Items for sale

I’m selling/bartering/trading all of the items below. Let me know if you’re interested in anything.

OrangeCream Dress

Orange and cream strapless striped dress
US-Small (European 34/36). 67cm long.
USED: I’ve worn it two times, if my memory recalls. Both times in Belgium (once before I moved here). I like the dress, it’s a cool style. There’s an exposed zipper in the back that makes you look like a badass. I just don’t have the boobs for it. 🙂

SoCal Red Dress

Red Bungalow style dress
US-Small (European 34/36).
NEW: I’ve tried it on and I like the way it looks, but I originally thought it was a darker/richer red than it really is. Because of the color misjudgment, I already have a dress that’s too similar to this one to justify owning both. And the other has a less complicated collar line, so it wins.

Paisley Western Dress

Navy, white, and red bandana dress
US-Small (European 34/36). 93 cm long.
USED: Worn once to the Dayton Rodeo. Because, ‘merica. Besides being all cute and paisley, this dress has an elastic waistline so it can expand with you. It’s a dress you can grow old (and wider) with.

Teal Mesh Dress

Teal dress with a mesh overlay
US-Small (European 34/36). 90 cm long.
NEW: Never before worn. It’s cute, but I always seem to always choose other items over it. I’m not even putting much thought or detail in this description. That’s how much I overlook it.

BlackWhiteStripped Yellow Accent Tank Dress

Black & white stripped dress with bright yellow accent
US-Small (European 34/36).
NEW: Never before worn. Hanging in a closet in the USA currently, but can have it here by June.

Navy Dress Embroidered collar

Navy dress with sparkly ivory collar
US-Medium (European 38/40).
NEW: Never before worn. Friends with the previously mentioned dress, they are chilling together in a closet in the USA. Can have it here by June.

Black GoldMesh Dress

Black dress with golden floral meshing.
US-Medium (European 38/40). 91,5 cm long.
USED: Worn once, in Vegas. But no need to worry, the dress stayed on, I promise. 😉 (But I can’t tell you anything else, because “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”)

NavyGold Evening Dress

Navy dress with ivory accent
US-Medium (European 38/40). 91,5 cm long.
NEW: Never before worn. I bought it to wear to a press conference/dinner, but ended up finding a dress I loved more and completely forgot about this one. When I finally got around to trying it on I found that this dress is perfect and beautiful, it just fits my body weird.

Purple Sparkle Dress

Purple dress with silver sequin collar
US-Medium (European 38/40). 89 cm long.
USED: I wore it once to a dinner party. The party was kind of a let down, but the dress was really nice.

Red Chevron Tank

Red and white chevron tank
US-Small. Well, it says it’s a small but THIS IS A LIE THIS SHIRT IS HUGE.
USED: I’ve worn the shirt a few times, but with an accent belt. The shirt is seriously very big. But you know what they say, right? The bigger, the cuter.

PinkishRed Striped Shirt

Red and white stripped peplum shirt
US-Medium.
USED: Whoever invented peplum should die or at least catch some scary STD. Peplum shirts make me look chubby. Or maybe I’m just too chubby to show off this cute shirt. Anyway, you want it? It’s yours.

Pink Heart Top

Reddish-Pink Heart Top
US-Medium.
USED: I’ve worn the shirt a few times, but honestly, it’s just a bit too girlie for me. I mean, it has heart buttons. Gross. It’s also very tight and form fitting; fits more like a small than a medium.

Peach Blouse

Peach button up with black collar
US-Medium.
USED: How mod of you. Retro style peach button up. Again, peplum, though not as noticeable as the other. It’s something that I would continue to wear, but if someone likes it more than me, they are welcomed to it.

Peacock Heels

Peacock heels
US-7 / 37.5
USED: They don’t do half sizes in this so I sized up to be safe… and then I immediately regretted my decision as they were too big. I tried to wear them and even put in some grips and padding, but ultimately, they aren’t going to work. Only worn two times or so. And these are my favorite shoe. I just bought them in a flat (size 6), though, so I’m not too broken up about it.

Tall Grey Boots3

Grey tall boots
US-6.5 / 37
NEW: Bought these tall beauties because I thought they’d make me look like I was kicking ass with a long sword or riding horses through the countryside. Instead they make me look like a child putting on her mother’s shoes to play dress up. They are way too tall for me and come up past my knee. Yeah, that’s not going to work.

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february is the month of love[rs].

so january’s edition of the belgian dating was so popular, i decided to expand into the month of february!

and just like me, we’ll waste no time and get right into it:

guy #7: the douchebag

haha, okay this guy wasn’t really (that big of) a douchebag (yes, he was)– but when i was talking to mallory about upcoming dates i said i had one with a guy who seemed like a bit of a douchebag. she laughed that i was still willing to go.

no surprise, i met him through tinder. i really should’ve seen this ending poorly… i mean, 9/10 tinder dates don’t go in the right direction. but yeah, if you have tinder you know how addicting it is! you just start swiping- left, right, right, left, left, left, left… it’s like the contra code of hook up apps. just enter it in and get 30 free dates.

so. i swiped right on this guy who was extremely good-looking, despite the fact he had a ridiculously high pompadour hairstyle and a blue steel gaze for most of the photos. to my surprise, he immediately started talking to me. (doesn’t he know tinder is a GAME?!) apparently he had seen me walking down the street the previous week and was going to talk to me, but it was late at night and he thought that might be a little bit creepy. …he was right. that is a bit creepy.

creepy, but persistent. he seemed to be waaaay into me. i mean, i’m used to that, i’m a really amazing person with an awesome personality, obvs. but for someone who had not met me or had even talked to me for longer than one hour total, i’m guessing his infatuation mostly had to do with one minor detail: i’m asian.

he had a total asian fetish. doctor diagnosed yellow fever. i mean, he knew i was korean just by 5 photos.

*sigh* …i don’t think he cared about my awesome personality at all.

a few weeks went by and he kept asking me out. i kind of dodged it for awhile. it’s not that he wasn’t nice- he was. it’s not that he wasn’t good-looking- he was. it’s just… and i know this sounds terrible… it was almost too easy. and i don’t like that. he tried calling a few times. i hate talking on the phone. he would text me multiple times throughout the day and end them with “X.” i hate electronic kisses even more than i hate talking on the phone. especially from people i don’t know.

but persistence pays off and eventually i agreed to a date. he said he would meet me in front of the cathedral at 19:00 on a saturday. i got there and he was right on time. and geez, he was tall. (i made sure to tell him, in case he didn’t realize.) he offered me his arm and told me he had a bit of a surprise for me. fine. i do like surprises.

he was taking me to the city of deurne for the “best lasagna he has ever had.” okay, that’s pretty darn cute. we get to his vehicle and some classic rock tunes are playing over his stereo. he really likes elvis and has a elvis figurine hanging from his review mirror. we start chatting and i find that, while we don’t have a lot in common, he is fairly easy to talk to. until he makes some comments about hating muslims. that’s mighty awkward. i tell him that we might have to switch back to “first date” etiquette where don’t discuss religion or politics but just stick to the weather. he laughs. we sing the beatles.

we get to deurne and go inside the restaurant which is a cute, little mom and pops restaurant on a corner. they move a two person table in from the outdoor area so we can sit. i order a glass of wine, he orders a cola. …he doesn’t drink. well, that’s good. at least he doesn’t have that excuse to try to weasel his way into my apartment. 🙂

again, this guy is surprisingly easy to talk to, despite the fact that we have absolutely NOTHING in common. his hair is less ridiculous in person and he is less persistent and less-overly affectionate than his online persona. he is a body guard/bouncer. he’s a bit of a womanizer, admitting that he’s slept with between 100-200 women. (gross.) but he’s also a gentleman- he has opened doors for me all evening and insists on paying for dinner even though i told him i was more than willing to “go dutch” (this term is much more applicable over here, you know, being so close to… the dutch). our meal is done and he asks if i want to play a game where we ask questions and the other has to answer 100% truthfully. sure, why not. the first question he asks is, “am i your type?” i immediately answer, “no. but i’m still having fun.” it doesn’t seem to phase him. and i learn some interesting things.

