Thursday, January 14, 2010

Want to hear all about my vacation? (I know this is a week late)

So I guess I promised you information about my stellar North American vacation and I never gave it to you.

I'm sorry to have strung you along, but here we go (Warning: This is a long one).

Mei Guo, ahoy!

So getting to America was easy and great. I sat next to this Chinese girl and I had a window seat. The girl and I never talked because every time I so much as looked at her she turned the other way. Some people just aren't down for trying to talk to strangers.

My sister and her husband picked me up from the airport, immediately bought me coffee and then took me home where they made me eggs and bacon. Have I ever told you how much I love bacon (or my sister)?

You can buy bacon in Taiwan, but it's expensive and not the best quality. Meat in general is difficult to buy here. I think I just have particular expectations about how to buy meat. It's the Texan in me.

Anyway, I spent quite a bit of time reading and eating while in Seattle. When my niece came home she didn't immediately see me in the living room. Apparently she had "forgotten" I would be there, but when she finally saw me she pounced.

It was a hug I could not escape.

My second day in Seattle I got to meet a reader and his family. He is a very nice Taiwanese man married to a woman from Queens, NY and they have two very polite sons. We met for lunch and talked about Taiwan and living abroad and health care and China.

It was a very illuminating conversation to say the least. I find that many of the Taiwanese people I know here either don't care to talk about these things with a foreigner or simply aren't confident enough in their English ability to try. I always want to learn more about Taiwan (and especially Cross-Straight relations) but I'd like to hear it from people instead of Wiki.

The land of Tex-Mex, BBQ and Joy

Then I went to Texas for nine days. Oh how I missed Texas.

Madison (my sister's daughter) and I boarded a flight which headed for D/FW. From there we grabbed my niece Lauren (my brother's daughter) at the boarding gate and rushed onto the plane which took us to Austin.

Upon landing, we immediately went to Taco Cabana. Madi and I hadn't eaten since leaving Seattle that morning so we were starved. Beef tacos, queso, and flour tortillas never tasted so good. Oh!, did I mention the Dr. Pepper?

While in Texas, I replaced green tea with Dr. Pepper. Obviously slightly less healthy, but acceptable in the levels of caffeine and tastiness.

I spent the first four days in Texas with just my family. So Dec. 22 to Dec. 25 was just me, the girls, mom and dad and then Christmas Eve my brother, his wife and his son came as well as a family friend who I just consider family. Not sure if I would consider him more of a brother or an uncle, but it's family none the less.

I had a BLAST playing with the kids. Before I left Evan was only 8 months old and I was a little afraid to hold him because he was squirmy. The irony in this is that when Madison and my older two nephews were born I was 10 and 12 and had zero issues with holding a baby. The difference — I wasn't anywhere near the age of motherhood.

I think the fact that half my friends from high school are married or getting married and on the brink of childbearing kind of freaks me out.

But now Evan is 14 months old and I can throw him in the air and chase him around the room and tickle him and dance with him. Oh my goodness, can I just start with a toddler and skip all that infant nonsense? I know they're cute and all, but toddlers are way more entertaining.

But after four days with just the family, no matter how much I love them, I was a bit overwhelmed and I needed to get out of the house. Don't get me wrong, it was good to see everyone, but I'm not around people now nearly as often as I used to be. It gets to be too much.

So I went out with friends to one of our old hang out spots. It was weird being back at the Hole in the Wall just across the street from (old) The Daily Texan office again.

The next night, I couldn't hack it and I ended up staying in. I guess after just over a week of constantly being around people I was a bit exhausted. I passed out at something like 9 o'clock. The next few nights were off and on going out with friends, having drinks at our old hang outs, going to lunch at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, etc.

Even hanging out with my friends got to be a little exhausting at times that we were in big groups though. Again, I love them, but I can't handle being around so many people at once anymore.

It was good to see everyone and thats when I realized I would be happy living in Austin again, but only if I had a real job that allowed and afforded me the time and ability to do enjoy myself. That said, there's only so much I can do to make someone give me a job, so until then, I'll keep doing this whole visiting thing.

I also went to Fredericksburg with Flannery where I bought Chili mix and raspberry jalapeno jelly. I have no idea what to do with raspberry jalapeno jelly, but it tastes awesome and I'll figure it out.

New Years Eve was great. It was like a Daily Texan staff party circa 2005. Half the people on staff from my first year or two at the Texan were there. Luckily, a lot of those people are really good friends of mine, so all in all, a great way to bring in the new year.

