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.

In the past few months Jack has searched and searched for a place to stay, but absolutely no luck.  For a while there we thought we were in a lot of trouble.  We thought about considering other parts of Taiwan other than the East Coast.  But here was my thinking –  we came all the way to Taiwan, jumped through so many hoops that we need to live where we know we will enjoy waking up knowing we are exactly where we want to be.  Not a compromise. That’s living on the East Coast.  We cannot back down. We had to find a place on the East Coast.  But I was nervous. I was very anxious.  Part of the anxiety came from not knowing what’s happening or not understanding.  :-( How will we find a place to stay if there aren’t any to spare on the lower East Coast of Taiwan. I don’t want to drag on staying with family although they have been more than accommodating.   What the heck are we going to do? There has to be a way! It’s been stressful. We fought a lot. Emma heard us argue a lot.   So the last few months have been a bit hectic without a place to call our own, bouncing around Taiwan with our 12 year-old homeschooled kid in tow.

 

Miracles do happen in most unexpected ways.

A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.

During one of the gatherings with Jack’s parents’ friends (the gatherings are usually always very fancy), while we were in Taichung enjoying sushi and hot springs in a fancy hotel I probably cannot pronounce and/or afford, Jack put out an alert that we were in dire need of housing. preferably on the East Coast, of course.

Not too long after that trip, we found out that a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of Jack’s parents owns a house in a very small town.  Population: 9000. And that hasn’t changed too much. If anything, the number got lowered. Where else? On the East Coast. And lucky for us her tenant was moving out right around the time we want to move in which would be after the in-laws leave.  So the day they left, we took a train to meet our future landlady, check out the neighborhood and have a look at the house.

Remember the miracle I was referring to?  This find IS truly a miracle. I’m still pinching myself.

It’s a small town.   We got off the train and we had already decided to rent three bicycles.  The bosslady of the bicycle shop accidentally slipped and asked (in Mandarin of course, Jack interpreted to me later) “Why do you want to live here?”

In searching for the house, we were told to turn right when we see the tomatoes!  Tomatoes?  Really?  That’s how the directions came to us. When you see the rock and the tomatoes, turn! Yup. Okay!  City people we are, or I am, I felt the need to have an address.  What about the name of the street. Nothing.  Just turn at the rock and the tomatoes.  And there it was the rock and the tomato farm just as it was described.

So we arrived and my jaw dropped when I saw the size of the house (from the exterior) and the surroundings of the house.  What’s surrounding the house?  Rice fields.  Yup. That’s all. Rice fields. Oh and mountains. And tomatoes.

We arrived.  A petite elderly lady greeted us. I”m thinking 65.  We’re all checking and sizing up each other.  I had a lot of questions already floating in my head.  She invited us in, and told us we did not have to take off our shoes.

WHAT?  That’s totally against what I’ve been trained to do here in Taiwan during every visit. There are inside shoes. And there are outside shoes. You don’t mix the two. She said “Mae Guan Shee!”, so I, we all did, reluctantly walked in with our outside shoes on our feet.  Eeek. It did not feel right to me.

She offered us water, not hot tea, surprisingly.  Once we sat down, Jack did all the talking because well, I couldn’t!  I smiled, a lot. Looked around amazed. In shock.  Really?  Are we this lucky?

Throughout the conversation, I learned from Jack about our future landlord. She’s 80. Lives alone, well not exactly, not all the time. Healthy as a horse, her words or Jack’s words.  Exercises daily. Volunteers. Rides her electric motorbike and bicycle. Makes her own meals. Writes daily.  Decisive and Independent.  Those are the two striking characters I noticed about this small petite person.  That very moment when I learned about this amazing mighty grandma, I looked at Emma, I looked around and it occurred to me that we’re brought to this place for a reason. We’re meant to learn from this human being having lived on this earth for 80 years.  Still had a lot more questions but she really got to me.

I was in Awe of her.  Similar to the awe I felt when I discovered Jack’s parents’ were making another trip to Taiwan and actually made it during the same time we’re here. Similar to the awe I feel when I look up the sky, when I see an amazing sunset which are easier to see, but when I witness a sunrise, that’s a whole other level of awe.  I have a feeling I will be seeing many sunrises and sunsets here in Taiwan.   Sorry I digressed.

