Tag Archives: bikes

Letter B #AtoZChallenge

Continuing my memoir encyclopedia theme, here are my Letter B entries.

Babysitting

I’ve always loved kids, so it made sense that some of my first jobs were babysitting for family friends and neighbors. I began babysitting at age eleven, which I now find absurd. What does an 11-year-old know about babysitting? How can you leave someone that young alone with your kids? I guess the early 90’s were different times, but still. I wouldn’t trust an 11-year-old to babysit.

I babysat for many years, off and on, sometimes on a random night, and sometimes on the regular. I think I gained a lot of responsibility by looking after other kids. Most of the time I loved it, but there was that one time I caught two of the five siblings I was babysitting smoking up in the tree in their backyard. They were 10 and 12 years old. I quit that day.

Banana Pudding

My Mamaw was the best cook that ever lived. Because she grew up very poor during the Great Depression, she made everything from scratch. I spent a lot of time out in the country at her house, and much of that time was spent in the kitchen. My brother, Andrew, and I loved her banana pudding. Mamaw’s banana pudding was served hot, fresh from the oven. First, she’d make the pudding from scratch on the stovetop. As her official taste testers, she gave us each a spoon and waited for our approval, which we always gave because, like I said earlier, she was the best cook ever.

Andrew and I were always Mamaw’s special helpers, and she’d pull tall stools up to the counter top where we’d assist her. Our job was to cut the bananas into slices and help her layer the pudding. A layer of Nilla Wafers lined the bottom of the 13×9 glass baking dish, followed by a layer of bananas, and then a layer of pudding, which Mamaw poured because it was too hot for us. More Nilla Wafers, bananas, and pudding. The final piece was meringue, which she’d whip up in her mixer, stiff white peaks indicating it was ready. She always did that part. Then it went into the oven for what seemed like an eternity. Fresh out of the oven, she’d dish out four helpings, one each for Andrew and me and one each for her and Grandaddy. Each time we had it was better than the last. The taste of warm banana pudding will always bring me back to that kitchen and my Mamaw.

Bean Burrito

Kids are funny, and their idea of insults is even funnier. My first year as a camp director at iD Tech camps, we had an 11-year-old camper named Mitchell who came a few weeks in a row. He was a spitfire with a temper much bigger than him. His go-to insult whenever he was upset at a fellow camper or an instructor was, “Gawd! You’re a bean burrito!” Hurling that insult was always met with laughter or a smile, which only fueled his anger. But, how can you not smile when someone calls you a bean burrito? Is that supposed to hurt? 😉

Bees

I’m not afraid of a lot of things, but I’m deathly afraid of bees. Like, I completely freak out whenever one is flying anywhere near me. I have no idea how other people aren’t bothered by them. They have stingers, and it hurts like hell when they sting you! When I see a bee, I completely come out of my skin, running away, screaming, and sometimes crying.

I think my fear stems back to two major incidents from my childhood. Once, when I was about four or five, I was playing at my cousin Katy’s house. We were in her front yard, and for some reason, we were playing under a bush. That’s when it happened. We had inadvertently messed with a wasp’s or hornet’s nest, and they were angry! I ended up getting stung four times in the head. I remember crying like crazy, and my parents running out to get me. Another time, I was around eight years old, and I was playing in my playhouse that my Grandaddy built for me. I was rearranging the furniture, as you do, and when I moved my pretend Kenmore refrigerator, I unknowingly disturbed the bee hive that had formed on the back of it, causing an angry crowd of bees to attack. The fact that I was in a confined space of about 12 square feet, with the door and windows closed, did not work to my advantage. I managed to escape and run around to the back of the house, where my parents’ room was, but not before I’d been stung a bunch of times, mainly in my knee. Ever since then, bees terrify the crap outta me!

About 6 months ago, a couple of friends and I took a trip to Morocco, and we were on a road trip from Chefchaoen to Casablanca, me riding shotgun. The weather was sunny and slightly cool, so I cracked the window, turned up the tunes, and settled in for a relaxing ride. Suddenly, I felt a leaf fly through the window and land in my hair, along my hairline. Reaching up to get it out, I felt a red hot pain shoot through my finger. Bringing my hand down to inspect it, I see a bee attached, which falls down beneath the seat. I begin screaming bloody murder, a combination of the pain and the fear of the bee, Celeste and Jen unaware of what is wrong with me. Celeste wants to help me, but she’s driving about 100km/hr down the highway. Jen, in the backseat, offers assistance. I shove my finger back to her, crying and shaking, begging her to remove the stinger. Miraculously, she has a pair of tweezers in her bag, and she’s able to remove it; I manage to calm down. I am so glad I wasn’t driving, or we would have certainly crashed. Also, what kind of luck is that where a bee is able to fly through a cracked window of no more than 2 inches wide, while we drive at a high speed down the highway, and land in my hair? Freaky things like this happen to me a lot.

