Marriage License by Norman Rockwell
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Franklin, TN, USA Manila, Philippines


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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Getting ready for winter

Current Mood:
CC is listening to: 25 Hottest Hollywood Cougar Tales on the e! Channel

Got some great deals on outerwear at the Disney outlet store :-)...

Mickey Shearling Toggle Jacket. Normally $99.99, now $24.99

Tinkerbell Sherpa Jacket. Normally $99.99, now $34.99

Mickey Polo for Him. Normally $29.99, now $7.99

I just wanted the jackets, but the order totaled $59.99 and I couldn't use the store's offer for free shipping on orders over $60. So I got Steve a green version of the Mickey polo so I could use the coupon :-). It was actually cheaper to do it this way rather than just order the jackets and pay for shipping :-).

In other news, I installed our new rainfall shower head all by myself while Steve was at work :-).

Hey, when the first installation step says "Wrap shower pipe threads with pipe tape (2–3 wraps only)" and you're not sure what "pipe tape" is, that's a big deal :-).

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Happiness is...

Current Mood:
CC is listening to: Nothing right now

Happiness is when your dog lays her head on your lap, falls asleep, and starts to snore :-).


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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Home Again

Current Mood:
CC is listening to: Her Boyfriend's Wedding--Craig Chaquico (Midnight Noon)

Ah, it's wonderful to be home :-). I actually enjoyed this trip's flying part more than usual. Usually the path I take is Memphis-Detroit or Minneapolis-Japan-Manila. This time though, it was cheaper to go Memphis-San Francisco-Japan-Manila.

I liked that route much more, for two reasons:
  1. Each leg was more manageable. It's 4 hours to San Francisco, 11 hours to Japan, 4 hours to Manila. The other flight is 2 hours to Detroit/Minneapolis, 16 hours to Japan, and 4 hours to Manila. Believe me, you feel those extra 5 hours :-).
  2. The plane for the international leg is better. Instead of a 747, they use an A330. When you fly coach on the A330, you get your own video screen and remote control. This means you can choose from a selection of movies and start and stop them anytime you want. On the 747 it's still the "Everyone in coach watches the same movie at the same time" deal. And not only that, on the A330, you get your own power port. You can plug in your laptop and not have to rely on your batteries. For some reason, only the front section of coach has power ports, but lets you choose your seat so that's not much of a problem :-). Oh and another thing, you get to play games on your own screen, too. You can play single-player games like Bejeweled, or multi-player games like Trivia Challenges with other passengers. I had fun playing a few rounds with the passengers in row 33 :-).
Of course, the thing that makes the trip most manageable is getting a seat on the exit rows :-). That extra leg room makes a huge difference :-). During the flight I grab my carry-on from the overhead compartment, place it in front of my seat, and use it as a footrest :-).

I might come back November/December, it's not definite yet :-).

On the trip home, everyone that I dealt with at the San Francisco airport was Filipino. That's never happened to me before, and that was pretty cool :-). From the immigrations officer to the lady telling you where to go next to the guy re-checking your bags for your connecting flight, they were all Filipino. What was funny was that I didn't recognize that the immigrations officer was Filipino.

"Was your visit to the Philippines for business or pleasure?"
"Business :-)."
"What do you do?"
"We have a call center in Manila. We have an office in Memphis, but the bulk of our business is handled at the Manila office."
"Where in Manila?"
"Oh, Makati."
"Are you itchy?"
I wasn't sure I heard him right. "Sorry?"
"Makati." He then started scratching the back of his hand.

That was when I realized he was Filipino. "Wongk wongk wongk," I replied, imitating the horn you usually hear when someone says a bad joke :-).

For my non-Filipino readers, "makati" is Tagalog for "itchy," it's just pronounced a little different from the actual city Makati :-).

Anyway, today Steve has the day off. It's our first common day off in months. We haven't decided what we'll be doing yet today. It's a little chilly to go to the zoo, but we haven't been there in a while. We'll see :-).


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Monday, October 15, 2007

Just a quick entry

Current Mood:
CC is listening to: Concerto For Flute And Strings In D Major, Hob. VIIf:D1: III. Allegro Molto--Gilbert Johnson (Haydn: Trumpet Concerto / Oboe Concerto / Flute Concerto / Sinfonia Concertante)

It's 2 hours before I head off to the airport for Manila. Quick business trip this time: 10 days. It's going to be an intense 10 days though.

