boracay: this is our last goodbye

I finally finished editing Boracay photos. I'm letting go of actually putting together any kind of real informational post in regards to Boracay. just. ain't. gonna. happen. so... here's a lovely little mish-mosh of our last night and morning on the island. [I still can't get over how gorgeous that beach is.]

today I am letting go of the blog every day in may challenge. I am letting go of thinking that I will blog frequently or consistently for the next six months. and I am letting go of caring about that. or at least trying to.

the next few months are going to be hectic. getting our house in order. visitors coming to visit. traveling in Taiwan. traveling elsewhere in the world. training for a ten mile race. inconsistent internet access.

I hate to be cryptic but I have something big coming up this summer. I feel like I have to share it, eventually. but right now I'm not really into announcing it to the general populace. [hint: it's not a baby] I make no promises as to when I'll get around to writing about everything, but by fall there will sure be plenty to write about.

so please, stick around.

[and maybe listen to a little Jeff Buckley]


sorry, I'm not sorry

dear readers:

I'm sorry that I haven't finished editing pictures of Boracay yet. and that it's been... almost 4 months. actually, I'm more sorry that I'm not sitting on the beach right now. [and I'm sorry that you aren't with me.] I'm sorry that this is going to be a random post and the best I could do to save it was to drop in pictures from vacation.

I'm sorry I've been absent from blogging this past week. [and instagram, now that I think about it.] I'm sorry that you've missed out on the thrilling bits of wisdom I was sure to drop you... likely involving advice on how to travel without being a tourist [but kindof being a tourist anyway], or the worst interview question I was ever asked [if you could be a piece of furniture, what would you be?], or just random facts about myself [such as: did you know my hair is curly?] right. [this post is shaping up to be awesome already, isn't it?]

I'm sorry to throw you a shameless self-promotion and say you should review my blog on expats blog. and then check out the other 1,674 expat blogs from around the world. holy cow, there are some amazing people out there living some amazing lives.

I'm sorry to the adorable Allison that I probably won't ever get around to writing the post she nominated me for, but appreciate it anyway. in fact, I'm sorry to all of you who have commented or emailed and I've missed. and to all the new readers whose blogs I haven't checked out yet... sorry.

I'm sorry I switch around bits and pieces of my blog design every so often [and sometimes the whole thing!] and make it confusing. I'm sorry that changing to using Disqus for comments means you have to sign into twitter or google or facebook or make a disqus account. and I'm sorry that in all probability I will change back to blogger comments if I feel it's not working out. [or if you voice your opinion to me that you feel it's not working out.]

I'm sorry I have yet to inform you about the two cobras that are slithering around our school's campus. that's right. cobras. Husband came home last week with a flyer that said two cobras were spotted, but failed to be caught, so we should be careful when walking around campus and stay away from grassy areas. especially at night. [anyone remember the cobra escape from the Bronx zoo and the hilarious fake twitter account?] I'm trying to find amusement in the situation while exercising caution. and trying not to be more than slightly terrified. don't worry, I checked in our dirty laundry pile. no cobras there.

I'm sorry that I've missed out on writing and linking up and exploring more than half of the blog every day in may prompts. but... not really that sorry. because I'll never be the girl who consistently blogs every day and I while I love new readers and visitors and comments and pageviews I refuse to make this blog about that. I'm not really that sorry, because I've been out living life. scooting to Nanliou to see the Taiwan straight and eating pizza when I probably shouldn't. I've been making summer plans and evading cobras and beating Husband at canasta. [ok, he's won more games than I have.] I've been going out for girls nights and double dates and trying to embrace my natural hair texture. and instead of chaining myself to my computer I've spent time walking or sunning or reading or writing or doing whatever I please. because if I don't ever get out and live a little life, what on earth would I write about?

so... sorry, but I'm not that sorry. xo


my story

//first picture of me in Taiwan

this little blog has been up and running for over a year now. looking back, I have so many moments that I've experienced and shared. picking five favorites was a small form of torture... do I choose posts with the prettiest pictures? exotic locations? things that make me sound good?

