Welcome to our old – ahem – new blog…

Note: I can’t assume to speak for Aye, so I will try to break the ‘we’ habit and only focus on “I” in this post…

I don’t think anyone really noticed, or cared, that our gotpassport(dot)org blog went offline recently. We (as a team) decided, after many discussions, to let go of the URL, and web hosting our 3 blogs as well. It wasn’t an investment worth paying every month, and it wasn’t a trivial amount, either. Now the old original free wordpress site, yeah, this one, is what we have saved. Content from the self-hosted sites were imported into this one – so financially we are saving a good chunk of change by not paying for a website name and hosting. But what did we lose, if anything?

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A Miracle. A Place We Can Call Home.

Wow.  Can you believe it?

It’s been over three months, damn, almost four, since we arrived to Taiwan. It was all about festive celebrations when we first arrived due to Lunar New Year. That was way back in February. Lots happened since. I’ll spare additional details but I wrote a bit about it here, here and here.

Starting late March and for a little over a month,  Jack’s parents came back to Taiwan and we were in the South and in the North zipping back and forth.   It was a nice surprise to see them and spend time with them here again.

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Our New Home

Technically we don’t have a home of our own just yet. We’ve been staying with family members in North and South of Taiwan and at Bed and Breakfast accommodations on the East Coast. Our 18 days across the East coast in March has been eye-opening and has allowed us to see the possibilities of being with nature and being able to enjoy riding the bicycle on a regular basis.  We rode many many kilometers on our bicycles during those 18 days on the East coast.  Admittedly, more kilometers than we ever have in our life time.  I can be on the bicycle on a daily basis exploring so many places. That thought alone by itself keeps me encouraged! Read more of this post

A New Year. A New Adventure.

 

Surreal.    We’re in Taiwan.  Seems like we just left yesterday.  No we left in September 2014 and here we are , back to stay, much longer this  time.

Pinch me now!

It’s only been a week since our arrival to Taiwan, a familiar place for all of us. Still, it is a new adventure because this time we are here to stay.  it feels a bit surreal and exciting at the same time.

No.  We are NOT on vacation. We’re here to make a life in this beautiful country.   Just like the life we made in Thailand for four years.  How long in Taiwan?  Of course we don’t know. We will live in the moment.  And we will take one year at a time, like we did in Thailand.

On the day we left, Chiang Mai airport was jam-packed.   We quickly realized, in addition to the  trend of Chinese  tourists coming to Chiang Mai, it’s also only a few days before the Lunar New Year.  We are glad we planned our travel at least a week before the official Lunar New Year massive travels began. Yikes!

So we came to Taiwan just in time for the New Year celebrations.   The colors of gold and red shower Taiwan it seems.

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It’s the year of the Sheep/Goat. That’s us.  That’s the three of us.  It makes sense to be here in Taiwan for Emma and her Daddy to reconnect with their cultural roots. I’m excited for us!

The PaiPai room3

It is a  celebration I believe Jack and Emma ought to experience in Taiwan as Taiwanese Americans. I’ve had my time of being reconnected with my roots in Thailand and Burma. I heard Jack utter the words the other day “It’s been a long time since I’ve been here for Taiwanese New Year! I think I was just a kid!”  Just like me. I was maybe 11 or 12 the last time I experiened the New Year Water Festival in Burma. In the four years that we lived in Thialand, I was reconnected and was present for the New Year Water Festival and Jack and Emma had a chance to thoroughly experience and learn about the cultural festivities.

Since our arrival, Emma has shown initiative and  interest in learning the language of her father’s native tongue. Emma’s great aunt (Kim-puh) has helped her learn phrases and words already in the first couple days.  We are eating delicious food as usual.  Enjoying delicious tea, fruits and snacks at all hours. Noticing, observing and enjoying  the company family and gatherings.

Taiwan.  Our new home!

 

The PaiPai room2a

 

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sheepsheep2

Lunar New Year

 

Sheeps are everywhere!

Sheep are everywhere!

Food. Food. More Food.

Food. Food. More Food.

We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude.

We Say NO to Status Quo. 

