Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Back On The Island

Sorry for the long stretch between posts, didn't have time for blogging during my stay in the U.S..

I had a great trip. It was great to see everyone. Here are some of the highlights of my trip...

I flew out of Taipei on Friday night on Singapore Air, a freaking fantastic airline. The flight was about 11 hours to L.A.. The misery of the long flight was lessoned by the great service on the plane which included bigger seats than the normal economy class fare, hot wash cloths prior to eating the fantastic food, an extra pair of socks, a toothbrush/toothpaste, unlimited free drinks/cookies/chocolate bars, and a TV screen with an insane amount of free movies/TV shows/video games included in every seat. Amenities like these make traveling such a long distance tolerable.

I arrived at about 10pm in Las Vegas. Perry & Andrea greeted me with their usual silliness. It was excellent to see them. Life is a whole lot easier knowing that you have such wonderful friends. We threw my bags in the trunk and went to get some dinner at a great little brew pub inside the Main Street Station casino. After eating the scrumptious meatloaf, we headed over to The Plaza casino to play a little poker. We sat at a $2-4 Hold-Em table until about 4am...I was feeling pretty shaky considering I didn't sleep on the plane. I think I may have been down about $60 for the evening, which included an unsuccessful run at a 1 cent Addams Family slot machine. Time for bed.

Over the next few days we ate some terrific meals, gambled a bit, and talked a lot about my potential move to Las Vegas to start a teaching career in Clark County, NV.

*They took me to an excellent Italian restaurant, the name escapes me, but it was awesome.

*I had a chance to meet Cletus, the newest member of the Sundberg household. He is a cute, slightly slow, little feline. I can't imagine Cletus having a better home.

*Andrea introduced me to the latest version of the Wheel of Fortune series of slot machines. It's a penny machine that has a wheel nearly as big as the one on the game show...lots of fun. I managed to win about $250 playing it over the course of my stay...not too shabby.

*Played some Pai-Gow poker. As usual, not much profit or loss. Pai-Gow is a great game if you want to play cards and not lose you wallet.

*Perry & I discussed my joining him for a day at his work. He is a 2nd grade teacher in Vegas. He explained that it would be cool if I would shadow him for a day and see what teaching there was all about. I agreed.

*I simply had to have some good Mexican food while I was in Las Vegas. Willy & Jose's was the spot. Had some killer flautas drenched in guacamole...good stuff.

Time flew and before I knew it it was time to board the plane for Cleveland.
Arrived in Cleveland 6am Monday morning.

*Mom picked me up at the airport and drove home in the nasty cold and snow.

*Mom had some beef stroganoff waiting for me and I ate until I was about to burst.

*I spent the next few days chasing Bubba & T-Bone, my cats, around the house. They both seemed very happy and in good health. Mom spoils them.

*I managed to sort through a lot of my stuff and found a bunch of things I could use here. Mostly clothes and books. Found a few pair of shoes that seemed well suited for my time here. I think the best thing I did was I managed to whittle down all the crap I had stored in mom's basement. She may be moving in the not-so-distant future so I tried to organize my stuff to make it easier to throw in a storage facility if need be.

*Got to spend some quality time with the family. Everyone seemed to be in pretty good spirits considering how miserable and gray the weather was. It was great to see the Hallinans, thanks for coming up to see me you crazy people!

*I barely slept during my time in Ohio. Got to see the sun come up on several of the days I was there...ugh.

*Mom was just doing her thing...she's a tough cookie.

*Made several trips to Marc's & Target to buy stuff to bring back to Taiwan. I was like a kid in a candy store. Walking through the aisles and wanting to buy EVERYTHING! I knew I had a limited amount of space but I was determined to utilize it fully...more on my stash later.

*The Sunday before I left mom threw me a party. I was shocked to see about 20 people showed up to say hello. The food was outstanding and it was great to see everyone. It's cool to know I have so many people back home supporting me in this endeavor. Aunt Janet & Uncle Pat came to the party and they looked great. Grandparenthood is good stuff. They couldn't be more proud. A bunch of the nephews and nieces were there, it's shocking to see how they have grown up. Chris Snyder, a great family friend stopped over to chat. He is a really cool guy that is a valued member of our extended family...always good for a few laughs. The party was a great success thanks to the efforts of my mom and sisters.