I went a different route. I chose posts that have serious emotional connections for me. a lot of recent work would qualify for that, thanks to this challenge. but I dug way back in the archives to find stuff that some of my newer readers probably haven't seen. moments from our first few months here, adjusting and adapting. events that meant something to me, personally. posts that were hard for me to write, and scary to hit the "publish" button on.

because I am realizing a few things about this blog of mine. I am a travel blog, kindof. I am a nail blog, occasionally. I even dabble in DIY. and you are more than welcome to read this blog for those things- click on the topic links and explore away. but what this blog really is, is my story. so the posts I chose to share may not be the most beautiful or exciting or well-written that I've crafted over this past year. but they are true to the story of who I am, who I have been, and who I am becoming.

five posts, in no particular order:

1. when I was freshly unemployed and full of optimism about our upcoming move

2. the first time I set out to explore on my own and got lost but found my way home

3. exercising my right to free speech, and dealing with the consequences

4. spilling my guts about what I'm afraid of and trying to be brave [pre-scooter crash]

5. that moment when I realized Hsinchu had become "our city"

so for those of you who are new: welcome, and here's you chance to catch up on some of what you've missed. and for those of you who have been here since the start of this crazy ride: thanks for sticking around.


I almost died twice.

today's post is supposed to be about something I am struggling with. but to be honest, I already posted about life as an intentionally unemployed expatriate and dealing with food allergies. I guess I could tell you how I maybe had a shellfish reaction today from trying new stuff at our sushi place, and was so freaked out on the drive home I almost tipped my scooter over?

but one benadryl and a relaxing afternoon later... I think what I'm struggling with is that I don't want to talk about struggles. I want to talk about adventures and victories and fun weekends in Taipei spent both bar-hopping and being a kid again. I want to talk about weird goat statues with yellow eyes, and green VW vans.

I want to talk about the awesome Mexican place our friends took us to. home made guacamole from fresh avocado, and corn and flour tortillas from scratch. plus they serve margaritas. [and don't serve mozzarella sticks or mashed potatoes, like some other "Mexican" places we've tried here] I want to talk about taxis and tri-lingual children and big dreams and bars with live music I don't understand, but like anyway.

but since I'm supposed to be talking about struggles... I am struggling with struggling because despite the fact I thought I might die twice in a span of twenty minutes, today was still a good day. so you get a mostly-off-topic post with some pictures from my weekend.

oh. and here's that goat:


eating with allergies abroad

// veggie pad thai in bangkok: no tiny shrimp hiding out in here

sometimes, food is difficult for me.

I have a sensitivity to gluten. most of the time, I avoid eating it. sometimes I accidentally ingest it in things I can't easily determine have gluten. sometimes [in the case of pizza, usually] I will intentionally "cheat" and eat it will full knowledge of what's to come. depending on what the item is and how much I consume, my symptoms can range from a headache 20 minutes after I eat/drink something or a painful stomach, to digestive issues or having to spend the next morning in bed with what feels like a terrible hangover.

//peanut butter cupcake: someday I'll make a gluten free version...

I am also mildly lactose intolerant, though as long as I avoid milk or ice cream or heavy cream sauces I am ok. [I love cheese and refuse to give it up.]

and then, there is my shellfish allergy. accidentally consuming shrimp or crab results in more than just a stomach ache. it means hives and trouble breathing, or something worse if I ate enough. thankfully shellfish is easier to spot when it makes its way onto your plate.

//Husband's "monsoon shrimp" in Hawaii: I made him brush his teeth before he could kiss me

ok, so I have three things to avoid: gluten, dairy, shellfish. this means no sandwiches or milkshakes or crab rangoons, no beer or ice cream or california rolls. but there are still plenty of things I can eat, and most restaurants are safe for me since gluten and lactose are not allergies and I can survive cross-contamination. that's not so bad, right?

