life's adventures lately

it's a hazy monday here in Taipei, good for sorting through photos and making new plans. I thought I'd take a few moments to share what's been brewing around here lately...

family vacation in the Pacific Northwest

first - I need to ask for some help! my parents are spending a few weeks traveling around Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and Eugene at the end of April, and I'm flying to the US to join them. my dad already has a long list of things for our itinerary, and my mom has booked us some adorable airbnbs [can you see where I get my travel bug from?] but none of us have been out that way before. I'd love to hear about your favorite things to do in the area - hikes, waterfalls, museums, food, whatever!

getting stronger + feeling better

the main reason for my early arrival in the US is that I'm planning to see a food allergy specialist. the last year has been quite a trial for me with all the new allergies and then a bacterial infection in my guts, so I'm hoping to get some clear [or more clear] answers on what exactly my body wants to be eating. that being said, my health continues to improve. and Husband has convinced me to go to the gym, so I'm putting back the muscle mass I lost. this is a good thing. I'm feeling stronger and healthier with each week that goes by. I even did my first weighted Turkish Getup with a kettlebell the other day!

making travel plans

since I'm going to be in the Pacific Northwest in April, I'll be heading east to Michigan in May. I should be hopping down to Austin for a few weeks to spend time with Husband's family before we head back to Michigan together, and then eventually depart via Chicago. in total we will be taking 12 to 16 different flights, depending how the connections work out. BUT we will have a chance to see all four of our nephews this summer, as well as other family and friends. I didn't visit the US last year so it's been a while and obviously I am really excited!

Taipei adventures

in the past few weeks I've been getting out and about more - I've wandered Dongmen with the lovely Geneva of A Pair and A Spare, climbed Elephant Mountain at sunset, ventured to Long Dong Bay for a picnic on a rock by the sea, and took a complicated route up to Yangmingshan for a solo hike. since I only have nine weeks left in Taiwan [until after summer] I've been making a list of things I'd like to see and do before I go. I'm hoping to cross off at least one adventure per week until then.

plot twists

among all this, I've still been working on my novel. sometimes it goes really well, and sometimes it's pulling fingernails.  a few weeks ago I hit a snag with my plot. to fix it, I made a pretty substantial change to the workings of my universe - which unfortunately requires me to rewrite quite a bit - but the story will be better for it in the end. I'm doing my best to just keep writing through it.

we have managed to spend a few lazy afternoons on the couch binging netflix, but overall, life has been busy but good. [and it doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon.] I hope that life is well where you are, and please do let me know if you have any Seattle/Portland recommendations!


the textures + patterns of Topkapi Palace

a must-do in Turkey: take in all the textures and patterns of the stunning Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

Topkapi Palace boasts a view fit for a Sultan - situated on a point of land that juts between the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn, at the top of a hill overlooking the city of Istanbul, the Bosphorous, and two continents. but the most entrancing part about our tour through this palace-turned-museum [for me, anyway] were the intricate inlays, carved doorways and windows, geometric metalwork, and delicately painted tiles.

I'm a sucker for the details, and I've got the photos to prove it.

Topkapi Palace was built after the Ottomans conquered the Byzantines [on the ruins of their acropolis, actually] and it was home to the Sultans for nearly 400 years. throughout that time it was constantly being expanded and renovated. while this resulted in a rather haphazard arrangement of courtyards and buildings, it also decorated the palace compound with varying examples of the finest decorative styles throughout the centuries.

appropriately enough, we wore our patterned harem pants for the visit - though we did clash with most of the decor. every room and passage was swathed in colors, carvings, and detailed designs. according to Husband, I took a photo of every tile and doorway in the entire palace that day. given that a large portion was under restoration, this was clearly not true. but I would have.

one of my favorite spaces in the palace was this kiosk. I could just imagine lounging here with a book, windows open to a breeze from the garden... I mean, really. what's the fun of visiting a palace if you don't envision yourself living there as a princess?

