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.
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.)
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.
…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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
On the way to Tahoe last Friday, we stopped in Sacramento to get a picture of the California state capitol. You may recall that we are aiming to take a picture in front of every state’s capitol building together. However, despite living in California for nearly three years, we hadn’t visited Sacramento yet. As it turns out, it’s hard to get places when you don’t have a car, and it’s hard to collect state capitol photos when you are not taking an eight-week road trip around the country.
My giant new phone has a very slow camera, so we had to test out the timing for jumping shots. I saved this photo where the Hus-friend was testing the camera speed. I like to pretend it’s one of those photos that a husband lovingly takes of his wife while she’s not looking and then puts on his desk, just as a reminder of how cool and casually beautiful he finds her.
Except hahahaha, Hus-friend, here’s who you married:
Here’s the Hus-friend’s shot:
The meters by the state capitol are so expensive: $1.75/hour. We only had enough change for seven minutes, so we raced to the capitol, snapped our shots, and then immediately ran back to the car. In our haste and in my vanity–looking at the photos and saying “Ugh, my stomach is sticking out!”–I TOTALLY FORGOT THAT I HAD TAKEN MY BAG OFF AND LEFT IT ON THE GROUND OUTSIDE THE CAPITOL.
So we got all the way to Placerville, 45 minutes away, and pulled into an In-N-Out for lunch. I reached down for my bag under my seat, groped around the empty void, and said, “Oh no!” The Hus-friend, bless him, immediately jumped into action, turned the car around, and started back down the highway towards Sacramento.
Panicked, I found the capitol’s lost-and-found number and called it. (Thankfully, my phone was not in the bag.) The man who answered said that no one had reported a bag, but he was unwilling to go look for it “for safety reasons.”
I was sure that it was going to be gone. After all, I had left it on the ground, with my wallet, keys, work ID, headphones, and cellphone charger, in broad daylight on a workday! However, when we pulled up, I jumped out of the car, and it was still sitting in a patch of mulch, right where I had left it.
I am so lucky, just really, incredibly fortunate. I’m so thankful to the kind Sacramento residents who left my bag alone for an hour and a half at midday. It is rare that something happens that boosts, rather than detracts from, my faith in humanity, so this was quite a special event and something I’ll always remember about the CA state capitol.
(We just spent some time looking back over the capitols we’ve visited so far. We’ve hit 31, and we have 19 to go.)
This morning, I put on some freshly washed [low-rise] jeans, which, admittedly, were not the best fit over my very wide hips. As many women in tight jeans are wont to do, I did some squats to loosen up the denim. I apparently did one very deep squat because:
Well, crap! There’s no way I can patch up that massive hole.
A lot of lifters would proudly attribute this incident to my gainz, but let’s be honest: it’s mostly that this pair of jeans is two years old and was not going to withstand a deep and violent squat. Just keeping things real around here. (I still posted the photo in my gym’s Facebook group though!)
In other news, I went to lunch with Herbert, Alice, and Sahar today. Because it’s Eid, Sahar can eat with us again during the day, so we celebrated with Indian lunch.
Okay, what does the rice on my plate remind you of?
Did you say “a uterus?” Because that’s what I said. I kept calling it “rice uterus,” much to Herbert’s amusement. DON’T YOU WANT TO BE MY FRIEND?!?