Osaka Fizzles Teriyaki Style

I don’t know about you, but I like my sake warm.  Icy sake leaves me thinking of a cold eel pulled from the water, squirming, chilling the palm of my hand.  Warm sake slides down the throat effortlessly, warming the centre of your belly.  Kind of like laughter.  Today, Sally Thelen is my sake. Please guffaw at this week’s story from Summer Chick Tales.

It was two days before my big date with the hot Japanese cop that I’d met at my friend’s party when he texted me to surprise me. Not in a romantic, cutesie, “I-can’t-wait-to-see-you-again” kind of way, but in a “Hey-guess-what! My-supervisor-is-going-to-join-us-on-our-date” kind of way.

Needless to say, it worked – I was, well, surprised.

But, hey, maybe this was just the Japanese way?

After all, what did I know? I hadn’t exactly been dating up a frenzy since arriving in Japan two years prior to meeting the hot cop. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in dating Japanese guys – I was. It’s just that they didn’t seem all that interested in dating me. Or, maybe “not interested” is not the right term for it — more like “completely terrified of the prospect.”

Not that this was anything new. I’ve been told my whole life that I can be a little bit, well, intimidating. I’ve never been completely sure what it is about me that puts men off – whether it’s my fierce independence or my intellect or my biting sarcasm or, say, my tendency to get loud and sloppy at parties and start dragging boys across the dance floor by their lapels in an effort to make them dance with me.

The only Japanese guy I’d gone out with before the cop had been a hulking, judo-practicing, night club bouncer. On our first date, I wore the most girlie dress I could find and carefully poured his beer before pouring my own (a little trick I’d picked up from watching Memoirs of a Geisha). I politely asked him questions and tried to keep my donkey-bray laugh to a minimum. Over dinner, he informed me that he was descended from a family of samurai. (“So what’s your dad do?” “He’s in the family business.” “And what is that?” “Oh, you know, samurai-ing.”)

Sapporo, samuari-san?

Figuring the descendent of Japanese military nobility could handle a little more of the “real me,” for our second date, I invited him to my friend’s Hawaiian-themed house party.

I showed up in a coconut bra and a grass skirt.

Let’s just say he was a little surprised.

Let’s also just say he never called me again.

But, back to the hot cop.

After a bit of careful research (phoning all my friends who had ever been out on a date in Japan), I discovered that the whole chaperone-thing was, in fact, the Japanese way… well, kind of. You see, it’s quite common for a girl to bring along a friend with her on a first date to, you know, protect her virtue and stuff. It’s not nearly so common for a guy to bring along a chaperone — especially if that guy happens to be one of the few people legally allowed to carry a gun in Japan.

Are hearts and wrought iron in Sally's future?

“Will he be bringing his wife?” I texted back hopefully. Why not make lemonade out of these lemons? So I couldn’t have the hot cop to myself? We could at least make this into a double date kind of thing! Wouldn’t that be fun?

He texted me back to tell me he’d ask. The next day, he texted with another surprise — not only was his supervisor bringing his wife but they would also be bringing their one-year-old child.

This was not exactly the kind of lemonade I had in mind.

But who was I to be picky? I hadn’t been on a date in almost a year and the cop was hot – like really, really, really hot.

And, hey, maybe I could make this whole date-with-a-one-year-old child thing work for me. After all, I had to be less intimidating than a screaming toddler, right? Right?!

On the evening of our date, I arrived at the restaurant to find the hot cop and his entourage. His supervisor was engaging and funny and chatted excitedly with me about Brazil. (He had lived there a couple years; I had lived there for one.) The supervisor’s wife was sweet and charming and also a big travel buff. She wanted to know which countries I’d been to and where I planned to go to next. The one-year-old child was adorable… and, well, kind of screamy but adorable, nonetheless.

And the cop?

The cop was hot – like really, really, really hot.

And, well, that was about it.

He seemed like a nice guy (and hot… I mentioned he was hot, right?).

A flowering relationship...

But we didn’t really have much in common. His hobbies included martial arts and working on his six-pack (as in his six-pack abs, not, like, a six-pack of beer – which would have been a hobby we could have totally shared together). My hobbies included reading and eating ice cream and occasionally dragging hapless Japanese boys across the dance floor by their lapels. (In fact, that’s exactly how we met!)

