Marisa's blog

Hearts for Belgium

12 Aug 2011
Posted by Marisa
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I believe that most of you are aware that Jordan and I are making a mad dash across Europe. I assume this because most of the people who read this blog are related to us, and therefore somewhat privy to our plans. In the cases when we have plans, of course. 

When we were face to face with the Europe map we couldn't really help but go everywhere, and so we scheduled about four nights everywhere. Three nights in some of the places we're stopping in towards the end, and five nights in Paris, because well, it's Paris. However, we scheduled a whopping seven nights in Belgium. Because while Paris may be Paris, Belgium invented the french fry.

French fries are probably my favorite food. And when I realized that they are in fact not even French, it became obvious that we should go to their home country and pay some proper respects.

Belgium it turns out is a very nice place for reasons beyond french fries (I continue to call them french fries because even though we were in Belgium eating them and trying hard not to call them French, it's really impossible not to). They have:

  • the world's greatest town square, where you can drink the best hot chocolate
  • 2011.07.25 - Brussles

  • our favorite cathedral so far
  • Ghent - Saint Bavo Cathedral (St.-Baafskathedraal)

  • a medieval town, much of which was built 150 years ago to encourage tourism (which was a great success) 
  • IMG_8230

  • a room in their royal palace that is covered with millions of beetle wings. 


Also they have waffles. I had always thought that a Belgian Waffle was just a waffle made in a waffle-maker with deeper grooves. It turns out a Belgian Waffle is, in fact, the most delicious waffle you have ever eaten. 


Also, they created the Smurfs.

That is freaking smurf.

What more could you want?

Death by Food

10 Aug 2011
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 If you are interested in eating yourself to death, I would suggest going to Belgium. Lots of places have delicious foods, but few have so many delicious foods that when eaten in large amounts will weigh you down to the point of complete immobilization. Between the waffles, chocolate, french fries and beer I'm pretty sure you could be dead in 2 weeks, less if you threw caution out the window. We were there for a little over 1 week and I know my stomach heaved a sigh of relief when we left. In fact, we didn't go to a single restaurant in Amsterdam (our next destination) and instead ate apples and salads from the grocery store. A bit of penance for our behavior in Belgium.


4 Years

06 Aug 2011
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4 years ago today (in MN):


3 years ago (in Egypt):


2 years ago (in Busan):



1 year ago (in Gunsan):

Reflection in Lily Pond

Today in Berlin:



♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

The Disney Effect?

06 Aug 2011
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 Do you recognize this place?


It looks a little idyllic. 


Perhaps a little too idyllic.


Sometimes people blame Disney, or Hollywood, for making things appear too perfect. I've often found this a little suspicious, and now I have proof that it's not their fault. These are pictures of the hamlet Marie Antionette built in 1784. They look exactly like they were built from the Disney Snow White cartoon, but they were built about 200 years earlier.


Apparently modern life didn't invent wishing for a perfect world. Or trying to make one.


Sightseeing Quandry

03 Aug 2011
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The Eiffel Tower is one of those mythic tourist destinations. You don't travel to Paris and skip it. However, I have to admit that the famous monument wasn't quite how I imagined it. My first glimpse was from the highway, at a distance, a glowing tower with a giant spot light roaming the sky. For some reason the giant, roving light made me think it was something from Disneyland Paris, and so discussion ensued and no conclusion was reached.

I was a bit doubtful because if it was the Eiffel Tower, shouldn't I know? Isn't something magical supposed to happen?


The next day did nothing to help put an end to the mystery. We walked around Paris for a whole day, in the rain, and I didn't catch sight of it. I mean, I don't think I had any unrealistic ideas about the Eiffel Tower, I'm no disillusioned Japaense tourist, but I did think that any entrance to the city would have led past it. How can they let you wander around for a day with no sighting? And shouldn't you be able to see it from anywhere? Shouldn't it be peaking out from the tops of the buildings wherever I look?


"Where am I?" I started to wonder, "Am I even in Paris?" It wouldn't be the first time I was confused about my location. "Maybe we're somewhere like Vienna," I thought. "Have I been to Vienna?"


My mental state was at this point confused enougth that I began to doubt the famed tower's existence. Perhaps it was just a giant conspiracy. There's the giant, glass pyramid (and how do they keep so many paintings in such an empty space?), why can't I see the Eiffel Tower?


