Last Sunday, I wrote about Hurricane Harvey and what it felt like, watching that beast steer toward my hometown, family, friends… so much of what I treasure most.
A week later, I can’t help reiterating my gratitude. Every one I love is alive, safe. Their homes are (mostly) intact. Even as I hear about the damage done to the Port Aransas house my father inherited from my grandmother, and the many spots of which I have fond memories that have been devastated, I cannot help bowing in humble gratitude. Yes, part of the roof was ripped off the Port A house and thrown to the ground. Yes, the ground floor storage unit beneath the house (many houses in this area are built on stilts in case of hurricanes) was flooded with roughly 4 feet of water, ruining everything. Yes, the electrical loop was ripped off the house, the siding shredded.
But nobody died. And the house still stands. So many other Texans have lost infinitely, heart-breakingly more.
Continue reading “Texas Pride Takes on Harvey”
Truck nearly swamped. Corpus Christi, Tx.
Warning sign on Texas highway. Corpus Christi, Tx. (Driven this road dozens of times to go surfing with my dad and brother.)
Rain and palm trees. Corpus Christi, Tx.
Truck outside hospital. Corpus Christi, Tx.
Flooded highway. Houston, Tx. (This was right before the turn-off for our house when my husband and I lived in Houston.)
Stranded cars. Houston, Tx.
NASA satellite image of Harvey.
Radar image of Harvey.
Collapsed house and flood waters. Rockport, Tx.
Submerged boat. Rockport, Tx.
Overturned airplane. Rockport, Tx.
Collapsed building. Rockport, Tx.
Downed utility poles. Taft, Tx.
Damaged but proudly enduring Texas flag. Houston, Tx.
As I’ve mentioned a time or two, I’m a Texan, born and bred on the Gulf Coast. In Corpus Christi, to be specific. A huge hunk of my heart is still there, tied to both the place and the people (all my immediate family, and many treasured friends and their families).
As those of you following the weather can imagine, the latter half of this week has been a surreal, tempestuous time. Harvey, a weather formation that began as a mere tropical storm (life-long Gulf Coasters tend to shrug at these) morphed into a monster storm almost overnight. Almost out of nowhere, a category 3 hurricane was barreling down–predicted to make landfall–on almost everything dearest to me.
Thousands of miles away in South America, I was obviously well out of danger. But it was sickening being so far away. I desperately wanted to be there to help my family prepare and evacuate–buy water and generators, board up windows, gather precious photos and important documents, offer a positive word, a hug, a hand on the shoulder and a prayer.
Continue reading “Hurricane Harvey: Sorrow & Joy”
Texas SouthWind Winery’s tasting room.
An up-close view of it’s awesome door.
A Texas native, this white-tailed deer watches over proceedings in the tasting room.
This winery’s won just one or two awards.
Miles and miles of Texas… grapes.
The lovely outdoor tasting area.
Wine tasting for two?
Early spring is when Texas wildflowers throw their most extravagant gala. But these sunflowers, black-eyed susans, and other blooms of my childhood are making a respectable showing.
A grill–a necessary accessory for every Texas home.
Me and this guy I’m SO blessed to call “bro.” Though I don’t think I can accurately call him “little” brother anymore.
Bye-bye, blueberry wine. You were delicious.
There’s that gorgeous Texas sky.
Perfect spot for a swing.
And no Texas institution would be complete without at least one pickup truck.
At a party this weekend, a dear friend (another American diplomatic spouse) and I were chatting about our home states. She’s a California/Colorado girl, and I’m Lone Star State born and bred.
“But you aren’t one of those annoyingly proud Texans,” she said, reassuringly.
I felt obligated to come clean. “Oh, no, I totally am. I just try to keep it at least a little bottled up, for the sake of my Indiana husband.”
And that’s the absolute truth. As proof, here’s Exhibit A: Today’s coffee cup, last night’s wine glass, our welcome mat, a piece of decor in our living room:
Given all this, it likely comes as no surprise that some of my favorite wines are also Texas born and bred. Continue reading “Wine Not? When in Texas….”
Surfing = good.
Sea Lice = bad.
Surfing + Sea Lice = Itchy Surfing.
Couldn’t have said it better myself, Mr. Maugham.
Maugham and Conrad survey our high tea.
My Happy Queen Tea.
Iconic view of The Mandarin Oriental.
Me, doing my best imitation of a lady.
That “liver-coloured river”, Chao Phraya.
Sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way you hope. But sometimes, it really, really does.
When my husband and I first visited Thailand in 2015, I was jumping-up-and-down excited to drop in at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bangkok. Famous for its Author’s Lounge–a posh tea room set alongside the Chao Phraya river–this now-five-star hotel was a haven for literary greats like Joseph Conrad and W. Somerset Maugham in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, playwright and composer Noël Coward once wrote about The Oriental:
“There is a terrace overlooking the swift river where we have drinks every evening watching the liver-coloured water swirling by and tiny steam tugs hauling rows of barges up river against the tide. It is a lovely place and I am fonder of it than ever.”
Contrary to what my husband will tell you, I don’t have superstitious notions about sipping tea where literary geniuses once sipped, no expectation that this will imbue me with their brilliance. But I am a huge literary fan-girl (i.e., nerd). And so nothing was going to keep me from visiting such a place when it was a mere cab-ride away. Continue reading “Somerset Maugham & Sophistication(?)”
Rice, laid out on bamboo fiber drying pads.
Rice plant stalks, gathered for transformation into rice paper.
Bamboo being cut down to size. Its final destiny? Sticks of bamboo incense.
Sichuan mountains, in all their sunny green glory.
That’s a lot of bamboo….
Corn for the chickens, red banners for the ancestors.
The all-important hóng jiāo.
Taro (yù tou) crop.
Note the hóng jiāo drying on the roof.
A road guardian meant to protect travelers–I guess that’s us!
A quiet grave in a bamboo grove. Whenever possible, ancestors are buried near living relatives’ homes.
A Chinese village home.
Impromptu emergency housing for earthquake victims.
Amber and me, very sweaty victors over Wáng Shān.
Xīn Chǎng–(old) new market.
More Xīn Chǎng.
Offerings to ancestors, including “heavenly money”, written prayers, apples, and glasses of báijiǔ.
“Heavenly money” and faux silver, gifts for the ancestors for sale in Xīn Chǎng.
Whole-fried duck–probably more appealing when it’s not 90+ Fahrenheit out.
Pig’s blood stir fry, if you’re game.
While my best friend Amber was visiting me in China, we took a gamble.
Qingcheng Shān (Qingcheng Mountain) is a well-known tourist destination in these parts. A quick consultation with Dr. Google will provide a bevy of beautiful photographs. But when I called to set up a trip with Mr. Lee, a local English-speaking tour guide, he warned us of the crowded commercialism that would be Qingcheng Shān on a Sunday. He encouraged us to try a different mountain instead.
He painted a pretty picture of Wáng Shān (King Mountain)–bamboo forest at the top, authentic, un-commercialized villages on the descent–so we said yes to the mystery tour. But as soon as I hopped off the phone, doubt swept in. What had we just signed up for? Continue reading “Ritual & Rice”