Tag Archives: Travel

Birthday Surprise!

1 Nov

My sister turned 40 this weekend! I had no big plans for the week or weekend, but with one phone call from my parents, I had a car rental, a road trip, and a few days with my parents, who were also visiting, and my sister and her family!

Last Wednesday, Simeon and I picked up a great rental car and hit the road for a 6-hour drive. We had snacks, blankies, and his Nuk, so Simeon was as happy as a clam for the entire trip. I did have to play peekaboo for a good 30 minutes, but I was getting bored with the corn fields anyway, so I was happy to oblige.

When we arrived at my sisters, my mom called Heather to the front door. I was literally trembling with excitement! It was so fun to surprise her and her girls. We took the party over to Red Robin for a birthday celebration. All this excitement, and I didn’t take any pictures!

My sister had to work the next day, so my mom, Simmy, and I spent the day doing our favorite activity together – hitting the sales! I told my mom that I always get a little jealous when I see women out shopping with their mom and babies. I felt so happy and special that I got to be that woman that day!

Heather was able to get the day off on Friday, so she and I hung out. We spent the morning in our jammies on the couch, an activity that Heather and I both adore. Simeon had thrown up during the night, so he napped for most of the morning! After a Olive Garden and more shopping with my mom, we headed back to Heather’s house. Heather and I both hopped right into the new jammies that mom bought us, and settled in to watch the World Series. We talked about going to a movie, but we didn’t want to get out of our PJ’s. My 40 year old sister said that we should just go to the movie in our PJ’s.

Meanwhile, the nieces found the Halloween snapchats.

Isla goes, “I look so pretty!”

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…and then it was time to head back home! But not without leaving Simeon’s illness there. Every other person in that house got sick the next day! Heather and I just kept quoting Hamilton – “If it takes fighting a war for us to meet, it will have been worth it.”

Speaking of Hamilton…

Simeon wasn’t so happy on the drive back home. In fact, he was pretty inconsolable. The snacks weren’t working, he didn’t even want his blanket or his Nuk. So I switched from the radio to the Hamilton soundtrack, and not only did he stop crying, but he started dancing, laughing, singing “Rise up!”…and then he fell asleep! I knew that I had been listening to it a lot, but I didn’t think that Simeon had been paying attention! Apparently, he’s going to do just fine when it’s time for US History in school!

 

 

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Road Trippin

24 Aug

When we got home from camp, we had three days to wash everything, pack it all up, run 17 miles along the gorgeous Jersey shore, and settle in for the unfortunately familiar drive from NJ to KS. Oh, and of course, we had to hit Strollos one last time after watching the church softball game.

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The next morning we all crammed into the van, where there was not one inch of the van’s interior that wasn’t covered with our stuff!

 

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It actually wasn’t too uncomfortable! Everyone had something to lean against and sleep on. It worked out perfectly except when we stopped for bathroom breaks. It was quite the obstacle course to get in and out of!

Road trips mean special snacks!

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After a long day of driving, we rolled into Indianapolis to stay with friends for the night. It was a-mazing! They have a huge piece of property that includes a lake, a bridge over the creek, 3 basketball courts, rolling hills of grass, and of course, a gorgeous home that includes an ice cream shoppe in the basement! It was nicer than staying at the nicest hotel, especially because we got to enjoy it with friends.

The next day, we got back on the road for the 8 hour drive to KC. I chuckled when I saw the city skyline in the distance. After seeing so much of the NYC skyline, this one is a little underwhelming. But it was still exciting to see because it meant that home was just down the highway!

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Plus, it was fun to drive by Kauffman and see KC Royals – 2015 World Champions!

We finally got to our home for the year and were welcomed by Nana and Grandpa and Linus the dog.  Wasn’t I just packing all this stuff up? Now I have to unpack it???

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Emotional AND Literal Roller Coaster Adventure!

25 May

So….

Because we have had our resident visas for 10 years now, the PI directs that we need to downgrade our visa to a tourist level and then reapply for the residential visa. This paperwork costs about $1000 USD, so it’s no joke!

Another option for accomplishing the same goal is to leave the country on/during the expiration date and reenter the country, automatically getting our tourist visa.

