Monday, December 17, 2012

Seeing Santa in Portland

Want to see Santa while you are in Portland?  Breakfast with Santa at McMenamins locations was pretty sweet - we sat and ate, saw Santa when the line was short and then went back to our breakfast.  The food was good, it was relaxed and we got the iconic "Santa is scary" photo.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas prep

We bought sugar cookie mix at the holiday bazar last weekend and of course needed to make them before we head home at the end of the week.  When I took the dough out of the fridge and it crumbled in my hands I thought all was lost (we used super chunk sugar, weird butter with an eyeballed measurement and had refrigerated way longer than the recipe called for) but Jeremiah persevered knowing sugar cookies are one of my favorite christmas traditions.  Glad he did because these cookies are delicious!

Jeremiah's book cookie (getting ready to start his librarian/media specialist program)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A local water spot

Baths, laundry, drinking and cooking water all in one place.  I try to think of this when I want to complain about our water situation.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Family photos

Getting professional family photos can be tricky as an expat.  For us, finding someone to do what we want locally was hard, and finding the time when we are home for breaks is nearly impossible.  We've been pretty set on getting some done and we wanted something that reflected where we are living for a couple of reasons.  It's important for us to have representations of where we have lived to take with us as we move to help Tegan have a sense of where she's lived and have consistent objects around (pictures are small and flat and take up little room in a box!).  And, we want to document our growing family for ourselves and to share with extended family and friends.

Lucky us, we discovered our good friend - Peter Hennigar - is a pretty amazing photographer!  It was a great morning out, full of laughing and onlookers.  He has a young family also so was great with a very cranky Tegan, knew that we wanted a bit of Nepal charm in our photos and shot a whole bunch of different styles.  The highlight had to be either the man joining our photo second photo down or changing from jeans into the skirt in the middle of the square with a rather surprised audience.  We are ecstatic with how they turned out.  I can't wait to get them printed and up on the walls!

If you are living in or visiting Nepal and want some more info check out his site at Hennigar Photography.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Sometimes homesickness hits hard and drastic measures are needed.  Jeremiah recognized the severity of this last bout of mine and ordered us some supplies to make it through until we go home for Christmas.  Yup, pretty lucky aren't I?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Balthali to Namo Buddha

For Tihar we spent a few days away from home.  Along with 2 other couples we hiked into Balthali resort (the term "resort" applied very liberally), spent the night then hiked to Namo Buddha resort where we spent another night.  The first hike was only an hour or so (with 2 kids under 3 years old) while the second day took more like 4-5 hours.  The views were amazing and we loved Namo Buddha resort with its little hobbit-like houses.  We will certainly go back!

Scary bridge

View from our room at Balthali

Balthali morning

Tihar decorations

Prayer flags and Himalaya mountains

Namo Buddha knows what kids want

Hobbit house doorway

Amazing views!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Load shedding

Current load-shedding schedule.  We are group 1.  Tomorrow - no electricity from 7:30am-12pm and 5:00-10:30pm.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

National Adoption Month {Guest post!}

Before November is through, I wanted to recognize National Adoption Month.  When I was young, my mom worked for an international adoption agency for the China department.  Since then, hearing stories of families working so hard to adopt babies who so desperately needed a home, I have had great respect for families who come together through adoption.  A number of our good friends have adopted children internationally as expats and I asked one of them to write about their experience.  Krista and her husband Frank have 2 beautiful girls; they have been blogging about all the great activities and ways they are honoring National Adoption Month over here.  Enjoy!

My husband and I are international educators living in Taiwan. When asked to write this guest post from a former coworker and current amazing friend, I was beyond honored. November is a special month in the McGowan household; it’s a time when we honor adoption, our two beautiful girls, and the amazing natural families who made our dream come true. Adoption for us wasn’t out of necessity, it was a choice we made, my husband and I--together. This choice came with it’s ups and downs, as all choices do.

Our story is perhaps a bit different from many adoption stories in that we wanted a private adoption in a foreign country. Navigating through the legal hurdles and obstacles was mind numbing. We finally discovered all we had to do was get a baby, then deal with the legal stuff later. Easy right? Well, that’s where things became difficult. I’ve written about some of the bumps and bruises we experienced along with way on our blog Taichung Teachers.

