“What’s Your Slug Doing?”

WARNING: This post contains both utter silliness and PMS. If you do not want to read about either/both and yet keep going from here, it’s all on you.

My boyfriend and I are an odd couple (at least, we think we are), and clearly, we admit to it. We try not to have public places fails… too often, anyway.

But, since we can’t be as weird out there, we have to make up for it somewhere, and that usually winds up being during a nice long cuddle, where topics of discussion range from how the day went to red pandas and bunnies to “I love you”s to Olympian slugs.

Let me explain.

My boyfriend is tall-ish and naturally rather skinny. Not unhealthy, but skinny. As he said the other night, “My metabolism does not know how to store things.” My metabolism, on the other hand… is quite the opposite. Well, it knows how to burn things, but occasionally, it fails to get the fire going. As a result, I’ve struggled with my weight in the past, but I’m healthy now. However, I am… how do I put this delicately… expecting a visit from a certain Aunt Flo. (Nope. Delicacy was nowhere to be found.) For me, this means mood swings, being unable to sleep all that well, and water retention and bloating. Those last ones really, really suck. It’s not that I think I’m ugly, but there’s nothing I can do to bring down that stupid tummy pooch, save for eating NO salt and halving my water intake. This, however, would be unhealthy and would likely not do anything for my mood, so I try to avoid it when I can.

It would be at this unfortunate stage that my boyfriend decided to talk about his having “fat days”. If you have ever seen him, you know this is the rough equivalent of dividing by zero—it doesn’t work. Most of the time, I would’ve given him a “really, now?” look and laughed it off, but this was just not one of those times. I buried my head under a pillow for several minutes and refused to come out, cranky, over-reactive little ball of hormones that I am at the moment, then sullenly tried to amend it to something else.  To this, he did agree, as he says he does not feel fat; just unwilling to do anything, so we came up with “slug days”.

Ah, now you see where this is going.

I, myself, do have “fat days” (water retention is a bitch), “slug days”, and, on occasion, “fat slug days”.

It was quiet for a moment after I made this pronouncement, and then my boyfriend, who has been feeling rather puckish (and has only recently learned this word and loves it, so I must therefore use it), asked, “What; no Olympian slugs?”

Cranky, sullen, and generally crotchety though I had been, that made me laugh. The thought of slugs doing anything remotely athletic (at least, in a human way) is a pretty humorous one, you gotta admit.

Then, a moment later (again, from the boyfriend): “What’s your slug doing?”

Forget laughing; I had to stop and think for a moment. I had been imagining this, but I couldn’t decide between the two events my slug had decided it was good at: weightlifting, and sprints. (I am, somewhat ironically, good at neither.) The boyfriend thought his was doing shotput. Mine switched to running the stairs of the Olympic stadium.

It is at this point (or something like it) that most people likely will ask, “What are/were you on?”

Life? Love? A bit of both? Not enough sleep? Any of that is possible. Not mind-altering substances, though. We’re already strange enough as it is. Our friends and family can tell you this. (Though I, myself, was hard-pressed not to ask this of the boyfriend when I woke him up from a nap one night and he spouted off the second half of a perfectly coherent—and technically/stylistically correct—sentence explaining why I need a wrapper class to fetch something out of the middle of some data structure. He was very tired and does not remember this, though he does remember me telling him to take his hearing aid out and go to sleep, so at least there’s that…)

As for me? I can tell you that my boyfriend is a treasure, and I’d have him no other way; humor, puckish-ness, Olympian slugs and all.

A Husband By Any Other Name…

I’m going to comment on a topic I’m probably not qualified to comment on: name change after marriage. I’m not married, nor have I ever been. Given that I’m still in college, hopefully this is not surprising. I have thought about this issue from time to time, though, and what I’ve come up with is this: “I’ll figure it out later.” Considering I’m working towards a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and not planning a wedding, I’ve got rather more important things to worry about at the moment.

However, I was putzing around the internet this morning, and when I saw this article, I got all fired up.

Here’s the tl;dr version: Lazaro Sopena wanted to change his last name to his wife’s so that her family name could be passed on. Every government agency okayed it when he got a new passport/social security card/etc, but over a year later, his DMV slapped him with fraud charges and suspended his license until he could get his name legally changed. But apparently that’s something only women can do in marriage, despite there being no law in his area that says anything about this, so he’s stuck.