We opted for the excursion because who wants to spend $1000 for paperwork when you can spend about the same amount for a trip? No brainer! So we waited until Cebu Pacific came out with their super-cheap airline fare deals, and jumped on it about 7 months ago. We decided to surprise the kids with a trip to Legoland in Malaysia (via Singapore, because that is the closer airport. Who knew Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia are connected by a bridge? Not me!)

We put the trip together secretly and didn’t say anything to the kids until we were on our way to the airport on May 18. I put together bags of snacks and activities for the kids and packed their backpacks while they were at the gym with Josh the night before.

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We told the kids that they were missing school that day because we had to go to immigration. I have a great video clip of Josh telling the kids, “We ARE going to immmigration, but it will be at the airport because we’re going to Legoland in Malaysia for two days!” They were screaming and jumping all over each other in the car. It was so fun. It was a top ten parenting moment for us.

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As we were checking in, they said that because Caleb’s passport expires in less than 6 months, Singapore would not accept him. We are familiar with this SO LAME rule because the Philippines has it too, so we made sure to ask our immigration consultant if it would be a problem. She assured us that we were good to go. What’s the point of an expiration date if the passport is actually no good 6 months before the expiration date?!

Moving on (before I start foaming at the mouth!)…. the kids and I waited and waited while Josh, the airline, and Singapore immigration peacefully battled it out. They couldn’t land on a solution that allowed us to continue with our trip.

Ok, at that moment, I’m not even kidding, the thought that immediately came to my mind was in Apollo 13, when Tom Hanks/Jim Lovell says, “We just lost the moon.” That’s what I felt like! I realize that is SO over-dramatic, but how fun is life when a trip to Legoland isn’t prioritized up there with a trip to the moon? “We just lost Legoland.” Doesn’t have the same cinematic effect, does it?

It was agonizing to tell the kids the disappointing news! Caleb thought we were joking and he wasn’t buying it. I had to say to him, “Caleb, I’m really not joking this time. We are not able to go to Legoland.” That was when he burst into tears. It was awful! When Bella was crying, Simeon leaned over and gave her some love. It was so sweet. At the time, I wished that

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So not only was our trip off the table, we still had the visa issue to deal with. We would either stay home and eat the cost of the airline tickets PLUS have to pay for the visa downgrade, having already lost some of our hotel money because of the last-minute cancellation, or we could change our destination to a country that would accept Caleb’s passport. Cebu Pacific graciously offered to change the airline tickets at no charge.

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So around the time that our flight to Singapore was taking off, we re-booked a flight to Hong Kong. That afternoon was such a great faith-building exercise for all of us! We all felt so many different emotions and we were each challenged to grow some fruits of the Spirit. We were all at peace, and even celebrated that God’s plans for this trip were different than ours, but they are perfect and best for us.

We had a great flight over to HK, and we weren’t 5 minutes in the airport before Mackenzie grabbed some brochures of fun things to do in HK – Disneyland and Ocean Park.

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A huge blessing in this major change was that our friend hooked us up with free housing in HK! A family of 6 has a condo on Park Island, but 5 of them were out of the country, so the dad offered up his entire condo for us! It was fantastic and so gracious. Having no idea where we were going, we hopped on what we hoped was the right bus, and headed on our adventure!

The guy met us at the bus station and we walked up to his condo, where he had dinner waiting for us! It was so thoughtful of him. Then we all settled in for the night and slept so well after a hard day. In the morning, this was the view from my bed. So much eye-candy!

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The kids kept asking me questions about where we were and what we were doing, but I kept saying, “You guys, I know as much about this trip as you do! We are flying by the seat of our pants on this!” That didn’t stop them from asking.

So we had a decision to make. Ocean Park or Disney. Disney was obviously more expensive, but they had a Star Wars land all set up, which was what Legoland had been featuring as well and was a big selling point for us. Our host actually recommended Ocean Park, as it’s cheaper, bigger, and has shorter lines.  What surprised us and made the decision much easier was that Mackenzie and Bella both preferred Ocean Park! (Bella wanted it because it has animals. Kenzie thought the rides looked better.) Deacon and Caleb didn’t have a preference either way. (They still don’t know that there is a Star Wars exhibit right now. shhhh) Also, if we ever do Disney, I don’t want it to be a plan B trip. I want to plan, count down, and enjoy the entire Disney experience.

