Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Things I've learned on a Cruise

I think it’s important to go out on adventures and try new things. That being said… If I didn’t, I suppose I would never have packed up my life and moved across the world to Korea. Ha. But that is neither here nor there.
View of the Ruby Princess from the Port of San Diego
Last week, one of my friends from high school got married on a cruise ship. After scrounging up pennies and time off, a couple of us decided to partake in the fan fare that is a cruise wedding. It was quite an interesting experience and the wedding was both lovely and fun. As is the trend with my other adventures, here’s what I’ve learned about:
Inside of the ship in the "Piazza"

1. Demographics
Sarrah, Jaslyn and I were unsure whether it was the trip we picked (down the Californian Coast), the company (Princess Cruises, a more upscale-fancy cruise line), or the price (which was probably a huge factor), but whatever the causal factors, we were in the minority. Most of the guests on the boat could be our grandparents—and some even told us as much. We met some lovely people, but at the same time, it would have been nice to hangout and mingle with people more of our own age. We also recognize that with the reality of student debt and the post-uni job hunting struggles, that for our generation, cruises are not the top priority. Ha.

2. Fatal Foods
It never stops. You can eat 24 hours. You can go to a buffet, you can get pizza, you can get burgers, you can get never ending ice cream and dessert. Ugh. Seriously. I can’t believe how much food you have at your beck and call and I will admit it grossed me out a bit. One of the wedding guests told me about how she was waiting for an elevator with a group of the bridal party post-wedding night. They had just finished a nice meal all together and were heading back to their rooms. The elevator came and they couldn’t quite all fit with the current occupants. One of the other guests inside motioned for a couple more to push in and she said, “Oh, I know it can hold 18 people,” referencing the sign inside. The man shook his head and replied, “Nah, we’re halfway through the cruise now. It only holds 10.”
View toward the Stern of the ship.

There is one dominant body type on this ship as well.

Sarrah, Jaslyn and I opted to take the stairs when we could.

In other food news, we found the food kind of bland (again betraying the main demographic on the boat, we think), and Jaslyn had some trouble with vegetarian options, but the service was amazing.

3. Service
The wait staff were amazing and deserve mention all on their own. They were always on point (in all areas of the ship, not just related to food) and super helpful. Sarrah needed to make a last minute dress alteration and in no time at all we were provided with a needle and thread. Every day they would make our beds (a little overkill we thought, but hey), bring fresh towels and vacuum. I really hope they like their job and that they do not secretly hate the passengers—but then even if they did, they kept it close to the vest and I wouldn’t have been able to tell. Also the staff was very international with countries from all over the world represented.
Me, Sarrah and Jaslyn

4. at Sea VS at Port
Jaslyn, Sarrah and I are quick to claim status as "land lubbers" despite the usual insulting connotation. Our favourite part of the cruise was being at port. We were itching to get off the boat and explore the different locations.

Some of the people on the cruise stayed on the boat almost the whole time. Yeah, they are a lot of programs and events running each day + spa and exercise facilities if you so choose, but isn't the point of a cruise to relax on the boat in between travelling to new places?

When we stayed on the boat, it wasn't quite warm enough to stay on the deck and so we would retreat inside the ship looking for something to do. Going back to the issue of demographics, not everything catered to our interests. Ready for a singles mingle, eh? Haha. Plus, we could often feel the movement of the boat. Sometimes it was really rocky, and sometimes we even felt like we were still drifting when we were on land.

5. Trivia
Trivia was our jam. We were pleasantly surprised by all the trivia and might have spent 4 hours at one venue participating in a series of trivia challenges. I know nothing—or at least nothing super useful when it comes to Trivia (we sadly missed the Disney Song rendition. I would have p-owned), but Jaslyn and Sarrah have seemingly endless stores of knowledge and we were able to hold our own in a couple of categories from animal discovery, song lyrics, motown, and more! Our prize for our winning round was a bottle of Sparkling Wine that we did not drink. Haha. We didn’t check out any of the shows but the other guests gave them high praise, so who knows.

6. Tying the Knot
Last, the reason that we came in the first place: Our friend’s wedding. The ceremony was small, but lovely. The back of the boat was reserved for our party and we gathered midday on one of our days at sea. It wasn’t terribly hot and surprisingly it wasn’t too cold either. The morning rain had ceased and blue sky came out to join our celebration. The ceremony was brief with the captain officiating, and then we enjoyed a multiple course meal in one of the many elaborate dining rooms followed by dancing the day away as the sun set over the water... Not too shabby.
Sunset at the Wedding Reception
The results of this current adventure, are… still out at sea. Get it? ㅋㅋ. We aren’t entirely sure if we would go on another cruise—especially not so soon. Maybe if the demographics were different... and maybe more of an island-hopper like a Hawaiian or Caribbean Cruise...