Which is exactly why I'm writing a short blog entry now, because it's highly unlikely I'll get a chance to blog while I'm in Manila. Plus I'm hoping it'll help me relax a little. I always get a little tense when I'm traveling internationally--it's too far if I forget anything :-).

Latest news is that last week Steve and I sent out our application to INS to remove the conditions of my permanent residency. Translation: we need to prove to INS that we're still married so they can change my status from "conditional permanent resident" to "permanent resident."

When you get married in the US, they grant you "conditional permanent residency" to make sure you didn't get married for the green card. 90 days before the 2nd anniversary of you getting your green card, you're supposed to file an application with proof that you're still married. It's really important that this be done, or else when your permanent residency status expires, you're subject to deportation.

Some of the things they need are copies of: leases where you're both the signatories, joint bank accounts, birth certificates of any children born to the marriage, insurance policies where the spouse is the beneficiary, joint tax returns, and at least 2 affidavits from people who have known you at least since you got married saying that yup, you're still married.

I had to send all our stuff in a box--there was no way they'd all fit in an envelope :-).

The cost of the application? $545. Yeah, that'll put a dent in our budget for a while :-). And in 2009, when I apply for citizenship, it'll cost us $675--and that's if the price doesn't go up between now and 2009.

If you think that's bad, you should see how much it costs now to apply for permanent residency in the first place. When I applied for my green card two years ago it was $385. Now it costs $1010.

How long will the processing take, you ask? Well let's see. INS is backed up right now because they got FLOODED with applications when people found out they were raising the fees--they were trying to beat the price increase. Can't say I blame them :-). I would've done it myself, but the person I talked to on the phone said, "Don't send your papers out earlier than the 90 day window. If you do that they'll just send it back."

So right now, at my assigned service center, they're sending out "We got your stuff and will start processing them" receipts for applications they received September 19. That means it'll take weeks before I'm even told, "Yeah, we got your application."

And I'm one of the lucky ones. In other service centers, they've only gotten around to applications dated July or August.

The actual processing time takes about 6 months. If all goes well and they're satisfied with the proof, the application could be approved without need for a personal interview. I'll keep you updated :-).

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

California Trip Pictures Day 3

Current Mood:
CC is listening to: an episode of Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel--whoops, make that Dirty Jobs

September 27
Disneyland California Adventure

Today we visited the other Disney park: California Adventure. Steve and I have never been there, so it was fun discovering it together :-). Click on the picture for a bigger map view of the park :-).

As soon as we got past the gates, we went straight to the other end of the park towards the big roller coaster: California Screamin'. I'm a big roller coaster freak and I haven't ridden one in *years* :-).

So I was a *little* disappointed when we got to the ride and the attendant said the coaster was temporarily under maintenance and they hope to have it running later today. He couldn't give an ETA, though.

While waiting, Steve and I started to look at what else was in the park. That led me to my first thrill ride of the day: the Maliboomer.

Out of all the thrill rides in the park, the Maliboomer was the scariest one for me. It doesn't *look* very scary when you watch other people on it. As a matter of fact, it looked like so much fun and I couldn't wait to get on it.

But as soon as you see how minimal those seats really are... realize you're sitting on nothing more than a plastic stool and the only things holding you down are a seatbelt and a shoulder harness. At the end of those armrests are little metal handlebars and trust me, you hold on to those things for dear life :-).

One of the sound effects is the sound of a rubber band streeeettttccchiiing... and then BLAM! You're shot up 180 feet into the air and you're off your chair for a few seconds. If you have *any* fear of heights at all it makes the ride even scarier :-).

Here's a video of what it looks like. See the guy sitting on the leftmost side, in the shorts? I'm the one on his right, wearing the black shirt (Steve couldn't get a good angle). I'm dangling my feet trying to calm myself down before the ride started :-). In the video you can hear the streeeetccchiing sound effect right before the takeoff :-).

I'm pretty sure that's me you hear screaming--the one that's a full scream going up, and then half-screaming, half laughing while the ride was bouncing up and down :-).

I had jelly legs when I got off that ride :-). Now that I've been on it, I'll probably ride it again :-).

