Saturday, November 24, 2012

Well, here I am again, after a bit of a break.  I'm not sure what to do with a blog anymore.  I don't live anyplace exciting and I don't do anything exciting; days just go by one after the other in a very ordinary fashion.

It's been nearly 6 months since I returned from Taiwan.  Sometimes already it seems like I was never there.  In another 6 months I shall have to move again.  We rented our current house because it was in the school district we wanted and it was the only house in this district that we could find.  We knew when we took it that it could only be for 12 months but it accomplished our objective and so we took it.  I am having trouble with the idea that we must move again so soon.  The funny thing is in the past we have bought and sold 2 houses each in approximately 18 months, plus separately I have owned 2 other houses for about that time.  None of those moves bothered me.  I don't know if the difference is my age or the fact that I didn't know when I moved in to any of those previous homes that I would move out so fast, but I am certainly reacting differently this time.  It's not that I will hate to leave.  This house has some wonderful qualities and we are enjoying it, but there are things about it that are not ideal and I will happy to try to correct those things with our next choice.  I just seem to feel like I want to put roots down now, but I certainly cannot do that.  Oh well, I suppose as the time draws closer to when I can actually begin looking for a new place my feelings will change.

I spend as much time as I can with my Dad.  I went to his house tonight.  As I walked in I thought of how much it smells like my Mom.  Strange, it seemed to me, that it still smells like Mom.  She has been gone for more than 2 years so how can this be?  But I like it.  It feels like a tangible reminder of her.  I think I still wait for her to come around a corner and welcome me.  I still wish that would happen.

Perhaps this is why I don't write.  I still tend toward the sad, and that is not something anyone wants to read about.  There is some happy.  Perhaps I'll write about that tomorrow.

Friday, August 24, 2012

At long last, hello from Idaho.

What a crazy summer this has been!  Things didn't go exactly as planned.  Mostly they did, with one big GLARING exception:  my husband ended up in the Minneapolis...after his flight from Tokyo to Washington D.C. diverted due to his medical emergency...which meant I spent a week in Minneapolis visiting him in the hospital and staying with my best friend from high school while my kids were at the beach with their cousins in a fabulous beach house that I found and was dying to stay at AND I missed my daughter's birthday.

I could go on but I suppose the details would be boring.  And, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit out of practice with blogging.

I don't think I've taken a single picture since returning to the States.  (Not on a real camera anyway.  To me, camera phone pictures don't count.)

School starts next week (yeah!) so I am looking forward to some quiet time.  I might blog again.  I might not.  I'll try to let you know.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Home, Safe and (Not Sleeping So) Sound

I keep thinking I should pinch myself. I cannot believe I am really home. More than that I think I am having trouble believing that I don't have to return to Taiwan this time. No offense Taiwan, I just really missed my homeland. As expected, I am in the throes of jet-lag. On travel day I went at least 25 hours without sleeping. You would think then that when you finally get to lay down you would sleep a good long time, but you don't. The kids and I all slept 4-5 hours and were awake by 10 p.m. Yes, we went to sleep in the early evening. We couldn't stay awake any longer and I have vowed not to fight the jet lag this time but just ride it through. By 2:00 in the morning, when I was certain all of us were fully awake, we headed out to a 24-hour Walmart to pick up a few necessities. You know, things like Cap'n Crunch, donuts and Zingers. The kids thought it was great to be shopping in the middle of the night. So did I because we had the store practically to ourselves. At 5:00 a.m. I declared it was bedtime. I slept a few hours and the kids slightly more. I really thought that would carry us through to a regular bedtime and a quick recovery but it didn't - at least not me. By 7:30 I couldn't keep my eyes open so I went to bed and told the kids not to stay up too late. (What a Mom!). I have no idea when they went to bed, but when I woke up all of 2 hours later they were asleep. I am betting they will sleep all night and be completely recovered by tomorrow. Kids are annoying that way. So anyhow, here we are. It feels indescribably wonderful to be back in my home country. For the time being we are staying in a furnished apartment. I think I could happily stay here permanently. Right outside our front windows is the river. I can hear it at night. It is such a wonderful, peaceful sound. So much better than scooters, police whistles, "singing" garbage trucks, road construction and the continual roar of air conditioners. In the morning there is the sound of many birds singing. I am so happy. We will not stay here forever, though. We have rented a house. I got my first look at it yesterday and was slightly disappointed. I won't go into all of the details, but I will say it's probably good that I do not love the house as much as I expected. We can only live there for 12-18 months and I thought it would be really difficult to leave. Now I think it might not be as hard as I thought, which is a good thing. And the house is certainly not bad, just not all that I had built it up to be in my mind. This means my gypsy existence will continue and that suits me fine. I just hope that we can stay in the same city for a good long time now, for the sake of my children. This move was pretty hard on them and I hope they can now make and keep some very good friends. I will try to include pictures next time, after the jet lag is gone.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beginning Good-Byes