So we headed out on a bus, a couple of trains, and another bus. Public transportation in HK is easy-peasy lemon-squeezy. (When did we stop saying “Japanesey?” hmmm) We just kept thinking how amazing it would be if we had their trains in Manila. I don’t see it happening…like, ever…but you never know!

When we got to Ocean Park, we headed right for the aquarium.

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It was so nice! There was so much to see and it was presented so creatively. We all loved it.

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We were stared at and pictured as much as these sea creatures! People kept coming up to me, and because they couldn’t speak English, they’d point out the kids, hold up 5 fingers, wait for me to nod, and then give me a thumbs up and a huge smile.  Families with 5 kids must not be so common in in some of these countries. In the Philippines, we’d just be getting started! I lost count of how many times we had our picture taken, with and without consent!

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After the aquarium, we headed toward the rides, beginning with the carousel.

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This was the view from the carousel. See the cable cars? They take you to the other half of the park on the other side of the mountain. It is such a great layout for the theme park! There was an hour wait for the cable cars, so we took underground train to the other side.

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My phone battery was super low at this point, so I stopped taking pics for a while. Besides, we were just riding rides, so I couldn’t take many pics anyway. Josh and I tag-teamed who would ride and who would wait with the kids. However, we both got to ride the big roller coaster with Bella while Mackenzie watched the littles nearby. Yay for responsible  eldest child!

The roller coaster itself wasn’t super thrilling, but because it is on the side of a mountain, the view was hundreds of feet in the air. When we whipped around a loop, it looked like we were being shot into oblivion, and that stepped up the thrill factor!

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There was a North and South Pole exhibit, and that was so fun to see penguins, seals, and walruses. It was frigid, obvi, and we were all so cold!

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We also hit a shark tank that was really exciting. I had my face right up to the glass and was looking at the sharks to the left. All of a sudden, another shark glided right past me from the right with those sharp teeth bared! It totally startled me!

Caleb was too short for most of the thrill rides, and that bummed him out, but thankfully, during the river rapid ride, he could stand at a water gun and shoot water at us. He laughed so hard.

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So the only bummer for the entire day was that it closed at 6pm, and we thought it was open until 7pm! We didn’t even begin to see all of the park! There were a bunch of rides that the kids still wanted to ride, as well as some more animal exhibits. But oh well, we’ll just have to come back! Thankfully, the cable cars were open for another hour to get everyone back, so the 4 older kids and I took that back while Josh and Simeon took the train. It was a little thrilling to be so high in the air as we crossed the mountain!

I really think it was the best park I’ve ever been to! It was a zoo, aquarium, and amusement park all rolled into one. I’m not even sure its possible to do the entire park in one day! We all loved it, and Josh and I even contemplated coming back the next day! But we were all pretty tired and hitting those rush hour trains did us in. We stopped at a night market and ate some Turkish food, and then headed home.

The next day, it was rainy, so that definitely talked us out of going to Ocean Park again. Instead, we headed to the Noah’s Ark museum that was within walking distance of our condo.

On the walk over, it started to downpour, so we took the opportunity to eat some lunch. Josh and I had amazing Cuban sandwiches! The best I’ve had in Asia, I think!

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The kids had these awesome little snacks from 7-11. I wish we had them in the PI…and the US for that matter. They are little triangles of rice, some tuna or lobster (or whatever) salad in the middle, all wrapped in seaweed. I had them in Taiwan and I loved them, so I had bought one at the train station the day before and the kids pretty much took it over and ate it all.

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After the downpour, the kids had a fun walk over to the Ark.

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The ark is built with the exact measurements mentioned in the Bible, which was pretty amazing. No gopher wood though.

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Inside, the first room had some bird cages. I loved seeing these lovebirds all cuddled up. I didn’t even know these existed!

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There were some more ark – related exhibits, and then there were some more children’s museum exhibits with loads of things for the kids to do. This was a game where we had to jump up and hit the moving objects (at least, I think that’s what the Chinese instructions were!)

Doesn’t this make you wonder what happened to necessitate the posting of this sign?

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Bella snapped this photo in the “Love You Forever” photo op set.

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Simmy had a blast with all fun things to do.

