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Gratitude, four dozen expressions

November is always one of my favorite times of year for many reasons, and as I've been experiencing life in a new country, I've pondered over what I am grateful for this month, and want to jot down what I have to be thankful for. I'm combining Thanksgiving and my birthday. In correlation with my 48th birthday on November 6, I will categorize my thoughts into four lists of twelve. These are not in any particular order of preference, and there are many things that I'm thankful for that I did not include.

Texas things (and people) I miss, that I'm grateful for:
1. Our home. We have a beautiful apartment here, that's furnished nicely and is comfortable, but I miss being back in my own home sweet home in Texas, where I've lived longer than anywhere else in my life--for ten years.

2. Parking lots, parking spaces. Parking a car in Austin is significantly easier than here. Oh, Taiwan! You're such a compact little island and you're fabulous, but I wish there was more of you when it comes to parking.

3. Neighbors. I miss the spontaneous encounters with my friends as I'm out and about in the neighborhood, schools, shopping areas and restaurants.

4. Fast food places. I realize how much I relied on these businesses in the past, and vow to not frequent them as much when I return. But I do miss them, nonetheless.

5. American football. Life without any football has left me feeling like it's not even the fall, since it's what I've associated with this time of year my whole life. It turns out that all the teams I usually cheer for are helping to ease the pain, by not having their best season this year. In other words, I'm not missing out too much.

6. HEB. Often, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and you might be noticing a theme here. The convenience, layout, and accessibility to virtually any ingredient I would need in cooking, can be at my fingertips at my local HEB grocery store. Fresh cilantro, non-stick cooking spray, marinated artichoke hearts, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, tortillas, buttermilk, corn meal, frozen fruits, American style yogurt, ground turkey are some of the foods that I can't find here.

7. Two cars. We are so blessed to have a car to drive here, and I realize that many of my friends in Taiwan don't even have one car, but drive their scooters everywhere instead. I appreciate so much that Kelly's company provides a nice, new car for us, and I am extremely glad we have it. When we are accustomed to having two cars, scaling down to one is a bit of a change to get used to.

8. Crafting! I left my sewing machine and all my card making stash at home in Texas. I always have such a great time creating things and look forward to reuniting with my supplies soon to whip up some goodies, and need to figure out what I can bring back in January that will fit in my luggage.

9. Big bathtub. Taiwanese-sized tubs aren't quite compatible with my super-sized body. I know I'm not gigantic, but I appreciate having a little bit larger bath tub in Texas. "Everything's bigger in Texas," the expression goes.

10. Tex-Mex food and Texas barbecue: We'll be sure to frequent our local Tex-Mex and barbecue places when we're home for the holidays.

11. Hair stylist. This was one of my biggest fears of moving away, and still is. After a nightmarish hair appointment here in Hsinchu last month, where my hair color was completely altered, I can hardly wait to get back home to have it repaired. Looks like I will have to head to Taipei for the next attempt at finding a decent Taiwanese hair stylist, who is familiar with highlighting blond hair, since I can't seem to track one down in Hsinchu.

12. Girlfriends. I have so many wonderful friends that I adore and miss greatly. It's been hard not being there for some of the special events, birthdays, weddings, new babies, farewells, and funerals. I'm really sad that I'll miss Greg Coleman's funeral on Thursday.

What I will miss when we eventually move back to the USA:
1. People I have met from church and Kelly's work. Specifically, I am glad to have met Jennifer, Ruchika, Demi, Charlotte, Abish, Yvonne, Jessica, Nilsa, Anneke, Rachel, Alex, Nancy, Ruth, Thomas, Andy, Jimmy, Alina, Joy, Sophie, Lisa, and Edison to name a few.

2. Year-round "running" weather. Although I have not attempted to run in the tropical heat in the summer time yet, Taiwan's temperatures are ideal. It has been so nice to not worry about it being too cold when I go running outside.

3. Our security guards. We pass two security stations to get to our apartment and the guards really take their jobs seriously. There are about a half dozen of them working one shift at a time, and their presence is comforting, plus they provide entertainment with the various signals they have developed to communicate.

4. Not having to refuel the car. In Taiwan, gas station attendants fill your tank while you roll down your window and tell them what you want, then you pay without having to even get out of your car.