So, there’s no law either way in Florida, and yet it “only works for women”? I call BS. Through my parents, I know a couple where he took her last name, though they are from Germany. Those crazy Germans and their notion that whichever name change works for a couple is acceptable… Really, though, I don’t get it. How can you say that it only works for women when there’s no law? Okay, if you look in the article, there are only nine states that explicitly “enable” a man to take the woman’s last name upon marriage. Why is this even an issue of fraud, though? The man in this story has a clear, believable reason, and every other freaking government agency allowed him to change his name with them without freaking out. I read a comment to the effect of the state wanting to squeeze all the money they can out of it. Given the times that we live in, this wouldn’t surprise me, but wouldn’t the state surely get more money if this guy could go work more and earn more and thus pay more in taxes? Just a thought.

Side note: After reading this article, I did do a little bit of digging on the marriage name change laws in my county, which is NOT in Florida. It was unclear at best on if the name change is a legal one or not without having to file for a court-ordered name change when it’s a wife taking her husband’s last name, but it did say that some agencies require it for anything but the “traditional name change (female taking the male’s last name)”. At least it was clear about having to check with other agencies about what they require in the non-traditional case. I just hope that these other agencies have clear and consistent rules. No wonder this is such a headache!

Also, about this:

“Apparently the state of Florida clings to the out-dated notion that treats women as an extension of a man,” said Lazaro’s lawyer, Spencer Kuvin, with Cohen & Kuvin in West Palm Beach. While it was unusual for a man to seek to be considered an extension on his wife, Dinh’s case raised important issues for gay marriage, he noted.

Why does one have to be considered an extension/property/whatever of the other, anyway? Perhaps the one person really doesn’t like their last name, and would like to change it so that they/their offspring won’t be teased. I know how that one goes—a couple of uncreative classmates in middle school tried to sexually pun my last name. It was so bland and stupid that I just sort of rolled my eyes and didn’t respond, other than telling them to shut up and get a life. As stupid as that was, I’m incredibly glad I didn’t have to deal with my mom’s maiden name. Now that everyone’s all grown up, it’s sort of a family in-joke, but we don’t overdo it, which was the main problem. It’s a last name where, if you’ve heard one joke, you’ve heard ‘em all.

Maybe it’s just convenient for the couple to have one last name, and hyphenation would have been too long, so they worked it out and they liked the husband’s name better. Maybe they did it because that’s all they’ve ever known and it’s not motivated by giving oneself to the other person. We are kind of living in a new age, after all—one where a marriage is often seen as the union of two families, rather than one family giving a child to the other. As mentioned in the article, especially with the growing acceptance of gay marriage, the question also arises: what if a man wants to take his male partner’s last name? What if a woman wants to take her female partner’s last name? This debacle encompasses so many issues that it’s impossible to go into depth on all of them in a single blog post.

Any way you slice it, though, the biggest WTF moment in all of this is that it took the DMV more than a year to act on this “fraud”. (Come on—this guy was not knowingly pretending to be someone he wasn’t. He thought he was officially Lazaro Dinh, working and paying taxes and loving his wife.) Who wasn’t checking the requirements, that this didn’t become an issue until then? Maybe this guy should have, but who can honestly say that they haven’t forgotten at least one important detail while planning a wedding? (Well, besides those of us who never have…) And anyway, even if he had, it’s the job of the DMV to double-check that this guy had everything in order before telling him that his name change was okay. I guess a lot of this has to do with laws (or a lack of laws) concerning name-changing in the case of marriage, as well as the expectations that accompany a marriage.

I hope this guy gets everything straightened out in the end, both in changing his name and getting his license back. Considering that one agency is refusing to let him make the change he needs to be okay with the other simply because he isn’t a woman taking a man’s last name, though, I’m not optimistic.

What’s a Loyalty Oath Got to Do With Graduating High School?

(In my opinion, nothing.)

A professor of mine recently posted this article blog post on Facebook without comment: “Arizona Republicans Propose Bill That Would Not Allow Atheists To Graduate High School”. (I will say ahead of time that this is, as the url indicates, from the “Friendly Atheist”, and is an op-ed piece, so it does indeed have a slant. I will tell you right now that, had I seen this bill out of this context, I’d still be writing this.)