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Back on the bus. At one point, Josh and I looked at each other and said, “These two have been inseparable this entire trip.” They really get along wonderfully and play together non-stop. Whenever something exciting happens to Caleb, he says, “I can’t wait to tell Deacon!” I’m writing this down because 1) it’s super sweet and 2) It might not last and I need to show them proof.

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That night for dinner, Josh and I really wanted dumplings, but we really didn’t know where to get them. The more he thought about it, the more Josh wanted this specific dumpling place that he went to daily with the basketball team when he was there in Feb. I agreed and asked where it was.

Ummmm….a bus and 5 trains!

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But I was up for it. After all, if we were out and about, we’d see more of Hong Kong, and we wouldn’t be able break anything in the house!

So we headed out and it was so so worth it! For $5 USD, we each got 10 dumplings and a milk tea, two of my favorite things in life! We got curry dumplings, pork dumplings, kimchi dumplings, and leek dumplings. They were all so delicious! I got classic Taiwanese milk tea with pearls, and the others all got passion fruit tea with pearls.

 

After one more good night’s sleep, it was time to head back to Manila!

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It was really such a fun trip! I’m so thankful that God provided such an amazing plan B for us. Only now, I still want to go to Legoland in Malaysia PLUS I want to go back to Hong Kong!

 

 

Off to Thailand!

25 Nov

When my parents planned their trip to Myanmar to visit their missionaries, they decided to extend their Bangkok layover and fly Josh and I there to party for a couple of days!  In the days leading up to the trip, we had everything perfectly planned….and then the APEC hoopla started.

We were supposed to fly out early Monday morning, but then Malaysia Air emailed and said that flight was cancelled and, no big deal, you’ll just fly out Sunday evening, have a 12 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur, and then make your original flight to Bangkok. That was obnoxious, but we went ahead and planned for a sitter to come on Sunday night and made plans for our 12 hours in KL. Once all of that was taken care of, we logged onto the Malaysia Air website to check in, only to find out that flight was now cancelled and we were rebooked onto…..our original flight.

So, back to Plan A! We left for the airport at 3:30am. There was no online check-in, so we had to wait in a Magic Mountain-size line. When we finally got to the desk, we heard them say that all of the flights from Tue-Thur were cancelled for the APEC Summit. We were supposed to fly back on Thursday, but they weren’t able to tell us anything! I said, “We have 5 kids at home. We can’t just leave the country without knowing when we’ll be back!” All I got in return was generic sympathy.

The bright side to all of the cancelled flights was that Starbucks was empty! I felt super-contraversial drinking out of this solid red Christmas cup. (My kids are going to read that in 20 years and have no idea what I’m talking about. In fact, I’d love to be able to forget it as well!)

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The plane ride was great! Although, I did get a little white-knuckled when we’d hit turbulence. It doesn’t normally bother me too much, but when two of your aircrafts crash within months of each other, expect that your customers aren’t all cozy with comfort at the slightest jolt.

The airport in KL was really quiet and clean. It was nice. We got smoothies and chilled out, enjoying the time of relaxing and just us-ness.

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We arrived in Bangkok around 2 pm. The immigration line was even longer than the line we had Manila, but it was moving pretty quickly. We grabbed a taxi to our hotel, the Baiyoke Sky, which is the tallest building in Bangkok!

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This sign was in our taxi. “Service staff are not polite.” I laughed at how absurd that sounded, but Josh clarified that it was probably a number to call IF the staff isn’t polite.

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We saw a lot of signs that made us scratch our heads! Here is another. There are different ways to interpret this: Beware OF non-Thai pickpocket gangs. Beware (foreigners) of pickpocket gangs. That’s the one we settled on. We also saw so many mispelled words on signs. “Please Slied the Door.” “Grand Palce this way.” etc.

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We both took long naps (me, right away. Josh went to find some food on the street, and then took a nap.) When we woke up, we headed out of the hotel to check out our surroundings. Our hotel was in the perfect spot! It had so much food and shopping all around us! First things first, though. Thailand is known for their foot massages. In addition to the normal rubdown, they use a small stick to hit pressure points and/or cause us to sing, “Hurts So Good.”

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I also found a fruit for sale that I had only had for the first time in Taiwan last month. I loved it and was so excited that I could buy as much as I wanted as it was so cheap! It’s either a cashew apple or a rose apple. I never got the final word.

