May 31, 2009

Llama Drama

There’s been a lot of drama in my life recently, the central issue being To Watch or Not to Watch: Jon & Kate Plus Eight. On one hand, eight adorable (half or quarter-Asian) kids! On the other hand, shouldn’t I let Jon & Kate try and figure out their problems and deal with their issues with some semblance of privacy? Is it ok if I watch reruns as long as I don’t watch any of the new season? Does it even matter what I do if they keep doing the show anyway? What kind of cake did they have at the sextuplets’ birthday party? WAS THERE A PINATA??

This has nothing little to do with the subject of today’s post (re: GOALS), but if you peruse the archives of this blog, you’ll notice that Kevin is more of the “everything should flow seamlessly from one paragraph to another” kind of writer, while I’m more of a “you are stuck reading whatever I happen to feel like writing, and I feel like writing about reality TV, so too bad” kind of writer. I’m sorry, but I just won’t hide my true feelings about television.

And with that, we will abruptly segue to the meat of this post, which is entitled “THE GOALS OF ZHOU AND KEVIN ON THEIR TRIP AROUND THE WORLD.”

[I imagine the experience of reading this post so far is like getting on a train, thinking you’re headed to Paris, and then realizing you got on the wrong train and you’re going to Moscow instead – not that you have anything against Moscow, but you really wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, and you don’t speak Russian. I’m sorry if that’s the case, but I hear Moscow is very nice in June.]

Now, let us remember that I have not actually asked Kevin about his goals, but just assumed they are in line with the goals I have in mind for him, which are the following:

1. To try and eat the food that is available to him, including, but not limited to, the following: watermelon, mangoes, pineapple, beets, strawberries, curry, avocado, any kind of nuts besides peanuts, tofu or any other kind of soy-based food, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges, pad thai and pho.

2. To save the sea kittens.
3. To meet new people.
4. To stand with one foot on the Northern Hemisphere and one foot on the Southern Hemisphere. And then jump up and down.

5. To set a personal record for days gone without showering.
6. To meet, and make a good impression on, my relatives that live in Beijing. (Bet you didn’t know about this one, did you, Kev?)
7. To JUMP FROM A PLANE. Crazy person.

I’m sure these goals are completely and without a doubt 100% in line with what Kevin would have written, especially number one. There is no need to ask Kevin for any amendments and/or corrections. So we’ll just go ahead and move on to my list.

1. To gain a better understanding of world geography. I know all of the states and their capitals (although New Hampshire does trip me up), but I have no idea where Kazakhstan is. Or how to spell it. It took me three tries. I probably still won’t know where it is after this trip, but at least I’ll know where Botswana is.
2. To meet new people.
3. To do some things that will scare the living daylights out of me. [This does not include jumping out of a plane. I only want to be slightly more brave, not a whole lot more brave.]
4. To avoid the real world for just one more year.
5. To be more aware.
6. To pet a llama at Machu Picchu. Speaking of llamas, there is a very underrated movie about a llama that you should watch.
7. To swim with pink dolphins.

This is the point where, if Kevin were writing this post, he would seamlessly transition from pink dolphins to a concluding paragraph filled with little jokes and a tidy summation of the main goal, which is: to have an amazing, awesome, challenging, unforgettable 11 months. But I’m not Kevin. (Also, I did not put those adjectives in alphabetical order on purpose. They just came out of my head that way. I swear.)

[So this train is going to Paris after all! Too bad you already bought that ushanka. Sorry about that.]

Instead, I’d like to talk a little bit about the surreal-ness of all of this. It feels like some Zhou alter ego is going on the trip, not me. (My alter ego looks exactly like me, except she is the kind of person who would never sweep the floor twice in one day. And she wears a cool cape, even though Edna advises against it.) It’s almost unimaginable to me that in a little over a year, Kevin and I will have visited five continents and over 30 countries. We’ll have trekked the Himalayas and stood in the sweltering heat in front of the Sphinx. We’ll have met a lot of cool new people whose names I don’t know yet (I’m hoping one will be named Sawyer, because I think that’s an awesome name). And we’ll probably have grown and changed in ways that I can’t even imagine right now. It just completely blows my mind.

I can’t wait.

