culture, love

Teenage love in the time of tennis practice

It all began one summer day during my senior year of high school. He asked me for a ride to the tennis courts because his mom wouldn’t let him drive to school–he had to ride the bus. Since we were both on the tennis team, I didn’t mind giving him a ride to practice as the courts were off campus. I wasn’t sure of this boy who somehow got my number over the summer and called me all the time. He’d ask if I wanted to play tennis and my answer was always the same, “Sorry, but I’m babysitting my cousin out of town.” Which was completely true..but I see how it sounds now. However, I really, truly was out of town babysitting my cousin for the summer.

Fast forward to me giving him rides to tennis practice. i had to stop by my house first and change before practice, but I didn’t really know this boy that well so I showed him to the office and computer while I went to my room, locked the door, and hastily changed for practice. I didn’t know him well enough to guess that he was more interested in watching music videos and funny cat videos than bothering me.

He started noticing that I would leave tennis practice early on Wednesdays and asked me where I went. I told him I went to church and youth group. I don’t ever remember asking him if he wanted to come. I’m pretty sure he asked me if he could come. I was an altar server so he would sit by himself at mass. Looking back that was probably rude of me not to sit with him, but now we’re married so he apparently didn’t think much of it.

One weekend our youth group was having a movie night. I invited this boy and about five minutes into the movie he “stretched” his arm which ended up around my shoulder. I was mildly shocked, especially since we were at a church event so I decided to get us some snacks at that very moment. Awkward teenage love for the win. 

 We kept riding together to tennis practice, getting to know each other as just friends until one day this boy asked, “What would your parents think if you dated someone of another race?” I know that racism doesn’t exist anymore and everything is right in the world..This was a turning point in our relationship because, you see, this boy was Asian–a first generation Laotian American, and I was (and still am) definitely not a first generation American who has red hair and freckles. We live in the South which tends to be slow to accept diversity so his question was a valid one. My answer: my parents would be okay with whoever I date so long as they treat me well and have ambition.

And right there the door of possibility swung wide open.


The Lazy Traveler’s Guide to Jamaica

Back in June, D and I celebrated our first anniversary and took our honeymoon in Ochos Rios, Jamaica. We love to travel and this was our first time in Jamaica. Upon landing we noticed the dense greenery and beautiful mountains surrounding the airport. We had no idea what to expect other than maybe some reggae music, dreads, fruity rum drinks, and those lovely Jamaican accents. Seriously, those accents alone are worth the trip. Sometimes I wish I was back just so I could be surrounded by the Jamaican accent..

Before we left, I had googled some of the top attractions in our region of Jamaica, and the whole of Jamaica as it’s not terribly big. If you’re going for a four-night stay, let me recommend some of the things we did.

Day 1: We didn’t have much planned for this day, but to get to know the resort and see the ocean. It was a good thing, too, because the bus ride to our resort took for. ev. er. The bus driver made it into a little tour of the sights we were passing, but we were still exhausted by the time we made it to our hotel. We stayed at the Jewel Dunn’s River and I would recommend it to my brother, my neighbor, and the president. It was a great resort. Lots to do, free tennis courts with a pro on staff who basically gives free tennis lessons. Tons of drinks on the menu so that you can try until you find something you love. Several pools, hot tubs, eateries, and the beach was incredible. Beautiful private beach. Not incredibly big, but it was never jam-packed. Once we arrived to our resort, we were greeted with some rum cider concoction which was so delicious that we requested a second. Our bags got lost when another couple mistakenly claimed them and took them off the bus. That may or may not have contributed to the second round of rum drinks. But the concierge got us our bags back within 2 hours of being at the hotel.

Day 2: We relaxed. Ate our buffet breakfast which was delicious and had many options ranging from traditional American breakfast foods to Jamaican foods to make your own omelet stations. We lounged by the beach most of the day. The beach was beautiful, clean, and child-free which at this point in our lives is relaxing. No kids screaming, crying, We like kids. But sometimes it’s nice to have a quieter experience.