She quickly gave us a tour of the house.  Wow.  What amazing views from the second floor where we will be residing. She’s very particular about cleanliness. I’m totally okay with that.  What more can I ask.  And it’s on the east coast.  In awe again, feeling as though this is an absolute miracle.

Of course, there are certain important things Emma had on her list.  Her own room with good lighting so she can make more LPS videos.  Check. An oven. Check. Well an oven that could bake up to 250 degrees. Good enough for her.

We decided it was time to leave to go get some late lunch/early dinner and talk things over. She offered us to stay with her for the couple of days that we are there and we took up on the offer.  Wow. Again. Free lodging for two nights. Even better.

So yes.  We said, Yes! We want both rooms upstairs. We love it. We want to stay.

 

sunrise guanshan 1

Our back yard at the break of dawn!

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and theworld.” -John Milton

 

The next morning, we got up at 5am to watch the sunrise. I saw her walking out of the house making her way, yes at 5am, around the rice fields. By the time she’s back after finishing her morning walk, we were barely getting started.  She encouraged us to take the 15km bicycle ride right away, before it got hotter.  The morning air was cool and crisp.  We saw the morning rays breaking through the clouds over the fields.  (The last time I enjoyed the sunrise was when we arrived in Penang,  Malaysia at the crack of dawn in September of 2014).  I have a feeling that’s going to change. We will see sunrises – often!

It was a nice stay in the house. We felt comfortable.  It felt like home. Before we left after our 2.5 days stay, I mopped the floors twice. All the common areas, kitchen, laundry room, second floor bedrooms. Cleaned the bathrooms we will be using because I want to make sure she understands that I understand cleanliness. She noticed. She noticed the kitchen. She was very appreciative.

 

We are back in the Southern city with our family.  Waiting for the legal papers to be approved for Emma and me. Shopping for items we need like pillows, a coffee machine and a rice cooker.  And of course, food we know we may not find in our new small town.  Still looking for bicycles.  At the moment we have our belongings in two different family homes (it’s a long long story but we do) and we will gather them all in one place, then ship them to our new home.   I’m looking forward to the day when I can breathe a sigh of relief, when i can get on that train, and then finally arrive to our new home to receive everything we own in Asia which will be about 12 boxes (including food we bought!).

We’ve come a long way from the days of owning a whole 2300 sq ft home with a two car garage.  I’m so proud of us.

 

I’m forever grateful to the universe, to Jack’s Parents, to the friend of the friend of the friend of the friend for this miracle to happen.

 

I admit,  it feels scary because frankly, we’ve not lived in a town THIS small.  I have my concerns, but one thing I know is that we have to give this life a try. We have to experience this slow, small town life. Life in this town will be slower than the life we had in Thailand. I want Emma to grow up knowing that we gave it a try. We gave it a chance. If it doesn’t work out we can easily go to a bigger city with bigger parks and bigger everything. But that’s what we’ve known. That’s what she knows. We have to push ourselves beyond the comfortable boundaries we’ve become accustomed to.

I’m excited. I have no idea what’s in store for us. I believe pleasant surprises await us.  I do know that we’re going into this experience with open arms. Ready to learn. Ready to live. Ready to explore. Ready to notice. Ready to take action.

Ready for Taiwan.  Finally. We have a home!

 

PS.  I’m taking my own set of indoor shoes. For all three of us!

 

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.

 

 

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!

 

chur shan biking2

We have searched and searched and searched online and in person.     Unfortunately, our apartment search has NOT been successful.   Jack is still searching.  Though there are many accommodations available in the form of hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts there are very few 2 bedroom apartments in the area in which we were hoping to live, Southeast coast of Taiwan. Basically, there are plenty of empty, unused, bed and breakfasts and hotels but no apartments for long-term rental.  There’s a business opportunity….. long-term rentals.  The B n B market seems quite saturated and B n Bs in Taiwan are not inexpensive. Hard to believe they all survive and still make moey. There are tons of them. Anyway, the apartments Jack has found are either too big or just a one room, usually no kitchen, not furnished. etc.  Go figure eh?

