One Hand Shy And One Watermelon Too Many

I’ve decided that it isn’t fair for moms to only have 2 arms. As they are grow a baby, they should grow an extra arm. It would be a small task compared to creating a human from two cells.

Today I went grocery shopping on my first outing and not only did it take 3 hours, but ended poorly. I had Kinley strapped to me and my little grandma cart in tow (it’s a bag on wheels that grandmas and shameless Americans use), and was feeling pretty optimistic about the trip. Grocery shopping was fine, but getting home was the impossible part.

Kinley got the ball rolling with a massive, ugly meltdown as I was leaving the store. While dragging my stupidly heavy cart full of groceries (including a watermelon) behind me, it started raining. The bus took ages to come (still standing outside in the rain), and when it did, it took three people to shove me, Kinley, and my heavy, off balance cart inside. Kinley’s screaming continued.

I had to transfer buses, and the second bus took just as long to arrive. When it finally did, the bus doors opened and I nearly cried. I had to climb 4 incredibly steep steps to get inside, and everyone on board was elderly and in no shape to assist me. Taiwan usually has a very quick and efficient bus system, but not with me in town.

I threw my jumbo pack of diapers inside the door and somehow managed to drag (literally drag on my hands and knees) myself, Kinley, and my impossibly heavy grandma cart up the stairs. Damn watermelon. While doing so, I smacked Kinley’s head on a pole. My greatest accomplishment today was not having a meltdown myself.

I’m sure the elderly Taiwanese were amused to watch this frazzled, frizzy-haired foreigner juggling her screaming baby and groceries, and think to them selves, “It’s nice to have my two hands back.”

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Grocery shopping… when we were both still smiling.

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Ding Dong The Beast Is Dead!

Which old beast? The beasty beast. Ding, dong the beasty beast is deaddddddd!

Last night while getting Kinley ready for bed, I saw a “little” spider scurry across the floor and decided to avenge my injured foot by killing it. I was feeling pretty proud of myself so I called down Carrie’s sons to see my good work. As they were praising me for my bravery, one of them said, “Woah, that’s a big spider!” I assumed he was trying to humor me by referring to the one I had just killed. Nope, the beast was hanging on the wall right behind Kinley.

Don’t be fooled by this picture, Chris played no part in demolishing the spider. We were all too scared to get within 10 feet of it, so Fearless Carrie came down and killed that spider dead.

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While the beast’s death has brought me some me some peace of mind, I still worry that the spider we killed and the spider in our bathroom are not the same. What if there are more we don’t know about? Chris said that last night he woke up because I was standing in the middle of the room screaming. I tend to be a pretty heavy sleep talker/walker, so I don’t remember any of this, but it’s apparent that I’m still very disturbed subconsciously about the whole ordeal.

 

Return of “The Beast”

Last night in a groggy haze, I got up to feed Kinley and go to the bathroom. Mind you, I haven’t had a full night of sleep in 7 months so my spider detection skills aren’t their sharpest at 4 am. You know the scene in scary movies when the victim looks in the bathroom mirror and sees something terrifying behind them?

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Yes, that scene. Last night, I was the innocent victim and the beast was the terrible reflection that I somehow managed to see without my glasses on.

I don’t think you can fully appreciate how large this spider is until I convince you of my astonishingly poor eyesight. For those of you who wear corrective eye ware, mine falls between a -8 and a -9. My eye doctor explained it to me like this: most people see the big “E” from 20 feet away and therefore have 20/20 vision or something close to it. For me to see an “E” clearly from 20 feet away, it would be so large that the average person would be able to see it with equal clarity from 1,000 feet away. So basically I have really, really bad eyesight and with my bad eyesight I was still able to see this ginormous spider on the wall behind me.

Blinded by terror, I managed to trip while bolting for the door. I bruised the bone in my foot and literally skidded across the floor. I’ve been pathetically hobbling around all day feeling defeated by a spider that still continues to evade and haunt me.