Adopting in a foreign country is not for the faint of heart. We were 100% dependent on local friends, translators and hope that everything was going smoothly. We spent thousands of dollars translating documents into Chinese and then Chinese documents into English. As court dates drew nearer, we were met with list after list of new documents needed by the Taiwanese courts. These documents were not always accessible. For instance in Taiwan, all nationals are registered to a household and our adoptive girls needed to be registered as well. The problem was, we aren’t Taiwanese nationals and therefore could not have anyone registered to us. The solution by the Taiwanese officials, “just have a friend register the girls under them.” The courts also required we show them our US household registration-which of course we don’t have because there are no household registration cards in the US. This idea was completely foreign to the courts and caused us quite a bit of stress as initially, they were unwilling to bend.

All of these things were problematic, but would have been accepted more positively had all our friends who have adopted gone through the same process. The problem is, every single case required different paperwork. It was as if the judge pulled out of a hat which paper she needed on any given day.

In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, we thought we would finalize our adoptions at home in the good ole U-S-A. We found a lawyer to deal with the re-adoption end and then the search was on to find a lawyer to help us with the citizenship end of things. This is where we hit a wall. Being expats with no desire to head home any time soon, we fall into a grey area. If we wait two years, no problem. If we want it done immediately, major problem. We have to start from scratch with a US home visit and go forward from there.

Adopting abroad has been difficult at times, but worth the struggle. Adopting has been the single best thing I have ever done in my life. However, I’ve found there are little to no resources available for our type of situation (one that I am planning on rectifying as soon as possible). Adopting abroad has expanded my world view beyond what I expected was possible. I now see immigration differently and have been frustrated with my government’s lack of acknowledgement of my children.

With that said, I have found that the greater adoption community is beyond supportive and our friends have stood by us throughout the whole process. At the end of all this struggle, we have been blessed with two darling little girls. Due to the way we did our adoptions, we walked out of the hospital with our girls being 1 day old and 2 days old. This probably wouldn’t have happened for us back home.

We have a rainbow family and one we are incredibly proud of and honored that we were chosen to raise these little monkeys. I don’t refer to myself as an adoptive mother, or my children as adopted children-we are a family built on love. Every night my husband and I read the girls a story, tuck them into beds and kiss them goodnight-just like every other family. Every morning we are greeted with peels of laughter and monster hugs. Whatever difficulties we have experienced become quickly melted away when our little girls look at us and give us big ole cheesy grins. At the end of the day, we are parents, they are our children and we are a family.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Expat Thanksgiving

Last Thanksgiving was a blur.  Tegan wasn't even a month old, we were exhausted and living minute-to-minute and ate take-out Thanksgiving dinner when she was asleep.  Two years ago we had a swanky hotel dinner while in Singapore.  This year?  We went traditional... with lots of Nepal-living adjustments and substitutions.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce hosted at our house with a small group of friends.

Our turkey, from the American club commissary, came Wednesday afternoon.  Frozen.  Operation thaw-turkey-quick commenced.  Despite load-shedding and worries that we'd run out of water the turkey was oven-ready Thursday just a tad late.  Before long we had a full house, a steady rotation of dishes in and out of the oven and a whole lot of laughing.  Did I mention none of our group had ever cooked a turkey, 1 is vegetarian, 2 had never even celebrated Thanksgiving before and our oven's temperature dial simply says "Off - 1 - 2 - 3"?  Yup.  Put that group around a turkey and try to figure out what to do with it.  However, Jeremiah with a Game of Thrones inspired recipe, took the lead and turned out an awesome bird.

Now to tackle the leftovers!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cow puja

Marigold garlands and tikas all around for these cows at Tihar

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tihar Festival

Tihar is a 5 day festival of lights.  There are different days of worship, or puja.  I've seen the schedule of the days vary a little depending on what I read and who I talk to, but here it is generally:
  • Day 1: Kag puja - crows; food and sweets are left on roofs.  
  • Day 2: Kukur puja - dogs; as the messenger of the god of death the dog is worshipped with garlands and tikas.  
  • The morning of day 3: Gai Tihar - cows; a sign of prosperity and wealth they are worshipped with garlands and grasses.  
  • The evening of day 3: Laxmi (goddess of wealth); she is welcomed into home with oil lamps and pathways leading from mandalas.  
  • Day 4: varies depending on a family's beliefs.  
  • Day 5: Bhai Tika - Sisters give their brothers tika.
We had Laxmi Puja done at our house a few days ago.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Free range

On our way to a hike this weekend we passed a common sight - chickens roaming in and out of houses and shops.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Where the heart is

We've been parents for a whole year now - it's been a year of awesomeness.  Most of that year has been spent living abroad, in 2 countries no less.  As we navigate expat living, we are making a conscious effort to make sure we have strong roots in family, traditions, and an idea about what "home" means.  Yes, our daughter is only one, and yes, she won't remember this early stuff, but we are setting the tone for what living overseas looks like for our family.

