What’s the Lazy Language?

A few years ago I blogged about how to choose which language to study.  Part I dealt with vision; who are you trying to be, which language are you speaking in the future?  Part II was about which language is the most practical language, since people seem to be extremely horny for whatever is practical.  In Part III I try to address the easy language, for those people who just want to skip to “the end,” fluency, free sodas, and recreational drugs.  I am being sarcastic.

The thing that sucks the joy out of me is that many people aren’t looking for the easy language, or the practical language, or the language they can see themselves speaking in the best, most adventurous versions of themselves.  Instead, they’re looking for the lazy language.  The root of that is the ridiculous assumption that language learning is both painful and impossible, which seems like a strange thing, I don’t know why people keep choosing it.

By the way, should we just say it?  Should we just say, “Spanish is the easy language for Americans!” Great. Listen, if I open up my Chinese textbook to a vocabulary list of any particular chapter, I find a list of about a dozen or so vocabulary words for the chapter, more or less. When I open my Spanish textbook to a vocabulary page for a chapter, I find six dozen vocabulary words. Which language is easy; which language is lazy?  Is learning 15 unfamiliar things harder than learning 72 less unfamiliar things?  Why does that question even make sense to you?

Which is easy which is lazy

Here are a couple of videos I’ve made to help recruit students into my programs.  The first one, I made in 2015 when I was trying to get students to sign up for Mandarin at Seattle Prep.  Here’s the higher quality version.  If that’s not working for some reason, here’s a youtube copy:

Now it’s 2018, and I’m at Xavier College Prep, and we made one for the whole language department.  Here’s the original link, but the youtube version is here:

Doing the video in the target languages wasn’t my idea, but I thought we’d try it out.  I was a little worried that it would spook the monolinguals, but so far it seems ok.  The next one I do will be even better.

2018 Mission and Goals

I’m sitting at D’s place in Oakland, CA. C and I flew in to spend New Year’s Eve here and to explore the East Bay a little bit. Dinner at the Shakewell and countdown at The Graduate Bar. Today is the lazy day after; there’s no TV in this apartment, hence no football. There was a threat of dim sum today but threats are not taken seriously anymore.

Resolutions that are easy to make because they’re things I’m kind of already doing:

  • Use less plastic garbage (disposable straws, to-go cups/lids, FLOSS PICKS)
  • Work out with weights
  • Eat a calorie deficit more days than not
  • Pay off my credit card
  • Have strong feet (barefoot, spread toes, no heel strike; train tracks not tight rope)
  • Ukulele every day

Resolutions that I’d love to do but they’re hard to talk about because I’m afraid of failing:

  • Actually write that book; How to become multilingual, a memoire. Language learning tips in the form of narrative story.
  • Write some short stories.
  • Find a job where I can just park for the rest of my career (or for a while at least) and feed my retirement fund. Maybe where I’m at now, maybe the next place, but definitely no more limbo.
  • Get rid of possessions I don’t need to live. Throw out the fat clothes that I’ll never have to go back to.
  • Blog more; language learning, personal journaling, travel, food; whatever, I miss it.
  • Language goal: no new languages this year, actually. Polish/practice on the ones I know.

Skills I’d like to learn/hone; not as a resolution necessarily, but I hope I learn these things before I die:

  • Juggling three objects
  • Manual transmission
  • Writing systems: Japanese katakana, Arabic alphabet, Korean alphabet. I’ve studied these in the past, but I want to learn them for good.
  • Cooking with fire
  • ASL
  • Fingerpicking on ukulele; play melody and harmony at the same time; noodle. I can start by learning the fretboard.

How learn how to do these things?

  • Do all my grading and class planning at work everyday at the office before going home, so that evenings and weekends belong to me?
  • Fit crossfit back into my schedule now that I’m a teacher again?
  • Fill my kitchen with fresh food on Sunday, meal prep for the week, and then finish the week on Saturday with an empty fridge.
  • Do fabulous international travel every summer without going into credit card debt.

I know what I did last summer

It’s almost been a couple of months since my last post.  Since Round 2 of Seattle, I spent more time in Vegas and then came back to the desert to get ready for the school year.  I spent a long weekend with my friends in the wine country near Tecate, Baja California, México.

Now I’m back at school, the first week is over, and I’m not behind yet!  Tomorrow is Saturday; the cable guy comes tomorrow at 10am, after that I was thinking of driving toward LA or San Diego.

