Par Avion!

Even though it seems like such an outdated practice, I love sending postcards when we go on vacation…even if the recipients get them after I get home and tell them all about my trip. I’ve been really lucky to receive a bunch of postcards this year from friends who have been on exciting trips:

postcards received in 2016
CW from top left: Japan, Alaska, Japan, London

I love finding a new postcard waiting for me in the mailbox, and then I show them to the Hus-friend over dinner before putting them on the fridge. What’s the point of a fridge if not to post evidence that you have friends?

Thanks to all the senders! I hope I can reciprocate with some new postcards from our next trip, wherever that will be!

Last week[end], briefly

Well, last week was pretty uneventful as I spent a good portion of it in bed or lying on the bathroom floor. (So fun! Let’s do it again some time.) As such, I don’t have any enviable life events or entertaining stories to share, so here are some media I consumed.

Ever since he saw the trailer on K-Pop TV, the Hus-friend was really excited about Train to Busan (“There are zombies and a train on fire!”), so we were pumped that it came out here. At our sparsely attended showing, the Hus-friend was one of three Caucasian viewers. A good deal of the audience was speaking Korean before the movie started; I guess the Korean community here was in the know.

I highly recommend going to see Train to Busan if it comes to a theater near you…if you like are at least somewhat entertained by zombie movies. And, okay, I’m not even a huge fan of zombies; I’m not entirely sure why they’re so popular. Even with my skepticism, I thought Train to Busan was a really well-done movie though–it has tense, scary, funny, poignant, and tear-jerking moments, also with a healthy dose of social commentary. The Hus-friend and I agreed that it was one of the most well-done zombie movies we’ve  seen in a long time (like, since our first date to 28 Days Later), and I will admit that I cried, like, four times. Here’s the trailer. Also, the lead actor Gong Yoo is nice to look at.

Train to Busan is much better than World War Z, which I remember mostly because we saw it on Wedding Victory Tour with Kim and Steven. Later, Kim and I re-enacted one of the scenes:

Kim & Mica reenact World War Z

Not content to see only one movie in 24 hours, we also saw Ghostbusters today with Tina, who is newly returned from a trip to Europe and married! I also enjoyed Ghostbusters, but there isn’t as much to say about it. Tina laughed so hard she cried, and the woman seated behind us laughed so hard she snorted. Comedy! Women being badasses! What’s not to love?

Actually, we saw Tina twice in 24 hours as well. Our high school/college friend Tania was in town for work, so we all grabbed dinner together. I was going to take a picture, but I left my phone at home, so I guess use your imagination here.

Oh, I recently deactivated my Facebook account after considering the possibility for the better part of a year. I finally took the plunge after 1) several people I respect said they were better off without Facebook and 2) I realized that my time spent on Facebook was at best, a timesuck and at worst, a way to make myself uselessly angry at “friends.” There’s no need to spend my free time on something that makes me feel grumpy and unproductive when I could be knitting, losing my shit over The Night Of on HBO, or keeping this blog alive. It has been about two weeks, and I can’t say that I miss it at all. I spent a LOT of time on the Internet, and a curated online experience is pretty crucial to keep my rage in check.

Gah, this post is all over the place and a real snoozefest. Maybe something more exciting will happen next week.

Blergh, sick.

Sorry, I was laid low by the “stomach flu” (Whatever this actually means) for the past few days. It was, shall we say, not the best.

I had this really excellent caretaker though. Just look at how much he doted at on me while I was feverish and puking up my guts.

Last week, briefly

Last week, a bunch of us at work dressed up like our manager, Steve, for his birthday. It was pretty easy: baseball cap, black tee-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. This is his standard uniform; I’ve literally never seen him in anything else. Oh, tech, and your violently casual workplace, I do love it so. In our identical get-ups, Jay and I remarked that we looked super Asian, like what I called “LA Asians”…except less made-up.

Still on the hunt for my daily uniform, but I don’t think it’s gonna’ be this one.

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Speaking of Asian things, as you may know, the Hus-friend really enjoys Kpop, and I vacillate between tolerating it and playing certain songs on repeat during the workday.

Last year, we went to the San Francisco Semi-finals for the KPop Cover Festival, which is just one of the many impressive ways that the Korea has managed to market itself on an international scale. This is this giant worldwide competition for non-Koreans to lip-sync and dance to their favorite songs. The winners apparently go to Korea to compete.

Last year’s local competition was in Golden Gate Park, but this year, it was held in a lecture hall at San Francisco State. It was much more crowded–the attendance grew, but the venue was smaller! It was pretty fun, despite being hot and cramped inside the hall, to watch a bunch of strangers dance [mostly] pretty well to songs, some of which I recognized. (Sorry, this photo sucks.)

