Thursday, July 24, 2014

With Peace And New Beginnings

For over twenty years now, Kalaloch Beach has been my family's go-to annual camping spot, and for good reason. The wide, straight, sandy beach - a rarity in the rocky Pacific Northwest - is an easy walk from the campground and a relatively safe and simple place to spend time with four little girls and a big red dog.

Just a few miles north of Kalaloch, lies a very different sort of beach. Ruby Beach has a lot to recommend: picturesque sea stacks, dramatic cliffs, and an interestingly curved and variable beach. Alas, she also demands certain logistical compromises: there is no campground, so users must drive in to the parking lot up top and hike down a steep trail to reach the shore. 

Back in the day, we visited Ruby once or twice. But with all those tikes in tow, we just weren't willing to give up the convenience of Kalaloch for the novelty and drama of Ruby.

In the past few years, though, things seem to be starting to change. 

We've begun a new tradition of stopping at Ruby on our way home. It's easy and convenient to pop into the parking lot and hike down for an hour or so. 

Everyone is clever enough to pack up a bag of essentials for the outing.
Everyone is big enough to carry what they need.
Everyone is strong enough to hike down and up that steep hill without whining.

Well. Except for me. But I'm only whining for the fun of it.

This year, as we were lollygagging about on the beach and enjoying ourselves immensely, my fourth-born popped up with an interesting idea.

Maybe next year, we can come up here to Ruby and spend a full day, rather than just stopping on our way home. 

Hmm. Yes. Our family traditions can stretch and grow to reflect how we have stretched and grown. We aren't bound to the past, nor are we letting go of our precious memories; we are building on what works to create something new.

So here's to another year's glorious visit to Kalaloch, and an exciting idea for new beginnings.

* * * * *

More stories about this year's camping trip to the Pacific coast:

                                             With Joy And Wild Abandon
                                             With Hope And Desperate Longing
                                             With Peace And New Beginnings

* * * * *

And here are some stories about my 2012 trip to the Kalaloch coast:

                                          It's All About The Food
                                          It's All About Playing On The Beach
                                          It's All About The Sunsets
                                          It's All About The Artistic Inspiration

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

With Hope And Desperate Longing

There's a lot to like about Kalaloch, our favorite camping spot on Washington's Pacific coast. On the very first day of each year's visit, once we get the tent set up and our hunger under control, we usually head down the short trail and find ourselves out on the sand. And inevitably, our first instinct is to turn left and head to the lagoon.

Ranger knows the way.

Here's the thing about the lagoon. It's not really a lagoon. My daughters made up that name when they were young, and it stuck in our family lexicon.

This place is actually a small freshwater lake fed by a stream that runs down from the mountains. Eventually, the current carries the water out to the sea. Heaps of beach logs and mounds of fabulously smooth stones lie here and there around the lake shore. Sheltered from the strong winds off the ocean, this spot makes a perfect and protected natural playground for humans and animals alike.

Ranger loves it here. As usual, he worked up a powerful thirst on the five-minute walk over, and did what always comes naturally to dogs in this place. He promptly waded out into the lake, lapping up water like a little red camel. I held his leash and kept him company.

In the meantime, the rest of the family did what always comes naturally to humans in this place. They climbed. Up across the beach logs, zigging and zagging over the tumbled trunks, until finally they reached the highest spot of the biggest tree.

That's when Ranger looked up.

What's this??
My people went climbing without me!!

Not gonna lie, Ranger has some pretty solid beach-log-climbing skills himself. When he climbs along with us, he can easily scale a tree of this size.

But to turn around and suddenly see his girl up so far away from him - well, that was just too much for the Irish gentleman to bear.

He whined,
He yipped.
He begged and pleaded.

He really wanted to be up with my fourth-born in that tree.

We tried to coax him into jumping.
I struggled to lead him around to the back of the tree where he could more easily climb up.
Failing those strategies, I attempted to distract him with a different adventure.

But Ranger was simply not willing to give up.

My daughter soon took pity on him - or maybe she got tired of her ears bleeding - and decided to climb down. 

Which calmed Ranger considerably. 
And I should have left well enough alone. 

But I kept thinking that it looked so fun to be inside of that upturned tree. I just had to try it for myself.

 Poor Ranger.

He wasn't even mad this time.
He didn't bark or yip or jump around with excited agitation.

He just stood there, ankle deep in the chilly water, staring despondently at first my daughter...

And then up at me.

 Well, here's the thing.

I can handle Ranger when he is naughty or hyper, full of sass or misbehaving.

But I can't resist him when he is sad.

So I climbed out of that tree, jumped back down on the beach, ran over to my poor sad dog, and gave him a great big hug.

Then we all walked home together, and Ranger was glad.

* * * * *

Three stories about this year's camping trip to the Pacific coast:

                                             With Joy And Wild Abandon
                                             With Hope And Desperate Longing

                                             With Peace And New Beginnings

* * * * *

And here are some stories about my 2012 trip to the Kalaloch coast:

                                          It's All About The Food
                                          It's All About Playing On The Beach
                                          It's All About The Sunsets
                                          It's All About The Artistic Inspiration

There's No Place Like Home

When the time came to leave Asia, I put on my ruby red slippers and clicked my heels three times.

