like your sedate knitting bees!"

There is a gulf between us and them white people.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

I was so proud to meet my Moldovan cousin. He was quiet and intelligent. I thought I was the only quiet one in the family.

Roman was fifteen when I met him. I also noticed he was very handsome. I was also relieved that at least someone in my family got the looks.

The other thing I noticed about Roman was that he was melancholy. He had gone to George Soros' free computer classes. But his father, my uncle, insisted that he was of more use at home cooking for the family. His mother was a housemaid in the Vatican. Someone had to act the housewife.

I thought it was an injustice that my bright cousin should be forced into a life of drudgery. I had grandiose plans to marry him off to a Canadian wench and then bully him into entertaining me.

Roman is now twenty and wants to marry his twenty-three year old girlfriend.

Dang! I forgot to have him betrothed to a local girl.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

A few years ago I met one of my distant cousins from Moldova. He invited me to visit Chisinau. He promised to protect me from the dark elements that haunt the former Soviet Union.

My parents refused to allow me to go.

"Before you even get into the country, the customs agents will rob you clean."

Last night my parents phoned from Moldova. They said it's fun there.


Thursday, January 08, 2004

Come January 22, the year of the misfortune-bringing sheep will turn into the year of the monkey.

Today will be a comedy of errors. My horoscope says I should turn off the machine. I suppose I had better get to work.

Hideki was right. Work sucks.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Spam received from Rodolfo Bourgeois, titled "convene chomp foliage chimney hindsight." That subject line will keep me thinking all day. Chimney hindsight. It must have something to do with all the surviving little Victorian chimneysweep boys in their old age. Though the "chomp foliage" makes me think that they were not boys, but chimneysweep ungulates.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I made up my mind to leave Vancouver. There is nothing here for me. I've been complaining left and right. Most people agree with my grievances.

When I first came back, Karen asked me how long I was going to stay. "Why, forever," I answered. Karen said she didn't think this city is suitable for me.

A mass exodus of friends took place over the eight months since I've been back. Last month Non-Arizona Cheryl announced her resignation as a Vancouverite. Shirley will probably move to New Zealand. I will fetch Arizona Cheryl in the summer, but she is married. So no chance of monopolizing her time.

Since there is nothing here from me, I wear my pout all the time. I am allowed. I will soon leave this mute town. It doesn't matter what bitter feeling I leave behind.

Then it happened. I walked into a room. Everyone smiled at me. "Sit beside me," said a lady. Whenever I said anything, everyone listened then nodded in agreement.

How dare they! Didn't they realize I wanted to hate Vancouver and all its inhabitants?

Well, I left having made one new friend (a Slovakian nanny).

Then my grandmother phoned to wish me a happy name day. (January 7 is Saint John the Baptist Day. My name derives from John.)

Grr! Can things get any worse?

Well, my godmother/aunt called to invite me over for sauerkraut.

Now who can refuse to see my bawdy aunt and perverted uncle?

I found myself at my perverted uncle's party eating mamaliga (polenta) and chugging overly-sweet champagne. My relatives amused themselves by commenting on the size of bread loaves. Then there are the miscellaneous swears they taught the Filipino bride. The chihuahua bit me.

My aunt promised me a massage and a takeout dinner next week. Before I go out the door I get a sealed envelope with my name day present.

My defenses are crumbling.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

This morning I dreamt of the same place that, in other dreams, was Venice and another, nameless city. I was walking through a colonnade dappled by the late afternoon sun. I came across a white woman with her two black children. Both of the children had some physical deformity. I remember that one of the children was shrunken, as if he never grew up or never could. All three frowned at me and moved past me in a tight group, the children clinging to the mother. I begged them to take me with them, as I was lost and afraid of the approaching night. They agreed but they still seemed to have suspicions about me.

We walked to the end of the colonnade and there was a crowd of black people there. Everyone in the crowd seemed like the people I saw when I stepped out of the airport in Addis Ababa. The small family disappeared when I looked back. I walked to the edge of the crowd and to the dark street behind.

Standing outside of a three-storey building were many white people in tuxedoes and evening gowns. They were all smiling and looking toward the door of the building. The walkway was lined with musicians.