I have finally arrived at the place where I can begin saying "This is my last _______ in Taiwan".  I have been waiting for this day forEVER.  Or so it seems.

And so, as I begin my last Thursday in Taiwan, I am surprised to feel a bit of nostalgia.  Perhaps it is just sadness on behalf of my kids (very possible) or perhaps this is an unavoidable human condition,  Certainly it is not something I expected given that I have practically been counting the days since my return from the States last summer.  Yes, last summer.

In August when we travelled to Kenting with some friends I remarked on the fact that I did not seem to be readjusting.  My friend was feeling it too and thought it was just a bit of culture shock.  (Culture shock comes and goes, it is not a one time event.  I have learned that while living overseas.)  That seemed logical and I put the feeling aside and carried on.  Or so I thought.

But that feeling never did go away.  It grew stronger.  I wish I didn't have to say that; I wish it wasn't true.  I made some friends here - local, Taiwanese friends.  Each one of them are truly wonderful people.  But I ended up closing them off.  I couldn't understand why.  I don't think I fully understand why yet.  I thought I was depressed, but I don't think it was that.  The best term I could come up with was "culture fatigue".  I don't know if that explains anything, really, but that was how I felt.  Tired of everything and everyone Taiwanese, I pretty much holed up in my house and waited for the days (months, really) to pass.

And now here I am, on the verge of going home.  I can't wait.  I long for familiar food and familiar sights and familiar smells.  But yet there is this sadness.

Today I will be going to my kids school.  There are tons of end-of-year events.  A 5th grade talent show, a 2nd grade ice cream party.  It's HUGE for the 5th graders because they will be entering middle school next year.  Except, in our new home 6th grade is still elementary school, so Anna is struggling with the idea that her friends are moving up but she isn't.  Nevertheless, she is excited about the parties.  The 5th grade will have a "disco party".  Anna has been waiting for this all year.  Parents aren't allowed.  (Of course I will be at the school WITH my camera for other events, so I may try to sneak in and see if I can get any pictures.)

Ethan's best friend is going straight to the airport after school today so this will be a final good-bye to his first best friend.

On Saturday we will bring Anna's beloved dog, Jasper, to her new family.  Anna arranged it all and I was extremely proud of her for doing so.  She seemed jubilant through the process of finding someone to take her puppy.  But now that the reality is setting in that her time with Jasper is almost done the sadness washes across her face.  It pierces my heart.  The night that Anna found out we couldn't take the dogs to America with us might be the worst I've endured with Anna thus far.  "No, no, NO!" she cried.  "I changed my mind.  I don't want to move to Boise.  Can't we just move back to our own house in Virginia?"  She was inconsolable.  But then, as Anna does, she bounced back as if nothing had ever happened.  Thinking now about what is to come my body feels heavy with the sadness.

We've found a separate, wonderful home for Ethan's dog, Jade.  She will be with 2 friends of Ethan (twin brothers) in what I call "puppy paradise".  She will be free to run and explore and I am sure she will love it.  But last weekend as the reality set in for Ethan he sobbed.  We will say good-bye to Jade when we leave for the airport.  Eric will deliver her to her new home a few days later.

