Saturday, July 27, 2013

Beijing, China

Months ago, before we had a departure date--maybe even before we knew we were leaving--there was a flight promotion for Beijing from Singapore, so we succumbed to temptation and bought 2.5 tickets on the super cheap to China's capitol. As our time in Singapore began to really wind down, we realized we'd be in Beijing for 9 days, come back to the movers packing our stuff the next day, and fly out of Singy for good within a week. It seemed a little ambitious crazy, so we did what any responsible adult in our situation would do: we shortened the trip to 4 days.

It made for a chaotic, unpredictable, and even sometimes stressful last few weeks... but it was completely worth it to squeeze in one more trip before we said goodbye to Asia.

On our first night we watched professional Chinese acrobats defy gravity and the physical limits of what humans can do... it was beyond impressive.

Feel like climbing up and down a flight of stairs one-handed with your buddy doing a handstand on your feet...?

The answer to your question is: there are 14 women on that one single bicycle, and only one of them is pedaling.

For our second day we visited the spectacular Forbidden City...

Once again, Jonathan was a major attraction.
I never imagined feeling this way, but think I'm actually going to miss being followed by dozens of Asians in matching hats with cameras everywhere we go--
I don't think Jonathan will, though.

Then we made our way to the Great Wall of China. I was so excited to finally see it, after learning about it my whole life and seeing our friends' glorious pictures. I'll admit it: my expectations were high. Especially after hearing that the portion we were visiting had some of the best vistas on the wall, where you could see miles and miles of the rolling ancient structure.

Then we got there, and the fog was so thick that the visibility was the lowest our guide had even seen: less than 15 meters most of the time.

But it was still beautiful and awe-inspiring to realize how huge and ancient it is... plus the pressure was off to walk up the big hill for the "very best views," and the fog made for it's own kind of beautiful pictures.

Jonathan had a great time running up and down, and pointing through each of the arrow windows exclaiming, "ARROW! Pshhh!" (that's the arrow shooting, for those of you who don't speak Jonathan-ese).

You can see there are a lot of those windows, and so maybe you can imagine how much of our wall visit was spent shooting imaginary arrows.  I wouldn't change a thing -- it really was fun!

On our last day Fabio and Jon climbed the stairs to the massive Temple of Heaven,

Then we walked to Tiananmen Square, grateful to be in more peaceful times, and so happy to experience the world with our favorite little buddy.

Oh, yeah... and between photo-ops we filled a suitcase with cheap electronics, shoes, scarves, and a ukelele... I mean, it was Fabio and I in Beijing, you know!

And we came home on the red-eye to face the reality of moving in less than 10 days.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

We couldn't leave Southeast Asia without visiting Vietnam. It was on the bucket list. Southern Vietnam was much more interesting to me than the northern part of the country, and so we jetted off to a weekend in Ho Chi Minh City.

We arrived not really knowing what to expect, and we found a hip little city full of contrasts:

200-year-old French Colonial halls side-by-side with modern office complexes,

Thrown-together cement "apartments" with several generations sharing a room in the shadow of the helipad of a glass and steel high-rise,

Delicious french restaurants full of cheap pastries and sandwiches across from the dried fish stand, amazing street waffles literally cooked over a pile of coals on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to Burberry and  Louis Vuitton, waking up each morning in our four-star hotel to a rooster crowing from an apartment balcony across the street... and so on.

Jonathan loved the War Remnants Museum with it's "ahPLANES!" "Holadotters" (helicopters) and "tanks" (that's an easy one to say).

He did not love the creepy water puppets show "for children" with it's shrill traditional live music and disturbing story line...

Until the dragon started breathing fire. Then he really liked the puppet show. And the steady stream of "All done? Okay."s quickly changed to "More Please? Yeah. Okay."

We also had plenty of near-misses with motorcycles. When people heard we were headed to Ho Chi Minh, they would immediate warn us of "all the motorbikes." We thought, "Please. We have lived in Asia for two years and traveled all over this continent. We know there are a lot of motorbikes."

And then we got there... 