Live Green. Live Small. Give Large. Take Little.

Take Notice. Take Action.

 

 

The Leap from Thailand to Taiwan

My how time has flown. Our life of four years in Thailand has truly been an incredible adventure and journey.

 

yee ping 7 2013

I thought I would be so brokenhearted by leaving Thailand.  Essentially, to me, it means moving away from Burma. Chiang Mai and Mae Sot were the closest thing to my Burmese roots.  The dream and the possibilities of living there had lingered in my heart for as long as I can remember.

Without really thinking too much I tried a new approach! After all, it’s a brand new year with a new set of 365 days of opportunities for behavioral changes.  A new country. A new page. A new adventure. 

After spending 3 months in Taiwan the summer of 2014, then another nearly three months in Malaysia, then back to Texas for the 2014 winter holidays, I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  Being on the move, packing, repacking, visiting with family and friends, leaving Texas again, all at the same time homeschooling,   It can be and was overwhelming.  So many emotions. So many logistics… lot of crying episodes, a lot of wine, a lot of late night worries, crunching the numbers, arguments, Korean episodes, lots of music and soul searching, lots of eating,  lots of laughing too.. and on and on.

Returning to Thailand at first was exciting then it was exhausting because we had a lot of work ahead of us before we move to Taiwan. We just had three weeks.  Three weeks?  What were we thinking!  An amazing thing happened though– by the time the last day in Thailand came and it was time to say “See you later, Chiang Mai!”   I was not sobbing in big tears. No regrets. Only a sense of satisfaction.

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Supporting NGOs and Social Enterprises is a never-ending endevor. Puzzle Box Art Studio in Mae Sot.

 

 

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We had one last meal with our friends, James (LIve Collar Free) and Maria (Fiery Tree ) at one of our favorite restaurants. Pun Pun,  in Chiang Mai.  As I sat with them enjoying and being present at lunch,  James said something along the lines of “thought you’d be crying today?” At that very moment, it occurred to me that I couldn’t cry even if I tried. I just felt at peace. I later thought about why I wasn’t in tears. Sobbing, like I thought I would.

 

 

At some point after the return, I chose to be present in everything I was doing.  

 

I woke up each morning noticing the beautiful sky above us.  I paid attention to the little fishes in the pond, the mooing of the cows from my living room as I had done in the past.  I felt the warmth of the sun  on my face. I enjoyed the beautiful mountain breezes on my face as we took rides up the mountain with our motorbike. I enjoyed the moments  we had together as a family in those three weeks.  I noticed friends’ company. I enjoyed the time we took on the road trip to Mae Sot, the art projects with our Burmese friends, interacting with them, learning from them. I tasted every bite of the Burmese salads we had in Mae Sot. I relished every cup of Macchiato as if it was my last.  I relished in the idea of being in the moment and truly appreciating it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

 

 

More photos located here in our

” target=”_blank”>FB Album on our FB page as well.  Feel free to hop-over for a look!

 

 

We worked hard to sell as many things was we could. As a family we learned to work together well.  It was hectic at times but we did it. We packed up.  Shipped 6 boxes to Taiwan and 2 to the US (yes, very costly, not recommended!). We free-cycled to friends and neighbors. Recycled whatever we could. Donated as much as we could to NGOs.   Used up  all our luggage allowed via checked-in luggage and carry on luggage.

Downloads

 

And we did it. With  a lot of determination and the willingness to test new waters, we did it.  My journey and time in Thailand was complete, for now. I felt at peace. I know deep down, there are places and people that will remain close to my heart, always.

At the end of the day,  it took a lot of faith and courage within ourselves and for each other.

I am so proud of us: the three of us.

Uhhh there it is. I see a new adventure.

Carpe Diem!  Another Leap of Faith.

Done.

We Leaped.

Again.

 

We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude.

We Say NO to Status Quo. 

Live Green. Live Small. Give Large. Take Little.

Take Notice. Take Action.

We have retired!