Back to traveling

Then it was back to traveling. Madison and I had to be at the airport bright and early (10 a.m.) New Years Day and we both insisted on eating breakfast. We grabbed some breakfast tacos at Taco Cabana on our way (mmm chorizo, egg and cheese...). We learned our lesson from the previous time and bought some Schlotzsky's (it's an Austin-born sandwich joint) for on the flight while we were waiting to board the plane.... which had mechanical issues.

Apparently there was something wrong with the air-conditioner so they spent an hour trying to fix it. Unfortunately, our lay-over in Houston was only supposed to be an hour so we were certain to miss out connecting flight which would make us late to Seattle which would make our subsequent drive to Whistler even later.

I panicked a little.

Luckily, our connecting flight also had maintenance problems (and so did several of the other flights that were also connecting to it). Doesn't that make you feel great about flying Continental Airlines?

We boarded the plane at the same time as the other passengers, but then the plane sat there waiting for a few passengers connecting from a flight coming from Atlanta. Now, my only comment about this is that if it had come down to it, they would not have asked the plane to wait for me, Madi and the other woman on our flight from Austin who was going to Seattle. We just would have been out of luck.

We ended up arriving in Seattle almost on time. I think the pilot seriously laid down on the accelerator here.

Then it was off the Canada!

Oh Canada!

We arrived at Whistler at around 10:30 or 11 p.m. New Years Day only to have to walk up a million stairs with all of out stuff. For the first time ever, Gwen found us a cute little ski-in-ski-out condo about a five minute walk from the Creekside Gondola. This was our first time at Whistler, but not our first time snowboarding.

We've been going skiing and snowboarding since I was 15 or 16.

I have to tell you, I think I prefer the snow in the Rockies. Don't get me wrong, I loved that there was so much terrain and all the paths were super wide open, but that snow hurt.

At the top of the mountain, it was a little powdery and it was pretty nice. In the middle of the mountain, you were surrounded by clouds — so visibility was low — and the snow was packed super hard. Since the snow in Canada is really wet (unlike the Rockies) it packed like ice.

Falling hurt. Falling hurt a lot. There were actually a couple times that I fell and just kept sliding because the side of my board wouldn't dig in enough to stop me.

I tried to have fun, but I ended up coming out exhausted and beat up instead. I will keep trying to like it though. No worries though, Gwenny and I spent the next day doing a Whistler pub crawl.

My sister and I don't get a whole lot of opportunities to go out drinking together and this in particular was unique because there was a bus that would take us back to the condo once we were sufficiently buzzed.

We went around to five or six bars including one that I think was supposed to be Texas-y (called The Longhorn, good burgers by the way) and an Irish pub I can't remember the name of. At the Irish pub, we listened to Celtic music (this guy with a guitar and this girl who was an amazing fiddler), ate perogies (OMG!), and talked to these old Irish and English men.

It was entertaining to say the least.

We spent the next day in Vancouver at China town. It was super exciting but we did get some Vietnamese food which I really enjoyed.

Traveling "home"

I've been using the word home sort of profusely. I think I generally use it for where I am at the time, but in all honesty, it's both Texas and Taiwan. "Home is where the heart is," but I think it's probably also where all your stuff is/where you spend all your time.

On January 5th, I went to the airport and boarded the plane like any other time. Only this time, I got to sit on the plane at the gate for three hours. After the first hour they told us there was a problem with the engine starter that they needed to fix and it would take about an hour.

OK, no biggie, I have a book and my iPod. I'm fine.

After they finished doing what they were doing, it still didn't work. Apparently it wasn't the starter, but "the box under the starter", which they also happen to have the part for, but it would also take an hour because they would have to remove the starter again.

Around hour three they decided to deboard the plane, at which point they handed us each a voucher for $5. Now you tell me, what the hell can you buy for $5 at an airport? Nothing.

I had a beer and put the $5 toward my quesadillas which cost $11. Thanks for nothing Northwest Airlines.

When deboarding they said we would be boarding another plane shortly. Well, two hours later they handed us vouchers for a hotel room and another $7 meal voucher to use at the restaurant next door to the hotel. Can you get anything there for $7? Nope, It's a steakhouse.

I arrived back at the airport at 5 a.m. waited two hours to board the plane, waited on the plane for another 1.5 hours and it finally took off at 8:30 a.m.

I was definitely going to miss my flight from Tokyo to Taipei not to mention my first night back to work.

Luckily I had already let my boss know that.

Upon arrival to Tokyo I found out they had put me on a China Airlines flight that didn't take off for another three hours so I was stuck there for quite a while. That flight ended up also taking off an hour late.

All in all, I got home at around 7 p.m. Thursday night in Taiwan. I took a shower, started to read and passed out to the garbage truck song around 8 p.m.

I was exhausted and that's why I'm never flying Northwest or Delta again... accept maybe to use that $100 voucher they gave me.

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