Moving to a new country comes with hurdles.   Over the years we have had our share of jumping through hoops in Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, and Burma all dealing with visas for short and long-term stays.  I suppose this is yet another test for our family. We went through many hoops, spent a lot of dollars authenticating a plethora of documents while we were back in the US to prepare ourselves before coming to Taiwan.  Now that we are here there are yet more surprises, large and small hoops to jump through. As with all of life challenges we keep our heads up high (as much as possible), forward focused and keep moving.

On the bright side of life, there’s always a bright side,  we are eternally grateful (more than words could ever express) to my in-laws and our extended family for accommodating us so kindly and generously while we are here as we try to sort out properly and legally, Jack’s long-term visas and of course, mine and Emma’s.

The lack of housing has put us in a situation where we had begun to think about creative spaces. I’ve explored WWOOFing, Couchsurfing, Work-Away hosts, House sitting and even the possibility of buying a camper van. I did buy a used 4-person tent recently.  So Yaay, we have a tent. Still, things are up in the air and hopefully, we will have a better idea of where we could be very soon.

Still, waiting for the right time to purchase our bicycles.  We need some quality, long-lasting, lightweight bicycles that we will be able to bring with us to the Stateside or wherever we decide to go to next after Taiwan. My hope and goal is to make bicycle riding a life-long habit by living and exploring with it which definitely has its long-term health and environmental benefits.

Speaking of health, I’ve not been cooking much. But happy to report we are eating a lot, of course, expanding our waistline exponentially.  Our family has stuffed us with a ton of good delicious food wherever we go.  As usual they feed us well. We’ve had a chance to try new foods and we’ve also had a lot of 7-11 food. Trust me, 7-11 is our emergency buddy in Taiwan.  Of course, there are particular foods I miss from Thailand/Burma/Malaysia which at the moment means I end up adding a lot of hot sauce to everything I eat!  d on that note, my mid-size Siracha sauce my mother gave me is almost 1/2 way gone. I’ve only just started using it a few days ago.  Soon it will be completely consumed and I will have no Siracha. NOOOOOOOO! So I’m screaming in my head, planning and mapping out a recipe to make my own version of siracha sauce. Or search for a similar one out there here in Taiwan.

On the homeschooling aka worldschooling front, things are taking shape and making progress. Some days are better than others. We’ve come a long way.  I will probably write about this separately soon.  Having settled in Jack’s uncles home in Kaohsiung for the frist few weeks during and after Lunar New Year has been helpful.   Right now, the challenge for me as a home schooling Mum is balancing the needs of my child’s learning interests while living light, simple and small. Since we are not settled in our own space that places me in a highly anxious mode.

We’re not on vacation everyday. Surprise! This is our life. Of course lIfe is not perfect even in the life of a nomadic family like us even though others may see beautiful photos  we post from our jaunts around various part of the world.  We have our own set of struggles, frustrations, and up-and-downs as a family.but as all things in our lives go we try our best to go with the flow, being patient and flexible.

It’s been almost three months since we moved to Taiwan.  Needless to say, I’m definitely ready to settle into a space we can call our own. I have to admit, settling into our own space in Thaiand was a much easire process than our experience here in Taiwan.   So the learning and the searching continues.  Perhaps the next time you read this, you’ll find us in a camper van or at some organic farm or a nice home to settle in. I’m ready to make the most of our time in Taiwan.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

shee4

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.

 

Family Fun Foto: The Whisper at Lintianshan (林田山)

 

In the 1940s, Lintianshan was one of the largest forestry centers in Taiwan.   It has been renovated into a forestry exhibition center by the Taiwanese Government and has become a popular attraction in eastern Taiwan. During our 3-day quick-and-dirty bus tour around the country, a quick 45 minutes stop here was included.  We are slow travelers by design and the 45 minutes did not seem much at this location.   Just the view of the mountains and the forests alone are worth the enjoyment for a good still 20 minutes.

There are many amazing giant wood carving structures in the exhibit. This was one of my favorites.

 

whisper

I guess we will have to explore the entire country at a much slower pace than 3 days!

 

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

 

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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