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

WNDRFL Song Lyric VQs:


Scrabble Games: 47 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 24; 367; 390; FILLIES, ENTAILS
Kevin WPLB: 23; 368; 417; UNsWEET*

May 24, 2009


[Editor's note: I once wrote a post inappropriately titled, “There is Nothing to Fear but Gear Itself.” It was meant to be a pun on the famous FDR quote – wait, this reminds of a horrible story from my childhood, I’ll finish that thought at the end of this post – where was I? Oh, my point was that gear is not the only thing to fear, and in fact it does not need to be feared at all, unless you’re on the opposing team to these guys. So really the title made no sense, but unfortunately it stuck. Then all by myself alone without any help from a comment to this post, I single-handedly got the brilliant idea to write a post about fear, but lo and behold, the good post title was already taken. So in case you read this blog for the post titles, hopefully the content will hold your interest this week.]

Today we wanted to let you in on our deepest and darkest fears about our upcoming travels. The information we share in this post we will have never before told anyone, so if you are the first to read it (and not just skip to the Puzzles for Postcards), then consider yourself among Zhou’s and my closest friends.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the four major obstacles to overcome to enjoy a round-the-world journey: motivation, time, perception and money. However, just as Junior was afraid to tell his dad that he was competing in the Olympics, we were afraid to tell you about the fifth and most important obstacle: FEAR.

Most of you probably don’t know this, but FEAR is actually an acronym, just like SCUBA or BL. Back in the dinosaur age, cavemen made up the word to describe how they felt about Food, Exploration, Absence and Revenue. ( I think this was before the wheel but after fire, but don't quote me on this.) Let me explain.

Fear of food: despite anything that Zhou may tell you, I did not invent picky eating. I come from a long line of picky Currys, most of whom were probably pickier than me. The difference between me and them though, is that I’m about to blog about my eating habits on a trip around the world. And roughly 137 million people will end up reading about it. (Anything more than that is just gravy, another food I don't really care for.)

To be perfectly honest, this is one of my two biggest fears on the trip. I can think of two different strategies for overcoming this fear: the Omnivore strategy and the Survivor strategy. The Omnivore strategy would definitely make me a better person in the long run, as it involves learning to like foods that you absolutely hate. When I was just 11 years old, Jeffrey Steingarten wrote that if you force horrendous foods down your throat over and over again (eight to ten times) that you will eventually like them. I liken this to if you're punched in the face nine times, the tenth won't hurt all that much. Regardless, I'm glad that my parents didn't read this article when it came out.

The Survivor strategy, which I am currently executing to perfection, involves not changing eating habits whatsoever until you're thrown into the fire (figuratively - remember this phrase though when you read the end of the post). I've decided that I'm going to enjoy every meal from here until September 9th, because who knows if I'll get to enjoy another one for 11 more months. And I figure if I'm hungry enough, I'll eat what I need to on the trip.

Fear of exploration: I once watched an interview with Christopher Columbus, and the one thing he reiterated throughout was how afraid he was that the Indians would wind up being monstrous aliens from outer space. After all, he was crossing vast oceans into uncharted territory, so who knew what he'd run into?

Ok, so this didn't actually happen, but I'm sure even Columbus had to have doubts as he pushed off across the Atlantic. And since I'm originally from Columbus, I'm allowed to be afraid of the unknown as well. Of the 30 countries we currently have scheduled on our itinerary, I have never been to 30 of them. In layman's terms, that's every single one. In horror movies, often times the protagonist will be scared out of his mind as he walks slowly through his house, knowing that a killer could be around any corner. But that's his house! He's been there for many years, and knows it like the back of his hand. Yet here I am about to boldly go where I've never gone before! Of course I'll have a little fear in the back of my mind.

Fear of absence: in addition to fear of food, this is my other biggest fear. The things that make me happiest in life are my family and friends (and chili dogs), so it will be hard being away for so long. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I don't really see how that applies here because I'd rather spend time with my family and friends than grow fonder of them. Just like I would rather have millions of dollars than grow fonder of it from a distance. Fortunately though, without getting too mushy, I am very lucky to be spending the next year with Zhou, so that works as an excellent antidote to this fear.

Fear of revenue, or lack thereof: I have spent the last two years of my life seeing how much trouble companies can get into with steep drop-offs in their top-lines, yet this clearly hasn't deterred Zhou and me. A little insider information: don't buy stock in us now, as our income is about to drop faster than Ashley Simpson's after her appearance on SNL.

I think what will be even more daunting than losing our income for the next year will be trying to get it back once we return. And to top it off, Zhou will be heading to grad school, leaving me to fend for the both of us. I'm just going to have to buy a lot of lottery tickets and hope we get lucky.


