These are a few of my favorite things: NPR podcast edition

I listen to podcasts that aren’t produced by NPR, of course. It just happens that a lot of the ones that I obsess over are NPR. I am a huge fan of virtually everything NPR produces. The only other company I can say that about is Costco. These are just two of my personal favorites:

How I Built This logoThe show synopsis describes it as “a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built.” I don’t secretly fantasize about starting a company or owning a small business but I love hearing other people’s stories, especially when they are talking about something they feel really passionate about or have expert knowledge in. For example, there’s an interview with the two co-founders of Reddit that I loved (and I don’t even use Reddit). The episode on Airbnb is fun and enlightening as is the one with Alli Webb, founder of Drybar. They all talk about the hard work, the sheer excruciating endless and sleepless months and years it took to get them to the “wildly successful” place they are now but they also in equal measure talk of the serendipity of being at the right place at the right time.

Rough TranslationTapping out Anna Karenina through a prison wall. American surrogates hired by Chinese women to have their babies. Affirmative action in Brazil. Noteworthy topics from an international perspective.

 

 

 

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These are a few of my favorite things: restaurant edition

This is currently our favorite place to eat:

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Absolutely everything we’ve tried in their extensive-but-not-overwhelmingly-so menu has been top notch but what I really rave about? Their onion rings. You know how normally when you bite into an onion ring it falls apart? The limp onion pulls away from the breading and it all crumbles. The onion rings here have the perfect, crisp consistency. We took Adan’s co-worker there a little while back.

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His name is Olivier and he hates to be called Oliver. He will correct you if you do. Naturally, I am reminded of the little girl called Amabelle in the book Big Little Lies and how everyone kept calling her Annabelle. As someone who also has an unconventional name, I have to admire his patience and persistence. Most everyone in Mexico says my name wrong and I never correct them because it feels rude to do so. I will say that I do have one pet peeve about other people saying my name. I don’t love when people shorten my name to Choong (there are a few people that can get away with it, that have called me this for years and I don’t mind) because as I am always explaining to people: Choong Sil is not the equivalent of Mary Jane. It’s is not two separate names but both syllables make up one name.

My name means fidelity and is made up by the two Chinese characters that together have the meaning to bear much fruit, to be fruitful. When people ask me why I don’t just adopt a Mexican name to make everyone’s life easier, the main reason is that despite the complications, I like what my name stands for.

Why a clutch is the handbag equivalent of a raisin

I don’t like raisins. Why so many people insist on ruining a good carrot cake or cinnamon roll with raisins is one of life’s great mysteries.

Carrying a clutch seems like a moot point. I mean, sure they’re cute and all but say you and your husband are going to the movies. You can’t sneak in potato chips, soda, candy and two turkey subs each in a clutch. You can barely sneak in one of those minuscule packets of pretzels that they give you on airplanes. What about the hand sanitizer, aspirin, wallet, deck of cards, and book? Especially if your current read is 900-plus pages. For that, you need a manly purse (oxymoron, I know), not a delicate clutch:

 

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If I wanted to, I could sneak a whole rotisserie chicken into the movie theater in this purse. 

 

(How cool is it that his middle name is Risk?)

There’s a sign that Adan and I often drive by that says: Al leer vives muchas vidas. It always makes me smile and inwardly nod in agreement because when I read a really great novel or biography, I feel as if I know that protagonists better than I know my best friends. Also, I feel like I am living in that time and place or occupation. The above novel taught me, among other things, quite a bit about the process of making fireworks and the craftsmen behind those Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve shows that I would never have known or imagined. It’s an engrossing, fun read and would make a great beach book if it weren’t so heavy.

One of these things is not like the other

 

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My cousin and her peers at ballet school in Korea. My cousin is the one furthest back, and I love that in this picture they look like peas in a pod with their matching hairdos and outfits.

 

For the most part, having children seems like a vaguely amorphous endeavor to me. It seems hard to prepare because everyone’s experience and every child is so different. Some women I know read many books in preparation for breastfeeding only to have it be easy and natural. Other women I know expected it to be easy and natural and belatedly had to call in experts and read books. It’s hard to prepare not knowing whether you will be one of those lucky few who has a baby who sleeps through the night or has no trouble attaching, or who later in life will feel no curiosity to experiment with underage drinking or play with fire.

