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Monday, August 3, 2015

Back in the U.S., back in the U.S., back in the, I mean U.S. of A.

It's been a week since we left China and returned to the United States at the end of a two year-long posting in Shànghăi 上海. We're on home leave, a Congressional-mandated period of paid leave in the U.S. meant to re-Americanize U.S. government personnel who've spent long periods of time overseas. And we definitely need it, for unlike many of my colleagues, my family and I never returned to the U.S. while in China. Instead, we used our vacation time to travel throughout China, as well as to make trips to Belgium, Hong Kong, Japan and Thailand, while my wife and daughter frequently visited Taiwan. Pamela has only been a U.S. citizen for three years now, while Amber has only lived for just over a year in the States, having spent the first six years of her life in Taiwan. In my case, having suffered severe bouts of reverse cultural shock in the past, I've learned the best way to re-acclimatize to life in the United States is to approach the U.S. as a foreign tourist would, with camera in tow, eyes agog and a strong desire to experience new things and visit new places (as well as more familiar ones). 

So far, so good (and knock on wood). We're currently based in Bremerton, located across Puget Sound from Seattle. My parents live here, and my sister is a relatively short drive away in Mukilteo. We're renting an apartment for the month, just a ten-minute walk from the downtown waterfront area. We've already bought a used car to get us around, as well as to hopefully stay in one piece long enough to take us across the country at the end of this month to the other Washington. The weather has been close to ideal, with temperatures in the high 80's to low 90's, and with almost no humidity (it did rain once, but this is the Pacific Northwest, after all), not to mention the beautiful blue skies and fresh air. The one drawback so far has been the food. Not because it's been bad (far from it, though we haven't gone to any Asian restaurants yet), but because I've already put on weight. Americans are unbelievably huge, and if I'm not careful, I'll soon be joining the ranks of the no-longer-walking obese.

In addition to counting calories, I plan on spending the next few weeks spending time with family, exploring the surrounding area, drinking fine craft beers (well, so much for the calories) and rediscovering the outdoors, while helping my wife and daughter make the transition back into American life. Home leave has begun...

Amber and I pose in front of our 2007 Subaru Forester:

Lunch at Hi-Lo's 15th Street Cafe, described on Google as an "earthy corner cafe" and filled with curios from my childhood. The chicken sandwich was pretty good:

Playing a round of miniature golf with my daughter. She was in contention until she shot an 11 on the last hole:

Our first day trip in the Subaru was the short drive to Seabeck in a quest to see bald eagles at Big Beef Creek. None were sighted, but the views across the Sound were almost sublime: 

Lunch at Seabeck Pizza:

This poor jellyfish expired when it became stranded too close to the shore after the tide had gone out:

The Bremerton marina at sunset:

Blue moon over Bremerton:

On Saturday we took the ferry from Kingston to Edmonds to visit my sister in Mukilteo. The shore beckoned, but we had a ship to catch:

On the car ferry going over:

Mount Rainier has been visible most of the time we've been here:

Another soaring Cascades peak, possibly Mount Baker:

We had a good time at my sister's, including a dip in the apartment complex pool. Afterwards, we drove onto the ferry in time for the sunset:

This morning Amber and I went for a walk through the woods at Anderson Landing in Silverdale. While the trails were far from extensive, after Shanghai it was great to be in the outdoors again:

Most of the trail was under the forest canopy, but there were views of the ocean:

Lunch this afternoon was at Jimmy D's Hwy 3 Roadhouse, part of what will ultimately be a doomed attempt to recapture an idealized version of an American past that never existed in the form I imagine it took:

Further Quixotic adventures were had at a local flea market, where I purchased a paean to Los Angeles' legendary Red Car system:

It isn't just microbrews. In the next eight months or so, I'm going to overdose on a wide range of handcrafted/retro sodas, waistline be damned:



  1. Check out the Vietnamese food in Seattle. It ranks up there with the best Vietnamese food in the world, the other places being, well, Vietnam and Paris.

    1. When we arrive in Falls Church next month, we'll be close to Eden Center, a Vietnamese shopping center that includes some great restaurants.