Here are some things that I’ve been thinking about:

  • Cultural blind spots
  • Cultural appropriation of “ethnic” cuisines
  • Being an author
  • Being a podcaster again
  • Buying a condo
  • Paying off my credit card
  • Where to go next summer.

Can’t swing a cat; Seattle 2017, Round 2

Back during the school year when I was homesick and couldn’t wait to come to Seattle during my summer break, I imagined that I would cherish every moment that I’m in Seattle; that I’d linger on the details, notice everything, take it all in.

It hasn’t been like that. I lingered on the details for about ten minutes, but then slipped back into normal mode, like a fish slipping back into the ocean.  Rather than feeling the special glow of Seattle, I feel the reality of my desert exile fading like a dream. Now that I’m here, I have to remind myself that I actually live and work in California, and that I should take advantage of my time here.

I was already here for one cold week earlier this summer, before seven days in Kaua’i. Now I’m back in Seattle for ten days, renting out my friend’s house, ostensibly on a writer’s retreat.  It’s day four of those ten days, and I haven’t gotten much writing done at all.

I keep running into people when I’m out.  My first day back, I ran into M from the LA Karaoke League getting off the train; we ended up chatting at Espresso Vivace.  There was Tall R outside the Columbia City Theater. The next day a former student check my groceries at Uwajimaya. Then I saw a Cousin R at the drug store.  I can’t swing a cat around here! I had to reinstate my rule of #selfiesfirst, lest we forget.

The other day I went to dinner with BM and JF at Meet the Moon, because Sherman Alexie had talked about it.  Then yesterday I went on a Western Washington adventure with H and K; Ocean Shores, Copalis Beach, Lytle Seafoods in Hoquiam, Jay’s Farmstand in Aberdeen. We were even in Downtown Olympia for a minute; we peed at the Governors Hotel. We also took a picture in front of the house we grew up in on Tumwater Hill.

At Lytle Seafoods, my sister and I bought a dozen oysters in a plastic bag; we sat at a picnic table next to the building (with a view of the stream and Gray’s Harbor, next to their oyster boat) and cracked those oysters with the oyster knives my sister carries with her. The whole day was fun but cracking oysters was the highlight.

 

 

Falling on my head like a memory

I woke up this morning in Seattle. It’s Thursday morning and raining on the top of Queen Anne.  I’m sitting in Café Diablo with my sister, who is working.  I have a hair cut in a few minutes. It’s raining.


Yesterday I left the Central Library and walked around the corner to meet my sister. We did a spontaneous #AsianSquatBomb from across the street.

 

Later we went to Go Poke in the ID; I had a poke salad bowl and my sister had a poke maki burrito, a “pokerrito.” The poke is actually poke (marinated before you get there) but they serve it in the bowl over rice, salad or rolled up with nori in a maki. It’s not the assembly-line, mixed to order Chipokle that’s sprouting up all over Southern California. It’s kind of like Hawaii, in that it’s actually poke, and it’s kind of like California in that they want to put edamame in it. None of the poke at Go Poke is mixed with ocean salad, thank goodness, because that is some bullshit.

Later, I dropped off my sister at her meeting with the Teamsters and went to the big and tall store to buy jeans. Here’s the deal; it’s 110ºF where I work in California right now, and when I was packing my clothes to come up to Seattle they told me I might need long pants but I definitely didn’t need anything as heavy as jeans. That, my friends, is a mess; it’s 57ºF and rainy here, and while I don’t mind the cold and the rain, I do need jeans for this.

The lady there at the big and tall store was throwing clothes at me to try on; she picked out seven pairs of pants for me to try, plus sweatshirts, aloha shirts, dress shirts… in the end I left with one pair of jeans, because a) one pair of jeans was my objective in the first place and b) everything else there was too big for me.  You guys, I’m graduating from the big and tall store; which is a mess, because I hate shopping at other places, but there we are.

Afterward, I went to pick my sister up at the Teamsters, and there was a vaquero in the parking lot practicing his lazo!  Loop loop loop, around the head, over the head, behind the head, all the while talking lackadaisically to someone on the phone through his earbud. I didn’t ask to take a picture.

Later, as we were pulling out to leave, I noticed that the Teamsters Local 174 has a painted semi-truck, that says “Teamsters” in huge letters on the container:

  • T is the Space Needle,
  • E is the Monorail,
  • A is the Kerry Park view of the cLink,
  • M is the market sign,
  • S is a ferry,
  • T is a HUGE ORCA JUMPING OUT OF THE WATER,
  • E is the old Seattle’s Best neon coffee mug, the
  • R is the Kerry Park view of the Key with the mountain in the background,
  • S is Coleman Dock

Of course I had to take a selfie with it, and then there were the obligatory #AsianSquatBombs; some members of 174 were TOTALLY INTO #AsianSquatBombs and joined us.

