January 12, 2017

Letters to Bartles // 001

Dear Bartles, 

Hi. My name is Jane. I'm the girl you've been sensing for the better part of the day (I know, I'm such a stalker).

I'm the girl who taps your butt after wiping your paws to say that you're all done and the one who tickles your face when you wake up in the morning. I'm also the one who gives you those dreaded ear cleaning sessions and wipes your mouth after you're done eating. I know. I like leaving crumbs on my face too after I'm done eating. But you know, manners and all that jazz.

Of all these things though, most importantly, I'm your new family. 

Hi Bartles. It's nice to meet you. I hope you like your new home. 

I used to write letters to Piri. Piri is my former cocker spaniel. He lived to be 17 and he crossed the rainbow bridge just a few months ago in October. I am not sure if there are still traces of his scent on the bed and blankets and pillows, but if you smell another cocker spaniel, that's him. I wish you could've met him. I think you both would've been really great friends (he used to slide off of his bed, too and you both pull off the best resting cocker face look). I know we still have to explore the upstairs of our house together, and when we do, I'll show you a little corner where his things are resting. 

I don't mean to do the same things I did for Piri to you. Sometimes I feel like continuing tradition is good while other times I feel you deserve something special of your own. But I am guessing that something special will come to me one of these days. And we have plenty of days ahead to give it time to happen organically. 

Bartles. I wonder a lot of things about you. But I think mainly, I wonder if you miss your previous human. I heard that he loved you very much and was very heartbroken to let you go. I'm sure you already know that. 

I know that dogs form strong bonds with their humans and I presume that your bond with him will never break. The other day I said to Yangkyu (he's the other guy that kind of follows you around like a stalker - oh he's the other human who is your family now - you know, the one who was eating the kabob you were eyeing), "I wonder if Bartles thinks he's just on a really long vacation and thinks that he will one day reunite with his human." That thought broke my heart.

I also thought that even though you have so many beds and blankets and fancy treats now, if you could be with your human, none of this materialistic stuff matters. Dogs are like that, right? As long as their human is with them, they don't need anything else.

And yet here you are, with us, not showing any signs of anxiety or sadness. You just go with the flow and despite everything you've been through and all the medical issues you are facing, you strut, and make the most of your days and look at the person who you are with at the moment with your very best face (and give face nudges - those melt my heart by the way).

Bartles. I know you had to say good bye to your very special human. I had to say good bye to a very special dog. So I think I may know what you are feeling. But perhaps, the two of us who lost someone very special in our lives, were meant to cross paths and create a special bond of our own. Not to replace what we lost but to add on.

I like that thought. I hope you do as well. 

Bartles. I have been noticing that you find me by smelling my feet. I hope they smell nice. 

Welcome home, Bartles. We have so many adventures ahead of us. Let's strut and make the most of it. 


The new human girl in your life.

January 10, 2017

Away we go: Salzburg

On Day 6 of our trip to Germany, we took an hour and a half morning train ride over to Salzburg, Austria. 

When we were planning out the each of the days for our trip we were planning to start them early - 6 or 7 am - so that we can get as many hours in to sightsee as we can since we weren't planning on staying overnight. I already mentioned how in the past this worked perfectly well for us, but this trip made us realize that we no longer have the stamina to go long hours without feeling terribly tired. 

And so instead of buying expensive train tickets, we switched our plans last minute and bought the Bayern ticket, which are affordable ticket prices to travel around Bavaria and nearby areas, including Salzburg, which is considered a border town. The only catch with the Bayern ticket is that during the weekday you can only use it after 9 am (you can use it before 9 am during the weekend).

Choosing the affordable ticket had its cons -- starting late cut into our sightseeing time and we didn't get to see everything we had wanted in each of the places we went to, but seeing as though how easily tired we got, and sleep really helped us recuperate, starting slightly later in the day and going with the Bayern ticket probably worked out for the best.

Salzburg was one of the places I looked forward to the most. I know this sounds silly but growing up as a child trained in classical music, you kind of grow up with all things Mozart. You don't know how many times my days were filled with listening to Mozart and watching Amadeus (I still watch it like it is my first time watching). And so a big part of me was looking forward to the birthplace of Mozart. 

