Sleep Talk

This is a conversation I just had with my sleeping husband.

Him: Thanks for the strawberries.
Me: What strawberries?
Him: You know. All of them.
Me: What?
Him: The strawberries.
Me: Huh? What strawberries?
Him: Boo to cupid. Boo to strawberries. Boo to unibrows.
Me: (LOL) Okay.
Him: It’s not that funny.
Me: It’s pretty funny.
Him: (*resumes snoring*)

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100 More Happy Days

This is a long, rambly post. If you’re just here for the follow info, scrolllllllll to the bottom. 🙂

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In 2014, I completed the 100 Happy Days challenge. It may sound exceptionally cheesy but doing so changed my life. My general outlook on things got a lot brighter. It strengthened a good habit in me where, even when things are completely shitty, I can always acknowledge something good. It made me more appreciative of everything I have.

Like all good habits though, it needs maintenance. Unfortunately, when we learn lessons, it’s not just a one-time thing where we learn it and that’s that. Lessons need to be put into practice in order for them to stick. Usually, we have to remind ourselves of the things we have learned over and over again.

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Lately I’ve been in a bit of a rut. When taking stock of my life, all in all, things are pretty great – but I don’t always feel that. As they always do, my emotional levels roll in and out like the tide. (Or maybe something less predictable. Tide goes in and out according to schedule and you always know what to expect, whereas the change in my moods is erratic and changes course without warning.) When I go through a bout of the lower emotions, I tend to lose sight of all the positive things I’ve got going on.

A few weeks ago, one of those Facebook memory things popped up in my feed of when I started the challenge last time. I almost never share the memories (I find it kind of a redundant, useless feature most of the time) but I did repost that one – with a side remark saying I should do it again because of the impact it had had.

I’ve been toying with the idea since then. It was a great experience but I was hesitant to do it again because it was a lot of work and I wasn’t sure I wanted to participate in another daily challenge so soon after doing the #AYearOfTwilight one I did for Team Fireball. When I take on these challenges, I don’t do them half-assed. That’s not the kind of person I am. When I commit myself to something, I give it everything I have, perhaps to my own detriment at times. Once I start, I’m in it to win it.

I spent this past week talking to a few friends and getting an outside perspective to help me make up my mind. I wasn’t looking for input per se – I can make up my own mind. I just like to talk through things to an audience so that I can organize my reasoning. By talking to other people, I solidified a few ideas:

I will go ahead with the challenge, despite my reservations.

I’m going to start tomorrow, April 1st, because it’s a nice round number and will make date-tracking easier. I also have a big trip coming up that will be a good opportunity to have lots of experiences.

I decided I’m going to further challenge myself – because doing the exact same thing is boring – and use the challenge to better my photography skills. I don’t want to do a challenge just for the sake of doing a challenge. I find the photo-a-day challenges somewhat pointless after awhile. With the Twilight one, it got to a point where I was doing it just because I felt I had to. If someone is participating in one of those and is having fun, that’s one thing – but when it gets to be a burden, it’s useless. (It could be argued that I was working on my photography and photo-editing skills during some of our Twilight year, I guess.) So, I’m going to be more happy AND a better picture taker. 😉

I also want to do more things that have to do with the actual day rather than sometimes just posting generic things that make me happy (more on target with the vision of the original creator).

And~ the main thing I want to keep in mind throughout the challenge is that I’m doing it for myself. I honestly do not care at all if I don’t receive one single ‘like’ or comment on my pictures. I don’t care if people unfollow me or get annoyed with the sudden surge in posts. I’ve heard people say that the only reason for posting anything online is to interact with others, but I disagree and will defend my position whenever questioned. Yeah, it’s nice to communicate with others, especially when it’s regarding something you’re passionate about, but the main reason I post anything on any of the many platforms I use all over the internet is because I hoard memories and actually go back and look at them quite often. You know the expression ‘pic or it didn’t happen’? That could sum up my life. I used to have such a good memory but now nothing sticks at all. If I don’t have a picture or some notes to remind me of something, it’s like it never happened. I don’t know if anyone else does this but I frequently go through my feeds on whatever social media and reminisce over my own shit. I reread my blogs and Facebook posts. I scroll through my pictures on Instagram and Flickr. I watch my own videos on YouTube. I pore over my collections on Pinterest. (There’s a whole blog post about that coming soon!) I even periodically read my old tweets even though I very very rarely use Twitter anymore. So, not only am I posting these pictures daily to cultivate the habit of gratitude and positivity but so that at the end, I have 100 good memories and remember the pride I’ll feel in completing the challenge.

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It’s not to say that I want to do this completely on my own. I will and I have no problem with it but it would be great if other people join in and do the challenge too. It was a wonderful thing for me last time and I think it would be awesome if other people found that it was just as beneficial for them. It’s nice for me to increase my own happiness but all the more better if I can help other people find their own as well.

A few of my friends have said they are up for giving it a go, but I’ve also heard a lot of hesitation from people too. To a certain extent, I can understand that. We are so conditioned in “we must not fail!” that many people think this challenge is too hard. It’s really not though – especially for those who are already posting stuff prolifically anyway. It is so easy to pick up your phone, snap something – anything – that makes you smile, and post it online. It takes seconds. (Other people don’t have to do it the way I do…)

One friend said she’d try to do it but would most likely end up forgetting and drop out after only a few days. Really, I think that’s fine too. Yeah, it’s a challenge to do it for 100 days in a row, but the benefits of actively looking for happiness and learning to create your own happiness when none can be found can be reaped in only a few days. Or even just once. I don’t see this challenge of something you can really “fail” at. If you participate, even for one day, I think you win.

If you’re up for increasing your own happiness, you can join in too. Take a picture of one thing that made you happy and post it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or wherever, using the tag #100HappyDays. If you want to learn more about it, take a look at the official website (register your info at the bottom if you’re participating) or read what I wrote about it back in 2014 and/or see the collection of pictures I posted last time. And watch this video~

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If you only want to see what things make me happy over the next 100 days, I’ll be posting on Instagram for sure and probably Facebook too and maybe even Twitter. And, c’mon, let’s be honest… There will most likely be a bunch of blog posts here highlighting the best (and one big one at the end).

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Bubble Tea

This post is prompted by two things~ On my old Geocities website that I’ve mentioned a thousand times and posted copies from, I had a specific set of pages dedicated to my love of bubble tea. I had pictures (although back then, very shitty quality) and links and random historical fact blurbs I literally copied and pasted from elsewhere. I had instructions on how to make tapioca pearls. I had a list of flavours I had tried. (My original bucket list post stated I wanted to try every single flavour available.) I even had a list of people I had introduced to bubble tea – and whether or not I had made a successful convert.

I always had plans to recreate something similar on my blog. (I’m a completionist. I feel unbalanced that I have some things from my old sites but not everything.) But what led me to finally doing it now was this conversation: (It started with a quiz thing my friend tagged me in and my response to one of the questions.)

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I remember my very first bubble tea experience. It was November 1999. I was living in Winnipeg but flew back to Toronto to attend my high school graduation ceremony (no idea why they held it so late in the year – stupid) and to visit my friends.