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Yes, folks, we just realized that we are a retired couple, but not retired in the conventional sense. Our retirement is not related to winning the lottery, cashing in on Chipotle stock (missed that one!), nor is it related to us finally reaching our “elderish” (Emma’s word) age.

We have retired from THAT race.

You know what race I am referring to, don’t you? Yes, the rat race. More precisely, the STATUS race. The race is universal, unavoidable, and you tend to stand out when you decide to not participate in it. You get judged by your peers and family. Questions about what we are doing are really disguised as opportunities to enlighten us that we are going the wrong way.

The next time we hear questions like, “What do you do?” “What do you do, all day?” (really?) or, “Do you have a business here in (insert Asian county name here)?” we will answer, “We are retired.” Short and simple. Enough is enough.

We (Aye and I) are retired from the race to move up some academic or corporate ladder. Department chair? Dean? Pass. Please. Director of an NGO? No thanks.  We are retired from the goal of a six figure annual salary (note that I said salary, which is very different than our long term investment goals). Retired from feeling the need to wear academic credentials on our sleeves to someone new we will meet, just in order to fit in it or elevate ourselves. Our occupational titles do not define us. We are so much more.

We are retired from needing to prove that by achieving ‘status’ we will achieve a higher level of happiness. A big house with walk-in closets filled with a ton of clothes didn’t do it for us. We had two houses. Yup. We had everything we needed. An Armani suit, Tesla car, or a Rolex won’t make me any more important than I am right now. I’d rather spend my money that gives my family enriching experiences, and an insane 80″ tv from my beloved Costco won’t do that.  Why watch the Travel channel in 4k resolution when we can see those places with our own eyes with that cash? I think our eyes are high def, right?

I am also retired from needing to prove to others that I am good enough husband or father, or that I am capable of providing for my family to someone else’s standard.  Judge all you want, as long as we are happy, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone else. For us, trying to impress or appease others by chasing higher status is a huge waste of time and energy. HUGE!

We are retired from using our child as a means of competing with other families’ kids just to feel better about ourselves. It’s great that your kid scored a 1600 on the SAT, won a gold medal, got into Harvard, became a neurosurgeon, or is a famous chef on t.v. We are happy for you. Really, that is awesome! We want Emma to be Emma, not to be “better than so-and-so’s kid.” By telling her, “Why don’t you be like Jane, who achieved this or that?” I would basically be telling her to not be herself. Why on earth would I do that?

Retirement is not about giving up or losing something valuable, but gaining what is important to us.

 

We no longer need to look forward to retirement. We had already retired back in 2010!

 

 

We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude.

We Say NO to the Status Quo.

Live Small. Live Green.

Give Large. Take Little.

Take Notice. Take Action.

 

Teaching on the run

 

Playing around in New Orleans at Mardi Gras World

Playing around in New Orleans at Mardi Gras World

 

I’ve been teaching on the run (sounds like I’m a fugitive) for several years now, but I still get questions about what I do, so I’ll write a bit about teaching online.  I’ll save the nuts and bolts about how online classes work for another day, but for now, focus on the benefits and costs of this work lifestyle.  The major benefit of teaching online has afforded us the freedom of time together as a family, and to become location independent.  Sounds great on the surface, but like any profession, there are pitfalls to this work lifestyle as well.

Let me just simplify what I’m trying to say in a Good v. Bad list below…with bullet points.  Hey, I’m a professor, bullet points are deeply engrained in my brain now…

 

The Good List:

