Sleeping in Seattle

It was supposed to be a birthday trip, but funds were too tight in November to make it happen, so we waited until we could do it right.  With only a few days notice, we decided to go last weekend for  weekend trip.

We caught the bus early to head to the train station downtown .20130227-194514.jpg

It was the first time we’ve ridden a train together in the States and we couldn’t help but compare it to the trains in Vietnam. I couldn’t help but wish we were paying Viet prices (the same trip there would have cost less than $5/each). 20130227-194742.jpg

Audrey wanted pasta carbonara, but the only Italian place we could find didn’t serve it. Instead she got lasagna that came without noodles. Weird. 20130227-194807.jpg

We took the underground tour, though I was obviously the only one really interested in it. Sigh. It was my second trip through and not nearly as interesting as the first time six years ago. 20130227-194958.jpg

The Gum Wall has been there forever, even in the early ’90s when their father and I used to frequent Seattle, but Audrey had never been. She got her first up-close experience. Ew. 20130227-195050.jpg

The light fixtures at Pike Place were amazing. So was the heavy stench of pot being smoked down below us.20130227-195126.jpg

Audrey and Stuart both got their fortunes over by the Big Wheel on the pier, but hers was mind-blowing in its appropriateness for the moment. 20130227-195159.jpg

Our other splurge was visiting the EMP with its leather jacket displays and video game exhibit. 20130227-193742.jpg

We picked up junk food on our second visit to Pike Place.20130227-193722.jpg

The Seattle Public Library was well worth the visit and I have no idea why it’s taken me two decades to venture inside. 20130227-193657.jpg

It’s an amazing library, really. 20130227-193609.jpg

A little call to home in Oregon from a vintage newspaper. 20130227-193638.jpg

Then a late dinner at Deli No More before catching the Bolt bus home. 20130227-193537.jpg

A happy birthday weekend, even if it was a little late.

Weekend Away

One of the real perks for being with the GuyFriend is that he forces me to slow down sometimes. I tend to have twenty-plus irons in the fire at all times and rarely feel like I can take a breath, let alone a day off to do nothing. My to-do list isn’t getting any shorter that way, y’know.

But it’s amazing to me how great it is for my body and soul to just not worry about that list for a little while. We got home late Sunday afternoon from a three-day trip to Waldo Lake in central Oregon, a respite I needed.

It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized just how much sitting at a desk all day is impairing my healing from the rear-ending accidents. Despite walking for nearly 7 miles on Saturday, my neck didn’t hurt (though I’ll admit to a slight back ache). Even on Sunday, after two nights on the cold, hard ground, my neck could still move without pain. The two stiff bands of muscles that have failed to stop seizing for months, relaxed. There was none of the non-stop ache I’ve come to expect. There were no painful headaches that are a nearly-daily occurrence during the work-week.

I wanted to stay out there longer, avoid going back to the tasks that make me hurt, ache and rely on pain meds. But here I am, back at a keyboard and already my shoulders have tightened, the right side of my neck is aching and the headache is back. Luckily, I have pictures to remind me of the peace that comes with leaving a to-do list at home.

Isn’t Life Just Weird

Well, we finally made it back to our house–Audrey and I spent two months with our friends and Stuart spent nearly three months away. The last bits of work (floor, priming, painting, trim) being done by us so we could finally just get him back in the house and living with us. So incredibly frustrating. But he’s back. Sort of.

The weekend after he moved back then he took off to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Luckily, I got to go along, too, to chaperone since it was a school trip. Four days of hanging out with high schoolers was plenty, though I can’t complain much. They’re great kids, some I’ve known for years. And I got to see top-notch plays, which I would have never had the chance to do otherwise. We saw “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Imaginary Invalid,” “Measure by Measure” and “The Language Archive.” I bailed on “Julius Caesar” one night thanks to just not feeling good. I think it was a mix of elevation and loneliness, neither of which I am used to. But the plays were marvelous. It was wonderful to hang out with my son again, it’s been a long three months without him around. Of course, he left again, two days after returning, to be an Outdoor School counselor yet again. I’ll see him again on Friday and this time he’s sticking around for a little while.

I’m still looking for work, but decided to put my skills to some use while I hunted for a “real” job. The results are at my new Etsy store: Crinkle Dreams. Crazy and fun and everything I really love to do. I hadn’t really thought about how the crafty movement had used to Internet to blossom and truthfully, I wish it had happened just a few years earlier when I’d had Girly Girl Aprons going. I’d worked so hard to make that a viable business. It did well, but I grew tired of trying to convince people to wear aprons. And now, six years later, everyone is wearing and selling them. Oh well. Now, it’s mixed fabric specialties, mostly. Purses, wallets and my time-consuming favorite: baby quilts. Two more are in process, one a custom order and the other, an overly pink one. Sweet.