but I'm pretty sure this kiosk was not constructed for bookish princesses. in fact, the royal ladies [and the children] had a separate but impressive section of the palace that was their domain: the harem.

when it comes to pattern mixing, the Ottomans were pro. somehow the wild blend of colors and textures everywhere just adds to the opulence of the palace. it's a lot to take in - plan to spend several hours exploring - but Topkapi should be on your list of sights to see when in Istanbul.

touring the harem costs an additional admission fee, but it contains some of the most beautiful rooms. I would suggest buying a Museum Pass, as the admission for the palace and harem and the nearby Hagia Irene [or any other museum in Istanbul such as the Hagia Sofia] will add up to the same cost or more. since the pass lasts for 5 days you'll have plenty of time to make use of it!


the world is bigger than just me

sharing this post is uncomfortable. but there are things in this world more important than my comfort. lately it feels like all other things are getting stuck in my throat, because this needs to be said. every day it seems, things are happening in my home country which threaten the very ideas it supposedly was built upon - liberty, justice, and equality for all. I can't stand to be silent when so many others have been brave enough to speak up for what they believe is right in the face of recent [and likely ongoing] events.

I'll be the first to admit my particular life experience is dripping in privilege. I am a white American, raised in middle class suburbia, who attended university and walked away without loans. I immediately found employment, and after five years I left of my own free will. and now my husband and I live on a single income which is enough to cover our expenses and allow for things like retirement savings and travel. the only strike against me is that I'm a woman - and for as much as the rights of my gender are important, the privileges of a white middle class American woman are far above what most in this world receive.

I do care about my rights, my freedoms, my future. but I care about more than just what affects me.

I believe that all humans are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of where they were born or the color of their skin, who they love or who they pray to. I believe that the government should provide adequate education for children, support for those who have served their country, and affordable and accessible healthcare regardless of gender or economic status. I believe that those of us who by birth or luck are privileged, have a social responsibility to assist and defend those who are not. and I believe that we are all entitled to express our opinions freely, and act according to our own beliefs so long as we do not impinge upon or deny the rights of others.

it is because of those beliefs that I am who I am. and while they began with my upbringing, they have been greatly shaped by my experiences as an expat [or, to call a spade a spade, an immigrant.] the opportunity to leave my home country and see the world, interact with other cultures, meet people from wildly different backgrounds and understand how they view America has made me a better person - wiser, more compassionate, more humble.

I understand now, that the world is bigger than just me.

the world is also bigger than America, but the decisions being made there now are impacting us all. I may not be there on the soil in the heart of it, but I can see the ripples and feel the tremors of the consequences from here on the other side of the earth. this isn't the first time our country has stumbled on its journey to fulfilling those ideals of liberty and equality - we, as with all mankind, have some truly horrific behavior in our history. but we also have this: the masses of people standing up and fighting for rights that are intersectional and more inclusive. I can see and feel that from here, too.

this is not to claim my understanding of the world is perfect or my education complete. there's still so much to learn, and there are still things that will always be beyond my comprehension. I can sympathize and support, but I'll never know anything other than my own experience. the importance is in trying. you won't learn much about the world if you surround yourself only with the people and things that agree with you. so I go places that are foreign, meet people that are different, try things that seem strange. it's a privilege to be able to do that. but anyone, no matter where they are, can do their best to keep open eyes, ears, and hearts. anyone can resolve to treat others with kindness and respect.

what I do here on this blog, is try to share what small bit I've learned of the world. my travels and my experiences abroad have changed me, shown me so many good and beautiful things I never knew existed, and I try to convey that with my stories and photographs. my hope is that this blog can give you a bit of perspective that you didn't have before, broaden your understanding of the world, and show you that curiosity and wonder will teach us more than fear.

and now, because the world is bigger than just me, I'll climb down off my soapbox.

[like-minded Americans: if you are looking for more tangible ways to help, please check out this spreadsheet or Amanda's post, consider choosing people over brand like Nicole, take action to support education, go out and march for a cause you believe in, call or email your elected representatives, and be sure to VOTE.]
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