Tag Archives: Australia

Letter D #AtoZChallenge

For day 4 of the challenge, I dive into the Letter D as I explore more memoir encyclopedia topics.

Dad

My dad and I have the same sense of humor. We regularly crack ourselves up, even when no one else is laughing. He told some corny jokes when I was a kid, and like every dad everywhere, he told the same ones over and over. One that was guaranteed to get a laugh from all my friends, and a cringe from me and Andrew, was the one where we’d be riding around town in our Suburban (I’m pretty sure we had at least four), when my dad would point out a road sign, the one with the capital P and the red circle with the slash through it, and ask my friend, “Do you know what that sign means?” They’d correctly reply, “No parking.” To which my dad would reply, “Nope, it means no peeing on the side of the road,” followed by fits of giggles by both him and said friend. I’ll admit, I laughed too, the first half dozen times he told it, but after that, it just wasn’t funny anymore.

Something my dad used to do that irritated the heck outta me was honk at me every time I walked in front of the car. I would jump, let out a yell, and give him the meanest glare I could muster. He, in turn, would lose it, doubled-over with uncontrollable laughter. Still, to this day, I flinch when I walk in front of his car when he’s in the driver’s seat. If I remember, I always walk behind the car.

When we were kids, my dad used to get our attention by whistling. He’s a really good whistler, and he is able to project his whistles for really long distances. Whereas most parents, my mom included, would yell out your name when they wanted your attention or needed you to come to another part of the house, my dad just whistled, and you had better come. I’d get so frustrated when he’d whistle and whistle, so I’d yell back, “I’m busy!” but he wouldn’t relent. Ugh! I’d stop whatever I was doing, go to see what he wanted, only to find him on the couch grinning up at me┬ásaying, “Do you wanna get me a cup of water?” Really!?!? You called me in here to get you a cup of water when I was busy and you have two perfectly good legs with which to do it, and the kitchen is 5 steps away from you?! He’d just smile and say, “So will you do it?”

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Pretty sure I get my ridiculous fashion sense from my dad ­čśë

Death

My first experience with death┬áthat I can remember was when my Papa died when I was seven. The memory that sticks out the most was when mom and dad called us into their room one Saturday morning and told us our cousins were coming to visit. I can remember bouncing on the bed yelling, “Katy’s coming!!”, so excited I couldn’t stand it. That’s when my dad got choked up and told us Papa (his dad) had died and they were coming to the funeral. I’m pretty sure my mom had to finish telling us. Seven-year-old me was a mix of emotions- happy that my cousin and best friend was coming to visit and sad that Papa had died and that it had made my daddy so sad.

My Papa was a big man, tall and stocky, with a full head of white hair. To a little kid like me, he was exceptionally big! Despite his stature, he was gentle and loving. He had a great laugh. He never met a stranger, and he was so caring that no one had a single bad thing to say about him. Papa loved the Lord and would freely share his faith with others. He was madly in love with Meme, and she was devastated when he died. I’m not sure she ever fully recovered.

I’m glad I got to know him, even for a short time. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him in my dad’s and Uncle David’s face.

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Papa and my daddy

Dinner

Growing up, we almost always ate dinner together, and I’m glad we did. Although most of my dinner memories were at restaurants since we ate most of our meals out during our 8-year home remodel (more on that one later).

When we did eat at home, we did so in the kitchen at the oval oak table with the wicker-backed chairs upholstered in a brown, yellow, and orange pattern from the late 70’s/early 80’s. Most of our meals at home consisted of a meat dish (steak, chicken, never pork), a starch (usually potatoes), a vegetable (most likely from a can), some sort of bread (usually rolls with butter), and iced tea. My parents eat much differently now, but back in the 80’s, this was pretty typical.

My friends loved sleeping over at my house or having dinner with us because their parents hardly ever took them out to eat. I liked eating at friends’ houses because their moms would cook. You always want what you don’t have, right?

We almost always ate dinner late and took forever to finish because my parents loved to sit and talk after they had eaten. We wouldn’t get home til close to 9pm some nights. Because I hated just sitting around waiting after I’d eaten, and my incessant whining that I wanted to leave didn’t work, I always had a book with me. My parents sometimes had to make me put it down so I’d talk with them about my day. My obsession with always having a book still prevails to this day.