i have to get up early the next day, so i respectfully decline when he asks me if i want to continue the evening. he drives me back to antwerp- i told him he could just drop me off at my place, but he wants to park in the lot and walk me home. um, okay. but we’re going to have to make a pitstop along the way because i didn’t follow the advice of my parents of just “trying to go to the bathroom, even if you don’t think you have to” before i left the restaurant. one perk of this guy is that he’s in security, so he has keys to certain buildings around town. he lets me use a nicer, semi-private bathroom in a parking garage area that the “peons” can’t use. and then… then one of the strangest things that has even happened on a date happened.

i am washing my hands and this guy knocks on the door and asks if he can come in. um… why?! because he wants to give me a massage, of course. perfectly normal bathroom behavior. you see, earlier in the night he boasted about his massage skills and told me he would give me a neck massage by the end of the night. i didn’t argue, because massages are one of my favorite things in existence. and he apparently thought the women’s bathroom was the perfect place to do this.

okay, i won’t lie. the massage was really good. or at least as good as it could be, standing up near a heat lamp and a sink in a semi-public woman’s restroom. after that was finished, we resumed our walk back to my place. along the way, we saw a few of his friends who were out and about in the south side. one was a bouncer at the door of a club where “fancy” people got let it. i’m not really sure why there was a bouncer at this establishment, but he was nice and offered to let us go inside and have a drink. um, i was wearing chucks and a northface jacket. and you’re only letting fancy people in?

the night ended at my doorstep. earlier, playing the truth game, i let him know i wasn’t going to let him up to my apartment so there were no expectations there. he kept saying through the night “well, next time, this, next time that.” sorry. also probably not going to be a next time.

(fun ender: as i was recapping this date to tina she told me, “dude, don’t you know tinder is a hookup app?” i replied, “no it’s an app to find a personal trainer.” thanks, mindy project!)

guy #8: the asexual the heterosexual i can’t have, which will haunt me for the rest of my days

um, can you guess who got to pick his own descriptive nickname? i’m sure everyone knows who this is because i talk about him often enough, being one of my only actual friends here. but after my last blog post i was flipped some shit, stating that he was only mentioned a few times despite the fact that “i spent about 56% of january at his place.” which isn’t true at all. …it was more like 73%.

i just didn’t write anything about THICHWWHMFTROMD* because, honestly, our relationship is super difficult to explain. he’s my favorite male who i hang out with in belgium. in fact, i use him as a dating scale– if after a date i would rather spend time with jeroen than with the other guy, then chances are slim i will see him again.

and i see THICHWWHMFTROMD* (at least) once a week because i cook dinner at his place in exchange for the usage of his laundry machine. i make him walk arm-in-arm with me down the street. we danced around to vinyl records of ABBA and elvis. he rarely, if ever, responds to a text but claims to text me more than he does anyone else. i have keys to the man’s apartment. we’ve slept in the same bed.

but, let’s be honest. if something was to happen, it would’ve happened by now. i jokingly call him my “asexual friend,” but really, he just doesn’t date. he’s above it all. he’s got standards. (he says this in a tone that implies i do not.) and he’s already told me i’m not submissive enough, which is beyond true. also, here’s a fun fact: apparently the jerk THICHWWHMFTROMD* has convinced his friends that i’m crazy/head over heels for him so now i have to dig myself out of a hole if i ever meet them. add this to the statement that he doesn’t “enjoy” my company but he has learned to “endure” it, and i’d say no… no, nothing is probably going to happen. but despite these “facts,” he continues to let me impose on his life.

but in all seriousness, why would i jeopardize such a good thing? i get to use his fancy kitchen and laundry machine. i get to drink his alcohol and have the hookup to his sweet sound system. he gets a free home cooked meal, a driver when he wants to go out and drink, and access to my netflix account. as my friend krista put it when i was once trying to explain, “oh, it’s like you guys are married without the sexual perks.” to which i replied, “…so, it’s like we’re married?”

*the heterosexual i can’t have, which will haunt me for the rest of my days

guy #9: the surfer

being originally from a no-coast state, i don’t often get the experience of meeting surfers. especially not cute, belgian ones with floppy surfer hair and shy smiles. seriously, just from photos i could tell this guy is adorable. and very different than me- a bit introverted, someone who likes to spend his days at home or out on a secluded beach. but through talking with him i found that he makes miniature guitars in his free time (again, adorbs) and he likes the alabama shakes. and you can’t complain about a man who likes the alabama shakes.

the only problem or apprehension i had with the surfer was that he warned told me ahead of time that, in-person, his english is not the best. i have to admit, that was a little bit worrisome for me. i mean, i like to look at hot dudes as much as the next girl, but spending hours with someone and not having something to talk about/be able to communicate would probably kill me. we decided to get coffee on a saturday afternoon and play it safe. i picked a cafe near my place that also sells alcohol and vinyl records. i figured if the date was a flop then at least i could drowned my sorrows in booze and add to my (almost non-existent) record collection.

day of the date i walk into the coffee and vinyl shop (called… wait for it… “Coffee & Vinyl”) and briefly scanned the room to see if he was there yet. i didn’t see who i was looking for, but i did see a gorgeous guy standing at the counter wearing a form fitting blue button up. …but not a “nice” button up- i mean like a rugged, converse style. the type that i really dig. and, of course, me being the jerk i am, thought “dammit, why couldn’t i be on a date with THAT guy?!”

turns out… IT WAS THAT GUY.

my god, but really, this guy was incredibly good looking. i’m not sure why i didn’t recognized him from his photos, to be honest. i guess his hair was a little darker and a different cut and he had this wide, easy going grin that he didn’t showcase online.  i, however, fortunately must look similar to my photos as he was able to identify me as soon as i walked through the door. he immediately greeted me with the belgian kiss on the cheek and i tried to keep my jaw from hitting the floor.

we ordered two lungos and went to sit down. he was very polite, offering me the “comfortable chair” and we immediately started chatting like old friends. any worries i had about this guy were thrown out the window. not only was he handsome, his english was superb, accent adorable, shit…. i was a smitten kitten. (which, if you really know me, is odd. none of my relationships have started with that instant chemistry, that “spark,” or immediate pull. i’m actually repulsing myself by writing it. i’m going to stop.)

and then… and then all hell broke loose. because this is the point where smuggy’s friends [from last month’s post] walked into the coffee shop. have you guys seen bridget jones’s diary? there’s a scene near the beginning where hugh grant calls her out on some bullshit and there’s just a subtitle that goes across the screen: “fuuuuuuuuuccccckkkkkkkk”. and that’s exactly how i felt at that moment. you see, they had all read the blog. and they were a bit of assholes and maybe not extremely happy about my unraving review of their friend. luckily, no words were exchanged as i think they wanted to avoid me as much as i wanted to avoid them. and the surfer was none the wiser.

no, realistically, after a few minutes i forgot that they were even there because i was enthralled with what this guy was saying. we had long finished our lungos so we changed to some lattes with honey. i offered to pay but he waved it off, saying i could pay the next time we hung out (this time i didn’t mind someone suggesting a “next time”). we talked about guitars and ukeleles. we talked about traveling. he was super easy going. i was his first online date. i laughed and admitted he was not mine. he was nervous speaking english so he had spent the last few days practicing in the shower and in the car in preparation. gah, and that grin! did i mention i was smitten?

since he had driven into town we had to get back to his car by 4:00 so he wouldn’t get a ticket. we quickly searched through the vinyl records (fulfilling the coffee & vinyl title). he got the doors and i got a joni mitchell lp. we then walked to his car (which is actually a van with surfboards and fun travel equipment) and he offered to give me a ride home. when he dropped me off, he looked at me and simply said, “i am going to kiss you now.”

and he did.

guy #10: the gent-le giant.

see, it’s funny because he’s from gent. get it? GET IT?! oh, and he’s also tall as fuck. (if “as fuck” was like 6’3″.)

the giant was the first person on okcupid to ask me what my mutant power would be. (there was a question that asked what do you spend a majority of your free time thinking about and i had replied “being a mutant- i want to be a mutant so badly.”) i thought this was a nice starter and we some good conversations about whether a power defined your destiny as a good or bad person, what powers would be the most useful in every day life, etc.