I don’t know what Adan’s and my child would be like if we did have children. I do however know that he or she would be a minority and I often wonder whether they will resent that being thrust on them or whether they will be bullied for it. I may not be a child psychologist but I do have personal experience from having been a child and it seems to me that being visibly different from the pack can often feel like having a bulls-eye on your forehead. I know because I have lived most of my life as a person who does not blend in, who is at first sight different and an outsider, especially these last 15 years in Mexico.

Then I started noticing how in all the great stories (autobiographical or made up), it is always the outsider who is compassionate towards fellow misfits. Hidden Talents, The Goldfinch, Remember the Titans. In Trevor Noah’s excellent memoir he explicitly states it like this:

I stood there awkwardly by myself in this no-man’s-land in the middle of the playground. Luckily, I was rescued by the Indian kid from my class, a guy named Theesan Pillay. Theesan was one of the few Indian kids in school, so he’d noticed me, another obvious outsider, right away. He ran over to introduce himself. “Hello, fellow anomaly! You’re in my class. Who are you? What’s your story?” We started talking and hit it off. He took me under his wing, the Artful Dodger to my bewildered Oliver.

(side note, how cool is it that he so casually dropped a reference to a Charles Dickens novel?! Such a great book—I refer here to Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime, though it goes without saying that reading Oliver Twist is a worthwhile endeavor. Besides the fact that Noah is extremely funny even while talking about topics like apartheid and poverty, it is was also incredibly eye-opening to read an account of that period of South Africa’s history from the perspective of a regular citizen, and a child at that (he was almost six when Nelson Mandela was released from prison). I have read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom but I think we can all agree that his perspective and experience with the end of apartheid and birth of democracy in South Africa was probably singular.)

Maybe, just maybe, being a minority isn’t just a burden if it would teach our child compassion, a sense of not judging others by their physical characteristics, and a desire to be kind to people that are new or different, that don’t quite fit in. Maybe it will teach him to talk to and reach out to someone who is alone and confused and to say: “Hello, fellow anomaly!  Who are you? What’s your story?”

Then, this Fresh Air interview where Terry Gross talks to Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway musical Hamilton (of 11 Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prize for Drama fame).

If you want to make a recipe for making a writer, have them feel a little out of place everywhere. Have them be an observer kind of all the time and that’s a great way to make a writer.

Here he was speaking in the context of being Puerto Rican and living in a Latino neighborhood but attending a predominantly white school where he was a minority. Obviously, there are many contributing factors to his success as a writer and composer but I love that he singled out this aspect of it. Something I hadn’t really considered as a benefit of “feeling out of place everywhere”.

Either way, it is helping me open my mind to the idea that we shouldn’t worry so much about the possibility of our hypothetical child being bullied in elementary school. (For a while, Adan was suggesting we should get our future progeny in martial arts classes as soon as they can walk so they can protect themselves but I don’t know… would we be turning him into a walking cliché? I mean, we would virtually be teeing him up for endless Kung Fu Panda jokes, never mind that Pandas are from China.) I guess we can burn that bridge when we get to it.

 

The time Charlie’s Angels visited Mexico City

Kennetta, Jess, and I took a trip to Mexico City…. I want to say it was 13 or 14 years ago..?

We stayed at a hostel somewhere in Zona Rosa for 100 pesos a night or something ridiculous like that. Once in a great long while (usually when I am moving house and should be busy packing but would rather procrastinate), I pull out old pictures from the shoe box they reside in and whenever I see these I laugh because I remember how the three of us were walking around Parque Chapultepec and one of the street vendors saw us and shouted after us, “Hey! It’s Charlie’s Angels!” To this day, I get a kick out of that. I can’t believe he is the only one who’s ever noticed my striking resemblance to Lucy Liu.

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We have pets

When we first moved out to the country and I told people that we had free range cows walking around, most everybody thought I was employing comic hyperbole.

Well, meet our neighborhood pets:

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I have named them, of course. Meet Joey, Phoebe, Monica, Rachel, Ross, and Chandler. Ugly Naked Cow is right off the frame because quite ironically for an exhibitionist cow, she is rather camera shy and hates having her picture taken. Cow are often portrayed in children’s books as simple animals. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Cows contain multitudes.