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We also grabbed some pork on a stick. Can you tell we were into the street food in Thailand? These were amazing and only $.30 each!

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By then we were nice and hungry and pleasantly surprised that there were so many Indian restaurants nearby! It’s one of our favorite cuisines, if not our most favorite! It was delicious!

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To end the night, we went up to the revolving rooftop of the hotel. It’s a $10 ticket for outsiders, but free to us as guests of the hotel! Josh and I went up there a number of times during our stay. It was really fantastic.

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My parents arrived at the hotel in the middle of the night. I didn’t see them until the next morning. I thought they’d need to sleep in, but they texted bright and early, so I quickly got dressed and ran down to their room. It gets more special each time I get to see them!!!

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A highlight for the day was that some window-washers floated over to our windows. We’re on the 65th floor!!!!

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When Josh got up, we all went to breakfast. I normally don’t like Asian breakfasts because it is normally food that I would want for dinner, not breakfast. I’m an eggs, bacon, hashbrown, pancake, french toast, waffle, cinnamon roll kind of gal. (not all at once, of course….maybe.) But they had roti, curry, and rice that was amazing!!! They also had eggs and stuff, but I definitely bought into the dinner-for-breakfast idea. I was eating curried potatoes, with rice, on a piece of roti. It’s an Atkins nightmare.

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That day we stayed close by. My dad had a suit made and we did some shopping, then wandered into another Indian restaurant to eat and play Rook.

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We went up to the rooftop again to catch the sunset.

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The next day, we had a tour planned, so we woke up early, hit the breakfast buffet hard, and then headed off on our tour. We drove by the King’s Palace, surrounded by a moat! Our tour guide told us all about the royal family, which of course, I love. The first stop was the Grand Palace. It was magnificant!!!

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(I don’t know why I have to be in every pic. I just remember going through my grandparents photos and the ones of just buildings are boring!)

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It was crazy crowded, because for some of us, it’s awe-inspiring, historical architecture, a Thai landmark, but for others, it’s a place of worship, as well as a pilgrimage destination. Whatever the reason, we were all there at the same time!

In Thailand, the majority of the population is Buddhist. The Grand Palace houses the Emerald Buddha, which might be the most important idol in that religion. For me, the most interesting piece of info about him is that he has three seasonal outfits, that are changed by the king of Thailand 3 times a year.

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He’s right through those doors (no pics allowed inside.)Everyone had to take off their shoes before going into the temple. It was 90+ degrees out, so with the crowds, it smelled like sweat and feet. Not a great combo!

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On the way out, there was a fountain with lotus flowers in it. Everyone was picking up the flower by its stem and grazing it over their head for good luck. I think I got splashed with a drop or two of good luck lotus water, so….we’ll see!

Each of the major buildings had three doors. The two outside ones were for people to enter and exit. The middle one is only used by the king! We got to see his coronation throne, as that ceremony is always held at at the Grand Palace.

After the Grand Palace, we got in a boat and headed down a canal. Our tour guide kept pointing out things that were seen in a Bond movie (Tommorow Never Dies, I think?) and The Hangover II.  While we were chugging along, a lady rowed up in her little boat of things to sell. Thailand is known for their “floating markets” and this is what it is. People in boats, selling stuff. I was impressed!

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We also fed some fish! I have a great slow-mo video of the fish devouring the bread, but I’m not in the uploading mood right now. The kids loved it though!

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And then it was time for Mom and Dad to head out to the airport! So sad. But so thankful that I got to see them for a fun-filled couple of days! We had lunch at the hotel before they headed out. We figured that we’d better have some Thai food while we’re in Thailand, so mom and I split some satay and pad Thai. It was fancier than street food, for sure!

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Around this time, we found out that our flight Thursday was indeed cancelled. So much for that good luck lotus water! So we decided to ride to the airport with my parents so that we could hang out with them a little longer and go to the Malaysia Air office. All we got accomplished was that we were confirmed on Friday’s flight, but that no, they would certainly NOT put us up in a hotel because “this was not their fault.” Whatever, I was annoyed that we had to pay for it, but excited that we got a bonus day in Thailand!