I had never seen so many motorcycles in my life. It makes every other Asian city look like... well, the U.S. Hundreds and hundreds of motorbikes lined up ten or fifteen across whipped down the roads, only a third of them observing traffic laws. We felt like we spent four days living the Frogger game. Fabio and I would stand on the curb with Jonathan strapped to his back, holding hands so tightly our knuckles were white. Okay, there's a break coming... Run! Then a few seconds later: Stop!--one's coming down the wrong side of the road... step back... now run again! 

Seriously, if you go to Ho Chi Minh, watch out for the motorbikes!

My dad served two tours in the Vietnam War, patrolling the Mekong River Delta in a speedboat. Even though I wasn't born until years later, his time in Vietnam has had a significant indirect impact on my life. It was really important to me to say "hello" to a place that was so formative to my Dad's adult life, and therefore mine, so we booked a river tour from downtown to the rural outskirts of the Mekong Delta.

We stopped to shop at a local wet market...

And waved to little children fishing on the way...

We were struck with gratitude when our guide stopped along the way to give our leftovers from breakfast to the children living in some of the huts over the water...

And we smiled when we learned that they paint faces on their boats to frighten the crocodiles and river dragons...

At one point the canals were too small for our speedboat, so we took a walk.

It was hot and sunny, and our guide insisted that Jonathan wear this to protect him from the weather.

We admired the beautiful, peaceful scenery... and wondered how scary it would be to float down in less peaceful times.

Our final stop was an orphanage for lunch, where Fabio started a pick up game of football with the orphans and the other kids on the tour.

He was at a serious disadvantage with his little buddy in tow... 
so eventually they took over playing goalie together.

After the game we said "goodbye" to our new friends, gave all the cash in our pockets to the Buddhist monk who runs the orphanage and set off for home again.

Once again, better people for our experiences as we traveled--more grateful for our homes and food, more patient with our silly "first world problems," more aware that there are a lot of ways to live well, more appreciative of our family and the peaceful environment that we enjoy, more willing to help someone else.

Please never let us forget what we've learned from the people and cultures in Southeast Asia...

Sunday, July 14, 2013


In May we were so excited to have our friends visit us from Darwin, Australia! Even though we're four years apart in age, B has been a great friend of mine since I was eight or nine and she was in junior high. She was one of those amazingly cool teenagers that is okay with being nice to the little squirts that look up to them and thinks they are awesome. Years later, Fabio and I danced together for the first time and their wedding. More years later, she took our wedding pictures. Even more years later, we both had families on the Eastern Hemisphere and so they came to Singapore for fun. And fun we had!

They have four adorable kids, so we had five kids five-years-old and under in our tiny apartment. It was an amazing whirlwind of energy, fun, juice boxes, meltdowns, jam-packed taxis, laughing, and toys. Jonathan (and Fabio and I) were in heaven.

We enjoyed the usual Singapore fare: riding elephants and feeding giraffes at the zoo,

admiring the skyline from 42 stories high in the Singapore Flyer,

feeding tropical lorries at the Bird Park,

And then we thought, what do we do with five kids and two adults? Let's rent a station wagon and take a road trip to none other than...


With a different group, (older kids, less awesome adults, etc.) someone might call Legoland Malaysia "a bust," but we had nothing but fun the whole day. The magical thing about toddlers is that they are thrilled with the sweetest and simplest things. The magical thing about lots of toddlers is that they have this contagion effect on each other and so a park full of "lego boats" for them to steer on a river, a "lego train" ride, and a "lego car" race track results in complete and perfect joy (interspersed with tears of exhaustion and hunger, obviously).

But don't worry, we made sure to save plenty of time for naps in parks,


stroller-buddy stare-downs,

And plenty of long catch-up girl talks with an old friend.

Jon and E found best friends in each other. E made sure Jon never wandered too far by putting his arm around J and saying, "C'mon guy. I got you." He also shared his Spider Man toy and taught J to sword fight. They were both happy to have a friend to share their manly interests with--E with his crew of sisters and J with all girl buddies in Singapore!

Basically, we had an amazing time and we're so happy they came to share our tropical home with us for a few days! We love you, L's!