Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review

GRE Flashcards

January began our second month back in America. I sat the GRE early in the month and did pretty well. We visited my grandmother in West Virginia, found a set of dinnerware at Crate + Barrel called Samoa and discovered that soap goes a lot faster when you use it every day and you have hot water. Cale and I also found ourselves some filler jobs at Rockler and Noodles & Company (respectively).

Cale Fixing the Jeep

February was the month we gave up on the bed and moved to a mat on the floor. Cale learned one of his students had gotten a job at an internet cafe in Apia. And I took the opportunity to thank all our friends and family for their support, including April and Rob (who not only cared for our jerk cat, but gave us a car when we got back).

First Frisbee of Spring

March brought spring and our rejoicing after suffering through our first winter in four years. We ran into a friend we hadn't seen since Samoa and one we hadn't seen since our wedding (in 2003). I discovered I might be some sort of hippy. And two weeks before our flight to Bangkok, Cale discovered we might need visas after all and sent our passports off to the consulate in Chicago. Adventure would ensue.

Songkran at Uttaradit

April 1st found us on a decidedly not joking emergency road-trip to Chicago to pick up our passports from the Thai consulate. Our flight was Monday the 5th and on Thursday the 1st our passports were still in Chicago and not processed. Thankfully, everything worked out in the end and we flew out on Monday (with a layover in Chicago, oh the irony). More than 30 hours later we were in Bangkok, where the Red Shirts were in the process of rioting protesting. After some couchsurfing, we hooked up with two Peace Corps voluteers and spent Songkran in NancyMarie's village and Chiang Mai. Cale took a cooking class in Chiang Rai, where we also met up with a friend of a friend who is doing linguistic work with a local tribe. Next we moved on to Tak and visted with another Peace Corps volunteer and went to a Thai wedding.

At Angkor Wat

In May we left Thailand for Cambodia and fell in love with Siem Reap. We ended up staying for three weeks, thanks to our couchsurfing friend Clem, who works at the Green Gecko Project. We also visited a Peace Corps who lived outside of Sisiphon and became show-and-tell at her school. Then we were off to the Nature Lodge in Sen Monorom and finished the month celebrating our 7th anniversary at a Mexican restaurant in Phnom Pehn.

Dang Tung

June started off with my bus birthday wherein we traveled by packed minivan to another Peace Corps site. We went to a Khmer wedding, I got violently ill and we some how ended up in another city. We liked Kampot so much, we stayed there for three weeks too, mostly at the Green Man. We ran into another group of Peace Corps volunteers and went to Rabbit Island with Chris and his girlfriend who was visiting from California.

On the Train

By July we were back in Thailand. We took trains from the border to Chiang Mai, where we whiled away the rest of our time motoing around and watching World Cup soccer. I had a 4th of July argument about marinara sauce and found the Wild West in Thailand. By the end of the month we were back in the States and moving into Cale's grandmother's house in Poland, Indiana.

Cale's 30th Birthday

We spent August country livin' and ended it with Cale's 30th birthday and the start of school. Cale was back in undergraduate after a business degree and I was going for my master's in public administration.

Wedding Dress Shopping for Teresa

September was school, boycotting Target and wedding dress shopping with my sister.

Cale's New Motorcycle

In October grad school ate my life, Smack peed on everything and brought birds into the house, my little sister turned 22, and Cale got a motorcycle.

Annette and Katie Become Sisters

November saw Rob and Phaelen's birthdays and Cale's mom became sisters with her long-time friend Katie. Late November also began the winter suffering.

Late Solstice

December was a Very Carusillo Christmas and a Very Poopy Solstice (which is odd, typically the poop is part of a Very Carusillo something).

So there you go. Tune in for 2011 when Cale and Sara tackle semester #2, get internships and suffer through yet another winter.

— Sara

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

An important lesson I learned this semester from my statistics professor.

I will refer you to this previous post in my apology for not blogging in such a long time. Though, in all honesty, I cannot blame it all on being busy. I have been busy before and still managed to blog, as just about any blog from the last few weeks in Samoa can attest to. I think one just has to accept that grad school isn't nearly as interesting (or picturesque) as being in the Peace Corps or traveling through Southeast Asia. There are just fewer things to blog about.

Cale and I have completed our first semesters back in school and had widely different experiences. Cale has been sitting in 200+ freshmen lecture halls with kids who were in kindergarten the last time Cale was a freshman. He could go an entire day without speaking to anyone and found refuge at my school where he could have adult conversation with my classmates. There are some youngin's in my classes as well, like the girl who was in middle school when 9/11 happened. We seem to divide into two groups, those who came to grad school straight out of undergraduate and those of us dancing around on either side of 30. There are some older outliers, but not many. Not surprisingly we seemed to have formed friendships within our age groups.

Those of you on the facebook know that Cale and I kicked some ass and took some names in the grades department this semester. Cale beat me by 0.015 for best GPA with a 3.94 (I am sure you can do the math to figure out mine). My 4.0 goals were defeated by an A- in Public Management. Cale also had an A- (in finite math), but with five classes his was not worth as much overall in his GPA.

Public Management was probably my least favorite class of the semester. It was entirely theoretical and taught entirely in academic-ease. The few occasions I endeavored to untangle paragraph-long sentences and complex three-dimensional diagrams, I came away with things like: "There needs to be accountability" and "Try having a budget." I think my favorite was the day I was able to sum up public management as the following: "Getting smart people to do smart things."

Needless to say, I stopped paying attention in this class more than a month before the end of the semester. However, I would like to point out there was a more pressing reason for why I was no longer attentive. Someone stole my seat. I like to sit near the front of the class. Not the front row (that's too goody-two-shoes), the second row. In the middle. It helps me see the board and stay engaged in what is going on. Though there obviously isn't assigned seating, people tend to gravitate to certain seating areas and sit there every day. I sat in the second row, in the middle. Everyday. Until one day there were no seats available in the second row and I had to move back a row. By the last few weeks of the semester I was sitting in the very back of the room, on my laptop, oblivious to what was happening down front.

The seating situation wasn't just a problem in Public Management. I also seethed quietly (well, not so quietly, ask my friends) over seat movers in my Public Management Econ class as well. Don't you understand? When you sit in a different seat, you have displaced someone else, who will find a new seat, displacing yet another until the entire room is in complete chaos. Chaos I tell you. Stop fucking with my seating arrangement!

Did I mention I am anal retentive?

