Thursday, August 21, 2008

Manga Me

By way of Galaxy, I have Faced My Manga Self:

Yes, I really do grin like that. I have many photographs to prove it. I hacked off all my hair, so now it does do random jagged things. And my glasses are orange.

The most amusing thing about doing this little avatar thing was that I had to go look in the mirror to remind me of what I looked like. Although my hair is black, I decided making it shiny grey was more suited to my personality.

Then I thought, well, that's casual Oanh. But what about Lawyer Oanh? So I went back and made another avatar (but I forgot to give myself a mole, although now I have bags under my eyes and I'm not grinning quite so maniacally):

And that's what I look like at work. My hair's a bit neater, see, and I wear jackets.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What's in a name?

A crowfoot flower, tenaciously among the rocks.

I hate people who don't listen when I slowly spell my name for them: Oh, Ay, En, Aitch. "What? En, Ay, Oh?"; No! Oh [wait for them to say, yes?] Ay [wait for a yes?]; En [wait for another yes? they get impatient] Aitch. That's all. Then they say, "Okay, why did you not say your name was Ann?" Hmm, because it's not. My name is Oanh. It starts with an Oh. And is pronounced wun. Shall I spell it for you, again? "Oh, sure. That's unusual, isn't it?" Mmm, I murmur, without saying anything else. It's too much hassle to say, no, actually, it's not unusual. I have been patient, really, I have. Patient all my life.

I don't expect anyone to know how to pronounce or spell my name (okay, my family and friends I do expect to know). Hell, I even crack pretty good jokes about my name (if I say so myself). My best was when I rang my best friend in high shool and her father picked up the phone.

Me: Hi, Mr BestFriend. Can I speak to BestFriend? It's Oanh.

Mr BestFriend: Which Oanh? ho ho.

Me: The only Oanh of course. chuckle chuckle.

Mr BestFriend: Ha! That's great! [Aside and shouting] BestFriend! It's only Oanh on the phone!

Of course, sometimes I got sick of my name. Random people, usually men, usually on trains, would ask me my name and I would tell them: Two point four. I thought I was being pretty funny. They did not bother trying to chat me up any further.
I also used to lie - colourfully - about my 'ethnic heritage'. You know, in response to the "Where are you REALLY from?" question.

Sometimes, I would be an Inuit princess, seeking refuge in Australia from having to marry my sister's brother because she died, which was a custom of the tribe that I would one day lead. I was here, learning martial arts and survival skills, and I would return when I was strong, to overthrow my father, to re-create the matriarchal society we were supposed to be. That was my favourite story.

Sometimes I was just apathetic. Yes, I'm from China. It's a big place. Yes, I eat dogs. And lounge about smoking opium. Sure, I will amend the feng shui in your house. You should place the lucky dragon plant in the turtle corner well away from the phoenix roof. Not good for the monkey vibes. Although, it is the year of the oscillating octopus, so perhaps you should completely obliterate the turtle corner.

Or I would reply to people who called out, "Konnichi Wa!" with Origami! Toyota! Mitsubishi! and they would look at me, failing to appreciate the extent and sheer scintillating brilliance of my wit. Some of them even went on to speak more Japanese to me. Bless their misinformed hearts. Needless to write (but I'm going to write it), I did not date any of them.

And you know what? None of these people I spun stories to ever commented on my Aussie accent.

I used to want to change my name. To something easy. Something 'Anglo'. Something that, when a relief teacher was taking class I did not have to say, Here-ah when there was a puzzled pause.

I had one relief teacher who was extremely discombobulated to discover that I was named 'one'. I was sitting in the front row, first desk. He was a young teacher, and it did not help that my classmate (front row, second desk) piped up that he was 'two'. The poor, young relief teacher assumed we'd been allocated numbers, so he proceeded to call us by the numbers that our seating arrangements would have assigned us. We all tittered quietly but did not correct him. When the principal came in to check on how he was doing, our class got a stern scolding. Me, especially, for allowing it to happen (I was Class Goody-Two-Shoes (otherwise known as School Captain). The relief teacher never then did believe me that my name actually, really was Oanh. I had to ask the principal to affirm that, "Yes, her name really is Oanh", for the relief teacher to accept any more words that came out of my mouth, asserting anything at all.

