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Inauguration Day

The Inauguration of President Obama was a very special occasion for me this year. You see, four years ago, I was in Laos, a Communist country, on the day of Obama’s first inauguration and I did not have a chance to celebrate. You can read that story HERE.

This year, I didn’t do anything special, no parties or gatherings. I just watched on TV in the comfort of home, my PJs and a cup of coffee.  I watched the formalities of arrivals and seatings, of music, poems and speeches, of the crowds waving their flags awash with smiles and hope on their faces. I get emotional during formal events and ceremonies. I don’t know why. I felt excited. I felt pride for my country. It made me reflect on my life and experiences and my choice to remain here in the US versus the adventure of living in Argentina or Spain (thoughts I had when I returned from Vietnam). I’m glad I decided to stay. I’m happy to live in the United States.

Today was a good day, a proud day, and I am thankful I was here, in my home country, to watch the ceremony and celebration. No matter who you voted for, the Inauguration is a significant day in US history. When you have been denied the opportunity to witness it, it makes you all the more grateful when you can. I hope you enjoyed the events today, too.

If you missed it, you can watch it here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/inauguration-2013

Want to see some historical photos of inaugurations past? Click HERE.

Hold The Bacon

It may be the case that I am still in reverse culture shock, because for the life of me, I cannot remember when all of our menus included so many items with bacon. Salads, chicken sandwiches, burgers, and now, thanks to Burger King, sundaes.  What? Ice cream with bacon? That’s right, Burger King has introduced a bacon sundae.  And I have to finally exclaim, “That’s just WRONG!!!”

I expressed recently how a popular L.A. restaurant served a burger that included bacon which was strictly served with “no modifications.” When it was delivered, I promptly removed the bacon. I’ve also seen some bacon comments pop up on Twitter. Is bacon worthy of a tweet? This video was shared on Twitter too. Do you think bacon solves all problems?  It just seems everyone is in love with bacon and that all food should be garnished or served with bacon. Does bacon really make the world taste better?

Every once in a while, I do enjoy a couple of slices of bacon with eggs, or a BLT sandwich, but a sundae? A dessert with meat flavor? I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work for me. Seriously, I’m so over this insane enthusiasm for bacon. I’m going to have to say, “Hold the bacon.”

 

Experience

I posted this quote on the On The Bright Side Facebook Page earlier today. Since it received lots of likes and comments, I thought I would share this here too.

USE YOUR EXPERIENCE – In a world obsessed with youth, experience is often undervalued. But your unique experiences are priceless. They give you many advantages. Cherish them. Use them wisely: at work, with your family, in relationships, in planning ahead.

 

What’s been interesting for me is that since I have returned from an 8 year stint abroad, I find it increasingly difficult to actually talk about the experiences I cherish, the moments that have changed my life forever and made me the person I am today. All that international travel experience is unique and it is priceless… to me. Very few people in the US can relate to living overseas, and in such places like Japan and Vietnam. It’s a shame, really. It’s those experiences I value the most and have made my life full of value.

What Inauguration?

Kurt, Marie-Helene and I had just returned from a lovely evening of gin & tonics at a quaint bar and then a terrific dinner at L’Elephante, a popular restaurant in Luang Prabang.

It was about 10pm and I cracked open my laptop to check messages and write my status on Facebook, “…can’t help but smile as she watches the Obama inauguration live from Luang Prbang, Laos!!!”  And then I shut my computer down and got comfy in bed, excited to watch.

With all the pre-inauguration nonsense, (and a delightfully full belly and a few gin & tonics in me) I started to fall asleep.  But I woke up about 11:30pm, ready to witness this great moment in history.  Luang Prabang and Washington D.C. are exactly 12 hours apart.  So where I was, Obama would be inaugurated at midnight.

At about 11:55, one speaker (forgive me, I lost track who was introducing who) said something like, “…who will swear in Vice President, Joe Biden.”  And at that exact moment, right after Joe Biden was named, my screen turned to snow.  I checked the cables, I changed the channels.  Nothing.  I called the front desk.  I went to the lobby. All of the TVs in the hotel experienced the same problem.

I thought perhaps the cable box was turned off, but later learned that it was most likely censorship.  Strange that we were allowed to watch all the pomp and circumstance, but not the swearing in?  As peaceful as Laos is, it was a reminder that it remains a communist country.

I’m just really disappointed that I missed one of the most significant moments of my country’s history.  Major bummer, dude.

On the Bright Side,

Shanna

Two More Days

Here I am with my 10 boxes, three check-ins and one carry-on.  Not sure if it’s good or bad that my life is so compact!  Of course, we can’t see my 8 bins in the storage shed!  This photo was taken yesterday, just before my dad and I hauled all those boxes to the Post Office.

While I have often commented that everything in life is negotiable, I can confidently inform you that that rule does not apply to shipping fees.  I tried my best to get a “well prepared” discount, as some dude didn’t even have his boxes taped up.  I pleaded for a holiday discount.  I posed a “good helper” discount, as my dad and I helped stamp documents and put stickers on boxes.  Discount for 10 boxes?  Cuz we’re nice?  Pretty please?  Veronica just smiled and shook her head.  Not negotiable.  Bummer!  I just hope that the staff member I get at the airline counter in two days will be more lenient with baggage fees.  Fingers crossed.

