Happy 2009!

A quick rundown on our life in these last few weeks of blogging-silence ... 

1. Our trip to Vietnam was interesting, if you know what I mean, and a learning experience. Can you see what I'm saying?  It didn't quite suck, but it was close. Basically, all three of us were sick. It was a beautiful, familial round of illnesses, piling right on top of each other, overlapping, in both discord and harmony. From pink eye to gastric distress to fevers and colds and coughs to teething... oh my. I think we're almost done with it, though the last few strains of coughing are still heard at night, the Peterson Germ Chorus unwilling to give up the show.  

As for Vietnam itself, Saigon was a fascinating city. Matt observed that the crowds of motorbikes there are just like the crowds of people here, and he's right--somehow everyone navigates safely and there are rarely collisions, though it looks mighty sketchy from the sidelines. Our beach resort was lovely, and actually not a bad place to be sick. Room service, especially when they offer such soothing things as pho and fresh fruit juices, is something I missed once we got home (and were still sick!). 

And what did I learn? When Lonely Planet tries to sell you its lovely visions of "off the tourist trail" villages and beautiful sights that no one else sees--remember what it was like, riding that train that stopped every 100 feet for cows to cross, while your husband is coughing up a lung and you are visiting the toilet a little too often and your baby looks up at you with half-opened eyes, eyelashes matted with gunk. Then calmly put down the guidebook and call the travel agent and book the easiest, most direct vacation possible.  

2. Coming back to Hong Kong was great. It felt like home, and it was great for it to feel like home.  I wanted to hug our apartment's door attendants, I was so happy to be back. We realized anew how modern and easy and efficient Hong Kong is. Case in point: the in-town check-in and airport express.  Going on a trip? No car, lots of bags, maybe a baby, just for fun? Need to get to the airport with all that? No problem. Just go to a certain floor of a mall in Central, check-in for your flight, get your boarding pass and check your bags. Then grab some dinner, finish some shopping, and take the train in leisure and comfort, right to the airport. Nice, huh? Finn was happy to get home too. We walked though our door and he positively beamed as he looked around, before letting out the James Brown-esque "yowl" that he's so fond of lately. I am still looking for that room service number, though. 

3. When we were still sick, even after being home for 4 days, we decided to try out Traditional Chinese Medicine. Our insurance covers it, and it's everywhere around here, so why not? Also, I had planned that our vacation time in Hong Kong would be filled with lots of neat family outings like going to Lamma Island and taking the Star Ferry. Needless to say, Lamma Island wasn't happening, but I sold Matt on a family trip to the Chinese doctor. It wasn't quite as cool as we were hoping. Our neighborhood is full of traditional herbal medicine shops: small, dark rooms lined with jars of dried things. There's generally an old man behind the counter, a couple of old men sitting on stools, and often a cat strolling around. We figured they wouldn't speak English, but we thought gestures would work for our symptoms. (I wasn't quite sure how to convey that I'm still breastfeeding, at least in a way that would preserve some measure of dignity ... ) No such luck, though. Our insurance, apparently, likes the "modern" traditional chinese medicine. The office was very clean and clinical. We spoke with a doctor, describing our symptoms, then she felt our pulse and looked at our throats. That was it. She even spoke English, so our planned theatrics weren't necessary (though Matt did cough up some phlegm to show her how thick and yellow it was!). We left with packets of "the chinese medicine" (that's what they called it: "you will drink the chinese medicine twice a day", "mix the chinese medicine with lukewarm water"), and we've been drinking it ever since. It's not bad tasting, though not good tasting either. And did it work? Well, like I said, I think we're all better now. So maybe it helped. Or maybe it just ran its course. 

4. Hong Kong is now in full-gear getting ready for Chinese New Year. Red decorations are sold everywhere--paper lanterns, streamers, banners, envelopes for gift-giving, lacquer trays. Stores are having sales for the CNY, and even Ikea has signs up everywhere telling you the last possible order day to get your furniture delivered in time for CNY.  It's kind of nice--relieves the post-holiday let down, because the big one is yet to come. Even Matt's return to school is made easier by the knowledge that in just three weeks, he gets another week off, to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

 5. And finally, with the passing of 2008--what a year it's been!--we are filled with hope and curiosity as we look forward to 2009. I wouldn't mind fewer major life changes, but on the other hand, all the newness kept us observing, watching, anticipating, feeling and truly living every day. It's one of the first years that I haven't said "wow, I can't believe it's already xxxx. Last year went so fast." I don't want to lose that energy, the keen awareness of moment-by-moment life. 

And yes, there is uncertainty ahead. (Got our end-of-the-year IRA statements the other day, and boy am I glad we're only 30!) But this morning at church we were reminded that our security  doesn't come from IRAs or the stock market or good jobs or even from the excitement of a new president. Our security is only from God, and even that doesn't mean that we're protected from bad things.  It just means that no matter what, God will be with us, and we will never be left alone.                 

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and grow weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. "

Isaiah 40: 28-31 

Next up I'll post some updated pictures of Finn, along with a few short videos, that I'm now free to share since everyone has gotten their Christmas packages. Blessings to you and yours for 2009.  I pray for all of us that it is a year of learning, giving, growing and laughing.


Chip said...

It's great to hear that Hong Kong is feeling like home for y'all. I can't wait to visit - it's less than a month away now!

I've been hoping for some Finn pic's and videos. You have to upload "Man of Constant Sorrow" to YouTube.

Jeff said...

Lively and interesting post. I do hope you'll give Vietnam another try when you're not all sick. My in-laws had enjoyable trips there.

On the topic of motorbike traffic, I just finished a fascinating book called Traffic: why we drive the way we do and what it says about us, and there was a chapter on Delhi that concluded the same thing. If one stops to look, there is order in the apparent chaos of a large, developing-world city.

Check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Traffic-Drive-What-Says-About/dp/0307264785/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232125289&sr=8-1