7.29.2015

a life update, from Taipei


it hit me on tuesday while I was scanning my card to exit the MRT - I live in Taipei.

I was making my second trip to IKEA in four days. [there's going to be at least one more this week.] and rather than just show my little printed card to a cab driver and be summarily delivered I wanted to use public transit. Husband was heading down to Hsinchu to get the rest of what we left behind and have lunch with students, so I shared a cab with him as far as Taipei Main Station. there we parted ways - him to the high speed rail and I to the MRT [Taipei's subway system.]

it's been eight years since I lived in New York, and though several places I've lived since could qualify as cities based on population, none of them truly felt like a city. you know, the kind of city where kids in the suburbs turn to each other and say "hey, want to go into the city this weekend?"

I smiled to myself as I navigated my way through the underground maze. because now I don't have to make plans to go to the city for a weekend. I live in the city. and it feels... like home. I love the energy, I love the easy access to everything, and I especially love the clean and orderly system that is Taipei public transit.


I managed to jam all my IKEA purchases into one backpack and one tote bag. and again, instead of taking the cab I decided to walk, MRT, and bus ride back to the apartment. even though it was 105F out. because I am a capable, independent, and stubborn woman.

we've been back for almost a week, and the apartment is finally coming together. thanks to a lot of sweat on our part and a constant stream of realtor, cleaning lady, IKEA delivery men, repair man, movers, cable guy, water delivery guy, and... probably someone else but I can't remember.

the one thing we really need to figure out is the trash and recycling system. Taiwan is quite particular about sorting things out, and our last apartment had a situation that was complicated but at least we [mostly] knew what to do. here we don't have to do as much sorting - I think - but we still don't want to piss off the neighbors or the landlady by putting things in the wrong place. we also have an overabundance of packing materials [as we continue to unbox everything] and it won't all fit in the designated area. thankfully they collect trash every day except wednesday and sunday, so we can remove it all bit by bit.


all that being said, Husband and I have come to the conclusion that this is the nicest apartment we have ever lived in. nice wood floors, tons of light, a huge kitchen, and so much counter space in my bathroom I don't even know what to do with it.

our location is a bit of a stroll from the MRT, but there's a bus station a few blocks away that will take you right there. we are pretty much across the street from a giant park [above] which contains a university, walking paths and a track, playgrounds, and a baseball stadium. and those mountains back there? I can see them peeking out from my bedroom window.

so maybe I'm bragging a little bit. but I am already in love with our neighborhood and this city. and it just feels like life here is going to be really really good.


at some point I'll get around to exploring the neighborhood with my camera. but for now you can keep up on instagram and snapchat [both @ jamiethewalker] because the weather has been feels-like-109F and afternoon thunderstorms each day.

and I still need to get more hangers so I can finish unpacking.

7.20.2015

notes from an expat at home


there are a lot of fantastic things about being an expat visiting your home country. but some things can be a struggle - such as keeping up with your blog. I think you all understand why I've had trouble making time to write. between driving all over the state of Michigan, sorting through all our stuff that's been in storage for 3 years, trying to see all our family and friends, and stuffing ourselves with amazing food [not to mention extremely limited data plans] the internet has been low on my priority list.

we've been splitting time between the west coast and east side of the mitten. your somewhat unrelated photos today are from two sunset walks, on opposite sides of the state. the Lake Michigan shore from Stearns Park in Ludington, and country fields and dirt roads from Armada. [my mother-in-law is moving to Texas this fall, so the next time we visit the US, the corn fields will be replaced by tacos and brisket.]


we leave for Taiwan again on Tuesday, so we've entered the crunch time of our trip. maybe the worst part about coming back for the summer is knowing that you can't do everything. there's always going to be some persons you didn't meet up with, some restaurant you never made it to, some task left incomplete. you're going to end up disappointing at least 5 people with your plans. but after 3 years of this, I think I've finally accepted that it's just the way it goes.