we had a higher friend percentage than dating match, which was perfectly okay with me since that was pretty much the point of the whole experiment… i mean… experience. appearance-wise, he also wasn’t really my type. for one, he was way too tall for my liking. his hair was blonde. but he did have one thing going for him. he had sad eyes. and if anyone knows me, they know my kryptonite is a man with sad eyes.

so, we planned to meet up a couple of times, but it didn’t happened right away. the first week i decided to go to the netherlands with my coworkers instead because i hadn’t heard from him. (turns out he entered my phone number in his phone wrong.) the second week we never confirmed plans so he didn’t catch a train in time.

but the third time, the third time was a charm. he was taking the train in from gent so i told him i’d meet him at the central station (the most beautiful train station in the world, for real, check it out). he didn’t really know antwerp very well and that was an area i was unfamiliar with, so i thought we could make an adventure of it.

and adventure we did. we met at the train station with the very polite belgian kiss on the cheek and set off in a direction that neither of us knew. we walked around the mier (shopping area) and  then when my little legs got tired of matching his giant’s stride, we eventually settled on a bar by the schelde. i had a kwak, which is a beer that comes in an interesting funnel shaped glass and it’s attached to a wooden handle. in theory it’s really similar to the boot at hessen haus- you have to be careful how you tip it or else you’re going to get an air bubble and have it all splash you in the face. and that’s science, y’all.

the giant was really funny and easy to talk to, but okcupid might have it right again- i was getting more of a friend vibe off of him than a real “love connection.” but he was adventurous. he had worked in montreal for awhile and decided he wants to move to there, which probably sounds as crazy as me wanting to move to antwerp. we exchanged travel tips and things that we miss about north america. bacon. mmmm. also, indian food. okay, that was a surprise. i like indian food too, but hadn’t found a place in antwerp that looked nice and authentic. we both googled places and decided to get some for dinner.

on our way to indian food, however, a topic of conversation came up that changed everything. the giant had read that the kulminator bar was ranked the “best bar in the world” and asked me if i had ever been.

…as a matter of fact, I HAD. and i had 35 tickets and only needed 5 more to get a collector glass from there (thanks, Dan!). we decided to change our plans and walk to the kulminator and get dinner in that area instead.

TURNS OUT the kulminator is closed on sunday nights, which is absolutely ridiculous. and sad. but whatever. we swallowed our disappointment and went to find some food. conversation continued to flow with ease and we started comparing the difference between ‘american’ names and ‘european’ names. he started saying my name with an “american” accent. i hated it. people with accents need to say my name with accents. sounds much better. in fact, everyone, just start saying my name with an accent.

after we were done eating i walked him back to the train station. we made (non-concrete) plans to hang out again and go to the kulminator when it was open. i also need to visit gent again because it is such a beautiful city and not that far away. i’m positive i will see the giant again, but maybe not in a romantic context. but who knows? his sad eyes and easy-going nature was enough to get him the bronze medal in this dating game.


updates from last month:
#1: don’t really see not-evan anymore, although we still text occasionally and make plans to see each other, where i ditch out on last minute because i’m a terrible and lazy person. in my defense, i’ve told him open dates a few times as well and haven’t heard anything back.

#2: hang out with the texan on a pretty consistent basis, although we are definitely just friends. i can’t handle that man’s drama. 😉

#3: i go out with my pho-phriend about every few weeks. he’s pretty cool, adventurous, and funny. although i realized last time we hung out that he looks like reid, and i can only hang out with so many look-a-like ex boyfriends before wondering if i’m just recreating the wheel.

#4: the unexpected is undoubtedly my favorite of january. we try to hang out once a week or once every other, but not at a stage where anything is serious or exclusive. or sexclusive. (did i just make up an awesome word?)

#5: haven’t talked to him since the night he texted me that he “liked the blog, but his friends will now never stop calling him smuggy mcsmuggerston.” shame. he was funny. but i guess if i ever get the hankering to see him or his friends i can just return to that coffee shop. …so there’s that.

#6: male me and… me… have gone on a few dates. i was interested to see where it would lead, but i am pretty much over it now. he’s fun to talk to and intellectual, but there is just no physical chemistry on my side. (hi, mom! you can stop reading… now.) truth be told, he’s actually a bit awkward when it comes to being romantic or sexual in any way… proving that he’s definitely not the male version of me.

(okay, mom, you can start reading again)

just a forewarning, i probably won’t continue this blog (or at least, this series of the blog) after february. there are a few new people who i’ve lined up to see, but i feel by now i have established a good base of people to hang out with. and of the #10 i’ve mentioned, there are a few i’m legitimately interested in romantically seeing. though i’m a fantastic juggler and multi-tasker, the thought of dating a bunch of people at the same time is not super appealing to me, but rather more tiring and… well… shitty. to add more to that pile sounds even more tiresome (and shitisome). but if anything interesting happens with anyone (or any of the new ones really jump out) i will be sure to let you all know. i’m an open book, after all.

it’s raining men. [january edition]

back in august of 2013, while i was still living my humble little life in iowa, one of my belgian colleagues was in town for a meeting. while we were making small talk during a break, we started discussing my move to belgium. this led to one of the most quoted/repeated conversations i had that year:

Colleague: “And you never know, you might meet a man.”
“That’s not the point,” I said, a bit condescendingly, as if I was discouraging the road this conversation was going down.

“…the point is to meet a lot of men.”

fast forward to present day. i have officially been in belgium for a month. i’ve had my ups and downs, as anyone would who has moved to another country. but throughout it all, i did remain faithful to my word. in this past month, i have met a lot of men.

to be clear, i’m not looking for “the one,” “mr. right,” or whatever you want to call a life-long romance with the only person who understands me and fills that empty void inside my heart… i’m simply looking to meet people. yeah, good looking males would be first choice. but mainly, i want to make antwerp/belgium a home and enjoy my time while i’m here.

and i want to share this adventure with all of you.

so, what’s the easiest way to start meeting new people when you are alone and new to a country? a bar? sure. but meeting people when you’re alone in a bar can seem a bit desperate. and scary. and here in belgium there’s even the possibility that they don’t speak english. we could meet through mutual friends? also a decent idea- except that most of my friends over here are work colleagues who are either married, in relationships, or just asexual as hell (yes, jeroen. this is referring to you).

which leads me to… and you’ve probably already guessed it… online dating.

for the record, i was never against online dating before. i just never signed up for anything because, honestly, i pretty much knew what des moines had to offer. but a new, interesting, foreign, and different land? sign me up. no, wait. i get to make a profile and talk exclusively about me? i’ll sign myself up, thanks!

january:

date #1: “not-evan”

i started talking to guy #1 on okcupid for a few reasons. the first reason was that i noticed he was from the states and had just moved to antwerp a few weeks before i did. what better way to get to know the city than with someone who is in the same boat as you? the second reason, which i’m not too ashamed to admit, is that i thought he looked a bit like a nerdier version of evan. and despite all of evan’s flaws (i mean, he was the flawed one, that’s obviously why the relationship didn’t last, right?), he’s cute to boot. i mean, best looking guy i’ve dated, hands down.

so not-evan and i start chatting it up. he’s funny and makes a comment about his youthful appearance, something that i can relate to. he also drops some intellectually nerdy comments throughout the conversation, which scores major points with me. i love myself a good looking nerd. he suggests that we meet up at the museum of modern art, an awesome idea because it’s perhaps the one place i know how to get to in antwerp, being a 5 minute walk from my apartment.