  • Freedom!  Working from home can be liberating, work on your own schedule, and from anywhere as long as  you have solid internet.  Yes, you CAN teach in your pajamas!  The stereotype is true!  As for autonomy at the job, I have that and more.  While there is accountability built into the system, I do have the academic freedom of creating the type of course I want to teach.  It’s creative freedom at its best.
  • Time – I received plenty of vacation time as a full time professor, including the summers, spring breaks, and in between semester breaks.  We didn’t even earn vacation days.  Now as an adjunct (fancy term for part time) instructor, I have even more flexibility to pursue other freelance work, such as life coaching or editing.
  • Save money – Just like any work from home (telecommuting) job, I save by not having to commute to an office location, costs of maintaining a car, fuel, professional attire, and the daily costs of eating out or using the vending machines.  People forget that a job comes with expenses in addition to a paycheck.
  • Homeschooling has evolved into Worldschooling – While Emma was attending international school for the past four years in Thailand, we lived as expats.  Once we decided as a family to homeschool last year, we became even less restricted of any calendar constraints, and can go virtually anywhere!
  • I love teaching, period.  If you love teaching, that doesn’t change when one chooses to teach online.  There is still student-teacher interaction, and you can still create an engaging learning experience.  If you want to teach online, you need to believe in the format and the advantages it brings, and not ruminate about how face to face classes are inherently better.
  • No more office politics –  I do not miss (at all) the negative aspects of being on campus, such as the typical backstabbing and gossiping that goes on in any workplace.  Not to mention dealing with bureaucracy, or ‘bosses’ who undermine your work.  Yes, those things happen in academia, and happened to me.

 

The Bad List:

  • Insecurity – Giving up a full time faculty salary, and the benefits that come with it, wasn’t an easy decision.  Ask any adjunct instructor, and they’ll tell you that they were waiting for many years to get a shot at applying for a full time faculty position.  Going from a full time to adjunct position is basically a demotion in most people’s minds, and I would not argue with that. A full time faculty position is extremely competitive and secure, but I gave it up for ‘adjuncthood,’ which includes a constant state of insecurity, as there are no guarantees that you’ll continue to get classes.  Not all colleges support faculty who want to teach their online classes from any location. Many want their faculty in-house, often in their offices as they teach their classes online (Don’t ask me the logic of THAT).  I’m fortunate that I work for two colleges (in states of WA and LA) who are willing to allow me to teach my classes from any location..
  • Being online all the time – When you work at the office, there are clear prompts of when you begin and end your work day.  After you leave the office, your work day is done (unless you take papers home to grade).  Teaching online, though, requires discipline to stay OFF the computer.  I can safely say that I probably put in more hours than is required with my teaching load.  I’m proud of my work ethic, but not proud that I’m working more hours than I should.  That’s out of balance.  As a traveling family, we often rely on our internet access for news, communication, and entertainment.  So combining that with my online work, it’s a bit too much time in front of a screen for my taste.
  • Professional Development – Typically as a full time faculty member, there are numerous conferences and professional development activities that one can engage in to further one’s skills and knowledge base.  Teaching from Asia creates a new challenge in this area.  I do my best to be engaged by reading books, research, and news articles in my field, but I do miss the face to face interaction and discussion with colleagues in my field of study.
  • Internet needed – Make that GOOD internet.  Our short stay in a Penang apartment last fall turned into a nightmare for my work.  The wifi speeds were too slow.  So slow that it reminded me of the dial-up days (avg of 1Mbps download).  While I managed to get my work done, it was stressful and not as efficient as it could have been. Don’t take fast internet for granted, people! This fast Wifi requirement also prevents us from exploring some parts of the world where internet access is poor to nonexistent.  We’ll have to schedule those ventures during my non-teaching part of the calendar.

 

On the whole, I can’t complain though.  My work lifestyle is devoid of most of the stress that I had as a full timer, and I’ve exchanged that lofty status and security for more time with my family, and I’ll make that trade again any time.  I’m grateful to the colleges that entrust me to teach their classes from a distance, and the freedom that this work has provided for myself and my family.

 

We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude.

We Say NO to the Status Quo.

Live Small. Live Green.

Give Large. Take Little.

Take Notice. Take Action.

 

 

 

 

 

In search of balance for 2015 and beyond

 

Here's fearless Emma, leading us up the walls!

Here’s fearless Emma, leading us up the walls!

It’s another new year, which brings time for reflection of the previous year that passed.  However, this time I’m getting the feeling like I’m in the film “Groundhog Day,” where I would go through the motions of declaring hopeful changes to be made in my life, but I wonder if any of them will stick this year?

No, I won’t do it.  I won’t go through the usual public declaration of the things I’d like to accomplish this year, as I’m getting to the point where  talk (and blog posts) is cheap (and I’m tired of my own broken promises to myself, and others), so I’d rather just do them, and talk about them later.

