Texas Pride Takes on Harvey

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”

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Hurricane Harvey: Sorrow & Joy

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”

Wine Not? When in Texas….

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:

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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….”

Somerset Maugham & Sophistication(?)

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(?)”

Ritual & Rice

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”