As if you were there

Dear familia,

We missed y’all! But no worries, our Thanksgiving was pretty incredible, even though we couldn’t be together.

Exhibit A: us! Look at Michael’s beard (he’s oh-so-proud) and new hipster-y glasses. Thankfully (in my book), the beard is gone now. You win some, you lose some.

The table settings. So, this new Pinterest/design blog/DIY craze makes me laugh. Oh, you better believe I’m a part of it, though. I looove getting ready for a holiday. A party. Or, you know, supper tomorrow night. Since I was a child, I remember wanting to do up our table fancy for holidays and birthdays and other various celebrations. Although I’m (sort of) inclined to think I’m ridiculous to want to make such a big deal out of things, I can’t help but embrace the madness.

And there’s certainly nothing wrong with liking pretty things, right?

If I do say so myself, the ambience was quite nice.

The spread. It was kind of a competition (who can respond to e-mails the fastest?) to see which of our friends ended up making what. So one thing I’m thankful for was the delicious and abundant food we got to share on Thanksgiving.

Michael made this yummy stuffing (his grandmother’s recipe) while I did the broccoli salad…

…and the pecan and pumpkin (my favorite!) pies. Nom nom!

Obviously, Michael had time during the day for a little PlayStation football.

After the feast, a few of our friends headed outside for some fresh air and a bit of exercise. This is Cat and her one-year-old, Noah, hanging out in our apartment complex.

We brought down this furry ball of energy (blurriness was not intentional but is right on target as far as truthfulness) for a little leg stretching. All went well until I tried to call him to come in while walking backwards.

Grace is so not my forte and (unsurprisingly) I backed right up into this pool of water. Thankfully I didn’t tumble in all the way and only got my legs wet. But trust me, it was quite a spectacle for our neighbors and I drew even more questioning looks than usual when I continued to hang around outside barefoot (it really wasn’t that cold). For those of you who know Asia, don’t worry, I went upstairs and washed off my feet just after. 🙂

All told, we had a great holiday and are so thankful for friends, family, laughter, and celebrations.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to you all (and let the Christmas season begin)!

Happy Thanksgiving

With love, from Asia.




Thanks Be

There’s this thing going around the Facebook world. One day, one thing for which you’re thankful.




And so on.

I’ve not taken part in this, although I’m certain it would be a helpful exercise. But I have been giving thanks. Inviting friends over for tea, dried peas, and other snacks. Talking about Pilgrims and Indians and turkey and gratitude.

There’s this thing my family does every year before we eat Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not uncommon, your family probably does it, too. We go around the room in a circle and share why we’re thankful this year. It’s been a joy, this year to share that with my friends and to learn what moves their hearts.

It’s fascinating to note the different (and the similar) things  those of us from divergent cultural backgrounds value. Here, successfully passing the infamous gao kao (the life-defining university entrance exam) is a recurring theme.

I’ve been struck with the importance and the difficulty of finding the line between appropriate vulnerability/what has genuinely moved my heart and talking just for the sake of reaction. Perhaps  most surprising, however, has been the impact the simple act of sharing has on my friends.


I might be generalizing, but in my experience this type of honesty is not a regular part of Asian culture, where face is highly valued and reticence is a prized virtue. So when you gather friends and open your heart, it makes an impact. (On me and not just them.)

Surprisingly, again and again girls have been moved to cry by the simple act of sharing. It’s trendy these days to talk about how disconnected people are in this technological paradise where we now live. Yet it’s true. The seemingly innocent act of talking about something real is a deep-rooted desire within all of us. It may be true that “every soul is a mystery.” But we don’t want it to be that way.

We humans have an innate desire to know each other, to live in community, to be understood. I so often forget, but there is only one who can meet that need.

And he longs to do that. For all of us.

Thanks be.


This last month has been cah-ra-zy.

First we went to America. Amy got married, my grandfather had a stroke, we squeezed one-plus year of family time into a scant two weeks, we saw friends and didn’t get to see even more friends, and had–you know–a few other responsibilities I won’t talk about here. We got back to Asia and three days later both of us hit the road again, boarding planes to different ends of the country. By the time we were both back home (and I had battled off a cold), we had one full day of rest before heading out again. (Whew, this chronicle is getting monotonous–for this blog, not just for our life.)

But. This time we got to go to a nearby city and meet our dear friends, the Baxters. (And see pandas!)

Blaise and Leslie had been in Asia for about two weeks before they got to us, enlightening local physicians in some of Asia’s biggest cities on this

stroke-reversal procedure Blaise created. It’s even more impressive than it sounds–one starstruck Asian doctor was so overwhelmed to meet him that he got his autograph! Anyway. The Baxters have long been good friends with Michael’s parents  but we were thankful to get to know them on a more personal level ourselves in 2009 when Blaise and Michael did the Ironman together. Life is funny–we are good friends with the Baxters as well as their daughter Jenny and her husband, Ben.

Obviously, we had a couple of priorities. One, feed the Baxters good and authentic food. Two, let them see the pandas. We achieved success on both accounts!

About to encounter the world’s cutest animal. I don’t think they realized how exciting this truly was at this point.

Do you see them? There, in the distance, chomping down on bamboo?

We stared at this little guy (and his three friends) for at least half an hour. Not boring at all fact: pandas eat about 40 pounds of bamboo per day!

Then we headed back home and made sure the Baxters got some legit food. OK, this restaurant was sort of a fail. I promised Leslie it was clean because it is run by Muslims and their religious practices ensure sanitation… but I’m not sure she was convinced. But everyone agreed it tasted good!

Making friends. Leslie is apparently (secretly?) good at ping pong and this was obviously the place to test her skills.

She did well (notice her Candian maple leaf representing on her jacket!) but I’m afraid this little girl was a difficult match.

On the up side, Leslie fared much more successfully than Michael and Blaise who are drenched in sweat after being whipped up and down the badminton court by two petite Asian girls in mini skirts and high heel boots. True story.

Bottom line: we were so thankful to get to spend a few days with the Baxters and were greatly encouraged by them. So glad we were able to share our home and our lives for a few days!

Slice of Life

A few days ago I went for a walk. The sky was sunny (side note: these last few days have been so clear that I saw the moon and stars–please humor me and understand what a big deal this good weather is) and it was perfect weather for venturing out. I took Albus, of course, and a friend.

Life here is funny (see the video below for true eccentricity) and things work differently. When my friend and I decided to stop and give the puppy a rest, we ended up in a grass field. A few students were scattered about the area: studying, listening to music, resting. And one group of students who were earnestly singing. They weren’t particularly good and it certainly wasn’t a music club, just a group of kids, mostly boys, practicing songs. About their dreams.

That’s right. This group of 12-15 freshmen had gathered on a rare, sunny afternoon to practice songs about their dreams. I don’t remember the words, exactly, but it went something like this: “If I work very, very hard, one day I will achieve my dreams. I can do it. I can achieve my dream.” We lingered on the field for an hour or so, playing with Albus and striking up a conversation with another girl who was lazing nearby. The entire time, the group continued to sing the same few songs. Mostly they sat in a circle, but occasionally they would stand to really stretch their legs and vocal cords. And that was it. About the time we stood up to go, so did the singers. I suppose their dreams were all worn out for the day.

I asked my friend, who is local, if she found this singing ensemble even the slightest bit odd. No, she said. They just want to reach their dreams. Why wouldn’t they sing about it?

Bad Romance. Asian Style.

See it for yourself. That’s really all I can say.