My friend Geena, who was well aware of my penchant for instant obsession with anything at all pertaining to Japan, China or Korea, told me about bubble tea. It was a “new thing”. Of course, bubble tea had been around for a long time already, but us small town kids, with very little exposure to much Asian culture, had never heard of it. And 1999 started a boom in bubble tea being sold in café-like settings in our corner of the world. (Up until that point, restaurants didn’t have it on their menus and I think the only place to get it was at Chinese markets – or so I was told by someone later on.)

There was a place Geena wanted to take me to while I was visiting that was popular with her U of T friends. It was located in the space upstairs from Sushi Inn (which I also went to for the first time during that visit and it subsequently became my favourite restaurant – to this day). I have no idea what it was called anymore, but I remember it was dark inside, decorated like a funky lounge and it had these cool tables that had glass tops with bases made of plastic (alternating orange and white) moulded in the shape of …. jacks? or something and they had lights inside them so they glowed.

It also had a sign in the front window. It was a large circle, black, with a geometric representation of a cup of bubble tea in orange. Very iconic. A couple years later when the ownership changed hands and was remodelled and renamed, the only thing that remained was that sign. (Sadly, the time of independent bubble tea places was short lived and after that place too closed down, the space was changed again into a hair salon, which it remains today.) Side note: The cafe was actually used as a filming location for an indie music video – not a clue what the song was or who the artist was, but I recognized the tables and the sign when I saw the video.

I don’t think it was even a question of which flavour I would try first. In high school, Geena used to give me little hard candy balls that were honeydew flavoured from Korea. Yummy. (There were plum ones that we liked too but we both preferred the honeydew.) So she and I both got honeydew and our other two friends got chocolate and strawberry, I believe. (A picture exists somewhere… I’ll try to find it.)

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You can see the sign behind us, and the tables in the pictures below. And check out skinny little me with my SUPER COOL (*gag*) blue plastic pants. Such awesome fashion choices I made…

As she knew I would be, I was instantly hooked. I loved it. I went back to Winnipeg hoping to find something similar. Alas~ I had no idea what a struggle it was going to be to feed my Asian cravings in Winnipeg. Back then, it was very hard to find anything Japanese, Chinese or Korean there. Winnipeg has a huge Filipino community and a lot of Vietnamese restaurants, but not a lot from the other Asian places – that I was aware of at that time. The Vietnamese restaurants turned out to be the only place I could find bubble tea. There were no cafés or tea shops then.

My cousins and I used to go to one restaurant in particular. ViAnn. It’s closed down now, but we went there often. (Hubby and I went on one of our first dates there!) I was delighted when I realized they had bubble tea on their menu. However, it wasn’t like the place I had been to in Toronto. They only had a few flavours and only served “slushy” style. I made do.

My cousins were the first people I introduced to bubble tea. They… were not fans. Granted, in hindsight, the bubble tea we had there was pretty bad. The tapioca was always hard, practically frozen, from the slush. My cousin Teena described them as monkey turds and never tried it again. Goes to show how one bad experience, especially when it’s your first, ruins it forever. My suggestion is that if someone has a bad one, they try another from somewhere else before writing off bubble tea altogether. (Although there are SOME people (*cough* Jodi) who refuse to even try it because it LOOKS or sounds gross to them. *side eyes*)

Fast forward a few months~ Meeting the guy who became my boyfriend and eventually my husband seemed to coincide with Winnipeg finally getting one of those café/lounge type paces. It probably opened a lot earlier than that but it was around then that I discovered it. It was called Sweet Escape and it was in a nondescript plaza on Portage Ave. Actually a terrible location for it. They need to lump these faddish Asian things together. How would anyone have known it was there? I myself only found it by accident. I was taking a different bus route than usual, or else I wouldn’t have been in that area at all.

This tangent leads to my next converts. Hubby himself, although Chinese and grew up with a ton of exposure to markets and such, had never had or I believe even heard of bubble tea either. On one of our “dates” during our frenzied two weeks together before we were an official long-distance couple, we stopped in at Sweet Escape.

It was like the typical tea shop set up you see now in the front section – a counter where you order with all the menus behind it, and a few tables to sit at. Nice and bright with street facing windows. (If memory serves, it was painted all white and had vinyl chairs and brightly coloured “Ikea art” on the walls.) But then they had a back area behind a curtain. Walking back there seemed so seedy! Once beyond the curtain though, it was like a night club, albeit an empty one. There was no one else there when we went. It was dark and very sparse (had potential but fairly pathetic) and they played techno music. I of course got honeydew, unfortunately in the slushy style that was the only thing available in Winnipeg back then, although it was much better than from ViAnn.

Hubby got raspberry – his favourite fruit at the time. I was thrilled because he loved it. His was actually made with real raspberries. He let me have a taste and I remember it was very sweet, tasted like raspberry jam, and had seeds in it. To this day, he reminisces about how good his first experience with bubble tea was and how he’s never come across a raspberry one as good since. Like a first hit of cocaine or something. My first successful convert.

After he went back home, I took my friend Courtney there too. She also got honeydew on my recommendation – and liked it so much I think even now, she’s only ever had the one flavour. (I didn’t learn to branch out myself until after I left Winnipeg, which wasn’t long after this point.) Second successful convert.

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This picture was a few years later when she came to visit me in Mississauga and I took her to the first place I had bubble tea. Notice the sign is still in the window but the decor changed.

I moved back to the Toronto area in the summer of 2001. I had subsisted on the subpar long enough and had bubble tea as often as I could when I first got back. It still wasn’t that often because I was living in Mississauga and you had to drive quite a ways to get it then. Other than that place I had first had bubble tea, I went once to a place which seems in the middle of nowhere now, again with Geena, her boyfriend at the time, my boyfriend (now Hubby), and our other friend from high school, Tara. I think that was Tara’s first time. She was confuddled by the “hunks and chunks”. That place was called Bubble Tea and Me and it was somewhere in Thornhill. It was nice-ish but so far out of my way that we never went back. (I just looked it up. It still exists and looks identical to when we were there. Crazy.)

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There was also a place out at the AMC theatre complex – again, in the middle of nowhere – called Vica that was actually an Asian-style crepes restaurant that also specialized in bubble tea. (Hubby and I are kicking ourselves now for not partaking in the crepes as much as the bubble tea, because we were as of yet unfamiliar with Japanese crepes. *drool*) We went there a few times, but they closed down too. Such a shame. It was a very large space, painted in an inviting, comfy yellow with cartoony things on the walls, and it smelled so good in there.

Then, *cue heaven/angel choir noise*, a bubble tea lounge opened up not too far from where we lived. It was called Bubble Q. It was located in a plaza on Eglinton at Mavis. It was cool inside. Painted black, purple, blue, and dark fuchsia. The furniture was vinyl. Either booths or tables in a raised platform area at the front. Hubby and I went there in their opening week. I was so happy to find a place close to us AND that it was good, that I somewhat accidentally tipped them almost 100% on our bill. (Hubby still brings that up from time to time to illustrate how I’m not good with math or money.)

