Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Dearest Friends,

I guess I've been dragging my feet when it comes to winding up this tale. Perhaps you noticed? It's partially because I have so enjoyed reliving these experiences through your eyes, that I hate for the fun to end, but there's a lot more to it than that. Here's the thing. How do you end the never-ending story?

You may think this story ended as soon as we packed up our belongings and boarded the plane, but that's just not true. These stories came home with us -- became a part of who we are, and who our children grew up to be. They reshaped our beliefs, our ethics, our politics, our philosophy, our world view...broadened our tolerance for some things, but narrowed it for others. They made it impossible for our kids to fit back into their old roles in their old cliques when we moved back to the town where they grew up, but they opened the door to many new friends and new experiences. It affected not only their food preferences and love of travel, but also their learning styles, their creativity, and their open mindedness. In fact, those three year's worth of stories have probably colored most every important decision they have made, and always will.

That being said, we still have to put this baby to bed at some point. So, I thought I would give you  John's last letter home today, share a couple of more stories over the next week, and then I suppose, we will call it a day.

April 13, 1994

Dear Mom & Dad,

This has been a pretty rough week. Saturday morning Mike called and informed me about Nub's cancer. Then shortly after that I got a call that John Tankersley was killed in Qatar in a boating accident. I've know John and worked with him since I came to work with Mobil. He was my counterpart at Mobil's field operations here. They had just moved back to Dallas last year. It had everyone pretty much in a state of shock the whole weekend. Then Alan Silverman's dad died before he could get home Saturday. Plus his secretary's father died this past weekend also. I tell you, it just seems to come in bunches.

I finally received Mike's last letter. He was talking about going to the family reunion and was wanting to hear about our plans. I doubt we will have time this year to attend. If we do, it will have to be a last minute thing. I won't have quite as much time at home as I did last year. I'll be saving a week's worth of vacation in case I need it during the fall.

Report cards for our kids came out this past week. Alexis' teacher seems to be real pleased with the effort she is putting out now. She seems to be focusing a little better on the task at hand. She was doing a great job on her science project until she lost her display posters. Can't find them at school anywhere and she insists she brought them home, but we can't find them around here either. Austin seems to be breezing along. He needs some more kids to give him some competition.

Becky is finally getting close to finishing her quilt. In fact, she has to be done by next weekend. Everyone is going to display their quilts at a fair. She has really done a good job, but I doubt she'll ever do another, particularly when we move home. Putting one of those things together takes a lot of time and she probably won't have much of that back home.

P.T. Arun has just undergone a reorganization and things around here are more confusing than usual. About half of the engineers in my group are going out to another section. Still remains to be seen exactly what I will be doing. Probably pretty much the same thing. It will be a little harder for me to keep in touch with the engineers in a different group, but that's what I will have to do.

Well, guess that's about it for now. Thanks for taking care of my IRS stuff. It's just real iffy trying to mail that kind of thing from here. But from what I saw on CNN, doesn't look like the US mail system is any safer. Give everyone our regards.


Saturday, August 11, 2012


Dearest Friends,

From the time we heard about those "possible openings" back in the states, we entered a state of limbo. Not knowing whether we were going on our usual home-leave as soon as school let out, or actually moving home, affected pretty much every thing we did, and rendered us completely helpless when it came to making any plans or decisions. Normally the month of March would have been a flurry of travel-planning and list-making. Instead, we sat there twiddling our thumbs, hoping for word. When we could wait no longer, the kids and I finally booked flights home for early June, not even knowing whether it would be a one-way or round-trip journey.

Lizzy and Lexie, in one of many school skits.
A letter home from John, dated 4/7/94:

Dear Mom & Dad,

Well, I don't know what to think of your Cowboys. Jimmy Jones must really be something else if he can't get along with a coach that took him from last place to two Super Bowls. I think it would be funny if the Cowboys fell on their fannies next year, but they have too much talent to do too badly. Not much is going on around here. We are finally beginning to plan our home leave for this summer. Looks like Becky and the kids will come home the first of June as usual, but I won't come in until July. There is a conference in Venezuela that I want to attend that starts July 17. Right now I'm not sure what my travel plans will be. I may go straight there before coming home, or may go to Dallas for a week, then Venezuela, then to Odessa for 2 weeks. I should know a little more later this month.

