Monday, June 25, 2007

Magic Carpet Ride

Dada's Grandpa Bill has written up a journal of his experience in China, titled "Magic Carpet Ride", written to Dada and intended for her to read when she is older. Bill created the journal as a printed book and we have Dada's copy in our fire safe. However, I have created an HTML version of the journal and posted it here:

It's not quite complete in that I haven't hooked up all the pictures used in the printed version (but all the pictures are on Flickr in the "All China Pictures" set if you care to see them). I'll update the HTML version when I get the rest of the pictures hooked up.

The journal provides an interesting perspective on the adoption trip, the same trip that was reported in this blog.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What Did We Do Before the Web?

[Note: I thought I had posted this at the time (8 June 2007) but apparently I didn't. Doing it now.]

This picture was sent to me this evening by Julie from her camera phone. I'm traveling today, returning from an overnight trip to NYC and currently camped out at the now all too familiar EWR President's club waiting for my invariably delayed flight back to Austin.

It is wonderful to be able to get these pictures of Dada more or less in real time, seeing what cute thing she's doing at the moment.

It definitely makes traveling a little easier.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Blogging the Past: The Kimber 'Stead

[I have started uploading scans of old family photos to Flickr. This is one of them, taken in 1966.]

About 1960 (not sure of the exact year), my (Eliot's) grandparents Ellen and Ellery kimber left the Parkdale fruit ranch where Ellery had been foreman for almost 20 years (and where my father, Bill, had grown up) and bought 4.6 acres on the Hood River in Oregon. This little piece of land had a small house and a nice little "beach" right on the river, as well as an acre or so of open, flat bottom land suitable for cultivation. Eventually the property include water rights to the middle of the Hood River.

Ellen and Ellery, then in their 50's, expanded the little house to add a comfortable livingroom and master bedroom, updated the kitchen and bathroom, and generally modernized it to 1960 standards. They also built a generous carport and, later, a little A-frame greenhouse.

All this happened when I was an infant and toddler so I don't remember the construction, but I was around for some of it, based on the photographic evidence.

This land, which we generally referred to as the "Kimber 'Stead" or just "The 'Stead" was where I spent several weeks every summer until I graduated from college and continued to visit regularly until my father and I were forced to sell it following the passing of Ellen and Ellery in 2004.

While we loved the property neither Bill nor I could practically use it and it couldn't really generate much rental income, so it made more sense to sell it, which we did. (Ellen and Ellery had deeded it jointly to Bill and myself years ago, keeping a life estate, in order to avoid loosing the property should they have used up their savings on health care at the end of their lives.)

As it happened, it was that inheritance that allowed us to easily afford the adoption and buy the lot in Austin and build our dream house. So we feel that, while we lost a treasured family asset, we gained a greater treasure (Dada) and stayed true to the spirit of the place by building a new Kimber 'Stead (albeit, a smaller one). I think that Ellen and Ellery, always practical and unsentimental New Englanders, would have approved.

I like to think that it is from my grandfather that I got what little facility I have for building things and for growing things, although I will never have the natural and intuitive ease he had--it always seemed like he could build anything and make anything bloom.

My grandmother was a librarian by training and profession, eventually becoming head librarian of the Hood River County library (there is now a meeting room in the library named in honor of Ellen and Ellery) and help instill in me a love of books and words. She did crosswords and acrostics almost every day of her life until very end, when her eyesight failed her.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Blogging the Past: Sri Lanka Oct 2004

In October of 2004 I made a business trip to the Innodata facilities in Sri Lanka and India. [For all the pictures, see the Sri Lanka Trip Flickr set that this picture is a member of. I have also geotagged the pictures so you can see where on the map they were taken (more or less).]

I fell in love with Sri Lanka.

The country is beautiful, being a tropical island in the Indian ocean. The people are beautiful, and the majority Buddhist religion gives the entire country a laid-back "moderation in all things (including moderation)" vibe. The food was really good too, spicy and flavorful and varied.