What I will say is that what will guide me from today forward is the overarching goal of seeking balance in how I live.  Whatever is causing my discontent is the result of some aspect of my life going out of balance.  It’s relatively easy to see that imbalance in others as well, who are not leading happy, content lives.

I personally want to reach a state of mental, physical, and spiritual homeostasis, and a sense of peace and joy.  I wish that for our family of three, from this day forward, but I won’t preach it to Emma, or anyone else.  Even as a lecturer, I’m tired of lecturing.  Instead, I will act by example, as Emma did by leading us with her newly developed passion for rock climbing.  Thanks Emma, now let’s see if Daddy can return the favor and inspire you as well.

Let’s see how things go, starting now.

 

We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude.

We Say NO to the Status Quo.

Live Small. Live Green.

Give Large. Take Little.

Take Notice. Take Action.

The Process of De-owning a Home and A Very Important Life Lesson

 

 

minimalism

Photo Source:  Becoming Minimalist

 

By this time last year, I was back in Houston, Texas, in preparation of selling our town-home in Midtown Houston.  It has been a rental house since we left in July 2010.  Our house needed some major repairs and only one of us could return to oversee both the repairs and the sale of the home.

Jack stayed in Chiang Mai since Emma’s International School was still in session and she needed one of us. Jack is the only one who can drive a motorbike to get her to and from school. So it was left to me to be back in Houston.  I was ready for the challenge, so I thought.

I knew it would have been really difficult for me being away from both Jack and Emma for two months.  But I didn’t realize how very difficult it was in reality.

At first I commuted from my parents’ house which was about forty minutes in traffic to our home in midtown. Hey at least I had a car (I was using my parent’s) so I was thankful for it. Then with the help of my friend I was able to stay with her at her condo five minutes from our town-home.  For this accommodation which made my life so much easier during my time there, and for her kindness,  I am very thankful to my friend.   You know who you are.

It was a trying time for me emotionally.  It was even more pronounced perhaps because I was there to sell the home we owned for 8 years.  It was a time of reflection on so many levels.

Back then, when we lived in it, we were busy working, earning money to live in that beautiful home of ours with everything we ever wanted in it and not too far from all the wonderful attractions to raise a toddler.  We lived a life of luxury!  We had it all.  All the modern amenities a family could ever have.

I’m not writing this post because I miss that life.  I don’t.  I am fine with the life we have chosen.   As I write this post in Penang, Malaysia, a place I once could only dream of being in several years ago from behind a computer viewing the photos of other nomads all the while wondering when I will ever get to see and experience Penang with my very own eyes. I don’t have to wonder any more, this is our third time here. This time we are here for seven weeks to fully appreciate the island on our own terms.

I don’t regret for one minute that I no longer own a 3 bedroom, 3.5 bathrooms, 2 car garages, near 2300 sqft home with so many things in it that tied me down.

Back to the sale of the house. After arriving in September and after overseeing and dealing with the contractors inside and outside of the home, working out the details of the sale with the Realtor (our neighbor), preparing the house so that it is in a show-able condition,  in October we found a buyer willing to pay cash. We had another bid at the same time but this buyer was low-balling us on the house so it was easy to say yes to the one willing to pay cash after having their financial capabilities in writing, that they will have the cash held in the bank until the day of the signing of the closing on the house.  Well, that’s good enough for me. I didn’t know people did that kind of thing in the US!  Good for us and good for them!🙂

With all the mundane details out of the way like a power of attorney to sign our closing documents because we were not in Houston at the time of the closing, I made all the arrangements I could make  in person and I came back to Chiang Mai in one piece.  Thanks to my Father  who stepped in to being the power of attorney to sign papers the day of the closing.

