Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Homeward Bound

It has been well over a month since I posted on the blog - I don't know how it all happened so fast! We've been to Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Shanghai, Japan, and Hawaii. We had been to all the ports other than Hawaii on our 2004 voyage. Re-visiting these countries was such an experience, especially "communist" countries like Vietnam and China where new trade policies have resulted in an explosion of retail stores, affluence, and ideas. These are truly exciting places to be right now. Rather than making this a super-long post, I'll just gloss over the highlights -- ask us more if you are interested!

Vietnam

-Commercial explosion: the economy is not in decline here - in just four years people have become significantly more affluent. Every brand can be found at malls and brand name storefronts.

-Still the most beautiful place on earth as far as I'm concerned.

-The interport lecturer took us out to dinner with his daughter and son - what a relief to know that all children are the same! Amazingly, even though our kids couldn't communicate with words, play bridges every language barrier - they had a good time.

-The interport lecturer also told us Vietnam is not communist - we asked what it was - he said, "well, I don't know yet." I think this perfectly characterized the amazing transformation this country has gone through. PBS series "Commanding the Heights" adds a lot to this conversation, if you are interested in a good documentary:)

-BEST. FOOD. EVER. Night market outdoor restaurant - "Food Countryside" - the seafood is so amazingly fresh. The flavors are so balanced. How amazing that food can be so rich without being heavy with cream, fat, oil, etc.

China

-Hong Kong seemed very similar in comparison to our visit in 2004. It was a nice place to be with kids, very easy to navigate. The weather was beautiful and spring-like, which was welcome after all the heat!

-Shanghai had changed drastically - it is quickly becoming a prominent international city. Construction of new buildings, parks, and roads made the port we visited just 5 years prior completely unrecognizable. I would love to come back in 5 or 10 years more - it is transforming in such interesting ways.

Japan

-Homestay with a family - I have never seen such efficiency in the home. Someday, I will have a bathtub with a computer-regulated thermostat and a toilet with buttons and a heated seat. The kitchen at the apartment we visited was a thing of beauty...if you are into organization. I almost took pictures for those of you whom I thought would appreciate this kind of beauty, but didn't quite know how to explain the purpose.

-Ate squid, raw fish of many varieties, octopus, pickled seaweed...maybe, things that look at you...and every bit of it was perfectly wonderful!

-Abi rolled sushi like a pro - she really did a great job and talks about it frequently. We visited a zoo and had a picnic. I bought bento boxes and spent way more money than any parent ever should on school lunch boxes.

-We met with our friend Dan who is teaching English in Japan - he made us postcards from the pictures we had put on Facebook, and brought us stamps! What a thoughtful gift!

Hawaii

-We ate American style. I had a hangover from all that American goodness coursing through my veins. Seriously, I woke up and still felt all buzzy from the massive plate of quesadillas, 1/2 of a pulled pork sandwich, and a ridiculously rich chocolate dessert. I'm currently on a Dr. Pepper binge.

-Hawaii is beautiful. I would like to go back. Without the children. Grandparents...any takers??

-Spent time with Steve (from Fall 04 voyage) and his beautiful future wife! They took us on a beautiful tour of Oahu and gave us 1/2 lb. hamburgers. They are great with our kids, and Abi really wanted to stay with them I think.

Family

Lily has also grown up since the last post. She now says woof, mama, dada, baby, moo, and ball. She is standing up on her own for a few seconds at a time, power crawling all over the place, and becoming such a personality!

Luke is wrapping up job interview stuff and will know very soon where we are going next. We'll keep you updated.

I am completely ready to be home, but completely neurotic about assembling our little lives back together once we get there. I keep telling myself that everything will work out...but my body doesn't always listen to my mind. All I can think about is moving trucks, 15 year mortgages, preschools, and plane ticket prices. So, in front of all that I am trying to imagine myself tooling around Salem on my little bike, going to the grocery store and taking care of the few responsibilities we will have this summer: feeding our kids, and making sure they don't break anything!

Now we only have two weeks left on the MV Explorer with one port left to visit - Guatemala. Packing, keeping in contact with new friends, and getting in our last seaside sunsets are in order!

3 comments:

jimandstacey said...

Thanks for the update! We can't wait to see you guys!

Trevor and Sara said...

I was so excited to see a new post! What an amazing experience you all have had! I can't wait to hear all about it and can't wait to see you all!

Kayla said...

Wow, Mel. I know I say that a lot, but you guys have experienced so much. My nervous little self envies you.

Please let me know when you are in Pullman. I would love to buy you a glass of wine at the wine bar and catch up.