Friday, July 29, 2011

Wedding, Wine, Whales and Waterfalls

This post is a bit overdue but nonetheless here it is...

Before Eric and I "officially" moved across the Pacific, we decided to tour the US (Oregon and Michigan, really) and see family, friends and have a good old fashioned vacation!  Our Oregon trip was a perfect bridge between leaving Austin and arriving in Penang.  I am so glad we spent 11 days there.  We had a respite from the oppressive Texas heat, saw family, hung out with some of our best friends and got to celebrate Dave and Em's wedding!  All in all an amazing trip!  Here's the recap:

Portland, Oregon
This was our first stop on our trip, where we spent a day and a half.  I Pricelined a hotel and got a super deal.  We stayed in downtown Portland at The Benson Hotel, think super swanky but nice.  The best part about this hotel was the bed, a nice plush Tempur Pedic King.  After staying the previous week in the Austin Extended Stay De-luxe this felt like heaven!  We hung out at a few local breweries and sampled Portland's best brews.

We also spent half a day with my cousin Eric and his wife, Beth and their kids Ethan and Katie.  It was great to have local experts take us around and show us the city.  We visited the Saturday Market, Powell's Book Store and the Rose Gardens.  The rose gardens were blooming.  Katie and I tried to find the best smelling rose!

Hood River, Oregon
After a quick visit to Portland we headed to Hood River where Dave and Em had rented a house for the week to hang with friends before the wedding.  Hood River is located on the Columbia River and has amazing views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.  From our rental house, we could see the River and watch the sunset change the colors of Mt. Adams.  Pretty awesome!  We visited Mt. Hood and played in the snow, since it will be a while before we are cold again.  We also visited several wineries and did the fruit loop, where we picked 12 lbs of strawberries and used most of them for Jenn's Strawberry Margaritas!  

Whales at Depoe Bay
Our trip to Oregon magically aligned with Aunt Jo and Inayat's West Coast adventure.  This was a huge bonus for us, since we don't get to see them too often and they are two of our favorite people!  We met up with them in Depoe Bay for July 4th -6th on the suggestion from our friends Kelle and Chris.  Depoe Bay is the Whale watching capital of the world!  Score!  We stayed in an amazing VRBO condo right on the rocky Oregon Coastline where we could sit and whale watch over our morning coffee/tea!  It was amazing!  We took a small soft-side boat out into the rough and cold ocean waters to get an up close and personal view of the resident grey whales.  We were lucky to spot several whales on that trip.  The most surprising part was that the whales feed right next to the coast in front of our condo!  From our living room window we saw whales about 20 feet off shore.  We ran down to the rocks with our tuning forks, playing and sending vibrations of positive energy to them.  The whales responded to our sounds by popping up their heads, looking at us for a second, and hanging out for a while.  It was awesome! 

 Here are a few more shots from the beautiful (and cold) Oregon Coast in July!
The right picture is a star fish upside down, it is eating mussels by pulling them open using small tentacles and then moving them to its mouth, in the center of the star fish.  Pretty sweet!

Wine is one of our favorite things in the world and Oregon makes some world-class wines.  As you can imagine, wine tasting and drinking were definitely on the docket, especially since wine is super expensive in Malaysia.  After we left the coast, we headed to the heart of Oregon wine country and stopped at the Yamhill Valley Vineyard on our drive back to Hood River.  Our "quick" wine tasting lasted an hour and a half!  We sat out on the vineyard's patio enjoying the 25,000 rolling acres of vines, beautiful weather, amazing wine, and each other! We also visited several wineries in the Hood River area - including the Naked Winery!

The Wedding!
Now to the real reason we were in Oregon, for Dave and Em's Wedding!  Wedding celebrations kicked off on Thursday with the Bachelor/Bachelorette Party.   Eric spent his day with the guys white water rafting on the White Salmon River, beer tasting at Full Sail Brewery, and spending some time in downtown Hood River.  Jenn kicked off the day with the girls doing yoga and getting a massage. The rest of the day was spent wine tasting in the Hood River area before meeting up with the guys at a local pub.  We had a great time!

Friday was dedicated to the wedding rehearsal and preparations.  Dave and Em couldn't have picked a better location to get married.  The backdrop for the ceremony was wild flowers and Mt. Hood, amazingly beautiful!  Eric was part of the wedding so we got to partake in the rehearsal brunch and dinner.  Lots of family, friends, food and fun!