5. Costco. I was never a Costco fan when I lived in the US, but here, it's become my go-to store where I can find a variety of home essentials. Apparently Taiwanese prefer extremely firm beds, and I thought I was going to die on our hard-as-a-rock bed at first, but Costco came to my rescue where we were able to buy a new mattress for about NT $20,000, which is a little more than US $600, and worth every dollar. I've also purchased imported goods for cooking, even though I don't like the huge quantities. The Costco here in Hsinchu is new, and opened just about one year ago. Judging from the crowds, business is booming here.

6. Living close to Christopher's school. Hsinchu American School is right in our neighborhood, just a five-minute walk from home.

7. Scooters. When I first started driving here, the scooters were everywhere, thousands of them, and they freaked me out, but I am now used to them. They actually are fun to observe and make one of my favorite pastimes of people-watching even easier, especially when there are several on one scooter. If every scooter was a car, the streets of Taiwan would be too crowded to get anywhere.

8. Chinese New Year. Even though I have not experienced the country's biggest holiday yet, I have heard so much about it, and the fact that Kelly will get time off work makes it more appealing. I'm anxious for this cultural experience!

9. No sales taxes. The prices of everything here already includes any sales taxes, which makes it much easier to add up and pay for purchases.

10. No tipping. It's so weird at first to not tip when you're so used to it in the States for haircuts, taxi rides, hotel maids, restaurants, etc.

11. Dumplings. The dumplings here are plentiful and delicious.

12. Noodles. A question we hear often is "noodles or rice?" I'm more of a rice person in general, but our family has really become fond of a curry noodle quick meal that is a LOT tastier than Top Ramen.

Technology:
1. My Texas dishwasher. I {am} the dishwasher in our apartment in Taiwan, and on top of that, all the cabinets were designed for shorter people, and it kills my back to bend over to reach the sink. I sometimes get into a yoga position and squat down to wash the dishes to avoid back discomfort. My glutes and thighs are getting stronger at least. (This should have been on the list of things I'm grateful for in Texas that I miss. Oh, well.)

2. Vonage. We enjoy being able to make and receive telephone calls to Lindsey and others in the US via the internet for a decent price.

3. Laptop. I never really used a laptop computer much until we moved to Taiwan. It's very convenient, even though I think I'm getting carpel tunnel syndrome in my left wrist.

4. Facebook. It's been my main connection to my daughter and friends and family. I'd be lonely without it, and even though it's not very productive, it fills a void. Thanks, Mark Zuckerberg.

5. GPS. Even though all the streets and maps are in Chinese, it still works for me. I would literally be lost without our Garmin. I rely on it to get me everywhere by looking at the roads and listening to the English vocal commands. It has been one of the best purchases we've made here. Luckily, Kelly can program all the places for me since they are in Chinese.

6. Rotisserie oven. I refer to it as my Easy Bake Oven. Our landlords provided a brand new portable oven for us when we moved in, since most Taiwanese kitchens don't have them. It was very nice of them to do, but it still was not large enough for my bakeware, so we spent NT $8,300 for this counter top oven which I use almost daily. That's about US $260.

7. Online bill paying. What a convenience this is, to not have to deal with mailing my electricity bill or water bill, and so forth, to the US while I'm living overseas.

8. My iPod. When I was on my way to the Austin airport in September returning to Taiwan, I realized that I left my iPod at home. Horrible! The plane ride and airport time without my music was unfortunate, but I survived. I thought I could live without it until I head back to Texas in December, but finally gave in and had it shipped to me. I so appreciate my handy little music player when I'm out running or just listening to music in our apartment.

9. Downloading TV shows. We are fans of a few American television shows that we miss here, and are so glad we've been able to watch Survivor, Amazing Race, and The Biggest Loser for entertainment. I also miss watching the US news, but am glad I can have access to news online.

10. Blogs. In the past four years, I've been blogging about events and things going on in our family, and have come to appreciate this medium of journaling. I wish I'd been blogging since Kelly and I first met, and since Lindsey and Christopher became part of the mix, but blogs didn't exist back then. It makes me wonder what technology that has not yet been invented, that in the future I will feel is indispensable.