Public Management Econ is also the class I cried in public over (and it wasn't because someone took my seat). The professor of this class was fond of assigning case studies that had only the most tenuous connection to in-class materials and were in fact ridiculously more difficult and required concepts never discussed in class. This teaching method made me angry. I arrived at his office hours already angry after spending the entire night before hating at the assignment only to discover more than 20 other students also had no idea what was going on. As the group office hour session progressed, I kept getting angrier and angrier at his lack of help. I pointed out that the number of students in his office hours should probably indicate to him this is something that needs to be discussed in class. He didn't seem to agree. I got angrier. However, when he followed it up with a little speech about how this is what it is like in the real world, you are presented with things you don't know how to do and you just have to figure it out, my anger boiled over. For one, this professor is the same age as I am (in fact, he might be a year younger than me according to his undergraduate graduation date). What exactly does he know about the real world that I don't? Furthermore, I am paying for the privilege to be taught these things so I don't have to just muddle through in the real world. If that is how it works, why am I even bothering with grad school? I can just go figure out things on my own for free.

For those of you that don't know me well, I have an inappropriate physical response to anger, particularly anger paired with frustration. I cry. The angrier or more frustrated I get, the more I cry. It is pretty hard to be taken seriously in an argument when you are bawling. The only time I ever came close to having a fight in high school I started crying and the other girl just laughed at me and walked away.

And so I cried in anger at my professor in front of 20 other students. In my attempts to explain, I kept repeating how angry I was at him. If anything, I think I scared him. I wonder if all my good grades after that could be attributed to him protecting himself from the crying, crazy lady.

I wasn't the only person to cry in front of an audience this semester. Our first Law and Public Affairs professor cried in front of the class. He was talking about how his son wasn't injured in the 9/11 attacks and got all choked up. Later in the same class he cried a little over due process. The first half of the semester was a complete disaster in that class. The professor was terrible, he taught us nothing and then gave us a multiple-choice scantron mid-term. This is grad school here, you really shouldn't be able to assess us with a multiple-choice scantron. Several of us complained about the class and how it was wasting our time and money. The administration at SPEA responded rather quickly and found us a new professor and the class improved greatly for the second half of the semester.

That leaves Statistical Analysis for Effective Decision-Making. The only class in which nothing too crazy happened. There was the lab when our professor referred to us as fetuses and after much prompting we established that she was only six months older than I am, which is probably why we watched this video in class:


Also, for you statistics nerds out there, there is this etsy store.

So there you go, my semester in a nutshell. I will try to blog more regularly, I promise.

— Sara

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What are Oranges Doing in My Chai?

Dear Bigelow Teas,

I appreciate your interest in marketing your new tea flavor, "Constant Comment." I also appreciate your decision to give me one for free. How kind of you.

However, when someone gets up all bleary-eyed in the morning, opens a new box of Vanilla Chai tea, goes through the tea-making ritual (its Chai, I have to heat water and milk) and sits down to a nice cuppa Chai, they do not expect a mouth full of oranges. Maybe if I had been a little more awake and not stumbling around in a dark kitchen I would have noticed the teabag on top looked a little suspicious, but I didn't.

Granted, one cup of unexpected tea is not the end of the world, but I just wanted you to know that I did not appreciate my cup of tea this morning.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grad School Ate My Life

Dear Grad School,
I know that no school wants to get a letter like this, but I've been a little concerned about your health. As a good friend, I cannot just let this go. Grad School, your looking a little, well, obese.
I didn't say anything when you were eating up hours out of my weekdays. I mean, that was understandable and even welcome. You were so emaciated before, you needed to eat something. Up to eight hours a day, five days a week is a healthy diet. But, Grad School, things have started to get a little out of control.
First you started eating up my weeknights as well. Then you started in on the weekends. First just nibbling around the edges, but more recently swallowing them whole before I can even get them out of the oven.
Sure, I was noticing you were looking a little bloated, but I chalked it up to just retaining water or an adjustment period. I figured once things go settled you would slim down to a nice healthy weight.
Instead your appetite grew. Weekdays, school nights, weekends, free-time. You just snacked your way through my week. When was the last time I exercised, washed the dishes or cleaned the bathroom? You get to them before I can and keep packing on the pounds.
I think it is time for an intervention. Grad School, you need to go on a diet. How about we start small? You cut back on your between week snacking and do a little portion controlling during the week and I'll let you keep all those weekday hours and even an occasional between week snack when necessary.
Sound like a deal? Please circle yes or no.


Friday, October 1, 2010


Smack the Killer

I love our cat, Smack, but he hates sleeping humans.

At first it was pouncing. You try sleeping with a cat jumping on and gnawing your feet every time you move them under the covers.

Next it was the door attack. When we couldn't take the pouncing any longer, we would lock him out of the bedroom at night. So he took running at full speed down the long hallway, launching himself at the top of the door and then scratching he claws all the way down to the floor. Rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat...... Once, in a sleep deprived stupor Cale got up and zipped him into a duffel bag.

"What did you do with the cat?" I sleepily mumble.
"I put him in a bag," Cale replies.
"You can't put him in a bag, he might suffocate. Let the cat out of the bag," I explain (enjoying the ability to use that cliche for real).

Then he learned how to flip light switches, leading us to believe intruders were in the house in the middle of the night.

Next it was the standing on the bed at 4 in the morning (remember I was working at newspapers and not getting home until after midnight) and screaming about being inside when he could be outside and why don't we let him outside?

When we moved to Samoa and left Smack in Indy with friends we felt guilty, but we looked forward to sleeping. Unfortunately we quickly discovered that roosters and Samoans also hate sleep.

Now that we are back and Smack has been living with us again he's been acting out in new ways. The stress of the move and being reunited with his family irritated his bladder (apparently this is a normal thing) and he took to peeing all over the house. Hooray. He also got in fights with the neighbor cats and required medical attention for a black eye. These problems might not seem like sleep-hate, but they are. Since Smack was ill and on medication, the vet recommended keeping him in the house. However, he was also refusing to pee in his litter box because he associated it with pain. If we didn't let him outside when he demanded he would pee on our things. So once again it is the 4am cat demanding to go outside.

With all these sleep-hate activities, last night took the cake. We had let him out and left the cat door open and crawled back into bed. We had barely had the chance to fall back to sleep when there were strange noises. It sounded like another animal was in the house. My first thought was that Smack had brought another cat back in with him or a small dog. Cale got up and could see in the gloom that Smack had deposited something on the rug just outside our bedroom. Cale turned on the light and with the audience he wanted finally paying attention Smack bit the head off the bird he had captured and proudly brought home with him.

Thanks Smack. Just what we need, 5am bird carcass cleanup.

Smack the Killer

— Sara

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Late Night Adventures

I suppose 10:45 pm isn't really late night, but it is for us old folks.

Cale and I had given up watching the Back to the Future marathon on the ion channel (which appears to be some sort of wholesome broadcast channel that usually only shows reruns of Without a Trace, Criminal Minds and Ghost Whisperer) and were heading to bed when Cale noticed someone running across our lawn with a flashlight. Seconds later our neighbor was at the door, "Your horses are out."

I am sure you have already figured there is no way that Cale and I own any horses, but our other neighbors do and two of them were out in the middle of the night, running next to a state highway with a 55 mph speed limit (the highway, not the horses). Not good for the horses or for the unsuspecting driver that might hit one.