Back to the story that I referenced earlier. After winning the Super Bowl one year, my family and I went to Disney World to celebrate. This was back in the day that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was big, and they had a replica version set up for all park-goers. It worked like this: 200 or so people would be let into the replica studio every hour, and from this group, people would win their way on stage to sit in the hot seat, with a chance to win real prizes. (I believe instead of a million dollars, if you made it all the way you'd get a Caribbean cruise for two, although you'll soon find out that winning this would never even cross my mind.)

I don't remember how the first contestant was picked, but I'm sure it was through one of those old fastest finger questions. Anyway, once the first person made it to the hot seat, the next contestant would be picked by answering the hot seat questions faster than anyone else in the crowd. Basically, as the first person would get the question, the audience would all be clicking really fast on their thingamajigs when they knew the answer.

As skill would have it, I, at 13 years old, was the fastest in the audience to get all the questions correct, so as the current contestant took the walk of shame back down the losers' tunnel, I gleefully pranced down the stairs to the hot seat, ready to win that top prize. (Looking back on it, I wish I would have tripped down the stairs and broken my arm to avoid any humiliation.)

I sat down and explained to the host a little about myself, and then we were off. Question #1: "Finish the following quote: 'If you can't stand the heat, get out of the ____.' (a) kitchen, (b) country, (c) fire or (d) wool underwear." I had no idea! I had never heard that saying before! Fortunately though, they wanted the contestants to get the first five questions right so they could selfishly promote Disney World by giving you a shirt. If I didn't know, the host would help me out.

Thirty seconds passed, and it became clear to the host that I didn't know. He started to say someth- "cfirefinalanswer." I blurted it all out without taking a breath. The host looked at me with great shame, as if to say "I would punch you in the face if you weren't a child." The audience moaned, and I saw my family quickly sneak out the back door so as not to be seen with me. I quickly realized that this was not the correct answer, so as quickly as I had sat down, I was booted out of the chair and down the losers' tunnel. They wanted me to sign some form saying I would not compete again for at least two years, or something like that. Actually, they might have given me the special form that said never to come back... I can't really remember. All I know was that I would forever be linked with this guy.

PS - Yes, I know it was not FDR, but Truman who said that quote. I figured that out while I wallowed in my own self-pity.

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Some Kind of... Song VQs:


Scrabble Games: 44 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 24; 367; 313; WALKERS
Kevin WPLB: 20; 365; 454; REEDITS, UPsTAGE, INTERAcT

May 17, 2009

Haiku(s) For You(s)

Since Kevin insists that we keep the entries on this blog somewhat travel-related (Hi Kevin, I listen to you! I am a good fiancée! Can we have a photo booth at the wedding?), I will start off this post with a list of things we have done lately in terms of the trip.

We calculated the frequent flyer miles we would earn on the AAdvantage (American Airlines) and Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) programs to figure out which one we should sign up for. Cathay wins. We should be able to buy our one-way tickets back from London at the end of the trip using the miles we earn on our trip. Isn’t that awesome? We bought our RTW tickets for under $3,000 apiece, and while we are gallivanting around the world we’re also going to EARN miles that will pay for a plane ticket home from London. To me this seems dirty somehow. Like cheating.

We bought tickets on Jetstar to fly from Hong Kong to Singapore, and from Singapore to Taiwan (where we will be visiting Tina – hi Tina!) and back. Just remember: next time you try to book airline tickets in a foreign currency, call your credit card company first!

We registered our trip with the embassies of the countries which we will be visiting. I just want to say that the U.S. government makes it much more difficult than it really should be to do this. I signed up to receive alerts on all the countries we’re visiting, and they sent me a SEPARATE EMAIL for EACH country asking me to click on a link to confirm my subscription. After I clicked on the links, they then emailed me a CONFIRMATION OF MY CONFIRMATION for each separate country, and THEN they emailed me a “Welcome to the ____ list!” email as well! The result is over 120 emails in my trash from the U.S. consular website. Please, Barack Obama, I know you have a lot on your plate, what with being pictured topless on the cover of The Washingtonian, and universal health care, and managing a couple of different wars and all, but could you please get a few programmers to take a look at your site? Please!

We called American Airlines (three times!) to change the dates for a bunch of our flights. Now that we have added an extra week to Southeast Asia (which I am very very happy about) and gotten rid of Bolivia (which I am very sad about), we had to rearrange all of our flights to make the schedule work. This was also tricky because a couple of our segments had already been booked up on the dates that we wanted, which meant we had to be flexible and rearrange. And guess what? I was totally ok with that. No, really, I was!