^ Click One: Goodbye, Danang, with your sweet, little airport and gentle, communist ways. I'll come back to see you next year.

^ Click Two: Oh hay, Hong Kong, remember me? Istanbul, Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Rio de Janiero...your gates lead to some exotic places and I'm tempted to wander. But for today, I'm going home

^ Click Three: Vancouver. All night long. There is a certain irony in spending an eight-hour layover at an airport that is just over 100 miles away from home. But that's what I did. And when the sun rose and I climbed onto this little puddle jumper for the last leg of my flight home, I was thrilled for the final chapter in my lovely, long adventure. 

There's no place like home...
There's no place like home...
There's no place like home...

^ Wait. There is my home!!

We flew right past Mukilteo and I saw my good old hometown ferry plying the waters in the golden sunlight of dawn. Squint hard and you can make out a tiny black speck in the sunlit patch of water. Somewhere on that forested bluff to the right lies my home, my family, and my sleeping furry pets. 

Smoothly, my plane touched down, rolled up to the gateway and came to a stop.

I opened my eyes, and found myself in a gingham dress with a wet washcloth on my forehead.

No, no. Just kidding.

But I grabbed my suitcase and walked outside where the cool Pacific Northwest air washed over me, and I knew that for all the miracles of travel, there really is no place like home.

A Happy Birthday Bedroom Tour

Regrettably, my third-born's birthday happened while I was away in Malaysia.

I missed it completely.

So as soon as I rolled back into Danang and settled in to spend my last few days in Asia as her roommate, I decided to make up for lost time. My first order of business was to make my baby a happy birthday banner.

Thankfully, I had brought my paints, brushes and art paper with me from home. 
I even thought to bring some coordinating string and a fresh roll of tape. 
And I found a perfect assistant in the form of Sally, the ten-year-old daughter of the family with whom my daughter lives.

^ While the birthday girl was off at work, Sally and I set straight to work and whipped up this little gem. We hung it up on the wall, and then Sally settled into playing a game on my daughter's laptop.  

I snapped a few shots of our banner, and noticed with fresh eyes all of the cozy little touches that my daughter has added to her home away from home.

^ Well. Her mint-colored baby blanket. And this cute stuffed little tiger, a parting gift from her baby sister. Even when we are all grown up and traveling the world, we still like to keep our comforts close at hand, right?

^ Above her dressing table, my daughter has a well-curated collection of art: 

drawings from little girls who adore her, 
photos and postcards from family and friends, 
an assortment of necklaces 
and a soft silk rose. 

^ Sally was not impressed by my photo shoot. She played on.

^ This woven rug, positioned near the bathroom door, perfectly captures the spunky, colorful charm and simple style of the room. It's also tiny, like my itty bitty third-born, and I love to see her stand on it, with her little feet fitting just right.

^ This name art was a little gift I made just before my daughter left home last year. She carefully wrapped it up and told me that she would hang it up in her Vietnamese bedroom. And sure enough, that's exactly what she did. 

^ And still Sally sat, completely engrossed in her game. She's a regular visitor here in my daughter's room, and with her precious chubby Asian cheeks and adorable school uniform, she makes another lovely addition to this cozy space.

* * * * *

About an hour later, the bedroom door burst open and my daughter whooshed in, hot from her ride home and eager to join us in the air conditioned room. Her eyes quickly fell on the new banner, and Sally, finally looking up from the laptop, excitedly burst out with the whole story of how she helped me make it.

Then we all laid on the bed together and watched Sally finish her game. And that was a very nice start to our belated birthday celebration.

* * * * *

Once there were two best friends named Jane and Audrey, and I wrote about both of their stylish bedrooms. Read the other story here:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Common Denominators

When my twenty-six days in Malaysia came to an end, I flew away.

North I traveled, across the South China Sea and back to Vietnam to spend a few more days with my third-born, who lives and teaches English in Danang.

Over Saigon, rivers twisted and flowed in every direction. Their courses arced and swooped until I grew dizzy from trying to keep each one straight. But one thing was certainly clear - the rivers' common denominator was mud.

As I flew, I thought about the astonishing fact that not one but now two little countries tucked into the faraway corners of Southeast Asia feel like home to me, and their people are my friends. Certainly, our lives twist and flow in some different directions, and I often grow dizzy trying to sort out our similarities and differences. But if I have learned anything on my Asian adventures, it must be this - my faraway friends and I share a common denominator and it is most certainly love.

Malaysian Road Trip

For my third weekend in Malaysia, my friend, Kama Zaid, made an interesting proposal.

"Let's go on a road trip to Kelantan," he enthused. 

No strict agenda, no rules, no timetable that we couldn't change on a whim. He had a few ideas about interesting places to visit and some thoughts about our route, but otherwise, we would totally play it by ear.

Well. You know I'm a fool for spontaneity.