18:30 rolls around and i see a boy-man (again, youthful appearance) sitting on a bench outside of the museum. when he sees me, he gets up and greets me with a good ol’ fashion (yet extremely polite), american hug. there are a few things i notice about him at this point:

a) he looks nothing like evan (though still very cute)
b) he is really fashionable

we make a bit of small talk as we walk towards the museum, and conversation flows with relative ease the entire night. i’m not overly impressed with anything on exhibit, but neither is he. he’s funny in person as well as online. he’s a bit pretentious, but in a way i could see myself being as well. he’s traveled a lot. you can tell he comes from a bit of money. he’s got a boyish charm, but also a bit of arrogance that comes with someone who thinks he’s a catch.

after the museum we walk to nick’s bar, a bar he tells me is named after some hemingway character. he’s a big fan of hemingway. cute. we drink. we chat. we try to one up each other on travel adventures. i’m here for work and nothing has gone right so far. his father is the owner of the company he works for and he’s over in belgium gaining experience to one day possibly take over. …there’s a clear winner here and it’s not me.

after we were done drinking our fill, we start to get a bit hungry. we walk over to den artist, a little restaurant that had been recommended to me from a friend. we walk in… i’ve been here before. shit. oh well. we sit. we eat. the portions are way too big so i do the most embarrassingly american thing possible. i get a to-go box. he smirks at me. i smirk back and tell the waitress that i’m boxing it up for him because he’s too embarrassed to do it himself. well-played, lundberg.
well-played.

overall, the night ended fairly well. we parted ways after dinner. i got a text from him the next day asking me if the food was delicious enough the next day to lose face over. a month later, we still talk occasionally, but i don’t think there were major sparks for either of us. don’t get me wrong, i had a good time and think that we could be friends. but one thing was really holding me back from actually being interested.

i’m not saying he’s gay. i’m not. i’m just saying that, if in the conversation somewhere he said, “i also like bicycling, photography, and dating men,” i wouldn’t have been surprised. still super cute though. and damn, was he a good dresser.

date #2: the texan

i started talking to the texan for similar reasons as i did guy #1– i saw he was an american. a cute american. and while i was stalking, i mean, browsing through his photos, i found myself giggling at his verbiage. i mean, this guy was funny. he was quirky. he liked sushi. yeah,  i was going to attack.

we talked online for a bit and i was immediately impressed at the texan’s bantering ability. i have a tendency to be overly sarcastic sometimes and that can come off as unkind, but he matched me step-for-step. i offered to get sushi with him when i got to town and he shot the idea down, saying he liked to reserve dinner for a second or third date as he had some weird first dates over dinner that felt like a waste of time and money. brutal and honest. respect. we switched from okcupiding to texting. banter continued. we decided to meet for drinks. he picked the time, i picked the place.

i picked den engel. it’s in the grote markt, which is about a 25 minute walk from my apartment. sounds a bit far (for an american) to walk, but it was somewhere i had frequented enough that i knew i could find the bar with relative ease. and, in case he was catfishing me like he claimed to be doing, i could easily run back home without having to check my map on how to get there.

a few minutes before 19:00 i walk up and see a perfect-heighted male speciman standing outside of den engel with a very stylish coat. i give him the eye, wondering (hoping?) that it was the texan and was reassured with an awkward half-wave that it indeed was. we went in for a drink.

first off, den engel is not really a place where you bring younger people. it’s an old person bar. but i absolutely love it. it’s a bit of a dive, but it’s got great character and a good view of the markt. we sat down and had a few drinks. he asked me how i had heard of the bar and i said i was taken there by a friend the last time i was in belgium. he asked if my friend was 80, which seemed to be the average age of the bar patrons. i laughed. still brutal and honest.

the date went, by my standards, exceptionally well. there were no lulls in conversation. we walked around the city for hours, popping into occasional places for a drink or to warm up. i outdrank him, but i’d like to think i can outdrink most people who, well, aren’t belgians. belgians can really drink.

the date ended at my doorstep. there was some playful physical contact throughout the night, but no kiss, which was fine. i would’ve accepted it, but i wasn’t going out of my way for one. plus, he had already admitted to me earlier in the night that he was going to the netherlands the next day for a second date with a girl. i went up to my (barely furnished) apartment with a smile on my face. it was a good night.

— as a note, i’ve been out with the texan a few times. the second time we went out we went on a bike ride and for a walk around the lake. i thought it was going rather well so i immediately sabotaged it by losing my phone. he later tried to cheer me up by offering to buy me a girl in the red light district. the next time we hung out he taught me how to play magic. he’s way into magic. then we got dinner (third date rule), drinks, and parted ways. still no kiss, which in my mind, puts me/him in the “friend zone.” but honestly, i’m not too worried about it. regardless, i like him and he’s someone i’d like to continue hanging out with.

date #3: the pho-phriend.

i met the third guy on my beloved app, tinder. i don’t know if you are aware of my love/hate relationship with this app, but if you aren’t you should know that i find it extremely addictive. i also have the tendency to forget that the people i am rating are real people, so i have a ton of matches, most of them who i have never said a word to.

but i was feeling bored and feisty one night, so i logged into tinder to scam on some hotties. i came across a guy with a belgian name i really like, so i made sure to tell him i dug his name. he quickly responded with “thanks. i have no particular feelings about the name amanda.” oh. it’s on.

we talked a little more- how i had just moved to antwerp, typical small talk chatter. he offered to show me around town that night, but it was cold and dark and i was comfortably in sweatpants on AB’s couch watching orange is the new black so i respectively declined. but we kept chatting. somehow we got on the topic of food and i mentioned that i was on the lookout for a good pho place.

HE HAD JUST HAD PHO THAT DAY. um, say what?! no one in this country has even heard of pho, and this guy talks about how he has it all the time. one of his favorite foods. i knew then and there this was, at the very least, a wonderful friendship blossoming over our love of asian food.

so we made plans to go get asian food the next day. the pho place closes at 18:30, which is absolutely ridiculous, so there was no possible way we were getting any of that beefy noodley goodness. but he said he would take me to one of his favorite authentic chinese food places called fong mei in the chinatown area.

the main problem for meeting was one of logistics. he was living in antwerp, but was from more of the city center and i was from the south side and no idea how to get around. solution? meet at the grote markt after work and go from there. if we were hungry we’d eat there, if not, we’d move on to the other area.

…but if we were at the grote markt to begin with, we might as well go to den engel. 🙂 i pretty much decided after i set the meeting spot that it’s a good place to go at some point during a date to judge reactions. plus, it’s not too loud so you can talk. plus, i love it there.

my pho-phriend was cool. he does finance for a company in brussels. he likes to travel. we had good conversation and he didn’t laugh too hard at my attempts at the dutch language. after a few drinks neither one of us were so hungry we felt the need to gnaw our arm off, so we took that as a good sign to take the subway to chinatown.

the food at fong mei was pretty decent. the conversation was better. i learned how to order a “pintje,” which is essentially a draft beer of whatever’s on tap. the night ended with him showing me how to order a tram ticket on my phone (and it will just be added to my phone bill at the end of the month, which is totally swank) and a quick hug. when i got home i shot him a text to let him know i made it in one piece and we both agreed it was good to meet one another.

overall, i didn’t feel an overwhelming amount of romantic chemistry, but i really enjoyed my time and hope to hang out again soon. he had sent me a text the next day asking if i wanted to get pho that weekend, but my days were already filled up. i’m sure we will get together fairly soon, though. just thinking about how long i have been in pho-withdrawal gives me the shakes.

date #4: the unexpected

i’m not going to lie- i didn’t expect too much out of the date with guy #4. and it was nothing that he had done wrong, he just didn’t really strike me as my type. maybe it was our lower match percentage. maybe it was the fact i read on his profile he was really into the gym. or maybe it was that he had “casual sex” checked as one of the categories he was looking for. it really could’ve been a mixture of all three. and besides him telling me i had a cute pic on my profile, there wasn’t too much of a spark. (i mean, his photo was pretty cute too, but he only had one and sometimes it’s hard to judge off of just one angle.)

regardless, i’m new to an area and he said he would come to antwerp to get a drink with me some weekend. perfect. we exchanged numbers and, to my surprise and delight, i would occasionally get some witty text from him that would allow an equally playful response.

but the first time we were going to go out, i ditched him. i can’t remember why exactly, but i’m guessing it had to do with my laziness. i think we were planning on doing a dinner on a sunday night, but i had gone over to AB’s earlier that day and she and her fiancee were feeding and watering me and letting me use their internet and watch their tv… yeah, there was no way i was leaving that.

