Saturday, August 31, 2013

Oh What Do You Do in the Summertime?

Do you get your first proper hair cut?

Admire old airplanes with Dap?

Do you mow your grandparent's lawn?

Or do you laugh at jokes with your Nay Nay?

Compare muscles with Dap?

Do you go to Bear Lake?

To reacquaint with your "buzzins" (i.e. cousins)?

Or swim with your mom all the time?

Do you have lunch with old friends?

Do you drink "fizzy" with Dap?

Eat snow cones with Nay?

Ride a $1 carousel?

Or see a goat for the very first time?

Is that what you do?

So do we!

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Big Move, Part I

Moving from Singapore was a whirlwind of packing, sorting, throwing away, giving away, selling on Craigslist, a little tourism, and most importantly: goodbyes.

Jon could not have been a better sport. With a little help from our friend Nemo, he weathered the relative parental neglect like a champ. He watched as we packed up his clothes, his books, and his toys without objection. He even watched the movers come into our apartment, take all of our possessions one box at a time out to a truck without concern. At least, until one of the movers picked up our vacuum (crumby, half-broken, destined-for-the-trash as it was) to move it out of the doorway. For whatever reason, when he thought they were taking the vacuum, that was the last straw for Jonathan. He lost it. He screamed, he cried, he ran to the beloved vacuum, snatched it from the surprised mover's grasp, and drug it tenderly into his tent. Then he gathered up the rest of his toys and books (the ones we kept out for him to play with on the plane and as we traveled) into the tent and sat at the doorway carefully watching the movers the rest of the afternoon.

Then he took a nap in the bathtub. It was all we had left.

I was surprised by how big the apartment looked without furniture in it, but also how un-homey it seemed without our pictures, art, and furniture--almost as if the movers packed up our memories with our things.

In a rush we said goodbye to the blue kitchen where I learned to cook without a dishwasher, hot water, stove or oven (keyword: hotplate). We said goodbye to the white tile floors Jon learned how to walk on. Goodbye to the front porch we loved to blow bubbles from. Goodbye to the five air conditioning units we ran 24/7 for two years. Goodbye to the windows we watched tropical birds from. Goodbye to the bedroom and play room where we sang "I am a Child of God,""Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and "Old McDonald" thousands of times; where thousands of little laughs at the same joke rang; where cars crashed, dinosaurs roared, toy guitar/piano jam sessions enjoyed, and book after book read.

And, of course, goodbye to the big pink door we brought Jonathan home through, and that I was oh-so-grateful to walk through again just a few weeks later.

Then came the hard part. Our great friends here threw one last BBQ on a high rise apartment building in the city. I was thrilled to save most of my "goodbyes" for the very last minute, but it sure made for a tearful last minute!

Left to Right: JB (all the way from England to say goodbye! not really, but we were happy to see her again all the same), LR, LH, me, little SL and mommy JL, little ZB and mommy MB, NE, and AM and her baby boy bump, who is now IM.

Man! I am going to miss these ladies! They have taught me so much about growth, gratitude, strength, self-control, finding joy, being humble, taking people at face value, sharing talents, generosity, discipleship and most of all true, real, friendship.

Fabio had to say goodbye to his friends, too... but they are guys and so for whatever reason no tears were shed or pictures taken. He just carried babies.

We stayed our last night in the Fullerton Hotel right on the bay, a beautiful colonial-style five-star hotel right on the water with grand marble staircases, bellmen wearing hats and white gloves, and plenty of pomp and formality. I laughed out loud as we pulled up in our 1980 clackety yellow cab with it's bumper almost dragging on the cobble-stone drive heavy with our 6 luggage pieces beaten from two years of nonstop travel. The bellmen loaded up two luggage carts with suitcases, duffle bags, backpacks, a stroller, a purse, and even several random reusable grocery bags full of canned food, pasta, and art supplies to give away to our friends that evening. We were quite the classy sight! But I have to say, congrats to the Fullerton because they still treated us like royalty and not one employee looked down the nose at us or our hill-billy load. That, and it was by far the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on.

The next morning we spent our last hours walking the board walk,

getting in one last attraction at the Gardens by the Bay,

and finally going to the chocolate buffet on the top of the Marina Bay Sands that I've tried to con Fabio into going to almost since we got here. It did not disappoint. Deliciousness of every variety was enjoyed. Oh yeah, and we made one last stop to our favorite custom tailor here... she's mailing Fabio the shirts he ordered.

And with that we loaded our four roller suit cases, two military-issue duffle bags, three carry-on rollers, and three backpacks into a "limo" taxi (read: minivan) and drove to the airport.

Thanks for the good times, Singapore!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tokyo, Japan

As we were buying our tickets to come home, it hit us that we were buying one way tickets. This was the end of the spend-every-leftover-cent-on-travel era of our lives. The end of our emotional wrestle with the question, "Do we love living in Asia, or do we hate it?" The end of experiencing a completely new culture almost every month. The end of celebrating holidays we'd just heard of.

We were sad. And we were happy. Mostly happy, because moving right now, to Madison, feels so right. And we were even happier when Fabio realized it would be cheaper to have a three-day layover in Tokyo than to fly straight through. The man is a super-travel-shopper, people.

So we booked the longer flight and managed to somehow squeeze ANOTHER TRIP into our life in Asia. Because we are maniacs. And we love Asia... but we also hate it... but we focus on the times we love it.

It was a quick trip. Just long enough to get lost on the busiest train system in the world...

... only to be rescued by a really nice woman who saw the fear and confusion in our faces and missed her train to buy our tickets for us. Be nice to people in America who don't speak English. Trust me, they wish they could way more than you wish they could!

We took in the giant lanterns, markets, and temple at Asakusa.

Fabio paid homage to yet another of the great tall buildings of the world--he has a fascination with the "world's largest" things...

the Tokyo Sky Tree at 2nd tallest building in the world, tallest self-supporting

The burning incense in the temple covered the smell of dried fish in the market, and I once again felt something special as a watched another new culture worship.

We walked through a random large garden by our hotel, in the midst of a sea of skyscrapers,

And made more friends without a word spoken between us...

It was such a happy way to break up the sometimes-daunting (and, if you have a 1.5 year old, sometimes terrifying) intercontinental pilgrimage. We were happy to trade a 30 hour door-to-door exercise in exhaustion and olympic effort in toddler entertainment for the 9 hour flight, fun three day break, then 12 hour flight, then three hour flight! Both ways are possible, and we have gotten pretty good at the first way, but the break was much more relaxing for everyone.

In short, it was perfect. The last stop in our little family's crazy marathon was just the way we love trips. We went in not knowing what to expect. We shopped a little, ate a lot (Japanese pastries are amazing), found a delicious hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, and just wandered around a new place, following each other's whims as they came. Even Jonathan had a few suggestions, saying, "How 'bout--there?" (pointing at some place bright and shiny). And because there wasn't anything we had to see, we went where he pointed and found another great pastry!

And so we say, "Goodbye, Japan. Goodbye, Asia."

"Hello, Dairyland."