I long for home.  But I fear the process of getting there is going to be painful.  I hadn't thought of that before.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


I thought I would just pop in to say hello.  Blogger has changed everything and I hope I will be able to cope!  It took me awhile just to find the button to create a new post!

I can hardly believe I am saying this, but IN 11 DAYS I'M GOING HOME!!!! 

The movers were here this week to pack up most of our stuff. It was quite comical. I have a habit of accumulating a lot of "stuff", and the time in Taiwan was no exception. Not little knick-knacky stuff but enormous stuff - 2 gigantic kids beds (not just beds, they are pretty much self-contained bedrooms. Asians are brilliant at making use of every nook and cranny, so these beds have drawers and cupboards and forts and bookshelves all built in. Crazy! And quite cool.)  Here, take a look:

I also purchased a couple of Asian chests (in what I call Asian Shabby Chic style.  I'll have to take and post pictures someday.), 4 bicycles (because we found we could buy great bikes fairly cheap here), and who knows what all else. Packing and loading the container was supposed to take 1 day.  It took all of 1 day, 1/2 of another and an hour on a 3rd day when the movers realized they could fit just a bit more into our container.  This was important because we also have an air shipment (still to be packed!) but that is very limited on weight so we (they) had to cram every last bit of "stuff" they could into the container.

We are now living with almost no "stuff".  We have 1 frying pan and 1 saucepan and some old cooking utensils that I'll throw when we leave.  The kids are sleeping on mattresses on the floor.  (We are sleeping on a rental bed so no floor for us - yet!) 

The crazy thing is I think I sort of like living with no stuff.  It sure makes daily life less complicated!  But I haven't turned the corner yet to where I'm actually wanting to permanently rid myself of all the stuff and live the simple life.  Maybe someday.  Maybe when my kids move away I can send it all to their houses.

That's all for now.  Kids need breakfast so my 1/2 hour of peace is done.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Every Day Taipei - Fashion

I started this post weeks ago.  Things have gotten pretty busy since then and I don't / won't have time for blogging.  I've been to Vietnam and am now BUSY with end of school activities and preparing for our move.  It is likely I won't post again until June or July when I am in our new home with a computer.  But then again, I might be able to post from my iPad.  Who knows...

This is just a little peek into everyday Taipei.

You can buy almost anything from a street vendor.  They set up using whatever they have available, like cardboard boxes.

Often times the street vendors have their wares on wheels and you see them moving about town.

I believe the reason for their portability is that they are selling illegally.  Often times when you see a vendor moving his or her wares they are moving at top speed.  This must be why:

Apparently if they don't get away quickly enough they are stopped by the fashion police.

Here are a couple of people that I think OUGHT to be apprehended by the fashion police!

Cheers from Taiwan!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fire In the Sky

Back in February we went to a Chinese Lantern Festival. It is an annual event that takes place around the celebration of Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is different from our New Year. They go by a Lunar calendar and so the "new year" does not begin on the same date every year and it is certainly not January 1st.

A friend talked me into going and I, in turn, talked Eric into it. We did not relish the idea of joining the crowds that we knew would be there, but we decided this was a unique, not-to-be-missed event. The crowds were unbelievable - the worst I have ever experienced. But I guess my feeling about crowds is not universal since my friend and her family thought the crowd was part of the fun. Leaving the venue took at least (at LEAST) 30 minutes. The entire time we were in the middle of a crowd packed so tight that you had to shuffle you feet to move and the people behind you had their hands on your back PUSHING you. Ah yes, what fun!

Anyhow... Here is where we were:

I knew when I left home that I should bring my tripod but I didn't want to hassle with it. Not a bad choice really, because it probably would have been trampled at some point. Nevertheless, the fact that I didn't bring it left me with photos like this:

And while I think that last picture is cool in a way, no one would ever look at it and guess I had been to a Chinese Lantern Festival!