Salzburg is also a place where The Sound of Music was partially filmed. For friends who have followed our story for a while, you know how much The Sound of Music means to me. I grew up watching it (my mom loved musicals and The Sound of Music was one of those movies that she introduced me and brother to as kids and it often played in our home) and Yangkyu and I watch it every Thanksgiving evening. It's our little tradition. I know the words to all the songs and even to this day, I don't get sick of watching it.

There is a Sound of Music tour offered by a few touring companies in Salzburg, and as much as I love The Sound of Music, Yangkyu and I opted not to do it. We were already short on time and I didn't want to spend too much time doing one tour. I thought maybe we would try to at least go and see some shooting locations on our own, but this did not happen either. But that's ok. 

Backtracking a little -- as soon as we arrived in Salzburg, we purchased the Salzburg Card. It was one of the best things we purchased as it gave us free passes to museums, the fortress funicular and public transportation. I think it also gives you extended discounts on concerts, performances and other excursions, and while we didn't make use of that, purchasing the Salzburg Card still worked towards our advantage greatly. We purchased the Salzburg Card in the TI booth located inside the train station at the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof. 

The first place we visited while we were in Salzburg was the Residenz (free entrance with the Salzburg Card). But we didn't end up spending much time here as we did with the Munich Residenz. I think part of me felt a bit pressed for time. 

But one of my favorite places to visit in Salzburg (and where we did spend a good amount of time, although not enough) was the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It was huge and enormous and it was a little town all on its own. I only wish we had more time to stay there and enjoy the Christmas market and the eateries. We did get to enjoy the museum and Marionette Exhibit and walk around a bit. I was looking forward to the funicular ride up (where we didn't have to get on the long, hectic lines to purchase a ticket because of our Salzburg Card) but honestly, the ride wasn't all that great. We were all packed in like sardines and it was so crowded that it was hard to breathe and enjoy the scenery going up and down the fortress. I believe you also have the option of walking up the Fortress. Steep but doable walk.

My second most favorite thing to do in Salzburg was visiting Mozart's Birthplace (Geburtshaus), the house which he was born. I was looking forward to this museum but didn't expect too much because I read that it was pretty small. And while it wasn't sprawling, to me, it was intriguing, captivating and, quite frankly, amazing.

We unfortunately went at the same time a bunch of students were on a school trip and they were loud and boisterous and didn't care too much to be there, but we made do by staying behind in the first room and trying to take in all the information as slowly as possible to let the crowds of students through first. 

Because of time constraints, we didn't get a chance to go visit Mozart's Residence. Some of the museums closed around 5 or 6 pm and so that left us little room to go make rounds to all the places we wanted to see. This would happen at other cities we visited including Nuremburg, which had so many sights we wanted to see but missed out on. 

While Salzburg was beautiful and breathtaking, there were some things that happened here, which got me feeling a little puzzled. Some incidents required a bit of understanding on my part to not feel offended, while other incidents still feels like a bad experience (small but bad).

You know, when we were researching everything about Munich, one of the things that kept coming up was encouraging tourists to learn a little German and speak it while visiting. Something as basic as saying hello, good bye, good day, asking for simple directions and ordering something to eat or drink. It shows appreciation and also respect in a sense where you don't go to another country and expect everyone there to speak English. At first, this was a concept that was so hard for me to understand. 

Growing up, I hated it when people spoke to me in Korean (or whatever they thought was Korean) because for me, my experience with people speaking to me in my native language wasn't out of respect and appreciation, but to make fun and humiliate. It was to say that I was different. And inferior. I'm sure every Asian American kid has grown up with a classmate who came up to them with slanty eyes, making ching chong sounds and asking if we spoke English. Nevermind that we're American as well (either born in the US or naturalized, like myself) and that some of us don't even speak our heritage language. So this gesture, speaking in "your language" has always been a negative experience. And so I never really tried to speak to anyone in their language, afraid that maybe I would offend them too. 

In Salzburg, Yangkyu and I were in a chocolate shop and after we had paid, the elderly lady at the cash register said "xie xie", which is thank you in Mandarin. Leading up to this point, we had a couple of experiences - inside a restaurant and on the train - of people saying "konichiwa" or "sayonara" to us (which means good afternoon and good bye in Japanese - a language we don't speak because we are not Japanese nor are we Mandarin speaking Chinese). It felt as though it was mocking (a rowdy group of guys at a restaurant who had several rounds of drinks who said "konichiwa" as they passed by our table on their way out and a drunken couple who said "sayonora" behind us in the train - I guess you can blame alcohol, or not). 

