Tag Archives: back home

Friends across the sea

12 Nov

One of the wonderful things about all the travel I’ve done this year was the opportunity to see people that I don’t get to see very often.  As long as I know I’ll be in an area and have a little free time I will reach out to people to see if we can spend some time together.  This year was a new record for me.  I have been blessed with wonderful friends who are now scattered all over the world – I like to say that I “collect people” through my life, like the pearls of a necklace.

In February I got to spend a weekend with my sister in Austin, Texas between two sets of meetings for work.  The last time I was in town she was recovering from a knee injury – this time we enjoyed local barbecue at Rudy’s and took a long walk down by the river.  I would go back again for the barbecue in a second – and the banana pudding!  It was a great weekend.

Barbecue!  They even let us try samples before we ordered.

Barbecue! They even let us try samples before we ordered.

Nobody does barbecue like Texas!

Nobody does barbecue like Texas!

A couple of months later I was back in the States again and got to spend a weekend back in my hometown with my best friend and her kids.  We had hamburgers and ice cream and went to the park.  It was the quintessential American weekend – one of those days that made me wonder why I am still living in Shanghai so far away from friends and family and blue skies.  The weekend also made me thankful that I have the resources to travel and the experience to appreciate going home.

Blue skies at the park

Blue skies at the park

In June I managed to connect with a former colleague in the UK at Paddington train station in London before heading off to the airport.  We had a long brunch and traded stories since we had last seen each other, nearly a year before in Singapore.  She has now retired and looked fabulous – rested, relaxed with a bit of a tan.  I hope when I get to that phase of my life I have that many stories to tell.

At the end of June I was in San Francisco and managed to connect with many old friends – both at the actuarial conference that I attended,

An old friend from Chicago who worked in Hong Kong, visited me in Shanghai and went to the same conference in San Francisco.

An old friend from Chicago who worked in Hong Kong, visited me in Shanghai and went to the same conference in San Francisco.

but also a friend from Shanghai who moved back to Canada and was randomly in town for the weekend when I was there.  That connection even surprised me – we both put a photo on social media of the beautiful day in San Francisco and then realized our hotel rooms were on the same street!

Also in San Francisco I met up with a friend from Shanghai who lives there now.  She spent a day taking me to Fisherman’s Wharf where we had seafood and visited the famous Boudin bakery where I bought myself a sourdough roll.  We rode the trolley and explored the city – I even bought a T-shirt.  Sometimes being a tourist is the best way to see a city.

IMG_20140622_115227 IMG_20140622_133336

In July I had a friend come to me – Carissa from Everyday adventures in Asia.  She was in town for work and I was actually in Shanghai that week and volunteered my spare room.  We stayed up way too late to squeeze in every moment of time together  because neither of us know the next time we’ll have the opportunity.

And finally I managed to squeeze in a quick breakfast with an old friend from Shanghai who was in my first Chinese class at Miracle Mandarin when I was in Jakarta in August.  She’s Indonesian, married to an Australian who has lived in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Australia.  Her daughter was born in Shanghai and they moved a couple of years ago back to Jakarta.  We hadn’t seen each other since, but we connected as if we had seen each other the previous weekend.

We even remembered to snap a photo!

We even remembered to snap a photo!

Friends are that way – even when they are across the sea.  Shared experiences and special relationships come together to make a wonderful, welcoming place for me all across the world.  If you’re in my neck of the woods – I’m happy to welcome you too!

Do you have friends across the sea?

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A typhoon? You have got to be kidding!

16 Jul

At the beginning of my last week away from home, my colleagues in Taiwan started to mumble about the weather.

“You know a typhoon is coming, right?”

“Maybe you should go back to China early?”

“It might not be safe, when is your flight?”

As a child of the Midwest, typhoons don’t even make my radar.  Despite living through a typhoon in Shanghai last year, I have never really considered their impact – nor have expected them to impact me.  To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even looking at the weather report in Taiwan.  I knew every day was hot and it would rain after lunch.  Seemed enough of a forecast.

After their constant questions though, I started to do research.  I discovered that Typhoon Soulik was bearing down  directly on Taiwan and impact was expected Friday.  I was supposed to fly back to Shanghai out of Taipei on Friday.  Great.

From my previous post, going back early wasn’t really an option, so either I was moving my flight up on Friday or I had two extra (very rainy) days in Taiwan.  I opted for the former and crossed my fingers that the typhoon wouldn’t pick up speed.

As I walked back to the hotel Thursday night people were soberly boarding up glass windows, covering doors with wood and paper and really battening down the hatches.  I booked a taxi for 6am the next day and the receptionists all started commenting on the typhoon and maybe I should stay longer.   As I packed, I made sure in my carry-on were my rubber shoes and what clean clothes I had left, in case I got to the airport and was separated from my big bag.  I didn’t sleep much that night.

Friday morning bright and early I left for the airport.  The rain hadn’t started but an ominous quiet was over the city.  The trip to the airport took 30 minutes when it should have taken an hour, almost no cars were on the road.  Taoyuan airport was buzzing, everyone was trying to get out.  After I made it through customs I looked out the window – the rain had started.

I ate breakfast in the airport and made my way to the boarding gate.  The airplane pulled up late – it was one of the huge, double decker planes with first class on the top.  I’m guessing that the airline wanted to get as many people out as possible as well.  The 30 minute delay made me very nervous as the sky got darker and darker.  I tried to stay calm but the panic born out of over  five weeks away from home came very close to winning.

But… I did make it out.  If I had stayed for my original 2:30 flight, I would not have been in Shanghai on Friday.  Simply put, sometimes it is worth it to listen to your colleagues.

Typhoon Soulik did make a direct hit on Taiwan late Friday evening and had torrential rain and squalls through mid-day Saturday.  The airports were working again Saturday night and things were pretty much back to normal on Sunday.

You can see it reduced in intensity by the time it hit Taiwan, but still - a direct hit on Taipei!

You can see it reduced in intensity by the time it hit Taiwan, but still – a direct hit on Taipei!

The typhoon didn’t win.   I am finally home.

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