life lately // hsinchu summer

school is out and expat friends are taking off for home or other travels. walking outside feels a little bit like stepping into a bowl of soup... the humidity is now in full force. the sunrise starts at 4:43am. summer has officially arrived in Hsinchu.

Husband's mother has also arrived. for her first meal out in Taiwan we - of course - took her to Din Tai Fung.

the boys had fun picking out a selection of our favorites for her to try. I think I reminded Husband to order me soup too many times because a GIANT bowl arrived, but we managed to finish it. we had 13 of us so they split us into 2 tables [you can see the rest of our friends in the back of the last picture] and stuck us in the far back corner of the restaurant. but we still had a good time. and ate lots of good food.

today we put my mother-in-law on the back of a scooter and saw a few Hsinchu sights. we walked through the flower market, and a bit of the attached day market that was just setting up. then we stopped in the glass museum [no pictures allowed, boo!] and headed to our favorite burger place [Rick's] for lunch.

it's definitely fun to have visitors and play tourist in your own town. I'm excited for all the exploring and adventures in the next few weeks [and of course to share them!]


three years

three years ago, next to a river deep in a green valley in eastern Pennsylvania, this happened.

I was so excited to marry this man that we started the ceremony five minutes early. a shirtless and sweaty old man almost ran into a bridesmaid coming down the aisle. some kids hiking across the river started yelling "it's not too late" "run" "don't do it" right before we exchanged vows. I had to take off my shoes in the middle of our first dance. we didn't smash cake in each other's faces, but somehow I managed to get some down my dress.

funny how the details I remember and cherish the most are the little imperfections of the day.

we danced and laughed and drank the night away with our best family and friends. the scenery was beautiful - one of our favorite places in Philly, the food was delicious, and our DJ was incredible. I had an unbelievable amount of fun, down to the last song of the night during which some friends whipped out a red leather jacket and zombie dance moves - because it was Thriller, of course.

our life has changed so much since then... and I can't wait to see where the next three [or seventy-three] years take us. 

[photo by the awesome ninja/photographer David Difuntorum]


a tale of two mattresses

grab yourself some tea/coffee/wine/whatever and sit back while I tell you a story.

it starts with this: the mattress provided with our apartment had lost nearly all support. there were a few springs that still tried, but unfortunately they were located where I liked to rest my shoulder/hip/back. after many restless night of poor sleep we finally decided it was time to suck it up and buy a new mattress.

but how does one buy a new mattress in Taiwan? well, first you measure your mattress and do some research and discover that no one in Taiwan makes a mattress to fit your IKEA bed frame except for, of course, IKEA. so you make the trek to Taipei. you discover they do not have the mattress you wanted, but something similar. and hey - it's on sale! so you test it out and write down the number on the little card and get all excited, because things are finally working out.

and then your Husband tries to tell you the mattress is too small. and you think it's because you wrote down 150 x 192 cm as the dimensions and the mattress says it is 152 x 190 and you tell him no, it's fine. it's a queen size mattress. it's the dimensions you wrote down. you know you are right. [do you see where this story is going?]

so you pick out a foam pad and a comforter and cover that fit your mattress, and go an hour and 3 MRT transfers out of your way to have a celebratory mexican lunch. because it's 3pm and you are starving and in need of a margarita, and gosh darn it you've accomplished something today.

the next day, your new mattress is delivered. and when your Husband puts the new mattress on the bed frame it is hilariously too small. because, of course, your bed frame is a king size. and the dimensions you had written down? well, those were from when your Husband gave you the dimensions of the mattress he saw at Costco that was too small. because the size you really need is 190 x 200.

so for ten minutes you sit on the mattress and try to convince yourself maybe it isn't so ridiculous looking with all that extra bedframe sticking out around the sides. it's kindof like one of those trendy platform beds, right?

wrong. then your Husband spends the afternoon playing phone tag between a Chinese-speaking friend and the IKEA help desk trying to figure out how we can get the right size mattress. and they tell you that you have to go in person to return/exchange/schedule a new delivery. so you go. and two days later the correct size mattress is delivered.

a little difficult? maybe. but all was well. we assembled the new bed with freshly washed linens and I was ready to spend the rest of the afternoon sinking into the memory foam with a good book, enjoying not being poked in the bum by rogue springs.

and she relaxed happily ever after?

oh, but we are not yet through.

