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Lego-lisiousness in Legoland!

Sol 86

As I sit up on my 9th story perch in Ho Chi Mihn City

HCMC Writing Spot

 

I am reflecting on our time in Malaysia. There is so much to write about here in Vietnam and I will get to that but, first want to revisit our adventures at Legoland in Southern Malaysia and Singapore.

Going to a theme park was not part of our original plan but, the opportunity came up, our kids LOVE Legos and the boys were struggling with a bit of homesickness.

The Lobby of Legoland Hotel

Now, do we run off to a theme park every time we are sad…no but, it sure doesn’t hurt to go that extra kilometer (see what I did there with the metric system reference?) to soothe ourselves a bit.

LEGOLAND HOTEL

Legoland Malaysia was pretty sweet. I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was a teenager but, I imagine it is like the ‘happiest place on earth’. We decided to stay at the Legoland Hotel which has themed rooms with scavenger hunts, Lego characters walking around, life-size Lego mini figures, characters walking around and LEGOS everywhere to play with. Big blocks and little blocks.

There are daily building contests and workshops as well as a character parade in the lobby. It was so sweet to see joy on so many faces. Not just ours but, the plenitude of families from all over. There were families there from India, China, and all over SE Asia. We were definitely the minority as we would nod hello to another ‘Western” family from time to time.

Breakfast and dinner buffets were a cultural lesson in itself. So many options of food from standard Western choices to a plethora of Eastern ones too. Did you want Dim Sum with your pancakes? Or French Pastries with Chinese Congee porridge with dried fish on top? Or a traditionally poured spiced chai, watermelon juice, white coffee or full cream milk?

Out in the park, did you want to swim in your hijib or swimsuit or use the body dryer (like a giant hair dryer for your whole body) after getting wet on a ride? Did you want to pray when the call to prayer happened or have a dragon fruit smoothie?

Prayer Spot in Park

All of this while being surrounded by Lego figures?

Our room was the Adventure theme which the boys picked out. It seemed very appropriate for our current journey. Maps and decor from an Egyptian papyrus abound.

Huge ‘Body Dryers’ and all the teens getting dry.

Because we are family half filled with introverts we spent plenty of time in the room. While it was our first place without a kitchen during our travels we did order room service which, amazingly didn’t cost more than the restaurant and the delivery folks refused tips only wanting you to put in a good word at the ‘opinion kiosks’ around the place.

A scooter accident portrayed at Mini-land

THE PARKS

The rides were fine. Oakley tried his first roller coaster and was thrilled. The most impressive areas to me were the Minilands where replicas of iconic places around Asia are constructed to impressive, minute detail. Even the scooter accidents with media and police presence on the street. I could have spent hours here. It was super hot so, we melted as we perused even with the welcome mister machines nearby.

The Star Wars exhibit was stunning with a room dedicated to each episode including the TV Clone Wars. We are Star Wars family so, we loved this geeked out to our hearts content.

They have a water park as well and it was also fine. A lazy river bobbing with big legos you can attach to your floating device. A ‘Build a Raft” float as it were.

In any case, it was lovely to have a big family time in what felt like a big playground. I heard ‘Everything is Awesome’ more times than I care to count but, it was worth it. We did let the boys get a few, small Lego sets to take with us on the road as nothing beats the blues like a couple of hours of Lego play.

A BALANCE OF TRAVEL AND FAMILY

Our travel journey is of where we are going but, it is also richly in the details of our relationships with our kids and between my husband and I. We are a collection of varying personalities and we all need different things to fill our batteries. We discover that more and more as we move along.

Family outings are my favorite and seeing the world whiz by in my window really fills my cup but, I know Oakley and Kelvin need more down time. Canyon too at times. I do too in my own way. Writing is actually very, very helpful for me to sort my head.

I get worried about the things we are doing or not doing and if we are keeping the kids on track in school. Do we communicate enough with family and friends. How do we sort out the time differences and make connections.

Accepting that we can be doing a once in a lifetime thing and still feel rather lonely and miss down time tucked in our oversized duvet back in Oregon.

It is all a balance. And we are working on it day by day. Okay, okay….enough about our inner-psyche.

Next, we headed to Singapore for a couple of days before heading to Vietnam. More on that in our next blog.

As always, thanks for reading and following!

I’m still in love with my Chef Husband but, it was nice to met Lego Chef!

The Deathstar!

