Singapore : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

Don’t Make Eye Contact. Don’t Touch Anything.

With a new year, new changes and a new job now comes a new commute.

This is me, I am now a commuter.

To be honest, I tried driving the thirty-five miles each way for two whole days, then I tapped out. It was two days too many.

Driving that many hours in that kind of traffic is not good for the already tenuous grasp I have on my sanity.

So I escaped the confines of my car and leapt into the tired, dingy but quite serviceable arms of the Bay Area Rapid Transit, also known as BART, our local subway system.

In the past when I commuted regularly, I rode the CalTrain (commuter rail as opposed to a subway), and I always really enjoyed it. Up until last week, I had only been on BART for a few random trips here and there, but now I’m doing the everyday BART trip and then catching a shuttle to the office.

I have to say, it works really well. BART is nowhere near as elegant as London’s Tube or as clean as Singapore’s MRT or as wide reaching as the subway in New York, but it does the job (assuming it goes where you need it) and mostly does it well.

I’m always amused when riding public transit because there is this whole attitude that you have to adopt. We all wear a game face that is a cross between casual nonchalance and aggressive apathy, with enough of a snarl so people will leave you alone.

You aren’t supposed to look around. You aren’t supposed to lollygag. You aren’t supposed to look people in the eye and goodness knows you don’t start up a conversation.

Even if you are a flat out rookie, you gotta look like you have done this so many times you don’t give a rip. I don’t know why this is, but it just is. This goes for all subways not just BART.

Also, public transit is always the best way to find any city’s collection of lost, offbeat and troubled people.

Friday there was a guy talking to himself and loudly groaning. He was sitting across from a guy who during the course of the journey put on eight shirts, two hoodies, then a polar fleece and topped it with a parka and a huge knit hat. It’s cold here recently but this guy was preparing to hunt penguins.

Mostly it’s just a whole lot of people trying to get somewhere. Students, elderly, professionals, blue collar, rich, poor, moms, dads, kids. Just about every make and model of person out there steps on the BART train headed somewhere.

During the course of my ride I start on the peninsula, traverse San Francisco, and end up in the East Bay. On that hour ride it is like the Bay Area has been neatly sliced in half and I can clearly see all of the different kinds people who make up this crazy place.

A one-hour BART ride is a true representation of both the best and the worst of the almost seven million people who live here and call the Bay Area home.

And I’m one of them. I’m that sort of hayseed looking girl who is eagerly looking at everyone’s faces trying to read their stories while looking like I’m not looking at all. I’m the one laughing inappropriately and feeling stressed trying to fit in at my new gig.

Not to paraphrase the Beatles or anything but…

When I ride the BART train, I am you and you are me and we are all together.







Image from LA Times.



That’s Still Me

Recently a long time reader of this blog added a comment to one of my posts about being in London.

It went something like this, “Awhile back you were whining because you don’t get paid to play golf. Would it help if we all let you know how much we envy you?”

I know when I’m being gigged between the ribs, and I didn’t take it bad. In fact I dug the comment because it not only made me smile but also think a bit.

There have been a couple other much less nice notes sent my way via email that implied that I’m bragging too much on my blog.

Here’s the thing, in my mind, I’m still this girl.




In cuts offs and a tshirt, leaning against a chicken coop in Logan, New Mexico. Brown from the New Mexico sun and days spent swimming in Ute Lake.

I can guarantee you the little girl in that photo never thought for a million years she’d ever leave New Mexico, much less visit Singapore, Costa Rica and London. Or attend a US Open Golf Tournament. Or meet the legendary Willie McCovey.

Ya gotta know, when I pipe up here and talk about what I’m doing, it’s because I’m still genuinely in shock and awe that I’m doing it.

This throwaway comment on Facebook about sums it up:




That was the most genuine and true sentiment I had in that moment. I was so in awe at the fulfillment of a dream that I was rendered mostly speechless. Not many words were needed to convey the truth of it all.

Maybe I do brag to much and I’m just too insecure to write it in a more humble way. But to be honest, I’m pretty freaking proud.

This past year has been nothing short of epic for me.

That the little girl at Ute Lake and this little girl in London ARE THE SAME GIRL boggles my tiny mind, still.




Of course, I’m also this girl. But then I’ve always been like that.




To sum it all up, if you think I’m bragging too much on my blog, you are probably right. I should warn you it ain’t a’gonna stop anytime soon, either.

And so that means it’s truly time to say:

Thanks for dropping by today, dear reader. For putting up with my random thoughts, disjointed posts and all around bad behavior. I owe you a deep debt of gratitude for reading my words.

I sure am having fun on this blog. It’s a party in 1,476 posts and 469,239 words!




Ute Lake photo from my family’s collection, Copyright Karen Fayeth. No use or reproduction without prior written consent. Taken with a Kodak Instamatic and no need for the flip-flash.

Photo from London’s Tower Bridge is Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license on the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone 4s and the Camera+ app.


El Paso – Singapore – London Connection

As a New Mexican who has spent a lot of time in that infamous border town of El Paso, I’m always more than a little amused to find traces of the familiar in another country.

Ya’ll will recall my find at Mustafa Market in Singapore:




It’s made in Spain which veers dangerously into “get a rope” category.

But then imagine my giggling surprise while deep underground at the Mornington Crescent tube station in London’s Camden neighborhood:



The bejeweled gloved hand. The Brit flags. Juxtaposed with, well, El Paso.