mere hours after the new mattress arrived, I noticed an ominous stain spreading on the ceiling. right. above. our new bed. water was leaking from the ceiling. in a panicked frenzy, we tore off all the blankets and sheets and relocated the mattress to the living room. and informed the proper person that we needed someone to come out and address the issue immediately.

so we camped out in the living room and waited for our request to make its way through the system. ah, bureaucracy. on day three the source of the leak - our upstairs neighbor's AC unit - was fixed. and on day five the workers arrived to paint our walls and fix our window screens.

wait... paint our walls and fix our windows?

we had previously requested that someone come and repaint several walls [including one in our bedroom] suffering from water damage and bubbling/flaking paint. Husband's mother is coming to visit and we had hoped to have it completed by then. I wasn't going to stop them from painting the walls, but I had been hoping they would be patching or sealing the cieling. I tried to communicate as much. I was able to break through the language barrier just enough to get a coat of paint over the water-stained crack in the ceiling. the walls were scraped, plastered, dried briefly with a blow torch [not joking], and painted.

on day six, we noticed the paint was starting to crack already in some areas that had been repaired. I guess the blow torch method of drying plaster isn't all that effective? we gave it one more night for the fumes to die down and finally moved our bed back where it belonged. with three rooms being painted, our living room had resembled a game of furniture Tetris.

and on the seventh day, they rested.


five random things

one. I might have a small obsession developing... for dragons. every time I walk past a temple or shrine I get the urge to whip out my camera. some [like these I spotted in Nanliou] have long teeth and claws, some have warriors riding on their backs, some are emerald green or blue or turquoise or green with accents in every color of the rainbow. one of my favorite things about living in Taiwan is that these dragons seem to pop up everywhere.

two. I have been trying my best to start using bloglovin, but it's hard to break my google reader habit. yes yes yes I understand that bloglovin lets you click from viewing one blog post to the next while still actually visiting blogs [and giving them page views.] but as much as I like seeing everyone's cute blog designs, I hate all the ads and other clutter and miss the simplicity and seamlessness of gr. google reader has less than two weeks left though, so I better get used to it. hmph. in other news, you can follow me on bloglovin here [reluctantly or not.]

three. ok. so I was at Costco today and got in line to check out behind a mom and her young daughter. the girl spotted me, dropped her jaw, turned to tug on her mom's arm, and then pointed and laughed at me while jabbering in Chinese. the mother did not stop the child or act embarrassed. she eyed me warily like I was some exotic creature that might give her fleas if she got too close. and then she ignored me and paid and pushed her giant cart away all while the girl was still staring. [this situation, though not always this extreme, happens to me at least once a week while grocery shopping.]

four. I am now in my third week of training, and to be honest, it's been a little rough. it's beyond humid here, which makes my knees angry to begin with. [yes I am like one of those old people who can predict when it will rain by their aching joints. and yes I take glucosamine but it is a weaker version derived from plants since most comes from... shellfish. hello, allergy. oh, and yes it is currently the rainy season in Taiwan.] the area where I live is densely populated but also very hilly. if I want to run somewhere away from traffic lights and scooter smog it means a 130 meter climb over less than a mile. so most mornings I can be found running along a sea of scooters in rush hour on their way to work, feeling a little bit like a circus animal on parade. let's not even start about how many stares I get because I am a) white and b) a woman running and c) not wearing jean or cargo shorts and converse while exercising. and I think I have developed a runner's toe as the nail on my right big toe is bruised and starting to lift on one side. gross. and slightly painful.

four-and-a-half. that was two  three-ish rants in a row, sorry.

five. go read this post about the futility of comparing yourself to others. it will make you feel better about the next time you check facebook. I know sometimes it's hard for me to remember that some things in life [like trying to bake cookies] are infinitely more difficult because of the life I live. I try to remember that I have some things others lust after: the freedom to not work and the ability to travel to exotic places. and I try to remember that we are all on different paths, that comparison is the thief of joy, and to love what's yours.

even if what's yours today is an ouchy toe and an embarrassing expat moment...


holga film prints

last may, a friend got me a holga camera as a moving to Taiwan / birthday gift. it took me until last november to shoot my first roll of film, and just this week I finally got prints developed. [I may have had a small fear of working with film which caused me to procrastinate.] but. I picked up my prints this morning! it had been so long since I shot the roll that opening up the prints was a fun surprise. and the developer gave me digital files so I had to share a few of my favorites.

most of the prints are blurry, half of them are double exposed... and I am absolutely in love with all the little imperfections. my next task is to find a way to display them, and then of course to get my hands on another roll of film. 