We discovered that there was a train in the airport that stopped just 150m from our hotel!!! It costs just over a dollar and took us home in 20 minutes! On our walk back to the hotel from the train, our noses scoped out an amazing beef noodle stand. It was the same set-up as the one I had in Taiwan, but this was insanely delicious and only a $1.50! We went back the next day too (but we got our own bowls that day.)

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For our bonus day, we walked over to a nearby mall for some souvenir-shopping and some pad Thai that we had heard about. We found gifts for everybody!

We also found Thai milk tea!!! I was so excited. It was delicious, but super sweet. When we get the Taiwanese milk tea, we can ask for a percentage of sugar (0,25,50, or 100%). We didn’t get that option in Thailand.

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Josh had pad Thai, but I was still full from breakfast, so I just ordered a coconut pudding. The waiter just pointed to three bowls on our table and said, “You just pay for what you eat.” Then I looked around and saw that these pudding cups were out on the table all day long! I found that odd, but gave it a go! It was good! Certainly worth its $.90!

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I don’t know how it is around the world, but I constantly see Asian couples with matching t-shirts. They might be identical, or they might be coordinating. I think it’s kind of adorable! Anyway, I found a shop that sold them. Each of these bins has a different couples t-shirt! None of them would fit us though, and Josh probably wouldn’t go for it anyway. We also saw a lot of “honeymoon swimsuits,” which were boardshorts for the guy and a matching swimsuit bottom for the girl. Also adorbs.

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At night, we went for one last trip around the street for some more Indian food, a foot massage, and a fruit shake! There were pomegranates all over the place in Thailand!!! I wish we had them here. It seems like we should.

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And that was the last pic I took. We left the next morning, taking the train to the airport. It made mad at how simple it was! Getting to the airport here is a boring episode of Mission Impossible.  Everything was peaceful and uneventful, which is perfect. I watched the movie “Jobs” on the first flight, but we landed in the middle of the movie, right when Steve Jobs was about to be fired from Apple! Thankfully, I was able to catch the rest of it on the second flight. Crisis averted.

It was so fun to see the kids again. They had a great week, for which we were thankful! Mom and Dad sent them presents, so they were thrilled to get those. Now we’re settling back into life. I have renewed motivation to work out daily (roti, potatoes, and rice for breakfast will do that)!

One More Taiwan Post!

2 Nov

Ok, I left off on the second to last day of the tournament. But I forgot to post about the night market the day before. Night markets are pretty popular in Taiwan. They’re fun, with lots of vendors selling food, trinkets, jewelry, etc. I bought a pair of earrings for 33 dumplings  NT100.

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I told the girls that I would eat one of these if we won the tournament!

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We all rode this kiddie train together. I barely fit. Ahhh, I miss that milk tea.

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We crammed into the elevator each time we came or went from the hotel. I thought we were at capacity, but then 4 more strangers shoved their way in. I literally face-planted the wall with the force of their enthusiasm.

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We’ve been trying to get our team picture for the yearbook and every time we tried, something prevented it. So finally, on the last day of the tournament, we got it! This, of course, isn’t the yearbook pose.

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Our pregame warm-up is FULL of cheers. The officials graciously waited to check our lineup for our many cheers to be completed.

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Here are some game shots that I stole off of facebook.

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I love these next shots because 1) they look amazing and 2) the double-quick was never an official offense of ours. We kind of just adopted it throughout the season. It worked a LOT though! We were the only team doing the 71 (back-quick), so the blockers never even saw it coming.

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OK, so I left off with the girls playing terrific in elimination. However, for our fourth match that day, we played the host school and they took it to us pretty easily. We beat ourselves, really. So that sent us to the losers bracket for the final day. We knew that it would make our battle longer and harder, but we were totally up for it!

The two teams that we played in the morning were the two teams that beat us in elimination the year before, so I was so proud of the girls for coming out confident and ready to win. We beat both teams in two sets. That set us up to play the host school again in a best of 5 match.

Gotta stay warm in between games!

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Here is the stolen phone pic as we rested in between matches.

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The first two sets, we were en fuego. We couldn’t doing anything wrong! Every pass, set, and hit was flawless. We made it look effortless, really. I’m usually up by the court, giving tips and pointers and reminders, but the girls just took over. They knew where to serve and hit, they covered each other’s hits, they communicated. All I had to do was cheer them on. It was a #whyicoach moment for me.

