Friday, December 31, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Friends

Years ago in Indonesia as we said goodbye to a friend - we reassured her that we always return and we have. We have visited her twice since that visit. We are saying goodbye to friends here in the same spirit. I have tried to have coffee or lunch with as many friends as possible. Many of them are from the university - a point that was obvious when 4 people suggested lunch on 6 December, the first day after classes ended.

At Thanksgiving Han Di reminded me that he had spent 27 Thanksgivings with our family. Shortly after we first met him we took him to his first movie in the US, ET. We had decided that Tootsie might be a bit racy for someone who commented that he liked Singing in the Rain. Early in their graduate studies Han Di, Arvind from India, and Mahmoud from Egypt regularly joined us for dinner. One year we invited them to watch election returns. They weren't sure why we suggested this: the Chinese did not have national elections, the Egyptians always knew who was going to win, and the Indians had to wait for weeks for the final results. (Obviously, this was before the 2000 election.)

After Han Di finished his masters he returned to China and married Gu Wei. One of her first meals in the US was Thanksgiving. What a dose of culture shock that must have been, testimony to Gu Wei's resilience. After their first child, Joey, was born I went to their flat each week so that Gu Wei could get out. Joey, a few months old, and I watched the Iran Contra hearings. Joey graduated this spring and found an engineering job with little trouble. I guess the hearings did not enter his subconscious. Two weeks ago we had dinner Bombay Beijing. Gu Wei asked if they had chopsticks. The waiter was puzzled at the request - Gu Wei pointed out that the restaurant's name included Beijing. For over 25 years we have hosted international students and their friendship has enriched (and continues to enrich) our lives. If a local university provides opportunities to introduce an international student to your community I strongly recommend it.

We also made friends with the parents of Brendan and Colin's classmates. Over the year we have lost contact with all of them except Rita. Since 7th grade Rita's son, Michael, and Colin were together in the band and advanced math and science classes. They both pursued Ph.D. (Michael's is in Chemistry). We have dinner with Rita several times a year. In Raleigh we tend to eat close to home; Rita who lives in North Raleigh has expanded our restaurant range. When we had dinner this week we were comparing notes on our sons' personalities. In the interest of family peace we won 't disclose the details other than to note that they are very similar - think of your stereotypes of scientists.

Tomm has been part of our life since 2002. After 9-11 I found it hard to get to the gym and months went by as I kept planning to work out "tomorrow." So I decided a personal trainer was the best solution. Doug also began working out with Tomm. Tomm's children and ours are about the same age. Doug bonded with him because they were both PK (preacher's kids). I had hoped that by working out with a trainer I would end up tall and thin - some things aren't meant to be. This week when we had lunch Tomm showed up with his Nova. He didn't want his recently acquired Toyota convertible to be exposed to the salt and mud on the road.

One Christmas he gave us Sweat Shirts that read "I would rather be at

02degrees 44’ 04” N

101degrees 41’ 39’’ E

The coordinates are for KL. (That year I was entering the cabin of an unnamed domestic airline and the pilot was hanging around talking to the flight attendants. He saw our sweat shirts and asked where that was? I was not reassured.) Would we rather be in KL? It is not easy to answer. Our friends here, in Malaysia, and in other parts of the world have added to our lives - the stories we tell, the opinions we hold, who we are. We look forward to continuing and deepening our friendships.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The best laid plans don't always work

My Malay/Muslim friends often end a conversation about the future with "Insha Allah (God willing)" - an apt phrase to recall as we have had to adjust our plans. This week one event through our planning off and another suggested that we had over planned.

Early Tuesday morning Doug awoke with severe shaking and chills. I searched google, but couldn't find a "what to do next" entry. His doctor prescribed an antibiotic and took a blood sample. If the culture was positive Doug would have to go to a hospital. The culture was positive, so Doug spent nearly four days hospitalized and receiving intravenous antibiotics. He was released on Christmas Day and instructed to follow up with his doctor to confirm that all the "bad bacteria" were gone. So our departure from Raleigh has been put off for a few days.