The bathrooms at Legoland

Mini-Legoland

Ha! Love the sense of humor!

Fresh Seafood at Legoland?

 

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Our Bali Excursion is Winding Down, Our Life Long Love Affair is Just Beginning

Sol 61: Coming up on three weeks in Bali. We’ve had some highs and some lows. The awe at the constant beauty around us has not waned. It seems every time I look up I see something unique, amazing, delightful or a bit different and quirky.

The bargaining never stops.

New Kite Flying Friends

My husband is tallying a list of ‘things I have seen being carried on a scooter’ and it just about contains everything possible. I’ve seen tiny, tiny babies nestled between ma and pa, panes of glass being held aloft, piles of branches, sticks and grass, complete mini-stores where one might make a meal or sell you a plethora of snacks. All of this wheeling by you.

Dewi makes the best meals!

The places we have stayed have been varied from an estate/villa such as the place we are at now to a house in the middle of a more tattered neighborhood where our point woman was amazing. She arranged for our boys to fly kites with her sons and made the best Nasi Goreng.

Emade, our amazing driver from Ubud. Email him for driving at nyoman.wati72@gmail.com

We ended up leaving early though as we found a dead bird under our bed and a bird nest above our son’s bed in the thatched roof that was less than sanitary. Bird poo on your sheets and pillows? We had to draw the line somewhere. The host (whom we never met) told us by email ‘that is nature’ and I am inclined to think it is but, it doesn’t have to be on my son’s head.

Dinner on Jimbaran Beach.

We are getting more adaptive in the heat. I wouldn’t say more used to it. You can see why people have plunge pools to dip into and wash off the heat of the day.

Monkey back rubs at the Monkey Forest Sanctuary.

We can see Mt. Agung from our current house and she is still resting. We are grateful for this but, also are acutely aware that there are several thousand people still living away from their homes out of the evacuation zone in refugee camps. This is heart breaking and a struggle.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Our boys have adjusted to mom and dad being the guides/teachers for the interim.

They are adjusting and we are soaking up our last week here as Friday, we head to Malaysia

There are very typical Bali experiences I am committing to memory. I share 10 of them with you here.

  • the sweeping up of all the flowers that fell overnight with a broom made of palm leaves.
  • the sweet smell of incense and tiny offerings that show up before most doors or walkways.
  • the low, guttural mooing of the cows with giant bells around their necks.
  • the assortment of flying bugs some bedazzling with colorful, sparkling wings and others just larger than I have ever seen before.
  • houses with open walls that get transformed in the evening to a closed in space with the pull of a curtain.
  • the frogs that take up residence in the bathrooms or guarding the end of  our bed.
  • the offer of a 100 cab, scooter rides if you are merely standing on the side of the road.
  • the vibrant color of fruit smoothies that rival any modern painting
  • the intricate carvings in wood and stone that are done with a hammer by the roadside
  • the absolute kindness of most people who wish to see you well.

Canyon warning the rabbits they may become pets or someone’s dinner.

Nothing like seeing a structure that is over 600 years old when your own country’s european settlement history started after this temple was built.

My new favorite Pringles flavor?

Doorway to our current bedroom.

Boys paying respects by wearing a sarong and really looking good while doing it!

Night food market.

Grilling the meat and using the fan to bring in the customers as well as spread the smoke.

Kelvin in his element with the cutest photo bomber in the back!

Tenenungan Waterfalls

Reading Kindles while waiting for a ride.

 

Family photo

A huge shout out to our friends Robyn and Mark who hosted us a couple times in Australia. We want them to know we so appreciate them!! Happy Wedding next month!

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Roos, Koalas and other Dreamy Aussie animals.

Week two in Australia and we are moving on to camping after a luxurious stay at Deb’s home with three fuzzy roommates named Patrick, Marley and Gracie. We have been enjoying the personalities of each as we navigate their home and their human’s house.

We have loved having a kitchen, washer, dryer, two bedrooms  and even the use of a car. Albeit our trials of driving a manual shift were fraught with tense laughter and Oakley occasionally covering his eyes! We found this gem of a connection on Trusted Housesitters which allows us to connect with folks who want their house and pets cared for while they are on vacation.

While at this house, we made friends with nearby kids big and small. The boys playing footie with Joseph and his family who are West African immigrants to Australia.

James using his amazing grill sheet for the Kabobs

Meat, meat and meat.