Diving

I love diving, from the air and into the ocean. My first experience doing both was on my first trip to Australia in 2004. I had just finished up a stint as a nanny in Sydney, and decided to travel the country for a couple months. I flew to Cairns, on the Great Barrier Reef, and stayed on a live aboard boat for four days. During this time I went on a couple discovery dives, which is scuba diving, but you are non-certified and with a guide every step of the way. I wasn’t ready to commit the time or money it would take to get certified, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it. Turns out I didn’t like it…I loved it! I was pretty spoiled though with my first dive in the Great Barrier Reef. There isn’t much out there better than that. I only wish I had pictures of it, but at the time, the underwater cameras weren’t yet cost-effective. All I have are my memories.

After leaving Cairns by bus, I traveled south along the eastern coast of Oz. At one stop, Mooloolaba (I just love the sound of it!), I decided to stay a few days and ended up sky diving. It was a pretty big decision because I didn’t have much money and it was 800 Aussie dollars, but more importantly, it was the one thing I promised my dad I wouldn’t do on my trip.

Seriously, he sat me down and said, “Promise me you won’t go sky diving while you’re there. I don’t want you coming home in a box.”

“OK, dad.”

“No, promise me.”

Rolling my eyes, I said, “OK, dad, I promise I won’t sky dive.”

I take my promises seriously and I hated disappointing him, but it was sky diving!! I was not nervous about the actual jumping out of a plane part, but having to tell my dad was terrifying. I finally decided it was worth it.

I paid for the most expensive package where you get another skydiver to jump out right before you do and film your jump. I mean, if I was going to do it, I wanted proof to show my parents when I got home.

My tandem diver was a spunky, older man who’d been on some 900 odd jumps. I felt pretty good about that. If you’ve never done it before, let me fill you in. You and your tandem diver, strapped together, pile into a tiny plane with about 4 or 5 other pairs of sky divers. You sit on the floor of the plane, lined up in order of jumpers. On the ground, my guy said, “Wanna go first?” Without thinking too much about it, I replied, “Sure, why not?”, surprising even myself.

Once you’re inside the plane, you’ll probably be shocked to know there’s no door. Being first meant I was sitting nearest the opening where the door should have been. It was an amazing view going up, but boy was it windy and noisy! It’s a wonder we didn’t get sucked out!

I jumped from 14,000 feet, and once we were at the correct altitude, my guy tapped my shoulder, my signal to scoot on my booty toward the ‘door.’ At the opening, staring down at the ocean below, I was mesmerized, taken aback by the beauty of it all, but I wasn’t once scared. I was eerily calm. The videographer jumped out first, and then it was our turn. Expecting to scream and be scared, I was surprised that I didn’t and wasn’t. We were free-falling for about 45 seconds. That was the most exhilarating 45 seconds ever…pure joy. It’s like time slowed down.

After he pulled the parachute, and we shot backwards into the air with a quick jolt, we drifted slowly back down to earth. For those few minutes of floating, I took it all in. The cerulean blue of the ocean below, the surfers catching white waves, the tiny dots of people sunbathing on the beach, the way the sand slowly turned into ocean, the city just beyond the beach, with it’s tall trees and buildings. It was magic.

We landed on the beach, lifting our knees so our butts skidded across the sand. Once I stood up, the videographer asked, “How was it!?!”

“It was cool…I loved it,” I beamed into the camera.

Once I was safely back in Texas a month later, my family was asking me all about my trip. “I have something to show you,” I said, as I pulled out the VHS. Popping it into the VCR, my dad asked me if I went sky diving, to which I sheepishly replied, “Let me show you.”

He was tickled pink! He couldn’t stop smiling, the pride written across his face. For months afterward, he’d tell anyone who’d listen that his daughter had lived in Australia and went sky diving, even when he’d told her not to. I guess I was worried for nothing.

Dolls

I was definitely a baby doll kinda girl. Barbies didn’t do it for me. I had more dolls than I could count, but most of them were of the Cabbage Patch variety. I loved the way their heads smelled like baby powder. I’m not sure how they did it, because years and years later, they still had the smell.