Firstly, I will say that the title is a little misleading. It’s not just atheists; it’s anyone who does not believe/is unsure of their belief in a Christian God. Secondly, I will say that the authors of the bill have sent out an email clarifying that they were under a time crunch and thus unable to include more “adaptable” language for those of other beliefs. I’ll comment on that in a bit. Third, the title also does demonize Republicans a bit. I refuse to believe this mentality that every one of “the other guy” is all the same, and I’m sure that there are Republicans out there who would not stand for this bill, Democrats who would, etc. To me, the party doesn’t matter in this case. That political offcials are pushing for this is merely a formality.

The oath, in its entirety (at least, as it currently is written), reads as follows:

“I, _______, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.” (Emphasis not mine.)

As someone pointed out in a comment on the link my professor provided, it’s a lot like the citizenship oath of the United States. Now, I don’t think that requiring non-citizens to swear this oath or a similar one as part of the naturalization process is a bad thing. I also think that saying the pledge every morning is fine, provided you allow kids who are uncomfortable with it to skip out on the “under God” part if nothing else. I do believe, however, that requiring citizens to swear such an oath is absolutely pointless. (You don’t suddenly become a citizen at 18, remember—if you were born in the U.S., you’re a citizen, plain as day.) As for the kids who might not be there legally, if the oath isn’t making them naturalized citizens, again, there’s no real point. Why? Well, why should they swear such an oath to a country that isn’t “theirs”? (And what about the kids who are there on exchange, or student visas, but have no plans to become permanent residents/citizens?)

Furthermore, hopefully we’re not forcibly drafting these kids into the military or into public office fresh out of high school. If they’d like to involve themselves in those paths, that’s their choice, and they’re free to make it, but this oath is also of the sort that those in public office might take. (Admittedly, I don’t know about the military, but I’ve heard there’s some sort of oath or something that you have to swear before serving. If I have this incorrect, please inform me and I will edit accordingly!) Again, I ask you: why, then, should they recite this oath?

Another bone to pick: anyone can recite an oath and not believe or mean any or all of it, making said oath effectively (you guessed it!) pointless. It seems to me that enough lawmakers do this all the time, and on both sides of the party line. (I run pretty close to moderate politically—I don’t have problems calling out what I see wrong with anywhere on the spectrum.)

Now, to address the clarifying remarks that were sent out regarding this “loyalty oath”.

This is part of that email: “Even though I want to encourage all of our students to understand and respect our Constitution and constitutional form of government, I do not want to create a requirement that students or parents may feel uncomfortable with.”

My response to the first part of that sentence: Okay, so, have them take an in-depth civics class, especially one that encourages discussion about these things. That was a high school graduation requirement for me. I also had to learn about the Constitution pretty thoroughly in the eighth grade. Still haven’t forgotten much of it, especially the part about how everyone interprets it to further their own agenda. Everyone.

And now, the second part: I really don’t see any way that you can keep an oath like that that doesn’t make someone uncomfortable. Not in its current form. You’re either going to have to make someone uncomfortable, or you’re going to have to forgo this oath. A little bit of discomfort is, in my opinion, a fine thing. Makes us evaluate where we are and what we want. However, there is something to be said for not including in school this oath which has no educational value at best, and, at worst, sounds like the work of people convinced that everyone who isn’t them (or doesn’t agree with them) is out to undermine the fabric of society as we know it, unless we use this magical spell to keep them in their place.

Yeah, let me know how that works for you.

Relative Risk: Life’s Full of Choices

Life, as the title of this post says, can be thought of as a series of choices; of risks, and our responses to them. There’s always a chance that something could go wrong, as we are made painfully aware of day in and day out by sensationalism in the media telling us every little thing that goes wrong, and then making it seem like it could happen to anyone else at any time. It’s true: my cookies could spontaneously combust in the oven, or I could get salmonella from eating the raw cookie dough. Something could suddenly get into the water supply. I could have an adverse reaction to a vaccine, or contract a disease that I’m not vaccinated against. However, I still bake and eat the cookie dough. I still drink the water. I still get my recommended vaccines and I go outside and have contact with actual people who might have germs whose names I’ve never heard of. The point is, I’m still alive and healthy and happy, and my cookies are still delicious. Except when they burn.