 

Today I got my hair trimmed in the ID and had lunch at Aladdin’s Gyro-cery, which I’ve been going to for 27 years and has always been really good. I remember coming home from NYC and eating a gyro there, and just being relieved to be home to soft pita, rotisserie-crisped gyros, and what I consider to be appropriate salt levels.  Now that I’m a vegetarian I ordered the falafel; it was more lemony than I expected; the best was the chunky baba ganoush.

New haircut

As I drove on Campus Parkway to Wallingford I remembered a conversation I had in 1996 about getting from the U-district to Gasworks:

Me: So you just go down Roosevelt and you take the Secret Right…

甲 (interrupting): I HATE THE SECRET RIGHT BECAUSE IT’S LIKE, OOH, I’M A SECRET…

乙 (interrupting): Ooh, not me, I LOVE the Secret Right because it’s like, OOH I’M A SECRET…

I don’t remember the identities of 甲 and 乙 are anymore, I just remember the story, that their reasons for loving and hating the same Secret Right were the exact same words with different intonation.

Finally, it’s raining here. Not hard rain at all, but honest-to-God Seattle rain. It is not “tearing me apart like a new emotion.” I don’t mind it at all; in fact I feel just as at home in my new jeans and a hoody in this rain than this snail that crossed my path this morning.

 

I love Summer Break

Yesterday I met my friends Delridge D and Aloha C and his family in Pike Place Market. I got there a little early so I could walk around, which was a mistake because I wanted to eat everything I saw.  I met my friends where you always meet people at the Market  and then had lunch at the Athenian. By the way, the peaches are delicious this week and the green garlic shoots are huge.

After lunch we walked a little through the Market and showed the kids Victor Steinbruck Park, Piroshky Piroshky, the Beecher’s Cheese factory, the Gum Wall.

Later, there was little drive up to Kerry Park where Aloha C and I talked about firehouse recipes and strong feet. It was really good to see them. Aloha C said something amazing that I wanted to blog about, but I forgot. I walked home to my sister’s apartment from there.

Later my sister, Tico K, and I went to Kirkland to see Cowsin L and K’s month-old son. Along the way we stopped at Dakshin South Indian Bistro and I relapsed into my alarming addiction for South Indian vegetarian curries and dosas. It’s a problem. Later I got to hug my new nephew, who before I know it will be able to hold up his own head, speak English fluently, and marvel at how old I am.


Today I got up early and had breakfast at the 5 Spot; two eggs and “tempeh bacon.” Later I rode into Belltown with my sister on her way to work, and had her drop me off at Bedlam. I thought that from there, I would meet my friend 딤씨 at Tofully at noon.  At about 20 minutes to noon, I realized that Tofully was way down under the Chinatown Gate in the ID, so I hoofed it down to the bus tunnel and ran to a train, just as the door closed in my face and the train pulled away.

I did a set of air squats wating for the next train and stretched my hamstrings.  I don’t feel great about doing good mornings in the bus tunnel, it looks less like exercise than air squats.

A man passed me on the street, and as he passed I said hello; he greeted me at the same time and shook my hand. He said, I have a riddle for you, what’s the best vitamin for a friendship?

What’s the best vitamin for friendship?

I answered “Vitamin A” but I said “Vitamin Ehhhh”

He said, What the best vitamin for friendship?  B1 (Be one).

He told me second riddle, which I have disgracefully forgotten, but it was just as good.  Later he said, “I saw your face and I thought you looked a little down, just wanted to get a smile out of you.”

I smiled and thanked him and remembered what Memphis D told me back in Ann Arbor 20 years ago, that people of color should greet each other. That’s one of my favorite customs now.


I had a quick lunch with 딤씨 and ate a lot of tofu and it was magically delicious. 딤씨 and I talked about the Diversity Committee (and how it’s a trap), Wonder Woman, commutes, hard-headed family members, everything.

Later, walking up 4th Avenue, a man came out of the YMCA and said hello as he came around the corner, I managed to mumble a hello back, and I immediately noticed that it was the same man’s picture on the sandwich board.  I turned around and wanted to yell, hey that’s you on the sandwich board! But decided that was a weird thing to yell. He had just put on his sunglasses anyway.

I walked passed all the cool places today; Chinatown Gate in the ID, King Street Station, Occidental Park, the Pioneer Square Pergola, Waterfall Park. I’m currently hanging out in the reading room of the Central Library.