Actually, I have strong recollections of wanting to change my name to Karen. I cannot now recall why the name Karen. She's not in any books that I can remember from my childhood.

I've been happily Oanh for a while now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Photos on Holiday

I have a new camera. Well, it's a few months old now.

It is a Fuji Finepix S9600 - it's an almost-but-not-quite SLR. It's pretty darn heavy, weighing in at about 750gms without batteries inside, which is somewhat contrary to my plan to get a camera to take hiking with us. It's also pretty bulky, having a massive, don't-mess-with-me zoom. But it's the best on the market for what I want.

We took it with us to Sweden where we spent a mere weekend in Stockholm and then proceeded to hike through Swedish Lapland, inside the Arctic Circle, where there was 24-hour daylight.

Mountains, lake and bridge: Everything Swedish Lapland has to offer.

What does round the clock daylight mean for photography? The wrong light, always. Never that slopey-angle orange toned light of dawn or dusk, always that overbright, overhead light that makes playing with the exposure of a photograph complicated.

Also, because we were impatient fools, we forgot to set the camera to store photos on its highest quality setting. Many of our photos (and there are many) were a bit disappointing. Not because we are not brilliant photographers (ha!) but because we used the second highest quality setting. That edge of great images was just ever so slightly lost. Woe, woe, woe.

Just means we have to go back.

My partner is the landscape photographer. I do not seem to have an eye for landscapes. Rather, I am the details photographer. You can always tell who had the camera at what stage because there will be a series of landscapes, some with Oanh in, (my partner has the camera), then a series of close ups of flowers and a shot of my partner looking off in the distance or mucking about with the tent or otherwise keeping himself occupied while I contort myself for the perfect shot of a flower in situ (I have the camera, of course).

Another reason why I am not the landscape photographer is that I have an unerring ability to render my horizons ... slanted. There are any number of series of photos where the horizon or ground gets slowly, inchingly, straighter. Even with the camera set to display lines, I manage to take slant-angled horizon photos. Just a talent.

I am also the director of photography. While my partner holds the camera, I sometimes say, "Make a photo of that!" Or I am trying to take a photo of something but my height prevents me from making the shot that I want, so I hand the camera over to my partner and ask him to take some shots from his height. Occassionally, we have a bargy over who took which photo.

When I was travelling with my sisters in Viet Nam, we each had a digital camera and together, took rather a lot of photos. One photo in particular, The Accountant really liked and proclaimed that she took it. We were on a walk alongside the beach at Vung Tau. In the background numerous Viet flags fly. In the foreground walk my sisters, my mother, my aunts and uncle and cousins, all spaced out in a very aesthetically pleasing fashion. I argued with the Accountant, trying to tell her that I took the photo, but she refused to believe me. She insisted that she took it. Finally, I resort to stabbing at the figures in the photo - "Look! There's the Vegetarian! There's Um! There's Y*! And Vuong**! Where am I? There YOU are! You CAN'T have taken the photo!" She conceded that perhaps she was wrong.

* pronounced ee - means aunt on my mother's side
* pronounced yurng - means uncle who is husband of aunt on my mother's side

My partner and I cannot have such clear proof of who took what photo, although a negative version of this argument occurred over a photo of what I thought to be nothing in particular.

Me: What's this of? It's really weird framing.

My partner: It's of you!

Me: Me? Where? I'm not in this picture.

My partner: [pointing at a blackish shape on the left hand side of the picture, beside some bluish shapes] There you are. It was Alesjaure. You were chillin'.

Me: What? Oh yeah, Oanh like a rock. There I am indeed. So you took this photo? It's one of your crappier photos, man.

Of this photo, my partner and I have the following conversation:-

Me: Oanh has the camera! Nice buttercups. Lovely depth.

My partner: I took this photo.

Me: No!

My partner: Yes, I did.

Me: Oh. Okay, perhaps.

I have to concede that he could be right. He proclaims no proprietory interest in any of the other close-up-of-flower photos. His certainty in respect of this one causes self-doubt.