He didn’t speak much English. I didn’t speak much Japanese. While this hadn’t seemed to matter much on the dance floor, it just made for awkward silence over dinner. (Well, it would have made for awkward silence if we hadn’t had his chatty supervisor and his charming wife and their screamy child to fill up the void. Talk about lemonade out of lemons!)

After our “date” together, I never heard from the hot cop again.

Let’s just say I wasn’t too surprised.

Let’s also just say I don’t think he could have handled me in a coconut bra.

Author bio: Sally Thelen is a writer, teacher, traveler, performer and all-around scaredy cat. She has been working, living and traveling in Asia since 2007. She currently lives in China, where she teaches English and blogs about cookies, pants and her fear of pretty much everything at Unbrave Girl.  Alternatively, catch her comedy, caramel goodness on Twitter or Facebook.

And, yes, boys, she’s single!

Summer Chick Tales was conceived from my love of the season and my obsession with slurpees.  I always have one every summer.  I also love women writers.  Lots.  If you want to submit a story or be in charge of the mojito station, see the editorial schedule.  Come on, join the XX chromosome party.

Photos provided by author.

When Love Rode Up in Finland

When I read this story Finlandia Vodka came to mind.  In a rocks glass, two fingers worth, mixed with soda and cranberry juice.  Then, ice.  Three to four cubes.  It’s a complete drink to accompany Shawna Enns’ tale of love found and lost in the brisk environs of Finland. Please enjoy today’s story from Summer Chick Tales.

Snow Dust Winter Glow

It was 2005 and I was absolutely thrilled with myself, because I had put a dream in motion. I had successfully arrived, completely solo, in Turku, Finland to begin a four month university exchange. Now, this location in itself is not terribly exotic, and the weather was generally far from paradise, but this was my first time overseas and just as I had hoped, it proved to be an experience of a lifetime.

During the first week of school all of the International Business students were put into teams to do a city-wide scavenger hunt, which essentially turned into one huge pub crawl.  I spotted him right away, a rather cocky, but quite hilarious, Dutch student with spiky hair, obnoxious yellow high tops, and a shit-eating grin.  His name was Erik.

As it turned out, our apartments weren’t too far from each other and we were the only students within our group of friends that decided to bike to school instead of getting bus passes.  We would bump into each other on the bike path and soon enough, he started waiting for me each morning to head to school together.

As October approached, I found myself thinking of home and the big juicy turkey that my friends and family would be sharing together for the Thanksgiving holiday. I realized that of course, Europeans do not have this holiday so I decided that with the help of my friends, I would host a real Canadian Thanksgiving. It was a challenge to track down some of the ingredients, but it was hilarious watching my French friends make piles of mashed potatoes in a dorm-sized kitchen and to see their perplexed faces at the grocery store as I tried to find an appropriate substitute for canned pumpkin.

Finland's stark beauty

The night went off famously, though I did have to call my dad at 4 a.m. Regina time to figure out how long the turkey should be cooked.  We shared great food, we each expressed something we were thankful for, and we drank copious amounts of wine and Finnish vodka. Throughout the night, it seemed that Erik and I had our eye on one another, each trying to be inconspicuous, but always meeting each other’s glances at the exact same time.  As the evening progressed, the remaining guests thought I should teach them how to line dance because in their minds, this is what Canadians do. Erik got right in there and started dancing away beside me. At that point, we could no longer ignore our connection.

So the semester continued with Finnish hockey games together, trips to Sweden and essentially co-habitating in my little university apartment. I had come across the new James Blunt CD while on a weekend trip to Russia, so we’d play it over and over on my player as we talked and laughed late into the cold Finnish nights.

But, as I’m sure many can attest to, love stories on the road often turn to tragedy as quickly as they turn to bliss. The end of the semester was in the middle of December and Erik had invited me to join him on the drive home to The Netherlands so that he could show me where he was from before I flew home.  Right from the get-go, there was something very bittersweet about this invitation. I was thrilled about going to the Netherlands and the chance to see Sweden, Denmark and Germany along the way, but I knew a goodbye was looming.