We went to REI this past weekend. And every trip to REI ends up with us buying stuff that we “need,” like rainproof covers for our pack, which, ok, I admit those are kind of necessary. But not as necessary as sporks!

It’s the “Perfectly Designed Outdoor Eating Utensil”! It comes in 19 civilized colors! Unfortunately for me, Kevin is not as susceptible to the allure of multifunctional eating utensils as I am. He also isn’t interested in the foldable dinner set, which I think would go great with the sporks. It seems like keeping all of our stuff dry is more important to Kevin than having cool things to eat off of that don’t take up a lot of space. Go figure.

We’ve also been mulling over how connected we want to stay during the trip and have been revisiting the idea of taking a netbook with us. Especially with Verizon and Sprint coming out with plans for Novatel’s MiFi – we’re now thinking about buying one of these bad boys to take with us. Two problems: (1) we’re not sure this will work outside of the U.S., and if it does, we probably have to pay ridiculous amounts of money for the data plan and (2) how can we afford to buy the netbook, the MiFi, AND the data plan when there are so many sporks that still need to be bought?!

So now that the travel stuff is out of the way, we can get to the good part of this post, which is subtitled “Haikus on the Things in Zhou’s Life,” or, alternatively, “Why Kevin Should Let Zhou Write Non-Travel-Related Posts Because She is Better at Those Anyway”

pitter-patter feet
soft, quiet paws on the floor
she leaps into bed!

“Too Many Games on TV That Kevin Must Watch”
oh Houston Rockets
Yao Ming was your worst player
who’d have thought? not me

“No Jalapeno Cream Cheese for My Bagel This Morning”
so I used butter
frozen bagels aren’t as good
fresh ones are better

"Being Better at Limbo Is Little Consolation"
Ultimate Frisbee
a game that favors the tall

“Going to the Dentist to Get a Chipped Tooth Fixed”
this tooth should be fixed
it only hurt a little
seventy dollars!

“My Dream Scrabble Play”
the triple triple
laying down “quixotic” – ha!
will this ever be?

“Working Out at the Gym in My New Gym Pants”
they are soft and black
but I get sweatier than
with the shorts I wear

“Justification for a Shorter Post than Normal”
I am quite busy
taking naps (and watching stuff)
sorry about that

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Dan's Belt Better Chargers:

Hog Fat Dug Would
Don Pays On Hummer
Ill Bank End So Bile

Scrabble Games: 42 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 24; 368; 364; LOITERS, NAtIONS
Kevin WPLB: 18; 363; 339; LASTInG

May 10, 2009

1,000 Visitor Extravaganza Post!

I've noticed that Sportscenter doesn't tend to show Cincinnati Reds highlights, probably because either (a) they haven't made the playoffs since 1995 or (b) they share a name with Communists. However, a few mornings ago I noticed that they were in the Sportscenter lineup, so I had to stick around and watch.

When Stan Verrett came on the air to read the highlight, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Following a lengthy alliterative introduction using more words that begin with 'v' than I ever knew existed, I then learned that in the history of major league baseball, no two pitchers whose last names begin with the letters v-o-l had ever faced one another (as Edinson Volquez and Chris Volstad did). In fact, not since the early 1900's has a Major League Baseball pitcher's last name begun with v-o-l. But that's not all. Joey Votto of the Reds is the only big league player to ever have a last name beginning with v-o-t, therefore making the Volstad-Votto matchup the first ever v-o-l vs. v-o-t pitcher-batter matchup ever.

Why am I telling you all this? One reason: to show that no matter how crazy I am bound to get in keeping statistics on the trip, it can get worse. So with that, welcome to our special...

1,000 Visitor Extravaganza Post!

Zhou and I (minus Zhou) thought long and hard about how to give back to you, our loyal readers for accidentally clicking on our blog every now and then. We considered having Zhou write the blog (your prize would be avoiding my nonsensical rambling for a week), but we thought that was giving back a little too much. We've already posted pictures of Evangeline Lilly and Jennifer Aniston, so that wasn't an option. So we decided to do what we do best: make a contest!

Since Puzzles for Postcards has been going so well, we've decided to make a whole new contest, with bigger stakes, and a longer wait for the winner. This contest will consist of five questions, each with a numerical answer. Each question will be graded individually, from first place to last place. For example, if 1,324 people answer question one, and you are 176th closest, then you get 176 points. Then we add your rankings on each of the five questions, and the person with the lowest total score wins! Also, as an added bonus, if you get a question exactly right you get a five point deduction from your total score. So if only two people respond, then that almost guarantees you the victory!

Make sense?

