Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ten More Things Jaya Would Be Cute Doing

Working as a footwarmer.

Vanquishing her new Christmas toy.

Helping out the servants.

Reading The New Yorker.


Getting ready for a walk.


Playing computer with Brother #2 (a.k.a. Hairmano).


Singing the jailhouse blues.

3. Showing off her circus dog genes.

Hiding from the puparazzi.


Just being herself.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Vacation Face

(written by special guest writer Petra's Mother, edited by Petra)

To fully appreciate Petra's vacation adventure one needs to understand the nuances of Petra's vacation face. I do not know if non-family members have ever seen this face but I can attest to its frequent presence during our perambulations together.

Here is the face:

Here are the situations in which the face appears:

1) "He is speaking a foreign language." Petra's linguistic talents do not come from her paternal genes. PatrusPetra believes that every language in the world can be pronounced using a loud voice and either an American English or an Argentinian Spanish accent. Thus, the German word for "street", strasse (editor's note: that final e is a schwa) is said, loudly, as either "strays" or "strawsee" (accent and hand gesture on the last syllable). Petra's vacation visage was particularly present when Patrus, inspired by the German all around him, produced the one German word he remembered from his college days: schadenfreude. Over the course of the 10 day vacation poor Petra, the linguist, had to hear this word pronounced variously, and at top volume, as: "sa-chen-den-froy-dee", "skan-ten-de-fru-dee", and "se-che-ne-da-fro-how-you-say-it."
2) "She is doing math again." Petra's mathematical skills do not come from her maternal genes. MatrusPetra believes that every math problem in the world can be solved with enough creative narrative around the problem. Thus the Rock's vacation face appeared often as Matrus recounted how a salary of 15,000 a year was a good amount of money, working out to 5000 a month, how the 8 hour flight from Vienna to New Delhi really turned out to be a 6 and 1/2 hour flight (3 and 1/2 hours is halfway) and how something that costs 34 euros works out to be 15,000 Indian rupees which works back to being about 200 US dollars. (editor's note: You can check the exchange rates for this one to experience your very own vacation face!)
3) "The Sound of Music Bus Tour." A huge tour bus. Noisy, fat Americans. Painted scenes of Maria and 7 von Trapp children in curtain clothes. A flamboyant tour director explaining why "we LOVE this movie so much." Matrus singing along to the soundtrack as the bus drives through Salzburg. Heard enough? Vacation face.

A face to make a mother proud. Thanks for coming on our vacation, Petra.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Some Things Never Change

When I was a senior in high school, my Latin class's trip to Italy got cancelled because of September 11. A reporter for the town paper came around the school looking for suitable quotes for her piece on the topic. Instead of using deep thoughts from my peers, like "Man! This totally sucks!" she featured a quick interview with me, in which I said, "I am a bit disappointed" and pointed out that the trip's cancellation was rather paranoid; Italy and Afghanistan are not exactly close neighbors, and the danger to a bunch of 16 and 17-year olds travelling abroad would still come more from alcohol poisoning than terrorist attacks.

When the article was published, my friends all teased me endlessly. I sounded like an idiot, after all: what sort of high schooler, when denied a chance to see the glories of ancient Rome, tamely says "I am a bit disappointed"? Way back then, I tried to blame the reporter--I would never phrase things that way! She must have misquoted me!--but, having just reread the opening line of my last blog entry, I see now that I would, in fact, phrase things that way. So then, Local Reporter, wherever you are: I'm sorry. I should never have tried to blame you. Your reporting skills are better, and my sound-bite-giving skills worse, than I ever imagined. I am, all in all, a bit disappointed in myself.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

High On a Mountain Top

I am a bit disappointed by Austria. I did not expect to travel halfway across the world to an exotic foreign country and find that it looks just like Utah. In fact, as far as I can tell, Austria is a sort of bizarro-Deseret: the mountains looming over the city are the same shape but a little taller, a little more looming; the houses look like Park City, in that wooden, boxy, chimneyed, houses-drawn-by-kindergarten-children Alpine style, but a little more authentic; and the people are tall, blond, and healthy, precisely like Utahns, but a little more German-speaking.