While a very poor country, it doesn't seem to be the same sort of grimly grinding poverty that I observed in northern India. While most people are very poor, they seem to have a cheerfulness about them and I didn't see evidence of the really marginalized poor that you see in India, like people living the medians of highways. That might result simply from the fact that it's a tropical country where fruit grows everywhere all the time or a lower population density or it might be cultural, I really don't know. Sri Lanka has a remarkably high literacy rate which has given it an edge in taking advantage of information technology globalization.

I also fell in love with the three-wheeled taxis (called "tuk tuk's elsewhere, such as in Thailand, but generally referred to as "three wheels" here). They are zippy and fun and ubiquitous. I learned how to bargain for a good fare (80 rupees to go from my hotel to the Innodata building a half mile away). The manufacturer is Baja and they are imported into North America. I was on the verge of buying one when we decided to put all our resources into our house and child. Still the dream burns in my heart to drive a Baja three wheel around Austin (I saw one on Burnet road one day, the delivery van model, so I know it's a dream I can achieve).

I was there for two weeks and over the weekend the Innodata guys arranged for three of us (Narinder and Madu from Innodata's Gurgaon office were there too) to go to the Elephant Sanctuary near Kandy and then visit Kandy itself, as well as several other sites in the area. That was a wonderful trip, although the return as a somewhat harrowing, as our driver decided he wanted to get home and drove like a maniac back down the mountain from Kandy to Colombo, dodging bikes, busses, three-wheels, and, at one point, a frickin' elephant in the road carrying a log. Madu slept the whole way but Narinder and I were pretty much white knuckled the whole way, although toward the end I just let go and put myself in the nads of a higher power.

Anyway, we made it back to the hotel in one piece.

The picture here was on my last day in Colombo, where I was guided through Colombo's main market district. This guy was selling coconuts. You pay him 10 rupees (10 cents) for a coconut, he lops off the top and pops in a straw and you drink the milk and then discard the coconut itself. It was quite tasty.

I really want to go back to Sri Lanka, although the current flare up of the civil war would probably make that a hard sell for the family. It's a remarkably inexpensive place to visit and has wonderful beaches and lots of wildlife, including elephants.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Blogging the Past: 20th Anniversary

2004 was our 20th wedding anniversary and we celebrated by taking a trip to Hawaii. Julie had said "it has to be somewhere we've never been before, it has to be cooler than Austin, and there has to be pampering".

After some consideration, I settled on the Hotel Hana Maui, a ranch-style hotel and spa on the north shore of Maui. I was able to rent a bay cottage that had a direct view of the ocean with no buildings in front of it. It was very much like taking a cruise without all the tedium of being on a boat with 2000 other people.

This picture was taken from the main restaurant at the hotel, where we took most of our meals (those that we didn't take on the beach or poolside).

If you follow this picture's link to Flickr, you'll see that I've used a new feature of Flickr to associate the picture with a point on a map (it's the "taken in Maui, Hawaii (map)" entry in the "additional information" part of the picture's page). If you follow that link and then zoom in on the map you can see a very clear satellite picture of the hotel.

Anyway, we had a great time in Hawaii. It was, we knew, our last chance to travel as a childless couple and we made the most of it. But now I very much want to go back to Hawaii with Dada (and ideally her cousins Sophia, Julia, and Booker). There's barely a day goes by that I don't think about Hawaii and how nice it was there and how much I'd like to go back.

In addition to Hana, we spent a couple of days at a big hotel on the other side, after a fun drive around the south side of the island. We got to do a little snorkeling around reefs and such and went up to the top of the Haleakala volcano.

Blogging the Past: Dossier Pictures

This picture is from June, 2004, when we were finalizing our dossier to send to China. One of the requirements is that you provide six snapshots of you inside and outside your home. Our friend Joanna came over and took some pictures of us, of which this is one we submitted.

Looking at it now I wonder what the Chinese matchers made of it. We've often wondered if the fact that I'm holding Lucy influenced their selection of Dada for us, given that Dada was identified as a child who "likes to be held". You can also see a Chinese painting and a Chinese kite in the background, as well as a picture of my grandfather.

I don't remember now if we purposefully posed ourselves there or if it was just a natural place to stand (which it was).

It's hard to believe it's been three years since we sent all that paperwork off to China....