Please note that in all questions, you're not trying to guess the combined total for me and Zhou, but rather the total for just one of us.

(1) How many miles will Kevin and Zhou fly? You could definitely look this up given our itinerary, but (a) you'd be wrong since there are hidden flights and layovers, and (b) I would hope y'all have better things to do with your time than calculate our plane mileage. However, I do know that there are bigger wastes of time.

(2) How many hours will Kevin and Zhou spend on buses, trains and the Eurail combined? Here's an initial guess to help out: we'll be gone for 324 days, or 7,776 hours. I have built it up in my head that we'll be spending 80% of our trip on buses, which equates to 6,221 hours.

(3) How many pictures will Kevin and Zhou take? We stole this statistic from thirteenmonths, which is, as previously mentioned, a big inspiration for us on this trip. One caveat when guessing: yes, this will include the copious amounts of pictures Zhou takes of baby animals and Kevin takes of all the McDonald's he plans on eating.

(4) How many games of Scrabble will Kevin and Zhou play? As you know, our plan is to play near every landmark, big and small, and take a picture of us doing so. In addition, we will be spending up to 6,221 hours on buses, so there's plenty of time for more games.

(5) How many new foods will Kevin eat? As much as I want to count French McDonald's french fries, Zhou won't let me. So new foods means actual new foods - not variations on an old favorite (like the "Chile" dog). Since this is a little subjective, Zhou will be the official "food-keeper."

We haven't decided what a good prize would be for the winner yet, so for now consider this something that's extremely fun and a way to make our trip more competitive than it is (and before you start complaining, I promise we'll actually think of a real prize). If you respond with answers, even our boring posts from the road will be fun, as you'll be anxious to see if we've played another game of Scrabble, or spent another few hours on a bus. And ever since I've become addicted to centsports, I've learned that even someone else's dime on the line makes everything in life much more interesting.

As you respond with your guesses, we'll be keeping track of the statistics here. Just for future reference, we will not accept any responses after we take off for London on September 10.

Good luck!


In other news this week, we learned another lesson about attention to detail in planning our trip. One would think that for something of this magnitude we'd be extra careful in booking flights and setting dates. We've already mentioned our first screw-up, when we booked our flight from London to Nairobi a couple days after our safari is supposed to begin. Fortunately, we lucked out there, because we lost less on the $125 per person change fee than we gained on the exchange rate in re-booking the flight. This time though, we have lost the Bolivia and Salar de Uyuni part of the trip. Why, you ask?

When setting up the round-the-world ticket, you can do "surface sector" legs, or segments where you don't take a flight (they still count against your 16 segments though). If you declare that you're taking a flight, you must take the flight. If you declare a surface sector, you cannot take a flight. For instance, we are doing a surface sector from Nairobi to Johannesburg. We will be flying into Nairobi and out of Johannesburg, but we're using trucks to get from one place to the other.

As our stupidity would have it, we accidentally booked Santiago to Lima as a flight, and not a surface sector. Therefore, we will not be taking a bus up through Bolivia to Peru from the southern tip of South America, but rather we will be taking that bus to Santiago and flying into Peru. I guess in the end that's a lot less bus-riding, which is a good thing, unless your contest guess ends up falling a ways short.

[Zhou: I still maintain that this may have been the agent's fault when we initially booked it. Plus, this makes no sense to me! Why would they charge us $250 to NOT fly a segment? Can't they make money selling those two seats to someone else? I just don't get it. Sigh. At least this means we get to spend more time in Southeast Asia, land of mango sticky rice.]

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Gettin' Jiggy Wit' A Statistical Sample Anagram:

N prefers Ali before Hitch

Scrabble Games: 41 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 23; 368; 383; DOPIEST, DoTTIER
Kevin WPLB: 18; 363; 351; bLOUSES

May 5, 2009

Getting to Know Zhou (Part 2)

…continued from Sunday.

(8) Secret celebrity crush:

Zhou’s on-again off-again celebrity crush (who is currently on-again with this renewed love of Home Improvement) is JTT. She’s also gone through Adam Brody, Orlando Bloom, Natalie Portman and probably Zach Braff, although the last one is more just because she loves Scrubs.

I would just like to say that I have always loved Natalie Portman – she was never a phase.

(9) Most idiotic moment:

I’ve alluded to this in an earlier post, but I think Zhou’s dumbest moment since I’ve met her would have to involve her ability to tell time. A couple years ago we were sitting around eating buttered scones and watching equestrian when, in a moment of brilliance, Zhou shouted out, “Oh I get it now!” I looked at her, then around the room – nothing. “That’s why they call the third hand the second hand! Because it tells you the seconds!”