We also enjoyed being invited to a real Aussie BBQ. Kelvin’s search for a butcher

work with ended up at Arundel Meats which serendipitously connected us to another neighbor. The butcher he worked with just happened to live across the street. Small, friendly Australian connection.

The Menu: Pre-course of sausages, then kabobs, then steak then salads and of course beer and wine. We did have some strawberries too! All for good measure to balance out our fruit and veggies was we are not currently lacking for protein.

Then Kangaroo and Koala Bear encounters. A dream to experience and a 50 before 50 bucket list item for me. The Roos were so close and just in the neighborhood. It seems like what running into deer is like for us in the NW. These Kangaroos are smart, sweet and strong.

They are so much bigger than I imagined. Just as the Koala bears are so compact like a favorite teddy bear and all curled up like a new-born human baby, but with so much more fur. It was sweet. 

So, so sweet. There are not many animals you wish to immediately cuddle upon the first time seeing them. These wondrous creatures meet the bill. I was transformed into a place of wonder and amazement. Feeling a bit voyeuristic watching them as they graze and nap. But, they are good teachers of helping us slow down and take it in.

The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary was recommended to us by our Aussie connections and it was a great place to see Koala, Kangaroos, Salt-water crocodiles, Wallabies, Wombats, Dingos, Echidna, birds of prey, Emus, many snakes, and water rats (which was NOT my favorite encounter).

The non-profit place protects the animals and uses the funds for entry to support further care for animals. It felt good and worthwhile. Even getting to make silly photos for grandma at home! Canyon is our ham!

We also returned again and again to the parks along the water to the Bouncy Pillow, time one the beach and riding bikes along the water front for a couple of miles enjoying the giant Pelicans seeking snakes and brown snakes waking up after a long winter and sunning themselves on the beach.

It is never a dull moment. We couldn’t have spent many more days here and the boys connection with local kids playing make it a winner on many fronts.

We are settling into our regime of world schooling in the morning and it is hard transition some mornings but, enthusiasm builds with new animals to discover and research. Canyon wholeheartedly wrote up a report on the Red Kangaroo and was over the moon to see them at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. He felt so proud to know his work had taught us more information than we might have learned on our own.

So, we are doing our laundry, watching an educational program on Australian ABC telly, repacking our bags to get ready for the train, bus rides to get us to our camper van rental. It will be one of the first longer treks with our gear on our bodies.

We can do it! Stay tuned and we will let you know how it all turns out. Wifi will be limited but, we are talking with friends via What’sApp as we can call, text and video on the encrypted platform pretty seamlessly.

I am on Instagram with tid bits from time to time at audsjoy_simple_expectations a bit more frequently so, please do follow me there too.

Loving sharing this adventure with you. Please stay tuned and toss us some questions. We love to hear from you all!

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We are Doing it! Location Independent at Last!

I’m sitting under a Plumeria tree and a cactus-like bush listening to the roosters crow and I think, we have really made it. We launched on the road on Wednesday and now it is Sol Four. It is a down day as we work to figure out our travel/international life. We are officially Location Independent.

First Plane Ride They Remember

We are figuring out how to manage our online Traveling Mailbox where we ‘receive’ our mail everyday. Still sorting out the ends of our responsibilities in Oregon. Paying the last of our utility bills this way gives a whole new view of mail sorting, for sure.

I went for a sunrise walk and Kelvin went to the farmer’s market for dinner supplies. The boys are adjusting

to our schedule of writing, math work sheets and reading, reading, reading on their kindles.

It will take a bit to sort out the best balance to assure we keep up with our goals and living tasks (remember that I have been worried about getting enough learning in?). I feel confident we will figure it out.

So, the first days. The boys took their first plane ride that they remember, an afternoon swim with Green Sea Turtles, a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor(free!), take out at  Barbeque Kai

We made it!

(local recommendation) where you get an amazingly yummy cheeseburger for $2.75 and many locals came in after the local high school footbal game to get theirs too. I felt we were in the right place.

We are really trying to keep our budget in check by making pack lunches and snacks. We are trying to spend about $40 a day (after accommodations and car rental). We know that Hawaii is likely to be on of the more expensive places in our trip. We brought a zillion Cliff Bars, a jar of Adam’s No-Stir Peanut Butter and have wandered the aisles of local grocery stores to get some basics.

