Posts Tagged ‘habits’

The Italian way of life

laelene Posted in general blog, lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , ,
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After Panda and I got to spend some time in Rome and the surrounding area, we learned a lot about Italian culture. I don’t seem to remember much of it from my first time in the country, either because I didn’t experience things the same, didn’t notice that time around, or forgot after all these years. I mean, it’s been 8 years! So here are some observations about how Italians seem to live their lives – while I still remember them all.

-They say “prego” a lot. Apparently this is a word that can mean many things in many contexts, so it is both highly useful for those who know it and highly confusing for those who don’t. Half the time I was wondering what the prego was supposed to imply in each given situation. The only one I got a hang of was when service folks used it to see if you needed anything. I’m pretty sure Panda used it a few times at times when it made no sense. 😛

-There are a lot of smokers, everywhere. At least they are on the streets and not inside! I’d forgotten how many more smokers you encounter on the streets of Europe and it’s really rather unpleasant. I’m always holding my breath, ducking clouds of smoke, and hoping I don’t stink of it myself by the end of the day.

roma trastavere train station in rome-Public transportation (and life) seems pretty lax. We got on many a train where our tickets weren’t checked at all. Not sure if the underground metro worked the same since we never ended up using that. The schedule generally works well, but the last night, we had a train that was 85 minutes late! At one point I found myself wondering why I wasn’t upset and why nobody else seemed upset either. That also seems to go with the generally lax approach. For us, it was because we were on vacation and just heading back to the hotel. No need to fret. For locals, perhaps they never even considered it a problem.

-Personal space is either nonexistent or like a one-inch radius from your body. I had multiple instances where people got too close for comfort, but they didn’t seem to notice a thing. At first it was just a couple who sat at the same bar stool area that Panda and I were eating at in McDonald’s (yes, we tried a local one). Out of all of the empty areas in the restaurant, they chose to be two seats away from us at the same table. I would have gotten a table to ourselves. Then there was a guy on the bus who swayed with the turns of the vehicle. Sometimes that meant bumping into me, despite the fact that he had a good two feet in front of him and even more to the sides. It was especially cringe-worthy because he reeked of cigarette smells. He also managed to brush hands with Panda when they were holding the same pole. At our stop, we both got off relieved to have some breathing room. Finally, there were the people who sat directly behind us on a long bench even though the entire rest of it was empty. And it was a loooong bench! I mean, you could easily seat at least 20 people on each side. Why did they have to come back to back with us, leaving just inches between our bodies? I don’t get it. Maybe I’m too Americanized. Funny enough though, this is something I expect in Asia, so I might not even notice it there.

-Street performers and hawkers are abound. Tons of musicians will perform all over the place and random people walk up to you casually selling battery packs for your devices, selfie sticks, flowers, or toys. For these type of people, the best policy for me has been no eye contact. Once you give them attention, they won’t leave you alone!

-In Rome for sure, but maybe more of Italy, they have little water spigots all over the place, which act as water fountains. The water never stops running out of them and you can go grab a few sips or fill up your water bottle at any of them. In fact, I remember my tour guide from my previous visit mentioning that all water fountains in Rome have drinking water – except Trevi Fountain. So hey, you really can’t go thirsty, can you?

And when it comes to food, oh my! What a difference…

italian outdoor seating on roads-First of all, they have some interesting outdoor seating. Oftentimes it’s a few tables and chairs that are actually on the road, off the curb. In more busy areas, they have a little barrier to create a sort of “room” for people to sit in. This would be life-threatening in the states, but in Italy it’s the norm!

-Just about every restaurant has morning and evening hours, with a break in the middle. Between 3-7, your meal options are very limited, so if you like to have dinner at 5 or 6, you better do your research. Dinners start late and go late in this part of the world. Personally, I’d rather eat earlier and get home.

-As you get each course, they tend to take away the food of the previous course. It seems irrelevant if you’ve still got a hunk of food on your plate. At first we were startled by this, but now I make sure to explain that I haven’t finished. I’m partial to eating a little bit of each course and switching between more than one at a time. This is why I love tapas, izakaya, dim sum, etc.

-This is the land of “beware what you ask for.” They tend to charge for all things, including bread, water, and sometimes even olive oil. If you really don’t care for it, don’t ask for it! Just say no (or no thanks).

ristochicco fettucine and roasted potatoes

I wanted fettucine with a tomato-based sauce, but they only offered a cream-based one that night.