Bikes

I’m a bike rider, although I don’t consider myself a cyclist. I’m more of a casual bike rider. In elementary school, my main thing was riding around the neighborhood on my yellow Huffy with white tires, speeding through the streets like I owned the place. When I needed a break, I’d throw it against the front porch steps, run in and get some water, only to get right back out there. I’m not certain when I stopped riding, but by high school, I was more concerned with driving than riding my bike.

I didn’t own a bike again until I moved to Shanghai, and faced with not having a car and not wanting to rely on taxis all the time, I braved the hectic, busy streets and got a bike. That first bike was sahweeet! It was a red and white Giant with a basket on the front. I loved that bike. About 8 months after I bought it, I stupidly left it overnight at the Metro station, and the next day it was gone. Sadness.

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My next bike was so nice…vintage colors that made me smile. I had that bike a total of 6 days before it was stolen from inside my apartment building, locked up to the stairwell in the middle of the day, on my birthday no less! Lots of tears were shed for that one.

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After another few bikes were bought and stolen, I decided to get a custom-made fixie. I got to choose the colors and being the neon lover I am, it was bright! I only stored it in my apartment, and I’m happy to say, I still have it. When I left China, I broke it down, packed it in pieces in a box, and brought it as checked luggage. It’s currently sitting in my parents’ garage.

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Bonfire

Aggie (see entry for Aggies under Letter A) bonfires were an annual tradition for as long as I can remember. Our biggest football rivalry was the University of Texas Longhorns, and they were always the last game of the regular season, right around Thanksgiving. In Aggie tradition, a huge bonfire made of whole tree trunks was constructed by a host of volunteers over a number of weeks leading up to the big game. The night before the big game, thousands upon thousands of people would gather as the bonfire went up in flames, whoops and gig’ems galore. As a kid growing up in Aggieland, I attended many bonfires, and looked forward to the days of attending them as an actual Aggie. But that never happened.

In 1999, during my freshman year in college, the bonfire fell in the early morning hours of November 18, killing twelve people. I remember being woken up for class by my radio alarm around 7:00 am and hearing news reports of the collapse. I thought, This can’t be happening. This isn’t real. But it was real. Much of the A&M campus was shut down that day and the town was in chaos. I heard the call for blood donations for the wounded, and I dutifully waited hours to donate blood at the local blood bank. A couple days later, my family and I flew to England for a week-long vacation to visit my aunt and uncle. I remember watching news footage of the Aggie bonfire collapse in London, surprised that it had made international headlines. There hasn’t been another official Aggie bonfire since.

Books

I love books, like, really love them. I have amassed huge collections of books over the years. My favorite books to collect are children’s picture books, young adult novels, and professional development and self-help/psychology books. At present, I probably own upwards of 800 books, but I’ve had so many more. I’ve ended up donated many books when I’ve moved around the world, thus leaving a trail of books in my wake. Leaving books behind is very hard for me, as I become quite attached to them and have come to love the fact that I can pull out just the right book that someone may need, but books are heavy and lugging them around gets very expensive. I wish I was super rich and could take my books with me everywhere I went, and I wish that I could buy even more!

My most favorite books, in no particular order, are 1984, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Dot, The Great Gatsby, Angela’s Ashes, Fishing Sunday, Brown Girl Dreaming, Wonder, Out of My Mind, 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know, The Book Whisperer, The Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1964, The Fault in Our Stars, Walk Two Moons, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Giving Tree, Bridge to Terabithia, Start with Why, and Okay for Now.

Bows

Growing up in the land of big hair when you have fine, wispy hair means you need to create your own height. Enter hair bows. And I’m not talking little barrettes with dainty little bows made of thin ribbon. I’m talking gravity-defying bows that stick off the top of your head at least 3-4 inches. I went through a phase in late elementary school where I made bows. I would buy wide ribbon with wire built in to help it stand up, wire for wrapping, and plain silver barrettes. I’d use the wire to make bows with 4-6 big humps (imagine ‘mmm’) on top of the barrettes. I’d wear my hair in a half ponytail with the bow at the top of my head. I’d like to say I was fashionable, but that would be a lie. (See Exhibit A below.)