And I certainly never say no to a road trip.

So on a fine Thursday morning, I packed up my bag, hopped into Hammie's waiting car, and off we went. 

Five fascinating days later, I returned home with dirty laundry, two hundred new photos on my camera roll, and some solid suggestions for anyone else who may be considering such a no-holds-barred journey.

So here I present to you, my top twenty tips for cross-country travel in Malaysia.

1. Stop for lunch at a rustic open air restaurant in remote Pahang. Boldly order the roti canai and a Coke in English, but remember to say terima kasih. Watch the waiter's head spin as he slowly realizes that the white woman is speaking his mother tongue. Smile with satisfaction.

* * * * * 

2. Drink in the details that make life in Southeast Asia such a novelty and surprise. Planters full of flowers at the entrance to the restaurant? Yes, totally common in America. But who on earth has ever imagined that such peculiarly precious little Dr Seuss blossoms might exist? Allow your brain to be boggled.

* * * * * 

3. Lull yourself into a hypnotic trance by watching countless acres of palm oil trees roll by while listening to the unintelligible but highly entertaining speech habits of one Mat Ja Abdul Malik, who joined our merry band in mid-afternoon. The man punctuates his every word with hand gestures and body movements that qualify for a Cross Fit workout, yet he never takes a breath. Fascinating.

* * * * * 

4. Enjoy the nightlife of Kota Bharu by watching a Red Warriors match with the gang down at the stadium and then wandering around the performing stage near the river front. Watch out for pop star wannabees, the snake charmer with a ten-foot python, and aggressive pet monkeys wearing diapers.

* * * * * 

5. Pop in for an unannounced visit at your tour guide's family home. Surely, most rural Malaysian women are prepared for an uninvited American to show up on their doorstep on any given afternoon, right? Ha. But this fine lady took one look at the intruder, ducked into her bedroom to freshen up, and then sailed back out to serve a delicious snack of orange juice and fresh fruit as if she handled stray white folk every day. Bless her.

* * * * * 

6. Visit the fine array of temples in the greater Kota Bharu area - the sleeping Buddha, the sitting Buddha, and this, the standing Buddha. Well, yes, standing Buddhas, in the plural. There are clearly more than one. While all these temples are basically creepy with their shiny, shiny statues and giant urns of burning incense, this one boasted a plate of fresh oranges, and that made it so much better.

* * * * * 

7. Cruise the straight streets of KB and rejoice in their structure and order. Compared to the snake pit that is the highway system in Kuala Lumpur, navigating around the city is a breeze. 

* * * * * 

8. Beauty is where you find it, so keep looking. My lodgings at a modestly-priced homestay were surprisingly chic as evidenced by this lovely formal entry and shockingly good wifi in my room.

* * * * * 

9. Beauty is where you find it, Part Two: Along a gritty alley, amidst the endless urban hardscrabble, someone has planted a charming garden. Give thanks for the tender spirit who dared to dream of this little oasis among the concrete.

* * * * * 

10. Watch out for the tour guide's secret photographs. Demand to see every shot he's taken, and delete the ones that make you look fat. Ain't no shame in that. 

* * * * * 

11. Collect shells. Pay no mind to those who laugh. 

* * * * * 

12. Fear not the spirits of the legendary jinn or the murderous powers of a stampeding elephant, and drive boldly into the mysterious mountains of Tereneggnu at night. If the monsters don't get you, the pot holes might.

* * * * * 

13. A climb to the top of the waterfall on Gunung Stong would certainly be a beautiful thing. If you don't mind 90 minutes of steep climbing in the tropical heat and humidity. Please note that there is a perfectly fine swimming pool in the easy-access lower falls that will save a lot of time and trouble, not to mention heatstroke. 

* * * * *

14. And the scenic view from said pool is a gem. Take an hour to contemplate it, while soaking in the cool, refreshing waters of this sweet jungle stream. 

* * * * *

15. Heck, take two hours, and spend some time gazing up at the tree tops, too. Or as we like to say in the jungle, the canopy. 

* * * * *

16. Stop for a glory shot of the falls and note the dark storm clouds rolling in. Be glad all over again that you didn't make that hike to the top.

* * * * *

17. Wander slowly back toward the big city via Cameron Highlands, the mountainous town famous for its hillsides covered with plastic-roofed crops. Stop for a delicious treat of fresh strawberries, but train your camera on the much more photogenic butter lettuce. Love those ruffly leaves.

* * * * *

18. Wind through at least 18 billion hairpin turns on the road down to Ipoh. When the tedium of the journey is just about to blacken your soul forever, stop at one of the many roadside stands to buy some fresh honey from the locals and their scary dogs. 

 * * * * *

19. Stagger into the home of your guide, and collapse in a heap on his fine white floors. Eat the delicious late supper prepared by his lovely wife. And in the morning, feed the stray cat.

* * * * *

20. Write down all the best parts of this experience so you will remember them always. And say thank you.

* * * * *

Thank you, Hammie! You outdid yourself with this amazing trip and I appreciate every single inch of our journey.