Day 3: We went on a tour of Kingston. This was not worth the money. Plain and simple. The tour guides don’t really let you out of the tour bus except maybe three times. Once to see some monument and changing of the guards. Which was dumb. Once to see the tour of Bob Marley’s house which was cool and I would recommend if you’re a Bob Marley fan. It was definitely crowded, but worth it. Interesting info about the King of Reggae. Another highlight of the trip was eating ice cream from Devon House in Kingston. That place is delicious. I got the rum raisin ice cream and it tasted so fresh and rumtastic. So I guess the tour had some highlights but wasn’t worth the price we paid for it.

PicMonkey Collage

Day 4: This was probably our most fun day. We went to Dunn’s River Falls and hiked up the waterfall. Yes. We did that. And no I did not know that you actually hike UP the WATERFALL or else I wouldn’t have signed us up. I thought you hike alongside the waterfall which is a completely different thing and actually sounds fun. Nevertheless, we joined hands with our barefoot guide and hike up a waterfall. It was scary, I was nervous the entire time, but we did it and we won’t do it again. So I guess it was fun. Then we went to Mystic Mountain and bobsled-ed (? past tense of to bobsled?) down the mountain. Super fun, but a quick ride. If you’re going there you’ll definitely want to get the package that includes the ziplining tour of the canopy. It includes a monorail ride up the mountain and then ziplining down the mountain. The single most fun thing we did on our Jamaican honeymoon. We would totally zipline again and again. The guides are hilarious and super skilled.

Some things we ate during our trip were beef patties. No, not Krabby patties. Beef patties are like a puffy, flaky pastry with ground beef inside. Except we ate them at a fast food place so they were more like the Taco Bell of beef patties. An experience to say the least. We also ate goat curry and ox tail. Two of D’s favorites. And our overall favorite was the jerk chicken and festival (think cornbread stick) from Scotchy’s across from the resort. So good.

Vacationing in Jamaica was a blast. The laid back atmosphere really promotes a relaxing experience. The staff were very friendly and it was nice to speak the language of the country we were visiting. If you’re looking for a relaxed, but semi-adventurous vacation I would recommend Day 1: Relaxing beachside, cocktail in hand. Day 2: Choose a tour, any tour. You just might learn something. Day 3: Relaxing beachside, two cocktails in hands. Day 4: Mystic Mountain Ziplining.

There you have it, folks. The lazy traveler’s guide to Jamaica. Here are some links below 🙂 Yah, mon.

Jewel Dunn’s River Resort

Mystic Mountain

Dunn’s River Falls

Have you ever visited Jamaica? What was your favorite part of the trip?


A Grain of Rice Stuck to My Elbow {How intercultural marriage has expanded my palette}

Being in an interracial/intercultural marriage has broadened my perspective as well as my palette. I never could have imagined myself eating Lao food on the floor in typical Lao style. I never could have imagined eating anything that is made with fish sauce. I never knew that one day I would own a rice cooker and be able to make steamed rice well (not too soggy, not too dry). If you would have told me that one day I would eat Laap or other foods that contain the intestinal parts of animals I would have scoffed at you.

I can’t tell you how many times I end up with a grain of rice stuck to my foot, elbow, or clothing. If you would have told me that one day I would find a grain of rice on the sleeve of my husband’s robe I’d laugh. And I did laugh…and it did happen 2 weeks ago. Little grains of rice appear everywhere now like little fairies.

Being married to my Laotian American husband has brought with it many condiments I never would have known about. Fried onion, fried garlic, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce, soy sauce, Black soy sauce just to name a few. And I never knew how many dishes you can spruce up with a little sprig of mint or cilantro. StickyRice

One thing I still haven’t fully mastered is eating on the ground. I don’t think my European ancestry has equipped me for sitting cross-legged for long periods of time. On the plus side, it’s sort of a dieting strategy. I can only sit on the ground for about 10 minutes before my legs and back go numb, so therefore I don’t eat that much.