If wasn't until our second day in Paris that someone finally pointed out the top peeking above some buildings. I felt a little thrill of something begin and I said, "We must go to it." Jordan tried looking at his map, but I delcared, "It's right there! Let's go." 


For a while this method worked, however eventually it was obscured again and my doubts began to resurface. It's not really that tall, is it?


Falling back onto Jordan's method, the map eventually got us there and the tower's reappearance started that little thrill of excitement again.


I really am in Paris. 


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On a sunny day in July, Jordan, Karith and I found ourselves out for a punt. And no punt is complete without a picnic:

That it will give a particular relish to success, if you be successful, and wonderfully dull the edge of disappointment, if the contrary be your fate, (which all good spirits avert,) if you never take punt (for we recommend that as the easiest mode of exercise) without stowing therein a sufficient basket of ham, tongue, veal pie, stilton-cheese, bottled ale and porter, port, sherry, moselle, claret, brandy, and cigars. - London Magazine, 1828

While we went for a slight variation on what we stowed in our basket, the food definitely added a relish to our success. For it was only success that we encountered (no one fell in the water, and we didn't get lost).

2011.07.04 - Oxford

I misled you a bit at the beginning when I said it was a day in July, because it wasn't just any day in July, but July Fourth. We celebrated our country's independance from the country we were punting in by remembering all the words to the "Star Spangled Banner" and singing them aloud. We sang so well, that this bird came aboard:


Jordan punts like a jungle explorer:


Karith punts like a contemplative, insightful student:


And I punt like I wish I wasn't:


However, when resting comfortably in the boat, I can pose like I mean it:


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Six months ago I made a post reminiscing about my life in relation to Harry Potter. And while with the release of the last movie I would like to revisit those memories, I expressed them pretty well last time, so in honor this last and final movie I will show you picture of me in HP places.

2011.07.17 - Cambridge

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by Harry Potter places in the weeks leading up to the release since we spent most of our time in Oxford, where various scenes for the movies were shot, including the famous Great Hall.


Also these steps. Who knows what two HP characters met here in film HP1?


The next stop is from HP4 where the characters from the previous photo meet again and this time one of them is turned into a ferret.


This next photo doesn't particularily show the room well, but was used for different scenes including in HP4 when Professor McGonagall teaches everyone how to dance.


This last photo wasn't taken in Oxford, or even in England. But when we were visiting Versailles, the tall hedges immediately made us feel like we were in HP and Karith and I couldn't help but act it out.


That's it for the tour of my days leading up to the HP finale. And while I was suffering from some post-Potter meloncholy, and the rain in Paris didn't really help cheer me up, I find that these days I'm able to go on as if the most exciting movie event of my life isn't behind me.


23 Jun 2011
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This is mostly a poem for Vietnam, although some things go beyond its borders.

Goodbye money that has more zeroes than I can count. You are worse than Monopoly.
Vietnam money 10,000 - 500,000 dong

Goodbye sidewalks that are used for everything except walking.
2011.06.10 - Hanoi

Goodbye motorists who think honking at pedestrians for walking is a nice thing to do.
2011.05.04 - Hanoi

Goodbye neighbor drill, I will not miss you one bit.
2011.05.27 - Hanoi

Goodbye dogs who ride motorbikes. Special goodbyes to cute cocker spaniel on the pink scooter and happy looking golden retriever.

Goodbye weather that is so hot that if I stick my pinky finger out I become covered in sweat.

Goodbye evening aerobics ladies. You are braver than me to go outside in the heat.
2011.04.29 - Hanoi

Goodbye late night propaganda music. Perhaps if you were quieter and more subliminal your message would go across easier.
Bench For Two

Goodbye Septimus, my pet spider, who has kept me company and eaten all the bugs on the window.

Goodbye green tea, you are delicious. I hope to see you again soon.

Goodbye bread that molds in a day. I think I may have accidentally eaten you. But I feel okay.
Zombie Bread

Goodbye spicy spicy, will I find you in Europe?

Goodbye wild and crazy hair. Probably you will not be so fun when it's not 110% humid. Also, the birds may not like it quite so much.
2011.04.13 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Goodbye Vietnam. You may not be my favorite place, but you are in ♥ Asia ♥, so that's something. Also, you sell nice scarves.
2011.05.01 - Hanoi  

Asia Reminiscences

21 Jun 2011
Posted by Marisa
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First of all, I would like a prize for my ability to spell 'reminiscences'. It's a skill I didn't know I had until now. 

