Monday, December 30, 2013

I’ve lost that Blogging feeling


How long does it take for the “new” to become the “not so new”?

When I came to Asia I committed to writing about my experiences.  I knew I was being handed the opportunity of a lifetime, and I wanted to make sure I not only took full advantage of that opportunity…but it was also important to me to actually remember all that I saw, smelled, tasted.

My dad used to keep diaries.  He had years of them…and I always loved reading them…the day in, day out, normalness of his life…of my mom’s life…of our lives.  It’s really our only record of our family.

We have a small family.  Not many cousins, and sadly, I don’t know a lot about our ancestors or history.

I wanted to leave a little something behind that told the story of the years I had here. My goal was to write about all of it…right as it happened, when my ever failing memory was fresh…the places, the names, the impressions.

Year 1 was EASY! EVERYTHING was so new…I literally would run back to write about my day, my travels. (Jan 2011 to Dec 2011)

Year 2….well, the wheels started coming off the cart…slowly off the cart…but…sure enough, things started to slow down…even though my traveling was accelerating! (Jan 2012 to Dec 2012)

Corey would say “you are losing your audience”…he may have meant readers…I now know it means …me

Year 3…well, the cart was now sitting by the side of the road…I was still an avid picture taker…and I thought that having the pics would help me reconstruct. It will be invaluable.  Corey always wanted me to change how my pictures are stored on the computer (why no names?? ).  I held on to date and picture order for one reason…continuity, consistency…Thank heaven!   

Year 4 - It’s time to catch up. It’s time to keep up. That is going to be my charge … I’m not under the impression that my kids want to read this now…but maybe, one day, they, or their kids…will want to know…or maybe, just maybe…when someone does a search on line…they will see MY experiences (I will be page 9,000 on Google…but I might be found)…and read my words, and know just a little, about my/about our lives.

In an effort NOT to set myself up for failure…I will not make promises in writing, no “resolutions”.  However, I will, this year, search for, set time for, prioritize…getting that feeling back…the feeling of newness…wonder…awe.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Playing tourist in my own (Seattle) back yard!

This one is ALL about the pics! 

I took a fair amount of grief for having waited well over two and a half years to visit the various markets that are literally two MTR stops away from my house.  It just seems to happen that so many of us live in great places…yet don’t take advantage of what there is to SEE in those places.

Case in point:

We’ve been in Seattle for about 13 years…ok…you can take away the HK years…but it’s still well over 10 years.

While I have driven North on the I-5…I’ve never gone more than 3 miles east off of WA522.  Why would I?  There’s nothing out there right?

Well, I learned quickly on December 26, that I have been missing SO much beauty and it was a mere 90 minutes from our house.

I love eagles.  The American Bald Eagle…the once endangered, now protected kind.

It started many years ago because of the California Channel Island “Eagle Cams”  I sort of got a little addicted to watching the parent eagles incubate the eggs (like watching paint dry); then after the eggs hatch, I would watch the babies struggle to move and eat…then beat the shit out of each other in an attempt to kill each other (I called it “beaking” the professional call  it “siblicide”).  It is natural I guess…survival of the fittest and all that.

I did move on from my addiction … mostly…(Facebook updates filled in the gaps of my needs)

Christmas was rolling around and Kirk asked if I would like to go on an Eagle Watching River float trip he saw a Groupon for?  The BEST gifts are those that family and friends think about you and the things you love (or were addicted to).

I told Kirk we had a limited window to go on the trip when we were back…so he set it up for December 26.

The day boasted an amazing blue sky.  Our weather hadn’t been terrible while we were back…but it sure wasn’t THIS! Truth be told also…Corey did not want to go.  He was actually a little pissy about it.

We drove north on the 5, We had some snow at the house, and as we made our way to the Howard Miller Steelhead Park in Rockport WA. We could see how just few miles were a huge difference in weather.  There was a lot of snow on the ground from the dusting we had.  But the roads were clear, and we moved right along.

We arrived at the park…not really quite sure where to park, or what to do…but finally found the “shuttle” that would be picking us up after our float ended.

We got our own raft (nice since the only person I had to compete with for a prime picture taking spot was my Brother in law!)

Here’s the view as we turned to go down river


It took about 2 minutes to spot a pair of Eagles and a juvenile!  “Juvies” as we fans call them are a great sign that eagles are not only surviving

IMG_2535IMG_2534 You can see this guy (girl) has yet to develop its’ white feathers on the head…and blends right in to the trees!

Here’s Corey, Mair and our guide having a discussion…

IMG_2541  Sadly…today is the day I decided to change some camera settings …and the result is smaller files…which makes them impossible to crop…so I’m super disappointed in what you won’t be able to see…but here’s a few  Sad smile




Here’s the Eagle deciding he’s had enough of us looking:  OFF he goes!


We saw many Eagles!  We also had breathtaking views!


These two are the ride home! Light through the mist and reflecting off the sun


So…a great day was had by all.  I got to see Eagles.  Corey admitted it was pretty cool….Stewart and I shared the front of the raft easily and didn’t fight over photo ops!  Mair didn’t freeze…

SO…look around…open those eyes…and go see those things that are right under your nose…Take the time to explore close to home.  You just  don’t’ know what you might be missing!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jiuzhaigou–THE Most Beautiful Place I Have Ever Seen


Twice in my life I have felt compelled to thank the people in Corey’s world that have placed us in the cities we live in.  First was the … err…gentleman… who prompted our move to Dallas.  While it was hard to leave family, I truly feel it saved our marriage and we got to meet great people. The move to Dallas helped set up our move to Seattle.