Luckily they galloped back through our yard and into the neighbors'. The pony ran back into the corral and the owners were able to get the other one on a bridle (I don't know horse terms, but there was some sort of rope involved) and lead it back into the pen (if horses have pens).

Strangely enough this isn't the first time we've dealt with our neighbors' loose animals or with escaped horses. Three weeks ago, while celebrating Cale's birthday, some of their goats got out and Rob used his expert country skills to wrangle them back into their pen. Two years ago Cale and I were house-sitting up the hill from Apia (capital city of Samoa) when we looked outside to discover horses on the tennis court. They ran out on to the road and galloped up the mountain. Cale stood in the middle of the street and directed the horses home when they came pounding back down the hill. He's lucky he didn't get trampled.

On an unrelated note, we've been nursing a sick cat. Smack's been acting a little strange the last few days (though he hasn't peed on anything in a week [a week ago he peed in our friend Lindsey's purse. That's right, in, not on. On her phone to be exact]). He had a large, raised scab on his head. Yesterday day, he'd been favoring that area of his head and hadn't been opening his right eye all the way. We broke out the scissors and clipped all the fur from around his scab and started fussing with it. After aggravating it a little, the most amazing amount of puss started to pour out (oh, no, there goes Sara taking about puss again). That's right, Smack's gone and gotten himself an infected abscess again. With all my boil experience, I know how he feels. We've been cleaning him out and putting bactriban on it and he seems to be feeling better. Hopefully we won't have to take him back to the vet, the last visit was pretty pricey for what they eventually diagnosed as an imaginary disease (yet still prescribed steroids and antibiotics for).

Last night we went crazy and stayed up until 11 pm. Looks like tonight we are going to try for midnight.

— Sara

Friday, September 17, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Purchasing is Political

Dear Target,
You've broken my heart. Over the years I thought I had gotten to know you, trust you, even love you. You were everything I was looking for in a department store. Where else would I go when I needed a cat toy, new bedsheets, school supplies and t-shirts in one stop? Walmart? Walmart is the evil empire, but you are Target. You were different. Maybe I was just letting the graphic designer in me cloud my judgment with its love of you displays and products. I thought you were more than just a pretty face, I thought I saw something good on the inside too (founding sponsor of Weekend America, you).

Now it's like I don't even know you anymore. I gave you my wallet and you've gone and thrown it in the trash. Target, how could you do this to me?

I think we need to take a break. I have started seeing other stores. They can't give me everything, the way you once could, but they don't cheat on me with bigoted politicians either.

This doesn't have to be the end of us. I could see it in my heart to take you back if I knew you were truly sorry and I could trust that you had changed your ways.


PS. Tell your friend Best Buy I am not talking to him anymore either.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wait...Where Am I?

Yesterday afternoon I was in a computer lab having a class on the program I will be using for my statistics class (it is called SAS in case you were curious) and I was having strange flashbacks to Samoa. Someone has drawn an Excel table on the whiteboard. There were more students then there were computers ("you're just going to have to find someone to share with"). In-class notes were Word documents saved to each student's computer (though in this case they were downloaded from the online class management web site).
Computer programming: The manipulation of data by means of writing instructions in a particular computer language

Computer language: A collection of words and symbols assembled according to a precise set of rules and are interpreted by the computer to accomplish a variety of tasks.

Syntax: The set of rules of a computer language.

Computer program: A set of instructions written by a user in a particular computer language in order to carry out one or more tasks. In this class, our computer programs will be used to read, format, organize, manipulate, analyze, and report data.

Record (AKA observation): Any one of the horizontal rows of a file representing all of the data maintained for a particular unit of observation

Field (AKA variable): Any one of the vertical columns in a file that represents a single piece of information about all of the entities of interest
All my fellow Peace Corps Samoa ICT volunteers know what I am talking about.

But this time I was the student, not the teacher.

One other note from my statistics lab last night. Visual proof that Lotus 1-2-3 references still exist in the real world too:

— Sara

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to School

Today was the first day of classes for Cale and I in our going back to school adventure. I have spent the last two weeks in math camp and orientation, while Cale has been scratching his eyes out with boredom.

Mondays will be easy for us. Our first classes do not start until 2:30pm. I only have one class on Mondays; Cale has two. Both of Cale's classes are freshman business school classes: finite math and business computers. My only class of the day is Public Management Economics, which was way more interesting than it sounds.

Things have changed since we were last at school. For me that was more than seven years ago and for Cale it was at least five. One of Cale's classes is a huge lecture hall that requires the students to have a clicker, which is basically an electronic way to "participate" in the lecture.

My economics class is presented by Prof. Ross in a pretty interesting way. He styles his class on instructions on how not to kill people and starts the lecture asking questions about whether or not seat belts should be on school buses and referring to the FDA as an effective killing machine. Ask yourself:

1. There are 531 billion barrels of known oil reserves in the world. Annually, 16.5 billion are consumed. When will we run out of oil?

2. Why do so many cities and towns run out of water in Southern California?

3. A valley is flooded. Houses in the plain are damaged, while homes higher up are not. Who, if anyone, should we feel sorry for?

Keep in mind this is an econ class when attempting to answer these questions.

Cale and I both managed to have articles of clothing that required Oxycleaning by the end of the day. Cale dug through piles of empty ammo boxes at the army surplus and filthed up his brand new dress pants. I was surprised by a slightly early visit from Aunt Flo. Thank goodness I was wearing my brand-new, bright-white underpants from Victoria Secrets.

< . Side Note >Can I just take a minute to talk about my undergarments?

<. Side, Side Note >People not interested in Sara's breasts or women's panties should probably skip this part. <./ Side, Side Note >

So its been more than two years since I bought a bra. The last bra I bought was over the internet from Target while in Samoa. I went to Samoa with about four bras and three sports bras. Several of them had been stored away in ziplocks to preserve the elastic, but even that wasn't enough. It's been so long since I have owned a new, appropriately stretchy bra that I forgot what they were like. Supportive. That's what they are like.

Sunday I went shopping for undergarments at Victoria Secrets. Aside from three pairs of panties purchased at the mall in Los Angeles immediately after our return to America, I have never shopped there before. Holy Shiznit! I have never owned such comfortable bras in my life! Usually, after a particularly strenuous day one of the first things I like to do when I get home is take my bra off. For get that. After school today, I wandered around the house without a shirt with just my new bra. That's how comfortable it is. Furthermore, I was always under the impression I had small, flat terrible, boobs. Apparently what I had was bras that gave me small, flat, terrible boobs. You know what I have now? Cleavage! I have never...ever...ever had cleavage. I just though it was something my boobs couldn't do. Shows what I know. My boobs are so spectacular is these bars if it wasn't for my belly fat, I would want to wander around outside without a shirt on just so the general public could enjoy my breasts as much as I am.