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There was a raffle, AND WE WON A CD by Dalshabet, a group that I’ve actually heard of. (Also, who has CDs anymore?) I love winning things, even CDs from 2013 from a band where some of the members have left that is fully available on streaming services. When they called my number, I screamed ‘WE WONNNNNNNNN!’ and walked to the front of the audience retaining mere shreds of my dignity.

Here is their most popular recent single. The chorus says 널 같은, which is pronounced “nol gat-eun,” but the Hus-friend and I kept thinking they were singing “Number Two!” until I looked up the lyrics.

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…K-Pop…it’s such a weird thing, and my feelings on it are outside the scope of this post. We can chat about it sometime. Songyi was incredulous that such an event even exists:

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And in completely unrelated news, I’m still slogging through a cardigan I started a month ago. I just finished the back, so two front panels and two sleeves to go. My self-imposed deadline is to finish this goddamn summer cardigan before summer is over. I WILL FINISH IT BEFORE WE GO TO THE BEACH.

Wisteria cardigan back
Blue…surprise!

Remind me to what?

I really love setting reminders on my phone: taking meat out of the freezer to thaw, studying my Korean flashcards daily, buying cards for people’s birthdays, etc. In addition to checklists, it’s one of the ways I GET SHIT DONE.

Yesterday, the Hus-friend and I were planning our weekend and remembered that we had a long-ish drive in our locally rented Prius, which, on occasion, makes him very carsick to drive. He said, “We should remember to take some TripEase,” which is this cool motion sickness medicine we picked up in New Zealand.

I pulled up my phone and asked GoogleNow to set a reminder: “Okay, Google, at 10am tomorrow, remind me to get TripEase.”

And, like, okay, I get it. I’m a software engineer, and I know that voice recognition, while wildly improved in recent years, is not perfect. I was expecting Google to remind me to get, I don’t know, trapeze, which, fine, I’d remember that.

Here’s what I got instead:

CndHLmkUMAArBNH

Thanks, phone. That’s super helpful.

Do you like my buns?

Sunday breakfast at home is still going strong. This past Sunday, I was particularly ambitious and made some rolls that required a double rise. Even though I don’t think of yeasted breads as a particularly Korean thing, I actually found the recipe on Maangchi’s site.

Bread rolls rising

I don’t actually know how most people become proficient frequent bakers and manage the rise time. Like, you kind of can’t leave your house except in <60-minute stints. And even if most of the two or three hours is rise time, you still have to be there to punch down the dough at the right intervals. Basically, how does anyone make fresh rolls for dinner? ANSWER ME THAT, WORLD.

Despite being a little stressful (my fault–I was trying to prep a bunch of food for the week at the same time), the rolls turned out really well. Okay, in truth, they just tasted like a good roll. I typically prefer crusty rolls and, even better, a good, flakey biscuit. Ever enamored of yeasty things though,  the Hus-friend, however, loves rolls. He was very happy.

finished bread rolls

In an effort to make a presentable, full meal, my buns (teehee) were served with mini frittatas, a white peach, and strawberry jam…from Costco. Only the classiest for Sunday breakfast!

Sunday breakfast

I really like making bread products, even if takes a long time. It’s a lot less stressful than baking a cake or, ugh, pie crust. I think the required amount of kneading and shaping goes well with my extreme personality–no need to worry about over-kneading; it’s better for the gluten, right? Next time I bake though, I’m going to make sure to do something relaxing in between the rises, like work on my sweater (knitting) or read a book.

We learn what Naadam is!

On Friday afternoon, Sahar asked me if Harrison and I wanted join her and Ganbi at a Mongolian festival in Golden Gate Park. “There’s a pretend horse race with kids. And wrestling. The guys wear these outfits. It’s giant boots, a tiny speedo, and a vest. That’s it,” she explained. She also promised there would be delicious Mongolian food, like dumplings.

Obviously, I was excited about this.

The next day, Sahar picked us up on en route to retrieve Ganbi from the gym. First, we ran some errands, which included getting our unruly eyebrows waxed (both of us), hair cut (Ganbi), and buying daikon radish for kkakdugi (me). Then we picked up co-worker Jen who was likewise excited about a spontaneous trip to a Mongolian festival.

The radishes hung out in the car once we got to the park.

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Once we arrived at the park, Sahar and Ganbi changed into their traditional Mongolian outfits. They had originally intended to wear this as part of their wedding ceremony, but thank goodness they didn’t on such a warm day–the del (tunic) is made of wool! It was actually perfect for Golden Gate Park, perpetually chilly place that it is.

Sahar & Ganbi + Ganbi's mom
Sahar, Ganbi, and Ganbi’s mom with her awesome fedora

We read up a little on Naadam the night before so we would know what we were going to. It’s a big Mongolian festival featuring feats of strength: archery, horse racing, tug-of-war, and most importantly, wrestling. And yes, the wrestling costume is just as Sahar promised.