A bellydancer came out.

That's when I realized that the music was very quiet. I asked the man next to me as to why. He told me the musicians were playing quietly not to disturb the tenants in the adjoining buildings.

I then had an urge to yell or sing aloud. But I woke up instead.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Troll-like. I should have used that one.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Mamaia took in Anisoara (the hamster, not the girl or the dog) while I was away.

Did Anisoara behave?

After she escaped from her hamster ball once, Mamaia took no more chances. Anisoara had no more exploring privileges.


Mamaia put a towel over the tape recorder next to the cage. She didn't want Anisoara to throw her pine shavings on it. The next morning, Anisoara had dragged the entire towel into her cage.


Above the cage is an icon with the Virgin and Child. It lights up. Anisoara reached threw the bars of her cage, grabbed the electric cord, and chewed it to shreds.


Since Anisoara hasn't had any exercise, I put her into her hamster ball and gave her free run of the house. I then sat down to a late dinner, while reading the local papers.

An article on why the US would have invaded Afghanistan regardless of whether September 11th happened or not. I stopped reading and thought about it. Then I realized there were no more hamster sounds in the background.

And, in my bedroom, was the lidless hamster ball, hamster missing. I turned off the lights and sat in the dark listening. Usually I could hear the telltale scurrying of tiny hamster feet. This time there was no noise to point me in the direction of Anisoara.

I ran to the basement to fetch the Smurf bucket. A handful of sunflower seeds at the bottom of the bucket and a ramp leading to the bucket rim. Hungry hamster falls in and can't escape. Just as I set up my hamster trap, I heard a gnawing sound. It came from the bathroom.

Under the sink cabinet, there are three round holes for ventilation. Anisoara crawled in. Yet, she couldn't come out any more. She tried to gnaw the hole bigger. Both of us began to panic.

The construction of the sink cabinet is such that I would have to saw it open. Either that or leave Anisoara there to die. But the thought of the stench (not to mention the karma imbalance that would result) made the latter solution unpalatable.

Would Anisoara spend the rest of her life under the bathroom cabinet? Would I leave seeds on the threshold of her little door every day for the rest of her life? If she died in there, I would still encounter the death stench. Or would she lose enough weight to come out on her own?

Anisoara managed to get her head out and allowed me to try to pull her out. I could feel her delicate little bones lodged in the hole. She gave a weak moan of pain. I stopped pulling. Then Anisoara, with all her might, pushed herself out of the hole. When I saw the first forepaw, I knew she was saved.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The snowstorm began as I drove to work. No one else was on the road. I got to work much earlier than usual without traffic. I guess everyone else called ahead and decided to stay home.

An hour after getting in to work, Lisa shooed me away. I sent the spreadsheet and Word documents to my private email account. Then I bade farewell to everyone else.

My car, Little Egg, struggled up the hill to Hastings.

"This isn't so bad," I thought. Maybe I could stop at the library and pick up my hold.

The library was dark. Perhaps it was closed. I jumped out of my car and went to the old man shovelling the walk. He told me that, of course, the library is always open.

Inside I could not find my book anywhere. Hairy Boy was clerking this morning. He mentioned that there was a stack of books under the counter.

Yippee! I got my books!

I told Hairy Boy that since I was sent home from work, I would like to sit down with a cup of hot chocolate (damn! I forgot to buy marshmallows!) and read all day after I finish my stack of paperwork and the snow shovelling.

On the way home I skillfully manouveured Little Egg up and down all the hillls. And all the gas stations had lowered their prices. Why, it is Tuesday. The day all gas prices dip for a few hours. A good time to fill me tank.

Yet, all the stations I passed were on the wrong side of the road. There was a Husky on St. John's Street in Port Moody and they would surely have lower prices. That's where I would go.

Around Burnaby mountain I followed an Irishman along a black spoor. The trail petered out by St. John's Street. Little Egg began sliding again.

Finally my second to last stop before home: there was the Husky station. But the prices were a full four cents more expensive than the ones at the gas stations I passed on the way home. Damn Husky! I had no choice but to give my money to that Esso station farther down the road.