I loved to play house, and would wrangle my brother or any of my friends to play with me. Even if I didn’t have anyone to play with, I was content to play house by myself. My favorite places to play house were in the playhouse my grandaddy built me that sat behind our house or the make-shift playhouse in the country behind Mamaw and Grandaddy’s house that was essentially a big stack of cinder blocks with some smaller bricks on top that I would arrange to become a baby bed, a stove, a kitchen table, etc. I could spend hours upon hours playing with my dolls, dressing them up, feeding them, tending to their every need, just like they were real babies.

When my baby brother was born, I was a few months shy of four years old, and I was suddenly no longer the baby and center of attention. In an effort to avoid me feeling left out, my Mamaw bought me my own baby boy doll that I was given as a gift the day my brother was born. It looked like a real baby, and was about the same size. I don’t remember what I named him, but I do remember taking care of him when my mom was taking care of Andrew. From what I’ve been told, I didn’t do so well with the transition, but I do think the baby doll helped.

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Mamaw and me, holding my new baby doll, the day Andrew was born.

My Mamaw started giving my China dolls when I was young, and I began to amass a collection. The thing was, I wasn’t allowed to play with them. They were for show only. I remember wanting to touch their beautiful hair, set in ringlets on their head, or touch their ornate and beautiful clothing, but they were too delicate, I was told. Most of those China dolls are still on display at my mom and dad’s house in the bedroom with all of my niece and nephew’s toys.

I finally grew out of playing with dolls toward the end of elementary school, when I was beginning to be too cool for such childish things, but once I’m around little girls or boys who are holding a baby doll and ask me to play, I’m right back there in that playhouse.

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

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Letter A #AtoZChallenge

As I explain here, my theme for this A to Z Challenge is memoir, with an encyclopedia-esque twist, a la AKR.

Aggies

The Aggies, Texas A&M University’s mascot, my alma mater, hold so much meaning to me. Growing up in Bryan/College Station, I was always an Aggie. You couldn’t help but get swept up in the excitement of the games and the bonfires and the yells. “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” This quote perfectly sums up the Aggie spirit. It’s something you feel from the moment you step onto the campus, particularly on a game day, as you walk through a sea of maroon and white, the energy palpable. “We are the Aggies. The Aggies are we.”

Airports and Airplanes

I spend a lot of time in airports and airplanes. As an expat and frequent traveler, it comes with the territory. I have my favorite airports- HKG, CDG, ORD and my least favorites- PVG, FCO, DMK. I know how late I can push it until I really have to arrive at the airport. I know how to sweet talk the clerks at check-in so they’ll overlook my slightly overweight bags. I love the buzz of airports, the busyness of people bustling around and the excitement and anticipation of new places yet to be seen.┬áI know how to pack a perfect carry-on bag that has everything I could need within my reach.

I’m a window seat person. I have to have the window because I hate having to get up fifteen times when someone has to pee. And I’m a plane sleeper, so the window means I can lean up against it with my pillow, put in my earbuds, pull on my eye mask, and get cozy under my blanket for a long uninterrupted snooze. Not getting the window makes me sooooo grumpy. It’s almost ruined flights before. The only thing better than the window is an empty row of seats on a non-full flight. Ahhhh…stretching out and sleeping is gold!

I hate airplane food. Unless I’m in business or first class, which almost never happens. I always bring snacks and meals for long-haul flights.

Apartments

I’ve lived in 8 apartments over the course of my adult life. My first apartment, a dark, small one-bedroom chosen because it offered no deposit and first month’s rent free, which worked well with my no money situation, was a bit seedy. I lived next-door to a stripper who moonlighted as a prostitute, which I realized one night when I was awoken at 3AM by a naked man banging on my neighbor’s bedroom window, screaming at her to “Let me in! Give me back my clothes!” That apartment was also broken into, the last straw which prompted me to move.

My next apartment cost considerably more, but was in a much better part of town and in a gated complex. I loved the natural light that streamed into the living room from the floor to ceiling windows. I made it my home, and lived there two years, after which time I bought my first, and only, home.

