A random post on Facebook tonight reminded me that I’m due to celebrate a very special 10 year anniversary. July 28, 2002.
Only a week before, I had sold nearly all of my possessions and prepared two and a half suitcases for a move to a country I had never stepped foot in. The yard sale was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. And it set the tone for a more simplistic life. One where the layers of complexity were peeled away with each new cultural experience and every moment I settled into a completely new way of life.
My first year was a whirlwind of memories. There were a seas of new faces in not only my students and co-workers, but in all the other foreign teachers who came to the tiny country seeking new adventures, work experience, fun, perhaps even a delay of reality. I easily adapted to my new surroundings and loved my little apartment with the fabulous view of a very handsome mountain. Teaching high school students was often more challenging than any job I had ever held. But warm friendships were formed and I remain in touch with a good handful of the, then seniors who are now 28… some married, some with children.
I was apprehensive to transfer to my new job, but it turned out to be the best decision. It required some effort to get settled in all over again, but the pay off was a new office full of supportive co-workers and the chance to teach the tiniest and cutest kids imaginable. For four years, I danced, sang and gestured to get the English meaning across. I played dodgeball almost every day at lunch. Lunchtime with teachers helped me better understand their language. I made so many new friends, big and small, old and young. I traveled. I listened. I absorbed. I laughed, cried, ate, drank and embraced that amazing culture. Along the way, I shared all the highlights with you.
When the time came for me to leave, I wasn’t ready for the journey to end. But it was clear that this was a chapter in my life and that turning the page would begin a different, yet also exciting adventure. A new story was ready for me. The goodbyes were bitter sweet, the sentiments genuine and special. The friendships were real and celebrated.
There are countless moments that are so easily recalled with great fondness and affection. A word might pop into my head, a photo will catch my eye as the cover of a digital album, or a craving for any number of specialty foods creeps into my belly. In those moments, I pause to honor the memory, remember a face, hear a voice or a laugh. I miss it. I miss that life, that work, those people, that version of me.
Ten years ago on July 28, 2002, I packed my bags and boarded a one-way flight to Japan. And it changed me forever. Surely, that’s something worth celebrating.
Of all the people I missed while I was away, this tiny little one made my heart ache the most. I could occasionally see my niece, LaNiah on skype when she was with my folks, but she couldn’t quite figure out why I was trapped in the computer and often did not want to talk to me via the screen.
I was glad that when she first saw me that she had not forgotten me and that she quickly warmed up to me. She is full of personality, loves to play tag, can’t be without her juice and loves to color, go to the park and watch Wow Wow Wubbzy. We all look forward to her visits, can’t get enough hugs and kisses and simply adore this little one. And how could you not? She’s such a cutie patootie!
About the photo: While she’s not in one of her princess gowns, she is bundled up for unusually cold weather in San Diego. I love her fierce grip on her sippy cup. She’s ready to rumble (aka go to the grocery store with Papa)!
Ever wondered what my office looks like? Here ya go. I moved into this office back in April when our sales office for the boat moved and we rented the space to a third party. I am in the back of the building, all too near the restrooms, the service elevator and back stairs. I have no window.
This office makes me happy that my job includes a decent level of travel.
Do you like your office space? Is there someone’s office you covet?
Now wonder I miss this little munchkin! Look at that crazy and beautifully messy head of hair! Look at that gorgeous little face! I wish I could squuuueeeeeze her!
When you live abroad for a good chunk of time, coming home for a visit can bring about a flood of emotions. I love seeing my family and friends, but I always feel a bit like a stranger or even a foreigner in my own country. Living without has been my m.o. this last year and so stepping into a life full of excess always feels a little awkward. That and all of those drug commercials on TV. What the heck? Of course one visit to Target usually helps me get past my judgement on these superficialities as I can happily stock up on really necessary stuff like flavored coffee and a cabinet’s worth of hair products. And after my first cheeseburger at InNOut, I can sort of fall back into the American way of life. (OK I tease. That’s not going to happen anytime soon, but I do enjoy my vacations home!)
Vietnam is also a country and experience which is hard to describe to people without sounding completely negative. Everyday of my life is filled with a multitude of small to complex challenges. And this past year was a rough year of transition for me. Vacation came at a really good time. I needed to refresh and refill.
During my holiday, one of my favorite friends I’ve visited with is one of my oldest and dearest, Holly. The best way to describe how I feel when I visit with her and her family is NORMAL. Not a very exciting word, but at the heart of the emotion, I simply feel like ME. And remembering where I come from and the person that I am, having a good chat and a laugh with a friend I’ve known forever is really good medicine for a wounded soul. 2009 was a rough year for us both and I am grateful to have the chance to jump these hurdles together. We should never forget who we are and how far in life we’ve come. Thanks for the reminder, Holly. Love you oodles!
Whenever I make a visit home, I always split my time between San Diego and Los Angeles. L.A. is like the other place I grew up in the sense that the five years I lived there were really remarkable years of growth for me both professionally and personally. And it was in L.A. where I met some the most important friends in my life.
The tough part about making a visit these days is splitting up my limited time between everyone and having those too-short moments be meaningful. But I think I managed to do well this visit. Even stopped by the City Club and after a good chat with Larry, remembered exactly the stuff I’m made of – important during this challenging time in my life.
Worst part of Los Angeles – the traffic! THAT, I do not miss. It took me two hours+ to get out to my friend Sheryl’s house. Absolutely maddening. Even in the slower lanes, you have the jerks who get right up on your tail and ride your bumper. And for some reason, the drive between San Diego and Los Angeles seems to have gotten longer. Well, driving in the pouring rain up to L.A. probably doesn’t help the situation any. But for as many times as I’ve driven that route, it seems to have been stretch out a bit! It has – right? ;p
One of the fun things I got to do in L.A. was go see my hair stylist. Josef is my favorite. And I’ve gone to him for years now. Even living abroad, I usually plan a visit to Umberto’s in Beverly Hills. I’m not really a Beverly Hills kind of girl, but I have always splurged on my hair. In Japan even, I found a great stylist in Howard and would visit him on my visits to Tokyo. My hair is kind of my thing. And I let Josef do whatever the heck he wanted, because the look on his face when he first saw me said it all…The no bangs, one length thing was NOT working for me! And you know he made a good point. Bangs point to the eyes and if you have a pair…well then. So the bangs are back and my hair is all layered up and ready to grow…let’s hope that it will continue to grow quickly and get past my shoulders soon! This photo here shows off the new look the day after it was cut.
With two of my dearest friends in L.A. I discussed the issue of SKYPE. I’m telling you now, this is a fabulous tool to stay in touch and communicate. It doesn’t matter if you have video or not. Just to be able to talk live and hear your voice – that’s a lot of goodness right there. I use it all the time for work, as our offices are spread out over SE Asia. We chat, speak, hold conference calls and even send documents. So please….please please please. Load up skype on your computer and let’s stay in better touch – I MISS YOU!!!