Also, I now own underpants that can be called panties. I usually have sturdy underpants. These underpants get the job done. They are no nonsense. They are Hanes-Her-Way. They can be washed on the heavy-duty cycle and come out is the same condition as they went in. They are underpants. What I got in Los Angeles from Victoria Secrets are panties. They are delicate. They have ribbons or lace. They do not react well to the type of washing that happens to clothes when you are backpacking around Southeast Asia. My new panties from Victoria Secrets are slightly more utilitarian from the last, but are still delicate and luxuriant and I have promised to wash them on the hand-washables cycle in the washing machine.

Enough on my undergarments
<. / Side Note >

Where were we? Oh, yes, the first day of school.

Cale got called Sir. I discovered I cannot seem to print on any computer on campus. We both came home to find piles of books shipped from Amazon waiting in our mailbox and on our front doorstep. What more could you ask for?

— Sara

PS. Do you know how tricky it is to add ironic html code into a blog entry when blogger supports html? it just hides all your ironic coding as if it was code. Unless there really is an html code for side note.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Name Game

Cale and I have this game, the goal of which is to come up with names that will fit into the rules. However, we don't really have any rules. You just know a name that fits when you hear it.

Venn Diagram

Vector Graphic

Do you see the trend here? First name Venn? Middle name Diagram? It is a thing and it could be a name. Also, the word that is the first name isn't so weird that it is unbelievable.

There is more to the game than that.

casE sensitive

casE is pronounced Casey. The capital letter is key here; making the name itself case sensitive. I know, you are amazed by the cleverness of this name.

Also, if you happen to be a French/German couple:

Reaux Beaux Kaup

You get it? Robo Cop. Another kid that will never resent his parents.

We also have ones that don't quite fit into that category. Like brothers Alpha Male and Beta Male. I suppose it sucks to be the younger brother. Or an entire family of boys: Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan and Tamerlane Khan. I suppose this one would work better if Khan was your last name and not as first and middle names.

Cale, as you know, goes by his middle name. That's right folks, some of you out there don't even know Cale's real first name! Shocking. He likes the idea of kids going by their middle names (I suppose so they can suffer through first day of school roll call the way he did). Cale also happens to be named after his father and likes that idea too. So he has suggested:

Also Cale Reeves
Other Cale Reeves

Names I am sure that any kid would appreciate.

What about you? Have any names that would fit into our game?

— Sara

Friday, August 13, 2010

Country Living

McCormick's Creek
McCormick's Creek State Park. Only 10 miles from our front door.

I am a city girl at heart.

At least that is what I kept insisting as Cale and I slept outside on mats in tiny towns in Southeast Asia and Samoa, like this one.

Clem's Lunch Hut

Also, I do not camp.


I didn't grow up in a big city like New York or Chicago, but Indianapolis is still the 14th largest city in the country (population-wise). I think I might have gone to an apple orchard as a field trip in elementary school. When my parents took us to the state fair as kids I saw farm animals in cages. And that is about the extent of my country living in America. Even when I left Indy for college, I still moved to a respectably-sized town. Columbia has a population of over 100,000. My first job was in Evansville (a city I considered way too small) with a population of more than 120,000. Next on the list was Orlando, population more than 230,000 (metro area, more than two million).

However, outside of American Cale and I like to stick to the tiny towns. The entire population of Samoa is just slightly more than Evansville, Indiana. Our village, Faleula, had an estimated population around 2,000 (the smallest place we have ever lived). In Thailand, Bangkok was obviously too big (nine million people in the city alone), but so were Chiang Mai (just under 150,000) and Chiang Rai (62,000). We had to get out into the country in villages of less than 10,000 to be comfortable. Our favorite place in Cambodia had a population of less than 40,000.

Now we are in Poland for our first attempt at small town living in the States. Poland is unincorporated, so it is tricky to find population information, but it appears there are about 2,000 of us out here. In Samoa we were 20 minutes out of Apia (38,000). In Poland we are five minutes out of Spencer (20,000).

We've decided to approach our new lifestyle here with the same sense of adventure we used to explore the rural in other countries. We've already been to a county fair (take note that one of the top links on the site is hog wrestling), swam in a farm pond and burned our trash in our backyard.

Farm Pond

One of the benefits to living in the country is all your friends and family have huge gardens and are constantly insisting you take free food with you.

At Cale's Mom's Place

In the spirit of more food than you can possibly eat before it goes bad, Cale and I have decided to start experimenting with canning. Recently we turned about 20 pounds of tomato (and other ingredients) into seven pint jars of salsa.

Canning Experiments

I am also learning about maintaining huge tracts of land (actual farmers will of course mock me and my "huge" three acres, but it is immense to me). In the picture below, I am not driving a lawn mower (as you city folk might think). That is in fact a tractor. A surprising number of things in the country are tractors.

Sara and Manual Labor

However, this thing, that Cale is driving, is a lawn mower. Yeah, it confuses me too.

At Cale's Mom's Place

I quickly learned that my delicate hands aren't used to all this manual labor. Took the skin right off my thumbs after raking for only 10 minutes (there was much more raking in my future as well).

Sara and Manual Labor

Cale promises to take me to "the races" and fishing! Stay tuned for more country living adventures.

— Sara

Canning Experiments
Smack wanted to help can.

Friday, August 6, 2010

I Guess You Get What You Ask For

I suppose it is a little contradictory of me to refer to our return to school as part of our continuing effort to not grow up and then complain about being treated like a child, but this is ridiculous.


I have noticed lately that when I start typing a blog entry, I usually start with the sentence that should probably be found halfway down. I have provided no explanation or set up for the above statement. It's just dropped out of no where. In previous entries I have gone back and cut the offending sentence from the beginning and moved it to a more appropriate place, but in this instance I am leaving it. I am not sure why my mind works this way, but its been doing it for a long time now. Back in my magazine writing class at Mizzou I did the same thing with several stories. We were asked to re-write a story our professor (and editor-at-large at GQ magazine) had written. My lede was a scene halfway through his story when the protagonist finds himself sitting in his backyard with his gun collection thinking about shooting himself. When I wrote a profile on one of the guys inside the Truman the Tiger suits, I started it with him on the steps of the basketball stadium with a bloody fist. I just like to start in the middle I guess. Either that, or it is a cheap gimmick to make up for the fact that I am not that great of a writer to start with.