I've learned not to make epic summer bucket lists because there's never enough time or gas in the car to make it all happen. however, there have been some amazing moments this summer. if you've been following along on snapchat [@jamiethewalker] or instagram, you've probably caught a peek at some of these moments:

  • being matron of honor at my cousin's wedding
  • meeting my nephew Derek for the first time
  • morning runs out to the lighthouse
  • climbing the bluff at Sleeping Bear
  • snuggling with my long-lost kittens
  • a video game marathon slumber party
  • finally getting my first tattoo
  • 4th of July antics at my family's cabin
  • discovering my new favorite gluten free beer: Stone's Delicious IPA
  • an epic game of Risk with my nephews
  • trashing my wedding dress with a photoshoot
  • margaritas on the El Azteco roof deck


while it's been a lovely summer, Husband and I are both SO excited to head back to Taiwan and settle in to life in Taipei. he will be starting a new job, and I will [hopefully] get back into my blogging and writing routine. I've been thinking a lot about the blog and where I might want to take it. there are still a lot of back-logged posts to write from New Zealand, I have several requests to revive my food blog, and a dozen ideas for new series to share. after all the sorting through of our physical stuff that I've done these past few months, I think it's time to tackle the idea pile. I'd like to take a step back and refocus on what I'm doing here, maybe make a bit of a fresh start.


while I'm really looking forward to exploring more of Taipei and organizing our new apartment, at this point I'm most excited to be done living out of a suitcase. I'm ready to create a new routine for our life and start planning adventures for the year to come. oh, and to have my unlimited data plan back please.

[there are things about America that I miss, but there are also things that drive me crazy. the ridiculously slow and overpriced cell service has been near the top of the crazy list this summer.]


this part - the end - of our visit is always bittersweet. I'm ready for my own space and for dumplings and dragons, but my heart still hurts to leave home behind. even after three years of doing this whole expat thing. the trans-continental summer gets easier each time [from a jet lag and packing experience perspective at least] but the emotional trauma hasn't lessened. I'll be saying some goodbyes the next few days... but trying to remember that on the other end I'll be saying hellos.

Michigan, you gave us a wonderful summer. plenty of sunshine soaked up, tasty food eaten, miles walked and memories made. we'll see you again soon, xo.

6.19.2015

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore


I could write a love letter to Michigan summers.

pulling on long sleeves with your morning coffee to ward off a chill. reflections of light and sound off the surface of the lake. knowing the difference in scent between cedar and pine, campfire smoke and your neighbor's barbecue. sleeping with the windows open at night. adrenaline and wind in your hair as you glide across the water on a single ski. the feel of just enough sun on your skin - that you start turning pink but don't burn. shaking sand out of your shoes and not caring that it got there. sunset strolls down the pier or around the marina before stopping for ice cream.


the sand dunes and blue waters of West Michigan hold a lifetime full of memories for me. we visited often when I was a child, and in recent years I've spent nearly half my summers here. this week I have been hanging out with my family in Ludington, and we drove 2 hours north up to Empire to visit the dunes on Tuesday since the weather was clear and sunny.

I probably don't need to explain why Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore was voted the most beautiful place in America by GMA in 2011. but for me, I love it because of the memories here. at the end of the Pierce Stocking scenic drive there is a steep bluff that we would run down as kids. from the top, you can't even see the shore. the sand gently curves outward before plunging at a very steep angle towards Lake Michigan. though there is a warning sign posted that the trip may take 2 hours, my sister and brother-in-law and I decided to take the challenge.


the descent was easy, and the views from the bottom were stunning. Lake Michigan was showing off with water just as aqua and blue as beaches I've seen in Bali and Boracay. [it was a lot colder - but hey - the Great Lakes only fully thawed out a few weeks ago.]

the climb back up was a little tough, but we made it in about 30 minutes including a few stops for water. a few decades ago, I think it took me half that time. just be prepared to get sandy.


if you aren't up for the bluff, you can watch the crazies adventurers from the nearby observation deck, or hike over the dune crest for more views. there is also a "dune climb" further along the drive - that takes a few hours round trip but isn't as steep. pretty much, you can't go wrong because the views are amazing everywhere in the park.


can you see why Lake Michigan makes me all heart-eye-emoji? combining childhood nostalgia with stunning scenery is always a win. [ps- thanks to my sister for snapping all these photos of me! I will admit she made it back up the bluff faster than I did.]
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