98.6% of the time Zhou is smarter than me, but just so you know, I knew why it was called the second hand back in the first grade. However, at least her “most idiotic moment” ends in laughter, whereas mine ends in a fight.

What actually happened: I said to Kevin, “Why do they call it the second hand when it’s actually the third hand on the watch?” He just looked at me. “Oooooh,” I said. To his credit, I think this happened early on in our relationship, and he still didn’t write me off. Thanks, Kev!

(10) Weirdest habit:

Of the plethora of choices that I could answer this question with (one of the reasons I like Zhou so much is because of her crazy habits), I think Zhou’s weirdest habit has to be organizing the sugar packets on the table when we go out to eat. The way she gets right to organizing them, you would think that the scum of the earth had just sat at our table and strewn packets haphazardly all throughout the holder. And after she’s done, I’ve tried to hide a pink packet in with the whites or a blue with the pinks, but she always catches it and puts it back in its proper place.

This is, obviously, 100% true. But I don’t think it’s that weird. Monk does it.

(11) Best sports moment:

It was the semi-finals. These two teams had squared off in the regular season, and the villains had won in a blow-out. They were the one seed and overwhelming favorites (Vegas had them by over two touchdowns). However, it was now late in the second half, and we were driving down the field only behind by a point. Tim took the snap and faked to his left. I sprinted downfield for the deep bomb. A lineman – probably 245 pounds of pure muscle – had sprung viciously from his 3-point stance and was charging hard at Tim. Unfortunately for him, there was one thing in his way: Zhou.

With her hands behind her back, Zhou slid her feet over and bam! The behemoth fell to the ground. Tim took this opening to reverse field and begin his mad scramble. 25 – 20 – 15 – 10 – 5 – touchdown! We had taken a six point lead with under two minutes to play! While the defender slowly picked himself off the ground, the referee came running up to Zhou. “Wow… in all my years… that was hands down the best block I’ve ever seen… not just in flag football… ever!”

[Side note: two plays later, the villains broke free for a 60 yard touchdown run, and we lost the game.]

As I remember it, the block wasn’t for Tim, but Greg, who actually said “thank you” as he whizzed by (Greg is very polite). And what the ref actually said was, “Man! That’s the best block I’ve ever seen!” After I thanked him nonchalantly (because one of my hobbies is running into people that are twice my size – no seriously, it is), he said, “No REALLY, I’m not kidding, it’s the best block I’ve ever seen! And not just in flag football either!” By that I assumed he meant the best one he’s ever seen, including in the NFL. That’s right, I’m better than Jeff Saturday. A flag football ref said so.

(12) Previous international travel experience:

Zhou has been to China many times – probably about every other year since she moved to the United States. She has also been to Europe twice – once with her family and more recently with her friend Kathleen.

We’ve also done a Caribbean cruise together with a bunch of friends. I think that’s about it. Regardless of how you cut it though, she’s way more well-traveled than me, and therefore will need to protect me on our journey.

I’ve been to Europe three times, thank you very much. The picture above is the only photographic proof that Kathleen and I were in Europe together. Ok fine, we took that picture in my backyard. I have a castle, I just don't like to brag about it. Also, I had a very bad run-in with some salmon that time I went with my family, and I can’t eat it anymore.

(13) Thing Zhou is most proud of:

Besides landing a catch like myself, and besides her awesome flag football block, Zhou is most proud of this:

We were visiting our friend Jing in Charlottesville one weekend last fall, and of course I thought this meant hanging out with Jing and being social and all. I think that Zhou thought this too, until she spotted the above wooden puzzle on Jing’s coffee table shortly after we arrived. From that point on, Zhou spent every waking minute focused on putting that puzzle together. I told her that it wasn’t worth it, but Jing had already mentioned that one of her friends had solved it, so there was no turning back.

We were about to eat brunch shortly before our departure on Sunday, and all of a sudden, there was Zhou, and there was the puzzle – solved. I’d never seen her so happy. And then we ate pancakes, and I was really happy.

Man, solving that thing was sooooo satisfying. Sorry for the ruined weekend, guys! But on a more serious note, I have to say that the thing I’m most proud of is how I’m learning to let things go and be less bothered by little things that don’t really matter. Also, that picture above is not the best picture of me. I am much more beautifuller in person.