So things have been a little entertaining on the Cale-is-going-back-to-school-as-an-undergraduate front. First we had to be back in America in mid-July so he could attend one of those welcome-to-college days where fresh-faced freshman wander around with their parents in awe and sleep in a dorm for the first time. Granted his was specifically for transfer students and was in theory less geared towards 18-year-olds, but not by much. They still seem to assume you are 19 or 20 years old and transferring from a community college where you probably lived with your parents. There were sections on renters' rights and the dangers of credit cards. For all the jumping through hoops and presentations, all Cale really needed to do was see a academic advisor and register for classes, yet he wasn't allowed to simply do that. He was required to attend one of these welcome events. They don't seem to offer any sort of option for adults who are returning to finish their undergraduate degrees. It was frustrating enough for Cale, but I am trying to imagine what something like that would be like for, say, a retiree, who decided to go back to school. You're 65 and you have to watch 20-year-olds give you talks about managing your money and using the library.

Cale is going back to school for a business degree. Very few of his existing credits count toward this degree, but he has is electives totally taken care of. He joking refers to all his 300-level classes that are meaningless now. "You mean my credits in playwriting don't count for anything in the business school?" However, his life experience doesn't seem to count for anything either. Cale has run a million dollar restaurant, he was a corporate fixer who went around to failing franchises to set them straight and he was self-employed when he was making studio furniture, but there is no way for him to get out of the mandatory careers in business class.

Recently Cale received an email from school telling him he must complete a two-part, multi-hour online alcohol education course before he can register for classes in the spring semester. He even called to ask if he could get out of it. "I'm 30 years old," he explained. Doesn't matter. So Cale spent two hours watching videos of edgy teen-agers read from scripts about drinking, drugs and healthy relationships.

He was asked questions like:
"How likely are you to get in trouble with your parents for your drinking."
"How likely are you to drink more than four drinks in a night and be taken advantage of sexually"

And had to account for his living situation.
At home with mom and dad? Off-campus apartment with friends? Living with his steady girlfriend/boyfriend?

It seems surprising to me that there is not an admissions option for transfer/returning students over a certain age that would exempt them from all these requirements obviously created for teen-agers or people living away from home for the first time.

Oh well, at least Cale is getting almost weekly reminders that he is currently successfully continuing to not grow up. Or possibly daily reminders that despite his best efforts, he may have inadvertently grown up — just a little bit.

Cale's response? "I'd better hurry up and buy a motorcycle."

— Sara

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Making Grandma's House Our Home

New House

Before Cale and I joined the Peace Corps in 2007 we sold everything we owned. Had we moved into a married-student slum while attending IU, it would have been one empty apartment. No furniture. No dishes. No nothing. One of the benefits to moving into Cale's grandmother's home is it was already furnished. However, we still wanted to make this house feel like our home.

The first step creating a home was to bring our family back together. For the first time in almost three years we have been reunited with our cat, Smack. I have to thank Rob, April and Jason for caring for him while we were away. He was with them for almost a third of his life.

The final stepping in feeling at home was breaking out the boxes of artwork we hadn't seen on almost three years either and finding them a place on the walls.

With our family complete and our walls decorated we feel pretty comfortable. Sure, we are still sleeping on the floor and find the couch too comfortable, but it is a start.

— Sara

PS, The top picture looks better to me, but this one is a better picture of Smack.

New House

Friday, July 30, 2010

We're in Poland


Poland, Indiana that is.

As you already know, Cale and I are going to be pretty stationary in good, old Indiana for a while. Exotic adventures abroad have been put on hold temporarily. Luckily, we can still imagine we are traveling right here in our new home in Poland, Indiana. We are southeast of Brazil. And southwest of Lebanon, Peru and Mexico.

Cale's grandmother owns a house in Poland, just outside of Spencer, Indiana. She rarely lives there, spending most of her summers in her other Indiana home and her winters in Arizona. When she learned we would be moving to Bloomington for school she offered her place to us rent-free. At first Cale and I were interested in living on campus, but after applying for married-student slums and being assigned to a crappy, one-bedroom apartment with rent of $707 a month, Cale's grandmother's house looked like a god-send.

Cale and I moved our belongings down here two weeks ago with the help of Rob and Connor. Everything we own fit in the back of the jeep and Rob's trunk. We've unpacked and settled in. Stay tuned for more on Poland in the coming days.

— Sara

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Next Big Adventure

In our continuing efforts to refrain from growing up, Cale and I are going back to school. You should be able to find us in the vicinity of Bloomington at Indiana University for the next three years-ish. I will be working on a Masters in Nonprofit Management at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (maybe with a little Comparative and International Affairs and Policy Analysis thrown in for good measure). Cale will be in the Kelley School working on an undergraduate degree in business with a focus in Entrepreneurship. Cale likes to say that I'll cover the nonprofit and he'll take the profit and one of us should end up managing something in the end.

There were probably be fewer cultural revelations in the blog for the next few years. Or surprising foods. Or unidentifiable plants. However, I will do my best to keep it interesting. Stay tuned for fascinating stories on life with air-conditioning, travel in your own car and restaurants, restaurants, restaurants galore. Oh, and possibly some studying.

— Sara

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Discover Card is Slightly Less Crap Than Previously Indicated

You may remember a little
rant I posted to the blog a month ago. Long story short, we were having a problem with our Discover card. We had been told we could use our card in Thailand. It wasn't true. We were told we could use our card at Western Union. It wasn't true. We were told we could do cash advance transfers to checking. It sort of wasn't true (we hadn't made three "qualifying" payments).

Earlier this week Cale received an email from Dawn at Discover card. She had been made aware of our blog entry and wanted to apologize for the situation. Apparently, we could have accessed Emergency Cash while in Cambodia. However, in order to access this cash, we needed to know the secret code. Though we repeatedly told the customer service representatives we were in a foreign country and that we really wanted to get money from our Discover card, none of them seemed to know any way (well, any real way, they offered plenty of false ways) for us to use our card. According to Dawn, we needed to tell the customer service rep on the phone to transfer us to Global Traveler’s Assistance, From there that person would have been able to get us the Emergency Cash. Unfortunately, because we didn't know the code words (Global Traveler's Assistance) we weren't able to get our multiple customer service reps to transfer us to the people who could help us.

To Dawn's credit, from her email I get the impression that she was prepared at that time to do whatever it took to assist us. She did not know we were already back in the States by then (since we had told Discover we were going to be overseas from April to August), so she provided us with this information in the hopes that we would use it if necessary. She also credited $75 to our account for our troubles, which was appreciated. Furthermore, when we were back in the States Cale made a transfer from Discover to our bank account. After seeing this transfer and knowing that we were supposed to be overseas still, Discover put a hold on our account (though, now that I think about it, I don't think they notified us about this hold). When the card wouldn't work any more, Cale called them, told them we were back in America and that these were authorized transactions. I appreciate Discover cards quick action to prevent our card from being misused when they had reason to suspect that it was not us making the transactions.

So, long story short. Discover card could definitely do a better job in educating their customer service reps on what options are available to card users overseas, otherwise they are less crappy than previously indicated. Dawn, we appreciate your efforts on our behalf.