I moved into my third apartment after moving to Shanghai in 2010. That first apartment was not my favorite. It was too small for one, and part of the bathroom was in the kitchen. Nothing says Come over and hang out at my place than your guests seeing all your bathroom stuff out in the open. That was also the apartment where I locked myself out twice- once when the stove was on (yikes!) and another time after I hadn’t yet learned about the strange Chinese lock system.

My second year in Shangers, I moved into a swanky apartment in the French Concession, a bachelorette pad clad in modern furnishings and on the 18th floor of a high rise. I loved that apartment, despite the fact that it was way over my housing allowance. But I didn’t care. It suited me well, and I lived there for two years, until the landlords sold it and I had to move.

Still in Shanghai, I moved yet again, but this time back to my roots, choosing to live on Hong Mei Lu, near the Laowi Jie. This apartment was by far the biggest, a 2-bedroom, with a huge kitchen and living room. I loved the wallpaper (I can’t believe I’m actually saying that), the bay window in my room where I could sit and read, and the huge bathroom with the luxurious tub, where I’d spend many nights reading and soaking the day away. Shady landlord shit made me move out of that place.

My last year in Shanghai, I found a place in Xujiahui, near Lines 1 and 11 and Grand Gateway mall, where my go-to restaurants, Pizza Express and Din Tai Fung, lived. Another 2-bedroom, this one was  smaller, but definitely gave off a cozy, home-y vibe. I made it my own, and I loved it. I still miss that apartment.

When I moved to Albania, I rented a sprawling, 3-bedroom apartment in the city centre. It was great for hosting parties, and I have so many memories of fun times with friends wrapped up in that place. It was also my first and only apartment abroad to have a dryer, a luxury those in America take for granted.

My current apartment in Bangkok is by far the tiniest place I’ve ever lived, but for some reason, I love it, too. It’s a studio apartment in the Pak Soi, a short 8 minute ride to school. I love its simplicity and cuteness. It’s all I need for this short season in my life.

Aunts

Aunts are special people. They’re like your mom, but the cooler, you-can-talk-to-them-about-anything version. Aunts are cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, advice givers, secret keepers, and date goers. One of my favorite things about aunts is that they don’t have to be blood-related to earn the title. Honorary aunts are just as significant in our lives. I have a special relationship with my aunts, and I treasure them all in their own way.

Aunt Kathy, my dad’s younger sister, and I are very close. She just gets me. I can be authentically me around her, and she loves me unconditionally. I like that about her. We don’t talk all the time, but I know if I’m in trouble or need anything, I can count on her. Every time I go back home, I make a special trip to Austin to see her. We have a standing date night at The Melting Pot, where we always have the same thing– Yin and Yang chocolate martinis, cheese fondue, salad, and chocolate fondue. Each time, we consider ordering something different, but we never do. Aunt Kathy squeals when she sees me for the first time after I’ve been gone too long, and she gives the best hugs. She’s also a thoughtful gift giver, giving me what I never knew I always wanted.

Aunt Alva, my dad’s brother’s wife, is the sweetest, most gentle person ever. Everything she does is done effortlessly, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out how she does it. How is her house always perfect? How is she always so put together? How is she always happy? I don’t know, but I love her for it. I love that Aunt Alva listens to my stories. Like really listens. She is so interested in my life and my stories and makes time to hear them. Not everyone is like that, and I love her all the more for it. I love Aunt Alva’s cooking, especially her pancakes, panny-cakes as she calls them. They are my favorite breakfast– fluffy, buttery, Texas-sized pancakes that take up the entire plate. The best part is she doesn’t wait til they’re all done for us to sit down to eat together. She calls us over, one by one, to get our pancake fresh off the griddle, so we can enjoy it nice and hot. My stomach is growling as I write this, and I know that three months is too long to wait to taste her pancakes.

My other Aunt Kathy, Uncle Mike’s wife, is my honorary aunt. Uncle Mike is my dad’s best friend from high school, a man I’ve known all my life. I’m pretty sure he changed my diapers. Anyway, he married Aunt Kathy when I was in high school, and I got to dance at their wedding. She’s his perfect match, and one of my close friends. As a teacher, too, we have a lot in common, and can gab all day about school stuff. When I chose to do my student teaching in Houston, away from home, she offered up their spare room and I lived with them for a semester. I’ll always remember that time, as it was my first time living away from home. She’ll always remember that time, too, as I never could keep my room cleaned. Aunt Kathy has the best laugh, one that starts deep in her belly, and is contagious to all who hear it.

