Tuesday, July 31, 2007

And the award goes to....

Most Annoying Question:
"Are you Japanese?" Repeated five times daily it stops being funny. I NEVER get Chinese, and certainly not American. >: )

Most Worthwhile Tourist Spot (on this trip, so far):
Molen van Sloten, a windmill just outside of Amsterdam. It's definitely unique! Plus, it gets you away from the tourist mob, and gives you a taste of the peaceful suburbs.

Most Surprising Fact:
Vincent Van Gogh only painted for a total of 10 years, from age 27 until he shot himself - though he was certainly prolific, producing more than 900 paintings and thousands of drawings during that time.

Funniest Moment:
Spotting reruns of 3rd Rock from the Sun on TV at the lobby of my hotel in Amsterdam.
Sent Wirelessly from My CrackBerry.


iPot. Says a t-shirt. Can you tell I'm in Amsterdam?

This vacation came to a bumpy start as I checked myself into an emergency room at a hospital in Brussels. No I wasn't bleeding, thank God, but I did have a condition that called for antibiotics. The doctor and the nurses were all gracious and helpful. Two hours (I went shopping while waiting for the lab results), €80, and one dose later, I felt better immediately, and could finally embrace the very much anticipated trip.

No idea how Brussels could call itself the Heart of Europe. Sure, it was NICE, with the Grand Place, the museums, the mussels, and the chocolate (what a pity I had to skip the beer due to the antibiotics). But after two full round trips on the red sightseeing bus in two days (of course I hopped off at all the interesting places), it quickly became apparent that I was running out of reasons to stay.

So off I went to the train station to map out my next stop. Should I visit the town of Brusche (sp.?), or Amsterdam? The guy behind the counter did that very European thing of curved-down lips plus a shrug at the mention of Brusche, but Amsterdam got a big smile and a twinkle in the eye. OK.... I could take a hint. Off I go, to the Netherlands.

Boy was he right!

First of all, the canals. They remind me of Venice, but wider and cleaner. Then there's the bikes. Locals haul everything on their bikes - groceries, flowers, even little kids. I saw this cutest maybe 2-year-old boy sitting in front of his mother on a bike, just zooming by, his soft blonde locks dancing in the wind, and his young eyes filled with wonder.

The Dam Square, Van Gogh Museum, and the Nine Streets with the little boutiques. Shopping has become so.... global. Every metrololis has a Zara, H & M, and Apple. McDonalds has always been ever-present, but now add to that list Ben & Jerry's, and Haaggendaz (rolling my eyes).

Tourist shopping makes me sick. For starters, I simply don't need more STUFF. Remember George Carlin's monologue about how when we go on trips we realize we only need a small portion of the stuff we own? Exactly. I only brought a North Face backpack for the 2-week trip. We want a lot more than we ever need. And we need a lot less than we actually own - for most of us living in non-third-world countries anyway.

To save myself from future trips to Good Will, I'm limiting my shopping to small souvenuirs like fridge magnets (I collect one from each city I visit). What I don't limit myself on is how much I eat, and what - with all this walking, it will for sure burn off.

Yesterday I wandered into a random coffee shop on a main street for some hot chocolate. The chalk menu read: "coffee, orange juice.... 5 joints, mixed, 10 joints, mixed, 5 joints, pure, 10 joints, pure". Huh? I did a double....take. A double take, not a double joint! What were YOU thinking? ; )

That's Amsterdam for ya.... Full of surprises. More later, and I'll post some photos when I get home (MMS messages cost extra, emails don't). For now I'm sitting down to desert, if you get the drift. ; )


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Update on August 7th: That's me on the train to Amsterdam in the photo. The backpack is all I had for two weeks. The sweatshirt says "Australia" (got it in Sydney last year), but never mind that. :)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Mix and Match

After an eight-hour delay at PHL (not to mention the 13-hour total flight time), I finally checked into my hotel in Brussels by 10 PM.

I so don't feel ready for this vacation. Been popping Tylenol because of a backache. Then my Canon camera decided to give me an error message and refused to take pictures before coming to its senses. Oh yeah AND I had to spend 20 minutes talking to my brokerage firm over the phone to clear up confusions regarding a wire transfer.

My first meal in Brussels ended up being Japanese. Japanese, in the heart of Europe! Why oh why? Well, I'm exhausted. Room service stopped serving. And the Japanese restaurant is literally right next door, AND the ONLY restaurant on this block. So there I was, slurping a steaming hotel bowl of soba, and thinking to myself I could have been right at home in San Francisco, if it weren't because of the smaller portion and the much steeper price (€9 for what I could easily get for $7 at home).

Adding to the "global" experience? They were playing the song My Girl in the background. : ) it reminded me of the time I spent in Sydney last year.... How I had stumbled across an Irish pub where a live band played Hotel California and California Girls. Our music rocks.

Belgian Hotel: €59

Japanese Dinner: €12

American Music (while you're far from home?): Priceless


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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Gum Contouring

Good gum contouring before and after photos.

Dr. Li had asked if I was considering gum contouring. His take is that it's completely optional, even though I have "small teeth" (now THERE's concept to chew on).

I'll wait (till after the braces come off) and see.

What's $24 worth to ya?

What's $24 to you?
  • Two movie tickets?
  • A pedicure?
  • Two drinks at an average bar?
    But for $24 a month, you can sponsor a child in need in countries like Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Mexico.  80% of your donation goes to the child.  What are you waiting for?  Sponsor a child through Christian Children's Fund today!
    Yes, I'm in marketing, and I totally fell for CCF's TV commercial last night (another reason why I don't typically watch TV).  But, this is for a good cause, I hope.  And for once, I want to be NOT jaded or cynical - and help spread the word.

    Wednesday, July 04, 2007

    Happy 4th!

    Happy 4th of July, everyone!

    Sunday, July 01, 2007

    Five Months!

    Five months post-op today! Before and after photos compared to about a year ago. There's still some numbness in my right chin, and lower right lip, but not much. Maybe 5%?

    Mary had asked me in one of her comments if people treat me differently (after the change in my appearance). Good question! I had to think about it for a while. Hmm....No I can't say that people treat me differently, other than that perhaps strangers seem to approach me more often, with random small talks, at ice cream parlors, grocery stores, et cetera. The biggest change took place within my own mind. I feel less self-conscious and more self-confident. I no longer feel the need to conceal my profile and put my best face forward, so to speak. It feels so great to look normal, to know that my teeth and jaws fall exactly where they should (no more edge-on-edge bite!). Sure, the whole ordeal cost a lot of money. But the confidence it brings me is priceless.