Passing the Travel Bug from One Generation to the Next

I’m not sure when the plucky little insect had its first nibble of my pasty flesh, but as long as I can remember, travel has been a part of who I am. As the kid of two public school teachers, my travel wasn’t as far-flung as it is now, but even without a passport, it seems like we were always on the go when we had a chance; the travel bug claimed another sweet victim. Summers were spent loaded up in a camper, touring the Northwest with a booth at many of the big arts and crafts shows that were abundant in the 1980s, my parents selling beautifully handcrafted woodwork under their Shadowtree label. (Totally not legal or considered “good parenting today,” but I have to say that we had some good times riding in that camper shell and we are definitely no worse the wear for those hours. We played games, read novels, colored in coloring books, completed workbook pages from the ones we carefully picked out from the teacher stores the weekend before…oh yes, and spent a decent chunk of the time writing notes on paper, bashing our fists against the window to gain parental-attention and tattling on each other via notebook paper and crayons. I seem to remember there being written complains about bathroom needs and hunger pains as well.)

As we got older and the summers of woodworking sales gave way to volleyball camps and piano lessons and G/T summer school classes, the suitcases gathered no dust. Road trips to the Redwoods, wanderings through Yellowstone National Park, spying bison and the first kind of hotpot I knew (China would introduce me to a whole new world of wonder with the same name) and a family trip to the nation’s capital marked our spring breaks.

Shiny new blue passport in hand and bags packed, next came studying abroad in the Dominican Republic, a trip to Haiti, semana santa in Puerto Rico and a scuttled (and often lamented still today) trip to Cuba.

A decade later Peace Corps would scratch the itch left behind by the travel bug, in no way lessening it. Rather, that little bug bite became a life-long infection that has seen us returning to Chengdu with the Foreign Service, spending a couple of years in Kuala Lumpur and now eagerly awaiting this summer’s bidding season when we will see where our next pushpin will land on the map.

All of this to say, for me the love of travel started young and I am excited to see it continuing in my niblings. Last weekend, one of my nieces had the chance to go to Portland with her family for a short road trip. They just spent a few days in the awesome Oregon town, but I think she still managed to hit most of the main tourist attractions. Upon her return to Idaho, as an avid reader of In Search of the End of the Sidewalk (okay, I am not sure she ever reads it, but I do think she checks out the pictures sometimes) she decided to sit down and do a bit of travel writing herself, putting together a blog post of her own.

So, without further ado dear readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Miss Keira, a budding traveler (we’ll have to get that passport in the works ASAP) and burgeoning writer.

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Party in Portland

To begin, this is what my family did this weekend.  First, we drove to our hotel.  It was a six-hour drive.  Can you believe that?  On our way, we saw a huge waterfall.  At the hotel, my brother Keegan and I had to share a bed but that was OK.  He ended up sleeping on the floor one night anyway.  

The next morning, we woke up and got dressed.  Did I mention that my mom was in a parade?  The parade was awesome!  My favorite float was a jaguar made out of all different kinds of flowers.  All around his float were dancers who had wooden bells on their boots.  

After the parade, we went to Voodoo Donuts.  Those donuts were amazing!  I got a VooDoo doll donut.  It was shaped like a doll and had raspberry filling that was supposed to look like blood.  There was even a pretzel stick stabbed in the heart.

Also, I got to go to Powell’s.  Powell’s is a huge bookstore that was one city block.  There were different rooms for different kinds of books.  My favorite was the pink room with all of the kids’ books.  I got a book called The Lunch Witch and I read it in one and a half days.  The girl in the book turned into a frog.  

Finally, it was the day that we went home.  Portland was awesome but we had to go home.  We packed up our things and left the hotel but before we went home, we got to go to OMSI.  This is a museum about science.  We went with my mom’s friend Heather and her son Logan.  We got to see a 3-D printer and there was a tsunami machine where I got to build a house that would not get run over by the waves on the shoreline.  We got to levitate foam balls on air pressure machines in a big room full of balls tubes. 

All in all, Portland was amazing.  I like to travel and go on vacations because I get to see new things.  Someday, I would like to go visit Wisconsin because I hear that they have cheese.  

 

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Wordless Wednesday: KL Street Sign

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June 15, 2016 · 6:12 AM

Wordless Wednesday: Happy 240th, America!

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June 8, 2016 · 7:23 AM

Twenty, Five, and Four

Apparently, late May is a big time for anniversaries in my life, although until about two weeks ago, I hadn’t realized it. (I meant to write this blog last weekend so that it was much more timely, but after finally getting back on the blogging wagon, I had several even older posts that needed written, and am just now getting almost caught up. Well, unless you count that one about our awesome trip to Perth in February that I still haven’t managed to get put together. Chinese New Year, quokkas, nearly dying on an island bike ride. How has it not found a spot on the blog yet? Eeek!)