As our days in Asia have become more and more numbered, I've felt more and more suspended in a strange limbo. First watching my parents sell off all their things, pack, and then leave us in the now empty apartment. Looking out the large window at the once busy park you can tell that everyone has "flown the coop," as they say, for cooler, more pleasant destinations. Only a few locals come out and brave the oppressive heat in what was once a neighborhood hot spot.

Our plans for the next stage in our life have become somewhat firm, a firmer plan than we've had since leaving Korea, and as they are filled mostly with excitement and very little dread, I am anxious to begin. However the plane leaves on Thursday, so I must wait. And as I am waiting I am struck by the thought that I have called Asia home for about 7 years, which in my life is a very long time. I practically look upon our coming trip to England as a homecoming since I've been there a whole two times before. So 7 years is an achievement, and the most recent of those years have been freshest in my mind. All this trekking around has prolonged our goodbye to our Sweet Home in Korea. It's been easy to see Korea wherever we've been traveling, and so the final cutting of the string has been put off by our remaining. But soon the reminders will be fewer and farther between. And our once home will be placed firmly back in our memories with all the rest.

So to indulge my feelings of reminiscence (spelled it right again!) I've found a few photos of my favorite memories of Asia.


Making friends after hiking the mountain; Korea.

P1090015 copy

Lake Eunpa and the beautiful cherry blossoms; Korea.


Enjoying the view and the tea in Taipei, Taiwan.

2011.03.11 - Angkor Wat

Magical poses in Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

2011.04.13 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Somewhat scary parrot attack in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Yes, Asia, you have touched my heart.*

*Tomorrow I will have a special goodbye just for Vietnam.

Next Stop...

20 Jun 2011
Posted by Marisa
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Our days in Asia our numbered, 4 to be exact. And the next stop is Europe. The following plan is what happens when you are confronted with a map of many places you have imagined, yet never been to and have to decide which ones to visit. 

Europe Plan

It still looks manageable when you look at it like this. Everything in Europe seems trickily close together and so you make the above plan. Then you put in on the calendar and realize that we were in Southeast Asia for 7 months and saw 3.5 countries. And now we are planning to see 12 countries in about 1.5 months. Hopefully we will not die from exhaustion. Likely at the end we will sleep for 1 week. 

A few more notes on the trip. We are actually flying to England on Thursday where we will spend a week traveling aimlessly, seeing a few people, possibly Jordan's sister if she sees fit to respond to our emails. Then we are spending two weeks at a Christan community in southern England. After a few days visiting some game developers in Cambdridge for a Game Jam we will be starting our trip to continental Europe on what looks to be July 18th. We were really hoping to continue overland from Istanbul to Amman, Jordan, our final destination, but it looks like traveling through Syria is an unlikely possibility. Upon arriving in Amman in the middle of September we plan to stay put there, perhaps until summer time.

And amazingly that is our life plan beyond just tomorrow, which should make my mother rest a bit easier. 

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The last installment of our Asia journey. Next stop: Europe.

Malaysia Map

23 May 2011
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Penang Photos Butterfly Garden Photos Top 10 Penang Photos Cameron Highlands Top 10 Cameron Highlands Photos Aviary Photos Ipoh Photos Kuala Lumpur Photos Taman Negara & the Jungle Line Malaysia Top 10 Photos Malaysia: From Bird to Bieber and Facebook Signs Attacked By Parrots 3 Stinky Food Rules to Live By
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 I have finished my much anticipated Cambodia scrapbook. Much anticipated mostly by me, and then by the people who read about my failed Vietnam book. This is my favorite book I've made so far mostly because we had such nice photos and I figured out how to make realistic glitter. And it's glitter even Mom approves of because it leaves no mess.

Vietnam: Yin and Yang

08 May 2011
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 I have "finished" the somewhat pathetic second half of my Vietnam scrapbook. It's rather short, you can check it out below. A bunch of things conspired to make it less than exciting. However, I'm working on my Cambodia book right now and it is much more impressive. So you have that to look forward to :).

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 It turns out fried chicken is really delicious. That's why people eat it all the time.


Also, a side note, it's really hard to do consistent food photography because sometimes (mostly) you eat the food and then realize you should have taken a picture. 

Moral of the story (#48): Sometimes you have to go to new places to learn something you already knew (or should have).