*This trip home wasn't so much about visited family...it was more about tying up some loose ends. It helped me better see where I am headed and what I should be doing. It showed me that my life in Ohio is pretty much over. I can't imagine a scenario that would require me to return to living there. There is very little opportunity in Ohio. I love my family as much as the next guy, but I simply don't think I could thrive in that environment.

*After a tearful goodbye to mom, I boarded yet another plane to head back to Vegas for a few days.

*A late arrival in LV on a Tuesday night was not the best plan considering that both Perry & Andrea had to work the next morning. Sorry about that goof, it was purely unintentional.

*The following day they both had a rather hectic schedule so I just hung around their apartment during the day while they did the work stuff. It was a good time to do final preparations for my big flight back to Taiwan. I had an unexpected charge flying out of Cleveland...one of my bags was a few pounds over weight so they charged me an additional $25...ugh. I wasn't about to dig through my stuff at that point. Therefore, I set about on Wednesday to remedy the problem by shedding some unnecessary stuff. I gave a book to Perry and transferred some of the weight from one of the big bags to my carry-on.

*Wednesday night was fun. We went out to a really great Mexican restaurant. It was very tasty. Everything tastes great when you know you won't have anything like it again for quite some time...lol. After the meal, we made our way over to the Sunset Station casino for some more Wheel of Fortune and Pai-Gow. This time I made about $80 and decided to stake Perry & Andrea with $20 each at a Pai-Gow table. They are working hard towards saving money in order to buy a house so I knew they weren't too anxious to spend their money in a casino. I told them that they could pay me back if they doubled their money. I had just won the cash so it really wasn't a big deal. We played for a few hours and Perry managed to come out ahead...Andrea couldn't catch any good cards. Perry & I spent much of the time discussing our teaching exploits. The next morning I was going to go to school with him...pretty psyched about that.

*Thursday morning was an early one. It was going to be a looooong day. I woke up at about 6:30 and quickly got ready to go to school. We arrived at the school and Perry showed me around. Nice facility. He took me through his daily routine. Due to the exploding population, his classroom is in a portable located next to the playground. Although the school is just a few years old, they don't have enough room to support all of the students. The school is located in a rough area of town but you'd never know it once inside. I think it's a very good environment for the kids. His class was simply adorable. About 20 little 2nd graders...cute as could be. They really seemed to like Teacher Perry. It was quite evident from the get-go that Perry is where he belongs. He is an excellent teacher. His room was well put together and the kids seemed very well adjusted. Watching him lead the group was inspiring. These kids all come from less-than-ideal home situations and they need a stable force like Perry in their lives. It didn't take long for me to feel like one of the group...the kids seemed to take a liking to me and I had lots of fun.

*The school visit helped solidify my belief that I am a teacher. It felt good. I think, eventually, I will join Perry as a teacher in Las Vegas. Not sure when it will happen, but it will.

*After the final bell rung, we grabbed some food, headed back to the apartment, and prepared for my departure.

*Sadly, I didn't have a chance to say goodbye to Andrea. I didn't realize that I wouldn't see her on Thursday. She is very busy. Her career is taking her places. Seeing what she is doing is very inspiring. Every time I talk to her it seems like she is doing bigger and better things...

*After saying goodbye to Perry I proceeded to the USAir check-in counter. I got a nice surprise from the friendly check-in counter attendant. After weighing my bags and realizing that somehow they were still too heavy, she decided to do a little magic. I mentioned to her that my final destination was Taipei and she asked me for my itinerary...moments later she informed me that USAir has a "baggage agreement" with Singapore Air. This means that she could tag my bags to Taipei and I would qualify for the international weight allowance, 20 more pounds than is allowed on domestic flights...yahoo! What a relief, I wasn't about to part with more of my stuff. Also, this meant that I wouldn't have to deal with baggage check-in at LAX, a big headache.

*The three-hour layover in LA was a drag. What a zoo. I managed to bide my time by reading a few magazines and perusing the over-priced shops.

*The flight from LA to Taipei was grueling. The flight path back is very different from the one that goes from Taipei to LA. Taipei to LA is about 11 hours, LA to Taipei is closer to 14...ugh.

*Thankfully, I had some great food and movies to keep me from going insane. Little Miss Sunshine is an incredible movie, I highly recommend that all of you see it.

*After paying too much for a fancy Mercedes taxi to take me from the airport to my apartment, I arrived home at about 7am Saturday.

*Exhausted, I spent about an hour unpacking some of my bags and then crashed. I slept for about 10 hours and woke up tired...lol.

This has been the never-ending post...sorry, my mind was racing.

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