I’m not saying that we should go out and take stupid risks; rather, we need to learn how to accurately assess the risks we take. Too strict, and we confine ourselves to existing in bubbles. Too lax, and we don’t exist much longer at all, or if we do, it’s from sheer luck. I do put a good deal of trust in modern technology that pasteurizes my food and filters my water and creates the vaccines I get, but I also do rely heavily on my own intuition, and think about what I’m doing before I do it. I don’t take risks whose possible negative consequences would be things I couldn’t cope with.

So, I don’t eat cookie dough (or anything uncooked) that has farm fresh eggs or raw meat. I wash my hands regularly, but I also play in the mud a little. I don’t smoke or do drugs, and I have one drink or less when I choose to imbibe. I go to the dentist twice a year and get a yearly physical exam. I don’t drive when I’m not awake enough. I stick to sidewalks and well-lit areas. I don’t leave drinks unattended when I go out. I take my vitamins and drink my (soy–I’m lactose intolerant) milk. I don’t play with knives, or with fire in uncontrolled environments. (I have to qualify there because I use a gas stove/oven when I can—I prefer them.) If there were ever to be a water boil advisory, I’d heed it. I’m still shaky on flying in airplanes because I have issues when heights and enclosed spaces are mixed, but I know that’s all in my head and I’m working on it.

My dad works for my state’s department of health, drinking water section. He’s the one who really hammered this philosophy in, but even at that, we do have different preferences for the risks we take. For instance, he loves riding his bike to and from work up and down a crazy hill that I’m not really even fond of driving in a car. He’s been in two accidents, and each time, his helmet probably saved his life. He also came out of the more recent accident with more ugly injuries, and I really wish he wouldn’t take that risk, but he does. As for me, I stick to mostly clear residential roads with nothing too gnarly when I ride my bike. We each know the risks we’re taking, and we don’t accept more than we want to.

As a side note, people are often shocked that we don’t have a water filter or something at home, especially given my dad’s profession. The reaction is often something along the lines of, “But if anyone knows how dangerous the water is, he would, right?” Well, yeah. That’s why we don’t have a filter. Our water is not dangerous. It also tastes just fine, which is something a lot of people around here filter for. I don’t quite understand it, since I can never taste the difference, but hey, whatever works. Just don’t expect us to have a nice filter in our fridge or on our tap when you come over.

I’ve also been asked how I can eat cookie dough with no issue but would never in a million years eat raw meat. First, I think the texture and taste would be gross. Second, from what I’ve gathered, raw eggs are by and large safer than raw meat. So, tell me I can get salmonella from eating raw cookie dough all you like; believe me, I’m aware of it. Unless I get salmonella, though, I’ll keep eating it. If I do get sick, I’ll reconsider the relative risk. Until that day, I will happily gobble down my unbaked bliss, and if you don’t like it, more cookie dough for me!

Run For the Border, Part 3

21 January 2013, About 8:25 AM: Well, breakfast this morning was a bit different. Not that I’d gotten used to having breakfast in a pub, but the hotel does not do a good job of informing its patrons when there is going to be some big to-do in the pub that would effectively cancel breakfast if the hotel didn’t have a basement. Said basement, however, is a nightclub. It looks a little more mod-dungeon-y than the pub, which is your quintessential old-style wooden pub, and the display of alcohol is lit up like a Christmas tree, though I suppose that’s only to be expected.

Of course, in my just-woke-up haze, I forgot my camera. I’m kind of glad the boyfriend decided to sleep in, as I had him bring it down for his breakfast. We’ll see how that went in a bit.

We have to pack up and be out of here in two and a half hours… Arg. It’s not that we have all that much to pack; knowing that this would be just a weekend and that we wouldn’t have a car or anything, we packed as light as possible. My aunt suggested that we get the hotel to hold our baggage for us if we were going to be doing any walking-intensive activities so that we could return to the hotel and grab our stuff. However, we’ve opted for a different route. We’re going to hang out at Starbucks for a bit, have lunch, hang some more, walk to Chinatown (which is a little over a mile from the hotel, so it won’t be that bad), hang out there, grab some dinner, then walk another little bit (probably a half-mile or so—Google Maps gave the distance in kilometers, and distance is one of those things I have a harder time converting) to the train station.

Ah, the boyfriend is back, and with pictures of the nightclub! Just a few, though, and obviously, it’s not the nightclub in its full glory, but I’m still happy. :) Time now to start packing.