Attacked by Parrots

14 Apr 2011
Posted by Marisa
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Yesterday we visited the Aviary in Kuala Lumpur. It was a very nice place. Also it is the world's largest aviary. We saw a lot of birds.

At one point we walked past a photo booth where you could get your picture taken with a variety of birds. There were some very cool owls that I was interested in getting my photo with, but it was unclear if the price included the owls or just the big parrots.


So we walked on and the next stop was the "Parrot Experience." Sounds promising. When we entered there was a guy at the door selling parrot food if you were interested. I am always interested in feeding the birds, and since the price was considerably lower than getting your picture taken with owls, it promised to be my excitement for the day. And I sure got some excitement; a bit more than I paid for I think.


After getting my cup of what looked coconut water, I unsuspectingly walked a bit into the Parrot Experience room, thinking I would get to pick out the bird I liked the best to feed. However, instead I was suddenly covered in parrots that flew in from nowhere, having been watching my cup of food a lot more closely than I was watching them.


Animals are rarely as nice as we think they are and here you can see the birds fighting over who gets a spot at the cup.


This one is keeping an eye on things from a nice perch.


Some more flew in to keep an eye on the action.


This one is not actually trying to eat my shirt, but using it so that he can climb closer to the action.


See how he is making some progress.


Mysterious white liquid sure is delicious.


This guy sat on my shoulder and was perhaps trying to keep the rest in line because he kept making loud bird noises right in my ear.


This one really thinks I'm a tree for climbing.



When all the excitement died down, we got a more composed picture together. During the frenzy the birds also thought Jordan was a tree and perched on his head as well. However, since I was covered in parrots and couldn't reach in my pocket for the camera, you'll just have to imagine that.

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Today we ate Durian. Durian is touted as being very stinky. I have heard that hotels ban the fruit because it is too stinky. Perhaps containing it inside a room would make it extra stinky. We ate it outside and I have to say, if you think that's stinky, you really haven't smelled very much.


Most stinky thing ever: That time when we thought an animal died in the air conditioner. Dad was inspecting it and about to pull it apart when we realized it was just the neighbors cooking dinner.

Stinky rule #1: If it doesn't smell like something died, it's not really that stinky.


Korea is full of stinky food. They like to let things sit around, rot and then eat them. They liken this to cheese.

Stinky rule #2: If cheese smells like that, don't eat it. Or anything else.


A great day in Korea was the day I had revenge on everyone who fed me weird stuff. It was honest enough because I didn't realize at the time that dill pickles tasted funny. However, I guess if you've only ever eaten sweet pickles, a dill pickle would taste funny. We fed the dill pickles to Jordan's students. The students made shocked faces. I felt strangely satisfied. That was for all the fermented bits, the mysterious sea animals and giant mushrooms that I ate.

People love their stinky food. You can be sure that whatever country you visit, whatever is stinkiest will be a national treasure and someone will be very pleased to make you eat it.

Stinky rule #3: When someone says, "this is a special food," run the other way.


It should be noted that I too ate the Durian, just not as much as Jordan. It should also be noted that while the Durian is not the stinkiest, it is still quite slimy and tastes more like something I would rather not eat than something I would.

Cambodia Map

25 Mar 2011
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Top 10 Photos from Phnom Penh Photos from Kompong Cham Photos from Sen Monorom Angkor Wat Day 0 Photos Angkor Wat Day 1 Photos Angkor Wat Day 2 Photos Angkor Wat Day 3 Photos Kompong Cham Top 10 Photos Angkor Wat Top 10 Photos Top 10 Cambodia Photos Crossing the Street With Dumbledore Uncontrollable Surprise Cambodia: Like No Place I've Been 5 Interesting Things About Cambodia Jordan and Marisa are Posers II: Angkor Wat

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 Since we were in Vietnam for so long, I've decided to split my scrapbook in two. Here's the first volume:

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1. I like beer here. Weird.

2011.03.12 - Siem Reap

2. Even weirder, I like bananas. It seems not all bananas were created equal.


3. Dr Fish. I had my feet munched on by many hungry fish and they have never been softer. (It's only painful if you're really ticklish.)


4. Angkor Wat.

2011.03.11 - Angkor Wat

5. The hospital. At least if your name is Jordan and going once isn't enough.

2011.02.18 - Phnom Pehn


And for those who came back based on my iPod teaser; a joke posted especially for my dad's last comment about the elephant: