2012 and 2013 were not kind to the Kellenberger or the Marshall families, but we have had plenty of love and support from family and friends to help us through. The last six weeks have been especially difficult for us, but I’m glad to be putting 2013 behind us. We’re looking forward to a positive and successful 2014. Happy New Year to my dear friends and family all over the world!
My resolutions for 2014 are:
- Get my health back. I’m going to achieve remission in 2014.
- Focus on staying positive when negative things affect me.
- Complete a 12 book reading challenge. I’ll read more than 12 books this year, but 12 of them must be five-star books.
- Reduce the amount of stress in my life.
- Travel more. (Is that even possible? I don’t know, but I’m gonna find out!)
Speaking of travel, despite our difficulties this past year, we still found plenty of opportunities to hit the road in 2013.
We kicked Chinese New Year off with a road trip to Kenting in Southern Taiwan. If you’ve been following MSW for a while, you’ll know that John and I love road trips. We drove from Taipei to Kaohsiung in Southern Taiwan in a day and spent the night in Kaoshiung. While we were there, we stopped at Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Taiwan’s largest Buddhist monastery; we visited the crazy temples at Lotus Lake, and we picked up our friend Leanne McNulty before taking a long leisurely route to Kenting. Kenting was gorgeous, although it’s always super busy during Chinese New Year. Luckily, we got a place right on the beach, and our friends Rachel and Tamin joined us for some beach fun a day later. We also snuck in a trip to Maobitou Scenic Area at the southern tip of Taiwan. It was a definitely worth the drive!
Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Monastery
Lotus Lake Pagoda
Kenting on a Friday night
John and I spend time in South Korea every February, simply because we have a contract there with the Ministry of Education. We are getting better acquainted with South Korea, and this year, we did our first power presentation together in Seoul, which was kind of a nice thing for us to do together considering we’re both dominant A personalities. We don’t always work together well, but we passed that hurdle in our relationship this February with flying colors. We also had an unusual dining experience in Seoul at a buddhist vegetarian restaurant called Sanchon.
We visited Macau with Caleb and Moira in July. I was quite sick this summer and I spent most of it laid up, but my traveling heart got the better of me and I braved a short trip to Macau with the family. It’s tough traveling when you’re not well, but my family always helps to take the pressure off. We ended up having a great vacation, and while I couldn’t do much walking around the city, I still managed to get out for some short trips and I enjoyed the pool at our hotel quite a bit! Plus, I got to spend lots of time with Caleb, and that was my favorite part!
In September, I took off to England to see my best friend Claire. It was two years to the date since my last visit to see her. Claire and I met in China in 2004, and we’ve been best friends ever since. My time in England included an extended stay in Brighton (one of my favorite cities), several visits to London (of course) and a road trip to Liverpool, where I witnessed my first live footie game and a night out on the town with my good friends Gemma and Ben Hughes. (You may recall I posted about their wedding in Sandbanks back in October 2011).
Claire and I went to Barcelona, Spain to check out the beach, enjoy lots of wine and tapas, and gawk at Gaudi’s masterpieces. Suffice to say we ended up on the trip of a lifetime and managed to find all sorts of trouble to keep us amused. Claire is one of my favorite people to travel with. We’ve got the same travel style and we got along like two peas in a pod.
I fell in love with Barcelona, as so many travelers do. John has never been. Although we’ve each been to Europe separately, we’ve never been together. I’m thinking we’re going to have to rectify that pretty soon!
Brrr…North Dakota for Thanksgiving was a cold affair. It was our first taste of winter weather since 2008. I like saying that Taiwan has sucked the Canuck right out of me…because it’s true. I’m such a wiener with cold weather now, and it’s just TERRIBLE on my arthritis.
Anyways, our road trip began with some friends from Taiwan. Nate, Heather and their new baby Sam moved to North Dakota a short time ago, and they were right on our way to see John’s brother Bryan. Of course, we couldn’t pass up a chance to see them.
We pushed onwards to Kenmare, North Dakota to see Bryan, Tonya, and their two little boys Jentz and Riall. North Dakota seems a little like the Wild West to me. Everyone drinks all the time (cool!), everyone has guns (no comment), and it took forever to get anywhere (blech).
Tonya’s family owns a bison and elk ranch, so I got to get (semi) up, close and personal with these beasts. Tonya and her parents, Ernie and Shari, cooked Thanksgiving dinner for us. YUM! That afternoon we left for Fargo, North Dakota, where I insisted that John take a photo of me, even though it wasn’t deep winter yet. It was -25 that day, even though there wasn’t much snow.
Some of the bison, by the way, were bigger than our pick-up truck.
We ended up in Minneapolis for a long weekend of shopping Black Friday sales with the Kellenberger and Marshall families. Little did we know that this weekend was the last weekend all of us would be together. I am kicking myself stupid for not insisting on a family photo.
Our flight to Canada was uneventful and we had a day of rest before pressing on to Sundridge, Ontario near North Bay, where I met my niece, Codi-Lyn for the very first time. Codi-Lyn is 7 months, and she’s the spitting image of my little brother. It was a very bittersweet day for me. I was thrilled to pieces to finally meet my darling niece, but I was acutely aware of the fact that my brother never met his daughter. He would be so proud of Michelle and Codi-Lyn!
My last trip of 2013 ended in Carleton Place, Ontario. My hometown, where I am writing to you now, has changed so much since I left Canada almost 11 years ago. It’s hard to recognize in some places, while other favorite haunts of mine haven’t changed a bit. Nevertheless, it’s home and it was the perfect place for me to be during the holiday season. I’ve been sitting at home watching it snow relentlessly for three weeks. We’ve got close to two feet of snow piled up on our back deck at the moment, and the temperature has hovered between -20 and -30.
Again, too cold for me, so I don’t go out much, but I’ve been enjoying the visits from all the woodland creatures that live around my childhood home.
We’ve had loads of deer come to say hello, we have a friendly grouse named Coco who visits several times a week, there are wild turkey parties being held in the field up the road, and the number of birds that flock to our bird-feeders is nothing short of amazing. I could watch them for hours. I’ve enjoyed staying at home so much that I spent New Year’s Eve in with my family for the first time in over 20 years! (Never thought I’d see the day. Sorry, Mom.)
I’m on my way back to Taiwan next week. I haven’t seen John since the 14th, so there’s no end of the year photo from the Kellenbergers this year. We missed our anniversary, Christmas and New Year’s together to spend time with our families. This is part and parcel of leading an expat life, and we just deal with it. I leave you with this photo instead…
2013 held a lot of surprises for us, and it was a punishing year, but there were many bright spots in it as well, as you can see. I’m looking forward to more travels in 2014.