As I tried to pack up my life in Finland before our road trip, all kinds of hilarious mistakes were made, most likely because my mind was overcome with the idea of leaving my fellow exchange students and this crazy life we had created for ourselves over the last four months. I did my last load of laundry and accidentally threw my sweater in there with my apartment key still in it. The laundry was done automatically by loading the machine with credits from your cell phone (remember, this is Finland, land of Nokia) and so the door refused to open before the cycle was done.  I sat there in the apartment laundromat for a good hour contemplating whether I could relocate my life to the Netherlands so that I would never have to leave Erik.

The inevitable is coming

Our trip to The Netherlands was great fun. We toured Anne Frank’s former home, drank Grolsch and partied at a jazz bar that famous artists like Chet Baker have performed at. But, as it always does when you’re traveling, time ran out too soon. On the morning of my flight home we took a train to the airport in Amsterdam. Once we got my highly oversized bags onto the train, I could no longer keep face. A tear streamed down my cheek, then his, one, then another, and then sobs as we sat across from one another, our hands locked together, oblivious of all the onlookers surrounding us on this crowded train. It seems the emotions were contagious. Though I don’t know what she said, a younger women standing nearby with her significant other, motioned towards me and tears welled up in her eyes.  I guess heartbreak crosses the boundaries of every culture and language.

We arrived at the airport and my bags were indeed, way too heavy. I begrudgingly started getting rid of things and rearranging between my bags and my carry-on, still crying all the while, and begging them to let me get on with this. Finally, the airport employee took pity on my poor, pathetic soul and accepted my bags. The only thing left to do was pass through security and inevitably, part ways with Erik.  I’m still perplexed at how my legs actually moved me through those doors, because at the time, if my heart had anything at all to do with it, I would never have left his side. Somehow, I let go of his hand, took one last long look, and said goodbye.

Author Bio: Life has a funny little way of working out exactly as it should. Three years later, Shawna Enns met her husband when she accepted a position at a radio station in Regina after returning from an internship in Africa. Skott lived in Australia for a couple of years, which sparked their immediate connection to travel.  They got married to the beat of West African drums and never let go of their love for traveling. On June 18, 2011, they are embarking on a one-year trip around the world. Follow along at the Get Up and Globe blog, or find them on Twitter.

Summer Chick Tales was conceived from my love of the season and my obsession with slurpees.  I always have one every summer.  I also love women writers.  Lots.  If you want to submit a story or be in charge of the mojito station, see the editorial schedule.  Come on, join the XX chromosome party.

Photo: LaPrima Donna

Summer Lovin’ Had Me a Blast; Summer Lovin’ Happened So Fast

This one is most definitely a daiquiri and Irish ale combo. In tune with a typical summer drinking night, Nicole Smith started one summer with light intentions, only to end it with something robust – a boy and romance. Please enjoy today’s story from Summer Chick Tales.

times square

It all began, fittingly, on the first day of summer with a game called ‘tangled’, where everyone puts their hands in the center of a circle, grabs two random people’s hands and then proceeds to untangle themselves to make a circle as this is “team-building” and “creates friendships”.  It was our first day as counselors at an American summer camp in up-state New York and we were wondering just what we had gotten ourselves into.

In the fray of hand grabbing, I felt one brush over mine, attempting to take hold, but I grabbed two other hands – one set belonging to the strong lacrosse specialist and the other to the as-nervous-as-me mountain biking instructor. I gave the mountain biking instructor a brief, nervous smile before listening to the Type-A personalities taking control of the predicament we’d been forced into. It vaguely occurred to me that there were boys and possibilities, but dashed it from my mind at the moment.

I wasn’t just a counselor, but had a specific job – radio specialist.  After slaving away cleaning the winter dust and dirt, lugging an ancient 10 kg panel board and various other sound and computer equipment, I set up my radio shack on the edge of the boys-side of campus.

Tangled at summer camp

Every morning a curious creature would pass by the radio shack. He bounded not walked, and always seemed to gain everyone’s attention without actually trying, and best of all, he worked in the canteen as the cooking teacher on the edge of girls-side, so our paths crossed everyday.