12:40 PM: It turns out that they were filming a movie or TV show or music video or SOMETHING of some sort in the pub. When we left the hotel, the setup outside made it clear that something was being professionally filmed. I do kind of wonder what it was…

We’re sitting in a Starbucks about three quarters of a mile from our hotel. We figured it was as good a place to sit as any. Homework was attempted for a little while on my part, but King Lear is boring and difficult.

The boyfriend, however, is far more productive (and better at focusing) than I, and finished his homework fairly quickly. Now, he’s puzzling (ha ha) over a page in my puzzle magazine while checking Facebook. (We also just found that the part of the Starbucks we moved to actually has wifi, which makes us happy.) We’re going to head out in a bit, though—Starbucks probably wouldn’t look kindly on us eating our obviously non-Starbucks bagels and apples in here, though we did order drinks and a small pastry for the boyfriend.

3:25 PM: We killed a little more time wandering to Chinatown. We wound up eating our bagels and apples outside the Border Services Agency building on the way there. It seemed like the security guard there wasn’t quite sure what to make of us. I mean, who in their right mind picnics when it’s a little above freezing? Believe me; I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had to.

Anyway, we were looking for a store we could kill a bit of time in, since we were both absolutely freezing. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we found a mall. Like, a legit (if tiny) shopping mall on the outskirts of Chinatown. We couldn’t get inside fast enough.

We spent about 15 or 20 minutes wandering around, since about half the shops were closed and the other half didn’t really seem worth exploring. However, the second level did have some really awesome walls carved with famous landmarks from around the world, and a strip of lights with a night sky background so that the lights were stars. It also had a food court, where we settled down for a little bit to get our bearings. We were considering eating dinner there, but I was dead set on finding the New Town Bakery, as I’d read in reviews that their food was cheap and really, really tasty.

So, we adventured off again. I was pretty sure that we had to keep going the same direction we had been coming from, because I hadn’t seen any ostentatious “New Town Bakery” signs (though, if you’ll refer to part 2, I’m good at missing the obvious), but it seemed to me that if we were at the very west-most end of Chinatown, the bakery we were looking for would be in the heart of it, so we walked east.

It took a few blocks and some rather confusing moments figuring out what the heck the addresses were doing, but in the end, we figured that they were decreasing west-to-east, and I guessed that, since we were in a decreasing 100 block, it was going to turn around soon. With that, we headed toward Chinatown proper, and found the place where it was supposed to be… only to find that it had moved about two storefronts right and we hadn’t even noticed. We popped in for a few minutes, and their food is in fact incredibly well-priced for how much you get. However, I can’t yet speak to the quality, because we’re getting our dinner there, and it looks like we’ll be able to eat rather enough even splitting our grand total of $8.56 CAN between the two of us. (The place takes only cash, or this wouldn’t be an issue, but it is a good way to burn the last of the money we have, rather than changing it back in the States.)

We went back to the food court and will be camping out here for another half hour (which means we will have spent a grand total of two or three hours there… ^^;) or so before we go and pick up dinner, then go to the train station and eat before boarding the train to head back.

4:50 PM, At the station: Considering that we paid a grand total of $5.66 CAN for our dinner and that it was exposed to the cold for a half-hour before we ate it, it was pretty tasty! We both got BBQ pork buns, which were a little lacking in spice and surprisingly sweet. Not anything to write home about, good or bad. (Considering they were each $1.30 CAN, I’m a little surprised they were as good as they were, to be honest.) For dessert, I had a butter cream horn, and the boyfriend had chocolate cake with icing.

Again, I was a little underwhelmed by the food itself—the majority of my chosen pastry was phyllo dough, and it seemed a little stale, though I imagine at least part of that was being pretty much flash-frozen by the weather, but still… (Though, also again, we paid a little less than you would normally pay for a really cheap entrée in the U.S. for one person, so I won’t say I didn’t get what I paid for, or rather, that I got less than what I paid for.) The boyfriend’s verdict on his cake was “not bad”. We both ate all of what we ordered, and, were I hungry and low on money in Vancouver, I know exactly where I’d go, but if I could splurge on food like last night’s shawarma, I’d sooner go for that.

Also, the station has really crappy wifi, so my wifi’s been cutting in and out as I’ve been writing this. Thank goodness I put entries in word documents first!