//at Pizza Stella in Philly, yes that's an egg: a tasty stomach ache about to happen

but wait... I live in a country where my first language [English] is not always on the label or the menu. and waiters know "hello" and "thank you" and sometimes "spicy" but that may be their limit. often, we point at the menu to order. we know the phrase for "I don't want shrimp" but there is no Chinese word to encompass all shellfish. and even when we ask for no shrimp, even if we have someone with us who speaks Chinese and they ask, sometimes the request doesn't make it to the kitchen. or they think we mean large shrimp and not the tiny dried ones that are sprinkled on everything for flavor. which I am still allergic to. which we discovered after I accidentally ate one.

//chicken caesar salad: GF if you pick out the croutons [not for serious allergies!]

so how do I deal with it? well. I cook at home a lot more often, so I know what is going into my food. sometimes we have to spend more money while grocery shopping so we can buy the western brand that has an English label I can read. we've been lucky that Taiwan is fairly westernized and we can find familiar things. they usually aren't quite what we are used to [sesame caesar dressing?] but different isn't always bad. I'm also lucky to have some really awesome parents and mother-in-law who have shipped me gluten free flour/pancake mix/ mac and cheese.

//hard cider: it's not beer, but it's gluten free

trying a new restaurant is always an adventure. sometimes we luck out find find another place we know we will become regulars at. we have found several local places where the owners speak English and we are able to ask for no shrimp or no bun and know it won't show up on the plate. but sometimes we go somewhere and there's nothing on the menu I can eat. sometimes my options are to eat gluten and feel sick, or to starve. or sometimes at teppanyaki I order beef and they bring out my meat to cook it... and theres a pile of someone else's shrimp sitting right on it. I won't lie, that really sucks. but usually I can at least get a salad or fries, or pop into 7-11 for some trail mix. sometimes that's not an option though. and if Jamie doesn't eat? she gets hangry [hungry + angry.] so I try to keep granola bars or nuts with me, especially when traveling.

//five napkin burger in NYC: gluten free bun for the win

the bottom line is: eating with allergies is hard, especially in a foreign country. but it's not impossible.

I will probably never be able to walk through a night market or into a local place here in Taiwan and just eat whatever they set in front of me. I have to eat with caution, not wild abandon. sometimes it can be extremely frustrating. but despite my allergies and sensitivities, I have still been able to try so many new things: pho, Korean barbecue, hot pot, bi bim bap, chana masala, etc etc. food may not be the same adventure for me as it is for you, but it's still one I intend to experience.

[though I always keep some Benadryl on hand. just in case.]

ps: I wrote this post as part of the blog every day in may challenge, on how I try to overcome something about "my lot in life" that is difficult. I am not a doctor or nutritional or medical expert. if you have an allergy or sensitivity, please get yourself checked out and follow your doctor's orders. this is just what I do to deal with my own conditions, and not meant to be any kind of diagnosis or guidebook. while they cause me stress and frustration and discomfort, I do realize that my conditions are less serious than a lot of you out there. what works for me - taking a burger off the bun - may be deadly for you. I salute you for being brave enough to go out into the world and eat, because I know how terrifying it can be even for myself sometimes. xo


a typical atypical day

combining yesterday and today's blog every day in may challenges... here are ten things that made me happy today:

1. I woke up around 7:30 this morning, as Husband was getting ready to head to work. for some that may not count as sleeping in, but after waking up at 6 the past week for subbing it was a glorious extra hour and a half.

2. I did my usual email, facebook, instagram, twitter check and saw Lauren was in need of a quiche recipe. I dug up a link from my old blog to my tried-and-true recipe to send her, and she sent me a very sweet response. some days I miss my oven and my sprinkles but I'm glad I kept the blog up so I can still share recipes with friends in need.