We are staying in a house (AirBnB) and have a kitchen, washer, and while it is cozy we love the lizards in the yard and the three-minute walk to the beach. Our neighbors rock out to reggae, zoom by on their scooters (one holding his beloved chicken) and hang out their wash as we nod to each other across the fence.

Last week, at the last-minute, I realized we would not be able to make it to the airport in time by bus (none leaving at the needed 3:30am) so, rather than endure a costly Uber ride we rented a car from Turo .

Swimming with the Green Sea Turtles

It’s like Airbnb for cars. For $17 a day we have a trusty Toyota and the owners meet us right outside baggage to deliver the car and an offer to meet up later in the week for a swim at the North Shore. I don’t think that can happen at Hertz.

So, the next steps. I am wrestling to sort out my to-dos, wants and needs. I am trying to follow my own advice in setting a low expectations so I don’t get overwhelmed with the FOMO. Here is to the next steps.

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OMG! We ARE really doing this!!

The last couple weeks pieces of our plan have officially fallen into place. Kelvin’s new passport arrived. Yay!! Then we had a flurry of activity as we set up two house/pet sits in September in Brisbane, Australia. And we got our tickets to fly!

So, here is a rundown of recent events. Over the last months, I have been searching for a good fit for a house sit in Australia. Trying to make sure that where we choose or get chosen is where we want to be but also, logistically a good place to be.

In the US, we are used to driving long distances but, it is a big deal to try to drive 1400 kilometers between housing opportunities. hugo-villegas-174015And an even bigger deal when we try to do it in three days in a country we haven’t driven in together (Kelvin was there on his own in 2001), driving on the ‘other side of the road’ for us Yanks and in a camping vehicle we have yet to rent or even select. The situation gave Kelvin and I some pretty funny conversations as we were trying to rationalize a mammoth drive to get in between locations for a place to stay.

The organization we have been working with Trusted Housesitters to find the best matches. We have had lots of conversations, Skype chats and emails with potential matches and I was beginning to feel like I was online dating as I was proposing matches for our family as being the ‘best match’ for others on the other side of the world.

We finally sorted a match with a woman near Brisbane, Australia to care for her three kitty cats and bird. She is also, generously, allowing us use of her car while we are there. She is actually going on two trips with an eight-day break in between and she asked us if we could do the first leg as well. jesse-collins-92501It sounded good but, we were coming from Hawaii and wouldn’t be there for the first two days of her trip. She, again kindly, offered to make her trip work with ours so we can be her support and she ours.

I then started scrambling to figure out our tickets to Australia from Honolulu. I have been playing around online with searches for the ‘perfect’ ones and had yet to officially commit.

This is where things got really interesting for me. We have been planning this trip, at least in theory, since last August. A good eight months ago and just like a woman in denial of her pregnancy, I didn’t actually believe it was all happening until I had visual proof. For me, it was the tickets.

I have flown around the world many, many times, however, I have never been responsible for two little humans in the process.john-cobb-14130 It’s one thing to throw things in a backpack and dig out my passport but, an entirely different kettle of fish to be arranging four flights to another country with visa applications, baggage requirements, thoughts about timing, food accessibility, world schooling plans, accommodations and time changes for all of us.

We were up very late at night. It was the only time Kelvin and I could effectively talk about these plans without the’ regular’ day logistics happening around us. My brain froze as my hands hovered over the ‘Click to Purchase’ button.

This is after several more searches in Google Flights and Momondo as well as the airline Jet Star where we eventually bought our tickets. I was breathing heavily. I looked at Kelvin and my eyes grew big. He looked at me questioningly.

“Yes….?”, he gently asked. “What’s going on?”

I stared at him and said, “Are we really doing this?”

Here is where my very patient and kind husband could have said any number of unhelpful things. Instead, he just said, “Yes, we are and it is all going to be okay”.

At that moment I had all the details of our trip that I have been pouring over in my mind, on paper and on the internet swimming around in my head and I thought, ‘Where is the adult around here that we can check with?”

Then I realized, WE are the adults! Yikes! This just got real.

I had a similar brain freeze when I was seven months pregnant with our first son, Canyon and my friend Wendy was driving me home from michael-waters-105757Baby’s R Us with the crib my in-laws had bought us.

I knew it was going to happen. That baby was going to be coming soon.  But, I didn’t really know it until that moment. I was looking like I was nine months pregnant as it was but, it was that crib being brought into our home that really hit it home for me. It was real.

