August 31, 2009

"It's trippin' balls."

You won't find that in an ESL textbook.

Wouldn't it be great to strap voice recorders to a bunch of native speakers and pool all that data to see what we actually say? Wouldn't it be fun to laugh over all the weird utterances? Wouldn't it be better as a learner to study all the expressions floating through buses and bathrooms and bars?

August 29, 2009


Resolution or death.

That one held my hand through times of confusion. Whenever I feared the anxiety pit would swallow me whole it reminded me that, eventually, the problem would either be resolved or I would die. Since death is improbable, resolution is the almost certain future.

It is what it is.

That's my mother's.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

That's Kath's mother's.

It's hard to evolve in a vacuum.

That summarized my feelings at the end of the Galapagos stay.

Maybe these are not mottos, but then neither is UBC's "tuum est" (it is yours).

What will my next one be, I wonder.

August 27, 2009

"Vegetarians have more fun"

Bathroom graffiti at The Biltmore. Someone added words so that it now reads:

"Vegetarians have more fungus in their diet."

The Biltmore falls well short in toilet literature. Considering how many hip young things frequent the cabaret, the wit level if nothing else should be higher. Instead you drop your pants to read juvenile back-and-forths about the sex lives of overweight women. What a shame. The best I've seen in Vancouver is at Café Deux Soleils, where the scrawl is both positive and insightful.

August 26, 2009

"Are you taking care of wild horses?"

Bathroom graffiti from Turks Coffee Exchange on Commercial Drive.

Is it a metaphor?


Wikipedia takes you weird places. I went down a hole looking for information on spoken grammar and came out twenty minutes later on the other side of E-Prime, English without "to be." The rationale: without the "is" crutch, we choose more precise words, and in turn present more precise thoughts.

Hamlet in E-Prime:

To exist or not to exist,
I ask this question.

Arabic doesn't have "to be" verb and neither does Turkish. They both get along fine, as I understand.

I am Mary
Ben Mary (I subject + Mary)

I am happy
Mutluyum (Happy + I suffix)

August 22, 2009

What I wrote coming down from salvia

1. I touched the other side.
2. Parker isn't around.
3. No one's listening.
4. The best was when I tuned everybody out and went with the vision parade.
5. My body is still tingling.
6. I choked and choked; I thought I might choke to death.
7. Coming down is taking forever.
8. I feel paranoid, but perhaps for good reason.
9. This makes you think about social relations a lot.
10. My body is still tingling.
11. I remember laughing, "This is one of the best things I've ever tried!" I still mean it.

Note: I can't believe this drug is legal. I mean, wow.

Identity verification crisis

Before relinquishing my brother's Aeroplan miles, the slow woman at the call centre had to ask me security questions. His home phone number (but I only use his cell number!), his email address (but I only write him over Facebook!), and his mailing address (who even receives mail anymore?). I had no choice but to hang up and text Steven for the information. The results:

his home phone: my cell phone
his email address: my mother's email address
his mailing address: Jan's house

This Frankenstein hodgepodge of contact information isn't even strange. It's familiar. It's part of the confusion that comes with being transient. I still don't know my own Canadian postal code. For a long time, I couldn't remember if I should check Visitor or Resident upon arrival in the Vancouver airport. I couldn't use my library card to log on to a library computer, because they told me my password was my phone number, and I kept plugging in the Saudi one. Come to think of it, it's sad that I'll never use all those old numbers.

The phone: 9 011 966 3 878 0189

The P.O. box: 9687

The postal code: 31311

The numbers that fix you in place somehow.

August 18, 2009


It's coming up. Last year Greg and I threw ourselves in the race and dragged ourselves through the mental mud, arriving at midnight with a manuscript title Dream, Baby. I opened the document for the first time since last summer, and I see that even the last paragraph has dual fingerprints:

In a moment, he was curled behind her, left arm wrapped around her left side. The same sweetness that he smelled the first time they slept together emanated from the back of her neck. Hugo had time to register one breath of it, before he, too, was snoring. Their two textured breathing patterns blended like a perfectly tuned “Om” in a class of fifth level Tibetan monks, soaring even above the air pumps from the building across the street. Sixteen hours later, they awoke together. The sun was shining. Darcie had somehow kicked the covers off of them in the night, and found that even with a breeze coming in through the open window, she was warm.