The next thrill ride was the Grizzly River Run.

Steve would have wanted to ride this one, but I'm glad he didn't. *I* was getting nauseous with all the spinning it did. It was great fun, though, and you DO get majorly wet :-).

After the ride Steve and I decided to sit down and rest some while I dried off. Great timing too, because another performing group was setting up to play where we were sitting :-). They're the Miner 49ers and at one point, they asked for volunteers to help them play the washboards :-).

Steve and I then moseyed on over to the Hollywood section of the park. On the way there were several photo opportunities that we took advantage of :-).

Here's one of me and the Evil Queen/Witch from Snow White...

And one with Goofy :-)...

And one with Chip...

And one with Minnie...

And one with Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen from Cars...

And here's one of Steve with a plane :-).

We then walked by the Hyperion theater...

and we saw that the next Aladdin musical was in 30 minutes. That was the longest we waited for anything during our entire Disneyland stay, and it was SO worth it! The genie was SOOOO funny!

This isn't our video, but it's the same genie. He was that funny throughout the whole show :-). Many of his jokes touched on current events, and they were a hit with the parents :-). This was recorded by someone else in February 2007:

The show lasted 45 minutes, and it was great :-). Steve and I were still laughing as we left the theater.

Right next to the Hyperion theater was another thrill ride: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Since we were already there, we decided that I'd go ride it :-).

I didn't know much about the Tower of Terror, so I didn't quite know what to expect. Because of that, it turned out to be the 2nd scariest ride in the park for me, next to the Maliboomer.

It was the 2nd scariest not only because of the ride itself, but also how they had set the ride up. I was never fond of the Twilight Zone. Too creepy and disturbing--kept me up nights as a kid.

So imagine entering the building into the lobby of a 1930s hotel that had been quickly abandoned: old, dusty, with cobwebs all over.

And if that's not creepy enough, the bellboy takes you to the library where he closes the doors and turns off the lights so you can watch this video:

So I'm in a dark library, surrounded by people and yet all by myself, and I've just been told that I'm diving head first into the Twilight Zone. Wonderful. It's my childhood fears realized .

After you watch the video, the back doors to the library open and you follow a winding path to the boiler room, where the service elevators are.

There you wait your turn to board the service elevator.

To see what happens during the ride, you can play this video I found on YouTube (you'll probably need to wait a minute or so before it gets to that part though).

Did I know the girl next to me? No. Did that stop me from grabbing her hand throughout the ride? Absolutely not :-).

When I told Steve about the ride afterwards, he said that even if he COULD get on it, he wouldn't. He's too phobic about the idea of elevators malfunctioning and causing you to fall to your death :-).

I learned later that in 2002, an improvement that the Disney Imagineers made to the ride was to make the lifts and drops completely random. You'll be dropped and lifted 6-8 times--but the exact number, the heights, and the sequence of those drops will be generated by the computer. Every ride will be different. That's pretty cool :-).

Let's see, the next thing we did after that was to head back to the big roller coaster to see if it was up and running. It was, WOO HOO :-)!

Steve was able to get a short video of me on the coaster just as it was about to take off. You'll see me raise my arms as I whoosh by him :-). And then you'll hear what Steve thinks of me getting on all those thrill rides :-).

That was pretty much all we did in California Adventure. Oh wait, no, we also went on the Monsters, Inc. ride ("Mike and Sully to the Rescue!") which was a short animatronic version of the movie :-).

Since it was only about 4:30 when we were done, Steve and I headed back to Disneyland to do a little shopping. And then at around 6 or so we decided we'd head back to the hotel :-).

Steve's impression after his first visit to Disneyland?

"Disneyland rocks."

I couldn't agree with him more :-). We can't wait to go back someday--maybe for our 5th or 7th anniversary :-).


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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

California Trip Pictures Day 2

Current Mood:
CC is listening to: I Left My Heart in San Francisco--Tony Bennett (Nissan Live Sets: Tony Bennett)

September 26

Disneyland’s changed a lot since I last visited :-). They didn’t have the California Adventure theme park yet. Click on the map for a larger view :-).

At the ticket counters. If you wanted to visit just one theme park (either California Adventure or Disneyland), the admission is $66. If you wanted to be able to visit both theme parks in 1 day (highly discouraged—there’s no way you can do them both in one day), it’s $91. Steve and I got a 2-day admission for both parks. It cost us $122 each.