Wendy was reassuringly hilarious as she calmed and comforted me that we would get through this, the baby was indeed going to be here in about eight weeks and, that it would all be okay.

So, that night last week, we officially bought our international tiIMG_2002ckets that will transport our family to the other side of the planet.

And it will all be okay. Right? Of course, right.

The day after we bought our tickets my husband left me a bunch of flowers and a note that read, ‘Australia, here we come! I love that we are doing this!’

He is my elixir, yet again.

Onward and upward to the planning…. more to come. Thanks for joining us on this journey and we prepare for our journey.

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Leaning into the Discomfort and Looking for Respect

I have an interesting job for this time in our culture. Over the years, as a therapist, I hear people talk about their varied concerns.  These last two weeks, I have more about the same subject, the election. Thoughts, concerns, worries, musings, humor, fear, agitation and indignation.

Living in a Blue state in a metro area, it is not surprising that most of the people I hear from are talking about their shock, sadness, anger and dismay. images-3.jpegPeople have various ideas on how to proceed with their feelings; get involved, avoid the news, protest or barricade themselves at home.

In the last weeks, I have heard the some words repeatedly; echo chamber, the bubble,  phone bank, the media, donation…among others. One thread I am following is confusion and desire to know and understand. It slowly comes out that we need to talk more and that doesn’t just mean to the people whose answers we already know. It is time to lean into the discomfort.

The weekend after the election, I was at a locally owned store we frequent and the owner and I have a friendly banter. I asked him if we was one of the 59 million who voted for Trump. He looked at me a bit sheepishly and said, ‘I don’t talk about it much for fear of being judged’.

I stood back in took him in. ‘Oh, okay’, I said. ‘Tell me, how did you decide?’ He told me it was for his business and thought that change is needed at the higher levels of governing.images This man has a disability and has family member that is also disabled. Somewhere, he feels disenfranchised with the current system.

I nodded, thinking that this seems like a reasonable, political point, especially if you are fiscally conservative. That being said, I asked, ‘Well, okay, but can you explain him to my kids?’ as I pointed to my boys who were hovering nearby. He said, ‘That part is harder. I don’t like the behavior of this man..’ and he trailed off. We spoke a bit more and moved on to other topics.

Seems like we are going to have more and more of these conversations. Many likely at the Thanksgiving table this year. I am not picking sides (yes, I am left leaning) but, it seems we all know what our ‘peeps’ will say. We need to lean in ask the tough questions of ‘why and how’. The open-ended, curious questions that show we are not just waiting to talk again but, we are listening. We all want to be heard.

Now, I get it there is a lot of extreme rhetoric out there and it’s hard to know who believes what from a glance but, also we can’t assume. If someone has an opinion we need to ask ‘why?’  Myself, I work hard to teach my kids how to be good citizens and that means a lot of explaining about differences, privilege and the varied things that make a person and I don’t have all the answers. images-2I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I really screw it up but, I try to circle back and revisit the best I can.

While living in a progressive, lefty city, I grew up in rural Red State where Reagan was a God and my Dad was the preacher. My Dad was not a religious man by any conventional standards but, he was definitely the spokesperson (and financial contributor) for the importance of the Republican party. He had many flaws (like all of us) and one if his big ones was that he didn’t have room for discourse.

There was no space for an exchange of pluralistic views at our dinner table and many times he called me a ‘tree-hugging, fish-kissing’ liberal. Whether that label was a friendly jib, earnestly or not, my exploring views were not well tolerated in his presence. So, I stopped sharing them.

We moved on to less political topics and we rarely opened the door on these thoughtful, provocative topics. We played it safe. I believed I knew him and his rhetoric and I imagine he thought I was crazy or at least misguided. We didn’t ever say, ‘tell me why you think that way’ or ‘help me understand’.

Sound familiar? Again, we can find the people to agree with us but, to sit through the dialogue of those with which we disagree, that is the hard part. There is no guarantee that it will feel good or we will feel heard.images-1 That part is called vulnerability, as Brene’ Brown says, ‘it’s scary and brave at the same time’.

I don’t have the solutions, the method or the way out of our conflicts but, I am a listener of others and I see that when we respectfully listen people usually feel heard. When we feel heard we can then move on to problem solving. We  obviously have a lot more conversations about how to deal with racism, homophobia, the haves and have nots, the 1%, equity, xenophobia, and that is just a start.  Let’s start with leaning in.

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