Nearly five years ago, I joined the club and became an aunt. My niece, Randi Ann, an adorable, spunky, clever, silly, sweet soon-to-be-five-year-old, rocked my world and introduced me to a love I hadn’t yet known. All I wanted to do when I was around her, was cuddle her and make her laugh. As she’s grown up, she has developed a personality all her own, and I love it! When she turned three, I began a new tradition. Every time I go home, she and I spend a day together, doing whatever she wants to do. On our dates, the attention is all on her, and we laugh, tell stories, and wonder. Our usual day includes a trip to Shipley’s donuts, a mani/pedi, catching the latest movie (I took her to her first movie in the theater!), playing at the park, lunch, and a trip to the bookstore to pick out a new favorite book. I love that she looks like me, too. When I show her an old picture of me and my younger brother, her daddy, she thinks it’s her and her brother, Logan.

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Speaking of Logan, he’s the little bundle of energy that made me an aunt twice over, and I simply adore him! He is equal parts rough and tumble, loud, tazmanian devil and sweet, gentle, loving, caring, climb-up-in-your-lap-and-give-you-a-hug boy. The juxtaposition of him is why I love him. We can wrestle on the floor, me tickling him and sending him into fits of laughter (and he has the best laugh!) or we can crawl up in bed and read a book, snuggling up close together. Logan Cole is also hilarious, his crazy antics making it nearly impossible to scold him because, while he shouldn’t have done what he did, damned if it wasn’t the funniest thing ever.

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Australia

From the age of 7, I have been obsessed with Australia. When I say obsessed, I mean obsessed. I’m pretty sure that obsession was born from a school project where my childhood crush researched and presented a report on Australia. From then on, I can recall telling anyone who would listen that “When I grow up, I’m going to be a teacher. And I’m going to live in Australia.” You know what? I have accomplished both those goals. After graduating from A&M with my teaching degree, I packed up and moved to Sydney in early 2004, where I was a nanny for a family of three children. I then solo-traveled along the east coast of Oz, from Cairns back down to Sydney. My return trip in 2011 allowed me to visit my love, Sydney, but a few new places, too. Australia is life, color, vibrancy, deliciousness, culture, accents, nature, city and beach, sun, and joy. I still want to live in Australia someday. Maybe when I’m done gallivanting around the world, I’ll settle into Oz. Maybe.

 A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

The World Through My Eyes… SOL#25

IMG_0555The World Through My Eyes…

The United States is family, friends, good food, and home.

England is not sure the first time, but oh so much better the second.

Germany is meeting people in awkward places and my first taste of independence.

Fiji is adventure and pristine, so-beautiful-you-think-they’re-photoshopped beaches.

Australia is where my heart is happiest, oh and hot accents that make me weak in the knees.

China is weird smells, craziness, ‘The Bridge,’ and my second home.

Hong Kong is civilized China and home to my favorites Shaggers and Jeezy.

The Philippines is beautiful people and juicy mangoes.

Malaysia is lime juice and getting lost.

Vietnam is “beep! beep!” and night markets.

South Korea is my favorite salad, used bookstore love, and meeting my SOL friend.

Macau is long immigration lines, casinos, and Portuguese architecture.

Cambodia is explorations, biting fish, and begging children.

Thailand is tuk tuks, sketchy trains, and golden roofs.

Japan is confusion and sushi and where did my friends go?

Egypt is camel-exchange proposals, koshari, and the call to prayer.

Nepal is roaming cows, do-anything-to-help-you people, rice fields, and peace.

Italy is the kindness of strangers, gelato, and cobblestone streets.

Greece is baklava and feta, blue and white domes, and restful relaxation.

Scotland is rain and beautiful buildings and more rain.

Ireland is old castles, lush green, and Dirty Dancing.

Myanmar is long boats, temples, daily tea leaf salads, and love.

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