Not sure what’s next.  I have an Orca Card in my pocket, a belly full of tofu, and not much else to do. I love summer break.

 

 

I used to live here.

It’s summer break and I’m back in Seattle.  It’s cold here; 53º F (not even 12ºC) and drizzly.  I asked my social network if it’s cold here; they said, “no.”  I asked if I have to bring long pants, they said “no denim.”  Both of those answers are correct Pacific Northwest answers, but they are dead wrong to someone who’s been living in southern California for the last two years.  It’s cold.

I’m not complaining, though; I just miss having a functional reason to wear jeans.

I found myself orchestrating a lunch reunion today with a local friend and some friends visiting from out of town. And I don’t even live here anymore! Old habits die hard, I guess.

Speaking of old habits, here’s where I’ve been eating:

  • Kozue. There was a huge line at Musashi’s and another huge line at Issian. I had long considered Kozue to be a the sad alternative; too hungry to go somewhere else. It surprised me that it was really good. Sushi culture is different in California, and I am sure I carried some of that baggage with me. I was pleasantly surprised that my miso wasn’t served with a ramen spoon, and that none of our nigiri’s were duplicates, and that the maki we ordered weren’t dressed with a squirt bottle.  Also, the fish was delicious.
  • El camión. I got a fish taco, a shrimp taco, and split a veggie tamal.  The tamal is spectacular; Salvadoran style brick of pudding-like masa wrapped in banana leaf.
  • Ivar’s Fish Bar. I have exposimatated in the past on fish and chips in Seattle. I think I eat more fish and chips than most people I know. Seattlites often look at Ivar’s Fish Bar as the most obvious, saddest excuse for fish and chips in Seattle.  Here’s what I know:  it’s Alaskan True Cod, it’s cooked to perfection by people who know when fried fish is done by eyeballing it (rather than looking at egg timers like Spud) so the fish isn’t overcooked (like at Spud). They give me a slice of lemon when I ask for it, and the white chowder tastes like heavy cream. There is an amazing view. That’s what I know.
  • Finally, my sister’s adobong pusit.  My sister H knows more about adobong pusit that I do, and her recipe is the neutronbomb.  She says it’s basically a calamares en su tinta or chipirones en su tinta recipe, only filipino adobo style; which means there’s a clear flavor of apple cider vinegar cutting through the richness of squid ink. At one point she was reducing tomatoes so I don’t even know; alls I know is that it was rich and vinegary and squiddy all at once.  We ate it with diced tomatoes and rice and did an reminisced about Barcelona E’s reluctant ambivalence about eating squid, which I shall here reducing to an imperfect haiku:

Barcelona E’s Regretful Ambivalence toward eating Squid, a Haiku:

Gender deception
Indicates theory of self!
Yet, so delicious!

 Also, my sister made tea leaf eggs. I just ate two, they are delicious. 

Asian Squat Bombs

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A while ago my sister and I decided to start taking #AsianSquatBombs because it cracks us up.  Here are 24 photos, mostly of me. Some are of my sister and parents, and two are with my coworker MY.

My Dim Sum Spots in Seattle

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Happy Mothers’ Day from Las Vegas.  I used a personal day so I can be with my mama today.  I popped popcorn last night and my parents and I watched SNL together.  This morning I made strawberry/blueberry buckwheat pancakes for breakfast.  Mama used to tell stories of her father Tatang Maël making popcorn, making pancakes in the afternoon for snack, picking pineapple out of the yard for breakfast, and stealing chunks of Cougar Gold cheese that Tatang bought at the Commissary.

I’m grading papers and planning classes all this weekend, but I’m taking a little break to blog.  My boy BM texted me this morning for dim sum recommendations in Seattle, which… I haven’t lived in Seattle for two years! But of course I have a list.  I don’t know if these places are still there, but they are still fresh in my mind.

Dim sum for one/I’m in a hurry

  • Dim Sum King Order at the counter.  Get it to go if you want.
  • Dim Sum House Up on Beacon Ave. This is the greasy spoon for dim sum.
  • Duk Li Dim Sum Probably the best variety of the Dim Sum For One category.