— Sara

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Final Southeast Asia Tidbits

Homes and businesses in Thailand and Cambodia with tin roofs will frequently have a roof sprinkler system. It can be an actually garden sprinkler on the roof or simply a hose with holes or advanced professional systems. Whatever the method, they will turn it on during the heat of the day cooling the tin roof and helping keep the temperature down inside. Brilliant. I see no reason why this wouldn't be effective in Samoa (at least in the places with abundant running water). Our PST village had free water pipe and a river, I bet it would be easy to cool off houses in this manner.

On the train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok we saw the place where toilets go to die. It was a massive porcelain graveyard.

It happened frequently enough for me to wonder if it was just a language issue. Someone would tell you how much something costs or how many of something they have saying one number while holding up a different number of fingers. They would say five and hold up four fingers. Mostly it happened in English, which is not their first language. However, usually the number they were saying was the correct number and not the fingers. Also, Cale said he had it happen to him a couple of times in Thai and Khmer.

Cale and I had an argument over whether or not he could tie me to the table (don't ask) with is flip-flops. I don't think it could be done. He seems to think that they plastic-rubbery straps of his jandals would be enough to hold me.

Wow. I thought I had more tidbits than this. Looks like my last entry on Southeast Asia is mercifully short. Tune in next time when Cale and Sara go back to school and hi-jinx ensue.

— Sara

Final Details of Southeast Asia

*Audience Participation Portion: Please imagine the red dot is on Indianapolis and not Bangkok. The map was originally made on a Mac with Illustator and now I have Inkscape and cannot open the EPS to edit it.

So, yeah, we're back in America. I mentioned that earlier. I figured I would fill you in on the final details of our trip and the last few tidbits I have to share.

Saturday, 10 July, we caught the train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok at 2:50pm. This time we got sleeper seats. They were not air-conditioned and I found that way more comfortable than the air-con seats we had on the ride in the opposite direction. This time around we were too smart to fall for their meal tricks. However, we were also arriving in Bangkok at 5:30 in the morning, so they weren't offering an overly-priced breakfast on this train anyway.

On the Train

Once again, the views from the train were lovely. Train travel, especially over long distances is way preferable to the bus. Even if we had splurged for the first, first, first-class bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok it still would have been like 12 hours in a seat on a bus. This way we could walk around and then at night we had relatively comfortable beds. The only disadvantages is they do not turn the car lights out. If you want dark for sleeping you need to draw your curtain. However, if you want the breeze from the fan (especially for top bunk people with no window) you need to leave your curtain open. I opted for the open curtain.

Cale and I settled down to sleep pretty early (it was like 8 or 9pm). It was pretty good that I started sleeping so early. Even though I had taken a Benadryl to aid with my sleeping, I still woke up every hour or two. No reason for that; I just couldn't seem to stay asleep.

Our train was scheduled to arrive in Bangkok at 5:30am. Maybe that is the time we crossed the line into the Bangkok metro area or something because we sure didn't pull into the train station until 7am. Oh well, the subway didn't start running until like 6am anyway, so if we had arrived at 5:30 we would have just had to wait around.

We went immediately to the train to the subway. We switched to the skytrain at an interchange station and took that to the stop for the Buri House (where we had stayed with Nancymarie and Hayden three months ago...almost to the day even). While sitting in the Buri House waiting room we ran into Portia (another Peace Corps volunteer we had met in Chiang's a small world after all). After checking in we proceeded to crash for several hours in obscenely cold air-con. We already had a full day and it was only like 9am.

We quickly discovered that the Buri House is in a pretty expensive part of town. The roads are lined with high-end malls and interior design shops. If you are getting married this must be bridal row or something, with all the dress and bridal-planning shops. Cale was still a little weary from a bout of stomach problems he had experienced in Chiang Mai and didn't want a repeat just as we were going to begin our 30-hour airplane adventure, so he didn't want to eat street food. The restaurants in the area were pretty expensive (one Korea joint we went into had a buffet that cost 500 baht..that's $15USd!). So we ended up eating McDonalds in the mall (don't tell anyone...or that we had KFC in the mall for dinner).

The check out from our guesthouse was 12pm Monday, 12 July. Our flight wasn't until 12:30am Tuesday, 13 July. For those of you who have trouble with the whole midnight/noon am/pm thing, that means our flight was so late Monday night it was really Tuesday morning. It also meant we had 12 hours to kill from when we checked out of our guesthouse until our flight took off. At first we considered seeing a movie and getting food and wandering around. However, we had all our luggage to deal with, the area of town we were in was expensive and, well, we are lazy. So instead after checking out from our guesthouse we caught a taxi to the airport. That's right cats and kittens, only 12 hours early for our flight.

How to kill almost 10 hours in the Bangkok airport before even going through security:

1. Wander around the entire pre-security area. Get a feel for the restaurants and 7-11s. Keep an eye out for any electrical outlets near chairs.

2. Find a comfortable place to set up camp at one far, abandoned end near the restrooms. Choose seating strategically to keep an eye on all the electrical outlets. For some strange reason, all seats near electrical outlets were taken and most of the people in the seats weren't even using the outlet. Also, note to BKK, why go through all the effort to wire up that support beam and put an outlet in if you are only going to include a single plug. Why not two plugs? Or, heaven forbid, several?

3. Watch Alien on the laptop and drink a beer (cause you can do that anywhere).

4. Experience false advertising after ordering the "Burger Set" at the Black Canyon Coffee outlet in the airport. I counted, I got less than 10 fries with my burger and I won't even get into the burger.

5. Read

6. Take turns walking around.

7. Watch Where the Wild Things Are on the laptop and drink a beer.

8. Take turns walking around.

9. Read.

10. Get really excited about the prospect of checking into your flight.

11. Get your hopes dashed and return to waiting.

12. Check in for your flight. Watch an old man in line ahead of you open his suitcase and pull out socks and pants and proceed to get dressed while waiting in line.

13. Passport inspection.

14. Security.

15. Now begins the waiting on the other side of security.

We were flying with two large groups. One was a group of sporty looking people from Nepal. The other was some sort of large group of people who all appeared to work for the same company (the matching windbreakers were the clue). Both the Nepalese and the employees were wearing laminated pieces of A4 like unaccompanied minors that listed all their travel info and their names and whatnot. Can these grown people not travel on their own? Is there some worry they might get lost? I suppose if this is their first international flight. But they were more than 20 people in each group, I feel like it would be tricky to get lost.

Anyway, we fly to Korea. I have very little memory of this. It was five hours. I think there might have been breakfast. I think I made the mistake of choosing the rice porridge, which would have been fine if I hadn't added the "green tea" flavor packet that contained seaweed. Had I known about the seaweed I would have left out the packet.

Next we waited in the Seoul airport for four hours or so. This was done mostly in a delirious haze in and out of consciousness. Before boarding the flight to the US, Cale was made to throw away his bottle of water, even though he had just bought it on the other side of security.

