My inner cowgirl

5 Oct

Ksah looks happy, or is that just a nervous smile?

So recently I’ve had the chance to explore my inner cowgirl in both the United States and France. I haven’t much experience being atop a horse so didn’t quite know what to expect. I did know however that I found these creatures huge and enormously intimidating.

In the US the horses my sister and I rode were somewhat fatter, older, and slower Рtrend going around in the country you think? Also the saddles were much more comfortable. In France the horses were younger, sleeker and the saddles were definitely less comfortable-think big comfy SUV vs. small, cramped French car.  It was also less expensive to do the horseback riding in the US.


Expressing my inner cowgirl.

In both cases, I went on a guided tour (1 to 1.5 hours) of the surrounding countryside. In the Greensboro, NC area, you can go horseback riding at Tanglewood Park. The trails are gorgeous but you ride for only a bit under an hour. Also expect your guide to be really chatty and a little nosy (but perhaps that’s just an American thing). In France, we went to Cheval Nature , which is a little more than an hour outside of Paris, in the Rambouillet area. We had to rent a car to get there. Deb and I went on the guided tour for beginners and Mat and Jules rented their own horses and went off on their own for the day – did I mention they returned 5 hours later full of mud, sweat drenched horses, testosterone, and sore muscles?

You will not find me at my most comfortable atop a horse. But I do enjoy being out in nature, especially on a beautiful fall morning. Nonetheless, I am fidgety and tend to wear an anxious smile on my face.

Mat dressed up quite appropriately for the day and ready to go !

Deb, happy and horse-petting

You know how you imagine the worst in those adrenaline ridden situations and then when the worst almost happens-you’re shocked and totally unprepared. Well ladies and gentleman, it happened to me. Towards the end of the tour, just as I was finally feeling comfortable, my horse (Quest) got spooked from a biker and reared up with his two front feet in the air! I had to hang on for dear life (after I let out a bloodcurdling scream of course that resonated throughout the French countryside). I really thought I was going to fall off and die. Luckily, I didn’t but needless to say, I trembled the whole way back. I think horses are wonderful, fascinating creatures but I think I rather prefer not being atop them. Also, I have this nagging opinion that horses (with the exception of circus animals) are the only animals that humans have bred for pure pleasure and money-making and which are rarely used (at least not in Western societies) for useful purposes…not sure if I like this concept much but it is what it is !

Two of my favorite Frenchmen snacking during the lunch break

Cultural events

12 Sep

Whoever said Greensboro, NC isn’t a city of culture? Well, I sure did back in the day. Over the years, as UNCG expanded and the city of Greensboro launched major initiatives to revitalize downtown Greensboro, more and more cultural events and activities have started to take place, making Greensboro a truly happening place…or at least off to a good start. There was an urban art show opening at the Greensboro Center for Visual Arts that showed work from local Greensboro artists. It was great to see so many people out. We were particularly surprised to see so many young and hip looking people.

Ksah and Helen at the graffiti exhibit.

Miss cutie Camo is defintiely a piece of artūüėČ.

Carrie, Camo, and I bewildered about how "hip and trendy" Greensboro has become.

I also went to a Cambodian wedding, which I can now add on to the French, American, and German-ish weddings I’ve already been to this summer. Camo was a doll and came along with. It was a bit like a blast from the past because I saw many faces I hadn’t seen in a pretty long time. After a 15 minute detour (thanks to my amazing directions giving skills), we finally plugged in the GPS and found our way there.

Camo and I in our pretty dresses and ready for the wedding !

The beautiful wedded couple in traditional Khmer wedding dress

My mother immediately took us under her wing, sat us down, and fed us. We were served a yummy soup of lettuce, mushrooms, shrimp, meatballs, and pork skins, accompanied by fried rice and loc lac, which is basically stir fried beef served with fresh onions, served on a bed of lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes and dipped in a sauce consisting of lime juice and black pepper. For more info on Khmer cuisine, click here.

A somewhat spontaneous gathering of musicians occured and traditional Khmer music was played. This is also known as a Cambodian pinpeat ensemble, which is a court ensemble used to accompany classical dance for ritual occasions or theatrical events. The pinpeat is primarily made up of percussion instruments: the roneat ek (lead xylophone), roneat thung (low bamboo xylophone), kong vong touch and kong vong thom (small and large sets of tuned gongs), sampho (two-sided drum), skor thom (two large drums), and sralai (quadruple-reed instrument).

We looked for the fortune teller woman from the other day who read my palm, but apparently she was too drunk to “see clearly”…

Finally, no trip to Greensboro would be complete without eating my mum’s home-cooked Cambodian meals, nor without a visit to Jan’s house (a 24 hour diner). Although both experiences are completely different in nature, both definitely qualify as a cultural eventūüėČ.

Mom's chicken soup for the soul with lots of yummy fresh herbs from the garden

Burgers and home fries !