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Brother

Andrew, my younger, but certainly not little, brother and I had a typical brother/sister relationship growing up. We were thick as thieves one day and at each others’ throats the next. He’s nearly four years younger than me, which means that we weren’t really in the same place in our lives very often, if at all. The only time we went to the same school was in elementary, when he was in first grade and I was in fifth. He was entering middle school when I was in high school, and he was a freshman in high school when I was a freshman in college. I think that the four-year age gap is an awkward length, and we struggled to relate to one another’s experiences.

But growing up, there were definitely times when we banded together for the common good. One of my favorite memories of us working together was one Halloween when we were in elementary school. For some reason, our family didn’t go trick-or-treating, which really stank, especially since Andrew and I loved free candy! As the older sibling and brains of the operation, I hatched a plan. I had Andrew dress up in his tee-ball uniform, the closest thing either of us had to a costume, and I snagged a plastic grocery sack from under the sink, and we “went out to play.” As we were on our way out the door, my mom reminding us to be home for dinner, she asked, “Why are you wearing that, Andrew?” We pretended we didn’t hear her, as the door slammed behind us.

Running to the backyard, we schemed. I taught Andrew the basics in trick-or-treating etiquette, and instructed him to go to the neighbor’s house across the street, ring the doorbell, hold out his bag, and say “Trick or Treat!” when they opened the door. Then, when he had the candy, he was to bring it back to me. We would split the candy 50/50. The fact that it was 4:30 pm and still light out didn’t deter our mission. Hiding out in the backyard, watching him as he ran up to the door, my heart was beating a mile a minute. I didn’t want to get caught and have to explain what we were doing to my parents. After sending him to a few houses close to home, we dug into our candy, gladly ruining our dinner.

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

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Amsterdam in a Weekend

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Can I just tell you how much I love Amsterdam? Like I’ve been back a few days, but I’m still on a high from the loveliness that I experienced love. Like I wanna pack up and move there right now love. Like I can’t stop talking about how amazing it was love. Seriously…when can I move there?

Last Thursday, I headed to Amsterdam for a work conference, and decided to stay the weekend. It was a last minute trip, so I didn’t really have time to look into what I would see or do, nor have I ever really given much thought to traveling to Amsterdam. It was one of those “if I go, I go. If I don’t, I don’t.” situations for me. The only thing I had really heard about it was that you could do drugs there. Well, that’s not appealing to me at all, so I didn’t think much about it. Boy was I wrong! There’s so much more to Amsterdam that the drugs and the Red Light District!

My favorite things about Amsterdam can be summed up in these categories: Bikes, Food, Cheese (yes, I realize it’s food, but let’s be honest, it really needs its own category), Canals, Flowers, and Architecture.

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Bikes. First of all, they’re everywhere! All around town, you can find them chained to bridges and fences, crammed into parking lots (just for bikes), crowding sidewalks, and of course, being ridden. I love their sturdy design and the front apparatus for attaching all sorts of baskets. There are separate bike lanes on all roads, and they always have the right-of-way. I would be in heaven here!

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Food. OMG! If you are a foodie, Amsterdam is for you! I have to go back just for the sheer fact that I didn’t get to try all the foods I wanted to with the limited time I had. Not only can you get amazing cuisine from around the world (I had some pretty bad ass Thai food!), you can get some local delicacies only found in Holland! Two of my favorites were the poffertjes, pillowy little pancakes that are tasty with just a touch of butter and powdered sugar, and the most delicious cookie I’ve ever had, a double-chocolate confection that, when broken in half, reveals a melted white chocolate center. Both are pictured above. Apologies if your mouth is watering now.

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Cheese. Seriously, this was one of the highlights of my trip! I love good cheese, and I did not come across a cheese I didn’t like while I was there. In addition to my cheese plate for dinner, I visited the cheese shop three times to sample and purchase the variety of cheeses and sauces you see above. I brought home a spicy chili gouda, pesto gouda, 6 month and 12 month goat cheese, 4 month and 24 month gouda, apple cinnamon gouda, cranberry gouda, Maxima, and Old Amsterdam cheese. Additionally, I picked up some whole grain mustard, balsamic mustard, and pomegranate jam to go along with them. I cannot wait to break into them! Yumm!

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Canals. Who doesn’t love the novelty of beautiful canals running through the city? Amsterdam’s canals reminded me of Venice. I didn’t have time to take a cruise around in a boat, but next time, I’m definitely going to do it!

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Flowers. I missed tulip season by a few weeks, but that didn’t matter, flowers were everywhere! Beautiful blooms dotted the city in planters, vases, flower shop stalls, gardens, and balconies. The vibrant colors and gorgeous varieties caught my eye everywhere I went!

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Architecture. The old European feel of the city came through in the architecture. I loved the ornate designs on the old churches, the rows of townhouses and shops that lined the canals, and even the occasional leaning building. Amsterdam is definitely charming!