Whilst setting up one day, a guy in a white and blue singlet bounded up the steps and poked his head inside and in a thick accent, a series of syllables passed his lips.

“Howsitgoingdoyouhaveanymichaeljacksonhowsaboutmaninthemirror?”

I probably looked like a dork with my mouth hanging open, confused, but I had no clue what language this strange man was speaking. I have problems understanding different English accents at the best of times?

After a wobbly, “uhrm… what?” he tried again.

“Do you have any Michael Jackson? Man in the Mirror?”

The accent was still thick but I understood and searched the music log before playing his request. He smiled, thanked me and introduced himself as Pod.  Oh right, canteen creature.  

A seed of friendship had been planted that day. It then became a tradition to begin the day with Pod’s request. Always the same – a little bit of Michael Jackson or a bit of U2. And everyday he would sing his way to the canteen. Though I’d heard the Irish could sing, this guy could really sing. 



As the summer wore on, the counselors wore out and the true party animals in all of us emerged, or perhaps it was just the toll of living separated from our friends.

The small town of Monticello (population: 6,500) was packed each Friday night with 300 counselors itching to get away from their kids and get their party on.  
Monticello was where the gossip was created. Alcohol, to forget the responsibilities of the week and with the lack of separation when outside of camp, well, a girl can only stay away from the opposite sex for so long. With only two sleeping options in town, and no want to return home early from camp, we often packed 6… 8… 12 people to a room much to the delight of the owners.

One night, one group even managed to squeeze a tidy 20 people in a room designed for two. 
  Every week, our group would head into Monticello and it would always begin the same. We’d start as a group, then peel off into our smaller groups of two or four. At the beginning of a night, Pod and I would not dare be near each other, but after a few drinks, some sneaky glances at each other across the dance floor, the law of attracting forces would come into play and we’d simply gravitate towards each other- usually at the jukebox. To me, he was the gorgeous foreign guy I had a secret crush on – a Mister Darcy from the Emerald Isle.

Pod and I seemed to build towards this one Friday.  A group of us managed to sneak out before the Jewish service held every week ended.  We ran, literally, at the chance to beat the crowds to the town. Showering, nice clothes (not our dirty camp clothes), and doing our make-up.  To quote the great philosophers, the Black Eyed Peas, “Tonight’s going to be a good night!”

Some of the boys had managed to get out early too, so with seven people piled in a car designed for four and a half, we drove into town.  Thankfully, there weren’t too many cops in such a small town. 
 That night was slightly different. We had time to relax and have pre-drinks, instead of racing out of camp at 8 p.m. when the service usually finished. So, with the classiest bottle of tequila we could find at Wal-Mart, the drinks flowed freely.  By the time we hit the pub, we were all buzzing and unknown forces had guided Pod and I to spending most of the night together. Drinking, dancing – it was a magical night. 
  As I stepped outside with a new round of drinks, something between us had changed and we stood next to a wall chatting, alone. The topic turned to kissing. Without much more than a “give me a kiss?” it wasn’t hard to let it happen.

Counselors let loose (in nunnery outfits)

My best friend who saw this small public display danced around Pod’s best friend singing, “I told you so, I told you so, I told you so!”  She’d predicted something was going to happen for weeks!

Both of us were ribbed by others about the kiss – the group leaders on girls-side knew about it before I’d even gotten back to camp the next afternoon. (“What’s cooking in the kitchen Nicole? *wink wink*”.) But overall, it was a good thing. Stolen moments reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel began occurring all over camp – a hug in the canteen between activity periods; just hanging out more in public view in the radio shack; or an SMS or a passed note when one of us had an evening off, but the other didn’t. Our tables in the dining hall were next to each other so at times I’d slip him pieces of toast with Vegemite spread over it when the camp leaders weren’t on the war path.

When camp ended, we stayed separated. A group of the boys went north to Buffalo and then into Canada. The girls, well, we headed to Florida to work on our tans, of course!

In typical camp form, a group of us got together to take on the ultimate challenge – New York City. And baby, SoHo never saw it coming!
 Pod and I managed to meet up back in New York, but only when the sun was down because it was too hot for his Irish skin to handle (according to New York, a heat wave is above 30 degrees).