We ended up taking his sister and her then-husband there with us and introduced them to the wonderful realm of bubble tea too. She had strawberry (the kind that looks like Pepto and tastes like Quik) and he had taro.  2 more converts.

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I have no idea what flavour it was the Hubby got, but this was the one time I got wheatgerm to “try something new”. I regretted it and ended up getting honeydew as well and leaving the other to waste (which is why there are 5 drinks and 4 people).

It was actually them that found a Chinese convenience store closer to their house that made bubble tea and actually sold frozen tapioca pearls you could cook yourself – hence the need for instructions on my original page. (They just came in a clear plastic package with no instructions or labelling at all. I had to old-school Google (before Google existed) how to make them and kept the instructions for future use. Hubby ended up buying them quite a few times but we preferred to get our bubble tea from elsewhere.

I’m going to interrupt my boring, rambly outlining of the progression of bubble tea availability to say something about style. I mentioned that Winnipeg ONLY had slushy style available, which would lead you to assume Toronto had options. Back then, in what I refer to as the first wave of bubble tea shops, menus were fairly standard. You could get green or black tea base, milky or not, or slushy or not. The range of flavours was extensive, but ranged in variety depending on the shop. Until about 2002ish, chains didn’t seem to exist here yet. Everything was independent. That is when Tea Shop 168 locations started popping up and taking over existing independent shops – including Bubble Q. I was sad to see that one go. I had liked the feel of it. 168 was a totally different look.

They opened up a ton of locations all around downtown Toronto but that was the only one in Mississauga. They all basically looked the same. They had a concept. Everything was painted white, with cut out, rounded off geometric shapes in the walls, painted light green or blue inside. The furniture was all white (tables and chairs) and there was white vinyl banquette seating along the walls. It was cool for a few minutes, but I’m sure as you can guess, started to show their age almost immediately. And whoever the franchise owners were would junk up the spaces with “Christmas decorations” that ended up staying out all the time. They were all rundown looking pretty quickly but still had a certain charm to them and were a reliable place to go for bubble tea (as long as they remained open – the Mississauga location was only there for about a year, I think) for almost 15 years.

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I stole this picture from Google. Thankfully someone else had the foresight to take a picture, because I never did.

As I said, there was a boom for bubble tea shops in the early turn of the century. 168 took over and expanded very quickly but after only a few years, started closing up so that bubble tea was a bit harder to find again but not as difficult as it was before they came. I think 168 opened the door to making bubble tea mainstream.

The locations I went to most were Yonge & College and Yonge & south of Bloor, and occasionally Queen near Much Music. They were also the first chain to have locations inside Pacific Mall, which as I’ll get to later, exploded into a whole crazy thing in and of itself.

During this era, there were still no bubble tea places in malls or spots that didn’t somehow already cater to the Asian demographic. That was coming though…

Segueing back into the timeline, bubble tea was once again seemingly missing from Mississauga. Then we discovered a place in a Chinese-dominated complex at Creditview & Burnhamthorpe called Bubble Republic. This was the original Taiwanese style bubble tea. (I’ll write about bubble tea origins another time.) So they had the regular tea, milk tea, slushy AND milkshake, as well as some other signature drinks referred to as Yakult (which I later realized is a Japanese yogurt-y drink that they used in the base – ie. before the fruit flavour) and “smash oatmeal” (which even now, I’m still unsure what it is). They, by far, have the most extensive menu I’ve seen. And they also serve Taiwanese snack food. It wasn’t long before they opened up a second location at Hurontario & Eglinton. I am very pleased to report both of these locations are still as popular as ever. I was at the second location just last night and it took forever for us to get a table and then to get our orders. (Note: They opened up a third location about a year ago in downtown Toronto that I wasn’t aware of when I wrote this. I’ve been there twice since and it’s good.)

I have to digress again for a moment because I forgot about food until I just wrote that… Before 168, bubble tea places basically only served drinks. Yeah, you could get bubble tea at some restaurants with your food, but I think I alluded to the fact that THAT isn’t real bubble tea.

It was Geena again who introduced me to snacks at bubble tea places. (The reason she knew of these things way before I did was probably because she lived downtown and went to bubble tea way more often than I did (then 😜) rather than because she’s Asian and I’m not. Probably.) The novel snack on the menu was another thing that would be very familiar to Asian kids but unheard of to a white girl like me.

Toast.

But wait, before you laugh, it’s a very specific kind of toast. Of course I grew up eating toast for breakfast but it was never really a snack you’d go out of your way for because it was boring and not very appetizing. But for some reason, BRICK toast is much more appealing and it wasn’t just butter or jam or peanut butter they put on it. No, the real treat is condensed milk. I had never heard such a thing. I didn’t even know people ate it as a spread. I thought it was just an ingredient in things like cheesecake. But this was not something new to Hubby. He grew up with it. His dad used to make it for him before bed (and ended up doing the same for me when we visit, along with a nice cup of tea. 😍)

So the secret which makes it different is the thickness of the toast (at least 3 regular slices thick), slathered with condensed milk and then broiled. That gives it the nice golden bubbly texture on top. I love how it’s gooey and sticks to your teeth! Mmmm.

Unfortunately, even though they still make it at Bubble Republic, and yes, I had some last night, it’s not the same as it used to be. They don’t take their time with it and they scrimp on the milk. Anyway~ That’s the only flavour I ever got. Why would I get jam or butter it anything else? Boring. It was just a nice addition to the going out for bubble tea experience.

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Back to the evolution of bubble tea spots… So 168 was the place to go downtown and Bubble Republic reigned in Mississauga. Then Bubble Tease opened up in the malls. This was probably around 2005/6ish. Bubble Tease was never my favourite. I can’t explain it but I think it was a watered-down, white-ified, user-friendly version made to draw in non-Asians. And it did. It was very successful. Bubble tea had another mini boom. And I still went there because it was right down the hall from the store I worked at in Square One Shopping Centre. It filled a void, but I still preferred the real stuff. (To compare, my beloved honeydew tasted all wrong. I don’t even think it was made with tea! It just tasted like melon milk.)

They had the basic menu of drinks – green/black tea, milk tea, slushies and your choice of tapioca or jelly. (*sigh* I’m not going to go back and edit now but I forgot to mention the jelly option. I first saw it at Vica. Most independent places only had tapioca so, other than the rare place like Vica, 168 was the first to have it on their menu as a mainstay. Bubble Republic, of course having more options than anywhere else also had aloe but I think that was it for “toppings” until later…)  They had also originally tried to launch “bubble cakes” (egg cakes) but never had the batter made or irons turned on so they never took off. Pity. I love those.

So Bubble Tease, even though it was mediocre in quality, opened another new door for true mainstream bubble tea, starting franchises in malls. Eventually, Bubble Tease became a last resort for Hubby and I because the franchises were all being taken over by non-Chinese/Taiwanese people and sadly, the quality suffered even more. When they first opened in Square One, is wasn’t too bad. “Fake”, like I said, but drinkable. That location eventually closed but there is still one in the ‘big mall’ in my city and it’s complete crap. Their menu has none of the customizations that it did before and the typical flavours are conspicuously absent. Outside of downtown, Bubble Tease is unrecognizable as bubble tea. (They’ve had a resurgence down there lately and some newer locations are good …and Asian run. 😏)

(That sounds totally racist… Um, stereotyping for sure, at least. *shrug* Don’t know what to tell you. I think Asians make bubble tea better than anyone else… Whatever. I’m a terrible person.)

