Turning 18 and Taking Flight

Tomorrow, this little puppy turns 18.

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We’ll do all the normal birthday things.

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We’ll have a big birthday meal …

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Sing Happy Birthday …

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Eat some cake …

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But then, as the sun is setting on his 18th birthday, he’ll board an airplane to Germany.

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He’ll arrive at Ramstein Air Base Monday morning, where he’ll take the ASVAB, go through a physical exam, and before the week is up, enlist in the United States Air Force.

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He’ll fly back to South Africa on Saturday.  Later this month he’ll graduate from high school and then spend the next few months working at the Embassy.  He’ll probably start basic training in late summer or early fall.

So for now, I’ll have a few more months before this son of mine becomes a soldier.  I’m so proud of him and his decision to serve his country.  But I’m going to miss this little boy of mine.

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Happy Birthday Ben!!  I love you!

Daddy’s Funeral

Yesterday, my nine year-old came home from school and we had this short exchange:

Elizabeth: Mom, I know why you and Dad decided to join the Foreign Service.

Me:  Oh really?!  Why?

Elizabeth:  So that Dad could have an interesting funeral!

As weird as that sounds, there is actually a lot of truth to it.  Before joining the FS, Jason had a really good job in the private sector.  We had a house in a great community and our kids went to good schools and had good friends.  We could have continued that life for the rest of time.  But honestly, we were both a little bored.  Especially Jason.

When Jason was graduating from college in the mid-90’s, he had a vision for what he hoped his career in the software industry would be.  With hard work, perseverance and some luck, he was able to accomplish all of his career goals.  The problem was, he accomplished them all by 35.  So then what was he to do?  Start over and redo all of those same goals?

In 2006, my father died.  Jason sat in my dad’s funeral listening to the stories of the life of his father-in-law and started wondering what kinds of things would be said at his own funeral.  He decided that, as it was, his funeral would be pretty boring.

That’s when he started checking out the Foreign Service and with my blessing, he applied. The process took about a year and a half, but our lives changed exponentially on the day in June 2010 that he received the job offer.  And we have been smiling ever since.

And now, his funeral will be filled with stories of:

Hanging out in temples in Taiwan.

DSC_0083Making out in the ruins of Cambodia.

DSC_0100Photo bombing tigers in Thailand.

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Pretending to be a model in Hong Kong.

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Wearing skirts in Bali.

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Photographing orangutans in Borneo.

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Communing with bamboo in Japan.

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Fist bumping school children in Kenya.

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Stuffing his face full of the best cuisine that Israel has to offer.

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And riding camels with his mother-in-law around one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World in Jordan.

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So yes, Elizabeth, Daddy’s funeral is going to be very interesting and lots of fun.  Something for all of us to look forward to!

Lonely Beauty

I’ve been down on Taiwan lately. I know part of the melancholy comes from missing my wife and kids, but sometimes I find it hard to overlook the smelly food, dreary architecture and humidity.

However, on a few occasions I dragged my lonely self out of the house and was reminded what a great place this is.

One day I drove my car up into the mountains to a town called Shifen.  Guess what it’s famous for.

Shifen Waterfall

On another occasion I found a theme park way outside the major population centers.  I snooped around the perimeter to see if I could get a feel for the place.  I was startled to see this guy looking back at me.

Rhino!

A few days ago I went on a aimless hike near my house and was greatly rewarded.

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I also met some friendly locals.

Formosan Macaque

What a great place to be.

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But I’m ready for my family to come back…