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We’re baaaaaaack!

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After three years, we are back in Taiwan! Kinley did reasonably well on the flight (it’s misery regardless of your age), but she is having a difficult time adjusting to the new 15 hour time change. I was DEAD TIRED the night we arrived (only having had 4 hours of sleep in the previous 2 days), so I was planning on hitting the hay for the best sleep of my life. Kinley had different plans and decided to play with her toys until 4:30 am.

I believe this is a fairly accurate portrayal of how I looked.

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Since Kinley’s delicate schedule has been uprooted, she has become a pile of emotional wreckage and tears. This is very unlike her, so I think this move has ruined her happy demeanor.

We are staying with Chris’ boss, Ross, and his wife Carrie. Their beautiful house in Yang Ming Shan overlooks Taipei. On the down side, we are more removed from the city so I’m learning to juggle a baby, groceries, and public transportation.

ImageChris and I are living in the basement and we have had a few unexpected roommates since we moved in.

Our first morning in Formosa, 2 inch spider (large by my standards) scurried across the floor. Chris grabbed the designated spider-killing flip flop and smashed it. Now, 2″ in not a small spider by my standards, but it is small by Taiwanese standards. Literally a minute after we killed the “little guy”, Chris opened a cupboard in our room and unleashed a behemoth (or in Chris’ words, “a big a** spider”). Both are understatements. The Beast is roughly the size of a coaster and is still rooming with us. We were too scared to smash him on sight (it would have taken more than a flip flop) so now he is hiding somewhere among our things. Probably in my clothes. Or my bed.

The trauma of having a giant spider living in my room is upsetting my psychological stability. I’m constantly scanning the walls, checking my bed before I get in and my clothes before I put them on. Not only is it emotionally exhausting, but the stress is turning me into a very jumpy person which further upsets my sensitive baby.

As for Chris’ internship—he loves it! Like absolutely, positively loves it. The company he is working for deals with manufacturing and exporting. Currently Chris is designing the front end of a new website and software which he finds interesting and educational (unlike his last internship in China where he would sit in on meetings just to make the company look international).

Chris had work off on Wednesday so he could help me get my bearings. All of the bus and street signage is in Chinese characters. Since I don’t have a cell phone or GPS I get around based off memory. With the day to ourselves, we put Kinley in the stroller and introduced her to all of our favorite restaurants.

Chris loves Taiwanese breakfast, which he expected to be equally good in China. Since it wasn’t, he had to suffer with the disappointment for nine months, so our first errand with Taipei under foot was to order dan bing (basically a savory crepe filled with ham and cheese).

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Once all was well in Chris’ world, we satisfied my craving with beef noodle soup for lunch at our favorite restaurant. I’m going to sell you on this for a second: picture beef broth with stewed tomatoes, pieces of beef, and thick, chewy hand-cut noodles. I was hot and sticky from walking miles in the sun and humidity, but I would eat a bowl of steaming niu rou mian in any weather. Kinley even loved it!

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When we lived here before, a news crew interviewed Chris while we were eating lunch at the same restaurant. (There’s not a lot of crime for the news stations to cover, so they usually feature local restaurants and Youtube clips of cute animals.) Because they remembered us, the owner wants to use Kinley in an advertisement for his restaurant. I’m glad to see that we’re still maintaing our fame. 🙂

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Following lunch we got a mountain of shaved ice topped with mangoes, cream, and mango sorbet. Kinley had a major meltdown halfway through dessert so we had to abandon our mango bing. I would consider it a true sign of a parent’s love for their child.

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Speaking of Kinley, the little pipsqueak has won over everyone’s heart (just as we expected). She’s quite a novelty with her blue eyes and light hair. Although she may be 3,000 miles away from her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and playmates, Kinley has plenty of sweet hearted Taiwanese strangers who are eager to fill the role.

