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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cross Country Season


Yesterday morning I cheered Elena on in her last cross country meet of the season.  It's been a new sport for her, and the best decision made in moving to a new country and school.















I can't think of one negative thing from this running season.  Yeah, Elena ran with an injury, but I watched her overcome the pain, and push herself to reach personal goals.
















I really didn't know what to expect of the sport, but I found it to be the most personally supportive group she's been involved in.  The coach knew when to push her and when to tell her to take an easier run.  He saw her strengths and weaknesses and worked with them.

It gave Elena a place to belong, a place to find her feet and settle.

I'm going to miss Sat. morning meets.




Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Two in One Day

If you've followed this blog since the beginning, you would know I am a little bit bitter about not feeling earthquakes in New Zealand.  I'm over that now.
This morning, around 3:30, I awoke to the bed swaying gently around the room.  Or at least that's what it felt like.  Chad was out in the family room on a call with the states, taking care of some business.  He ran into the room with his eyes wide open and asked if I had felt it.  Yes,  I did.  Is that what an earthquake feels like?  I really was expecting a bone rattling sort of mind numbing shaking. 
We were talking about it at dinner, and apparently many people were awaken by the shake.  Elena slept through it, she was disappointed.
I looked it up, because I was curious.  The quake was a 5.6, off the east coast of Taiwan at 3:37 a.m.  What was felt here in Taipei was 3.0.  My gentle sway has the potential to be a lot worse.  Chad says it was not a gentle sway.  He said I was half asleep.  What really happened was, the room shifted and the apartment creaked.  It was rather freaky.
As I was sitting here this evening, contemplating writing a blog to document my experience, the room swayed once again.  This time my eyes were big.  It felt like it lasted forever, like maybe 20 seconds or so.  Elena ran out of her room and her eyes asked if it was an earthquake.  Yep.  
So two in one day.  My heart is a bit on edge right now.  I think I've had enough excitement for the next three years. 


What Have I Been Doing With My Time?

I typically have a bit of extra time on my hands when we arrive at a new post.  Basically, I'm starting over with no commitments, free to make new choices that will fill my days.  It's a great time to build new friendships, get familiar with the grocery shopping, and just settle in.
Using crazy household objects as straight edges
This is the first post I've come to where I have a job waiting for me.  I did the interviews over the phone and was fortunate to be offered a position before arriving.  I gave myself one month after arrival before I would begin.  I'm coming up on the last few days of an open schedule before that job begins.
I feel like I've had more time at this post.  We are down to one child home, which feels extremely different.  She's been involved in after school sports, so that leaves me with lots of hours to fill during the day.  Our apartment is the smallest space I've lived in for a long time, so it doesn't consume my time keeping it clean.
I've tried to be very purposeful in how I use my time.  I feel comfortable with the grocery stores in my area.  I have a handle on Elena's school and classes.  I can get around on all means of public transportation and am just waiting for our car before I begin driving.  I've organized and bought shelves and feel ready for our HHE to arrive.  I've even painted our entire apartment.
Cutting the scarf
Last spring I began getting itchy to get my sewing machine out.  There wasn't time, and I didn't have a project to work on, so instead, I decided to pack the machine in our air shipment, buy some fabric while home, and use my extra time before working to begin a few projects.
I've been having a blast.  I've made two skirts for work and began a quilt.
I have this silly little goal, to make a quilt from each country we live in.  Of course I have quilts that look traditionally American, I have one I made from fabrics I collected on our trips to Africa and I have one 3/4 finished from New Zealand.  The squares for my Colombia quilt are waiting for inspiration.  While in Russia, I purchased some inexpensive scarves to make a quilt out of.
I got together with a few of my mom's friends, whom I knew made beautiful quilts.  We looked at the scarves, and discussed patter and color options. Then my mom and I went to the quilt store and picked out fabrics.  The clerk was wonderful, she came up with some color ideas that I fell in love with!
So, I've been making a quilt top.  In typical Kris fashion, I packed the sewing machine and scissors in the air shipment, but didn't think of all the other tools I would need to cut out a quilt.  So I've had to be creative.  I've made patterns out of paper, figured measurements on the computer, and used the groves in the tile to make sure I'm keeping my quilt square.  I've found odds and ends around the house to use as straight edges and right angels.  Overall, it's been fun to improvise, but in the future I'm going to make sure I pack the correct tools.
Piecing together the top
Fortunately, I am not a perfectionist.  There are some problems with my quilt that would probably drive some people nuts.  The first is that I should have stabilized the scarf.  It changes shape and dimensions and is very hard to correctly cut.  I will definitely stabilize the next scarf.  The other problem is that I sort of winged the pattern.  There are a few places where I should have just had one large strip of fabric filling a space, but instead I have several strips pieced together.  Not ideal, but it is a quilt, after all.
So I've been having a blast with my sewing machine on these hot humid days.  I will be putting it away in the next few weeks and have no idea when I will find time to sew with abandon again.  I've treasured these creative moments and am glad that I will have a fun project to look at as a result.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Eating Locally


We are becoming quiet fond of the local food.  It's the first country we've lived in that we are excited to eat out.  Typically, in other places, we've looked for a good Italian or American restaurant and sort of avoided the local food.  Here, we may not recognize what we are eating, but typically, it tastes good!  
This is a typical restaurant that we ate in one day.  The first clue that it's truly local food is the lack of English.  No English menu, the staff does not speak English and there's not even a picture menu to help out.  Another sign that the food will be good is the crowd around the front waiting to order.