Saturday was wedding day, it was beautiful, sunny and warm.  A perfect day to celebrate Dave and Em! Em looked amazing in her wedding dress.  She picked it out from a store in Merida, Mexico during our epic trip together last year through the Yucatan.  The guys looked hot in their custom, handmade, Mexican guyaberas and linen pants.   

For dinner, Em, who is a vegetarian, and Dave decided to have a old fashioned Chuck Wagon, complete with ribs and brisket, and probably the best beans I have ever eaten.  The bride, broke her meatless pledge, but only for ribs.

The rest of the evening was spent Square Dancing!  I haven't square danced since 5th grade gym class.  Let me just say, it was awesome!  We had so much fun swinging each other around the dance floor!  Dave and Em brought in a caller and a great band!  Overall, it was a great night, a celebration of love with some of our best friends in the world! We are looking forward to Eli and Robin's nuptials in March!

The Columbia Gorge has some great hikes.  We met up with Aunt Jo the day after the wedding to spend some time hiking and checking out local waterfalls. This whole trip I was pretty hesitant to do anything that was physically strenuous, since I haven't done much strenuous physical activity since my big surgery in February and I wasn't quite sure how my body would respond.  With the support of Eric and Aunt Jo we hiked 6.5 miles and saw 3 gorgeous waterfalls.  This was a huge day for me.  Instead of beating myself up and saying, "I'm so out of shape," I changed my tune to, "I'm getting back in shape."  Aunt Jo and Eric were quick to remind me that less than 4 months ago I couldn't even walk to the mailbox and back without sitting down and resting and now I can hike over 6 miles in the mountains!  Pretty awesome!  If anything this day reminded me that my body is a resilient machine and with time, all things heal, it just takes time.

This trip was just what we needed, in so many ways!  Time with family, friends, good food, good beer, good wine, and a chance to be with each other.  It was a great 11 days and helped us relax and unwind from the last few months.  We left Oregon and headed east for a quick stop in Ann Arbor!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

La Bamba

We have been here for 10 days!! More and more it is feeling like home.  All of our suitcases are unpacked, we have visited the markets, grocery stores, have cell phones, water, internet, a Malaysian bank account and a car!!  Woohoo!

The roller coaster of emotions is slowing down and I'm slowly figuring out life here.  The newness is still plentiful but not so overwhelming. 

Eric's first day of work was yesterday.  I'm so thankful that we had a week to get situated before he had to go back to work.  Since Eric is here on a work Visa, it is necessary for him to be at almost everything.  I needed him to set up a bank account, to buy cell phones, etc.  My "dependent" Visa will not cut it in terms of getting things done, and we all know how much I like to check things off my as a woman is different here. 

Before we left the states, I was asked countless times what I am going to do here.  My general response has been, "I'm going to Be Fabulous!" I know I need to rest and actually finish healing from my last surgery, but sitting at the pool and reading has a time and a place.  For me, that can only last an hour or so a day.  So, I have already begun volunteering at a local NGO (read: Nonprofit) called the Women's Centre for Change, Penang's Women's advocacy and domestic violence center.  It's nice to know I have a purpose here.  Yesterday, I learned that my "official" role will be editor, translator and steam-liner of all things written in English.  :) I even received a call this evening asking me to edit something by tomorrow afternoon.  Trust me, I'm all over it! 

I will probably find 1-2 more agencies to volunteer with in the next few weeks.  I will start off slowly and then see what I need.  For now, I'm focusing the rest of my time on swimming, yoga, shopping, cooking, socializing and travel planning.  Doesn't that sound rough??

Today, I wandered over to Cold Storage, the import grocery store in the basement of the mall.  I needed a few things, like milk, yogurt and wine.  While cruising the aisle a very familiar voice started singing throughout the store, it was Ritchie Valens serenading me with my old childhood favorite, La Bamba .   La Bamba!?!? In Malaysia..ok, this Mexi is home now :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The First Supper

Eric and I realized that we have been eating out and traveling for over 3 weeks.  You can imagine what that does to your system, so I will spare all of the details.  We had been dying to cook dinner and had a basic speghetti dinner planed as our first dinner.  As luck would have it, our gas canister was making a hissing sound when we plugged it in.  Neither of us felt very confident about cooking if we had a gas leak and definitly didn't want to be responsible for blowing up our condo.  Eric looked at me and asked, "do you want to go out?"  I quickly opened up the freezer and pulled out the frozen pizza we had bought earlier and said how's this.

We fired up the Electrolux oven and off we went.  Our fine and frozen pepperoni pizza was paired with a homemade fig balsamic dressing over romaine greens.  Fancy, I know. 