Mom, I need one favor from you. I need you to take $1,400 from the credit union and send to to Becky's sister Kathy. They are going to pick up a small computer for Becky to use in the kitchen, if and when we get to come home.

The kids are getting anxious to come home this summer. I think we have found a couple of good camps for them. In fact, we have sent in a deposit for a 2-week camp outside Dallas (YMCA) that they can both attend at the same time. Then there is a Cub Scout day camp in Dallas that is held in the park near Bill and Kay's house. All in all, I think the kids will have fun. Becky doesn't seem to have any special plans for this summer. With Carolyn trying to sell her house, it will make it a little awkward for Becky and the kids to stay there too long. I think Becky would prefer to move around a little bit anyway.

The weather here has been extremely hot lately. Thought for a while we were into another rainy season, then it stopped all of a sudden and got hot. I still say I should plan my home leaves around a trip to the mountains or some place cool. Each year I've come home you've had heat waves there! Well, I will be talking to you this weekend, so I'll go ahead and close. Give everyone our regards. We'll be seeing you soon. The kids can't wait to get their hands on Taz.


Austin and Ryan, on top of the world!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Dearest Friends,

In mid-January John got word that there were a couple of positions in the States that might be a good match for him. Basically, he was putting me on alert. We had no way of knowing if or when either of these would actually materialize, how much notice we would get if one did, or even if we were really ready to leave yet. However, we did know that out of the six kids in Lexie's class, the only two girls (sisters) were definitely headed back to the states, the oldest boy was graduating, and her friend Christopher was probably heading off to boarding school. That would leave her and one other boy. We didn't think that was an environment she could thrive in, and knew we didn't have the guts to send her off to boarding school, so home seemed like the only other option. We decided we'd best be prepared. Once again I set myself the task of paring down our belongings, one room at a time, trying to finish up all my quilting projects so I could pack that stuff away, and taking the ever-dreaded inventory of everything we owned.

As far as school went, there was another teacher appreciation luncheon to plan and host, another play for the younger kids to help with, and scariest of all, The Science Fair. Lex had really blossomed under her fifth grade teacher Mr. Jacoby, who had done wonders for both her confidence and her concentration. She was doing better than we ever thought possible. Still, we couldn't help but be a tad nervous when, in late February, her science teacher (also the school principal) called an assembly for his older science students and their parents. Apparently, this was to be like no other science fair she had ever participated in -- a two month long project, with the first assignment (a typed outline of her problem, problem statement, hypothesis, materials, procedure, variable, control group, time line, dates of completion for each step and data collection sheet) due just four or five days later. Could she stay focused for that many weeks? Only time would tell.

One day our friend Jodi called to tell us that her hubby Steve and our buddy Dan were rigging up a little slip 'n slide thingy for the kids in the field behind their house, and we should bring the kids over to play on it the following Sunday afternoon. It never occurred to us to don our own swimsuits. We should have known that with those two engineers involved, and a bevy of willing volunteers to assist them (every driver and gardener in the neighborhood, I suspect) it would end up being waaaay more than "a little slip 'n slide thingy." Next thing I knew, I was headed down it, fully clothed!

When John's turn came, he made the mistake of grabbing a small donut-shaped tube, and tried to slide down sitting up. Because he was much larger than the kids, he gained momentum fast, and when he hit the mound at the end, instead of slowing him down as intended, it sent him airborne. I can see it all now as if it were a slo-mo replay. John is flying through the air in one direction, the float in another. We have no idea when he will land, where he will land, or how hard the landing will be. A pretty good description, now that I think about it, for our emotional state at the time, and all the questions we had regarding the move home. As it turns out, the answer in both cases was "pretty damn hard!"