It’s now a little after 5 and I think they’re going to have us start getting ready soon. Over all, it has been a great trip, but I’ll be glad to be back in my apartment in a few hours.

Run For the Border, Part 2

20 January 2013: After waking up around 7:20, we decide to try the complimentary breakfast in the pub. As we head down, I get more and more nervous about the “complimentary” having been crossed off our vouchers, and in a moment of financial panic, I check with about three different people to make sure that our complimentary breakfast is indeed complimentary. It is, and the boyfriend and I have breakfast.

We then spend some time puttering around our hotel room, checking the internet and making sure that the makeshift refrigerator we’re using for our cream cheese (the sealed ice bucket) has kept our cream cheese sufficiently cold. It has—chalk that one up to my boyfriend being intelligent while I dither and wring my hands, wondering what we’re going to do.

Around 4:10 PM: We decided to head to Granville Island after lunch. For the uninitiated, it’s a great little place (not entirely an island) in the heart of Vancouver, home to a public market, an arts university, far too many charter boat companies, and a whole bunch of little gift shops and unique stores. We visited the most awesome hammock store I’ve ever been to (The Hangout Place), wandered through the public market for a little while, then made our way to Roger’s chocolates, where we each bought treats for our mothers. While there, we got to sample the vanilla crèmes, which are delicious.

We wandered over towards the east side of the island, passing by and through the set of shops next to Roger’s, managing to find a place that sells “ginger drinks”—I never did manage to find out what kind. We also went to Dragonspace, one of the better fantasy (think fairies and dragons and such…) shops I’ve been to. After that, we meandered through two gift shops, which left me with a serious hankering for those little maple-leaf-shaped cookies with maple filling which are one of my more favorite Canadian delicacies. We went back to the public market for some gelato, which seems to be preferred to ice cream in Vancouver. I won’t complain, though; the blackberry/vanilla combo my boyfriend decided we should get (I’m generally not picky about my flavors, so they all sounded REALLY good) was perfect in both texture and flavor.

We did a little more walking, and “hiked” to the highest natural point on Granville Island—a hill about 30 feet tall–and I took a few pictures of downtown with the sun breaking through one particular area.

By then, we were getting cold and tired, so we tried to find an ATM so that we could get money for our bus fare, since the regular old bus platforms don’t do ticket vending. We did, but, of course, the lowest amount we could get was $20 CAN, so we had to go and break that. On maple leaf cookies. I have no regrets. NONE.

It was only then that I realized that I had no idea if the same bus that took us there would get us back, as I was of the misguided notion that the street our hotel was on went only southbound, as opposed to bi-directional south and north. As it turns out, I was, as I said, wrong, and we made it back safe and sound to just work on homework and hang out until dinner.

Around 6:30 PM: We wound up going to Aladdin’s Café for dinner. Back home, we have an Aladdin’s… something or other. I think it’s Gyrocery, and my boyfriend thinks it doesn’t have anything tacked on to the end. It does not help that there are 2 or 3 Aladdin’s within about 4 blocks of each other, and they all have slightly different names. I could just look it up, but does it really matter right now? No. What matters is that this particular Aladdin’s in Vancouver had really, really, super-mega-awesomely amazing shawarma wraps. How could this possibly be, you ask? By the addition of a few very simple ingredients.

First, every Aladdin’s—no, every place that serves shawarma/gyros/etc.—has its own blend of house sauces. This café had some really good ones, and they asked before adding them if we wanted our food spicy or not. We both said yes, which turned out to be the correct answer; the wraps would’ve been pretty bland otherwise. In addition, while these wraps had the usual meat/tomato/lettuce/cucumber/onions/special sauce combo, they had two more ingredients that made for a deliciously interesting experience: pickles (that’s right—thin, crinkle-cut slices of dill pickle, which I love) and peppers, along with some pickled peppers, but I class those under “peppers”. These added to the tang of the shawarma and left me craving more, which is a difficult task because most shawarma wraps are one meal in and of themselves for me.