The move to Hong Kong is without a doubt the move of a lifetime.  It’s hard to be a Mom and Sister from afar…and I do not know how people did it years ago before Skype, Whatsapp, internet and fast airplanes.  But I don’t have to worry about that.  All of the technology keeps us close.

Our move here has afforded the best travel.  My trip to Jiuzhaigou (zhoo – zhi-go) was, hands down, one of the most amazing things ever!

It was my first time coordinating and leading a trip for the American Women’s Association. No stress right?  Responsible for 11 others having a good and flawless trip…right…

We had a terrific group of travellers.  There were ups and downs (details to come)…but all in all it was amazing.

We landed in Jiuzhaigou and were greeted by Walter, our guide for the week.  He spoke great English (except every time he said “government” I thought he was saying “garment”)

We grabbed our bags…did the “bathroom thing”.  Bathrooms are an adventure in China…the question is always asked “How was it” or “How are they”  What we really want to know “Squat or No-Squat”,“Smelly or Not Smelly” “Paper or No Paper”  A bathroom that provides tissue is RARE…I’ve come a long way from Blue Jay Drive.

Our bus was waiting….with Oxygen. YES…each of us was provided with a bottle of Oxygen since where we were is about 4,000 meters (I looked out the window to see another tourist on a bus sucking hers down)

Here is Becky checking out the instructions!


IMG_1132 Me on the bus.  We passed plenty of these guys: Yakkity Yaks


IMG_1136IMG_1137IMG_1138IMG_1142IMG_1143Here are some of the Tibetan Villages we passed on the way to our hotel. The Village at the bottom was destroyed in the 2008 Earthquake and rebuilt up the road as a “Tourist Area”  We did not stop

We drove to the Jiuzhaigou Sheraton for a Hot Pot dinner, Internet in the lobby and to bed. The morning was going to come very quickly.

China celebrates Golden Week from Oct 1 – 7 (ish).  The ENTIRE country is off that week and as China has prospered, many have started to travel.  We heard reports that on October 2, the army had to be called to Jiuzhagou to handle the 40,000 (you are reading that right) people that came there to see the park.  Traffic was gridlock.  Tourists had to walk 5-10 km to get to buses.  There was almost a riot. 

Luckily, it was not nearly as crowded when we were there…but don’t get me wrong…it was plenty busy. 

The park has public buses so that those without guides can jump on and off to see the sights. But imagine dragging strollers, lunches, walkers, etc on and off these buses AND fighting for spaces.  I was advised and agree to pay to have a private bus (BEST MONEY EVER SPENT).  Walter let us know…repeatedly, how much more we paid for this (lots and lots). 


Here is a map of the park…you can see it’s shaped like a “Y”


We started the day at 7:00 with our mini-bus waiting for us outside. Walter took our passports and got our reserved tickets and the bus for us at 6 am.  The park is just a few minutes away and we got to breeze through lines and get the tour going.

At first it was very cloudy (with a threat of rain). 

IMG_0636I was truly worried how the day would turn out and yes, how the pictures would be without light and sun.  I had heard overcast was best for color(??) but this? 

I had the new camera with me…and my fellow travellers (Becky and Joanne) were VERY kind it helping with settings….or I would just sneak up behind them and copy theirs!  My favorite thing was playing with the settings to get the water to look like it was “frozen in place!



We moved through the park, and as the day progressed, it got lighter, so I became more hopeful for the pictures.

I did discover an amazing feature on my Canon Sureshot (point and shoot)…it has an “enhance image” feature (hey, three years in…not a bad learning curve!)…it pulls color (or maybe puts color) where it exists…case in point:

Before I found the setting:



IMG_1168 Just a little different!

Some of it looked too phony:

IMG_1186 VS IMG_1184but it was fun to play with

ANYWAY!  Off we went, moving pretty freely through the park:

Our guide set up our tour to go backwards…start at the least popular places and end at the most popular…thinking being most people do it the other way….this was truly helpful with crowd control…and AGAIN he stressed how much more we paid for the private coach (still worth it)

Much of the fun of traveling is taking pics of others.  Trust me…PLENTY of people too our pictures (most of our group was blonde so we were VERY popular)


I try to be respectful…ok…sneaky…or I ask in that universal non-language language (hold up my camera to show them I want to take their picture)

IMG_0727IMG_0806IMG_0773 (for a fee you can dress up in costume for you pics!)

The other thing about having a guide is that they tend to have the best ideas of HOW to see things…and this is where my breath was literally taken from my body.

IMG_0785 See that color of blue?  This color comes from elements in the soil.  We walked down a set of stairs, turned a corner to this.  I stopped in my tracks. 


IMG_0786It was a GREAT spot for our group photo!

This shows you the crowds…all of these people came down the “walking” path while we came down stairs from the bus parking area…our approach had NO people …which, you can tell…was good!


While we admired the spot…we grabbed our own pics (tough to try to shoulder your way in to get a pic without thousands around you!) Then moved on!


Our day progressed…the sun stayed out…playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds, but all in all it was gorgeous, and not nearly as cold as we thought it would be.

Here are some pictures so you can see the beauty of it w/o my words trying to describe the place!


IMG_0928IMG_0925(can you tell with these two I got fascinated with the reflections in the water??


How about having THIS as your wedding backdrop??

IMG_0921IMG_0918IMG_0916 There were tons of us taking their pictures!  They could have saved a fortune on a photographer!

We ended the day seeing a local show that showed us dancing from different ethnicities, etc.



IMG_1046IMG_1037Some of our group got up and danced with them.

It was a perfect start to our trip.  There promised to be more good days ahead.