It is, however, quite a bit colder here. My poor family and I, unprepared by our respective Ind* countries for this sort of weather, look a bit pathetic, having scrapped together whatever cold-weather gear we could find. Before leaving Jakarta, I stopped in at Plaza Indonesia, the city's ritziest mall, and purchased some expensive sweaters from chichi European stores like Mango and Zara, but they're not thick enough on their own, which means I hit the streets of Innsbruck every morning wearing three pairs of pants, four sweaters, and a pained expression that says, "I can't feel my fingers or toes." Luckily, for the ski slopes themselves we rented or purchased warm clothes, so I was always perfectly warm on the top of the mountain, wearing overly thick ski pants, an incredibly high-tech coat, and a pained expression that says, “I paid $30 for my socks.” Oh, right, and a fuzzy black hat, which, with my short hair, makes me look more like a cancer patient than a Swedish ski bunny.

Not that, while facing down the mountain, fashion is my top concern. I've done a fair amount of skiing in my life but yet, alas, I still vacillate between "nearly intermediate" and "rank beginner." When the terrain is smooth, snowy, and not steep, I can swish and swoosh like someone who knows what they're doing. The minute the terrain falls apart, though, so does my technique. On the steeper hills, I am not above pizza-wedging, stair-stepping, or even butt-sliding my way down. (Ask me about the time I took out an entire mogul field with my stair-stepping technique.) The main problem with my skiing, as far as I can tell, is that I have absolutely no need for speed; quite the reverse, in fact: I wind down the mountain as slowly as I possibly can, muttering "Up! Down! Butt! Knees! Up! Down!" under my breath. I look and sound like an idiot, it’s true, but I’m used to that. At least I don’t fall very often.

The last time I took a bad fall in Utah, many years ago, my Butt and Knees having failed to go properly Up and Down, I lay in the snow for a few minutes, snatching, like an Italian soccer player, a few moments of rest. As I stared up at the sky, an old couple on the lift over me shouted down, full of tender concern, "We're praying for you!" Yesterday, after taking my skis off and sliding down an entire mountain slope on my backside, finding that the least frightening and most effective way to the bottom, a young girl skiing by made the mistake of looking back at me and my mom, working her way down the mountain the same way. She paused for a split second, as if considering what to do, and then literally fell over laughing. I guess I'm not in Zion anymore after all.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Radio Head

So, thanks to the U.S. Embassy and its magical powers of networking, my friend the Short Loud One (not her real name) and I have our own radio show. (Or, rather, our own regular guest spot on someone else's radio show--it's practically the same thing, right?) We are supposed to, once a week, lead a discussion, in English, about American culture and whatever else we can think of. We've only done it once so far, but, seeing as how it was a blast, we're planning to set the regular schedule in stone just as soon as I'm done travelling to Yogyakarta and Vienna and New Delhi and the SLO is done travelling to Burma and Cambodia and Thailand--that is, sometime in February.

In any case, our first attempt at a show was, as I saw it, excellent. We explained the history of Thanksgiving, talked about different traditions--in the South, apparently, they deep-fry their turkeys--and developed a fun rapport with the actual hosts, two very hip-yet-pleasant twenty-somethings. With the exception of a suggestive joke on my part--"size always matters" referred to turkeys, people, turkeys--our wit was nice, safe, and culturally sensitive, all that "Congress pays me to be a nice American" sort of stuff. What's more, since our interview was interspersed with music, our hosts allowed me to choose a song; I think that's the first and last time an Indonesian audience will hear Radiohead's "How to Disappear Completely" played on air. I just hope they appreciated it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Busy Bee

Things I did this week, in a desperate attempt to fill my spare time:

hosted a radio show
read four (4) novels
taught piano lessons to six (6) rowdy Primary children
worked on my grad school application
created a poster presentation for an academic conference next week
did aerobics with the Relief Society
taught my weekly English class at the church
did numerous (?) crossword puzzles
guest lectured about anaphora and deixis in a university class, in Indonesian
took a five (5) hour nap
watched my favorite soap opera, The Teenage Bride
memorized five hundred (500) vocabulary words
tried to watch Trainspotting for the second (2nd) time
beat my students at Scrabble one hundred seventy eight (178) to forty-four (44)
changed my phone number to avoid my stalker
wrote tens (10s) of emails
went to a housewarming party
had a Javanese lesson
read six (6) books of the New Testament
ate delicious soup with some friends from class

Notice how not one (1) of those things is "did homework" or "studied for finals." Life is good.