Two more days.  In between today and my departure is Thanksgiving.  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and enjoy time spent with your loved ones.  I’m especially thinking of my friends Bobby and Jeff…I hope they know how much they are loved, how many people are supporting them, are thinking about them and are thankful for them.  They are two incredibly special people.

The next time you hear from me, I will have landed in Hanoi, started my exciting and already-busy, new job and hopefully will be settled into an apartment or house.  Let the adventurous blogging resume!

Safe, healthy and happy holidays to you!

On the Bright Side,

Shanna

Two More Weeks!

If moving is one of the most stressful things a person can do, then moving overseas must take the cake! In just two weeks from today, I will be landing in Hanoi, ready to start a new job and a new life adventure.  I can’t wait!

The living room is an absolute mess right now.  I have boxes of things which need to be sent on the right side of the room and then all of the things I hope to pack and take with me on the left.  On the big chair is a pile of clothes I’d like to pack, but if there is no space, I can live without the items the 6-8 weeks it will take to get there.  The dining room table is full of projects I’m trying to complete before I go; letters to my kids and friends in Japan, mostly.

The biggest headache of moving overseas is actually dealing with the airlines and baggage restrictions.  I bought two HUGE duffle bags, but have since learned that they are just too big and that each bag would incur a $110 fee for being oversize.  If they were the correct size, but over 50lbs, then it’s just a $50 fee.  If I pack a 3rd bag, within 62 inches and 50lbs, then it’s $110.  All this does is make me feel like I’m in math class trying to solve a problem.  So frustrating!

I’ve started to have strange dreams about my job.  I’ve had the dreams where I’ve slept in and am late to work, that I didn’t do something right, or that I can’t meet a challenge presented to me.  For all my fervor for stepping back into the professional world, there’s a wee part of me which is scared to death!  I want so much to hit the ground sprinting, to bring this company success and prestige, and exceed expectations.  I just need to stop worrying, step up to the plate and knock it out of the park!

My flight lands on 11/29 about 10:30pm.  I’ll be greeted by the Press Club driver, Hun, and will be taken to a hotel near the office.  I’ll have Sunday on my own to recover and take a walk around the city, or call Mr. Tang and motorbike my way around a bit.  Thank goodness the city is still fresh in my memory.  I also want to see where the flood areas were.  (Note to self: Second floor or higher apartment would be a good idea.)

I start my job on Monday, December 1st.  That will be spent looking for a home with an agent and getting a health check, required for my work permits. I’m excited to be able to choose my home (within budget) and really hope I find something immediately. (I’m gearing for 2+ bedrooms, as I hope for and expect lots of visitors!)   The next day, I will go to the Press Club and meet all of my coworkers.  Kurt will be back from Bangkok and he and I will begin to create our strategy of how we will “kick ass.” (He’s giving me until Christmas to get up to speed, feel ‘comfi’ and get settled. Then we must “kick ass.”)

Tonight I’m getting together with a few friends to say farewell.  That aspect hasn’t quite hit  me yet either.  It’s been so fun this past year to be able to speak on the phone and visit friends more frequently.  Heck, my friend Sara even came to Cambodia with me on her vacation!!!  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time with my family, Friday and Sunday nights with my 2nd family, and especially my new little niece.  While I successfully kept up with people while in Japan, I have taken for granted in this last year my ability to give people a hug and actually SEE you!  That won’t hit me until I’m on the plane, or perhaps the day I move into my new home.  But it will hit hard – that’s for sure.

Well, it’s time to go get ready for that party and take another look at the mess in the living room – I’ll try once more to visualize how it will all fit neatly into my suitcases!   Ha ha ha!

On the Bright Side,

Shanna

Not So Normal – For Us

There was an interesting knock on the door this weekend.  A young man said he was from Angus Steaks and that they had a surplus of steaks and fish, still frozen in the cooler in the back of his truck, did we want to buy any?  Um…no?  Who buys meat from the back of a truck?  No, no thank you.

But in many parts of the world, this is an acceptable practice.  It reminded me of the day I was in Thailand and had to go to the Burmese border to renew my Thai visa.  The group made a stop at a small village.  As we were walking around, we heard the driver of the truck in this picture beep his horn as he approached the village.  He parked and waited.  We did too.  What would happen?  What’s for sale on this truck?

Women and children came out of hiding and purchased produce, fish, dinner for the evening.  Like any child in the world, the little ones begged for sweets and toys.  This mobile grocery store carries everything!

At the time, I remember thinking that it was a nice benefit of living in a remote village – the market comes to you!  So why oh why did it seem so unnatural this weekend when that young man came to the door selling steaks and fish?  Yeah, yeah, I know.  We just don’t do that here.  Why not?  Wouldn’t it be cool if the local farmer’s market had a mobile unit that came to your neighborhood everyday?  I think it’s a brilliant idea!

On the Bright Side,

Shanna

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