Disneyland was decorated for Halloween

A sign on the entrance archway: “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.”

Translation: “Check your grown-up worries at the door. For as long as you’re in the park, you’re a kid again.”

I appreciated that reminder. As an adult, we’ve all gotten a little jaded about the world. Our first instinct when we see the characters is that they’re just people in suits. While that is true, I think to REALLY enjoy the park, you’ve got to suspend that belief for a little while. Let the child-like wonder come back. Disneyland is SO much more fun that way :-).

Here’s a short video of how Main Street was decorated for Halloween :-)

I was in the middle of talking with Steve along Main Street when ZOOM! I just disappeared. Steve didn’t know what was going on. When he finally found me, I was waving him over because I saw Pluto and was in line to get my picture taken :-).

The Walt Disney/ Mickey Mouse Partners statue. On the plaque is a quote from Walt Disney that says: "I think most of all what I want Disneyland to be is a happy place where parents and children can have fun together."

I remember having my picture taken with a Native American statue when I was a little girl. I’ll have to find that picture in Manila and post it next to this one :-). I don’t think it’s the same statue though.

Mary Poppins and Bert!

In front of me in line to have pictures taken were two little girls. Mary and Bert were crouching down and talking to them, and I overheard part of their conversation. Mary and Bert were talking with an English accent, just like they were the real characters. And I heard Mary say something like, "Why just this morning, Bert and I were walking the streets of London, and I said to Bert…"

There was a parent in line that felt they were talking to the girls too long. He said, loud enough for them to hear, "Yeah we’re waiting for Mary Poppins!"

But they ignored him and went right on chatting with the children. I’m glad they did that. I’m glad their priority was the children, not the parents. Those two little girls will have an incredible memory to take home :-).

Taken at the Innoventions center in Tomorrowland. There really wasn’t anything to see; Steve and I were just goofing around :-). He did the classic "right-before-I-get-hit-by-a-meteor-or-eaten-by-an-alien" pose :-).

To infinity… AND BEYOND!

Taken right before we went on the Jungle Cruise. Wait times on the rides were not long at all, since we went on a weekday during the school year. The most we waited for a ride was 10 minutes.

A view of the park from Tarzan’s treehouse. This used to be the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse :-).

Steve: "You gotta leave cool at the door."

There are LOTS of people performing all over the park, totally for free :-). They’re a treat to watch :-). We were able to catch the tail end of a Barbershop quartet performance (they’re called the Dapper Dans). In this clip they’re singing, "When Irish Eyes are Smiling."

The joke was:
Robby: "Hey guys, why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?"
Frank: "I don’t know Robby, why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?"
(you’ll be able to hear the punchline in the video)
Frank: (after punchline) “Uh… Robby, you’re Irish, aren’t ya?"
Robby: "Yes I am, Frank, and the Irish are known for their great wit."
Frank: "Ohhh. So you’re half Irish."

Yeah, that’s me laughing in the background :-)

These are pictures of the parade right before the park closed for the night. Park hours during the time we visited was 10am – 8pm :-). The parade started around 7:30.

Some of the souvenirs we got at the park:
I love this Tinkerbell baseball cap. I accidentally left it at a relative’s while visiting though, so I’ll have to do without it for a few days while it gets mailed over.

If you let park employees know that it’s your first visit to Disneyland, you get a commemorative badge. Your best bet is to get them at City Hall. They’ll have badges for sure.

We had gotten the "Just Married" pins because we didn’t know until the next day that they had "Happy Anniversary" pins too. If I remember right, they also had "Happy Birthday" pins.

What’s neat about wearing these pins is that when employees notice them, they greet you :-). Steve and I got several "Congratulations, guys!" from people running the rides :-).

As we were returning Steve’s rented handheld captioning device (since Steve is hard of hearing, the handheld captioning device allows him to read what the announcer is saying during the ride while other people hear it), the attendant said to me, "You guys just got married and you took him to Disneyland? That makes you an Honorary Citizen!" And he gave me this pin. I’m not sure what being an Honorary Citizen means, but it’s pretty cool to be able to say, "I’m an Honorary Citizen of Disneyland!" :-).


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