The flight to Chicago was 12 hours. Our seat mate was a little too chatty for my liking. I now know all the details of his life. Where he used to live, where he lives now, why he was in Bangkok, his wife, his divorce, his dead grandfather, etc., etc, etc. I think he took the hint when I put my earphones in and didn't remove them for the next 12 hours. I watched Alice in Wonderland, Date Night, and Youth in Revolt. I tried to watch Bounty Hunter and Valentine's Day, but they were too terrible to continue with.

Lunch was chicken and mashed potatoes (my seat mate doesn't eat meat, but doesn't advance order a vegetarian meal, instead he just lets you know he cannot eat anything on his plate, do you want it? so I gave him my salad). Dinner was either Korean noodles or seafood. Even though our seat mate could see the Korea noodle dish in front of me and Cale (and how it was entirely vegetables) before making his choice, he chose the seafood. After opening it he discovered it was full of (surprise) seafood, which he could not eat. Also it was in a cream sauce and he cannot eat milk. Or gluten. I am sure the stewardesses love him. Some time in the middle of the night (to be honest, I have no idea what time it was) they came around with a snack, either these crazy pizza sticks or tuna-rice balls that were in a triangle instead of a ball.

Aside from the time I walked in on an old lady in the bathroom (you have to pull the lock so the door says occupied!) the flight was pretty uneventful. Just long.

We landed in Chicago and drank a beer that wasn't Chang or Angkor (or the like). I also showed an old lady with very little English how to use the automatic flush toilets. There is just something about me and old ladies and toilets I guess.

When we finally arrived in Indy we had been in transit for more than 40 hours. Our Tuesday had been more than 30 hours long and it was only 4pm Tuesday there. We still had eight more hours of Tuesday to get through.

The last of the tidbits will be in the next blog entry.

— Sara

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Name This Plant: Eucalyptus Deglupta

Name This Plant

Name This Plant- Eucalyptus Deglupta

Jane has successfully named this plant the Rainbow Gum Tree (that's Eucalyptus Deglupta to you). According to
Wikipedia, this is the only eucalyptus tree native to the northern hemisphere. It is most commonly grown for pulp wood in making paper and for ornamental purposes.
"This tree is also grown for ornamental purposes, due to the showy multi-coloured streaks that cover the trunk. Patches of outer bark are shed annually at different times, showing the bright-green inner bark. This then darkens and matures to give blue, purple, orange and then maroon tones"
I had no idea such a tree existed. Cale and I were walking around in the national park up the mountain from Chiang Mai, when we happened to turn the corner and stumble on this tree. At first we thought it had been painted, until we realized that they were everywhere and all the trees were equally colorful. Cale describes them as Picasso trees. They are my new favourite plant.

Name This Plant- Eucalyptus Deglupta

Name This Plant- Eucalyptus Deglupta

— Sara

Friday, July 16, 2010

Name This Plant

Name This Plant

— Sara

In America

I am sorry. For those of you following the blog who are not on the facebook, I failed to mention we are back in America. I will post the final entries of our Southeast adventures very soon. Things are a little jet-lagged and hectic here at the moment.

— Sara

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Name This Plant: Longan

Name This Plant

Peak Ness has successfully named this plant Longan in a facebook comment. She does have a slight advantage though, what with living in Thailand and all.

According to
Wikipedia, the names for this fruit in Chinese and Malay mean "dragon eye" and "cat eye" respectively. I would not argue with this assessment. Longan falls into the category of eyeball fruits.


Mark Kaplan guessed this fruit might be lychee or rambutan (also via facebook). You may remember rambutan from
the very first Name This Plant. Lychee, also like the longan and rambutan, has an outer shell with an eyeball-like fruit inside. All three fruits are frequently sold on the roadside here in bunches still attached to small branch.


According to
Purdue's horticulture web site, logan is often named in reference to the lychee:
"Closely allied to the glamorous lychee, in the family Sapindaceae, the longan, or lungan, also known as dragon's eye or eyeball, and as mamoncillo chino in Cuba, has been referred to as the 'little brother of the lychee', or li-chihnu, 'slave of the lychee'. Botanically, it is placed in a separate genus, and is currently designated Dimocarpus longan Lour. (syns. Euphoria longan Steud.; E. longana Lam.; Nephelium longana Cambess.). According to the esteemed scholar, Prof. G. Weidman Groff, the longan is less important to the Chinese as an edible fruit, more widely used than the lychee in Oriental medicine."
Though I am a fan of the flavors of all these fruits, I am not a big fan of their consistency and eyeball-like qualities. I rarely eat them.

— Sara

Friday, July 9, 2010


Sara, why are you posting so many blog entries all at once?

Because we are almost ready to leave and I haven't caught up with our adventures. It would be silly to be back in America and still blogging about Thailand.

Oh..ok...well hurry up already.

Outside Chiang Mai

The people of Thailand seem to have a thing for the old American West. There are country-western bars and whatnot around. However, this resort/campground outside of Chiang Mai really takes the cake. I am not sure if you can sleep in the teepees or not.

I did find it strange that the hot springs that are in no way affiliated with the above resort also incorporated Native American stuff.

Hot Springs

You can also buy dreamcatchers at the Chiang Mai Sunday Walking Market.

Dear tourists, your hand does not actually emanate a force field.
For some strange reason we have been witness to a strange phenomena. A group of tourists will be standing on the side of the road waiting to cross the street (usually these groups appear to be family groupings with kids in tow) and the leader of the group will just decide that now is the time to cross, regardless of the traffic. They will step out into the street and put out their hand at the oncoming cars. "Stop in the name of the farang!" They don't actually say that, but that is the impression that I get. What exactly do you think you are accomplishing with your hand? Either the traffic sees you and will stop or they don't. Do you think that with out the hand signal the drivers see you but aren't sure what to do and will run you down? Stupid tourists, wait for a break in traffic or, this is craziness, cross at the designated cross walks where there is a light and a button you push to indicate you want to cross.

Speaking of Chiang Mai traffic, it is insane. At least around the moat. All the traffic goes one way in a circle on the road inside the moat and all the traffic goes the other way in a circle on the outside of the moat and there are occasional places to cross over. It makes getting somewhere specific an adventure of U-turns.

Thai and Khmer people are practically born on motos. These guys can drive a moto like nobody's business. They weave in and out of traffic. They are up and down one-way streets, regardless of the direction of traffic. It is almost an art form. However, they also drive four-wheel vehicles like they are motos and that not a good idea. Note to drivers of cars and trucks in Southeast Asia, your car is much bigger than a moto and cannot fit into that space. Also, it is recommended that you stay in between the lines indicating the lanes. I have never seen a person in Thailand or Cambodia park a car without a passenger getting out to direct the parking (and I am not just talking about parallel parking here). I have also never seen any one pull out of a parking space or parking lot with out either making an elaborate 19-point turn or having a security guard with a whistle stop traffic so you can pull out. Craziness.