While May doesn’t contain a wedding anniversary or birthday (for me, at least, although I am guessing there are *many* wedding anniversaries that do fall in the spring-to-summer month), it does have several other significant dates that have recently popped up in my Facebook feed, reminding me that it seems to be a month of transition for our family of two. (What would I do without Facebook reminders? Those memory photos that it puts up? Sometimes I am not even sure where they come from. There is a great possibility that Facebook has hacked my life, now having a far more comprehensive idea of who I am than I do some days. Also, thank you to Facebook for reminding me to wish a happy birthday to people who are absolutely certain that the only reason I know it is their birthday is because my electronics reminded me. Sincerity might take a bit of a hit there.)

But back to anniversaries.

Twenty years ago, in late May, I graduated from high school. It I hard to think about where the last two decades have gone, but pretty easy to look in my passport and see where I have gone over those ensuing years. When I walked across that stage twenty years ago in my hideous yellow graduation gown I knew I was headed to college a few short months. I knew I would be rooming with my best friend and I was certain I was going to major in Spanish and I knew I wanted to study abroad while in college. Even at that early point, I knew I wanted to “go,” but little did I know just how much “going” there would be! (Yes, I know we voted to go boys in blue/girls in yellow because the contrast of the school colors would look nice, but why didn’t we push for blue, ladies? Did the boys really care if they looked washed-out and half dead in all of their graduation photos? Probably not! Keep this in mind future graduates of CHS. Two colors do look awesome marching down the aisle, but think long and hard about who must don the “gold.” Kelsey, I’m looking at you!)

While things didn’t quite turn out the way I just “knew” they would, life’s twists and turns did lead to two other, more recent anniversaries that come up in the same final week of May.

Five years ago it was that exact week that we finished packing up or selling everything we owned as we got ready for a career change for Thad, an unknown professional future for me and a new home/adventure for us both. With bigger items like the cars and lawn mower sold, the house rented out and everything but two suitcases each packed into a storage unit in Hagerstown, Maryland, to the nation’s capital we went. A new apartment, new friends and more new acronyms that I ever thought possible awaited us on the other side of the country. (I’m an EFM in the FS who worked as CLO and then PCSed to KL, another EAP post, with my ELO husband who is headed to INR for his next job. That’s barely the tip of the foreign service acronym iceberg. Madness reigns.)

Initial training, an assignment to Chengdu and months of language training later, it was again that final week of May that saw us making another huge change- our move to western China to take up a first posting with the Foreign Service. We’d spent a decent amount of time in Chengdu when we were Peace Corps volunteers (that’s another anniversary, coming up the end of June- 10 years since we left on that epic outing), so it was less overwhelming than many first tours, but the excitement to finally be on our way was palpable.

It’s crazy to think that Caldwell High School’s class of 1996 will be reunion-ing it up this summer, but even more so to ponder how different life has turned out from what my seventeen-year-old self had imagined. Somewhere in my boxes and boxes of stuff (probably storage boxes) I’ve got a senior year yearbook filled with notes of excitement and relief that high school was coming to an end, but little did I know just how far my wanderings would take me.  Just a year after that, I’d have my first passport, headed to the Dominican Republic and Haiti (Cuba got nixed at the last minute), opening doors to the promise of adventures far beyond the edges of Idaho.

So, happy anniversary 17 year old self, 33 year old self and 34 year old self. Blow out the candles and keep skipping down the sidewalk, looking for endings and new beginnings.

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Singapore, Orson Scott Card, and the Kardashians

Two weeks ago, I had to go to Singapore for some meetings. It turned out to be four meetings over the course of two days, which left me a bit of time here and there to do my thing. With morning and afternoon meetings each day, I was left with weird slots of my day to fill. Time was not sufficient for midday trips to my favorite merlion or to visit the Gardens by the Bay and with a big move headed my way next month, shopping on Orchard Street sounded like a bad idea. (Both in terms of space taken up and credit card balance!)

So, what does a girl do with herself and a bit of free time in the middle of a work day? It’s a pretty easy equation (at least in my world):

Coffee shop + Book = Hours whiled away

Over the course of two days, I found myself at four different cafes, enjoying a wide range of beverages (everything from hot chocolate in the morning to Snapple after lunch). I curled up in a huge over-stuffed love seat, relaxed in a wicker basket-like seat and wiggled until I found a comfortable spot on a metal chair with great people-watching. Knowing that I would probably have these odd bits of downtime between meetings, I planned ahead and brought along an Orson Scott Card book that weighed in at nearly 600 pages, enough to keep me entertained for a few hours. (Sadly, I finished that book as soon as I got to the airport and had to make due with a People  magazine until I made it back home to Kuala Lumpur. At least now I am updated on the ever-so-current Kardashian drama, what’s happening on The Bachelor, a show I’ve never seen, and what Princess Kate wore on her last visit with the commoners.)