Then the host school and their fans came alive. They won the 3rd set very easily. In the 4th, we were 23-23 and the referee called us in the net. I definitely saw the other team in the net, but just assumed that we were in the net first. It wasn’t until hours later, that coaches from the others schools and even some fans from the host school said that that was not the right call. The other school was definitely the one in the net. I literally got nauseous when they told me that. It was a major momentum shift that gave them gamepoint, then the set, and then the 3rd set and the match!

That team went on to win the entire tournament for the 3rd year in a row. We were bummed that we were two points away from going to the championship (against a team that we beat in pool play), but I was so proud of the girls. They finished their season wonderfully. They broke so many barriers that had been blocking their success for a few years, and they are set up perfectly for next year. I wish I could tag along for the ride!

We got some bronze medals (with Olympic rings on them!) at the awards banquet.

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…and a trophy!

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My setter won the Best Setter award for the entire tournament, so I was thrilled for her! She has one more year, so that’s one of the reasons the team is set up so nicely for next year.

Our flight home left a few hours later at 1am, so we hit the road after the banquet. We were a little squirrly by then.

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I was home and back to bed by 5am! It was such a great week. It had been 3 years since I had traveled with a volleyball team and I had forgotten what an amazing experience each trip had been. Now I have to leave again! (humfph) arms crossed, stomping on the ground.

Tournament post #Liang (according to Google Translate)

28 Oct

I left off at the end of the first day of pool play. After we played our third game, we walked down the street for some more amazing Taiwan street food. Here in Manila, street food can get iffy, but apparently Taiwan is THE place to buy street food. It’s safe and cheap, both of those high on my priority list!

I had my Taiwan-raised player order for me and it did not disappoint! It was some pork noodle dish with some sweet potato tops (leaves). It was delish and only $1.20!

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While the girls relaxed in the hot tub that night, us mom’s all went to Costco (which, for me, was almost as exciting as the tournament). It was insane! We got there at 8:30pm, and it was so crowded! There were three levels of parking and we could barely find a spot.  I guess the three other people in this photo doesn’t really show the crowds….oh well. Either way, I was excited to be there!

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Samples were a little different in Taiwan – rice and seaweed!

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When I got back, I checked in on the girls.

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The next day, we didn’t play until 3:30pm! Everyone else had two matches that day, but we only had one against the host school and defending champs. So we decided to hit up downtown Taichung for some sightseeing and dumpling-eating.

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The restaurant is kind of famous, I think, but I’ll never remember what it was called, as it was mandarin. Anyway, they have a whole assembly line making these soup-filled dumplings. It was impressive.

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You’re supposed to pick up the dumpling with chopsticks, put it in your soup spoon, poke a hole in the dumpling and suck the soup out, and then eat the rest. They were more expensive than the street dumplings, but so worth the money!

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We lost our match that night in 2 sets. Blah. We played badly with lots of missed serves and hits into the net. It was crazy. Needless to say, I was the one who needed to hit the hot tub that night! Everyone else went out to eat, but I needed some alone time.

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The pool area was amazing. I wish I could’ve gone up there every day. It was on the roof of the hotel. There was a really hot tub/really cold tub set up, where you alternate between the two for some fun invigoration. There was a sauna and steam room. My favorite was this big hot pool. It had six stations of different water spa spouts. When turned on, they spray water and bubbles in different ways, targeted at different body parts.

These two chinese guys and I really loved it.

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The next day, we had two more pool play games, followed by the start of  the elimination rounds. After two difficult losses in pool play, followed by a team pow-wow and coaches meetings with the captains, the girls came out A-Mazing and never looked back. We beat Dalat and then ICS Hong Kong. We tied for 2,3,4 seed with a 4-2 record, but we ended up with 4th seed because of head-to-head and win/loss numbers.

The seniors on this team have NEVER won in elimination of any tournament. Remember last year, when we were seeded #1 and then lost in the first round of elimination? How does that happen? It’s been a major mental block for all of us. Anyway, that afternoon, the girls came out ready to win, and they did! It was so fun to watch them because they were unstoppable. It felt so great to have that 4-year long burden lifted off of our shoulders!

We attributed it to our lucky bananas. We kept bringing them to every game, but no one was eating them. They just kept getting worse, but we kept getting better!