Anyway, Yangkyu just smiled and I just ignored the "xie xie". But the elderly lady thought that we didn't hear her and said "xie xie" again, but louder. I (reluctantly) smiled, because I didn't want to come off rude, and said "Oh, we are not Chinese. We're Korean American." She paused and looked up thinking something and then said with a big smile, "Gam sa ham ni da!" That means thank you in Korean. I smiled, this time genuine, and said, "Yep. You got it. That means thank you in Korean." I realized then that for this woman, speaking in someone's native tongue was meant as a sign of appreciation. She took the time to memorize a word and use it at an appropriate time and thought I would be happy that someone did that. 

To be honest, any other time I would have gotten nit picky because for me while I was born in Korea, I am more comfortable with English. Although my second language, it has been my primary language for 31 years of my life (I am 38 years old). And so when someone who says "thank you" to me in English, it is speaking my language.

But to most, because I look different, because I look Asian, "thank you" or any other word in English would never really be thought to be my primary language. It's a sad fact that I live with every day. And while I don't want to diminish this lady's efforts and kindness in trying to extend a warm hand, my experience with language and how I have come to perceive language being used toward me should also not be invalidated. Some people say, "why do you always make things about race. She didn't mean it." I'm sure she didn't, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't know what she is doing can really imply. And because my whole life has been cast in the light of race, to me, a lot of my experiences and perspectives is about race. 

The other incidents were more off putting - maybe petty to even mention. 

Inside the gift shop, there was a person in front of me paying, and I was the only other customer in line. The man in front of me and the person behind the cash register were carrying on a conversation that felt so long that it made me feel a little awkward and uncomfortable to be just standing there. A few words to exchange is fine but there comes a point when you're standing there, with items in your hand, and you think, "um.. do you not want me to buy these?" It was awkward to me but I was trying to not let it get to me because we had a similar incident when we were visiting the King's Castles.

We were inside a small gift shop and after a number of customers paid and left, I was the only one left in the store. Just as I was done looking and I had walked up to the cash register with a number of items, when he received a phone call. The conversation carried for what I felt like was forever. To the point where standing there felt really uncomfortable. I almost left because it really felt like she was ignoring me on purpose. When she got off, she didn't apologize and said, "Oh that was my boss and I couldn't tell him to hang up or hold on." My initial reaction was, I didn't want to buy anything from that store, but I didn't want to be rude and walk off. But after encountering the similar incident at the Salzburg Residenz, I thought maybe perhaps that's just the way the culture is. No one really rushes, and people take time to talk to one another. I am not sure if this is true, but perhaps it is another way of looking at it. 

Which brings me to another cash register incident inside the Hohensalzburg Castle. I am not sure if this person is just really unhappy with her job, and while I don't expect people to smile at me, everything about her gesture was just really unwelcoming. When this happens, I immediately regret getting in line to buy. Why spend money at a place that treated me badly?

But what do I do? I get afraid that I might come off rude as well so I just suck it up and just go through with the unpleasant experience. But she took the cake though when she haphazardly passed Yangkyu's credit card back to him and dropped it and fell off to the wayside and she didn't even bother picking it back up to give it back to him. I was so appalled that I literally stuck around after paying to see if she was like this to other customers. She wasn't as rude, but she seemed really unhappy working there while attending to other customers. But other people also didn't mind the rudeness and I thought perhaps I am more sensitive to these experiences than most people. {shrug}

The final scratch my head moment came inside the Residenz again. There weren't a lot of people viewing the Residenz and in one of the rooms, we had the security people follow us around to make sure we wouldn't touch anything. They were following us, peeking over at us and just watching us like a hawk. This was partly the reason why we didn't stick around much and left quickly. Perhaps they experience inappropriate behaviors from tourists all the time, like touching when they are not supposed to, but being rounded up and generalized as tourist who would do such things just didn't make me feel very good. These kinds of things really put a damper in my day. 

But there is bound to be unpleasant experiences where travel is concerned and while I write about these experiences, there were more pleasant, kind and wonderful people than not. We had strangers looking out for us, online friends who drove out to meet us in person and gift us with good company, conversation and food, random people who gave us directions and help whenever we were lost and friendly vendors who gave us extra chestnuts and the ripest of apples. 