I was the only one in the group under 21, so after a few pubs we decided it was better not to push our luck and Pod said he’d take me home.

As we walked through Times Square, I had to stop to look at my favorite landmark for one last time. I stood there, dwarfed by the skyscrapers, amazed by the colors and staring up at the neon lights illuminating the city at 3 a.m., I felt his hands grip me around my waist and he leaned in to kiss me. With a smile, he snatched my camera and took a photo of us kissing in Times Square. So cliché, so corny, so absolutely perfect.

I also knew that since I was the one with the hotel room that someone would be invited for a ‘sleepover’ that night.

Irish eyes stealing Nicole's heart

Some dream of a novel-worthy romance, full of stolen glances, whispered nothings and special moments away from the prying eyes of onlookers. Me? I’ve always poo-poo’d at such things, yet I still found myself in the middle of one.

Since I’ve returned home to Australia, we haven’t really kept in contact. I could blame time differences or being busy at school.  I could also blame the fact that boys are horrendous at keeping up correspondence, but really I know it was just a summer romance.

I did learn a lot from my summer fling though. Thanks to Pod, and my friendship with another Irish girl, I discovered a desire to visit Ireland, a place that I had no real intention in visiting previously. I took a two-week trip to the Emerald Isle visiting Dublin, Limerick, Belfast and Derry and fell in love with the country, the history, and of course, the people.

Author bio: Nicole Smith is disgruntled journalism student ready to banish the books and set out to explore the world. After spending 6 months on the road, she headed home to sunny Australia, but already has her sights set on braving a British winter later this year, but in the meantime, you can find her scoping out her own backyard on Bitten by the Travel Bug, Twitter or Facebook.

Summer Chick Tales was conceived from my love of the season and my obsession with slurpees.  I always have one every summer.  I also love women writers.  Lots.  If you want to submit a story or be in charge of the mojito station, see the editorial schedule.  Come on, join the XX chromosome party.

Photo: Fluito & Franz

Serendipity in Sihanoukville

Where’s the margarita blender?  I think we need a lime salty to toss this one back.  Elaine Thatcher recounts the mishaps and mishandling of hooking up with another traveler.  With a surprise ending.  Please enjoy today’s story from Summer Chick Tales.

Sihanoukville - Cambodia

I’ve never been good at picking guys up as I have always been on the shy side. I have on many occasions spent an evening making flirty eye-contact with that hot guy at the bar only to go home hours later cursing myself for not having the courage to go over and progress the situation (strangely, it never occurred to me that he would have done so had he been really interested).

So, what happened in Cambodia came as a huge surprise.

My friend Kelly and I decided to spend our Easter holiday in Cambodia. We were living in Vietnam and needed a break from the congested streets of Saigon. We wanted a cheap break and so we shelled out $22 each and hopped on a bus. We were excited and looked forward to long days of sunbathing and long nights of dancing on the beach.

Our destination was Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville, a peninsula on the southern coast of Cambodia. I immediately liked the place.  Run-down, rugged and shabby tin shacks littered the beach and the limp bodies of sun-drugged travelers lounged on tatty armchairs as far as the eye could see. The place was alive: women laden with heavy-baskets of fruit or offering massages plodded heavily across the sand, children played, and beautiful bikini-clad girls (probably Swedish) frolicked with golden Adonises in the frothy waves. It was a single girl’s paradise.

Maybe it was because travelers don’t hang around in Saigon, or the fact that most of the Western guys on the expat scene prefer local girls, or maybe it was just the Cambodian sun, I don’t know, but Kelly and I noticed that the beach was full of hot men. Everywhere.

We got ourselves into the classic pose – lying on our front, propped up by the elbows, sunglasses on and book handily positioned to look as if we were reading – and started to window-shop. Before I go on, I must reiterate that I am usually a shy kinda gal and this is as far as I am usually capable of going.

Single men wanted

Before long, I noticed a small group walking in the shallows. Three guys; one tall and blonde, the other darker and tattooed and the third skinner and, well, perfect. I pointed him out to Kelly.

