I was utterly remiss in not closing my September post with the birth of my new baby cousin, Kathleen Elizabeth! She was born on September 30, and was a whopping 10 pounds, 4 ounces! Big girl! Everyone is doing fine. I went to see her and Deirdre in the hospital when I had a cold, so all the pictures of me holding her are marred by a big ugly mask, and my hands are raw from washing them so much, but she's just darling—all dark hair and little hands. Deirdre's mom is in town to help, and so is my grandmother, so we had a nice little baby-welcoming party with Whole Food and Celtic music. New cousin! So exciting!
In my world, I have friends now! Several people from my linguistics and translation classes have started inviting me to tea with them after class, and I've even been to parties! This is in addition to my teammates in ballroom, with whom I've spent a fair amount of non-dancing time. We went on a retreat early in October, to Chabot Park, and I'm astonished that such an enormous expanse of open nature is so close to civilization. We only drove about 40 minutes to get there, and there were houses almost all along the way until the very end. There were so many people there I didn't get to talk to or hang out with everyone. But we had a great time taking walks through the gorgeous scenery, playing frisbee and icebreaker games (please, stop asking about and referencing the damn circle game. I hate you all), and in the morning, laughing at Pamela and Marz and Darwin and Lyell, who slept outside and got all condensed on.
The weather continues glorious beautiful. I don't spend nearly enough time outside, but I'm saving a bundle on drying my clothes—I just hang them outside! I've noticed, though, that they don't dry nearly as fast I would expect them to given the temperature and breeze. There's something about the air around here that's moister even though it doesn't feel like it.
I went down to Fresno to see my grandmother and attend the annual banquet for the Lee Institute for Japanese Art which is incongruously in the middle of a walnut grove in the middle of nowhere. I wish I had a kimono for the event, but everything I have is mismatched and too old, and I can't dress myself and don't know anyone who can. So i just wore my red and white flowered dress and lavender pashmina for warmth. Fresno is even warmer than the Bay Area, so I barely needed it. The Lee Institute is huge and shockingly well-manicured for someplace so far out of the way. Their grounds are perfect, better even than some places I've seen in Japan. This time we got to go into the private gardens of the on-site residence, that are usually off-limits. Passed hors d'oeuvres and open bar, no one my age. I munched and sipped for a while and let Grandma introduce me around, trotted out a little rudimentary Japanese, and tried to be modest about my studies at Berkeley. At dinner, I was seated with a Japanese dignitary who turned out to be a ballroom dancer himself! We had a very nice conversation about that, but I didn't get any tips about it. Maybe I'm too much of a beginner to need it.
I already posted about my experience dancing with John, and I'm very grateful to him for helping me with ballroom so early on, because I didn't find a partner until three weeks before the first comeptition. R is just a little shorter than I am in my heels, but we're well-matched, I'm told, and we seem to be doing okay. The first competition was at the very end of October. I had a dark blue skirt, silver velvet shirt, and sparkly gray shrug for Standard, and a tube dress in burnt orange. I did my hair just as the intermediate and advanced girls said we should—gel it, spray it, blow-dry it, repeat. My hair felt like plastic all day. I kept touching it in fascination. We placed third in Waltz and Quickstep, third in Rumba, and not in Cha-cha. I was sort of surprised at how put out I felt that we didn't make the finals, even though we messed up badly enough not to deserve it at all. They say most competitions go well into the night, but this one ended around 4, and I crawled home, showered all the mess out of my hair, and dragged off to a party at the ballroom house. About six or seven dancers live together near my apartment, but I learned later that it's not official—they just liked each other and all happened to be looking for housing at the same time last year. I left early though, to go to dinner with Gabe and some of his friends in Milpitas at the best Chinese restaurant ever, according to Gabe. And how did it earn this lofty praise, you might ask?
It serves fish-fragrant eggplant cakes.
Don't you love it when you see a phrase in which none of the words actually make sense in reference to any others? Especially on a menu...they're pretty good, though. Got to see Gabe's digs, which are small and basementy but cozy. I like his room. We mucked about in Santa Cruz, got lunch, and then he drove me back home.
I sort of forgot about Halloween so I dove into Hot Topic, bought a pair of big white angel wings, and wore them over a white shirt and my petticoat skirt for a party on Northside with people from my Japanese classes. Yay, I'm an angel. Meh. There's a picture of my arm in said costume on Facebook, if you're interested.
Okay, Facebook. Weird, but also fun. I think I like it, especially because I can reconnect with people from as far back as high school, and I can put a lot of stuff on it that will satisfy my need to enumerate things without boring everyon in sight. I think it's classier than MySpace, which I REFUSE, CATEGORICALLY, to join. LiveJournal was bad enough.
Other things I like about Berkeley:
*The spicy-hempy smell of Telegraph Ave., and all the vendors on weekend afternoons.
*All the food! Yumyumyumyumyum...
*Especially Kingpin doughnuts. Oh my stars, I'm going to have dance more or less constantly to work off all of those maple- and chocolate- and sugar-glazed glories. There's NUTMEG in them. NUTMEG. Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts, I'm sorry, but it's just not going to work out. I hope we can still be friends, and maybe I'll drop by when I can't get anything better, but Kingpin has my heart. NUTMEG.
*Zooming down Bancroft Ave. on my bicycle, from I-House all the way to Shattuck. So very dangerous, and yet so very, very, deliciously exciting.
*Lovely misty mornings that haze over the hills and make them look like the Austrian, Swiss and German postcards from the 50s and 60's my mother has in the attic. Getting up sucks, but at least it's nice out a lot when I'm awake.
*Free bus rides, all the time. Wheee!