But, by this time, a bunch more chains opened up in malls and other places. Ten Ren and Real Fruit come to mind first. Two very different places. This denotes a time when bubble tea split into separate styles. Ten Ren is straight up from Taiwan. It’s good quality bubble tea, a good variety of flavours, and an easy to navigate menu and ordering system. Real Fruit was a new style. I’m not sure where it originated but it seems more geared to North American tastes, or at least plays off what we are familiar with. It’s a gateway drink. Real Fruit basically sells smoothies with tapioca in it. Not quite real bubble tea in my mind but I can’t hate on it. They are still good drinks and make it easier to introduce people who are apprehensive about trying bubble tea for the first time.

I guess now is the most logical spot to get back to Pacific Mall. I should really write something up about the wonder that is that shopping centre at some point, because it’s truly awesome and I love it and have many great memories from there, but I’ll keep it simple here and just say it’s a Chinese-style mall with hundreds of tiny shops all falling into a few categories – clothes, home goods, hair/nails/cosmetics, stuffies, accessories for phone, cars, whatever, bootleg media, snacks, and bubble tea. Before, back when I brought it up earlier, there were a handful of independent places and 168. Then Real Fruit and Ten Ren came in. That was it for a few years. I was there recently though, and it’s like bubble tea culture moved in and threw up everywhere.

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For many years, bubble tea culture was at a standstill. Places like 168 were closing locations all over and the few independents that sprang up didn’t last long. But other chains, like Ten Ren were expanding. Maybe they learned their lesson from 168 and were much more modest about it, therefore lasting longer. Bubble tea was still present but it blended in and no one was really talking about it much. Places like Bubble Republic were still packed on weekend evenings with the Asian kids but places like Bubble Tease and Real Fruit – coincidentally the ONLY TWO bubble tea locations in my whole city that I moved to after we left Mississauga 10 years ago, both in the mall (BT is shit and RF is a last resort because there is nothing else here) – had a slow trickle of customers.

And then!! 🎉🎉🎉 Bubble tea hit the second wave. Naturally, being Canada, things happen here after they happen in the States. I experienced “new bubble tea” in San Francisco with Hubby’s cousins about a year before it caught on here. Obviously with the large Asian population on the American west coast and their actual physical proximity to Asia, there were a ton of pre-existing shops there but one of the ones they took us to had a menu unlike any I’d seen before. Instead of the 3-4 basic styles with a multitude of flavours, there were way less flavours but many more customizations and toppings. At a Gong Cha location in Berkley, I got a plain green tea flavour but with a ‘milk foam cap’ from their “mustache series” menu. I also had to specify how much ice and sugar I wanted. Brilliant! Hubby’s cousin explained to me a lot of places were like that now and really popular in Hong Kong. (They go there a lot.)

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Side note: When I was in Hong Kong, I was looking for a bubble tea spot. It wasn’t until near the end of my time there that I found two close to my place, only one of which I actually had time to try out. I found out much later after I left from my school friend Justine who went on the same program the year after me that there was a Gong Cha located in the shopping mall attached to the station I went through every day but just never saw it. 😭

So maybe about two/two and a half years ago, a Gong Cha opened up near Pacific Mall. Not IN it. We hardly ever go there because it’s so far but it gave me hope of more similar chains opening soon.

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I was in luck. We all were! Bubble tea has gone through a revival in Toronto. There are now many more new style chains around than the older ones. And it’s much more popular with non-Asian people than it was before. I think there are maybe 2 or 3 more Gong Cha locations but they are still further out. The most popular are CoCo and Chatime. There is also Sharetea (the chain I did get to try out in Hong Kong) and another one whose name escapes me right now, but I know the signage is turquoise and white… Also PresoTea has opened up in malls which seems to be a hybrid of old and new style. (Note: Gong Cha has a downtown location now too that opened recently, just down the street from CoCo, but the ‘turquoise and white’ place is now closed.)

Chatime‘s menu is extensive. They have plain and milk styles and quite a few flavours. They also have the ice and sugar qualifiers (regular ice/less ice/no ice and 100/70/30/0% sugar) and a choice of toppings (tapioca, jelly, pudding, grass jelly, etc.)  CoCo and Gong Cha are different. Their drink menu is pre-set. For instance, only certain ones come with sago (mini, clear balls rather than the large brown tapioca) and certain ones with the milk foam, etc. There are hardly any fruit flavours. They also have red bean as a topping (goes best with matcha smoothie, I guess.)

It makes it SO MUCH EASIER to get bubble tea now. But sadly, my city still only has the two places, one of which we NEVER go to (BT) and the other which has very limited options for non-smoothies (RF) and still isn’t even that close. Our better option is just to drive into Mississauga these days, which we did last night. There are no Chatimes in Mississauga yet that I know of but there is a CoCo directly across the street from Bubble Republic on Hurontario. I couldn’t actually decide between old and new style yesterday… so we got both. Went to BR and got my honeydew milk green tea with condensed milk toast for a taste if nostalgia and then immediately to CC where I got what they call “2 Ladies” which is milk black tea (plain, no fruit flavour) with both tapioca and pudding (with ‘no ice’ and ‘regular sugar’). Best of both worlds.

I’m so glad Hubby loved his bubble tea the first time he tried it. His love for bubble tea rivals mine now. I don’t think he would have ever been up for back-to-back teas otherwise.

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Update: There is now a Chatime in Square One in Mississauga, which is much more convenient. AND, there is now a place to get bubble tea only 5 MINUTES FROM MY HOUSE! It’s a coffee/bubble tea shop called Bean & Pearl and ~yay~ it’s pretty good. 

To go back to that conversation with my friends I shared at the beginning of this insanely long journey, no, I don’t drink bubble tea even half as much as I drink regular cold and hot tea at home but I definitely do drink it fairly often and without a doubt, WAY more than most people who drink it at all.

(I actually had to put myself on a bubble tea ban for awhile because my bubble tea consumption increased dramatically. Not long after writing this, Hubby and I went on vacation and had bubble tea every day. I gained even more weight and that is not good!)

I said earlier that, once upon a time, it was my goal to try every single available flavour of bubble tea. I’ve actually had a ton, but not all because some are gross and why would I do that to myself? Although, I have had some pretty gross ones, like wheatgerm (see picture closer to the top of this post), sesame and Taiwanese plum. Some, like passion fruit, I just don’t care to try because l know it would be a waste. I don’t like those fruits.

I have about 5-8 regular flavours I rotate depending on my mood. These are my favourites: (certain flavours only from certain places)
honeydew milk green tea, obviously
lychee green tea, slushy or not
peach green tea with lychee jelly
peach milk green tea
hibiscus green tea (Ten Ren only)
mint milk green tea
honey milk black tea
almond milk tea
caramel pudding milk black tea
honey green tea
matcha milk tea
hot jasmine milk tea
champagne milk tea (Bubble Republic exclusive flavour – I get it with mini tapioca)

I rarely ever get tapioca anymore. It’s not that I don’t like it but that it’s too filling. I only want about 10 balls before I’m over it.