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I expect the mask was mostly to blame. Well, that and the fertilizer factory. You see, some Japanese company had plopped a fertilizer plant and company compound down in the middle of the jungle there on Sumatra, not too far from our own compound. And, just like ours, their compound included a company restaurant. It was probably quite run-of-the-mill to them, but was anything but to us, so we occasionally made the trek over there to dine on special occasions. 

As you should know by now, my daughter loves any old excuse to dress up in a costume. When she received a set of Victorian party masks for Christmas, it included one that resembled a Japanese Geisha Girl, and Lex took to wearing it around the house with her pink satin Chinese gown (a bit of creative license).

So, when it came time to plan her 11th birthday party, just a few weeks after Christmas, she immediately thought "Japanese!"

I'm afraid it was one of the last, truly great birthday parties.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


4th January, 1994

Greetings Everyone,

Hope you all had a good holiday. As usual, I'm in my "Post-Christmas-Blues" phase -- which always starts at least a week before Christmas. I just can't stand for it all to be over with for another whole year! To cheer myself up, and because I was such a good girl and didn't even go on the ladies Christmas shopping trip this year, I'm taking Alexis out to Singapore just for the fun of it this weekend. We hope to take in a good movie and eat at T.G.I.Friday's. A new Chili's restaurant is supposed to be opening soon, but I don't know when.

Christmas day at the Tates' house.
Things were fairly quiet around here compared to Christmases past, but there was still plenty going on. Only trouble is, instead of having to see the same bunch of people over and over again at every party, you now have to see the same itty-bitty bunch of people over and over again. John and I sometimes stand there watching them, and wonder what on earth they could possibly have to talk about after all this time. (Answer? Each other!) The most fun party of the season, if I do say so myself, was the Bunco/dinner party for 8 couples that John and I threw. Also, another girl and I did a cookie exchange for the older kids, and that was fun too. I would have loved to make your new chocolate trifle recipe Mom, but we can't get Heath bars here, so I had to take my old traditional version to our annual Christmas day get-together with the Reehs and the Tates. The really exciting news this year is that, for once, our driver Yusuf and his family did not come for their usual two hours of just sitting and staring at us on Christmas day! For Christmas Alexis got about 99 different craft projects, including a candle-dipping set, a lap loom, a paper-making kit, etc. Unfortunately, by the end of the first week of vacation she'd done them all, and she was B-O-R-E-D! The second week was somewhat tedious.

We were a little shocked when we discovered that Kathy and Bud had sent 15 videos for the Silverman's son to bring us. I had led him to believe that there would only be a couple. Apart from the fact that he didn't have a lot of luggage space, there is the problem that videos are contraband here and can be confiscated by customs, so you have to hide them. He did manage to sneak in five, though, and we have really savored them. They are also in high demand around the compound. We shared our episodes of Seinfeld with the Silvermans, who are from New York, and they went wild over them. I'm sure they will put pressure on their son to squeeze in a few more tapes when he comes back in March. Can't wait!

Alexis' big excitement is that she may get to have an article published in a magazine! Prisi gave her a subscription to American Girl magazine, and apparently sent in a little information about her as well, when she saw that they were hoping to do an article about American girls who are living abroad. Anyway, this week she got this big, special delivery "urgent" envelope containing a questionnaire for her to fill out, and asking for photos as well. She is so excited! Unfortunately, a lot of other little girls received that same questionnaire, so let's hope her story makes it into the magazine.

The new cook is working out fairly well. I guess. It's great not having to make three meals a day from scratch, day in and day out -- especially when you consider how little I have to work with over here. But, I absolutely hate the fact that she's gradually rearranging my kitchen to suit herself, and now I can't find anything. Also, the kitchen has always been my home base, kinda like my hangout. Now Era keeps the door closed most of the time, to keep the smells in I suppose, and I find myself sort of drifting aimlessly about the house, not sure exactly where to settle!