How are we doing this?  It's definitely a work in progress but here's what we've got so far:

1.  Spend time in the Portland area, what we consider our "home" - when we talk about home, we want Tegan to have connections there.  It may not be what she considers home, but she'll know what we're talking about.
Oregon zoo

2. Have consistent traditions - it's easy to have events and celebrations be different each year when you are abroad, we're making an effort to set things in place that can be the same each year.
Birthdays, St. Patrick's Day, Sunday morning breakfast - all important traditions

3.  Have relationships with extended family - we skype a lot with family, and we're creating a book this Christmas break with everyone's picture in it so while we are in Nepal Tegan can look through it.  I also like the idea of reading night time books over skype as well as recording people reading books aloud to play when we can't skype.
Skyping with her uncle

4.  Have things in our home that are the same no matter where we go - pictures, decorations, special books and toys

5.  Story-telling - we want Tegan to know about the places she's lived, where we are from, who has been a part of her life.  We have books from the countries, pictures, our blog - all to record memories of her life experience and we will tell her stories of the parts of her life she doesn't remember.

6.  Read about and discuss with other families Third Culture Kid issues - I deal with this a lot in my job as a school counselor but of course things are always different when it's your own family.

These things will inevitably be adapted and change as Tegan grows up, but isn't that really what living abroad is all about?  Learning.  Being flexible.  Change.  But within that constant state of flux, we want everyone in our family to feel grounded, both in tangible and intangible ways.

If other families have recommendations about how they do this we would love to hear them!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One of my biggest fears

The dentist.  Just thinking about it makes my heart race.  I know I'm not alone here, you all are cringing now too, right?

In America we did a pretty good job of going in and getting cleanings.  When we moved to Taiwan the dental care just wasn't the same so we put it off a good while.  Right before leaving we both had a cleaning and I needed a few fillings.  Great.  So, I sat down to have it done.  Everything was going just peachy (which in retrospect I should have been suspicious of) when all of a sudden every nerve in my mouth radiated out in fire and I was ready to jump out of the chair and cling to the ceiling.  She had drilled with no novocaine.  "Just 5 more seconds" she said as every muscle in my body is tight and hands gripped the seat.  2nd longest 5 seconds of my life.  (The 1st longest?  "Just push 5 more seconds" about 6 months prior as Tegan was being born).  As soon as her hands were out of my mouth I, politely, informed her that in America we don't drill without anesthetic.

None of it was good.  Except the price I guess, it was quite cheap, though considering the next paragraph and its $300 price tag I negate this positive point.

Fast forward to a week ago.  I was eating lunch and realized the corner of a back molar was missing.  Same area as the filling I'd gotten in Taiwan.  I asked around, got the name of a dentist (Dr. Pollard at CIWEC) and made an appointment.  I dreaded going.  A dentist I didn't know, in Kathmandu no less, and a bit ol' chunk of my tooth gone.  Long appointment short, he was empathetic to my Taiwan story and gave me plenty of anesthetic to get through the work, fixed the bad filling job, and made some recommendations for future work.  He even made small talk and had nice little stories to keep me entertained and calm.

While not all of it was good, it was as good as it could be.

I'm giving myself a little reprieve before I think about the next steps in dental work.   I think I've deserved it.  In the meantime, my toothbrush is my new best friend!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Put on your dancing shoes

We have some great folks here showing us the local culture. Here is a dance demonstration for the Dashain and Tihar festivals.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Just a little rattle

Wouldn't have even guessed it was an earthquake if someone hadn't said something on facebook.  Our windows rattled, enough that I looked at them, but not enough to think more of it.

We've been nominated

We've been nominated as a top Nepal expat blog.  Now granted, there aren't many.  But hey, we'll take it!  Since we're so new to Nepal, we haven't had any feedback in the Nepal category.  If you'd like, visit this site - Expats Blog - and leave a comment. 
Moving to Nepal

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Here and there

Kathmandu, Nepal
and there:
Gimmelwald, Switzerland

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sel roti

Basically a crispy rice donut.  It's commonly served during the festivals, weddings and other celebrations.  I loved it.  Sweet but not too sweet, crispy outside and soft inside. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Let's go fly a kite

Another popular activity during the Dashain holiday is kite flying.  We flew some today, and with these simple kites getting them up and flying is harder than it looks!