3. thinking about quiche of course made me hungry for breakfast. we haven't been grocery shopping in quite some time, but I managed to scrounge up some onion, tomato, cheddar, and jalepeno and made a batch of egg muffins. Husband arrived home on a break between classes just in time to sit and eat with me.

4. I had a 10am skype appointment with a friend. I always feel better after I've spent an hour [or two, or three] chatting with someone. unless I'm teaching, I spend most of my day alone or surrounded by people speaking a different language. which can be nice sometimes. but feeling connected is good too.

5. I booked myself a haircut. I haven't had one since before we left for Thailand in January. I have absoloutely no idea what style I'm going to ask for, so will probably just ask for a trim to get rid of the split ends. BUT suggestions for new hairstyles are welcome.

6. at 1:30, sirens similar to tornado warnings started to go off. normally this would cause me to panic. especially after this past weekend where Husband and I were awakened by a giant crash of thunder which made us [and others in our building] think we were being bombed by China. but thankfully I was aware that today is the national air raid drill in Taiwan. everyone must stay indoors for half an hour, until the sirens sounds again for the "all-clear". why is this on a list of happy things? well... it was a drill and not the real thing.

7. I wanted to get out of the house after the drill, but it was raining and therefore not conducive to scooting. so I walked to Starbucks. and wrote. two thousand words.

8. then I edited the photos you see, and started writing this post. a few weeks ago I tried out a technique called "free lensing" where you detach the lens from the camera body and just hold it and tilt it to try controlling the focus. it was a gloomy day and the pictures came out all kinds of weird... but in a good way.

9. I came home and enjoyed myself a beverage. [I do love a good single malt scotch whisky.]

10. Husband and I went out for some pho. the music there is always interesting... the owner has an ipad playing youtube playlists and hooked through the speakers. and the playlist of the evening tonight? an NSync and Backstreet Boys greatest hits mashup. hello, middle school. in a good way.

today wasn't what I would consider a typical day [I mean... air raid drill?] but since I don't have a set day-to-day routine, atypical is really what is typical. which means... that today was a typical atypical day.

so. how was your day?


expatriate problems

living overseas means there are a lot of things I miss. every day.

my family. my friends. my cats. my dishwasher and my clothes dryer. my walk-in closet. Chipotle, Whole Foods, Buddy's Pizza and Jimmy John's. New Planet gluten free beer.

I miss texting. I miss running by the canal in Princeton. I miss play dates in NYC and so much good food in Philly. I miss stores that carry clothes for American-shaped bodies and living 5 minutes from Gap and Anthropologie. I miss being able to buy all my groceries at one store. and Target... my goodness, do I miss Target.

I miss campfires. I miss wide open spaces and gently rolling midwestern hills. I miss Lake Michigan and I miss 8-Point. I miss sunsets in the field across the street in Armada. I miss drinking my morning coffee on the deck at my parent's house. I miss East Lansing and tailgate during football season, and margaritas at El Azteco.

I miss my cats... did I say that already?

despite this incredible adventure I am living, there are still moments when I desperately long for these familiar things. please don't think that giving them up was an easy choice for us to make. I clearly remember the moment, a few days after we found out we were moving to Taiwan, when the full weight of what I was going to miss hit me. my parents had called to tell me my Dad finally qualified for the Boston marathon. I was so excited for him, but so devastated that I wouldn't be able to be there to cheer him on. after I hung up I ended up crying on a bench in the mall outside Williams Sonoma. until that point we had only been thinking of happy, positive things about what we would experience. not all the birthdays and weddings and whatnot we wouldn't be there for.

we chose this. we chose to give up the life we knew. and that's what makes it hard - it is our own choice we have to blame for our situation. but if I thought that way I would spend each day here wallowing in regret and doubt and misery. yes, it was our choice to come here. but we chose this life because we believed it would be worth it, despite all we would leave behind.


boracay: ten words or less

ten words about the beach in Boracay: a blue paradise where I could gladly spend my life.

ten more words: so beautiful, so relaxing... can we go back now, please?

and ten more: yes I do feel a little weird about swimsuit photos.