-Menus are quite set (little to no flexibility to request modifications to a dish) and very seasonal – to the point that it’s a day to day, hour to hour kind of thing. That means that you can look forward to much fresher options, but it also means that the awesome picture you saw on Yelp may not be applicable to your visit. (Yes, that happened to me. Sad times.) I’ve seen some restaurants with very strict rules on ordering with no straying from exactly how the dishes are offered. The chefs are in control and rather finicky too. I’m not used to such particular ways and it doesn’t bode well for a picky eater like myself.

-Service is always slow. I’m not sure if it’s because of the relaxed pace of life or the fact that these establishments appear perpetually understaffed. Or if they’re “understaffed” by American standards because everyone takes it slow and they don’t need to go any faster. Either way, we’ve had to plan extra time for meals because we know it will take forever to get our order in, get leftovers boxed, and finally receive and pay our bill.

So there you go! Some of the lessons learned from our observations of how Italians do things. Have you experienced this too? What did I miss in my list?

I prefer to air dry

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , ,
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I’ve used a blow dryer once on my hair. I couldn’t figure out this whole brushing hair and blow drying routine. It just didn’t make sense to me and I ended up blowing a lot of hot air at nothing. Afterwards, my hair felt like straw, it looked like a mess, my ears were burning, and I decided this wasn’t for me. That and I just don’t find it very useful to spend time in the bathroom getting ready. So all my life, I’ve air dried my hair.

Sometimes I comb it a certain way, braid it or tie it up. Sometimes I shake it all around and sort of let it fall. At night, I sleep on it any which way. When I get up for the day and it looks dreadful, I comb some water through or tie my hair back. I like showering in the evenings but my hair tends to fall better if I shower in the morning. I try to drag myself up when I can (not often successfully). Alas, I’d rather air dry my hair than spend time brushing and blowing it out.

For rather different reasons, I’ve also started to air dry my hands after washing them. At work, I go to the restroom many times a day since I tend to go through many mugs of drinks. Each time, a twinge of guilt hit me when I wiped my hands on paper towels. I tried bringing in one of my People Towel hand towels, but I kept forgetting to bring it with me. So eventually, I started to walk back to my desk without wiping my hands. By the time I got there, they were pretty much dry and I’d apply some lotion and be done.

You know, despite my reason for air drying hair to be due to laziness and my reason for air drying my hands to be due to environmental consciousness, they sort of have the same result. I save a bit of time and effort while conserving resources. I’m perfectly fine with that! Now you may notice that I did not mention air drying coming out of the shower, but since I’m reusing towels I feel like it’s far less wasteful. Plus it’d take a much longer time to air dry than just soaking up the water with a towel.

What do you think? Am I odd for being like that or do you air dry as well? If you don’t, would you consider it?

40 minutes

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , ,
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Panda and I (try to) have a tradition. Every night before bed, as we’re winding down for the night, we have our “40 minutes.” It’s time for us to talk about our day and share our thoughts before sleeping. It started when he had first moved out east and we’d sit on Skype, both doing our own thing, occasionally talking. I think it started off as 20 minutes and it’s fluctuated back and forth a few times. The point is to have time to each other; we don’t need to accomplish anything from it and we don’t have anything specific we need to say. It’s sort of like when you sit down to write and sometimes you just write your stream of consciousness.

By talking, we end up covering important issues some nights. Sometimes it’s an experience we want to share, sometimes it’s our life philosophies. I think it’s a nice way to put time aside for each other and be able to exchange ideas. However, it almost never goes so smoothly. Just in trying to enforce our “tradition” we often end up debating when we should have started and whether sleep is more important. Panda’s always trying to sleep early, but unless he announces 40 minutes, any talking is just normal conversation and not our special time. I’m weird like that.

And so the night continues, we us spending as much time talking about whether we should do 40 minutes as we actually do “doing” 40 minutes. It’s silly, but it’s a part of how we close out the night. It’s hard to close out distractions and I’m starting to think maybe we should have topics or questions to discuss so there’s a little less ambiguity around it. But I like to go with the flow and see where our thoughts take us. It just feels better to me.

Do you have any strange traditions in your family?

The homebody lifestyle

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , ,
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cat laying on newspaper on porch

Family activities include Smokey getting in the way of some reading downtime.

Panda and I aren’t much for a partying lifestyle. We’re pretty big homebodies, completely content to stay at home relaxing together, enjoying takeout, and doing (or not doing) other such quiet activities. We could spend the whole night watching some shows or browsing online as we tuck ourselves in bed. It’s a nice sort of bonding for us. We may not be doing things together, but at least we are next to each other sharing our space. It’s comfortable and comforting. I’m at the stage where I’m ready to start building a home life. Suddenly I’m thinking about stuff I can get to personalize our home (guess that comes with the territory of having a home to personalize)!