P.T. Arun took away everyone's company cars as of the first, so we're back to being a one car family. Also, we know that they are pulling a few work permits in March, but the only one that we know of for sure is our next door neighbors, the Lyons. They are none too happy, since he was hoping to hang on another two or three years, until he can retire. Not sure if he will be able to find something else at age 57, or not. It's going to drive us crazy, not knowing what's coming, but there's nothing John can do but wait for his boss to find something in the job postings he gets, that might be suitable for us. In the meantime, we're trying to make plans for our summer home leave, and haven't a clue what to do! Should we travel home and back together, so we can get round-the-world tickets and stop in Denmark to see Eric on the way home, and in Hawaii on the way back, or should we wait and do Denmark and London next Christmas? Will we even be here still next Christmas? Should the kids and I stay all summer, so they can go to camps, etc., and just forget about stopping somewhere with John? But what if it's our last chance to ever see any of these places? The one thing John really wants to do is try and manage a trip up to Colorado to see Patti and Brad, who moved to Cortez when they left here, and maybe go to Creede while there. But should he take his vacation in June, July or August? If any of you have answers to all these questions, please feel free to share, so we can get this show on the road! In the meantime, I'll be right here, fretting. Take care, and write soon.

Oh yeah, Theda -- John really enjoyed the book and cologne you sent him, and the kids were ecstatic about their $40. We gave it to them in Indonesian money, which came to 80,000 rupiah each. They feel like millionaires!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Cards must be ordered rather early when you live halfway 'round the world,
so I had to use a photo from the previous year.
From our 12/93 Christmas Card:

Dear George & Theda,

Only 12 more days! If you get a mystery package delivered from Spiegel, it's from us. Lex and I made a really neat gingerbread house with see-through candy windows, that you place a candle behind. Austin and John are making a pinewood derby car for Cub Scouts. I finally finished quilting my beautiful new tree skirt, then promptly covered it up with a mound of presents! (what was I thinking?) Found a cook and decided to give it a try, just for the fun of it -- she starts tomorrow. Tuesday night is the kid's big Christmas party with Santa -- Lex finally gets to be one of the elves! School lets out Friday at noon, and we are having 16 for dinner, Poker (for the guys) and Bunco (for the gals) that night.

This very happy elf-girl is holding a somewhat faded elf doll that my family always put out each Christmas when I was a kid,
and whose outfit was almost identical to hers!

About that Pinewood Derby. Well, this was the first one we'd ever participated in, and we are firm believers in being there to answer questions and assist with the hazardous parts of our kids' projects, but never directing or outright doing it for them. So John let Austin design and paint his own car, which had a shape that resembled the modern, sleeker version of a VW bug. He was over the moon about it. John and I both started getting nervous as soon as we walked through the door, and discovered that every other car there was shaped like a simple flat wedge of cheese. If you are a parent, then you know what it was like to watch Austin being deflated like a pricked balloon, and having to work harder and harder to fight back the tears and quivering lip with each successive race. Ahhh, life's lessons can really suck sometimes!

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Dearest Friends,

I believe I mentioned that there were three families who traveled together to Perth that year. The first day or two, we tried traveling in a pack, but it was a bit problematic. Have you ever tried to choose one restaurant that would please twelve people? Not easy! Especially if there are several picky eaters involved. One day, when we were talking about going to a little theme park we'd heard about, and there was a good chance we might get rained on while there, one family used that as an excuse to split off and go their separate way. Too bad, really. They ended up missing one of the best days ever.

The park may not have had near as much to offer as, say, Disney World, but what they did have was a whole lot of fun. And, thanks to the gloomy weather, we practically had the park to ourselves. No waiting in lines!

I think Austin and Kevin could have ridden this one luge-like slide over and over again, all day long.

Oh wait, come to think of it, they pretty much did!

We never got more than a few brief sprinkles, and the only mishap of the day was when we let the two older kids go ride this little monorail on their own. Somehow they ended up being in separate cars, and if I remember correctly, Lex missed getting out out the right stop. She was a bit unnerved by having to find her way back to us on foot, and mama was a bit unnerved by the fact that Christopher had shown up, but she hadn't! Alas, all's well that ends well. The park was so small, she found her way back to us in no time.

Even the daddies had fun!