(14) Favorite personality trait of Kevin:

It’s clear that Zhou likes me for my great taste in movies / music and my unusually small ears. But those aren’t personality traits. Personality-wise, I think she likes the fact that I don’t really let anything get to me and I’m almost always optimistic. She also once mentioned that she likes how I don’t keep score – if I do the dishes one day, I don’t let that affect who does them the next. (However, when playing Scrabble I demand we keep score.)

In addition to the unusually small ears, Kevin also has an unusually large head. That’s just an FYI. (Also, the three things Kevin mentioned are in my top five favorite things about Kevin.)

I think that the thing that I like best about Kevin is that he knows what he wants, and he has high standards that he won’t compromise. For example, Kevin would never continue working at a job that he hates just because he would make a lot of money. As for me, I would definitely consider staying at a job I didn’t enjoy if they paid me enough. It’s hard to describe, but it’s just that he has all his priorities in order, and he knows what he needs to do to be happy. And then he goes and does it! I think there are a lot of people who know how they could be happier and more satisfied with their lives but don’t do anything about it.

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):

Consonantless U.S. Cities (solve three of four; and as a reminder, these are all one word):


Scrabble Games: 40 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 22; 368; 427; DOWnTIME, ASININE
Kevin WPLB: 18; 363; 461; MEANEST, PAgODAS, BROODING

May 3, 2009

Getting to Know Zhou (Part 1)

Last week we learned that Zhou knows Kevin pretty well (she was officially given a grade of 82.1%). However, the true test comes this week as we discover how well Kevin knows Zhou. Kevin's been bragging for years that the reason he's never seen Mel Gibson's biggest hit is because he already knows what women want, so it's time to put his money where his mouth is. So with no further ado...

(1) Favorites:

Favorite college class: As much as Zhou loved the Econ / Finance department and the professors there, they all took second place to her photography class senior year. This is because they took a lot of pictures and at one point, the teacher called Zhou her “star student.”

Favorite movie: Easy one. Princess Bride. Have you seen the deluxe edition DVD where the cover says “Princess Bride” regardless of whether you read it right side up or upside down?

Now you have.

Favorite food: Zhou goes through phases of just about everything in life. (This sometimes makes me worried about my status, but I have luckily made it almost five years and am still around.) She’ll get mysteriously hooked on random TV shows (currently Home Improvement), she goes through different shampoos and haircuts, and she’ll crave a food for about two weeks at a time. At the moment though, I’d say it’s a tie between pepperoni, her homemade yogurt and Casserole Queens’ chicken pot pie.

Favorite animal: Charlie! But I’m not going to put a picture of her here.

Favorite book: Count of Monte Cristo and Pride & Prejudice

I don’t remember Libby ever calling me her “star student,” but I’m sure it must be true! And yes, I was that kid. I’m sorry, it’s just how I am.

(2) Most prized material possession (that Zhou is taking on the trip):

Zhou loves her Zhou-sized Yaris with the duct-taped side-view mirror. She also really likes her Rubik’s cubes (all [five] of them) and her new iPod Touch, but I think if it came down to it, the one thing she couldn’t do without would be her face cream. She hates having dry skin almost more than anything else in the world, so I can’t imagine how crazy she would act without her lotion.

I really do hate having dry skin, and my one beauty splurge on the trip is taking a 2 oz. bottle of Hope in a Jar. I’m impressed that Kevin picked up on that.

(3) Biggest pet peeve:

She hates it when people waste things and pollute the environment, but I’d say Zhou’s biggest pet peeve would be when people wear one sock but not the other. She doesn’t mind if the two socks don’t match, but if you ever really want to bug her walk around with just one sock on. Better yet, make sure that one sock has big holes in the toe – she wouldn’t know what to do.

It’s true, I don’t even want to talk about one-sock wearing people (Matt!) – and you know what my other biggest pet peeve is right now? Coach on Survivor. I’m not watching the show again until he gets voted off. I also hate it when people stand two by two on the escalator (unless everyone in front of them is doing it also, then it’s ok) so you can’t pass.

(4) What will annoy Zhou most on the road: There will definitely be a lot of tough times for Zhou, including not being able to clean (herself or her surroundings) and having to deal with things not going according to plan. She will also be annoyed when she keeps telling me “just try some – it’s really good!” and I refuse to try it.

I really don’t like being dirty. Maybe I should practice before we leave. But I agree that the hardest thing will be the lack of control I will have on the trip – but I think it’ll be really good for me too.