Overall, I can’t complain about my two-day mini-vacation. (Half a vacation? Between meetings, it really was relaxing and a nice getaway!) Looking towards Washington DC in the fall, I am going to miss year-round open air restaurants and patios. Informal apartment hunting is underway and I am thinking I am going to have to add a walkable coffee shop to the list of “must haves.” Maybe a bit of cold weather will add just a bit of cozy to that hot chocolate and new release on a Saturday morning.

 

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Wordless Wednesday:Obama Vegetarian Spring Rolls

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2016 Book Challenge- A Book Published Before You Were Born

2016 Book Challenge- A Book Published Before You Were Born

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Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.

Nine little soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.

Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.

Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.

Six little soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.

Five little soldier boys going in for law;
One got into chancery and then there were Four.

Four little soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.

Three little soldier boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.

Two little soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was One.

One little soldier boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself

And then there were None.

—Frank Green, 1869

May is nearly gone, which means another strike-through on the book challenge list. I was late on figuring out which topic to cover this month, as I got sucked into a few different readings (11 books this month, my favorite being The Sympathizer by Nguyen Viet Thanh), none of which covered the topics I had left, but luckily, with a little over a week left in the month, I got an email from my oldest niece that pointed me in the right direction. She is going to be in sophomore honor’s English at Caldwell High School in the fall (Go Cougars!) and received her reading list for the upcoming year and wanted to know if I would use my Amazon Prime account (a near necessity of the Foreign Service lifestyle) to buy her books. On it were both the books she will be reading during her sophomore semesters, as well as the two she needs to read over the summer.

As a side note, I love that this teacher is suggesting that her students buy their own copies, as it sounds like she is going to teach them to annotate and hopefully do close readings of literature. I wish we had covered those skills when I was in high school! I would have found the much more useful to my future life than divining the difference between sine, cosine and tangents or learning to draw economic supply and demand curves. (I say that in semi-jest. It is true I don’t employ those skills on a daily or weekly or possibly even annual basis, but I am grateful for the way they helped me learn to think and to study. I get it. I get it. Learning to think is key. But, literature. That is where it is really at!)

Back to the reading list. Over the summer, Kels has to read And Then There Were None, the Agatha Christie classic, and then another mystery novel of her choice. My favorite part of this email was when she asked if I would pick her mystery novel, making it a true mystery! There is little I enjoy more than recommending books to people. I am ecstatic when I offer up a book suggestion or two and then hear back that it was a perfect fit. This may be what I miss most about teaching. (As a side note, if anyone knows how I can become a personal book shopper, let me know. I would be in heaven!) It took me an hour or two of browsing my GoodReads history and a few lists of best mystery novels of the last couple of centuries before I made a final choice. Mystery is not my go-to genre and I honestly don’t find a lot of literary merit in many of the current options, so I decided to throw Kels back to the beginning, the heart of the mystery novel and hook her up with some Sherlock Holmes. (I must admit this may also have been slightly influenced by my current Netflix binge: Elementary.) With The Hounds of Baskerville headed her way, she’s going to have a seriously fantastic time with her summer reading.

This is made a rather short story long, but the point is that my niece’s email last week pushed me to go back and reread And Then There Were None. I had not read it since I was a sophomore in high school, so it was a great opportunity to reread a true classic and bring me up to speed so we can go to coffee when I am home this summer and talk about her comparison/contrast paper that is due when the new school year kicks off in August. Plus, it was a perfect fit for the “a book published before you were born” category, as Christie’s masterpiece first came out in 1939 under a title that would now be considered highly offensive. (Look it up if you don’t know this history.)

If you haven’t read this foundation of the mystery genre and you’re playing along with the 2016 book challenge, mark it down for June and as “a book you should have read in high school.” It isn’t long and you’ll be sucked in from the epigraph. Plan a day with no distractions and follow along as the soldiers drop, one by one.

In Search of the End of the Sidewalk’s 2016 Reading Challenge

_____ A book published this year– (A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin)

_____A book you can finish in a day-  (When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi)

_____A book you’ve been meaning to read

_____ A book recommended to you by a librarian

_____ A book you should have read in school

_____ A book chosen for you by your spouse/partner, best friend, child or sibling

_____ A book published before you were born (And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie)

_____ A book that was banned at some point  (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess)

_____ A book you abandoned previously

_____ A book you own but have never read

_____ A book that intimidates you

_____ A book you’ve read at least once   (I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced  by Nujood Ali)

 

 

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