lists + life + travel plans

first, I want to thank all of you who sent emails and tweets and comments of sympathy. this has been a rough week. but you made me feel very loved, and a little less alone all the way over in this corner of the world. thank you.

second, I want to say that I find the first post after a post about something serious hard to write. I feel like I need this post to buffer whatever comes next. the transition is rarely graceful... but then again I have a tendency to be a little random in my ramblings at any point in time. so, on we go.

summer has arrived in Taiwan. there are still three weeks of school left [poor Husband!] but the temperature is starting to soar. this means that I will be in a permanent sweat for the next few months. regardless, I've been running. I get a lot of stares when I do... it may be that not many women here exercise to the point of sweating, or that I'm white, or simply that I'm crazy and running in the heat. most likely the crazy, because it's 4pm here and 88 degrees and once I finish this post I'm going out for a 2 mile run. but it's only going to get hotter, so I may as well get used to it now.

summer also means things are about to get busy. my mother-in-law is coming to stay for two weeks and our apartment is somewhat of a disaster right now [more on that later.] once she's here we'll be hanging out in Hsinchu and traveling around Taiwan. even though we have been here for nearly a year, there is still so much we want to do + see. I'm excited to dig deeper into Taipei and the touristy things around here [and of course to share them with you!]

after the MIL leaves, we will have a week before packing up and meeting a friend form the states in Kuala Lumpur for a trip in Thailand. we are going back to Railay and Bangkok and I am beyond excited! I know some people always want to go to new places, but there is enough to do in Thailand that we didn't cover it all in January. [and enough that we loved and would want to do again.] adventure and newness are great things, but it's also nice to go somewhere and know how to navigate yourself around. both Husband and our friend have been busy with teaching, so I took it upon myself to play travel agent and book everything. if you know me, you know how much I love planning and organizing... so the preparation for this trip has been almost as enjoyable as an actual vacation. I haven't gone so far as to make a detailed itinerary of our daily activities, mind you, but we have flights and hotels and a vague idea of what to see.

and that will take us nearly to august... which also has some exciting plans. but we can talk about that later.

AND. a few items of business before I go:

I am doing away with the disqus comments. back to blogger! which means all your comments from the past week will disappear [sorry] just like that brief time I tried out the google+ comments [sorry about that too!]

I decided to make my instagram account private for personal reasons, but you are more than welcome to request to follow me.

a few of you have asked for buttons [and I'm ever so flattered] but you may have a bit longer to wait. I've been thinking of designing a new banner, but that means shooting some new photos, and that means deciding what I want and then making time to go and shoot. I'll get it done, eventually.

until next time, friends. 



I haven't said anything, because I haven't really been able to figure out what to say. or even if I should be saying it here. but I can't seem to slap on a pretty smile and show you vacation photos or painted nails with this weighing on me. it just doesn't seem right.

this past saturday, my grandfather passed away.

my Papa was my last living grandparent, and we were blessed to have nearly a hundred years with him. and they were good years. the ones I remember were full of gardening, cutting the grass together with a push mower, working on puzzles, playing card games, and watching hockey and baseball and golf. he would always pull on our toes to wake us up when we were kids, and made this noise that kindof sounded like a duck. when he wrote a book, he secretly typed up all his pages on his typewriter and mailed them to a cousin to be computerized and then emailed back to him to send to the publisher. the tomatoes he grew were the best I've ever tasted. he spent his life spreading God's word. even retirement couldn't stop him from preaching... he started services and a bible study in his retirement home for those who couldn't make it to church anymore. he always wore cardigans had coffee after dinner. he loved my Nana, his sweetie, so much. and he loved to tell stories. he told us about life on a farm in Canada before electricity, walking my uncle in a stroller around Tiger stadium, and of a hockey team being stranded by a snowstorm and sleeping on pews in his church on Christmas Eve [I might be remembering that one wrong though.]

I'm sad I can't be there with my family to celebrate his life. it's certainly not easy to be far away at a time like this. in fact, it's really really hard. but I was lucky to have so many good years with Papa, and I know the time I spent with him in those years is no less meaningful because I am not there now.

this picture is almost 5 years old. but it's the most recent one I have of just us two. or at least on my computer here, I think. I remember when we took it. he wanted to hold my hands and so even though it looks a little awkward like I might be elbowing him in the head, I promise it's just he loved me and wanted to hold my hand. and I loved him and so I did.
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