Oh yes, let’s not forget, there was also Bank of America aka Bank of Hell. Even though I  called the credit card company a few times after arriving back to Texas, because we don’t use credit cards while abroad, my card was denied regularly when I tried to use it in Texas.  I had to make several calls and yet, when I made a payment for the stucco repairs on my credit card my card was denied and Jack’s card went through.  Hey, he’s in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that made sense. Right!   I’m in Texas on US soil talking to their customer service, almost daily!   WTH?  In the end, after so many phone calls and dealings with both the credit card company customer service peeps and the construction company peeps, it all worked out.  After I returned  back to Chiang Mai, we sort of held our breath hoping nothing falls through the cracks and that everything will go as planned. And it did. The house was SOLD!

 

By the time we arrive back to Texas towards the end of 2014,  we would celebrate our one year anniversary of the selling of our home and freeing us from the financial trapping.    We don’t regret it for one second.   The sweat and the headaches I put into the process during the two months back in Texas were worth every bit of this freedom.

 

The regret I did have and the one important lesson I learned from being back during those two months was this:   We were always “busy”!  Even though we did a lot living in Houston, enjoying the city, we didn’t do it often enough. We were always busy!  I still see it and hear from family and friends today and each year that we return.  There is a  glorification of busy.  I did it. I lived it. I’m not sure what we were so busy with, but while back in Houston, being at the house, I realized that the park that was literally five minutes from our home didn’t really get enough mileage out of us because we were too damn busy.

Now, no matter where we are in the world, we make a concerted effort to be out, walking, hiking, biking and do as much as we possibly can to enjoy the outside and enjoy whatever that city has to offer.  We’ve seen more sunsets since we left Texas.   Not as many sunrises, but we’ve had our share of beautiful ones in Thailand, Laos, and recently, here in Penang.  We walked more kilometers (miles for Americans) in town, in the rice paddies, towards waterfalls and  even climbed a few  then we ever did living in Texas all those years combined.

 

Here’s the link to our beautifully comfortable home of 8 years.   I look at these images and I smile.  I smile because I know deep down, what it means for me to live that life.  I am thankful for having lived it so I could now truly and fully appreciate,  every single day, the life I have now, this very moment.

 

Everything and everyone  I need is here with me in Penang, Malaysia and has always been here right beside me.  Jack and Emma are here. Our passports  and our willingness to make this work as long as possible.

 

Feeling free.  Moving on.  Forward Focused!

 

“The greatest pleasure in life, is doing the things people say we cannot do.” – Walter Bagehot

 

 

We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude.

We Say NO to the Status Quo.

Live Small. Live Green.

Give Large. Take Little.

Take Notice. Take Action.

 

 

 

Family Fun Foto: Tea Time in Burma

 

 

Through our travels and lifestyle we have learned the value of drinking tea.  One of them is for social reasons. I am writing this post while we are in Taiwan which will become our home in 2015.  Traditionally in Taiwan, when a  visitor arrives to a home,  the host  offers tea and snacks.  This long-lasting tradition is a similar one in Burma.

 

While traveling throughout Burma in early 2012, we stopped at a tea hut to try some fritters that are typical of Burmese snacks outside of a famous temple (seems they are all famous to the Burmese).   In Burma, tea is also offered everywhere.  That was the first thing placed on our table to go along with the snacks.  Here’s Emma, age 9, enjoying tea with Thanaka on her face, wearing her hat from Innlay.  Very Burmese of course and this photo brings me many smiles when I see it.  I see it daily as it is my screen saver on my computer and right now, at this moment, across from me, she is on her phone camera recording how to draw a “hello kitty” video.  I know in my heart, how lucky I truly am that I get to see and spend time with her for so many  waking hours on my life.

 

I hope this photo brings you a big smile also.

 

Emma

 

 

Other posts in the series:

 

Trespassing

Angry Birds

Mae Surin Waterfalls

Mae Surin Waterfalls 2

For Emma:  Happy 2nd Bloggaversary!

Being Mischievous in Houston’s Children’s Museum

Mesa Verde National Park

Baltimore ESPN Zone

Klong Hae Floating Market

The Whisper at Lintianshan (林田山)

 

We Say YES to Attitude of Gratitude

We Say NO to the Status Quo.

Live Small. Live Green.

Give Large. Take Little.

Take Notice. Take Action.

 

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