We did have a bit of an adventure finding the place, though. I had sort of memorized where it was from looking at Google maps—the 600 block of Robson Street. I even looked at the surrounding area in street view. However, Vancouver, like most places, tends to look rather different in the dark, and so I wound up taking us about 3 blocks too far, and then being unable to locate it when we passed back by. You see, this little gem does not look like your typical Middle Eastern fare restaurant; at least, not like the ones I’m used to in Seattle. In Seattle, they’re usually brick-and-mortar places where you walk in and the place is tapestried and canopied and very, very reminiscent of the Middle East markets you see on tv. This place has an all-glass front with just a few hookahs (all non-operational and purely for decoration) sitting in the windows, and some framed money with Arabic writing on it. Additionally, the writing on the window advertising the name was light gold, which blended in pretty well to the stark-white inside of the restaurant. I will say, though, that in the end, our search was very worth it.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to work on homework again. (A three-day weekend in college usually unfortunately means “yes, you can and totally should pile on homework” to most professors.) However, we did partake in a few more maple cookies, so at least there was that…

Honestly, I’m a little worried about tomorrow. We have to be out of the hotel by 11 AM, and our train does not leave until 5:45 PM, so while we have plans to visit Stanley Park, it will mean lugging around a lot of stuff. We’ll see how that goes, I guess.

Run For the Border, Part 1

19 January 2013, 6:40 AM PST: I jolt awake to the alarm clock’s not-so-dulcet tones. Trying to figure out whether waking my boyfriend or shutting the freakin’ thing off comes first, I somehow manage both, albeit unhappily, operating on roughly 6 hours of sleep after I woke up and my brain would NOT shut back down from about 1:30 to 3 AM. We both stumble upstairs to the main floor of my parents’ house, where that blessed ambrosia that is coffee cake awaits us in the kitchen. We shovel down a piece of it each, grab our bags, and get into the car so that my mom, who so graciously offered to take us to the train station, can actually transport us.

Seattle’s been under an air stagnation advisory for days and the fog’s so thick visibility is reduced to maybe a hundred yards in places, but since she knows these roads well, and nobody is on them at the ungodly hour of 7 AM on a Saturday (a Saturday of a holiday weekend, no less), it takes 25 minutes at most to get to the train station. We say our goodbyes, get our tickets and passports checked, are given a seat assignment, and are on the train in about 5 minutes.

Around 8:30 AM PST: Almost an hour into our journey, I am desperately trying to stay awake enough to digest King Lear, which I must read for my Shakespeare course, as my boyfriend is powering through the Dresden Files short story anthology, Side Jobs. Realizing I am fighting a losing battle, I push my seat back (the seats on this train actually go back and every passenger has actual leg room!) and nap for a bit, sleeping on and off for about an hour.

Around 11:30 AM, PST: The rest of the trip is relatively uneventful (except for a few moments of me holding my breath as we cross rickety wooden trestle bridges that span entirely too much water) until we reach our destination: Pacific Central Station in Vancouver, BC. There, we must submit ourselves to the will of customs. Turns out, the Canadian government website is woefully inaccurate about what one can and cannot bring into Canada, and $3 (US, not that it matters terribly much) worth of tiny apples is unceremoniously tossed into a garbage bin (not even compost!), and we are questioned for a bit while some information is entered about us and/or the incident, and we are then sent on our merry way…

…to try to get change so we can buy bus tickets. It would work, too, if the change machine wasn’t broken, but my boyfriend convinces the money-changers to make change for us without a transaction.

When we get to the Skytrain platform, it turns out this was not at all necessary, as we could have easily bought tickets and received change, but hey, it’s a new experience. We navigate through downtown Vancouver, making our way safely to the hotel, and (hopefully) securing lunch.

About 6:40 PM: We visited the Crepe Café for an exquisite lunch (a ham, egg, and swiss cheese crepe for the boyfriend, and a salami, cheese (it was yummy, but I forget the type), and tomato Panini for me. We also went to the grocery store to replace the apples we lost, as well as to get some cream cheese for our bagels and cough medicine for me. The cough medicine came with a lovely tamper-proof seal… but no dosing cup! (Is this how it works in Canada? I really don’t know…) Thankfully, I have a decent eye for how much 2 teaspoons is, so I managed not to OD on cough medicine.

We then spent a good long while watching TV. We came across an ice skating competition… three performances before it ended, though two of them placed first and second, so it did make up for not seeing a lot of the program. We then proceeded to watch entirely too much of the Food Network. After a healthy (pfffff…) dinner of bagels and cream cheese, as well as an exquisite applesauce and caramel crepe (again, from the Crepe Café), we’re settled in for the night, trying to figure out what tomorrow’s adventures will be.