‘new style’ favourites:
green tea with sago
green tea with milk foam
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Once, I had a non-milk honeydew at an independent place downtown and it was sooooo good but I never saw it again and the place closed down. I’ve had real fruit honeydew but it’s so not the same thing.

I’m also happy to say that I’m still a strong bubble tea ambassador and occasionally still make a successful convert.

I have so much more to say about bubble tea, but I’m going to leave it here for now because a) I just wrote for like 4 hours about one topic and I have lost interest in writing and b) poor you! This is way too long and rambly and, frankly, pointless.

Thanks for your attention. (You should probably discuss your masochistic tendencies with a therapist.)

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on my 21st birthday, enjoying a honeydew bubble tea from ViAnn – BUBBLE TEA FOR LIFE, YO! (Again, with the dubious fashion choices and horrible hair. SMH.)

Where I get bubble tea in the GTA (in order of preference):
Gong Cha
Coco
Chatime
Bubble Republic
Ten Ren
Sharetea
Tea Shop 168
Real Fruit
Presotea
Bubble Tease
Bean & Pearl
Kung Fu Tea
Icha Tea

Other downtown shops I have yet to check out (but I’ll get there!):
Green Grotto
Boba
One Zo Tapioca
LaTea Era
The Alley
Royaltea
Happy Lemon

So much bubble tea! It makes me happy. 😀

Posted in personal | Tagged | 6 Comments

Geisha

I don’t remember when or from where I first heard of geisha but I know that I became obsessed with learning everything I could about them fairly early on in my love of all things Japanese. I’m not sure how much I knew before Memoirs of a Geisha was published, but I do know that information availability exploded after the book’s release. Instead of falling in love with geisha because of the novel, it’s popularity simply made it a lot easier for me to find information about them.

I guess you could say, for a long time, geisha became my “special interest” area. I won’t say I’m an expert, because there is a ton of information I don’t know (or have forgotten) but I definitely know a lot more than the average person.

My old Geocities website had a page about what I knew at the time about geisha but that has been lost over the years. In college, I took a Japanese culture class as an elective (2012). Easiest class I ever took since about 85% of the material was a refresher of information I already knew. Coincidentally, the teacher of that class and I met again this past year when I joined a Japanese language learning club with some girls I worked with at my current job. (Sensei is also a tea master and I’m hoping to convince her to teach me at some point. 🙂 )

Anyway~ for that class, everybody had to pick a topic to independently research and present as our final project. Two of my friends were in the class with me. Chris picked Noh theatre and Abbygail chose street fashion (both on my recommendation). I, of course, presented my research on geisha. In my opinion, my PowerPoint was beautiful. Haha. I’m biased of course but I think it was the best in the class. (Humble too, ね? 😉 ) I thought, since I lost my old web page but am still as interested in geisha as ever, and I am continually adding in old journal entries and school work to my blog, I’d share that project here too. Why not?

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A geisha is woman who has been highly trained in the art of conversation and hospitality and a purveyor of tradition Japanese culture and arts. She embodies the idea of female perfection – this sums up what a geisha is and what she is not. She attends to a man’s every whim… almost. Within this illusion of perfection comes an air of being unattainable. Geisha seem to exist within another realm. They actually have a name for this – known as the flower and willow world.

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Geisha are not prostitutes. Relationships of course do happen but it is frowned upon for a geisha to become involved with her clients or to have a boyfriend as this takes away time from her clients.

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A real geisha dedicates all of her time to perfecting her craft and upholds the traditions. An imitation would try to cut corners and look for shortcuts. Geisha hold themselves to a strict code of confidentiality. Anyone who repeats what they have been told in confidence cannot consider herself a true geisha.

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facing east along Gion Shirakawa stream

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Today, there are only around 1000 working geisha. There are a few spread out across japan but the majority are mainly in Tokyo and Kyoto. When one thinks of geisha, they think of Kyoto. In Kyoto, geisha are called geiko and the trainees or those who are apprenticing and have not yet become full-fledged geiko are called maiko. Maiko are exclusive to Kyoto.

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There are four geisha districts (called hanamachi or ‘flower town’) in Kyoto: Gion – separated into 2: Gion Koubu (the most famous – where Memoirs of a Geisha takes place) and Gion Higashi, Miyagawacho, Pontocho, and Kamishichiken.  This is where the geisha live, take their lessons and shop, as well as where they entertain their guests.

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Geisha parties (called ozashiki), where a few geisha will entertain a group of men, are held at tea houses (ochaya) or traditional Japanese inns (ryokan). This is the main way geisha entertain their clients but they may also accompany men to events such as sumo tournaments, cherry blossom viewing parties (hanami), or large scale banquets.

Men who hire geisha usually do as a business tactic to impress potential partners. It is considered a highly sophisticated way to spend an evening. Within the walls of a geisha gathering, the men can feel free to discuss their business but also simply spend time strengthening a bond between business associates by drinking and having fun. Alcohol flows freely at these parties and the geisha are known for their discretion.

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Girls from all over Japan who have a desire to become geisha will move to Kyoto to undergo their training. They usually begin around the age of fifteen. It takes roughly five or six years to complete their training.

In order to begin training as a geisha, a girl must find a geisha house (okiya) willing to take her in and be responsible for her training and expenses until she is fully trained and able to make money.

It is very expensive to train and style a geisha. It can be around $500 thousand. They take lessons all day long, such as tea ceremony, shamisen, singing, dancing, flute, and drums. They wear kimono which cost several thousand dollars. One geisha will need around 30 kimono throughout the year – different colours for various seasons, black for new year and formal occasions.  They get their hair done by experts.

During their maiko training, all the money they earn is turned over to their okiya. The okasan (‘mama’ – person who runs the house) gives the maiko an allowance.

Each maiko is paired with an older, more experienced geiko who she will call onesan (elder sister). This bond lasts a lifetime, even if the maiko does not complete her training. It is the responsibility of the onesan to guide her younger sister and teach her the tricks of the trade. If a maiko makes a mistake, it reflects poorly on her onesan.

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The young women who choose to become geisha are generally those who are interested in traditional arts such as dance. It can be a difficult profession. The dedication needed is often likened to that of a prima ballerina.

A geisha’s greatest asset is to be skilled at conversation. They not only have their classes in the arts but also study up on current events, politics, literature – anything that the men might want to talk about. They need to be well-versed in a variety of topics. It is part of a geisha’s job – perhaps the biggest part – to cater to their clients, pamper their egos, and anticipate their needs. If a girl is having a bad day – if she’s tired, hungover, feeling ill – she must never let that show. She smiles at her customer and engages him in conversation. The idea is that the men lead very stressful lives and spending time with geisha is a chance for them to relax.

When fully trained, a geisha will have mastered this skill as well as many traditional arts. All geisha are trained in the same instruments, dance, and singing but generally choose to specialize in one area such as playing the shamisen. Geisha also become masters at tea ceremony. Even the way they speak and walk has been transformed.