“Nah, too skinny,” she said, and pointed elsewhere to somebody who had caught her eye.

This continued for a little while, but later the group of three guys walked past again, and once again, the tall, slim, black-haired one caught my attention. I made a mental note to look out for him in the bars.

It took a few days, but eventually we came back from a motorbike ride out to a more deserted beach and we were looking for some lunch. We strolled past popular haunt Monkey Republic and to my delight; I saw that the three guys from the beach were inside playing pool.  There was nobody else in the bar, this was my chance.

We went in, ordered salad and sat at a table nearby. For two hours. And he did not look in my direction, not even once. Bored, we left and went to sunbathe on the beach. Later that night; however, I stood at the bar in the Naphouse (a once-buzzing bar now sadly gone) when a tall blonde started talking to me. I immediately recognized him as one of the three and looked eagerly around for his friend. He was not there. We chatted for a while and then I looked up and there he was. I choked, but managed to say “hi”. We talked for a few minutes, just long enough for me to find out that he was from Sweden and then they left to find another bar. That was it! I’d had my chance and failed to make an impression.

Before long, the last night of our holiday came around. It happened to be Khmer New Year, an event synonymous with Songkran in Thailand. That is, a massive water-fight in the street, or in this case on the beach. I was soaked through to the skin, and my hair does not do sexy-tousled-wet, it does drowned-rat-wet, and I was covered in baby powder (another Khmer tradition, the origins of which I am unable to find out). I was having a great time. We had decided to stay out on the beach until our 7 a.m. bus ride back to Saigon.

Khmer New Year

At 4 a.m., I was heading into a bar for a final drink with the friends that I had made that week. As we walked through the darkness, three familiar figures approached.  I grabbed Kelly’s arm.

“That’s the guy that I was talking to the other night,” I whispered.

“So, go talk to him,” she said, and pushed me into their path.

“Hey, Swedish boy!” I said, then cringed.

Is that the best I could do? I’m an English teacher, I know the words of Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth Bennett by heart and the best I can do is “hey”.  Too late, it was done and he was looking at me.

“Erm, we’re going in this bar. Want to join us?”

He looked at his friends; they shrugged and followed us in. I bought drinks, but two of them had already passed out in the chairs, happily the black-haired one remained, so we sat at the bar and talked. Before long it was 6 a.m. and I had to leave to get my bus, but we swapped email addresses and the Swede, who by now I knew as Nicklas, told me that they were planning to visit Saigon in a few weeks time. I left, happy in the knowledge that I had finally gathered the courage to speak to a guy that I thought was hot, but not convinced I would see him again.

Hardest man to get

Nicklas did come to Saigon, and I did see him again. We hung out and he extended his stay in Saigon beyond the three planned days. He extended again, and then he extended his tourist visa. His friends moved on to the north of Vietnam. We spent five lovely weeks together in Saigon, until it was time for his flight back to Sweden. I traveled to Bangkok for a weekend and said a tearful goodbye. Distraught in Saigon, I booked a ticket to Sweden for the summer when I would be home for a few weeks. I had no idea how it would work out, he was going back to SWEDEN after all (remember the bikini-clad beauties I mentioned earlier?), but at the very least, I’d have another country on my travel map.

After my summer visit to Sweden, Nicklas moved to Saigon where we spent the next two years regularly going back to Serendipity Beach in Cambodia. We then moved to Sweden together. In April of this year, Nicklas and I celebrated our three year anniversary by booking a flight to Montevideo to start traveling in August. I know that not everybody is lucky enough to keep their backpacker, but I’m pretty happy that I kept mine and can’t wait to be a backpacker in South America with him!

Author bio: Elaine Thatcher is a teacher, traveler and expat. Besides this triple threat, you can find her on Runaway Brit, and Facebook or Twitter.  Currently teaching in Stockholm, she’s planning travels in South America later this year.

Summer Chick Tales was conceived from my love of the season and my obsession with slurpees.  I always have one every summer.  I also love women writers.  Lots.  If you want to submit a story or be in charge of the mojito station, see the editorial schedule.  Come on, join the XX chromosome party.

Photos: from story author and Amber de Bruin