After nearly a decade in the Foreign Service, the appeal of the lifestyle has lost none of its luster even if the novelty of the experience has worn off a bit, both for us and our loved ones.
Posts tagged ‘siblings’
Arriving in Ha Long after spending the better part of a week in rural Vietnam is a bit of a shock to the senses. Parts of the city along Vietnam’s most famous bay feel like they have been transplanted from Europe; the French architectural influence is unmistakable. And whereas we hardly saw a soul in Pu Luong, at the Ha Long boat terminal we found an assembly line-like tourist infrastructure designed to process thousands of visitors per day. Six million foreigners visit Ha Long Bay each year, making it far and away Vietnam’s top tourist attraction.
Another weekend, another trip to Rizal. Last time, we got a bunch of our friends together for an adults-only playscape adventure. This time, we planned the outing with our kids’ social circle in mind, joining forces with another family for a weekend getaway in the foothills of Mt. Purro.
We didn’t quite know what to expect in Vietnam, but Trang An – the first place we visited after transferring from Pu Luong to Ninh Binh – matched to a tee the expectations we did not realize we had been harboring. After spending a few days off the beaten path in rural Vietnam, Trang An – a UNESCO World Heritage complex of caves, water canals, and temples – was a sight to behold.
The last couple of months, Junebug has hit the sweet spot of toddler babble, thanks in no small part to her weekly speech therapy lessons. After being almost completely non-verbal at age two, Junebug has become a regular chatterbox just six months later. Although we understand her quite well, her speech remains muddled, as she mixes up letters, speaks in incomplete sentences, and trips over herself in her exuberance to articulate her thoughts. The result is an immensely adorable toddler diction that makes us want to record every one of her monologues for posterity.
As an island nation that straddles five geological fault lines along the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines endures far more than its fair share of natural disasters. Earthquakes, tropical storms of all stripes, and volcanic eruptions routinely exact a fearsome toll on the archipelago. On the upside, this is a uniquely beautiful country to call home for a few years and, in some ways, Manila has proved a far better posting than our previous assignments. The last couple of weeks in particular have underscored this dichotomy, as a volcano we hiked just a few months ago blanketed Manila with ash several days before we headed out to Palawan for a beach vacation with S’s visiting family.
The end of one year and the beginning of another tends to invite reflection. As Munchkin nears his sixth birthday and Junebug begins her second semester of preschool, we can’t help but marvel at how different our two kids are. Even as Junebug endeavors to follow in Munchkin’s every step, she has developed a personality so distinctly her own that oftentimes it feels that our kids are mirror twins, their characters polar opposites of each other.
We saved the best for last, spending the tail end of our journey to Japan at an onsen in the Japanese Alps. Fresh mountain air and spectacular scenery greeted us in the mornings. Elaborate home-cooked meals and a natural hot spring right outside our door awaited in the evening when we returned from the day’s adventuring. At the outset, when our kids were putting us through our paces, we had caught ourselves looking forward to the end of this trip. As soon as we had checked into the onsen, donned our yukata robes, and taken a hot dip in the chilly shadow of the Hida Mountains, however, we wished our sojourn to Japan would stretch on indefinitely.
One of the reasons we had chosen Japan for our late October trip instead of the numerous destinations in Southeast Asia that are on our travel list was our nostalgia for autumn. Kyoto, in particular, was rumored to be breathtakingly beautiful in the fall, with its ancient temples surrounded by colorful foliage. We got a heavy dose of autumnal weather, but not much in the way of scenic landscapes during our five-day stay in the Kansai area. Fortunately, we found what we sought in the mountains.