I’ve always enjoyed this sort of home life, even as a teenager. Of course there have been plenty of times that I’ve gone out to various events or just to hang out with friends late into the night, but usually I just want to hole up in my room and spend my time on my computer, chatting with family, or reading a book. Back then I had plenty of homework to keep me busy for ages too. I see a lot of my peers going out to bars and parties and whatnot, but that doesn’t interest me. Similarly, more active home activities like board games or running around the house playing tag or hide and seek don’t interest me either. Maybe it’s not good that so much of my habits are sedentary, but I am in good health.

Just the other night, Panda and I were going out to eat, but on the way decided to get takeout. I enjoyed that option a lot more than sitting at the restaurant. It was really nice to have our food ready, eat at our own pace, and get some other things done while eating. Plus, I got to wear super comfy clothes that I probably shouldn’t go to a restaurant in lest I be taken for a slob. Perhaps that’s my true motivation – being able to relax without people judging me because I’m dressed so casually and never wear makeup. Home is a place to take off all those layers you throw on for the outside world, a place where the true you comes out.

Are we the only ones our age like this? Seems like everyone else always has some grand night or weekend plans coming up. Ours are just quiet – stay in most of the time, get some chores done, maybe go out to grab some food or stroll through Target, and return home again. No happy hours or late nights out or parties of any sort. It’s not that the opportunities aren’t there – in fact, Panda often turns down invitations to social gatherings with his coworkers and I often skip out on activities with my networks. We do like to plan some nice vacation getaways though!

So what’s your preference? Are you still living it up on the social scenes? Or maybe you’re like us and pretty settled into a calmer pace of life?

Cleaning ears

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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How do you clean your ears? (Or do you?)

The way I understand it, the Western style is to use Q-tips. This probably happens after a shower when the interior of the ears have been nice and moist for awhile, softening any sort of earwax you might have built up. Some rubbing around catches that stuff and whisks it out. Or something like that… I can’t actually vouch for it since I don’t clean my ears that way. What I’m used to is the Eastern way, which I’m sure Eastern Asians in particular are familiar with, if not our more southern counterparts too.

tools used to clean ears including flashlight, ear scooper, tweezers, and q-tip

Tools of the trade.

Cleaning your ears becomes a bonding event since it requires the assistance of someone else. They take an ear scooper – sometimes metal, sometimes bamboo – and gently make their way down your ear canal as you lay on your side and they shine a light in your ear. Your earlobe gets pulled this way and that to help straighten out your ear canal for easier viewing. When a bit of earwax is targeted, the cleaner gently lowers the ear scooper in, using the little spoon-like curve to try to scoop out the piece. This may take a little gentle scratching around the area to loosen the earwax if you have the dry kind, or quite a few scoops to get the sticky wet kind. Either way, it’s a practice in patience, determination, and trust. Both sides have to remain relatively steady and slowly maneuver to get the earwax. I’ll even incorporate tweezers when a piece can be pinched away from the wall of the ear. It’s a delicate procedure that requires quite a bit of care. After all, you don’t want to cause any bleeding or pain in the dainty skin of the ear canal. You could very well create hearing impairment!

I quite enjoy having my ears cleaned and sometimes I ask for them to get a little bit of scratching even if there’s nothing to clear. Sometimes my ear canals just itch for a little bit of attention. It must be something born of the habit of cleaning my ears that way. It’s a part of the Chinese culture that definitely stayed with me.

Barefoot

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , ,
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I hate wearing socks and I generally try to avoid wearing shoes as well. This doesn’t seem to be commonly done though, since I often get comments from people when they see me not wearing socks. Is it such an unusual thing to do?

bare feet crossed at ankles sitting atop blanketFor a long time, it wasn’t anything that came up since for the most part of the past decade I’ve been living in climates that don’t get very cold. With flip flops and flats as the common footwear, it’s normal to not see people wearing socks. But now that I’m back in a place with a true winter (and quite a snowy one at that!), people seem to really notice when I take off my uggs and have no socks on. They also seem to notice that I walk around barefoot indoors, which I guess is not something you do in the winter? I’m surprised people have actually commented on it, which I presume means it’s something odd enough for them to say something rather than notice it and wonder to themselves. Well, all you wonderers, I do indeed leave the socks at home and off my feet unless absolutely needed.

In fact, the only time I do wear socks is with sneakers. What about you?