I missed a few days of the blog every day in may challenge. I've been subbing this week, and will be subbing next week too. so let's be honest... I'll probably miss a few more. but I'm ok with that. today's prompt is to sell yourself in ten words or less. well, here's my ten word take on that:

I'm a complicated woman, and ten words aren't nearly enough.

brevity isn't really my thing. or hadn't you noticed?


lean into it.

today's prompt is to write about your fears. to be honest, I almost skipped this one. and somehow it's turned into a very long and wordy post. a lot of times I am afraid to share too much here. every time I hit "publish" my words are emailed directly to my mother - not to mention all the other family, friends, enemies, potential stalkers, random strangers, and Husband's students [past and current] who are out there reading.

but one fear I will share with you - something I touched on yesterday - is the fear that I am not making the most out of this opportunity. that I am wasting my time here in Taiwan. that I am not growing enough, learning enough, exploring enough. it's not something I feel every day. but sometimes, I do fear it.

the only way to fight that fear is to [as one of my friends would say] lean into it. you have to intentionally seek out the things that challenge you and make you uncomfortable. most times, things don't just happen to people. you have to make them happen. kindof the same idea as "God helps those who help themselves." you can't just wait for life, you have to do something.

so in that spirit, I hopped on the scooter this afternoon and went in search of an adventure. I decided I would try to find the other side of the 18 peaks mountain park which I had previously visited. I had a general idea of where another entrance might be, so I turned down a road that looked like it went in that direction. I found another way into an entrance I had discovered before, but still on the same side of the park. backtrack, try a new turn. this time the road led me through a maze of narrow, twisting alleys full of blind turns before spitting me out on a main road. I spotted a brown sign with characters and an arrow and took a chance on heading in that direction. the first turn I tried was a dead end. I had to backtrack again and try the next turn, which finally led me to a parking area and the park entrance.

there was a map, but I didn't look at it. I picked one of four trails and every time I came to a branch I took turns at random. I was rewarded with discovering the "plum blossom pavilion" which sits at the highest peak in the park and gives you a view all the way to downtown. I could also spot the giant Guan Gong statue at the Pu Tian temple.

instead of heading back the way I came, I went the other direction and kept picking new trails at random. and I discovered a stretch of tail flat enough to run on! [I so dearly miss my canal tail back in Princeton...] I followed the trail for a while to see how far it went, stopping to rest and write for a bit at a gorgeous green marble table. I got plenty of "white girl" stares from people passing by, and five ginormous itchy bug bites on my shins... but it was totally worth it.

by some stroke of luck or twist of fate, when I decided to keep following the trail it led me right back to where my scooter was parked.

as I was unlocking my scooter, I was approached by a very interesting lady. she was promiscuously dressed and heavily made-up, which is rare for the Taiwanese. and she looked like she may not have always been, or might only be dressing as, a she. [not that there is anything wrong with that if it's what you're into.] she pointed at me and said "pretty" so I said "thank you" and then she started babbling at me in Chinese so I told her "sorry I don't understand" and put on my helmet and made my escape. and even though it was an awkward and embarrassing encounter and I nearly got lost again on the way home... the adventure was still totally worth it.

I guess the point is... none of it would have happened if I had stayed home today.


intentional unemployment

today's prompt touches on something that has been on my mind often as of late.

we are coming up quickly on my anniversary of unemployment. I'm sure some people still think I'm crazy to quit a well-paid job and abandon a promising career to move to the other side of the world. [and to be honest, sometimes, I am one of those people] Husband teaches and so does pretty much every other person I hang out with. so when we meet a new friend they usually assume I am also a teacher. when they find I am not, it leads to the question I have come to dread most:

so... what do you do?