As long as I stuck to close targets I did okay.
So shall I share a little of the process of the Lantern Festival? Because it isn't just about going and watching lanterns; you actually purchase and send off your own.

First you follow the crowds (as if you have a choice!) to the shop that sells lanterns.
If they don't have the color you want (red, of course!) then you yell at one of the workers (thankfully the kids have learned colors in Mandarin, so they could tell him what they wanted) and then you stand firmly in place while getting jostled back and forth by everyone in the country until someone finally comes out with the color you've been waiting for.
Once you have your lanterns firmly in hand you raise them above your head, pivot in place and work your way against the tide of people toward the area where the fun begins. Oh wait, I forgot, this is part of the fun!

The lanterns must be carried above your head the entire time or they will be crushed by the crowd. I kid you not.

Don't let that last picture fool you. It only LOOKS like there is open space between people. A couple of people must have just fallen dead or something. Ok, I'm kidding a bit, but only a bit. If you look close you can see little arms holding on to the back of my friend - they belong to her son. And my daughter has her arms on her friends shoulders. They were not being funny. If you don't hold on to the people you are with you will be separated forever. Ah yes, we're having fun now!

Now the real insanity begins. Have you ever wondered what makes a Chinese lantern float? Probably not. I hadn't given it 2 seconds of thought prior to this evening. But just in case you want to know, I'll tell you. Fire. You light a fire inside of a PAPER lantern. Perfectly safe. Don't worry. What's the worst thing that can happen with a little fire and 2 billion people packed into 1 square block?
Once the fire is lit you and a few friends hold the lantern in place until it gets good and hot.
Then you let go and step away and the lantern begins to float up into the air!
And it really is rather magical.

Did you think I was kidding about the fire?
Nope. I wasn't kidding. Fire inside of paper. Crazy if you ask me!

So what do you do next? You repeat the process.

And you try not to think all those crazy thoughts about fire and your innocent little children and what will happen if something explodes or fire comes raining down out of the sky.
Because as far as I can tell nothing ever explodes or comes raining from the sky.

So if you are someone NOT like me you don't think all those crazy thoughts. You just have fun.

And if you're lucky, you get one sort of good picture of one of the orchestrated send-offs that happens every 30 minutes. what we went for.

Thankfully I'm moving back to the States so I won't have to do that again next year!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Holy Hanoi, Batman!

Because I think every blog post ought to have a picture, here is a picture:

It has absolutely nothing to do with anything I'm about to say. I just decided to show you one of our little visitors. (Not so little actually, but there's no way to convey size via a photograph.)

I am in a bit of shock at the moment. I have just agreed to a little trip with a friend and possibly other "friends" who I don't know. A girl's weekend. To... Vietnam! How weird is that? I'm excited and scared at the same time. All I know of Vietnam is we (America) fought a war there when I was a young child. We lost. Lots of people were killed. In my mind Vietnam is a war zone, and I'm going there. On "vacation". Weird.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Surprise News

Wow, what a week we've had!

Remember that back in January I traveled to Virginia to look at schools for the kids? We put in applications at 3 schools. I had to fill out a fair amount of paperwork, the kids had to answer essay questions, teachers and staff at their current school had to fill out forms and/or oversee kids writing essays. So now do you want to know which school they will be attending? The answer is....none of them. What? That doesn't sound like very exciting news?

Well then, how about the REASON why they won't be attending any of them? Because we won't be moving to Virginia after all!

It is not officially official, but close enough that I can state with confidence that we will be moving instead to Idaho. You might not be shocked about that, but we are. Idaho was not on our radar. Not at all. But then someone from Idaho came knocking on Eric's door (in a manner of speaking) and - BOOM! - all of our plans have changed!

Now I have to look for schools again, and complete more applications and ask teachers to fill out more forms and counselors to supervise more essay writing (and the kids to write more essays!) And I will have to find a place for us to live and a car to drive! And we will have to move our things from Taiwan AND Virginia.

I feel a little anxious sometimes when I think about it. But overall this is a great thing. My Dad is so happy - he is in Idaho and he has been so lonely since my Mom died. I am so glad I will get to be near him again.