Then came the biggest challenge of the day: the boulevard leading up the mountain. Behind me were two trucks and a bus. "Little Egg, you can do it!" And after pushing Little Egg beyond its limit, I pulled up to my house and parked Little Egg behind my racist nutso neighbour, who had just parked his plumbing van in front as well.

Now back to the spreadsheets. But all this work has made me hungry. Time for lunch.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I found a whole stack of Martha Stewart magazines for sale at the Port Moody library. I also got four other magazines and two books. One of them is Reborn in the USA. On the back it says that this book will "tell you how to create and obtain official documents, while avoiding the common pitfalls that land those unprepared in jail."

Hmm, Arash and I discussed good ways to sneak into the U.S.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

When I got home, there was a letter from Korea waiting for me. Shanyong, a classmate from Taiwan. She was responding to my Christmas card of three years past.

Despite the three-year gap in our correspondence, Shanyong knew all about my trials. I wonder through whom this news reached her. Who did I tell that would have passed on my news to her? But I am glad that people on the other side of the planet are aware of my existence.

She also had her own sad news.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Tonight I went into the Port Moody Sports Centre. What appeared to be a Sri Lankan family stood ahead of me in line. The receptionist had the phone to her ear and laughed with her caller. The conversation was about relationships.

I looked through my catalogue. I picked out the classes I was going to take. I had to make the big decision of whether to pay $20 more for the convenience of proximity or saving that $20 and driving into Coquiltam ten Wednesdays in a row.

The family chatted in low voices. The receptionist talked on, oblivious to our presence.

I gave her a stern look. She shortened her conversation and hung up.

The family discussed options for their two young daughters. The older one has some ice skating experience but the little one had none. Would a figure skating helmet do? If the older one took the 5 PM class, the younger one couldn't. There was a class at 6 PM in each of the girls' levels.

"Finally, it's your turn!" said the receptionist when I got to the front of the line. I signed up for my class.

The receptionist smiled so sweetly I forgave her. She explained that she had been on the phone with some lady looking to sign up for an aerobics course. Trying to decide which course was good for her, the caller suddenly told the receptionist that her boyfriend had broken up with her this last weekend. The caller then proceeded to mournfully provide the details. The receptionist sensed that this woman needed to talk and she listened, then tried to console the caller with her gentle laughs.

Before I left, the receptionist smiled. She said, "What is it with men breaking up immediately after the New Year?"

Monday, January 05, 2004

I vow never again to click on the links from the Morbid Fact du Jour. Apologies to the meek and gentle among you.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Towards the end of my stay, I did stop noticing the presence of so many American flags. But I still noticed that many Americans are quite attached to their churches.

Some rather life-changing experiences - I remembered to mark them in my calendar this time. Now the facts will be indelible! But I did not have a camera to take pictures.

On the flight from Minneapolis to Vancouver, I sat beside Arash, an Iranian-Canadian man. I immediately asked him if he read Persepolis. That started a whole discussion that lasted the rest of the flight.

Arash expanded the details from the book. When people had parties, they shut the blinds. I asked why they took the risk to play music at these parties. Usually the neighbours cooperated and didn't call the authorities.

Once, when Arash was small and home alone, a neighbour's party was busted. He heard footsteps on the roof. Fugitives from the party! Arash let them in and they waited for hours until the frenzy outside died down.

I asked about the ski slopes; are they sexually segregated? Some bigger ski resorts may have female-only and male-only hills, but usually only the chairlifts are gendered. Married couples may sit together but they would need a marriage license to prove their relation.

Is it true that there is prostitution in Iran? Yes, a lot because of the poverty. How is it that these women can thrive in such a strictly controlled environment? The morality police do turn a blind eye if the offender offers a bribe.

Was Iran worse under the Shah? Arash thinks it is worse now.

Arash's brother escaped the same way as in Persepolis - crouching among a flock of sheep.

Arash commended me for pronouncing Iran correctly. I didn't tell him it was a result of overhearing someone else say it that way the day before.

"I ran, he ran, they ran, we all ran!" said Arash.



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