Lessons learned: diabetics should moisturize their feet and pay attention to even small lesions. A random lesson - a Muslim nurse's observed that she couldn't use fish oil b/c it is encase in gelatin. We asked at Whole Foods and learned that Nordic Naturals produces capsules with fish-derived gelatin. A google search found other sources.

The impact of over-planning? We have packed our boots and eaten as much inventory as possible. This morning's snow accumulation would normally lead us to bundle up and walk to the store. Since our boots were packed in a U-pod we drove six blocks to get to the store (a two block walk). The snow and the cold also has delayed our progress in packing the U-pods.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We're Still Here

Our house is unsold. Not a soul has come through in two weeks, which is just as well since we have u-haul pods in the driveway and boxes throughout the house. Here is a unverified factoid - apparently 95 percent of U-Haul franchise owners are women. Our four pods were delivered by the woman pictured below; she drove the truck, managed the fork-lift, and handled the paperwork. The biggest surprise - how roomy they are. One pod is filled with items to go to Brendan's house - for his use, to store for Colin, or to donate to All Saint's yard sale. We have four pods; we may only fill two. U-Haul will reimburse us for unused pods and unused boxes. We love U-Haul.

We are still donating furniture. The charities that pick up furniture are booked until January. We rented a U-Haul truck to deliver two mattress sets and one platform bed (with mattresses) to the Rescue Mission. Fortunately, other donors were at the donation center to help lift the mattresses out. The one volunteer responsible for the whole operation would have been very taxed - he didn't look like he had been lifting a lot of weights.

Other tasks - changing addresses (some can only be done over the phone) and selling our car. We listed the car today. I hope that we found the sweet spot between my need to drive the car and our need to sell it before we leave.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some things can't be controlled (selling house)

We harbored the hope that potential buyers would be seduced by the sight of birds visiting the bird feeders that hang outside the back windows. But we have not seen a bird since we returned in November. On Saturday we changed the seed, but still no birds. On Sunday Doug went outside to pick up the paper just in time to see a hawk capture and fly off with a bird. Perhaps a neigborhood hawk has decimated or scared away the bird population.

Today a robin was at the window feeder. Later we received an e-mail from the realtor with two positive reports (the usual reports comment on the size of the bedrooms). Perhaps the tide is turning.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

An open house - What to do with 5 hours

Today was our first open house (and probably the last while we are in residence), which was scheduled from 2 to 5. Another realtor scheduled a showing from 12:15 - 1:30. The upshot was that we had 5 hours to kill - a better option if we could decide the day and time we want to be out and about.

In the morning we completed the usual drill - vacuuming the floor, filling the bird feeders, and clearing off surfaces. Then we loaded up the car with suitcases, an ice cream maker, and miscellaneous items for Good Will, glasses for a Lions Club donation center, paint for hazardous waste, and electronic devices for recycling. We left at noon and spent about two hours delivering the car's content.

Next we went to the NC Museum of Art to see a Norman Rockwell exhibit. It included all the Saturday Evening Post covers he had illustrated. We were pulled up short by an issue that contained the memoirs of Mussolini. Decades worth of covers reflected the nation's preoccupations - the Depression, World War II, and witch hunts of the 1950's. There were articles by Whitaker Chambers and ones about the "Reds." There were stories by Scott Fitzgerald, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Cristie. The Rockwell material was worth the price of admission, but I especially valued being reminded of recent US cultural history. As I wrote this entry I discovered that the Saturday Evening Post exists as an on-line magazine, apparently benefiting from its association with Rockwell. The exhibited ended with a powerful section on "Murder in Mississippi." I left the museum with far greater respect for Rockwell.

When we left the museum snow was falling. Not the best day for an open house - apparently one person (couple?) dropped in.