Love and Hugs

Just leaving trails through the wave...

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

NaNo, Beginnings - Raw

Good luck to all you writing-folk! (NaNoWriMo Website)

So it begins, she thought as she held the pencil—wait no—as she… nevermind I did like that, let’s go back:
So it begins, she thought as she held the pencil hovering over the blank piece of paper. NaNoWriMo…
There was a sense of foreboding in the air, a slight crisp energy or maybe a slight chill. Had music been playing, it would emulate the emotion from Jaws or some other thriller movie where the villain is lurking around the corner and the protagonist sits, unaware of the danger, right in the middle of the screen. Breathe. That might have been a run on sentence. We’ll fix it later.
The air felt fresh rimmed with a tinge of promise. Anything could happen.
With a deep breath the tip of the pencils meets the page in a bold stroke as she starts to write—

I stare at the flashing… ugh I don’t know what it’s called. The line that blinks in taunting, laughing at your distress as you attempt to write anything—spitting up letters at apparent whim, holding them hostage for ransom, or even, gobbling them up like they never existed. You know. The line in your word document that flashes to show you where your cursor is… that line. Is there a name for it? The flashing blinker? Or is that redundant? Either way, I stare at it and pause.
“Write what? What am I supposed to be writing?”
I jump at the sound of the voice. My eyes search around my room. I’m still alone, so who spoke?
“Am I supposed to be a fictionalized version of you?” the voice continues in a soft drawl. “Are you writing a story about you writing a story? Would that be like book inception? Intertextuality for sure…”
My eyes widen as they return back to my computer to find a girl sitting atop the word document open on my desktop. Her light brown hair with subtle golden-blond highlights falls loosely past her shoulders and down her back. She’s perched on the top of the most recent paragraph as though seated on a bench. Her legs dangle over “meets the page” obscuring them beneath dark blue skinny jeans as she pumps her legs back and forth. A bright red blouse hangs on her torso, a stark contrast to her fair skin and green eyes. Leaning forward slightly, her fingers grasp the sentence as if for balance.
I blink. I would almost say she looks like me except for in an almost chibi-animated form. For a second I think that I’ve jumped back in time to grade school when chibi-style was popular.
“Uh…” the sound escapes my lips as my brain attempts to make sense of the situation.
“Are you inner-monologing right now?” she asks. “Don’t panic. You are not crazy. Or at least, not in the clinical sense of the word. Definitely strange and highly probably weird, but not crazy.”
As I watch, she pulls a giant pencil from… her pocket?
“Wait, did I say giant pencil?” I murmur as I stare transfixed. How did that fit in there? It’s about as long as her leg and as think as her wrist. And yet, as if her pocket was Mary Poppin’s mystical bag, the pencil emerged whole.
“Yo, focusing back on me,” she says, snapping her fingers.
My eyes dart back to her face.
“Like I said: you are not crazy. It’s just, I know you haven’t really been doing this ‘writing thing’ in a while.” She adds air quotes and cringes slightly for emphasis. “We’re worried you’ve forgotten how it’s done.”
I blink again. We?
“Stop that—that! Blinking. Once or twice makes sense, but realistically, if you are blinking that much it just looks like you are having a spasm.” Using the pencil, she jabs out toward the computer screen. “There are plenty of other ways to write and describe your surprise, you know, but I suppose that’s why you’re rusty. Your brain is struggling, seeking forgotten, unused words and phrases. That’s why they sent me. I’m here to the rescue.”
“Uh…  Who’s they?”
She rolls her eyes and makes to jump from her perch, landing below on the white space next to the flashing blinker.
“The characters.” She makes this sound like this should be obvious. Ha. Duh my butt.
“It has come to our attention that you are ‘planning’—” there go those air quotes again—“NaNo this year and some alarm bells went off. We all sat down for a chat and decided that it was time for an intervention.”
She starts pacing back and forth, the pencil poised over her shoulder like a gun. She walks back and forth a few times and then, just when I think I should break the silence, she turns and points at me with the pencil. “When was the last time you attempted? 2012? 2013? When was the last time that you engaged in sustained writing? Can you remember without hunting back through your folders and documents?”
At my continued silence, she grins in triumph as though she’s won the argument and spins the giant pencil between her hands.
“Still,” I stammer, “I can do this.” My fingers rub against the keyboard as I think of what to say.