We ended our time in Salzburg at the Christmas market and spent time listening to carolers. It reminded me of home. It reminded me of Piri. It made me think of Bartles and all the untold stories yet to be told when we go back home.

On our way back to the train station, we came across a bridge with all these locks. I wished I knew about this beforehand because I would've brought one with our names -- Piri, Yangkyu, Jane and Bartles. I regretted missing out on the chance. (One of the reasons we had wanted to go to Paris was to put a lock on the bridge there, but then a friend told us it was taken down because of weight issues. I had no idea!)

The train ride back to Munich was a peaceful one. But it made me think a lot of Piri. The long train rides did that often in Germany. It made me cry a lot but laugh as well. 

We missed a lot of sightseeing places in Salzburg, but walking around at the fortress, Mozart's birthplace, the Salzburg Christmas market, St. Peter's Cemetary and Alter Markt was enough to make our trip well worth it. 

The following day, Yangkyu and I made an early trip out to Rothenberg ob der Tauber, truly a storybook town. There we had our long time Instagram friend and her family meet us and it was a such joyous meeting that went by too fast. 

Hope you'll come back for that story. 

January 7, 2017

First photo session with Bartles

We woke up to snow this morning! Snow that actually stuck! Yippie! 

It's ended now and I presume that it will all melt away soon. 

Bartles was sleeping for most of the morning but he got up and started to wander around and I figured it would be the perfect time to lure him out for a quick photo session. He did so well!

The trick with Bartles (and most dogs) is treats (squeaky toys comes in a close second, for dogs who go bonkers for them). And the smaller the treat the easier it is to handle when taking pictures.

I had a bag of Zuke's mini naturals (one of Bartles' favorites) in my left pocket and a bag of little pieces of ham in my right in case Bartles did his business while we were out (turkey and ham cold cuts are his high level treats that he gets whenever he has a successful pee and potty session).

I know I made such a big hurrah in the beginning of the post, but snow actually isn't my favorite (I blame Syracuse - I think I experienced so much snow there during college to last me a lifetime). But first snow of the year is always exciting and while not my favorite, it is actually one of my favorite backgrounds to have when taking pictures of guest dogs (and it was a favorite with Piri aside from cherry blossoms, which gave such wonderful color - grass is actually my least favorite!). There is something about the lighting when it snows that makes for a pretty ambiance. So of course there was a reason to lure Mr. Bartles out. I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to have a first photo session with the first snow of the year.

You know these firsts give me different feelings - firsts with Bartles is a great joy but they are also firsts without Piri, which still makes me my heart hurt. It's been an interesting time trying to navigate these contradicting emotions and I think it will continue to be this way for a while. 

After this first photo shoot, Bartles made himself comfortable on top of a soft blanket and went off to sleep, which was perfect time for me to edit the photos. I actually started this post a few hours ago and since starting, Bartles went out a few more times, had a successful potty session outside and got to enjoy ham, had a meal, peed in his diaper (he was up and about but I read his signals wrong), ate some treats and now is off to dream land again. 

He sure does keep me busy, this one. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Here's to more camera time, Bartles! 

January 6, 2017

Happy Weekend & The Zero Waste Challenge

Did any of you guys see this zero waste challenge video? 

One woman attempted to live without making any trash for a month. I was so curious how she did this because as embarrassing it is to admit it, I produce trash like a monster. It drives Yangkyu nuts especially with wasting paper towels and wipes. I have tried to re-use paper towels (the clean ones at least) but that effort sort of went down the drain. My excuse is, when you're in a pinch and a hurry, you don't have time to think but to just grab the most convenient thing and clean whatever mess is in front of you - spill, throw up, whatever (my biggest fear is, if I don't clean it quickly enough, someone is going to step on it and trot all over the house making an even bigger mess). 

We do recycle and compost but I realize that we could be doing more. I noticed I wasn't as adamant about recycling what was in the upstairs bathroom - empty shampoo bottles, toilet paper rolls. It was an annoyance to bring it downstairs in our recycle collection and so it went straight into the garbage bin in the bathroom. 

This is all really embarrassing to admit but I knew I wanted to change. Doing the zero waste challenge sounded a bit daunting but after watching I knew I could cut my waste by a significant amount. 

