what I did on my summer vacation

almost every summer, it seems I take a [usually unintentional] break from blogging. being married to a teacher means that my life and my calendar revolve around the school year. we are lucky to have short breaks throughout the year, but summer is the time when we travel the most.

and when I'm in Tokyo -- I'd rather spend my time exploring adorable alleys and stunning shrines than sitting in front of a computer screen. when I am with my family and friends -- I want to soak up every conversation, every glass of wine, every trip to the beach or board game or whatever activity we have planned.

so the memories pile up over the months. and when I come home to Taiwan, I unpack them along with the instant photos and the new can opener, a gluten free pretzel stash and that little bit of Lake Michigan sand you can never get out of the bottom of your bag.

here's what I did on my summer vacation...

I played host to my sister-in-law and twin nephews. they came to visit us in Taipei, and we had a great time showing them around. it's always nice to have family visit and give them a chance to see what our life is like here. the boys had never traveled internationally before and they were amazing in dealing with all the culture shock.

as a bonus to their visit, we all flew up to Tokyo for a week. we spent 3 days at Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea [amazing!] and the rest exploring the city. we had a few mishaps along the way -- but our guests were troopers. most of our time was spent wandering through the alleys of Asakusa, exploring the Senso-ji Temple and Imado Shrine [which was full of cats!] and of course we had to nerd out at the Pokémon Center.

when our visitors flew back to Chicago... I got on the flight with them. originally I had planned to stay in Taiwan for the summer. but my Dad concocted a plan to get me home, and I was able to [by a very roundabout route] meet up with my parents and surprise my sister and nephews when they arrived.

I spent a week with my family on the west coast of Michigan. we hiked at the state park, looked for petosky stones on the beach, shopped at farmers markets and went to local concerts. on 4th of July there is a huge parade in town. we watched from my Aunt's house and then stayed up late to see the fireworks over the lake. we even managed to squeeze in a trip over to my family's cabin to visit our extended family, and the lake where I spent my childhood.

then I drove with my parents back over to the east side of the state. we took a mini road trip up through the "thumb" of Michigan [because if you didn't realize, it's shaped like a hand] to scope out some lighthouses. in the few days before and after, I tried to squeeze in seeing some of my closest friends and eating some tacos. then I hopped the early morning Amtrak to Chicago.

I was able to stay a few days with my cousin, and her husband and newborn daughter. we spent a lot of time in cute coffee shops or wandering her adorable neighborhood, and met up with our other cousin who is also living in Chicago. I also got my fill of cousin/niece snuggles.

before I knew it, though, I was back on a flight to Taipei.

no offense to everyone else, but... my favorite thing about this summer was spending time with my nephews. I was able to see 4 out of 5 of them. being an Aunt is truly an awesome thing. and while my newest nephew [who was 5 weeks old when we met] probably won't remember my visit, I'm hoping the others will treasure our Pokemon discussions, jumping in the pool, photo-taking and game playing as much as I will.

since coming back to Taiwan, it's been a flurry of jetlag and reuniting with old freinds. hopefully, I'll be making some new ones too as this summer's batch of expats arrives. we are working on settling into a schedule as the school year starts back up, getting our routine of cooking and cleaning and gym time and working and fun all organized.

I am planning for that to include a lot more writing and blogging than was accomplished this summer -- as soon as I find a space to put all these photos I brought home 😉


Olympic National Park, WA // Lake Crescent and Marymere Falls

take a short hike through a magical mossy forest to visit the enchanting Marymere Falls, in the heart of the Olympic National Park, Washington

Lake Crescent and the hike to Marymere Falls was my first introduction to Olympic National Park, one of several stops we made during our Pacific Northwest road trip.

Olympic National Park is huge. this is not a place you can explore in a day. in a month, or a year... maybe. the park covers the entire central area of the Olympic Peninsula, and creeps up Washington's western coast. we visited six different locations within the park on our trip, and still barely skirted the outside of it.

the Storm King ranger station was still closed for the season, so when we arrived at Lake Crescent we were greeted by the feathered welcome wagon instead. with lakefront views like this -- and after being cooped up in the car all day -- I didn't mind. we were traveling all the way from the San Juan Islands down to Forks that day, so a stop for fresh air and to stretch our legs was more than welcome.

it was already late afternoon when we stopped. but a short and mostly flat 2 mile round trip hike to spy Marymere Falls was too tempting to resist.

as the sun sank lower, the temperature dropped and I vowed to buy another layer because my teeth were chattering. [though right now the weather in Taipei is so hot and humid that I feel like a steamed dumpling and I'd gladly go back.]

the hike was wet, and the trail was muddy. there was not a dry surface anywhere to be found. in the moments that the light rain stopped, the green leaves still dripped down on us from above. but... we didn't mind that much.

because the silent forest was also full of magic. smiling skull-shaped rocks and twisted roots, moss and ferns and tree trunks bigger than my arms could reach around. and the air -- fresh and earthy and so, so clean. it felt like I was hiking into a fairytale, and I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest for the third time in as many days.

by the time we reached Marymere Falls, I had given up hope of keeping my lens dry. I was freezing cold and wet and muddy... but it was still just magical.

it wasn't the most impressive waterfall that we visited that trip, but it was special because it was the first. with my hands so cold [and my camera perilously damp] I shoved my hands in my pockets and just looked on the way back. the light was slanting through the tall, proud trees in the the most gorgeous way. it lit up the tiny raindrops and the gleaming dark wood and electric green leaves. likely in a way my hopelessly smeared lens could never capture.

but the mental pictures are there, the memory of it. and I value that more.

I left with a smile on my face, and in my heart.
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