back when I was freshly unemployed I wrote a really great post addressing the similar question I kept receiving at that time: what are you going to do? sometimes I look back at that post and find my younger, pre-Taiwan self annoyingly optimistic [dancing unicorns, really?] sometimes I find it inspiring and mentally hi-five myself. and sometimes I look back at the past nine months and ask myself if I've been using this opportunity to the fullest.

when you wake up every morning with a day full of endless possibilities, it can be scary. what do you choose when you have no [or limited] obligations and an abundance of freedom?

sometimes I worry about my lack of career and lack of direction and get wrapped up in small things like Costco runs and washing dishes. sometimes I get lost on the internet and forget to go out and explore and wonder. and it's true my expectations may have been more than what is realistic. but if I'm being honest I have been using this opportunity. I've done [or started] a lot of those things I wrote about. the fact that I didn't panic and hop a flight home after my first week in Taiwan is an accomplishment in and of itself. the rest... scooting and language barriers and cooking without an oven and risking my life every time I try a new restaurant is all progress above and beyond.

so back to the topic at hand. when someone asks "what do you do?" they almost always are implying "... for a living" or "... as a career." and the title of our occupation is our instinctual response. right now I can't answer that question with my job, because I don't have one. whatever money I currently earn from subbing is basically pocket change to fuel my nailpolish and Anthropologie addictions. I don't consider it a job.

could I find work here? easily. but I choose not to. and lucky for me, our situation allows for Husband to support us both. coming from the states and especially Michigan, people automatically think of unemployment as a bad thing and something to be pitied. there's no denying that doing a job and doing it well can be a great source of satisfaction and self-worth. but I am much happier for not having a job. mostly because I have the freedom to pursue my happiness.

obviously, that's not an easy or quick thing to explain to a near-stranger who merely was asking what you do, whether out of curiosity or politeness. so I devised a phrase: I am intentionally unemployed.

I don't have a "career" or what I feel is a clearly defined role in life. every morning I wake up and unless I am subbing or fostering a dog or committed to a skype date, I am free to choose to do what I please. who am I? what do I do? there are any number of responses I could give: I am a writer, a photographer, an explorer, a substitute teacher, a housewife, an artist, a baker, a blogger, an adventurer... heck, a collector of washi tape. I do all of those things. 

but the simplest truth is... I am whoever I choose to be. in that day, in that moment. so in a world where I can do anything - almost literally anything - what do I do? I love, I create, I learn, and I live. 

and sometimes wash the dishes.


fashionably late

this, my friends, is Phyllis. Phyllis Nobles aka India Banks aka bad-ass writer/teacher who lives in the Mississippi delta and chronicles her adventures [past and present] with wit and humor on her blog: desperate english teachers.

I "met" Phyllis last summer through a mutual friend's blog and as soon as I read one post I knew I was hooked. I knew she was my kind of people. sometimes she does things that seem a little crazy. like driving 3 hours out of her way so she can dip her toes in the ocean, making herself pancakes at 2am, holding a baby snake on a dare, or moving everything out of her apartment so she can start over with a fresh perspective. but those are the kind of things I consider good crazy. brave crazy. and especially when she writes about them so authentically and unapologetically.

but why is she on my blog? well. there's a little thing going on around the internet called blog every day in May. I'm definitely late to this party. but I have decided to declare myself fashionably late. and of course Phyllis suggested I title my post as such. in fact, she was the one who suggested I join in. and as it turns out, today's challenge is to profess your love for one of your blog friends. so obviously...

aside from admiring her work, I consider Phyllis one of my best blog friends. she always leaves me the most heartfelt and encouraging comments, or responds to my tweets with something funny. I can always count on her blog for a dose of honesty and inspiration. she spent time teaching abroad in Istanbul, so she "gets" that aspect of my life. and she's a fellow Anthropologie obsessor. I feel like we have a connection, despite any geographical or age differences. and isn't that what makes the internet awesome?

so. I suggest you hop over to her blog and read for a while. leave her some love, become a new follower, make a new friend.
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