Since the girls who want to become geisha come from all over Japan and generally end up in Kyoto, they must learn the Kyoto dialect and specific terminology and phrases used by the geiko there.  Walking in a kimono is also very different than walking in western clothes. The legs are tightly bound and the way the legs move has to change. Even the way they sleep changes. During her years as a maiko, a girl gets her hair done about once a week in an elaborate hair style. In order to keep it looking perfect between appointments, she sleeps on a special pillow called a takamakura which is essentially a padded wooden block. It keeps her hair from being flattened or crushed.

On top of lessons and entertaining clients, geisha also give performances, musical or dance, at the twice yearly festival performances and at various events throughout the year.

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The first geisha were men. In a time where the shogun took all the prostitutes and confined them in a certain area known as the pleasure quarters, men who called themselves geisha would attend the courtesan’s parties to provide entertainment by playing instruments, dancing, singing, and telling jokes – sort of like a court jester. When one courtesan’s clientèle was dwindling, she decided she would market herself as a geisha. Soon female geisha outnumbered the men and started stealing the courtesans’ customers.

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In 1779, the geisha profession was recognized and a registry office (kenban) was established. Right from the beginning, the kenban monitored the geisha’s behaviour so that they were not in competition with the courtesans. They restricted what they could wear, and how and when they entertained party goers. Once registered as a geisha, they were strictly not allowed to dabble in prostitution.

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It has always been in people’s minds that geisha and prostitutes were synonymous. In fact, they have always been distinct. A prostitute’s business was sex. A geisha’s business was entertainment and hospitality. The similarity is that neither could choose who they were spending their time with and that they were paid by the hour to spend time with men.

To the untrained eye, they iconic courtesans do look very similar to geisha but there are many subtle differences in their appearance. The most obvious is the tying of the obi. Geisha and maiko always tie their obi in the back. Courtesans had their obi tied in the front because they were constantly needing to take them on and off. (A dresser is needed to tie an obi in the back and that wasn’t convenient for the courtesans).

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Another situation that added to the idea of geisha as prostitutes happened after the ending of WW2. Many American soldiers came to Japan. The general public was poor, hungry, and desperate. Many women would sleep with the service men for food. They told the men they were geisha but they were only common girls. When the soldiers returned home, they told stories of “geesha girls” which perpetuated the false ideas and spread them to the west.

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In the 1920’s jazz era, many bars and cafés opened and hired female bar hostesses to attend to their male customers. The hostesses offered companionship at a cheap price and in a modern setting. They were extremely popular and for the first time, the geisha profession was threatened. Instead of adapting their style of entertainment, the geisha became even more defined as the purveyors of traditional arts and refined conversation. Tradition won out and the jazz boom died out. (It’s interesting to me to note that if you look at a picture of a maiko from 100 years ago and one from now, they look almost exactly the same.)

In the 1930’s the geisha numbers swelled to over 80,000. It was their golden age. The demand for geisha was so high that poor families would sell their young girls to okiya. (It seems cruel but it was better than selling them to brothels which is what happened to those girls who didn’t seem to have potential.) In this way, the okasan literally owned her girls.

These days, it is the okasan’s best interest to treat the girls in her okiya well. There is nothing to stop them from quitting. This doesn’t give the okasan a chance to recoup her investments. It takes the apprentice years to pay off this debt.

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Geisha wear kimono and have traditional hairstyles. The iconic image of the painted white face is of the maiko. Full-fledged geiko generally only paint their faces for special occasions.

Maiko have their hair done usually once a week in various styles depending on their stage of training. Geiko no longer have their own hair done but wear wigs. A maiko will wear a vibrantly coloured kimono with long sleeves (furisode) and a long dangling obi.  Geiko wear more subdued colours and have a short obi.

Although geisha do not deal in sex, they do use erotic symbolism in their makeup and attire. The kimono are worn lower in the back and expose a patch of neck. The white makeup is left bare in a pronged pattern (2 points for regular wear, 3 for special ceremonies). It hints at what is underneath the mask. The red lips and patches of red in the maiko’s hair and around the collar of her kimono are also symbolic.

To begin her training, a maiko’s upper lip is barely painted. This leaves her looking child-like. It is a symbol of her status. She is not yet a woman. You can tell how far along a maiko is in her training by how full her upper lip is.

As a maiko progresses, her collar becomes more and more white. The actual process of changing from a maiko to a geiko is known as ‘turning the collar’. Geiko wear completely white collars.

Maiko wear very high wooded sandals called okobo. Geiko wear regular lacquered zori.

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maiko standing on the bridge of Gion Shirakawa (facing west) – FYI, this exact spot is the same as in my blog header. It’s my favourite place in Kyoto.

geisha21geisha22geisha23Shikomi – Prior to becoming an apprentice geisha, a young woman helps the maiko and geisha in her okiya and does chores around the house to earn her keep.

Misedashi: Around the age of 15, a shikomi finds a mentor and undergoes the misedashi ceremony. This ceremony binds them together as sisters, and the new maiko begins her training to become a geisha. She now has a new name that is derived from the name of her mentor.

Maiko: As an apprentice geisha, a maiko spends about five years learning the arts of music, dance and hostessing. She attends parties to observe and be seen.

Erikae: The erikae (“turning of the collar”) ceremony marks the transition from maiko to geisha.

Geisha: Throughout her career, a geisha lives in the district in which she works. She spends her time entertaining, studying arts and performing. If she binds herself to a danna (patron), she may move out of the okiya and into her own apartment.

Hiki-iwai: The hiki-iwai ceremony marks a geisha’s retirement. She no longer entertains at parties, and she may discontinue her studies. At this point, a former geisha might become the head of an okiya or teahouse, or she may leave the geisha life entirely.

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Ware-shinobu: The first hair style, this is designed to be complex and emphasize the prettiness of the maiko.

Ofuku: The ‘split peach’ style worn after mizuage or a level of maturity is attained. The splash of red (no longer red and white) is meant to be suggestive and the types of hair decorations must change to match the hair style.

Yakko-shimada: A formal hairstyle worn for dance recitals, this used to be a common hair style for married women.

Katsuyama: A special hair style worn for the dance recital season (during hanami).

Sakko: The hair style worn for the final two month’s of a maiko‘s apprenticeship. Her hair ornaments must now be more subtle, though still more daring than those of the geisha.

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People often worry that the geisha profession will die out. Most of the customers these days are older men. The younger generation doesn’t seem to be interested in the tradition. They don’t understand the songs and dances. It is also very expensive to spend an evening with geisha. Many young people prefer to go to karaoke or night clubs.

On the other hand, geisha have been around for centuries and are considered living works of art. They have survived wars and extinction from other passing fads yet always seem to remain.

There is a fine line between holding too rigidly to their traditions and “selling out”. Geisha need to remain what they are at the core but perhaps there are some modifications that can be made to ensure their survival. For instance, many okiya have websites where people from far away can inquire about hiring geisha. They also make foreign appearances to spark interest from non-Japanese people. Whatever they can do to bring in more customers while still retaining what makes them geisha is probably the wisest choice at this point.