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Awkward

I had half a Dr. Pepper at 5:00 and now I’m all hyped up on caffeine and can’t sleep (#mormonproblems #lightweight), so I figured I could use the time to do a little self-analysis. Basically, I just realized that I’m awkward. Chris very gently confirmed this fact, so I’m here to explain myself.

Lately I meet new people and this is how my conversations go:

  • New Friend: Hi, I’m Bla Bla!
  • Me: I’m Tori.
  • Silence
  • Crickets chirp.
  • I pretend to play with Kinley because I can’t think of a THING to say.
  • Bla Bla walks away in search of someone more normal.

It’s a problem. The interesting thing is… I haven’t always been like this. I sold furniture to mostly retired snowbirds for 2 years. If there is a demographic who likes to talk and has time to talk… that’s it. My job description was essentially to sit in a rocking chair and chat it up with grandma about hip replacements and “kids these days”.

So what changed? I went to China.

For nine months this was the extent of my conversations:

  • Me: Ni hao (Hello). Wo jiao Tori (My name is Tori).
  • Chinese person: guani gien hun shien shung women tien fu pung hun lei  tien fun hao bu hao zhong wun chi wo du tai tai fa guorunj!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Me: Ok. Bye.

After 9 months of isolation and forgetting how to talk to people, I had a baby. The only conversations we have are in Gibberish (not sure if you’re familiar with that language but it is typically spoken in an obnoxiously high-pitched voice.)

Now that I’m aware of how terrible it must be for people to spend time with me, I’m making a public commitment: I commit to be less awkward!!!

[Disclaimer: this whole anti-awkward thing will only work if you speak English. But then again, if you’re reading this…. never mind.]

But hey, at least I’m not this weird-o.

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Wait a minute…

Filipino Philanthropy

Sometimes a trip throws you curve balls. Before we even purchased tickets to the Philippines, the vacation was unexpectedly twisting and spinning into something other than what we expected. The truth is, we kind of ended up there by accident, but thankfully the Philippines in February is a good accident to land.

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For Christmas, Chris purchased non-refundable tickets from Nanjing to Hong Kong, planning to buy a cheap connecting flight from Hong Kong to Thailand. However, the Thailand tickets were $800 a pop by the time we tried to make the purchase, so we pulled out our computers and found the cheapest connecting flight to anywhere in Asia and it happened to be the Philippines.

Thankfully, I have very easygoing and supportive parents who were ok meeting us wherever in Asia we ended up. They decided to make the trek across the Pacific for the first time in their lives to spend a week in the Philippines and a week in China.

Our final destination, Coron, was on the little island Busuanga. You can look that one up for yourself–interesting geography lesson.

Sadly, Mom and Dad’s flight got delayed by 3 days, so while they were stranded in Manilla, Chris and I took to exploring the island until they met us there.

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Coron is a unique little town that has yet to be discovered by too many tourists, which means it’s maintained much of its Filipino flair. It’s ideally located near hundreds of tiny islands accessible by local boats–island hopping!

Island hopping was our main activity since the country has 7,000 islands, beautiful weather, and remarkable sea life.

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Everything in the Philippines was so colorful. The coral, (whether it resembled a fuzzy brain, upside down mushroom cap, or spiny fingers) always looked electric and in motion as the light and water reflected on it. The fish were iridescent and zippy, and the ocean was vibrant turquoise and emerald. Out of the water, the people and the town were as bright and fun as their surroundings.

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When we weren’t face-down in the water exploring the sea life, we were discovering the town and falling in love with the locals. Filipinos are literally the nicest, most easy going people on earth. Most of them were remarkably poor, but so much happier than the majority of Americans I know (Americans who live in houses with plumbing and electricity, and not in a shacks that are raised on stilts where human waste drops into a sludgy mud below).

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IMG_3317_2 2Anyhow, I guess the moral of the story is:

1. Happy accidents happen. When they do, roll with it.

2. The Philippines are beautiful. You should go.

3. Gratitude is finding happiness and appreciation in what you have whether it’s great or small