Weeks 53 - 57: One Year - No Cobras

It's been a year. Can you believe it? One whole year since we packed up all of our earthly belongings - aside from the grotesquely large heap of excess still in the storage unit in Texas, of course - and started the trans-continental journey of a lifetime. Twelve months since we left behind our family and friends, our wonderful (but geriatric) dog, our fish (who had a lot more personality than one might expect from a 12 cent goldfish), and every other familiar component of our lives.

To commemorate having survived this year in expatriate seclusion - a milestone I must admit I feared I would not reach with both my marriage and my sanity intact - we took our first family trip back home, to celebrate the holidays. Greg and I have each enjoyed one solo trip back apiece, but it was the boys' first return visit since our move. Although they were, of course, very eager to see their grandparents (seven of them if you count Naynay, which they emphatically do) and their friends from our former neighborhood, the main focus of their excitement was food-related. Specifically, they looked forward to a big plate of the much beloved banana nut muffins produced by Z Tejas, a local restaurant favorite of ours. It's a treat that you can get only on the weekends in Austin, and there is nothing like it Singapore. Not even at the American Club. I think those muffins provide my little Texans with a source of comfort and joy akin to the feelings I get when I eat mashed potatoes. [Sigh.] Mashed potatoes...

We landed in the beautiful city of Austin in mid-December, 24 hours and 20 degrees from our start in Asia. As we descended the escalator on our way to baggage claim, we were delighted to see three of the seven grandparents waiting for us at the bottom, despite the very late night arrival. After a quick trip through the Taco Cabana drive-thru (a transportation convenience unknown to Singapore for some reason), we made our way to Katherine's and Jim's house, where two more grandparents awaited us, and where we stayed up way too late visiting and feasting on bean and cheese tacos (another delicacy that cannot be found in the Orient).

I was fortunate enough to be able to take a side trip with some girlfriends to Las Vegas, and I hopped back on an airplane, after a whopping two hours of sleep, the morning after our arrival. As it turns out, sin city is the perfect place to battle jet lag. Once I returned from my weekend of self-indulgence, including an all-nighter at the Barbary Coast craps table, grandparents six and seven drove down from Oklahoma, and we spent a glorious Christmas surrounded by our family. Greg and I lounged about like college students on holiday, watching cable television and eschewing responsibility, while the boys basked in the glow of grandparental love and patience, knowing that it would require an act of serious violence to elicit even one cross word. They spent hours visiting, drawing pictures, and playing with toys they havenít seen in a year; they baked, decorated, and ate cookies and cakes with the grandmothers; they made some lovely Christmas ornaments with Big olí Grandfather; they romped with the dogs in the refreshingly cool weather, and generally ran amok. Itís no wonder they balked at the idea of leaving.

I wasn't very excited about leaving either, frankly. Fortunately, we were able to extend our visit for a few days by switching around our airline reservations and leaving on New Year's Eve. The changes required giving up the non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Singapore in exchange for a four-hour layover in Tokyo, but it was well worth the sacrifice. Unfortunately, we missed the last flight to Tokyo, due to weather delays in L.A., so we ended up ringing in the new year in unprecedented (and hopefully never repeated) style: searching through hundreds of pieces of virtually identical unclaimed black luggage in the bowels of the LAX airport, while an exasperatingly cheerful voice counted down the last 10 seconds of 2006. Happy freaking new year. If only the vibrant spectacle of New York's falling apple could have been replaced by the surprise appearance of just one of our bags...  When it was all said and done, it took us almost 40 hours and a night in a dingy little off-airport hotel to get back to Singapore. Thankfully, our luggage turned up the next morning and made the journey back to Asia with us after all.

Apart from that first nasty month, the last year passed quite quickly. We worked a lot, swam a lot, traveled to Thailand twice, and, still, the only black spitting cobra we saw was at the zoo. Now that we're back in the tropics, we start the second half of our expatriate journey - refreshed from time with family and friends (apart from the lingering jet lag), and with a year of Asian experiences under our collective belts. I am certain that the next will year will pass every bit as quickly; and hopefully, the shy serpent with which I am clearly obsessed will stay every bit as hidden.

Take care,
Shannon et al.

Cameron, baking


Alec with (temporary) dinosaur tattoos




Cameron & Alec, after the final t-ball game of the season




Alec & Cameron, right before our trip
(December in Singapore is the same temperature as July...)


Cameron & Alec, at the school holiday assembly


Alec, helping Mimi put on the bracelet we gave her


Alec, Gamma Ray, & Cameron



Cameron & Pawpaw


Alec, decorating cookies

Mema & Cameron






Alec & the dogs

Alec & Cameron


Cameron & Grandma



Alec & Cameron


the cookies


Kevin, Alec, & Cameron


Cameron, decorating cookies





Alec, dressed as Luke Skywalker


Cameron & the Christmas turkey

Big ol' Grandfather & Alec, making Christmas ornaments


Mema & Cameron, chopping onions


Grandma & Cameron, baking a cake

Cameron, adding in the chocolate chips to the cake batter 


Alec & Zoe



Alec & Gamma Ray


Cameron, dressed as Obi Wan



Mema & Cameron



Alec & Grandma, showing their tattoos


Cameron, playing the harmonica for the dogs


Alec, drawing Lucky



Cameron & Alec - Happy New Year!!!