Surreal.

Now I’ve never thought Old El Paso brand was all that authentic anyway, but it gives me a swell of pride to find the city of El Paso representin’ across this globe.

Saaaalute!



When In Rome…or Reading

While on my way out the door and quite ready to make a voyage to England, among the parting thoughts from The Good Man was:

“Enjoy the traditional English breakfast.”

I’m a fan of all things breakfast so I readily agreed, despite not really knowing what a traditional English breakfast was all about.

My first morning in country, I stumbled downstairs to the complimentary buffet and started to understand.

It looks a little something like this.





I say “a little something” because this plate is missing a couple key components, mainly blood pudding (a sausage, also sometimes called black pudding), fried tomatoes and fried mushrooms. But other than that the main items are there. Griddled eggs. Hash browns. Bacon (center cut and YUM).

And the key component: Heinz Baked Beans.





No other will do.

I’m no stranger to eating beans for breakfast. I’ve been eating pintos in many forms alongside eggs for years, so this was zero hesitation to me. That said, I usually hate baked beans because they are just too sweet. Too much brown sugar, I think (as if such a thing as too much brown sugar exists).

I really like the Heinz baked beans because they aren’t especially sweet. They are tomatoey but not sugary sweet. A perfect compliment to eggs, in my humblest of American opinions.

Here’s the thing…I started having the Full Breakfast every day. They even served it at the cafeteria where I reported for work the second week of my stay. This meal formed a good solid start to my days of battling with suppliers and the English rain and pesky coworkers.

I felt like I could climb mountains on that breakfast.

And now that I’m back home, I miss it.

Breakfast now just seems sort of…blah. Sad. Lacking. And without verve.

So I looked at a couple local grocery stores. Lo and behold, I found the key ingredient here locally.





The real stuff! The good stuff. Ok, it’s a little more work to make all the fixins myself rather than ladling from a hotel buffet bar.

But it’s worth it.

Oh so worth it.

Now that breakfast is sorted, let’s chat about British dinners too, eh? Here is a beauty shot from one night at the local pub. Big yum.

Though all of that on the table (except for the Pedigree, a proper English Ale) is quite readily available here in the US. Thank goodness!





So now I have quite a menu for my post travel life as there is plenty of can’t-live-without-it food from Singapore (laksa, chili crab and kaya toast) and Costa Rica (tostones, Olla de Carne and Cas) and now the charms of Britain.

Tonight, however, I head back to my roots. We’re cooking New Mexico style in my house. All that British culture made my green chile blood level get a little low.

Must fix that problem right away!




All photos Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons in the far right corner of this page. Photos taken with an iPhone 4s and the Camera+ app.



On The Road Again (Soon)

I’m just barely back from Singapore (in my mind anyway, it’s been two weeks today that my feet stepped off the plane in Cali) and now I’m gearing up and packing up for my next work adventure.

This time Boss Man is sending me off to a different part of the world. An area a little more in my wheelhouse.

In exactly one week I’ll be saying helllooooo Costa Rica.

Or, more properly, Holaaaaaa Costa Rica!

: cue a Latin beat :

Yup, that’s right folks, I’m headed to Central America.

Before you start imagining idyllic days by the blue-green sea, ratchet all of that back and imagine me in the middle of the densely populated capital city of San Jose.

While the trip to Singapore was all hand shaking and good food, Costa Rica is going to be some seriously hard work (and hopefully good food). I have an employee there who is still pretty new (yes, I hired her without ever meeting her in person) and she needs some back up.

Today I’m watching my calendar fill up with meetings for next week. Heads of Finance, IT, HR and the site director shall feel my steely wrath. Ok, less wrath and maybe more along the lines of “stop treating my employee like your hired hand or I’m gonna call in some really big boss types, and no one wants that.”

In Singapore I was there to make friends. In Costa Rica I’m there to have some pretty hard conversations. And try to make friends while I’m at it.

The good news is that most Costa Ricans (they call themselves Ticos) speak English, because my Spanish is Spanglish at best and I’m quite out of practice. I’m certain I can still easily order a beer and inquire as to the location of the bathroom, but beyond that I might stumble.

But I’m looking forward to trying!

And in other somewhat related news…file this under the World is Very Small and the World is Very Large:

Last week I had a one to one meeting with my employee in Costa Rica. She asked me about my trip to Singapore.

She said “Karen, I have something to confess. When you said you were going to Singapore, for some reason I thought that was located in Africa. I thought you were going to be out there with wild animals in the middle of the desert and I was really worried about you! I told my mom about how worried I was and she said “what is wrong with you?” So I Googled it and looked at photos. There’s all these big buildings. That’s nothing like what I thought.”

We had a good laugh because, well, geography can be a tricky thing.

Then I confessed that when I’d told a couple of my friends I was going to Costa Rica, they were like “now….that’s over by Brazil, right?” And I sighed and said “um. No. Central America. Nestled in there between Panama and Nicaragua.”

I say all this while admitting my own knowledge of geography is no great shakes.

We laughed again and agreed maybe I’m like a super secret spy and it’s better no one knows where I’m really going.

But really…

I’d like to buy the world a geography lesson, and teach them harmony.
.
.
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I’m both excited and terrified about this trip. The Good Man isn’t coming along this time, so I’m on my own.

Courage! rawr.






Image from FreeWorldMaps.net.



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