I don't know if I'll do it this year. It's a little scary pscyhologically, and I'm not even sure where I will be geographically.

Anyone thinking about it?

August 14, 2009

Paulina Rubio

Doesn't she have the best hair?

She also has an addictive song, Causa y Efecto. I like the music video quite a bit.

August 13, 2009

Isabela backlog: los tuneles

When rivers of lava harden on the outside, they form tunnels. Thanks to this bit of geology magic, there is a wild labyrinth of rock off the coast of Isabela. You have to brave rough seas for an hour in a small boat and your captain has to time the entry to the site to avoid being flipped by crashing waves (flips do occur), but it's worth it.

We swam with turtles and rays through the underwater windows.

And on land, two boobies did their mating dance, which involves stamping around, spreading wings, and whistling through beaks. They pretend not to notice each other, but they're totally into it.

August 11, 2009

Good on ya

In a typically Leighton scenario, I am home in Canada while my family is away in Turkey. In their place are some 50- and 60-something Australian sailors who are renting the house. They are jovial people and keen to share advice on yacht purchases (Mallorca for value). Right now they're practicing flatter accents, because they're driving to Seattle to look at a couple of fifty-footers and the U.S. border people can't understand them. They said they could scarcely order a drink on the flight from LA, the "air hostess" was so confused by their speech.

My dad, a New Zealander by birth, has virtually no accent from the motherland. He says he went to Montana on a job and the Americans were so bewildered, especially over the phone, that he had no choice but to adopt something neutrally North American. When he called his mother back in New Zealand, she hung up: "You're not my son!"

August 9, 2009

Hello Goodbye

My despedida on Thursday night ended at 4:15AM, as I was spooned to sleep by my loving roommate. I had planned a quiet dinner party, but one thing (beers at Bar de Beto) led to another (body shots at Millenium), and who wants to go straight to bed when half a chocolate cake is sitting in the fridge, and biking in the night air is so lovely. I woke up to catch the boat 45 minutes later.

A friend asked what I would miss about the Galapagos, but the realization that I am changing places never strikes me until take-off. Then I pull out a pen and start making lists of things I look forward to in the new place. This is my process. As for the question, I never know what I miss 'til I'm gone.

I can tell you what I miss about Vancouver (big trees, biking home, drinking wine, crossing bridges at sunset), because the distillery of time has poured those elements into a glass for me. I have hunches about the Galapagos miss-list (siestas, wishing hearty buenos diases to the neighbours, yogurt-at-the-tienda days...) but I won't really know for weeks.

In short: Hello, Vancouver! Goodbye, Galapagos!

August 4, 2009

Have a happy week

Mom and I followed flutes when we were in Quito and found these dancers.

Little girls balancing bottles on their heads.

Older ones swinging hats and hands.

Don't they look happy?

August 1, 2009

No hablas español

Slimy Jaime is a bureaucrat with a gold finger hanging around his neck and a silver SUV streaked with black flames. When Heather and I are forced to share breathing space with him (in the interests of using Ingala's free internet) he does one of two things: makes sexual advances on us in front of our students or lashes out with mean comments.

Yesterday was a little of column A, a little of column B. Let me first explain that he speaks too fast and slurs his words. Combine this with the fact that I don't give a shit about what he has to say (Donde estan las otras gringas? Come look at these gross photos of my half-dressed teenage daughter. Eres muy guapa, sabes. Did you know I fly to San Cristobal every ten days? etc.), and you arrive at Disculpe? land, where I beg pardon after every question because I either don't understand or don't want to understand his inane articulations.

This annoyed him more than usual, so he lashed out. 

No hablas Español, no?

Umm, hablo un poco.

Pero, no bien. No hablas bien.

Por que me dices esto? No es muy simpatico decir esto a una amiga.

Pero tu amiga Heather habla mejor.

Ella ha estudiado por catorce años, y ella enseña español en los estados unidos.

No hablas Español. Necesitas praticar.

Go fuck yourself.

But it stung. Even coming from ridiculous Slimy Jaime, the words stung, and cued some first-child, Type-A personality guilt: I could have learned more in this time. I swam, and thought this. I biked to class, and thought this. I went to bed, and thought this. Then I woke up and remembered some truth: Criticism is a poor soil to grow in. I'm putting down the words Jaime gave me and walking away.