The menu looks long, but everything is simply a combination of meat, rice, noodles and vegetables.  We order through pointing and sign language, typically combined with the help of a sympathetic customer who speaks English.  We always need to have the attitude of "I may not get what I'm expecting so I need to just go with it."  Dining is always an adventure.  For example, the other night we went out.  The restaurant even had plastic molded copies of the entrees.  One looked amazing with beef stew around a pile of mashed potatoes.  As I sat waiting for my dinner to be ready, I kept babbling on about how good the mashed potatoes looked and how I was suddenly craving mashed potatoes.  Big mistake.  Never get your expectations up when ordering food in a foreign country.  My mashed potatoes turned out to be rice covered in a thin sheet of scrambled eggs.  It was rather disappointing.  I couldn't even imagine mashed potatoes while I was eating egg covered rice.  
Several people work up front, taking orders, boxing up meals to go and working the cash register.  The kitchens are typically tiny.  This kitchen was only the size of a typical bathroom.  The women seem to have a rhythm, moving in unison to prepare and plate the food.  
Although I have my days where I just need some good ole American food, I'm beginning to prepare a few local dishes at home.  




Thursday, September 10, 2015

Butterfly Trail

Crazy, large wasps eating some sort of fig.
Wouldn't you want to see where these stairs led?  I discovered them while taking the dog for a walk one day.  I immediately realized it was the beginning of a butterfly walk I had heard about.  On Labor Day, Chad and I took advantage of a day off to explore and see where the trail ended.  We had a wonderful morning walking together.   

There were so many things to see.  I will let the photos show you what we found. 

Nice view of our area as we headed up the mountain.

an interesting bird 
Sign of all the butterflies we could possibly run into.


Very cool rock with writing
in the middle of nowhere.

Freaky large spider.
We saw a couple of this variety.

We saw lots of butterflies.

More curious steps.
Too overgrown to explore.

Lanterns strung up on an obscure road.

Temples are everywhere.

Chad finds these large snails facinating.



Idols in a temple.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

a.mart

Button on door
What to eat for dinner?  I looked at my list and picked a new recipe then watched the video I had found to make it.  Shoot, I was missing the vegetables.  I'm sure I thought, "I'll get them fresh when I'm ready to make it." last time I did my shopping and of course I didn't bother to figure out what I was making for dinner this morning before I went to the grocery store, so back to the store I needed to go.   Since I needed only Asian ingredients I thought I would try the grocery store I had been avoiding, a.mart.  It's only a block away and closer than Carrefour by a smidgen, so when in a hurry, it might be a good idea to know what they have.

I've been avoiding it because people seem to think that it's the Chinese store in the area.  No English.  No recognizable products.  I've been afraid that I would feel completely lost inside, so why bother?

I can see the back of the store from the end of my street.  It's right there, across a large, vacant lot.  Should I go left or right?  Right looked shorter so off I went.  I found a sketchy looking parking lot and cut through and ended up in the loading area.  I dodged delivery trucks and garbage dumpsters and walked around to the front.  Turns out there is a whole mall there.  I have found this to be typical overseas.  Grocery stores are located in malls and here they seem to be located on the second floor.

I found the main entrance and walked towards the sliding glass doors.  I haven't gotten used to pushing the button that makes the doors slide open.  I usually stand there, like an idiot, waiting for them to magically slide open.  Typically someone walks up, pushes the button and I meekly follow.

I wandered in and was delighted to find that there is a McDonald's in the mall, just around the corner from my apartment.  Right there, easy to get to when I have that need for some greasy fries.  Next to McDonald's was a donut shop.  Why do people avoid this place?  

I found my way up to the second floor and entered the grocery store.  Neat, clean, wide aisles and logically organized.  I walked down a random aisle and found the brown sugar and yeast that have been alluding me as well as several choices of flour.  They had cake flour, waffle flour, fine ground flour, standard flour, tapioca flour and just to spite Americans, they had extra gluten flour.

I grabbed the fresh veggies I needed for tonight's dinner then walked through the freezer section.  On my way to the cash register I saw the most interesting ice cream delights.  It's always fun to try the products in a foreign country so I picked a box of white covered purple ice cream treats.  Who knows what flavor that will be?  I can't even imagine, but it will make for a fun ending to our meal tonight.