The future is unclear but in a nation known for resilience and adaptation, there is a hope that such a strong tradition will remain.

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If you are interested in geisha, there are a few people I recommend either reading their books or watching them in documentaries. Probably the most well-known are Liza Dalby, who was actually the first westerner to become a geisha which she did for her anthropology dissertation and has written several books, or Lesley Downer – also an author and expert on geisha. The famous novel Memoirs of a Geisha was written by Arthur Golden who spent 10 years researching the profession and based it loosely on the life of Mineko Iwasaki.

I’ve read all of these:
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki
Geisha by Liza Dalby
Kimono by Liza Dalby
Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World by Lesley Downer
Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda
A Geisha’s Journey: My Life as a Kyoto Apprentice by Komomo
Geisha by Kyoko Aihara
Geisha: The Life, the Voices, the Art by Jodi Cobb

I also recommend these documentaries:
The Secret Life of Geisha
Real Geisha, Real Women
Geisha Girl
A Tale of Love and Honor: Life in Gion
Hidden Love: Geisha
Beautiful Kyoto: Being a Maiko
Core Kyoto – Geisha episode
Begin Japanology – Geisha episode
Japanology Plus – Geisha episode
Only in Japan – Geisha vs. Oiran episode
Geisha: Flowers of Japan (no words but very pretty)
Japan’s Geisha Erasure
The Incredible Truth About Japan’s Geisha

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Were you paying attention? 😉

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The End

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Bibliography:
http://people.howstuffworks.com/geisha.htm
http://www.kyotoguide.com/ver2/thismonth/Hanamachi.html
http://www.immortalgeisha.com/hairstyles_maiko.php
http://www.whatever.net.au/~amaya/geisha/stages.htm

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The Future

Sometimes, I have a really hard time falling asleep ~ so I tend to play word games in my head until my brain slows down or to keep it from spiralling out of control. Sometimes, instead of games, I’ll “write” stories – complex plot lines and character sketches. Or sometimes, I’ll just pick one fantastical idea and follow it, coming up with as much detail as my imagination will allow, until I fall asleep. I’d say about half the time, this focused kind of thinking backfires on me and I get too wrapped up in it and end up staying awake many more hours than I would have otherwise.

The past few days, I keep going back to one idea rather than make up stories or play games. I am always intrigued by futuristic stories (books, TV shows, and movies in particular) and it’s interesting to compare them to each other and cool to see what “predictions” have come true (if the time period of the story has already past – like Back to the Future). I was thinking about all the technical marvels that have been invented in the last 150 years. If you think about it, almost everything we take for granted now didn’t exist then. Even all the marvels that have come about within my lifetime. So, it’s made me think…

What will life be like 150 years from now? What things will be commonplace in the lives of the people at that time that I can’t even begin to fathom now?

If you built a time machine and went back to 1867 and brought a person from then back with you to introduce them to now… what would they think? Could they even handle it or would they have some sort of mental breakdown. I can’t imagine that someone from that time would ever feel comfortable in today’s fast paced, technological society. Yikes. Cars, telephones, computers, the internet. Electricity. Refrigeration. Indoor plumbing. OMG. Medical breakthroughs. The list is endless.

So, with that knowledge in mind, would I personally be able to handle 2167? It seems to make sense that the pace of progress will at least continue, if not increase. It’s ludicrous to think we’ve gone to the limits of human ingenuity and have only tweaking to do. I highly doubt the rate of progress will slow.

Back to where I started~ I’ve been thinking about what the future might be like. If I were the one writing the story taking place in 150 years, what cool things would I envision?

Maybe I should mention what triggered this idea… I watched the movie Passengers the other night. I’m not even sure what year it’s supposed to be. There were obviously a few big things (space travel, human hibernation stasis whatever, etc.) but, in general, most things were just refined versions of what’s going on now. Then I got to thinking about other movies from various future times and what I thought was plausible and what was ridiculous. (The Fifth Element, Minority Report, Star Trek, etc.) Then, I started imagining what things would evolve and how daily life would be. Gotta say, I TRIED to come up with something completely new but I guess my imagination isn’t strong enough.

Here are some of the ideas I had:

I think that the two main factors for change in the next century or so will based on the environmental damage humans have done and continuing the trends of making daily lifestyles more convenient. It’s great that we’re finally realizing how badly we have hurt the environment but even though some changes are being made to stop it or fix it, the far-reaching effects haven’t yet even been seen. I think it will get much much worse before it gets better. And I think that people will continue to flock to cities as they have been for the past century or more and urban areas will get more and more crowded.

The first thing I thought about is how and what we eat. There is the trend to eat more naturally but I also foresee that type of diet being too expensive for the majority and, because of environmental effects, that becoming harder and harder. There is also the increase of dietary restrictions limiting the things people can eat, like the rise of nut allergies or gluten intolerances, etc. I see the advances in engineered food really taking off. I imagine that we will have some sort of naturally based, cheap to produce, something or other that can be manipulated somehow to taste like anything. I could see a nutritious, bland, grain like substance that can be molded into various textures and customizable to individual preferences. I always wondered what was actually coming out of the food replicators in Star Trek. This is my answer to that. You can pretty much eat anything you want, but it won’t be “bad” for you.  I think only rich people will continue to eat real meat and organic food.

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The second thing I thought about was transportation. Due to environmental issues and climate problems, I don’t think cities will rise up as much as future imaginers have, but going down underground instead. And instead of “flying cars” which seems to be such a popular idea, I would like to see cars abolished altogether. I think that subway systems will be the main way of transportation in cities. If you’ve ever experienced the underground systems in Asia, that would just be a precursor to what I envision. I think that they would need to have many, many more lines, longer operating hours, etc. Basically, replace existing roads with underground tunnels. My main idea was that instead of a single train going from point A to point B, it would be one continuous train in a loop. And they could be concentric for local, rapid, and express services. You’d have to transfer frequently but since it’s all underground, you’re out of weather issues and traffic wouldn’t be an issue.

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My third idea was an extension of the transportation going underground. That would free up streets, which I saw being covered with a roof and glass walls to protect from the likely uninhabitable outdoors most of the year. (I think summers and winters would be long and severe and spring and fall almost nonexistent.) The streets would be commuter tunnels. Each household would have an entrance (like their current driveways – or each apartment complex would have an underground entrance. Then you’d walk along the street tunnel to the nearest stairway that took you down to a stop on whatever line you needed.

I also think “outdoor spaces” that we are used to now, like parks, would also be underground and engineered. We still want our nature but much of it will have to be manmade in order to be accessible most of the time. I think actual outside would be deserted during summer and winter. The heat and cold would be too much, but also, it gives nature a chance to heal if we aren’t out there fucking it up.

I tried to envision how communication will evolve. It’s difficult. I think more and more will be digital, automated, and hands free. I think we’re going to use our “phones” (more like, hand held devices) for almost everything. Almost everyone will have one. I see the watch idea taking off but instead of it replacing the hand held screen, I think they will be used together. You will receive your alerts and information on your watch but use a screen to view things in more detail. Like, you can’t type out a complex document on a watch. Taking calls through your watch also doesn’t seem to work for me. I think maybe a device that stays near your ear but in less intrusive than the Bluetooth ear pieces or even ear buds. I also see this crossing over into fashion. Ear pieces as jewelry. Also, in fashion, I think clothing will start to incorporate more pockets and add-ons specifically for tech.