Old School Dim Sum

  • Harbor City This has been the it-place for a while now; a shoebox shaped, mildly noisy, wait-for-30-min during Sunday Brunch kind of place. This is where I would take Chinese people.
  • Jade Garden This was once the it-place, maybe ten years ago. Still good, but not the same spectacular food it once was back in the day. There is often still a wait, and it’s got a lot of non-Chinese buzz.
  • Joyale Seafood This place has had two other names, but they were all good. There has been ownership drama, I think; an ugly divorce, etc. The food is good, service is good; free parking is nice, usually no wait time. This is a wedding banquet hall.  The only thing I don’t like so much about it is the lack of natural light; otherwise it’s good.
  • Honeycourt Maybe twenty years ago, this was the it-place.  Still popular among old people and Filipinos of all ages. A student messaged me recently to tell me they had renovated. When I still lived in Seattle, the buzz was that Honeycourt was a place for old people, which means absolutely nothing to me.
  • Ocean Star This is the old Sun Ya, which was a way old school place that I didn’t like. A friend of mine, the Transit Tzar, asked me to meet him there a couple years ago, and I was blown away by how good it was. Also, free parking (tight, limited) and natural light. This place is the new hotness to me.
  • New Hong Kong Way down in Rainier Beach.  Nothing to sneeze at; jammed with Chinese Americans. Parking is a piece of cake.
  • Regent Bakery and Café This place has high quality food and is on the fancy end of the dim sum spectrum. Service was a little weird the times I went there, in that the servers were not Asian and were not really acquainted with the way that Asian people eat. For example, they weren’t very quick on the draw when it came to a big pot of rice and a whole bunch of rice bowls for everybody at the table. But my complaints about this place are cultural, not food-based.
  • House of Hong Ok, look; I don’t go here anymore. It’s not that it’s bad; in fact, it’s nice inside, and it’s the place where a lot of us non-Chinese people first learned about dim sum. You will see the whole ethnic spectrum of Seattle in the dining room, and it feels good. This used to be my go-to place, until I started realizing I was seeing the same shrimp ball cooked 15 different ways, and I kept falling for it. I didn’t mind, until I started going to other places and seeing other things; then I never wanted to go back to HOH. Still, I’m thankful for all the meals there.

If I wanted to impress my Chinese friends, I’d go to Harbor City.  Left to my own devices, I’d be at Ocean Star. My sister and I often end up at Joyale because of parking.  慢吃吧。

 

 

Last Day in Manila; Back Home for a Minute

I’m only back in the 206 for a minute.  

  
On they day of my niece’s 18th birthday party, her “debut,” I got caught in the rain.  I ducked into a 7-11 to wait out the rain and NOT buy a 5th umbrella.  I ate some 7-11 chicharrones to help pass the time.  

 After a change of clothes, I got into an über.  The driver snaked through Makati, rather than EDSA/Ortigas, so I spotted a Wang Mart.  I figured it should be on the internet.

I had left the condo at 5pm, with explicit instructions from my niece to show up at 6pm American Time, NOT Filipino time.  So I was annoyed at 6pm when I was still in the car, waiting in traffic and watching the sun set over the Pasig.  
Here’s the scene I found when I got there at 6:40:  

  

Mostly empty venue!  I put my gift at the table and sat down and picked at the trail mix, avoiding the m&m’s.  
 
There were plenty of photographers there, so I just took some selfies with family.  

   
    
    
    
    
 As is my custom I took a picture of my plate.  All the food was RICH.  The blue lights made the food look bad but I am too busy to put a filter on, are you kiding me?  

   
    

 I got a ride home from Kuya J at midnight and packed my bags, including my various electronic cables.  

The next morning Kuya J picked me up at the condo and I took this last photo.     
Meanwhile, my relatives started posting some of their own photos of the party, including photos of some photos from the photo booth.  

Here’s an airport selfie from Manila, where it was desperately, desperately cold.      
It was four hours to Seoul; I watched Avengers 2 and some other movie.  When I got to Seoul it was a tight connection and it was a good thing I learned how to read “Seattle” in Korean script.  

 

The flight attendant behind me is a baby whisperer; they send her to flirt with fussy babies.  That was a 9 hour flight, and I watched Tomorrowland.  I like Korean Air, lots of legroom and food is decent.  It’s kind of funny how they launched into an explanation of bibimbap with every passenger, and the flight attendant was shocked, SHOCKED! when I asked for gochuchan, which came in a little toothpaste tube.  
  

I got home and slept as if my life depended on it.  When I got up, it was so early that the grocery story checker had to leave their station unattended.  So I had to squeeze the squeezy toy.   
 

Here’s the breakfast I made for my sister; sausage-silog.  
   

 The next day Cowsin I showed up to look at some vinyl records.  We found some gems.     
 

Below is a road trip that I’m planning.  Plus my new whip.