(5) First memory:
This is a tough one, but I would have to say it’s of these ducks she used to have back in China. (It’s funny because some of my fondest early memories are of watching Mighty Ducks over and over.) The story as I recall is that her Grandma brought home four baby ducks one day because they were lost in the street. They named each duck after its color, but the only one I remember was little Butter. Butter and his siblings stayed in a laundry basket in the garage and were fed well and treated like royalty, until one day the three siblings escaped. Butter was so heartbroken that a few days later he died of depression, and the young Zhou discovered him dead in the garage. At first she didn’t believe her eyes – Butter was like a brother to her, but eventually reality set in and she got a real brother named Alex, who is really good at his doubles and Chinese Checkers.

Ok, first of all, this story is a bit discombobulated – it was in Little Rock, and the ducklings (not ducks) lived in the backyard (yes, in a laundry basket). I don’t know where my Grandma got them from, but it certainly wasn’t off the street – probably from the local Asian grocery store. And Kevin’s “escaped” is a euphemism for “got eaten.” We did put Butter in the garage after the situation with his siblings – we were afraid he would get eaten too. I think he died of loneliness. And it weighs really heavily on my conscience that when I discovered poor dead Butter, I didn’t say anything to anyone. I just admitted this fact to my sister in the last year. She thought it was funny.

Secondly, that happened when I was about 12, so it’s not my first memory. My first memory is of being accidentally left in a parking lot. When I was five. In Las Vegas. In the dark. My parents drove off, my mom thinking I was in the front seat of the car, my dad thinking I was in the back with my mom and baby Amy. Luckily, their friend (with whom we were staying) saw me in the headlights of his car and recognized my outfit – a green corduroy jumper with a pocket shaped like an apple – and took me to his house, where I was tearfully reunited with my parents. I remember my parents’ friend telling me it would be a really funny joke if I hid in the bathroom. At the time, I was too hysterical to even consider that idea, but in retrospect, that would have been hilarious. When I mentioned this story to my parents a few years back, my dad looked at me and said, “I didn’t think you remembered that.” They haven’t been back to Vegas since then. Coincidence? I think not.

(6) Thing Zhou can’t do without in life:

The obvious answer: Charlie. The less obvious answer: TV marathons. Zhou will watch anything and everything as long as you put it into marathon form so she doesn’t have to wait a week between shows.

True. Mostly America’s Next Top Model or Law & Order. But really, I’ll watch anything. I think the reason for this is I am the absolute worst at waiting. I just always need to know what’s going to happen.

(7) Story from before we met that Zhou likes to tell most:

I hear many stories from Zhou twice, and I hear some stories three times. However, there’s one story that I’ve heard more often than I’ve heard Allen Iverson say the word “practice.”

Zhou used to live in a small town in Arkansas, before moving to a small town in New Jersey in the middle of eighth grade. In Arkansas, Sam Champion was the local weatherman, and each day the Zhangs would huddle closely around the TV as Sam came on to point his magic wand at the green screen behind him. His performance would bring tears of joy to the Zhang family’s eyes, and the time he was not on the TV was the worst 23 hours and 57 minutes of their day.

As you can imagine, moving away from Arkansas was not too difficult, because it’s Arkansas. However, moving away from Sam Champion was harder than learning that the Jamaican bobsled team would be disqualified from the Olympics. But the move had to be made, and the Zhangs would eventually have to watch some no-name Joe slog through updates on the New Jersey smog.

A few months after the move, Zhou was watching the news by herself when for a brief moment, a glorious face caught her eye. “Mom! Dad! Amy! Alex! Come here!” The family rushed downstairs to see what the fuss was about. A commercial had come on, so Zhou let the suspense build for a few minutes. But when the news came back, there he was – Sam Champion! The Zhangs jumped for joy and popped open a bottle of champagne. Five enormous smiles met in a big group hug.

Yes, Sam Champion had followed the family from Arkansas to New Jersey.

My version of the story goes something like this: “Did you know Sam Champion used to be our weatherman in Little Rock? And now he’s our weatherman here! Isn’t that funny?” But Kevin’s rendition is pretty good.

To be continued Tuesday…

Puzzles for Postcards (list of winners):
We have been told that the anagrams sometimes are too long, and therefore solving them becomes less about solving an anagram and more about solving context clues. However, we have already made a few more long anagrams, and will be using them up before making shorter ones.

No Dark Clouds By The Cliff Anagram:
Color in an Eye Signals Nice Weather

Scrabble Games: 40 (full log)
Zhou WPLB: 22; 368; 427; DOWnTIME, ASININE
Kevin WPLB: 18; 363; 461; MEANEST, PAgODAS, BROODING