So it begins, she thought as she held the pencil over the blank piece of paper. NaNoWriMo... The blank sheet was empty, but full. The possibilities were endless. With the stroke of her pencil she could delve into worlds known and unknown. She stifled a nervous giggle of excitement. The future is yet unwritten, she thought.

“Stop. Just stop. Are you making an allusion to that old Natasha Bedingfield song right now? Real subtle. Who would even catch that these days? That song is so 2004.”
“Well now that you’ve said it, it’s not exactly subtle anymore, is it?” I exhale in exasperation and flex my fingers away from the keyboard.
“Look, don’t get me wrong, I like that song, too, but you’re going about this the wrong way. You’re a bit rusty. You haven’t written a creative story in a while. Can you really develop your characters properly? What about setting? Or plot? You probably can’t even remember how to make a good metaphor or add some vivid imagery—”
“—so why don’t I help? What do you have to lose?”
I don’t know whether that grin spreading across her face should be seen as sincere or more mischievous.  She reminds me of my sister when she says that she has a plan.
“What could possibly go wrong?” I ask, the sarcasm sticking like honey.
“Ugh, such a cliché. You’re implying that something will definitely go wrong now. I reject that reality and substitute my own. Relax,” she almost purrs, spinning the pencil in a slow circular motion. “Besides, I won’t give up or leave—which would just end up being more annoying—so you might as well give in and agree to work together with me. Think of it as a fun learning experience. It will be like when you watch movies with the commentary on. You are creating the movie and I’ll be creating the commentary.”
My right eyebrow lifts slightly, betraying my skepticism as we stare each other down. Then I sigh and concede defeat with a nod.
She pumps a fist in the air and stamps the pencil’s eraser against the ground.
“Great! Now tell me what were you thinking. Blah, blah, ‘unwritten possibilities’—” I’m beginning to think she has a thing for air quotes—“and all that, but where was this story heading? What’s the conflict/problem? Oooh! Do we have a villain? I love a good bad guy. There are the sinister, creepy-types, or the ridiculous, but blundering-villains are good too. Or even the misunderstood. Bent on World Domination? Or how about a good revenge story?”
“Well… I’m not really sure at this point. I hadn’t really thought that far ahead yet.”
She flaps her hand at me. “Okay, no worries, we can figure that out later. What about the main characters? Tell me about them.”
Her eyes, which were normal, human-looking eyes, seem to bulge like a frog’s, dwarfing her other facial features.
“Setting?” she squeaks, slumping to the ground as I shake my head. “Are you telling me that you have nothing? No ideas? And yet you are doing NaNo?”
“Hey, I didn’t say I had no ideas. Just not fully formed ideas. I figured I’d play it fast and loose, this year. Like you said, it’s been a while.” I crossed my arms across my chest, recognizing that I was acting defensive despite the truth of her words.
“Still… you should at least have a character to work with.”
“Aren’t you a character?” I challenge.
“Yes, but I’m also part of you—maybe a sliver of ‘Past You’ or ‘Future You.’ Yeah… I’d like to think time travel is a reason for my existence. I don’t fully count as a character. Plus, apparently I am also your guide and mentor.” She shakes her head and then slowly climbs to her feet as she looks back out at me. “Okay, it’s clear we have some work to do, but no matter. There’s nothing wrong with a challenge. Let’s get to work.”
That same mischievous grin returns to her face and I swallow, suddenly nervous. “How do you want to do this?”
“Let’s start with a character, I think. We can meet a few and you can see who best fits your vision… well lack of vision.” She takes her pencil and places the tip at the edge of the margin on page at her feet. With careful precision she starts to drag a line across the screen.
“Mmmk…” I breathe, transfixed as a black line appears, glowing a faint yellow. She reaches the far side of the page and flicks the tip. As the pencil leaves the page, the line yawns open and a bright, warm light shine through the screen. I close my eyes as I’m blinding, bringing my ends up to cover my face. I could feel the warmth enveloping my body, my vision going red beneath my closed eyelids.

I flinch as a hand grabs one of my hands and her voice sounds in my ear. “Oh, and I suppose you can’t really call me your own name. That would get confusing quickly… I’ve always wanted an alias. Hmm… Call me Ryn.”

Things I've learned about France (or at least Normandy)

Well there we go, my second European country. In some ways, very similar to England (a lot of meat and potatoes, fancy churches, pay toilets...