Vietnam still calls my name, but I’ll be heading to Belize this summer with the GuyFriend instead. Vietnam for the long-term next year, I think. Audrey can start high school in Hanoi and it will make me so very happy.

And Stuart? He’ll be graduating in just two weeks. So strange. All of it.

another chapter down

You’d think I just wouldn’t want to stop writing about our travels in Vietnam, but truth be told it’s been almost a month since I went to task on it. The process is always a tad bittersweet for me. Vietnam was wonderful and it was hard. Some days I miss the place so much I can barely breathe for the ache of returning. But those are the days when life here is especially hard, when the money is scarce and the singleness turns to loneliness.

When I write about our travels, though, it always brings back the ache. I want to be on the train again. I want to eat bun cha at the Thanh Hoa market. I want to sit on the porch breaking open red watermelon seeds with friends.

So sometimes I avoid writing, like I have for all of September (the month I hate). But today I forced it. Did some editing, some writing and made a small amount of progress on a first draft I really must finish.

Here’s a blip from today’s output about how it really felt:

Through the dust-stained window of our train compartment, I watch as the sun breaks over the horizon. It casts a blue tint across the sodden rice fields that stretch as far as I can see. The bunk above me creaks with Stuart’s shifting weight. Audrey is still asleep in the bunk across from him, her bare feet poking out from under the woolen blanket. She faces the wall, hiding from the light as it floods in through our eastern-facing window.

We are due to arrive in Hanoi in only an hour, with sixteen hours and a handful of bunkmates already passed. The bottom bunk, across from mine, is empty again. When I’d fallen asleep it had been occupied by a grandfatherly fellow, white hair and sporadic beard, reading a local paper. Sometime during the night, as we’d tossed and swayed alongside Highway 1, I’d awoken to find a woman sleeping there; slack-jawed and breathing loudly. But as the sun rises, the bunk is empty and the blankets are tossed aside under the bed lamp.

It’s just the three of us here, bumping along the train tracks into Hanoi. We are truly on our own; no one to house us, feed us, drive us where we need to go. No one to set a schedule or make hotel reservations. It’s all up to me from here on out. And I can’t confess to anyone just how utterly overwhelmed I am by this.

I spent countless hours at the Internet cafe searching for houses and jobs and still couldn’t find anything that would work for us. Nothing. So here I am dragging my children northward to be homeless and unemployed with me in the overcrowded capitol city of this Third World Country because I’m too bullheaded to admit defeat. This move will surely seal my win for the 2007 Mother of the Year award.

Sometimes I don’t know why I’m doing this or why I’m so hellbent on staying here. I don’t even truly understand my determination to get here in the first place, besides the obvious win-him-back and show-the-kids-the-world reasons. But, really, what kind of mother makes her kids sell all their toys then moves them halfway around the world without any sort of back-up plan in place? A lousy one, like me.

It’s taken me eight weeks in-country to realize the magnitude of what we’re doing and it isn’t going to get any easier. We’ve managed to give up all we knew to experience this and I’m sure I could take the kids back to the States, fully satisfied with all they’ve done over the last two months. They’ve seen more of this big blue marble than most kids and the time with the orphans in Tam Ky has truly been priceless. It wouldn’t be a shame to go home. But it would feel like giving up.

I’ll give it a month. I have enough money in the bank from the recent tax refund to get us tickets back. If I haven’t found a job by the end of March, I promise to swallow my pride and take the kids home.

Hammock

In the last few days before we left Thanh Hoa last September, I asked Mr. Thanh to help me with some shopping. I really wanted a hammock. They are all over Vietnam, in all sorts of styles. In Hanoi, street vendors try to sell them to the Westerners–“Silk. Very nice. You buy only $20.” I never took them up on the offer because one, I think they were lying about the silk part and two, I wanted the green one with a stand.

the streets of Thanh Hoa

Mr. Thanh drove me on his motorbike from one shop to another, our helmets perched, unbuckled, on our heads. We finally found a shop that carried them and Mr. Thanh asked the price. 250,000 VND. A good chunk of change in those parts. I couldn’t bargain with any grace, so I asked Mr. Thanh if he would ask her to take 150,000 VND. I remember he looked a little worried; they talked back and forth for a bit and he asked if I’d pay 200,000 VND. Of course, I would. So we exchanged cash for hammock and I climbed on to the back of his bike again, holding the hammock to my chest.