The following are definitely photos I took:-

My favourite of the myriad wildflowers (fjallblumen, lit. mountain flowers) we saw. I'm naming them 'Bog Cotton Flowers'.

Extreme close up of some very delicate wild mountain flowers.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Joys of Blogging

Subtitle: What's with twinkies?

A few months ago, Wandering Chopsticks suggested a food swap. What a brilliant idea, thought I with full enthusiasm. So I started collecting her goodies for her, and she for me. When she asked what I wanted from the US of A, I was a little bemused. Nothing, really. I have discovered that I am a hideously incurious person. This surprises me, because I think I have a lot of intellectual curiousity. I just don't have any need to see or taste or experience particular things. If they come my way, I will investigate them with all the curiousity and abounding enthusiasm (quite a lot) I have, but if you want to know what I have been dying to try, or see, or experience? I don't know. I'm just not really like that. In addition, I have never been to the US, so I do not know what it has, that I cannot get in the UK or Australia. Oh, except for groovy t-shirts without exorbitant postage costs. But I tangentalise.

This is what the wonderful Wandering Chopsticks sent me, and which arrived shortly before my holiday:-

I have been working my way through the box of goodies. Clockwise from the lychee jellies, we have Fudge Shop Grasshoppers, Brussels Cookies, butterfingers, lemongrass, Nestle Crunch, Twinkies, gunpowder green tea and curry powder so I can make some ca ri ga. Somewhere in there too are some loofah seeds. And what's the blue thing drapped over the Brussels Cookies? Read on, read on...

The first thing I chose to eat was the only thing I asked for: twinkies.

My curiousity about twinkies has two origins. The first (not in time) is from an episode of (I think) The Family Guy, in which an apocalyptic event wipes out the world and the family of The Family Guy live on in a twinkie factory; twinkies obviously being impervious to apocalypse.

The second is my awareness of "twinkie" as a perjorative for people of colour. I was so much more aware of racial issues in US and UK culture that I knew the insult "twinkie" and "coconut", before I knew the insult "banana". And if you're not in the know, the common thing about all the above is that they are white on the inside.

The first time I heard the term, "banana" was when a friend in university, laughingly said to me, "Bet you're such a banana you don't even know what one is." Because I did not know what one was, I could have no feeling except perplexity about her comment. My bemused look was enough for her, still laughing, she explained, "Yellow on the outside, white on the inside. I'm one of your few Asian friends, you know."

I think about these terms every now and then. And you know what? I can't get worked up about it anymore. The terms just make me roll my eyes, either actually or figuratively (depends where I am).

Still, I'd never eaten a twinkie, and I have eaten plenty of bananas and coconuts. And I want to taste the thing impervious to apocalypse. Maybe it will make me impervious, too?

There was another good reason for trying the twinkie first: it was pretty squished on arrival. Clearly, cross-Atlantic travel does not suit a twinkie.

I have this to say about twinkies: ugh. No thank you! Awful airy sponge thing on the outside, terrible tasteless but too sweet "cream" on the inside. I could not finish one. (Sorry, Wandering, for the waste.)

I have also scoffed all the lychee jelly things. I miss them from Australia. My mother used to have loads in her cupboard for the kids (and me) and we'd just randomly pull one out, tear off the foil top and squeeze into our mouths. It's not the sort of thing I have in my own household, but I devour it when I find it in someone else's.

The other things are still waiting to be eaten. I have to eat my sweet things in short bursts.

The curry powder has found its home on my overflowing, disorganised spice shelf, and has already successfully fed my friends, who loved ca ri ga. Thank you, WC for the curry powder and the recipe! I did ask for the curry powder, but it doesn't count as American food (per me).

And the blue things? I had told Wandering Chopsticks that I was off to Sweden. So she knitted another beanie and scarf for "her Iron Boy". My partner and I took her directions and went looking for him in Stockholm's Gamla Stan (old town). We did have some trouble, not because WC's directions were poor, but because, well, all the buildings were the same colour, they all looked like grand churches (except the one that looked like a grand palace) and they all seemed to have courtyards.

But we found him:

Wandering Chopsticks writes about what I sent her ...

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