Overall, I highly recommend putting Amsterdam on your list! This beautiful, surprising city has catapulted to my top 5 cities around the world!

Broken Chinese + Charades- SOL #17

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Ring, ring, ring…”Ni hao,” I said as I answered the phone that’s connected to the front door of my apartment building. I had just ordered dinner, and although it seemed too soon for my food to be here, I was hopeful.

A frantic voice on the other end began shouting something in Chinese, desperate to get me to understand what he was saying.

“Sherpa’s ma?” I questioned, wondering if this was my food delivery guy.

More shouting, without confirmation that my food was here.

Thinking that maybe this guy just needed in the building, I pushed the key to let him in. About a minute later, there was a knock at my door. Opening it, I found a security guard yelling in Chinese about something, but I had no clue what he was trying to say.

“Shenme?” I asked, like even if he told me what was going on, I’d actually understand.

At this point, the Chinese was accompanied by charades. I got that he was talking about a bicycle or e-bike by the handlebar gestures.

“Yes, I have a bike,” I said as I nodded, wondering if he was trying to tell me that my bike needed to be moved or that it had been stolen.

Then, he began making the “crazy” gesture, you know the one, where you spin your finger around and around near your ear. Alternating between charades for a bike and crazy, I was so confused. My bike is crazy? You think a crazy person stole my bike? I’m crazy for having a bike?

Realizing he wouldn’t leave, I put on shoes and a coat and followed him downstairs. Once outside, I pointed to my bike, letting him know it was, in fact, still there. And nope, it didn’t look crazy to me. Another security guard joined the party, pointing in the opposite direction, yelling something I couldn’t understand. I continued pointing to my bike saying, “Wo de.” Mine.

Then I heard it. The annoying sound of a bike alarm blaring, over and over. Ohhhh…they thought the bike alarm incessantly going off was mine. The crazy gesture must have had something to do with the sound (or was it that they were going crazy because of it? :)).

Realizing that he called me outside for nothing, I was waved off with a “Dui bu qi.” Sorry.

“Mei guanxi.” No worries. It happens.

And this is why I really should learn more Chinese.

 

My Morning Commute- SOL #10

My morning commute is probably very different from yours. Most likely, you drive your own car, carpool with friends, or take public transport, such as a taxi, a bus, or the metro/subway. Sometimes I take a taxi to work, particularly when it’s raining, but now that my new school campus is so close to home, it’s great for me to be able to ride my e-bike in to work.

Today’s commute was sooooo cold! With the temperature at 1 degree Celsius, I made sure to bundle up! In addition to my sweater, I wore a thin down jacket, my big down jacket, a scarf, hat, gloves, and my new favorite thing…my bike blanket! I’ve embraced the local Shanghainese culture and succumbed to the bike snuggie look. 😉 Yes, I look ridiculous, but I like to think of it as ridiculously warm. Not only does it protect my hands from the wind and cold, the blanket keeps the wind off of my legs, too.

On my ride to work, which takes about 10 minutes, I tend to drive like the locals do, meaning that traffic laws are more suggestions than rules. The light’s red? Well, let’s slow down, look both ways, and proceed through the intersection if there are no cars in the way. Someone’s in my way or about to be in my way or looks at me funny, BEEEEEEP! Honking your horn is just what you do here. Turn signals are rarely used, but horns…those are a necessity used many times a day.

Today, I passed the man making jianbing from his shack on the corner of Wuzhong Lu and Zhongshan Lu, several buses stopping just long enough for people to hop on and off, many Chinese shops lining the streets selling all manner of goods, the little old Chinese lady who is always on her morning walk, the security guard having a smoke break on the corner, and lots of commuters, bundled up against the cold, dressed all in black, like an army walking, heads down, toward the metro.

I long for warmer days, where my face doesn’t burn from the cold wind, but I’m thankful for my little e-bike and the freedom it gives me! 🙂

New Bike- SOL #27

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As mentioned in another slice, I bought a custom-made bicycle a few weeks ago. I was finally able to pick it up, and I love it! I love that there’s not another one just like it in Shanghai. I love that it’s “me”– bright, colorful, and fun! I love that it’s very lightweight and easy to ride. I love that I will be able to exercise again in a fun way, because, let’s face it, if I’m not having fun doing it, I’m not going to exercise.

Riding home on my new bike filled my heart with joy. Maneuvering between the other bikes, scooters, cars, and pedestrians got my adrenalin pumping. Listening to my music and pedaling to the beat, I was able to drown out everything else and enjoy the ride. The feeling of sweat on my skin was a pleasant reminder that I need to do this more often. The high I felt when I returned home from my ride got me through the night. I’m so excited to have a bike again, and I hope that I can keep this one for a long time!