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Alright, my back hurts, so I’m going to sign off for now. I hate back pain! I don’t remember hurting it, but it’s been kicking my butt for a month now! Hopefully now that vb is over, I can let it heal properly!

Dumplings and Milk Tea….oh! And volleyball

26 Oct

Trips with my volleyball teams are ALWAYS incredible and memorable, and this one was no different! Looking at the pics already makes me miss it, miss the season, and makes me not want to leave next year! I don’t know if they need me, but I definitely want them!

We were supposed to leave right after school last Monday, but a huge typhoon up north cancelled school for the day. All we had was some wind and rain, but there was some pretty huge destruction up north. Anyone know where Taiwan is? Right in the path of the typhoon. That, of course, delayed air traffic, so we didn’t leave Manila until after we should’ve arrived in Taiwan! Ick.

All smiles, before the delay.

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After waiting at our gate for hours and hours.

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Yay, all smiles again! We finally boarded!  We had a bumpy ride as we got up over the typhoon, but once we were high enough, it was smooth sailing until we touched down in Taipei.

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We had a 1.5 hour ride to Taichung, where the tournament was. We didn’t get to sleep until about 3am! That’s just how a coach likes to start a week-long tournament. Thankfully, we arrived a day early, so we all got about 6 1/2 hours of sleep. Then we headed over to the school for a little practice, just to get comfortable with the balls, the gym, or at least make us feel like we are putting ourselves at an advantage!

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After practice, we walked to the village behind the school. I don’t know what we would’ve done without one of our players, who just happened to grow up in Taichung. She knew where all the good food was and could speak mandarin. Without her, we would’ve just been walking around like zombies, grunting and pointing in the only way we could communicate in a country that speaks next to no english, looking for the golden arches of McDonalds.

She took us for some insane dumplings. I ordered 10 pcs., and when they told me that my total bill was 30NT, I thought to myself, “Wait. Isn’t the exchange rate 31NT = $1? Folks, my amazing lunch cost $1! My dumplings were $.10 ea. From that moment on, I put everything into dumpling currency. The taxi ride was NT1oo, nope, it was 33 dumplings.

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While we were waiting for our dumplings, we all went to get milk tea. Taiwan is the home of milk tea, preferably with pearls, jelly, or anything else that can be slurped up through a fat straw. The pearls (big tapioca balls) are my favorite, but I don’t usually order them because they have a lot of sugar in them. But when in Taiwan….you know.

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After lunch, we took cabs back to the hotel. I told the girls that they needed to nap or at least lay low for the afternoon. I, of course, put my PJ’s back on, turned the air con on full blast and burrowed under my down-ish comforter. It was a perfect nap, where I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go!

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I was loving the opportunity to spread out in the big bed….but I also loved when a bunch of players took all that space away too.

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That night, we had the welcome dinner with all of the other teams.

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It was fun for the girls to see some friends from the other schools. All of the coaches were the same as last year, so they remembered that Simeon had just been born during the tournament last year. They kept asking if it was hard to leave all the kids. I answered, probably too quickly, “I miss them, but I. Am. Good. I like being in charge of 9 teens who can take care of themselves!”

The next day was the start of the tournament. We had a the expected first game jitters, but snapped out of it really quickly, and beat St. Paul from Guam in 2 sets.

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We had a one game break and then played Grace Int’l School from Thailand. We played amazing that game and took them in two sets as well. After the game, we prayed together. I love seeing this kind of sportsmanship in high schoolers!

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After the game, we ate lunch at the school (which, btdub, wasn’t great and cost 33 dumplings) and then it was time for our ministry day. All of the teams came together and buddied up with a special-needs child for the day. They were precious, sweet, and interactive!

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We were just a couple of minutes late because we snuck out for some milk tea. shhhhhh.

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After the ministry time, we had one more pool play match against YISS from Korea. They were the team that knocked us out of the winners bracket last year, and they took it to us pretty easily in 2 sets. We didn’t play so well. Lots of missed serves and hits into the net. Ick. I chalked it up to a long day. Plus, I participated in that parachute activity and my arms were tired after a few minutes! I can only imagine how hard it was to play a third match of the day after that!

 

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That’s all I’ll post for today. I have to unpack still!