Eric was quick to point out that we are making a tradition of eating pizza as our first meal in our new home.  When we moved into our Wavecrest House, we sat in the garage with the worst looking Domino's pizza and Tecate.  See below.

Compare this to our first Malaysian frozen pizza experience and our first supper in the new house...

We have definitely upgraded!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Our Million Dollar Views

As promised here are some pictures from our front and back views.  All in all not to bad.  I think I can make it work for the next two years!

Our front view!
The View from the back!

We are so lucky to have the opportunity to live in this beautiful place! 
I am full of gratitude

Monday, July 18, 2011


Today is the start of our 4th day in our new home, Penang!  It's been a crazy few days and we are both tired and a bit overwhelmed.  Even though we have visited here in November, it feels brand new in so many ways.  The gravity of this move has begun to set in.  We are experiencing a roller coaster of emotions from immense happiness and gratitude to bouts of sadness.  The newness of this place excites us and also overwhelms us in the same moment.  Everything is new.  Everything.  

We were lucky to move into our condo when we arrived on Saturday evening with our 7 suitcases and two backpacks.  Our awesome realtor, Stephen, met us and quickly showed us around before taking us immediately to Gurney Plaza - aka, the mall - for food and water.  I'll write more about our condo later on but it's NICE and fittingly named, Gurney Palace!  We moved here without physically seeing the space.  All we had were a few pictures and a floor plan.  As expected it is more than we need but meets our number 1 requirement of having amazing views.  We have the entire 10th floor to ourselves and our elevator drops us off at our front door.  Our back patio overlooks the Thai Buddhist and Burmese Buddhist Temples and has a great view of Penang Hill and the tropical forest.  Our front view is an uninterrupted view of the ocean.  This view is magnificent!  Last night we had "Happy Hour" outside on our front balcony and watched the sunset and moon rise over the ocean.  Pretty Awesome!

That being said our condo feels empty and it will be a feat to make it feel more like home.  I am hoping that once our shipment arrives in mid August the familiarities will help to transform this space.  One of our first priorities was to make our house feel more like home, so we bought some dish towels, hand towels (for our 5 bathrooms!!) and pillows for the couches.  I quickly unpacked our wedding picture and Candlelight Ranch book and put it in our entry way.  We have also bought a few dishes, kitchen essentials and some food.  We made breakfast this morning, our first home cooked meal in over a week! I spent this morning working on laundry and washing dishes.  These familiar tasks are helping with the transition. I imagine that everyday we will settle in a bit more and the anxiety will dissipate. 

Thankfully, we purchased a cellular modem to have internet until ours gets set up in 2 weeks.  I call this contraption "my tether" since it is permanently stuck to my laptop but is keeping us connected to our loved ones and our new community.  Hopefully today we will get a local cell phone and be able to start setting up necessities like water and gas service.  Also, for those of you who want to call us please use my new best friend, Skype.  Our username is ehartner.  We would love to hear from you! 

Jenn & Eric

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Goodbye Austin

Dear Austin,

Thank you for being our home for the last six and a half years.  We have enjoyed living here and hope to return someday. 

Here are some pictures from our going away party at the Oasis last Sunday!  A special Thank You to our Candlelight Ranch family for organizing it!  And a very special thank you to Misty Meier for making it happen!!

We had a great night! 

Carless and Homeless

We are officially on our way, there is no turning back now.  We have no home to return to or car to drive...Now it's happening, for real!

Eric and I are currently in Portland, Oregon.  We made it out of Austin yesterday, 5 suitcases and 2 backpacks full of stuff, our life really.  The last week is a blur.  The gravity of this move hasn't quite set in yet.  I know this for sure, we can't back out because we wouldn't have any place to return to.  Our renters moved in already and both cars are gone. 

Good bye house!

It's really empty!

The next two weeks are a much needed break for both of us.  Last night at dinner we decided that this move has been happening since last September when we were initially approached.  The pace of our life has significantly sped up since then.  We have decided that there are few things that are more stressful than literally moving to the other side of the world.  This move has been harder than my surgery, seriously.  The move just continued to drag on, an unrelenting to do list.  Every night for months something else to do.  No rest.  No time to heal.  No time for anything except moving...

Now it's time for vacation.  VACATION.  What's that?!??  No work and lots of rest.  Looking forward to spending time with our best friends, being outdoors, whale watching, drinking beer and wine, laughing, exploring, healing and finally, arriving in our new home, Penang!