Switching sides

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: ,
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Nearly five years ago, I was working in Singapore when one day I decided that I should use my left thumb to type on the space bar. After all, it wasn’t getting much use and there was a spot on the right half of my space bar that was getting worn out and shiny from all the use. Might as well even it out a bit, right? I started to train myself to use my left thumb for the next couple of weeks. At first, it really slowed me down – not only did I have to think about putting my left thumb down, I had to think about stopping my right one from coming down. All of this thinking took time, especially if I went at my normal pace typing, since my right thumb would come pounding down before my left even had a chance to react.

hands on keyboard typing with left thumb as primary on space barIt took about two weeks for it to become a pretty normal adjustment for my body. I was a lot faster and pretty much typed like I had before again. By one month in, it was complete second nature to me and I didn’t even think of it. Five years down the line, I sometimes remember that I started off typing with my right thumb, but it’s pretty much a distant memory to me. I’m trying it now and I find that it slows me down and I have to stop quite a bit more. I also create more typos the moment I try to speed up. Perhaps my next challenge should be to use both thumbs, either at the same time or alternating. I like to force my brain to rewire some habits every now and then, to keep it from automating the same habits. Recently I’ve been trying to brush my teeth with my opposite (in my case, right) hand and it’s been challenging. I just don’t hold the toothbrush as well with my non-dominant hand! Still, switching over could be nice to balance out my sides, so I’ll try it.

Have you ever attempted to switch sides on a habit? You should give it a shot!

365great Day 223: desserts

laelene Posted in 365great,Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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365great challenge day 223: dessertsI’m a sweets kind of person. That’s why my favorite course is dessert and I often don’t wait until the end of a meal to enjoy it. In fact, in high school my best friends and I would go out to restaurants and get our dessert brought out first. It confused many a waiter, though I’m not sure why they made it such a big deal. So what if we wanted to treat the dessert like an appetizer? I figured we may as well start with the best part and work our way from there. I also find desserts to be really fabulous breakfast items. My favorite is a giant cone of vanilla bean ice cream to kick off the day. I did that many a morning in middle and high school and I thought it was great!

The laundry basket

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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white sqaure laundry basket with clothes piled insidePanda and I have very different habits. Some we’ve compromised on and others we tolerate. His laundry basket habit falls under the latter category. You see, to me a laundry basket is something you use to gather dirty clothes. When you no longer plan on wearing them, you throw them in there. Therefore, it is not a place you want to be rummaging through. Things go in one by one, they all get dumped out around the same time, and sometimes a freshly laundered load will temporarily go in to be transported away from the dryer.

Is that how you use your laundry basket?

Because it certainly is not how he uses it. For him, the laundry basket is a holding cell for clothing that has been worn once but is still viable for another wear. Yet at the same time, there are items meant for the wash as well. This grosses me out even though really it’s just a bit of weathered clothing – not like there are dried stains from sauces or anything super dirty. I can’t help it; it’s completely psychological but if something goes in that basket I am NOT taking it out unless it goes straight to the wash.

So how do you manage your laundry?

Deep food coma

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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The first few days we got back from the UK, I was doing pretty well with the getting up in the morning thing. I’d wake up around 5 or 6 and decide that it was too early, so I’d let myself slowly drift off again until about 7. By then my body couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to get up. Because of these earlier starts, I also got tired earlier in the day. In fact, as soon as we’d get back from dinner, I’d jokingly wrap up in my new sherpa throw and say, “Good night!”

curled up on couch with new super soft and comfy sherpa throw blanketNext thing I knew, Panda would be getting ready for bed and turning off the lights. For some reason that always woke me up, though I very easily slipped back into sleep. Then another hour or so later I’d wake up and force myself to get up to blog for the night. I am dedicated to my craft, after all! If the only thing I get right is that I post every time I tell myself I will, at least I will have that. Most recently I have a goal of one post a day in addition to my 365great post at the end of the day. I’ve been doing quite well and throwing in posts about random things, mixing in reviews and pictures and whatnot. I was not about to let some strange sleep schedule jeopardize that! 😛

But what I’ve learned is that jetlag + sherpa + dinner = major food coma/crash. I mean, 8 PM I’m sound asleep as if I’m 5 again. Actually, I’m not even sure I slept that early as a child. It’s just not my thing! So I’ve got to say, this sherpa and plush blanket is one magical thing to get me to fall asleep so well. I can’t get enough of it and I’m already thinking about getting more (much to Panda’s chagrin, lol). I’ve had to resist using it tonight for fear of falling asleep before either of my blog posts are up. Alas, work now keeps me busy in the day and I need to write posts at night! This will take some getting used to.

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