San Antonio snapshots

greetings from Texas, y'all.

this past weekend I was reunited with my husband, and we decided to take a little getaway to San Antonio. we did pretty minimal sightseeing [riverwalk, Alamo, market square] because it was blazing hot... and also we just wanted to hang out together after 2 months apart.

so I don't really have much to say about the city other than you should visit because A: I was born there, and B: drinks and guacamole on the riverwalk while listening to mariachi should be on everyone's bucketlist.

it's possible that my enthusiasm for guacamole is inflated due to recent events. you see, for the past month, I've been in and out of doctors offices trying to figure out what is going on with all my food allergies, sensitivities, and digestive system. numerous vials of blood, hydrogen breath tests, and both an endoscopy and colonoscopy later... I still don't have a clear answer on why feeding myself without feeling ill has been such a challenge these past 2 [or really, 6] years. right now I am eating on a very restricted diet on top of my already restricted diet, and slowly adding foods back in.

it's extremely challenging, and frustrating, and difficult to explain, and thank goodness I have people who help support me [and occasionally cook for me.] and that I am still allowed to have potato chips and wine.

most food items are still a question mark for me, but I do know this so far: I am confirmed lactose intolerant [thankfully lactose-free cheeses are just fine.] eggs give me headaches, even after 2 years of not eating them. trying to shop for foods that don't contain any onion, garlic, gluten, egg, or soy also gives me headaches from reading labels. but avocado - which I was told in 2016 I was allergic to - is 100% not an issue for my system.

therefore: high levels of guacamole enthusiasm abound. when you have to cut out 86 different foods, but can add one back in you thought was lost, it's worth celebrating.

as you might guess, all this food and doctor business has been taking up a lot of time and energy. and now we are entering the part of the expat summer where we fly all over the country to get in our family visiting time - two weeks in Austin now, two weeks in Michigan next - to be followed by a period of vagabond wandering and visiting friends. [which is really just a fancy way of saying, we don't have that planned yet.]

it's been a challenging year, and a whirlwind of a summer. my plans for the blog have been set aside in favor of more important things [like eating.] but I'm still here, I'm still trying to smile.

and now... I'm eating my fill of guacamole.


an expat's musings on home

they say that home is where the heart is, but I've left my heart in so many places.

being back in the states right now, approaching my 5th expat anniversary, the topic of home has been heavy in my mind. I like to travel with an open heart, and sometimes it can be a hazard. I've fallen in love with locations all over the globe. places I grew up, places I've lived, and places I've only visited.

the more I travel, the longer the list gets, and the more I realize the question of "where is home?" never seems to have a clear answer.

I used to worry about this. a lot. especially after we first moved abroad. I wondered if I would ever really find a place to call home. I had memories scattered all over the earth -- but I'd never stayed somewhere for longer than a decade. there were so many places I thought I could belong, that maybe I would never belong anywhere.

then I realized, if so many places felt like home... maybe I didn't have to choose. living this expat life, I may never have one specific place to call home. but who says that "home" has to be a house with a yard and a white picket fence? why should it be only the place you were born or raised or live? or even a location at all?

to me, home is not a place. it's a feeling.

home is sitting on the edge of a dock, dipping my toes in the water, holding my morning coffee and watching the mist clear over the lake. it's standing on a rooftop in Istanbul, listening to the call to prayer echo over the Golden Horn at sunset. sipping a glass of wine on a bench at Prague Castle while husband has one arm around me and a beer in the other.

home is baking in the Thai sun with my favorite book on a sandy beach in Railay, turquoise waves crashing on the shore. it's navigating through the tourists to find my special secret spot in Central Park. it's dumplings and drinks with friends on a steamy Taipei night. home is hiking up a mountain trail or through a forest in Taroko Gorge, Milford Sound, or maybe the Olympic Peninsula.

home is a hug from my husband at the end of a long day, a text from a friend checking in, the sound of the keys on my laptop clicking as I write. or, home is just watching TV with my parents while a cat is curled up in my lap.

maybe, home really is where the heart is.

that is -- home is in my heart, wherever I go.

linking up with Follow Your Sunshine, SilverSpoon London, Adventures of a London Kiwi and Kiwi Footprints for the monthly travel link up, 


Elephant Mountain

I've been back in America for a few weeks now -- just long enough to start missing my adopted home of Taiwan. [or, at least my favorite parts of it: husband, friends, mountains, dumplings, etc.] so today I'm sharing a collection of photos from one of my favorite views in Formosa: Elephant Mountain.

of all the easy-access hikes I've explored in Taipei, Elephant Mountain is the one I return to again and again. it offers the most bang for your buck - or really, view for your climb - and can be done in under an hour if you only go so far. the trails go back quite a ways and loop with other mountains, so it's up to you how far to climb. pro tip: the further you go, the better the views and the thinner the crowds.

the first time I climbed Elephant Mountain, it was about 95F and I was wearing flip flops and jean shorts. that's not what I recommend - but it is doable. since then I've been back in all kinds of weather [and outfits] but usually with more suitable footwear.

the trail is paved, but the steps are made from stone and can be a bit uneven. they are definitely not uniform. sneakers or gym shoes are best for this hike, but if you can climb stairs in your gear then you can climb Elephant Mountain.

the main draws of this hike are its proximity to the MRT, and the views. I visited with Anna on a misty November afternoon. the visibility wasn't great, but we could still see Taipei 101 and Xinyi.

a week later I climbed with my sister-in-law and the skies were almost opposite. the air was so clear I could see a whole new layer of mountains I'd never spotted before. while it would be great to see so far every time, I still think it's worth the climb in the mist or a little bit of rain.

the day I took my parents to Elephant Mountain was pretty polluted. the sky was almost white and the city just faded off into the horizon. not ideal. but. even on hazy days, the climb can still be enjoyable. if you continue past the famous rocks [after possibly stopping for a photo on top] the trail goes on to another observation deck before winding back through shaded jungle.

we all know sunset light is magic. and sunset views from Elephant Mountain are no exception. the evening I climbed in January [with Geneva] there was a crowd around the rocks, a line 15 people deep to take photos with 101 in the background, and a dark streak across the sunset sky.

it turns out there was a fire at a tire factory in Taoyuan. not a good thing for the factory or the environment, but it made for some dramatic skies.

the point of this post [other than to say I miss Taiwan maybe a little] is that Elephant Mountain makes a great hike, no matter the weather.
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