And I know, absolutely know, that this is where God wants us. A couple of weeks before this came up I was led by some internet friends to Acts 17:26 which says "He set the times and places where they should live." Yes, He does. And I could not have planned this if I had tried.

Thank you, God.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bali Wrap Up

Because it's been 2 months since we've been to Bali I have decided to do one final post with some of my favorite pictures all thrown together.

This picture reminds me of something that would appear in National Geographic. Never mind that the monkey was in a zoo. Just pretend you don't know that, and the picture will seem awesome.

Ethan hates this next picture and wanted me to delete it but I refused. It is one of my favorite pictures ever of him, because it captures one of the funny faces he makes.
Of course no list of my favorite photos would be complete without a flower picture or two! (Usually 10 or 20, but I think today there is only one.)
This next set of pictures was originally slated to have it's own blog post. It would have been titled either "I Love a Parade" or "A Happy Accident". One day as we were trying to get someplace in a car we hit a traffic jam. Everything stopped. Completely. Turns out the local villagers were on their way to the temple for a big ceremony. There were drums and lots of people carrying offerings in baskets on their heads. Fun to see.

Okay, maybe I have 2 favorite photos of flowers. I guess I didn't count this one, since it's not JUST a flower. It is a path with a beautiful flowering bush. I couldn't resist.
When I took the flower bush picture I was wandering about on my own, the rest of the family having gone on another little adventure. If this had been a blog post it would have been titled "Most Fun I Didn't Have". Eric, having been a submariner in the Navy, couldn't resist the chance to take the kids on a submarine ride. I had done this long ago on another island, so I passed. (It's an okay experience, just not fantastic enough for me to need to do it twice.)

As I was passing a large house (with it's own 2nd floor temple) this little boy spotted me:
And probably because I had a camera he called to all his playmates to come have a look. (There were more children then you see here. They were popping up and down so I couldn't get a picture of all of them.)
The post for these photos would be called something like "Bali: In Living Color". I cannot resist the local markets, even though I never buy anything. They are bursting with colors and strange-looking foods.

Thankfully I had my camera trained on this woman before she turned toward me, because she didn't look happy about being photographed. I guess I broke my rule of never photographing people without their permission. I had actually wanted a picture of the back of her head, because the headpiece she was wearing was made of beautiful lace. Somehow I didn't think she would agree, so I just moved on.
See the spiky thing at the bottom left? If you've never been to this side of the world my guess is you don't know what it is. If you have it is something you will never forget. It is called Durian. It is a hugely popular and somewhat controversial fruit. The smell will knock you over. Seriously! The buses in Taiwan (and I think the MRT stations, although I cannot remember for sure) have signs saying you are prohibited from bringing Durian aboard. It is that bad.
The market has bags of fresh spices. This must be heaven if you love to cook.

I do not know the name of this next fruit. It is one of the few things I agreed to try. It was actually quite good! You break open the outer skin (it breaks easily into 2 pieces). Inside there is a whitish fruit with a large pit in the middle. I don't plop things with pits into my mouth because I have a thing against spitting, so I just nibbled around the pit. It was exceedingly sweet which, of course, pretty much guaranteed I would like it!

Finally, we took a little side-trip to Git-Git Falls. You must pay to walk along the path to the falls.
The walk itself was full of interesting sights. I took this photo of a rooster, and wished I had been photographing more of the birds. They are everywhere in Bali and they come in such an array of colors and patterns. Before this trip I had no idea roosters were such a varied, colorful species.
A restaurant along the path. As with most places in Bali, it does not have walls.
The path led through the ubiquitous rice paddies which, I think, are always beautiful.
Bali has learned to capitalize on tourists. Along the serene path are huts full of vendors selling all manner of trinkets. Yes, we bought some things. How could we not? We had children with us after all. And actually, some friends had requested we bring back a specific item for them which we found here!
Finally we came to the waterfall.

In a few days I may have some surprise news. Be sure to check back!