I think, in the future, your ‘phone’ will be a part of everything you do. Health monitor, personal safety/location, no-touch payment at stores, clocking in and out at work and being paid. The beginnings of that are already in place but I think it will become so standard that things like land lines, paper money, hard-wired home systems, etc. will be abolished.

Automation will be in everything.

That’s all I’m going to write for now, because I’m tired and sick, but I may come back to it again later and add in more ideas.

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A Weird Green Colour

The sky is a weird green colour. Greyish green. Slightly sickly. Seems very fitting. What’s that called when the weather matches what’s going on in a story? My brain is on low battery right now and I’m having a hard time concentrating.

It’s been raining off and on all day and night. I slept with the window open to enjoy it even though it’s cold. When I finally got out of bed, the value of light was so lovely. Comforting. Most people would call it gloomy but it gave me a little surge.

Now it’s almost setting. The sky looks weird. Not green like when there is a summer storm. More like… the sky looks befuddled. And that’s how I’m feeling. Entirely unsure of what to think, feel, or do.

Pathetic fallacy. That’s the term.

I am so full of thoughts. The constant bombardment of… things. But they aren’t thoughts in language. I can’t make sense of any of them. And they aren’t really emotions either. I don’t really feel much of anything – maybe because I was feeling too much so I’ve dissociated or something. I’m not sure. I feel hazy and confused. And, no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not on anything. And I got enough sleep. And I’ve been awake for several hours.

I’m just overwhelmed by nothingness.

I have a few vague, worded thoughts bouncing around in my brain and a few loosely labelled feelings I can pinpoint, but most of the current chaos is just like being suspended in a swirling vat of squishy goo.

All I can say really to explain it to someone outside myself is that, right now, I feel the very essence of what it is to be me. I was given a new lens to understand me last year and I’m still wrestling with it and trying to work it out. Sometimes, it’s great. Other times, like now, it’s… incomprehensible.

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The Third Degree

I don’t like having to justify my life to other people – and yet I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to do just that. It’s not that I have some crazy lifestyle that is so different than most people. It’s more that I haven’t done what would be expected out of someone with my background and means. Nor have I rebelled against it so fully as to be its own way of explanation. I simply “failed to achieve” certain milestones or really have much ‘to show for myself’. Since I’ve never been very vocal against shooting for the things most women in my situation (try to) attain, I guess that means to most people that I want them too and just didn’t succeed. And, to a certain extent, I’ve spent the last few years of my life trying to convince myself that it’s okay that I don’t live my life the way society tells me I should, the way my parents expected, and the way I thought I wanted to for so long.

I’m getting to the point where I realize that what is right for most people isn’t quite right for me. I don’t need to do or need to have certain things in my life to be happy and complete. I don’t have everything figured out yet and am still searching to find the things that do make me feel that way, but I know which things I don’t need and don’t really want either. I have a lot in my life but it’s intangible, inexplicable things. I have time and freedom and I get to move at my own pace. Many people might look at me and think I’m wasting my life but, really, that’s their own values and ideals trying to overlay onto my life. Like trying to measure a ball with a yard stick. Their problem – not mine.

I met Hubby relatively early in my life. (It seemed late at the time to be dating a ‘first boyfriend’ but since he was the one I ended up spending all this time with and I didn’t have to try on a bunch to find a good fit, it could have been much much later and I know many people my age who still haven’t met their person.) It seemed I was on track then to hit all those other markers in life that make one a ‘successful adult’. But I sort of stalled right out of the gate on that front. We did get married eventually, but we never had kids. I never graduated from university and got a career. I didn’t even stick with any one job for very long. Hell, I never even got my driver’s licence! Looking down the adult checklist, I have mostly only unchecked items.

Until recently, that made me feel bad – like I was defective or lacking something. I think it’s because I felt the pressure to be that person that I also felt the need to defend myself, but because I didn’t actually go through with most of it (maybe the pressure wasn’t strong enough or maybe because, deeper within myself, I knew those things weren’t right for me), I had no defence for myself to give.

You wouldn’t think that I’d have to rationalize the way I live my own life to other people since it’s my life, but unfortunately, I have to do it in varying degrees almost constantly. It comes in many forms – from the simplest, benign inquiry of “So, what do you do?”, to the dreaded “When are you guys finally going to have kids?”, to the cringe-worthy “What are you going to do next?”. Luckily, at least my parents seem to have given up on me years ago.

Just today, I was talking to someone I don’t know very well, doing the whole awkward small talk thing I hate so much as she gave me a ride home from lunch. She seems like a nice person and I assume she didn’t mean anything condescending about it but I felt like I was being interrogated about ‘what I’m going to do with my life’ by the questions she was asking me. I think she was waiting for some profound anti-establishment sentiment or at least some evidence that I’m not just a lazy bum and have some sort of justification for taking up space and having fun while other people feel the need to run in the rat race. I have no idea what impression I left her with. I feel fairly certain that, whatever it was, it was underwhelming because that’s how I felt.

The reason I hate this topic so much is because the easiest questions send me back into that insecure mindset where I’m floundering for reasons why I quit school time and again, why I’m not a mother, why I don’t work full time in a job that utilizes any potential I may have, why I’m not out there doing amazing things with all this spare time I have… And if I fully felt shame for that or wanted a life that matched all that criteria, maybe that would be warranted. But it’s just habit that my mind falls backwards like that. It’s not how I truly feel. I leave those conversations angry with myself for giving the other person the idea that I think I’m pathetic or somehow unworthy or whatever. I don’t and I’m not. Actually, I’m … well, maybe not totally, but 80%… okay with my lifestyle. (There are a few things I’d like to change, but we all have that.)

Part of the problem is being backed into the proverbial corner and reverting to defensiveness but another part is my manner of speaking. I tend to talk about myself in a self-deprecating way AND I also use language that downplays the way I think and feel about things. (This has a name but I forget what it is right now.) It’s a bad habit. Words like kind of, sort of, pretty much, a little bit, etc. For instance, if I just cut off my own arms by accident, that would kind of hurt. I come across as blasé, unaffected or ho hum. Everything is meh. (Little tip for those that want to know how I feel about something – you have to read more into what I say to decode what I actually feel. If I say “I’m kinda mad”, that means “I’m fucking pissed.” Haha.)

I could be that passionate, rebellious-sounding person who stages personal revolts against “the man” and refuses to participate in social convention… but that’s not me. I’m not not doing these things to rebel. I’m not making a statement. I’m just living my life.

The last component of the problem is that I have a lot of trouble putting my thoughts and feelings into comprehensible language. Someone may ask me why I do something and even if I know exactly why I do it, I can’t explain it in words and can’t muster the energy to try, so I say “I don’t know”. I do know… but I don’t know how to tell you.

The truth is that I don’t live like most people my age, abilities, and situation because I either don’t want to, don’t feel the need to, or don’t find it important to do so. And I don’t think I owe anyone any more explanation than that.

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