America, the beautiful (and contradictary)…

10 Sep

I love America because people are not afraid to say what they think…no matter how ridiculous or insightful it may be. It’s a country that is so totally not homogeneous that it really blows my mind sometimes. Just a couple anecdotes I’ve encountered over the last couple days that makes America, America:

So I’ve already met 2 climate change skeptics (i.e. people who think that global warming due to human activities is a bunch of baloney and just a big government conspiracy). One of them happened to be my old soccer coach and father of the bride of the wedding I was in. He asked me what my profession was, I explained and his response was something like, “Well, at least someone is making money off government lies…”

I had a conversation with a close friend who claims to be open minded and definitely not conservative, however feels that Muslims are invading Western societies. He claims that this is already happening in America, for which he is not particularly pleased about and he feels particularly strong about this happening in Europe because a.)¬† European countries are older, therefore have a right to be culturally homogeneous¬† and conserve this without outside threats that would change their “historic” culture, and b.) it’s ok that there are Muslims and cultural diversity in America because America is supposed to be a melting pot.¬† Obviously, I had a lot to say about his theories.

I went to visit a friend who recently had a baby and moved to a nice neighborhood. Apparently, one of the first emails he received from the neighborhood “crime stoppers” committee contained something along the lines of “Neighbors beware, two non-Caucasian adolescents were spotted walking down the street with a basketball…” The two kids happened to belong to one of the mothers of the neighborhood committee…

Another good friend of mine is trying to become as rich as possible through a sketchy sounding pyramid scheme. He almost convinced me. His father was a Japanese mobster who recently passed away – apparently due to heavy smoking, drinking and avoiding of mobsters. He told me he didn’t want to die poor like his dad.

And finally,  I had my future foretold yesterday by a very elderly Cambodian woman. She read my palm and told me that I would live a life full of happiness, love, and money. It cost me 20 bucks.

America !

9 Sep

So I’ve been back in America for about a week and have been bad about blogging. It’s harder to keep up than I originally thought! Even though I am technically on vacation, my days have been flying by and have been pretty productive. The weather has been absolutely gorgeous (quite a change from the Parisian summer) so we decided that we needed to take advantage of the front porch and get one of those chair glider things. Let me tell you, this chair is definitely not an Ikea type. It took my sis and I FOREVER to put it together. There were about 50 gazillion screws and whatnot. But the results were well worth it. See picture below.

 

The gliding porch chairs that Ksah and I so painstakingly put together.

 

 

Pedicure/manicure in preparation for wedding

 

My trip back to Greensboro was also due to the wedding of my best friend from childhood. I was her maid of honor and so the first two days back were full of wedding preparations. I got a manicure & pedicure¬† –>¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† It was the first pedicure I’d ever had and it was fabulous ! The wedding was also super. It was laid back and cool. I got out of making a toast¬† (yay, relief!)¬† and the food was yummmy. I’ve posted some pictures of the wedding below. Next up – hiking, ANOTHER wedding, a funeral, and art show opening!

 

Katie and MAK, BFFūüėČ

 

 

The best man and I

 

 

 

 

 

 

The French think I’m dirty?!

26 Aug

So, we all know the stereotype about the French saying they are dirty, don’t wash themselves, etc etc. Well ladies and gentlemen, I must tell you about¬† two recent events that have happened to me – both of which have been extremely perplexing…and put the above stereotype about French people in question.

Tsk tsk tsk

A couple days ago, I was down in the office kitchen making a wonderful cup of instant coffee (note sarcastic tone here). I have pretty bad allergy problems so I am constantly sniffling and blowing my nose. I was doing just this when I heard an unpleasant tsk! tsk! tsk! behind me. The cleaning lady was shaking her head and waving her finger at me – lecturing me about how it is not acceptable to blow one’s nose in public. One should only blow noses in the bathroom!! Well, I just found her reaction inacceptable myself and continued blowing my nose in circles around her, proclaiming that there are no rules for nose blowing and I can blow where I want! …I ran into her again this morning in the kitchen. I didn’t blow my nose. Maybe I’ll feel differently tomorrow morning.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on the bus with Jules, minding my own business…when I decided to pop in a piece of fruity gum in my mouth. Whoooooa Nelly, was that a bad idea!!! The woman sitting directly in front of me immediately starting making sounds of disgust and clicking her tongue to express her extreme distaste of my gum chewing habits.

smack smack smack

Her exact words were, “Ca pue!! C’est d√©gueulasse!!” Translation:¬† “That stinks, that’s fuckin’ disgusting!!”. Now, I’ve never had complaints about the way my passion fruit gum has smelled before so being the curious person that I am, I wanted to see just how far I could push this chewing-gum hater. SOooooo I opened up my mouth nice and wide and started smacking that piece of gum around like my life counted on it. Needless to say, she did not like this. She promptly pulled out a fan out of her bag, spread it out and put in front of her face to block me out. I felt a bit miffed! (All this time, poor Jules was mortified and cowering down in his seat). Unfortunately, by this time, it was my stop so I could not test further. I did, however get in a few other good gum smacks in on my way out. The lesson of these stories are, “Who the hell are these people?!!!!”