Some of my favorite foods I would have never discovered without the help of my husband. Pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup), laap gai (Lao-style chicken salad,it’s taken a while for my palette to enjoy this), Kao piak sien (Lao noodle soup), and Calamari (I know this isn’t very exotic, but if you knew my family and their extremely limited food choices you’d be amazed that I eat fried squid!).

Culture and food go hand-in-hand. I feel like the more I learn about Lao food, the more I learn about Lao culture. There’s always food on the table…always! I feel like Lao people eat throughout the day instead of having specific times for meals. Fresh fruit and fresh vegetables abound. As well as spiciness and sticky rice.

I’m happy to be able to participate in Lao culture and happy to know the joy that only warm sticky rice can bring.

culture, everyday life

Hopping on the Tour Bus: My Writing Process

Bee yourself

Bee yourself

Today I’m linking up with Noony at From Laos with Love for a Writing Process Blog Tour. She has become a fast friend through blogging. Her blog immediately caught my attention because she writes about Lao culture in the diaspora and gives readers a glimpse into her family’s immigration story as refugees from Laos.  Being that Daniel is Laotian, I hear similar stories from my mother-in-law. However, not many people are documenting these stories from an insider perspective the way that Noony is on her blog.  I look forward to reading her posts and am thankful that she writes about her experiences as a Lao refugee. What I’ve come to find out is that not many people know that Laos is even a country, let alone that the Laotian people suffered so much during the Vietnam War.  Props to Noony for telling her story with eloquence and candor.

And the bus rolls on….


The Questions

1) What am I working on?
I don’t know that I would say I’m “working on” anything really. I began this blog because I love to read blogs and because, at one time, I liked to write.  I still do like to write (sort of) and this blog is my space to document life as I live it. I tend to have a bad memory so I want to remember the mundane and the not-so-mundane happenings in my life.  As an anthropology major I consider culture my first love. Marrying a Lao guy gives me a bicultural perspective from which to write and my next project for posts involves examining how we navigate these two cultures in our everyday life. So I guess that’s what I’m working on.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My work is different from others of autobiographical writing because of the various lenses I view the world through.  The lenses of anthropology/culture and faith shape the way I see the world and, consequently, what I write about.  As a Catholic married to a Laotian, I have a unique perspective (as does everyone else–Ironic, huh?) on life and I infuse my writing with these themes.

3) Why do I write what I do?
Writing about the mundane is important to me. Perhaps it’s the cultural anthropologist in me that is more interested in everyday life than about the extraordinary parts of life.  This is why I write about the everyday happenings and milestones in this life that I share with Daniel.  I want to remember what it felt like during our first year of marriage to be able to take a road trip at the drop of a hat and not worry about the laundry or packing for a baby.  I am nostalgic like that and it breaks a little piece of my heart when I throw away a birthday card from two years ago–even if the sender simply signed their name and didn’t offer any personal greetings.  It is this yearning to remember simple things that drives my writing.

4) How does your writing process work?
Being the rebel that I am, I have never really embraced a writing process.  The only time I willingly used a formalized writing process was as a second grader learning “rainbow writing” where you use green, yellow, and pink strips of paper for the introduction, body, and conclusion of an essay.  Once I got to high school my “rough draft” was simply the first time I wrote my paper and the “final draft” was the second time I wrote it paying more attention to my penmanship or grammar. I write exactly what I think.  As I think, so shall I write.  Any other way doesn’t feel authentic. Some teachers/professors would say “Your writing has great voice” and others would say “This isn’t how you write a professional, collegiate paper” and I would say “frank you” (substitute another f word, substitute I don’t care, but mostly substitute- I do what I want.)  Once I’ve written what I have to write, I read over it and if it sounds weird in my head, I change it. I know–fancy, and complex. Two words I’d not use to describe my writing or my self.