Things you might not consider luxuries, but that I do:
Cold drinking water
Hot showers, with soap, and a real towel afterwards
Dry, ironed, folded laundry

— Sara

Happy Birthday America or The Great Marinara Debate

Cale and I wanted to do something American for the 4th of July. We learned about this official event* the day before. Though it was tempting (four different salads!), we thought the 300B price tag (about $10USD) was a little high. Instead we decided to resign ourselves to eating hamburgers. Cale had scouted around a little the day before and had found what he thought might be an American bar. The
Chiang Mai Saloon sort of had the feel of a Texas Roadhouse-type restaurant and we thought we would have burgers there.

*How can you not love that official American food includes Polish and Italian sausage and quesadillas and tacos? Those all are truly American foods.

When we finally sat down to dinner, I realized that I wasn't up for a burger. I just haven't been a big fan of burgers for, well, years now. Too much meat in one place. Instead, I was excited to order the mozarella sticks. The
menu describes the mozzarella sticks as such:
Mozzarella Sticks
Italian breaded and deep fried, served with marinara sauce.
When they arrived, things looked a little fishy. To start with, they were not Italian breaded and deep fried. Instead they were
tempura, which was good enough. However, the dipping sauce was obviously not marinara. I decided to give it a go anyway. It tasted a little like the sweet chili sauce often served with spring rolls or samosas, but it was not as clear as that sauce. I held up my sauce to the waitress and asked her if she had any marinara, as this was chili sauce or something. She returned with mayonnaise. Hmmm....

Now let me put forth a disclaimer. Had we been anywhere else in Southeast Asia I would have just moved on. I am used to getting Western foods that are not as advertised. I am in Thailand, I should be eating Thai food (which I do, but it was America Day). Bu, we were not really in Thailand, we were in the Disneyland Epcot-like equivalent of America town with a wild west theme and I figured I should be able to get the advertised marinara sauce here of all places. Finally, they have spaghetti bolognese on the menu, so I should be able to get the spaghetti sauce, no?

At this point the waitress is confused. I tell her that marinara is like spaghetti sauce. She heads back into the restaurant (we are out on the patio) and I find a menu and follow her. She is talking to a woman behind the bar. This woman tells me they don't have marinara. Once again, I normally would have let it go at this point (ok, no sauce, not a problem), but I know they have the spaghetti on the menu. I point to the marinara listed next to the mozzarella sticks on the menu and then tell her it is like the spaghetti sauce (and point to the spaghetti bolognese), can I have the spaghetti sauce? She tells me that I cannot, that they make that sauce special for the spaghetti bolognese with the meat in it. I say fine, can I just have whatever sauce you use without the meat. She tells me that I cannot. This sort of angers me a little. You have this spaghetti sauce, but I cannot have it? So I tell her that she shouldn't advertise marinara on the menu if they don't actually have marinara sauce.

This is where it gets interesting.

The woman behind the bar starts to insist that what was given to me is in fact marinara sauce. Listen lady, my maiden name is Carusillo and I know a marinara sauce when I see one. I don't go around telling you what is and isn't Pad Thai do I? I am not asking for grandma's homemade red sauce here, just a little Prego or Ragu or something out of a can is just fine. Obviously, I don't tell her this. I do explain that marinara is like the spaghetti sauce they use in the bolognese (obviously sans meat) and that this (indicating what I was given) tastes more like chili sauce. She is still really adamant that this is marinara and explains to me that they use tomato sauce (which is what they call sweet ketchup here) and add tabasco sauce to it. Voila, marinara. She also insists that no one has ever complained before.

At this point I don't want to be having this argument anymore. I have established that I will not be getting any sauce for my sticks and I just want to eat them. So I thank her and go back to the table.

She follows me back to the table! Where she continues to insist that it was marinara and tries to take away my food, telling me I can order something else. I keep insisting that I am hungry and I am going to eat the mozzarella sticks. She keeps wanting to take them away. When she finally decides I can keep them, she makes a point of telling me that if I eat them I have to pay for them. Well, no duh. Thanks for that.

Anyway, so that is how I spent my Fourth of July, arguing with a Thai woman over what is and is not marinara sauce. Hope you enjoyed your holiday.

— Sara

PS. After I went through this whole episode a guy two tables over ordered something off the menu and we could clearly here him ask, "This comes with marinara, right?" We were so super tempted to stick around just to see what he got and whether or not he thought it was marinara, but decided not to.

Name This Plant

Name This Plant

— Sara

Back to Chiang Mai

When we leave Chiang Mai on a night train back to Bangkok Saturday afternoon we will have been here for about 10 days. Ten days is the length of some people's vacations. For us it is the time to kill between Cambodia and our flight home.

Chiang Mai is a completely different city this time around. Songkran is over, it is the low season and the protests in Bangkok significantly affected the tourism industry. Chiang Mai is almost a ghost town when it comes to tourists. Don't get me wrong, it is still crowded. The city itself has a population of 150,000 (just under the population of all of Samoa) and the metro area is home to just under a million people. Its just the farang that are missing.

Hot Springs

We've had a chance to do some things we didn't do when we were here the first time. We rented a moto. After a significant amount of experience in Cambodia, Cale was feeling more confident about driving in Chiang Mai traffic (which is still ridiculous) and I was no longer deathly afraid of the moto. We motoed out to
Bo Sang, Baan Tawai and other handicraft "villages." Talk about deceptive marketing. These are not villages where people make things, these are outdoor strip malls where every store sells just about the same thing. We were less than impressed. We were also less than impressed with the hot springs. I think mainly because it was already hot outside. Hot springs are better in colder weather. That and the geyser wasn't natural, there was a pump. You can buy eggs and put them in the hot water to boil, but we weren't hungry, so we didn't.

Chiang Mai

We also motoed up the mountain, Doi Suthep. We skipped the mountain-top temple (the only temple that charges admission in the city) and the tourist clap-trap village that has sprung up at the entrance and continued on to the Doi Suthep National Park.

Chiang Mai

We also visited the Night Market repeatedly. When we were here the first time Cale told a musical instrument vendor that he would come back at the end of our trip to buy the instrument. Two months later we returned and the first thing the guy said to Cale? "You're back!" He had remembered Cale. How crazy is that?

Holland Beats Brazil

We saw Holland kick Brazil's ass at a bar we originally thought was called Holland House, but have since discovered is called The Wall. The Dutch owners just covered it in signs saying Holland House to encourage Dutch football fans to watch the games there.

Cale had a suit custom tailored. I got a manicure and pedicure. We ate an excessive amount of Mexican food from
Miguel's. And I had a 4th of July argument with a Thai woman about marinara sauce (more to come on this one later). All in all, I would say a good time was had by all. Tomorrow we are back on the train for another 14 hours back to Bangkok.

— Sara