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Falling in Love With Shanghai- SOL #9

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Today was a *perfect* Shanghai day. The sun was shining, the temperature was in the 70-80F (20-27C) range, and I refused to stay at home. Melissa and I set out to enjoy the day and ended up falling in love with this amazing city all over again!

11:00 am- Brunch at Larder, an Australian restaurant in Tianzifang that boasts fresh ingredients, bold flavors, and an ambiance that reminds you of your mother’s kitchen. I enjoyed fresh orange juice, vegetable quiche, and chunky chips (with a side of goat’s cheese of course).

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1:00 pm- Walking aimlessly, Melissa and I explored the French Concession along Julu Lu. We couldn’t help but smile as we encountered a man selling gum on the side of the road while playing incredibly loud Chinese music from his boom box. Who sets up a gum stand? Laundry, shoes, and stuffed animals hanging on a rope stretched between two trees may seem odd to you considering we’re in the city center on a busy road, but that’s typical here in Shanghai. We couldn’t help but giggle when we realized how much we’d miss this when we were gone. And who couldn’t love the dog in the sweater sitting on the counter of the cigarette shop?

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2:00 pm- Stumble across a bicycle shop and purchase a custom-made bike. I have been without wheels for too long and decided to remedy that situation today. I cannot wait until I can pick up my bike that’s sure to turn some heads! I’ll post pictures when I get it, but trust me…it’s pretty bad ass.

3:30 pm- I love finding hidden gems. I’d heard lore of this “art street” where one can find any type of art supplies imaginable at incredibly cheap prices, but I’d never been able to pinpoint the exact location. Well today, Melissa and I found it! Bombarded with loads of art and office supplies at every turn, we kept exchanging, “How did we not know this was here?!?” “We gotta tell our teachers about this!” and “We don’t have to import our own Post-its anymore?!” We also quite enjoyed reading the notebook covers. Now that’s one thing I’ll never get tired of- reading the ridiculously Chinglish sayings on the covers of notebooks here. Here’s an example of one for your reading pleasure:

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Here’s what it says if you can’t read it:
“Maybe God wants us to meet a few
wrong people before meeting the right
one, so that when we finally meet the person,
we will know how to be grateful
TELL THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE
THAT YOU LOVE THEM,
AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY
Keep Learning. Learn More About
The Computer, Crafts, Gardening
Whatever. Never Let The Brain Idle
“an Idle Mind Is The Devil’s
Workshop. And The Devil’s Name
IS ALZHEIMER’S
And Always Remember; Life Is
Not Measured By The Number
Of Breaths We Take, But By The
Moments That Take Our Breath Away
The worst way to miss someone
is to besitting right beside
them knowing you can’t have them”

Bet you didn’t know the Devil’s name is Alzheimer’s, did you? 😉 You learn something new every day!

4:30 pm- Find my new favorite spot! Remember, that’s one of the things that make me happy. The next place we found made our hearts skip a beat! When we stepped into the Foreign Languages Bookstore on Fuzhou Lu, my soul breathed a sigh of relief. After nearly three years of living in Shanghai and accepting that the closest I would ever get to a bookstore is the small English sections of Chinese bookstores whose selections were limited to classics, NY Times Bestsellers, and a handful of children’s books, I had discovered a place that made my soul sing! Thousands upon thousands of books were at my fingertips. Fluttering around the stacks, I picked up books and read the blurbs, turning to Melissa to read her a new one every few minutes. We both smiled when we realized that we now had a place to come where we could surround ourselves with good, quality literature. I purchased four new books to add to my stack. Yippee!

6:15 pm- Foot massages at Subconscious Day Spa. When I say I’ve never had a better foot massage experience in my life, I mean it!

7:30 pm- Dinner at Dr. Wine. My unnatural obsession and love for goat’s cheese was satiated by our amazing dinner tonight. We shared the goat’s cheese bruschetta: crusty slices of baguettes topped with a mountain of goat’s cheese, 2 olives, and a drizzle of honey…yum! I also ate the tastiest goat’s cheese salad ever.

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9:00 pm- Melissa and I ended our night with a walk to Jing’an Temple, stopping along the way to window shop at Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, and Coach. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. You know you love your life when you’re constantly asking yourself, “Do I really live here? Is this really my life?” and pinching yourself to make sure it’s real!

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Thank you Melissa for a lovely day. I’m going to miss these when you’re gone, but I will always have today’s memory to savor.