After Bartles came, it's been a little bit of a challenge because using a disposable diaper instead of a reusable one is just really convenient and a life saver especially at 3 am in the morning and I'm getting paper towel happy again (sometimes) after mealtimes (he needs a good wipe after as food particles get stuck under his mouth flaps and he drools after drinking water -- Piri was like this too). But in all other aspects of my life I am making major improvements and if feels pretty darn good. 

Paper towels -- So I use paper towels for everything. I hate using the kitchen towels because I am CONSTANTLY washing my hands and the towels end up getting soaked, and they don't dry properly and sometimes they end up with a mildew smell. I have had to wash with vinegar on numerous occasions. Yangkyu would have towels about all over our counter to have them dry properly, which drove me nuts because we don't have a lot of countertop space and when I'm trying to cook and prepare food they would get in the way. To avoid all this I just started to use paper towels. 

But I am back to using kitchen hand towels and I have learned a little something about drying hands (at the ripe old age of 38). I realized that I wasn't shaking the excess water off of my hands before drying them on a towel. Changed that. I also was using one side of the towel constantly which contributed to it getting soaked faster. Changed that. I also began to dry them properly and now that I've taken a couple of steps to ensure that towels aren't getting soaked, only one towel really is in need of some countertop time to dry properly per day. Yay. A win win for everybody. 

Wipes -- I use wipes all the time too. To wipe the countertops and to clean in general. I mean, I just can't live without them. I actually started to use wipes to save money on paper towels. But what I do now is actually use a spare hand towel to wipe the kitchen countertop and use wipes to clean them every few days. I decided to make my own countertop cleaning spray and once that is done, I plan to cut using wipes in the kitchen altogether. I think I'll still have them around for quick emergency pick ups but perhaps one day those emergency pick ups won't need the help of disposable wipes as well. 

Zip lock bags -- I use zip lock bags all the time (um.. do you see a wasteful pattern?). For vegetables, meat, left over things, temporary treat bags -- I mean name an issue and zip lock is your answer. All this - the paper towels, wipes and zip lock bags, I use because it's just really really convenient. You don't have to worry about washing anything afterwards. You just use and throw out. Simple. But I kicked my zip lock habit by using containers for everything. Everything. Our refrigerator looks like a little container shop. The only thing I currently use a zip lock bag is to hold pieces of cold cuts which I use for Bartles "high treats" whenever he successfully pees and potties outside. Oh and sometimes when we have pieces of meat that need to be freezed separately.

Disposable kitchen gloves -- I used them whenever I needed to mix food or some Korean side dishes (which uses soy sauce and sesame oil where the smell can transfer to your hands even after you wash it) and even dog food (wet and dry food). Now I just use a spoon or my bare hands. Just live with the extra thing to wash or hands that smell like soy sauce.

Recycle and compost -- I mentioned before we already do this but we're more aggressive about it now. I also saw this amazing video of making vegetable stock. I always thought that cooked foods could not be composted but I was wrong. Boiled sweet potato skins and vegetable scraps that are first used to make vegetable stock can totally be composted. And I am totally doing this.

Another major thing I stopped using altogether is tin foil (except on New Year's day Yangkyu wanted to get the grill going and toss in sweet potatoes which he wrapped with foil - he immediately regretted suggesting doing the grill). We are also considering lowering the amount of wipes we use for dogs paws and their pee and potty area. We are thinking of getting face towels and using water to soak them to wipe their paws and only using the wipes for their pee and potty area. We already purchased a small wood towel rack to hang by our balcony door but still need to invest in some smaller sized towels.

We have garbage days on Tuesday (regular garbage and recycle) and Fridays (just regular garbage). Our regular garbage can used get filled to the max, sometimes making it hard to put the top on. Now? It's hardly even filled to the top - maybe just filled halfway (before Bartles it was like 2 bags worth of trash, tops). I mean the difference was so striking and amazing to me. And it just reaffirms what a big trash monster I was. Yangkyu has always been so much better (like for instance, when he gets coffee and forgets his reusable cup, he reuses his disposable cup a few times before finally recycling it), but he's even better than better now. Maybe I'll give him a gold star when he gets home from work today. Heh.

What do you have planned for the weekend? 

We're just staying in with Bartles and our guest dogs - two Westies! Perhaps some reading, maybe even some crafting(!) and a movie or two.

Have a great one. 

January 5, 2017

I miss this life with you... I like this life with you // 013

"But the children knew, as I am sure you know, that the worst surroundings in the world can be tolerated if the people in them are interesting and kind." -- Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning 

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