the second time, he ditched me. he sent me a message online (i had just lost my phone) to let me know he had forgotten he had to go to a car show that day for work. i didn’t think much of it. when i got my old phone reactivated i let him know and we made plans for the following sunday. i jokingly asked him if he was sure he didn’t have some fancy, manly motocross race to attend instead and his response was that he usually fights bears in the woods on sundays, but they’re hibernating, so for now he’s all mine. good answer.

so sunday rolls around and i make my way to the grote markt, where we agreed to meet. he was from a different town and had to take the train in, since drinking and driving is a big no-no in this country. we meet up around 14:50 and walk until we find a cozy bar his antwerpen friend had recommended. we get two bollekes (which i’m getting pretty damn good at ordering, if i do say so myself).

his profile picture didn’t disappoint. he’s very cute. he’s short too, which is always a plus with me. by looking at him, you could tell that he was in shape, but he wasn’t a meathead at all. he was actually kind of soft-spoken. at first, when i realized he was a bit quiet, i was worried that we wouldn’t have much to talk about. however, after a few hours of constant conversation that fear dissipated. he spent a year living in japan and spoke fluent japanese. he liked karaoke. he wasn’t afraid to go dancing. i was having a blast. at around 17:00, he asked me if i was hungry and if i would like to get some food.

now, here’s the thing. if you live in japan for any time, chances are you probably like my favorite food, which is sushi. the best sushi place in antwerp is in the grote markt. but it is SUPER expensive. i casually mention to him that there is a good sushi place close by, but it is pricey. he shrugs. he doesn’t care, he wants good sushi and is willing to pay for it. major points there. it’s not that i care if people have money or not, that’s really not an issue to me. but i liked his “go-with-it” attitude. i check their website, but they don’t open until 18:00. whatever should we do in the mean time?

two words: den engel. i mean, come on, it was really close by! we walk in and i warn him it’s a bit of a “brown bar,” but he laughs it off and calls it charming. we order a few drinks, continue chatting, and then we notice the bartenders are moving tables outside. the bar is getting more and more crowded. something is going down. i immediately text my friend jeroen because den engel is “his bar” and if anyone was to know what was going on, it was going to be him. guy 4 and i finish our drinks and decide to go back to the bar after we get done eating to see what is happening.

we went to go eat at roji, which again, is the best sushi i’ve had in antwerp. okay, truth be told, it’s the only sushi i’ve had in antwerp. but i’ve heard sushi palace is sub-par, and i’ve seen some of the maki in the stores and it doesn’t look all that impressive. i order a ginger mule because this is the only place in antwerp that i know of that has ginger beer, and guy 4 follows suit. he loves it. we cheers over my good decision and look at the menu. he doesn’t even flinch at the price and instead suggests we get one assorted sashimi and one assorted maki plate. um… done and done.

130 euro later we exit the restaurant, fully stuffed and satisfied by our selections. conversation has gone from good to great and we are already planning where we are going to go the next time we go out. he’s from leuven so i agree to go there for some exceptional pasta next weekend. but the night can’t end quite yet. not when our curiosity has been peaked so high to see what is going on at den engel.

it’s ‘sunday night fever!’ (that was the only thing i got back from jeroen, but from that we had gathered it is some sort of dance party.) we get back to the bar, grab a bench seat, and watch old people dance to techno versions of old songs. it’s fantastic.

the night ends with us agreeing Sunday Night Fever is one of the coolest things ever, cheersing, and downing our drinks. he walks back to the train station and i take off in the wrong direction for home, then realize my mistake and do a 360 to get situated to the right direction. no one saw, it’s fine.

guy #5: smuggy mcsmuggerton

i started talking to guy 5 on okcupid not really because we were a match, but more out of boredom. truth be told, we weren’t really a match at all. 46% match, 53% friend, and 26% enemy. (wow, really, okcupid? you rate your enemies?) but, he seemed decent enough to look at and definitely had an adventurous attitude. every time we talked he came across as smug and arrogant, but in a way that made you feel he was just kind of elbowing you in the ribs to be funny. the online version of a boy pulling your pigtails.

honestly, what really made me inclined to meet him was that he pretty much flat out told me he just broke up with a girl and wasn’t looking for anything serious. just moving to a new country and in the spirit of meeting new people, i was thinking a bit of the same. i felt we could easily go out without having too much of an expectation in either direction.

this date activity was definitely my favorite that i’ve done in antwerp (so far). mr. mcsmuggerton took me to a basketball game. he picked me up in his BWM (that he has paid for in full and, of course, had to mention),  and we walked arm in arm to the stadium- halfway for warmth, halfway because he initiated it and you got to give a man credit for that.

at the stadium we met two of his friends, who were both extremely handsome. is it terrible of me to maybe have wished i met one of them first?! (answer: yes). we watched the game, which apparently was a very good match up because the antwerp giants are the best team in belgium and they were playing some very good russian team. and the game was incredibly fun to watch– even though the giants were very obviously the underdog team, you could tell their fans were very dedicated. guy 5 and i didn’t really talk too much during the game, but that was perfect because… well… i love basketball.

the game ended, we left his friends, and we got in his car to go back home. he had told me earlier in the night that he didn’t drink very often, and because of the drinking/driving rule in belgium, if he was going to have anything alcoholic he was going to stay over at my place.

i assured him he was not. i mean, i liked him all right, but definitely not that much. maybe we had different ideas of “not looking for anything serious.” i saw that more as meeting people with no expectations and i think he saw it more as sleeping with people with no expectations. oh, well. potato-potato. 🙂

because of his smugness/arrogance/confidence/whatever you want to call it, i will say he was the only guy that initiated a kiss at the end of the night. and i was impressed with that. i mean, heck, he was probably mad because that’s all he got and he wanted to sleep over, but honestly, if i was eyeing his friend the whole night it probably isn’t a match made in heaven anyway. at least he wasn’t looking to get serious. 😉

guy #6: male me?

i went out with the last guy on the very last day of the month. we had chatted online here and there, but not often enough or with enough zing to make him a forerunner in the game. (i mean, in the dating. it’s not a game. it’s dating.) but he was cute and we were a 92% match, so i figured, what the hell. he lives in gent, which is about a half an hour away, but offered to come to antwerp for a night and have a few drinks.

the idea of going on the date was a good pick-me-up during the week, but it was actually the first date that didn’t go according to plan. we originally planned to meet on the south side at a pub at 20:00, but the closer it got to 20:00 the more i felt like i was about to be stood up. he wasn’t responding to texts or calls. 20:00 rolled around and he was nowhere to be found. (i did make some random friends in the pub, though, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.) at 20:40 he called me to let me know he had missed the exit and was making his way into antwerp. at 20:50 he called back to say he was in the city center area instead of the south side like we had planned. i told him i’d meet him in the grote markt and started walking.

i get to the grote markt around 21:00 and park myself down on a bench. a few minutes roll by and i text him that i’m at the statue. he calls back. he is also at the statue. hmmm. puzzling. turns out he was in the groenplaats, not the grote markt.  it’s starting to rain. i tell him to head to the cathedral. i see him there, and we finally meet.

now, this would normally be a large turn off, but i can’t bring myself to blame him. for one, i have to admit, it sounds like something that i would do. i’m not the best with directions and even with a gps i can get lost at times. this guy drove over a half an hour to see me, doesn’t even have a gps, and i should cut him some slack. fine. let’s go to den engel and get some drinks.

we sit down and order a few drinks and it is at this point that male me asks me if he can stay over, because of the drinking and driving law.

okay, i’m also a bit annoyed about this. what is with these belgian guys just assuming they are invited into my apartment? he isn’t pushy or insistent on it. he admits that he is a bit of a lightweight and is more than happy to sleep on the couch. i inform him i don’t have one yet. maybe something he could’ve asked before he drove into town with plans to drink.

but, whatever. our drinks are here. we cheers and begin drinking and actual conversation. the first thing he says impresses me. he knows the capital of iowa is des moines. he knows we are ‘the hawkeye state.’ and how does he know this? he plays pub trivia every week. he also has board game nights with his friends. um, what? kind of irresponsible, but loves pub trivia and board games? i feel like i’m describing myself here!

we had a few drinks at den engel. he sat on the same side of the bench as me. i don’t really know what to make of that, but i think it’s interesting to point out. it wasn’t like we were staring each other down across the table like an interview. but even though it wasn’t an interview, he did get one strike against him.

…he was currently unemployed. that’s not shallow of me, is it? i mean, i can overlook tardiness and unpreparedness if it’s not a reoccurring theme, but unemployment kind of bothers me. but he was unemployed because he was taking classes and wants to be an engineer. he wants to do something. he’s got ambition. okay. i can respect that. …for now. if it’s true.

after we finished our drinks we started our walk back to the south side. i knew i couldn’t send him home drunk, so i resigned myself to realizing i was actually letting someone stay over. also equally surprising- i wasn’t as annoyed about it at this point as i was at the beginning of the night. we stopped at the bar on the corner by my place for another couple drinks, but mostly to get out of the rain.

sidenote: how come rain makes guys look disheveled yet handsome and makes me look like a messy, drowned rat?

we finish our drinks around 1:30 and it’s very obvious the bartender wants to kick us out. we nod and pay and basically get escorted out the back exit. we walk the fifty steps to my apartment door. when we get in i give him a quick tour of the place and show him that i was serious, i honestly have no couch. “that’s okay,” he says (a bit drunkenly). “i can sleep on those pieces of carpet.”

i have two disgusting rolled up segments of carpet that were left by the previous tenant and i don’t know how to get rid of them because they are too big for the garbage sacks and i don’t know the number for the oversize loads. but anyway, the statement in itself was so cute that i told him he could sleep in my bed.

“but,” i warned, so he didn’t get the wrong idea, “i’m very tired and drunk. if you try anything, i will make you sleep in the hall.” he grinned. i grinned back… but i was serious.

to sum it up: i’m not sure how i would feel about dating myself. but i did have a good time and i will probably see him again to find out.

mi casa es su casa

so… yeah. i think i found a place to live in belgium.

i spent most of my wednesday in antwerp getting shown around different areas by housing agencies. i decided  that (after dealing with that crazy lady) using an agency probably was:

a) easier and
b) more processed and organized.

both good since getting a place in such a short time, working with people overseas, etc. will require a lot of extra work and i want someone with experience.

the first agency showed me places in berchem. i grew really attached to one place almost immediately. first of all, it was HUGE. it had three bedrooms. it looked well kept. no parking, but parking at a grocery store which was fairly close by. it was close to the train station and a tram line ran almost right outside. i had three other places to look at in that area, but i was almost sold on that one.

almost. until the taxi ride home where the taxi driver asked me why a young, single, beautiful (yeah, i didn’t have to throw the last one in there, but it made me feel good) woman would want to live in berchem? he said that the youngest man at the bar next to me would be a 70 year old. in talking with people from the area i found that berchem was really a sleepy, nice, suburb of antwerp. but if i wanted to go out… if i wanted to meet peopleif i wanted to live my belgian life to the fullest… i needed to live in the south of antwerp.

so when i got back to my hotel i scheduled two more visits with a different agency. one of the places was in the city center area and one was in the south. i hopped in a taxi and made my way to the first.

first off, the agency lady was awesome. she was young, maybe late 20s or early 30s and i knew we would hit it off right away because she had a nose ring and she was wearing chucks. she didn’t have a car so we took public transportation to get to the places. she gave me some good tips and pros and cons of the areas as well.

the city center apartments were pretty awesome. the one i was looking at was very modern, very chic. very expensive. over $1500 for a 840 sq ft apartment (733 euro rent + 99 euro common costs + 70 euro provision for water, heating, electricity + 110 euro for the parking). and you definitely need a parking spot if you are living in the city center. the bedrooms were kind of small, but the bathroom was nice because it had a small standing shower and also a bathtub (which I didn’t need, but whatever). the kitchen kind of blended to the living room, and didn’t have a microwave. it had a dishwasher, but it was basically there by accident and if it broke it wouldn’t be replaced. but it had a nice view, it was in a good area of town, and it was connected directly to the train station and a lot of businesses, shopping places, etc.

but ultimately, i wanted to see the place in the south. admittedly, i wanted to see it because everyone had talked up the area so much… but also because it scared me not to because EVERYONE talked it up so much. and not just the “hip and trendy” people who lived in the south– the taxi drivers, my co-workers, random belgians i met *cough*tindered*cough* all agreed that the south was the best place to live, if you had the choice.

so eveline (the agency lady) and i took the tram, then we walked in the rain, then we cut across parking lots, and finally we arrived to a cute little street on the south side near a sort-of dead end road (apparently ideal for guest parking), across from a well-known “brown pub.” (by the way, i wasn’t sure what those were but everyone said it… apparently they are not dressy pubs. maybe a bit like a dive? i will have to test and see.)

before we went in to the actual apartment, she showed me the garage that i could rent for 100euro. i mean… it was literally a full garage. it already housed 3 other cars, and each had ample amount of room. driving/parking/getting around antwerp is a bit crazy, so i liked the idea of having a covered, enclosed space for my car. that was a big plus.

then we went into the 970 sq ft apartment. i will include photos (most photos taken from the Quares listing).

so you walk in and you can either go straight, into the living room area, or take a left to the bedrooms/bathrooms. let’s go straight.

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view upon entering living room

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view of living room, from the other side

okay, yeah i hate the floor paneling too. anyway…

from the living room you can get to the kitchen. also, if you look in the last photo above, you can see a combination microwave/oven? i’ve never heard of it, but apparently they are pretty common.

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here’s the kitchen. it has a small (as in, ridiculously small, probably will get another) fridge, a small dishwasher, and an old kitchen sink and stove top. again, it’s not the most awesome kitchen in the world… but let’s be real. i’m not the most awesome cook either.

okay, so that part of the adventure book ends. let’s go back to page 1 where we enter the apartment. only this time, we are going to take a left.

first off, in that little hallway there are a few closets with a nice amount of storage space. there is also a toilet that is separate from the bathroom, one thing that i cannot seem to get used to, although it is very common over here.

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after the closets there is the actual bathroom, which has a sink and a bathtub with a shower head and some weird partition thing. i actually would rather have a shower curtain and eveline thought that would be an easy fix for the owner since they usually cost less than the partition anyway.

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then the two bedrooms. the smaller (guest) bedroom/my office is on the left hand side. then the bigger bedroom, with the door to small balcony, is on the right.

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the smaller bedroom/office

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IMG_6710my bedroom

from the bedroom there is just a really, REALLY small balcony. probably just enough to fit two chairs or so. but ideal for spying on people. 😉

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so… yeah. that’s the grand ol’ tour! stop on by anytime. afterall, i have a guest bed for you.

forget it… it’s china[town]

the second big trip in 2013 (i also went to california, but it was strictly work so and nothing really worth reporting) was to china. every year the company i work for does three “town hall” meetings- it’s a chance for the president to answer employee questions and do a progress report for the year. there is always one in des moines, iowa, usually one in belgium (our second biggest office), and then one in another global office. this year china was selected.

i have to admit, i wasn’t super stoked to go to china to begin with. not because i have anything against the country. it’s just… it’s just that i’m asian. and that gets confusing. because i’m the fakest asian there is. i really know nothing about my heritage. i can’t speak the languages. oh, and i’m not chinese, i’m korean.

but my boss was going with me and she and i got along really well. slowly but surely she convinced me that this trip was going to be amazing. we planned out fun things we could do in our free time. and, she reminded me, i’m adventurous. it’s not somewhere i’ll probably ever go again. i should be soaking up this opportunity and enjoying every second of it.

i hate it when she’s right.

the best part about this trip was that it was a 16 hour flight. well, that wasn’t the best part… the best part was flying FIRST CLASS for a 16 hour flight. i’ve never ridden in first class in my life. and it was everything i dreamed it would be and more.

first classsorry for party rockin

i mean, the seats laid ALL THE WAY DOWN. they offered us champagne. and wine. and port (which, turns out, is disgusting). and an assortment of cheeses, appetizers, and snacks. the meals were almost restaurant worthy. the attendants smiled. it was a happy, beautiful place i hope to someday return to.

so, when you fly to china, you have to go into hong kong first. we got to hong kong in the afternoon, took a taxi to our hotel, and got ourselves situated. that night we went out for dinner and to explore the area. our hotel was near the water and we apparently hit a good time, because as we were walking we noticed a crowd of people starting to form along the dock. wondering what was going on, we stopped as well, and we witnessed hong kong’s “symphony of lights,” which essentially is the world’s largest laser light show. 44 different businesses/buildings along the victoria harbor participate in this ten minute show and it attracts around 4 million visitors each year.

hk laser show

the next day we did a little more exploring of hong kong. we decided the best way to see the sights in one day (not enough time) was to take a tour. we booked the tour through our hotel, which was recommended to us so we wouldn’t get ripped off and everything would be organized. our tour guide picked us up and we headed off with a bunch of other tourists with cameras strapped around their necks to victoria peak.

victoria peak is the highest mountain in hong kong. it’s referred to as ‘the peak’ by the natives and it’s a huge tourist attraction because it has a breathtaking view of hong kong and the surrounding islands.

hk-victorias peak

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oh, and i also accepted my roots and threw the peace sign as often as i could.

…a little bit of immaturity. while we were at the peak we saw this and couldn’t stop laughing. i’ve always wondered where that went.

cum recycle

after we left victoria peak, our tour bus brought us to the aberdeen fishing village, which houses around 6,000 people who live on the boats. we paid 60 Hong Kong dollar (approximately $8 USD) to ride a sampan and help support the fishing industry. aberdeen is one of the most important fishing ports in kong hong, but due to the increasing costs of the industry the community in aberdeen has started to decrease in size.

aberdeen:

sampak

aberdeen  sampak2

after the sampan ride we walked around the hong kong market for a bit, then made our way to the docks. you see, the reason we were only staying in hong kong for a day was because we were going to go to macau that night. i really knew nothing about macau except that it was supposed to be the “vegas of asia” and that one of the james bond movies had a scene there.

a little fun fact about me. i get motion sickness. like, crazy bad. the sampan wasn’t too terrible (surprisingly), but i felt absolutely miserable on that boat that took us from hong kong to macau. chalk it up to being tired or just lucky throughout the day, but i fought the headache and stomach until i made myself go to sleep for the rest of the ride.

so we arrive to macau; tired, sickly, and starving. we had chose a hotel that was not on the “strip,” but rather in a different part of the city. it was kind of remote, but well-kept and very pretty.

macau by night

the strangest part of macau is the mix of cultures- it has influences from china, but cantonese and portuguese influences are found throughout the country as well. we decided to do a bit of gambling (when in rome), but a lot of the games were different than the ones we are used to in the USA. even so, slot machines seem fairly universal, and stephanie ended up winning $200 on the slots!!! well… $200 HK dollar, which is about $28 US dollar… but still!

winner winner

the next day we decided to do a bit of exploring of macau on our own. i had a list of things we should check out, so we took a taxi to the casa gardens, which is just a cute little park in macau. attached to casa gardens is the old protestant cemetery. apparently back in the day macau was a strictly roman catholic country, and china refused to bury any outsiders, so the protestants had to bury their dead at night. they also risked being killed for this procedure if they were caught. in 1821 the land was bought and they got legal status to bury their dead. we also saw plenty of temples, the old city wall, and the ruins of st. paul. macau is a fairly small place so most of the sights are easily walkable if you don’t mind some hills. i loved walking around the city and seeing the different lifestyle- old buildings are a weakness of mine. i have to take photos of things that are run down or interesting, places that seem like they have a story.

casa gardens
casa garden is faaaabullouussssssmacau air macau

another highlight of macau was going to the macau tower, which is the 10th tallest tower in the world.

macau towerview from the macau tower

the reason i liked the macau tower so much, though, was not the impressive heights or the view (those were fine, but you go in one tower you pretty much go in them all), but the fact that you could BUNGEE JUMP OFF OF THE TOWER!

macau bungee macau bungee2

um, say what?! i wanted to bungee jump so badly (i’ve never done it before), and it seemed like a prime location to do so. i mean, how many people can say they’ve been to macau alone, let alone jump off of the 10th tallest tower in the world? unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, we’ll never know), stephanie was pretty against it. don’t get me wrong, she would’ve supported me going and actually encouraged me to, but she wasn’t going to go herself. and i decided if i was going to fall and break every bone in my body, doing it so far away from home before my work trip actually started might not be the best idea.

oh well. next time.

after we left the tower, macau started going down hill. not physically or probably for anyone else, but this was the point in time where stephanie and i had to go through the immigration line to leave macau and enter china. the three hour, hot, disgusting, immigration line where no one spoke english and stephanie was constantly gawked at for being a white female. i pretended for a bit to join in with everyone else, but even that lost it’s appeal after hour two. 😉 and then i lost my immigration card and thought i was going to be stuck in macau forever…. whew, i made it out, though. he basically swore at me and called me lucky and then stamped my passport. then we waited in another two hour line to actually get into china.

once we got to china we were already in the town we needed to be in (zhuhai), so that was a little bit of luck in our favor. we hitched a taxi to our hotel, got settled in, and started prepping for our work meetings. besides doing the town hall (which i am in charge of), we had to give a few presentations, meet with the teams, and tour the facilities.

besides the meetings and everything going according to plan, two things happened out of the ordinary that came to mind during our time in zhuhai.

1) the heads our specialty crop improvement team were also in china to check out their team and plants. they are two of my favorite people who work at kemin, and they invited me out to dinner with their team that night.

sci

2) i experienced my first squatter toilet. no, i didn’t use it (at that point), but it was a new and startling experience in itself.

toilet
no, no thank you.

from zhuhai we went to shanghai for a few days, where we had dinner with a different team (apparently we have 4 offices in china- zhuhai, shanghai, beijing, and ningbo) and attended FIC, the largest food ingredient trade show in the world. the last night michael took us out for hunan food. he started us out on level 1 and the goal was to gradually go up as we got acquainted with the flavor… we ended up staying on level 1 the entire night, but we also drank a lot of strange chinese budweiser beers. apparently it’s americans contribution to the world of beer.

after our time in shanghai, stephanie and i took a train to beijing, along with another one of our coworkers, alex. alex is head of marketing for our health division, and he is a pretty funny character. he was in good humor the entire train ride, doing a bit of work, a bit of army stuff (very dedicated soldier), and conversing with stephanie and me. well, they tried to converse with me. but to be honest, i am a terrible transportation friend. i like to fall alseep, listen to music, or watch television shows when i’m in route. i’ll make some small talk, but honestly, it’s one of the few times i actually like to be left alone. after the talking wore me out, i watched a few episodes of the walking dead and then fell asleep for most of the 4.5 hour train ride.

when we got to beijing it was already pretty late at night. we hadn’t had any dinner yet so we had a drink and some food, and then we got ready for bed. even though it was already 2am, we probably would’ve stayed out later, but we had to meet our driver in the lobby at 7:30am and that didn’t call for much sleep. xuemei was kind enough to arrange this for us, however, and we wanted to see the great wall of china which was a bit out of the city.

and the great wall was just that- great. it was phenomenal, in fact. we opted to walk the wall instead of paying for a ride up, and i’m really glad we did. the sights along the way were great, and it was rewarding to get to the top and look over it all. makes a person feel rather small!

i have tons of photos of this 13,171 mile wall, but i will spare you photos of my “brilliant” photography and just narrow it down to a few. 

great wall

great wall2 on the wallin this photo you get to see the beauty of one of the seven wonders of the world.
…and then behind me, you also get to see the great wall of china.

one of the coolest parts of the trip to the wall (once you got over how old, how big, how well constructed the wall itself is), was the fact that you could toboggan to the bottom of the mountain for only 60 RMB. since i already regretted not bungee jumping, i decided there was no way i was going to pass up this less-potentially-bone-breaking opportunity. and it was a lot of fun!

the rest of the day we did typical touristic things in beijing. alex was leaving early that next morning, so we mostly did things that he wanted to see. those things included going to the forbidden city, which was right next to tiananmen square. the forbidden city was where the emperor lived during the ming dynasty. for around 500 years it was home to their households and was also the ceremonial and political center of the chinese government. the architecture was amazing. the buildings were beautiful. but no matter where i go in the world, the best part of being in old places is…

…pretending to be a gargoyle.

im a gargoyle

what can i say? even with thousands of tourists milling around, some habits die hard. alex also pretended to pee in the corner and that also made for a funny photo. he pretended, though. i swear it.

later that day the taxi driver took us to mcdonald’s, which i don’t even go to in the usa. i’m just sharing this because it made me really annoyed, although it shouldn’t have. he was a great driver and very attentive, but there was enough of a language gap that he didn’t understand me when i said i’d rather eat my own hand off.

i didn’t. i ordered some mcdonald’s, which was very cheap and tasted very much like the chicken sandwich i was hoping to get. i was also very impressed with the waiter’s english. we got to sit down and relax, and it was a really enjoyable time. (but i haven’t had mcdonald’s in the usa since either.) that night we made up for it, though, by going out for peking duck, ordering some fresh octopus, and then walking around houhai, which is a pretty trendy bar area near the water.

the last day xuemei took us out, along with her adorable daughter lele, to see some more sights in beijing. we went to the olympic park (where the… olympics… were held), and she handed us a few of those fancy masks the asians wear because of the smog. i put mine on and her daughter lele just started giggling and pointing at me. i wonder why?

invisible woman

i think because of this silliness, lele felt drawn to me (probably became i’m immature and act like a child), but it was great because she hung out with me all day. we goofed around at olympic park, she wore my sunglasses at lunch, and we pretended to be kittens while we wandered around the temple of heaven, which is a complex of religious buildings that are visited during worship. what was really cool about the temple was that all the steps were in sections of nine, because nine represented a heavenly number. everything was blue, green, and yellow; the colors were a symbolic representation of heaven, the mortal world, and earth.

xuemei also took us to the pearl market, where we bought pearl necklaces in the same place as hillary clinton and barbara bush. i had a few fake pearl necklaces, but i gave the helpers my price range and they brought me back a few strings of pearls to choose from. i picked one out and they sat down and started putting together my necklace, which was amazing to watch, and a necklace that i wear almost every day to work now! then we parted ways for the day and stephanie and i made our way on to the last leg of our journey, ningbo.

Xuemei Lele

there isn’t too much to report on ningbo, to be honest. it’s not a very busy area of china. i had edited the town hall meeting so we showed it to the employees (which chinese subtitles as many could not speak english) and then toured the factory and gave a few presentations and answered questions to help people practice their english.

that night a few members of the ningbo team took us out for dinner. that was potentially the highlight of the whole trip- the ningbo team was so nice and the food (traditional chinese foods like lotus root, various fish, etc) was good and shared family style. since there was no more work to do, we finally felt like we could relax a bit! as we were leaving we got a group photo, which is pretty common. but then the waitresses asked if they could have a photo with stephanie… which was maybe the funniest thing that happened during the whole trip. one waitress even shoved another out of the photo because she wanted one by herself with the white lady.

waitresses

the strangest part of being in china, at least for me, was that the chinese assumed i was also chinese and spoke to me in mandarin. i got really good at my ‘ni hao’ (hello) and ‘xie xie’ (thank you), but they were always startled that i didn’t understand the language. i guess it kind of makes sense, because i look the part, but like i stated before… i’m korean. even if i knew korean, i would have no idea what they would be saying. in talking with a few people about it, a lot of the chinese thought i was also chinese. apparently i look either like a northern chinese or a korean woman, which i found incredibly interesting. since i was adopted at such a young age and out of south korea, i always assumed i was a full korean. but who knows? i could potentially be half chinese. i don’t think i am, just some food for thought. i am tall for a korean. 🙂

anyway, stephanie was right. the trip was a once in a lifetime experience and i’m glad we got to go. xie xie for reading.

art and nakedness and being straight

the next piece of art was done by a long lost friend of mine, ms. emily.

i knew emily back in the day where she was the coolest cat to roam the block. not that she’s not cool anymore, but we just sort of lost touch over the years. she moved out to seattle, i moved to des moines; she got even cooler, i kind of evened out…

…so naturally, when i found out she not only had moved back to iowa but also had an art show in iowa city, i wanted to go. i knew from the past that she was talented and it fit in with what i was trying to accomplish with my iowa art wall so it seemed like a natural fit. unfortunately (or maybe just lazily), i knew i wouldn’t be able to make the actual show, so i asked her to send me photographs of the pieces so i could pick one out.

she did.

surprise! they’re of boobies.

2013-07-30 22.31.24 2013-07-30 22.26.18

2013-07-30 22.29.25

well done boobies, don’t get me wrong. artistic, well painted, and done in a way that would make me proudly display them on my wall. just such a shock when i opened up the first one because it was a) not what i was expecting and b) especially from someone who i had taught at church camp with. i mean, not that either of us probably come across as super religious now… maybe that was a moot point.

and yes, i realize this is coming across as super immature. just because we are straight women doesn’t mean we can’t draw and purchase naked women art without judgement.  and i did like a few of them that i was toying around with buying (see above); they were good. but, overall it boiled down to that they just really weren’t my cup of boobs tea. and then i found this one:

2013-07-30 22.30.36

…i absolutely LOVE this one.

i love its androgynousness. at first i thought it was another female photo until i looked a bit closer and realized it was a male. i love how the rest of them are fairly vertical or square and this one stands out. i’m usually not into water colors or nakedness, but i’m into both on this.

i had made a deal with emily that i could buy the piece on discount after the show, but immediately regretted my decision after i realized someone else could buy it during the month it was displayed. but i wanted the full commission to go to emily and not to the venue so i had to wait until the show was over… lucky for me it was one of the few that were still available. i snatched it up before anyone else had a chance (which was great timing on my part, because the person i showed them to tried to buy that one immediately after i put my money down). i even paid more than the asking price because i like it so much, so i should’ve just did that up front instead of waiting in suspense like an an idiot for a month.

emily still has a few pieces that are available- you can contact her at emilyberregaard@gmail.com if you are interested. and you should be.

Emily's Art

lykken boom boom down

another artist that will be featured  on my “iowa” wall is my good friend shawn.

i didn’t commission shawn to do any specific piece for me because, frankly, he probably would’ve turned down the challenge anyway. not because he’s not a fantastic artist (he is) or that he doesn’t have the time (he does)… it, just simply put, is not his style.

shawn is one of my closest friends here in des moines, but he is a complicated person. some say he’s reclusive, some say he’s a bit of a jerk. but he’s neither. he’s just shawn.

194(categories shawn knows things about for trivia)

i seriously make fun of shawn (and his dreamy smirk) more than i do most people, and i’m glad he puts up with me for it. i’m also glad that he lets me have some of his experimental design/screen prints. i have quite a collection going, and each little piece will find a spot on my wall.

the first is this strange little cow that was screen printed onto cardboard at about 4×6″. i’m not sure how it came to be in my possession, but it’s been sitting at my work desk for a few years now. it makes me giggle for a few reasons- the first is that i work for a company that puts ingredients into feed for farm animals, and the cow is a nice little cartoony representation of that. the other reason it makes me giggle is because it’s a freakin’ funny looking cow.

Image

the second piece i admittedly stole from him. both shawn and i (and a numerous amount of other talented artists) did posters for the ‘pour over poster show’ at mars cafe. the posters had to have some sort of a coffee theme. shawn’s was my favorite (maybe second favorite, curtis had a pretty fantastic one featuring the grim reaper), and i made sure to take one from him after the show was over. the poster was originally 12×19 but i cut it down to 11×17 so it would fit in a frame.

shawn03

the last piece i butchered, which makes me a bit sad because it was only a 1/10 print run, but i needed a smaller size. and really, it’s all about me.

a four color screen print? the kid is nuts.

shawn

shawn also does web design, illustrations, and screen printing for his job. he does take on a few selective freelance projects, so if you like his style, hit him up at shawn@eightsevencentral.com to talk biznis.