Mongolian wrestlers, Naadam in Golden Gate Park

The wrestling is notable because the participants enter and exit the ring with a special dance, pictured above. It’s not a super choreographed affair–they spread their arms and spin around slowly, kind of like a soaring eagle–if eagles had legs and were wearing arm sleeves and bikini bottoms. The goal of the match is to force your opponent to touch his knee, elbow, or upper body to the ground. It’s not really violent, but it looks really difficult and a little painful. In addition to the main tournament, we saw kids wrestling too, and they were getting thrown to the ground. I kept thinking the losers would cry and run to their parents, but they just popped back up and kept going. Tough as nails, those Mongolians.

Another important feature of Naadam is khuushuur, which are fried meat pies, kind of like empanadas with a thin patty inside. These are super delicious and also, aggressively greasy, making them a little dangerous to eat. We learned to eat them between our knees so the hot grease wouldn’t drip onto our laps.

Khuushuur

In the background of the photo above, you can see boortsog, or pieces of fried dough that Ganbi’s mom made.

Ganbi has the biggest appetite of anyone I’ve ever met. I ate 1.5 khuushuur and was considering a second whole one. Meanwhile, he polished off six! Sahar, by contrast, brought her own dumplings (BYOD) because none of the meat was halal. Next year, we plan to bring a picnic spread with more things she can eat as well as dessert.

Mica with Khuushuur
Khuushuur smile, with some bites taken out.

I had met a lot of Ganbi’s family at their wedding, and I was suuuuper excited to see his granny, whom I dubbed “Granbi” because “granny” + “Ganbi,” obviously. Sadly, I don’t think she remembered me, so I’ll have to come to other Mongolian functions and win a spot in her heart.

Mongolian granny!

Ganbi’s dad, meanwhile, was super friendly, asking us repeatedly if we wanted “strong drinks.” Despite our polite refusals, he eventually popped open three beers from the cooler and handed them to me, the Hus-friend, and Jenn, saying “For you!” which is how I came to be holding this Stella Artois:

Jenn, Mica, Sahar at Naadam 2016
(See Karl the fog making an appearance in the background)

During a break in the tournament, we walked around the perimeter of the field, where people had set up tents and booths. It was a little like tail-gating, except with Mongolian snacks, including the return of sweet cheese and Mongolian cookie mountain, which, in case you forgot what it looks like:

Sahar & Ganbi's wedding

At the khuushuur booth with the longest line, we kept giggling about a sign that appeared to say “HAAAAM.” We asked Ganbi, our translator, if they were selling ham, but no, apparently, it was Naadam, written in Mongolian. We are smart.

naadam

Here’s what I knew about Mongolian culture before meeting Ganbi and his family: Mongolian barbecue (not authentic) and yurts (authentic!). Except the word is apparently ger in Mongolian. Someone had set up a small ger on the side of the field, and it’s apparently okay, if not expected, to wander in say hello (and then be offered alcohol and snacks). This was a tiny ger, but the men inside said that even a normal-sized one could be broken down in 30 minutes!

At one end of the field, a bunch of men were playing with shagai, or sheep’s ankle bones. The object of this particular game is to flick your bone towards what looks like a tiny chimney, knocking pieces off the ledge.

men playing shagai, Naadam 2016

There were a lot of children at the festival, like tons and tons of the chubbiest-cheeked babies you can imagine. One of the festivities was a “horse race” where toddlers “raced” across the field on inflatable hobby horses, some with greater urgency than others. We were all enamored of the very solemn-faced daughter of a family friend, but she was having nothing to do with us. (Eventually, she smiled and high-fived the Hus-friend, who keeps saying how much he loves her.)

Mongolian toddler

We stayed until the end of the tournament, where there were many rounds of tug-of-war (feats of strength!) and the final throw-down between a wrestler in red briefs and a wrestler in blue briefs. It was such a fun and informative afternoon, really the kind of fun experience that made me smile after a very sad week.

In case you haven’t noticed, I think Mongolian culture is so cool! Ganbi was the first Mongolian that the Hus-friend and I ever met, and he’s such a good ambassador of the culture. Also, did you know that there is an entire Mongolian basketball league in the US? Ganbi’s team went to the finals (in Nebraska, of all places) recently and WON THE ENTIRE THING. His team had a tent set up on Saturday and even brought their trophy.

Ganbi with basketball trophy

Unfortunately, Ganbi had hurt his finger playing basketball and couldn’t wrestle this year. Sahar assures me that he has an outfit though (including the briefs), so next year, we’re going to make him participate!

With their strong legs and high cheekbones, I think Mongolians and Koreans look quite similar. Actually, Granbi originally confused me for a Mongolian at Sahar’s wedding. As it turns out, my 23andMe data identified no Mongolian ancestry in me. I’m kind of disappointed.