Archive for November, 2008

giving thanks

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Thanksgiving Abroad

The turkey came pre-cooked. I never trust
the word “gourmet” when slapped on pre-packed food.
God knows if I can find fresh beans or must
Rely on canned. At least the wine is good.

Dessert is brownies – somehow that’s just wrong
but what’s the odds of finding pie out here?
Our table hosts but two. No happy throng
Will come to share the feast with us this year.

And yet with all the makeshifts and make-do
Thanksgiving dinner won’t be skimped or sad;
there’s food, there’s wine, there’s me and then there’s you
there’s plenty of thanks-giving to be had.

If heimweh mars the festal plenitude
I’m here – with you – I’ve cause for gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

hey, it’s good…

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Ted did the math: door to door it took us something like 27 hours to get from our flat in Taipei to our apartment in Chandler, Arizona (about 2 miles from our old house).

I’d have to say that as 27-hour trips go, this was a remarkably good one. The only disappointment was not being able to get a magazine on the flight. Note to Chiang Kai-Shek airport: it’s possible that other people besides me would prefer less of the Chanel, Ferragamo, Mont Blanc and other luxury goods and more things people actually need for travel. I got off the first plane, a 2.5 hour flight to Tokyo, surprised at realizing I’d actually had a pleasant trip. The boy (being a Platinum Elite member on Northwest thanks to all those KLM flights to the Netherlands) got bumped up to Business Class. This left me (only Gold Elite, since he travels a bit more) back in Commerical class with an entire row to myself. I was also pleased to realize that this regular seat had far more legroom than the preferred seats I get on KLM, and that the food was actually edible.

In Tokyo-Narita after walking to three different magazine racks and the diametrically opposite corner of the terminal, finally found an English-language magazine other than Newsweek: the July issue of In Style. They did at least have lots of Japanese magazines.

The next flight was 9+ hours, Tokyo to Portland. This time we had a brand new Airbus A330 plane, with about 20 on-demand movies to choose from. I watched Mamma Mia! twice. 🙂 I liked that movie a lot, though why is a separate post. We did have a hair less legroom, especially since the entertanment system took up most of the room below the seats. Fortunately, when checking in I’d been able to switch our seats so at least one of us was on the aisle (him – he’s a lot taller) which left an empty seat next to me so I could put my backpack on the floor by it.

We had a 6-hour layover in Portland, but luckily the restaurants and bookstores open early there. Powell’s yielded some readng material, of course – the airplane branches intelligently have a whole section of travel writing, though what I actually ended up with was Georgette Heyer and The Egg and I.

The last flight gave us a great view of Nevada and Arizona topography, including mountains with snow and the Grand Canyon. Once in AZ, we picked up a surprisingly large rental car (a station wagonish Chevy model I’d never heard of) and one of the things we’ve been missing: Chipotle burritos! Our hotel room turns out to be a suite. Pity we’re only here a week: I wish I’d had something like this on all those months of stays in the Netherlands.

anniversary post

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

It’s Snday night now, just a year since we arrived in Taiwan – Sunday night November 4. (Having a blog makes it very easy to check dates!)

Because of the anniversary and because we were discussing what to write in our holiday letter, I’ve been thinking over the past year. I’d have to say that I’m a little disappointed in our year here in some ways. After a year in the Netherlands I felt like I was getting a real handle on the Dutch language and we’d visited a lot of Holland itself plus 14 other European countries (and Egypt). After a year here I’m just beginning to be able to form simple sentences in Chinese and we’ve only visited a few places on the island outside of Taipei. There are good reasons for all of that: Chinese is just much harder than Dutch for native English speakers, Ted’s job has expanded hugely in scope so he’s very busy, we have much less vacation time than in Europe, and we’ve each spent months on business travel back to Europe. On the other hand, Taiwan is full of extraordinarily kind people, we love our apartment and our neighborhood, and in many ways life here is much more comfortable than in Europe. We’ve gotten to row a lot less than in the Netherlands, but we’ve been very glad of our decision to buy a second rowing machine and a weight set before we left the US.

We do have a lot to look forward to: first Ted’s parents’ visit over Christmas and New Year’s, when we will take enough time off to be able to see more for the island with them, some more regattas in new places, and some exciting travel plans both in Taiwan and elsewhere. Also, we’re just glad to be here together; when you have to laugh at some of the differences in different places, it’s good to be with someone who understands why you’re laughing.