11. My camera. I take it almost everywhere I go. I completely agree that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sorry that there are no pictures in this post. Kind of ironic.

12. Flat iron. My hair texture tends to go crazy in the humidity of this island. I'm glad the flat iron was invented so I can style my hair and calm down the frizziness, although I feel shallow for listing this as one of the 48 things that I'm grateful for.

Intangibles:
1. Forgiveness. I am a work in progress, as we all are. I'm grateful for those who forgive me of my weaknesses and am glad that I can do the same.

2. Good health. Once in a while when I am not well, have an injury, or a headache, or random physical ailments, it's actually a helpful reminder to feel grateful for when I'm cured or no longer feeling sick. I try to count my blessings for this on a regular basis, because it's so annoying when my body is in pain and I feel limited or incapacitated.

3. A happy marriage. My husband and I have been married for 24 years and I can't imagine spending my life with anyone else. I love Kelly. It's amazing to feel that he loves me so much and that our life together is filled with joy. I love the history that we've shared on our journey and am excited for our future as a couple.

4. My daughter, Lindsey. My daughter is an incredible young woman and I'm so proud of her for being so courageous, to become completely independent and live a half a world away from her family as she has begun her college education this year. I miss her terribly and look forward to seeing her during the Christmas holiday.

5. My son, Christopher. I feel so blessed to have one of each, a son and a daughter. What a likable personality my son has, and he's always been so good at communicating. He has adjusted amazingly well to living in a new country, and is making progress at learning Chinese. He is also a really good kid, just like his big sister, and has enormous potential.

6. Talent and desire for cooking. I know I talk about food a lot on my blog and I make no apologies for it because I love food. Not only do I enjoy eating good foods, but I am so glad that I like to cook and am not to shabby at it, if I say so myself. Other than random days when I feel lazy or unmotivated, I genuinely enjoy cooking for my family and friends, and am grateful for this passion.

7. A mom who loves me. All my life, Mom has loved me and I have never doubted her unconditional love and support. It blows my mind away to know that not everyone can say that. Of course, I know my dad loves me too, but a mother's love is so critical, especially in the early years, in my opinion.

8. Four sisters and a brother. Each of the five of us are different and live far away from each other, yet we are all really close and I'm so thankful for Tracy, Marc, Valerie, and Julie.

9. My life's experiences. Every little trial or experience that I have gone through, the good times and bad, have helped me to become who I am today.

10. My beliefs. Being a believer in Christ helps me on a daily basis in parenting, and striving to be a decent person, and to be happy.

11. Wonderful in-laws. This will be all inclusive of my husband's family--his mom and dad, two sisters and their husbands--and my three sisters' sweet husbands and my brother's wife. It's great to be related to all of these families. People are tangible, but this was the only place left to include each of them.

12. Freedom. What a blessing it is to be able to have freedom, to make choices for myself, and to be able to live abroad in a country where I can enjoy a new culture and people.

Comments

Casa de Mask said…
Love this post, Kelly! I admire you so much. What an amazing and humbling experience you are entrenched in now by living in a foreign country. I am sure you and your family will continue to touch so many lives over there for good. Have a blessed holiday season my friend!

Much love,
jenn
Francie said…
Love this post. I enjoy reading about your experiences and love the food posts. The stuffed peppers have become a family favorite.

Take Care La Nan and I think of you often. :)
jennie w. said…
You're supposed to take this opportunity to become a brunette!
Dianne said…
Great heartfelt post. Brings back memories, the hard beds in China, all the security, and the food, oh the food. Thanks for sharing.

It was nice meeting Lindsay over Thanksgiving break, then we ran into her again at the mall. She's great!
What a neat experience and way to get the most out of it, Christmas will be here before you know it.

Dianne
Mel-o-dy said…
there really is so much to be thankful for :)
Lonna said…
What a clever way to express your thanks. I like that you chose ways to express your gratitude for the things that you are living without and the new things that have enriched your life since making the move.

I'm excited to see you in just a short time. Until then thanks for sharing your gratitude, It makes me realize how blessed we really are.
Lisa said…
This was a beautiful post. I would miss football and tex-mex probably daily! And my flat iron? A must!

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