“Sorry, Miss Teresa,” he yelled to me.
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Day Eight: Los Angeles or Bust

Odometer Reading: 1025

I’d hoped to take the Pacific Coast Highway down to my sister’s, but after talking to Uncle Dennis and my brother-in-law Will, they convinced me that it was foolhardy to think we could make it down there in one day. It would slow-going and expensive, two things I didn’t really want. So, instead, we rose early and got back onto my least favorite highway: I-5.

Eight hours later, we rolled into Los Angeles swarming with people and pollution. Just being in LA makes me a little insane and I’m sure the kids were completely baffled by the dramatic rise in my stress level, but the highways just mix and mingle and get all backed up and I feel like I might just lose my mind. I’m sure it has to do with the fact that I’m the driver; I didn’t stress out in Bangkok, Hanoi, Boston or New York City, but I never had to drive there. In LA, I really feel like I’m gonna blow my top. Music turns off. Kids keep quiet and my knuckles turn white on the steering wheel.

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Day Seven: Sardines and San Juan Bautista

Odometer Reading: 878

Moving everything up a day, we decided that we’d visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium while staying in Gilroy since it was close enough and besides, then we wouldn’t have to pull out all that camping gear yet again. So, for an hour I bugged the kids to get up and at ’em, hoping they’d be a tad more excited about seeing what is supposed to be one of the world’s best aquariums. We managed to get out on time, though and headed further west to the ocean.

California beaches aren't what they're said to be

Unfortunately as we reached the shore, there was nothing great to be said about it. It looked remarkably like an Oregon beach: cool, grey, cloudy and it stank. Luckily, we weren’t going for a day of sunbathing, we were there for the aquarium, but it sure would have been nice to see the supposedly-beautiful California beaches that people ramble on about.

Pictures after the jump
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Day Six: On the Road Again

Odometer Reading: 738

There was no rush to hit the highway again, so we took the morning as it came: repacking our bags and then the car. Every time it’s like a game of Tetris, making sure that each piece fits as tightly as possible into the previous bags with no gaps. Somehow we got it all back in and by 11 a.m. we were pulling out the driveway of Aunt Diana’s place and heading to I-5 yet again.

barren and boring

If you’ve driven I-5 in Oregon, you know how green and beautiful it can be, trees nestled up to the highway’s edges and mountains in any direction it seems. Let’s just say that California’s I-5 is nothing like that. Here it’s dry and brown and barren and flat. In other words, beautiful for about 10 seconds then as boring as all get out
for the next 200 miles.

Lilyana and Audrey kung fu-style

We stopped somewhere along that golden highway to take photos, a viewpoint with this sign designating it as Orestimba, Dry and hot, the kids didn’t want to stay long and I can’t imagine why anyone would live out there, but apparently they do. The flatlands are sprinkled with farm houses and plots of irrigated fields. Still not for me.

The drive to Gilroy, as I may have mentioned, was pretty boring, but we listened to a couple episodes of our new favorite podcast, Radiolab to kill the time. And at the rest stop the girls came up with their own entertainment–using the car door as a funhouse mirror. I checked out the map to figure out how many more miles of dry grass fields we’d have to get to see and they took pictures of themselves in all sorts of poses. Stuart just waited, patient as always.

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Day Five: Day of Rest

After not getting to bed until after 11 p.m. and having spent the entire day either walking or screaming, we were all exhausted. I couldn’t even bear to wake the kids and let them rouse on their own schedules. By 11 a.m. everyone was awake again.

It was also nearly 100°F outside. Somehow we’ve landed in Sacramento during their first real extended heat wave. Awesome.

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Day Four: Screaming is Fun

When I was just barely six years old we moved from Sacramento, CA (near my father’s family) to Newberg, OR (to be near my mother’s family). I don’t know how soon it started, but it became a tradition that nearly every summer, I would go down to Sacramento–first with just Marcella, then when Stephanie was old enough, the three of us–to stay with Grandma. We’d visit Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Carl. We’d go stay with Aunt Diana for a few days. And they would take us places: parks, the Sacto zoo, Disneyland once and several times we went to Marriott’s Great America.

Aunt Diana and the kiddos

Back then it was owned by Marriott, the hotel chain, but after several name/owner changes, it is now called California’s Great America. I have some fond memories of riding the rollercoasters and the freefall ride, the carousel that greets visitors and being there with family. So, when my Aunt Diana, who was hosting us in Sacramento, asked whether we’d like to go to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom or Great America, the decision was easy for me. We all went to Six Flags on our last big California trip in 2002 and there was something nostalgically wonderful about Aunt Diana taking another generation, my kiddos, to the same park we’d enjoyed twenty years ago.

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