Friday, December 30, 2011


20th January, 1992

Howdy there folks at home,

Is everybody freezing their little tushes off?  I spent all afternoon Sunday on my big purple float that has  little holes for your drink in the armrests.  I deserved it, after all I went through putting on Alexis' 9th birthday extravaganza.  I hope my friends there are duly appreciative of being able to let McDonalds or the roller rink do all the work for you.  I guess it wouldn't have been so bad if Santa Claus hadn't brought her this stupid book full of party ideas.  She chose the "Enchanted Garden" theme, which meant we were getting all the twinkle lights back out to string in the trees, hanging wind chimes, cutting out a bazillion little gold moons and stars to hang from the ceiling, baking fairy ring cakes and pixie pizzas, and trying to figure out how to make a wishing well from a trash can.  Then of course, it rained the entire day, so we had to move everything indoors (18 little girls, and one little brother, dressed up as fairies, pixies and leprechauns, bouncing off my walls!).  I guess it was all worth it though -- at least the kids had a great time.

Smartest thing I ever did?  Putting the older kids in charge of entertainment!
A lull in the rain allowed them to try out the bubble wands.
We're starting up a new session of after school activities this week.  Instead of teaching cooking to toddlers again, I decided to try teaching a craft/sewing class to 2nd through 6th grade girls.  I think it will be fun.  Alexis signed up to take tennis from another mom who is supposed to be really good.  She had her first lesson today, and seemed to have a great time.  If she gets good enough, maybe she can teach me!  Austin will be taking "Fun with Bikes".  Hopefully, it will include some bike safety lessons. He makes me really nervous!  I still haven't got around to trying out my golf clubs -- I seem to be putting it off.

Not much else to tell right now.  We've been invited to one of those "How to Host a Murder" parties next weekend, by a couple that's pretty zany, so it's sure to be interesting.  Also, we're having an exchange with the international school in Medan.  About 30 of their kids are coming down here for a fun-filled weekend, and we will have a 3rd grade boy staying with us.  Guess that's about it.  Take care, and write soon.

Becky, John, Austin and Alexis

P.S.  Theda, Lex loved the books about Molly McGuire that you sent her.  Did you know that they are part of the American Girl Doll Collection?  We gave her the "Samantha" doll and books for her birthday.  The next time you are at Sam's, check their book department and see if they still have some of the American Girl calendars, diaries, activity sets, etc.  Those would all be great things to put back until next summer, for her birthday and Christmas.  There are also all kinds of clothes and accessories that you can order from their catalog, to go with the doll, but they are outrageously expensive, so I thought I would see if the tailors here could make some matching dresses for Lex and her doll, if I show them some pictures from the catalog. (Her doll is dressed in the styles of 1904 -- sort of Victorian, with pinafores, etc.)  Also, I might be able to get some wicker furniture made to fit the doll.  Can you tell I'm having as much (or more) fun with this as Alexis?

Oh yeah.  Did you send some books to Austin as well?  If so, I'm sure they will be there when we go to Singapore of Feb. 7th. (we're finally taking the kids to the orthodontist -- the dentist here thought Austin should to as well.  He thinks if they start "expanding" his jaw early, maybe they could avoid pulling a bunch of teeth.)  The kids both thought the Kids Discover magazine you sent was really cool, and would love to get more of them!  Well, take care.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Dearest Friends,

On Christmas Eve we went to an open house given by our next-door neighbors, Bob and Judy.  We were pretty worn out from all the partying by then, but I spotted something there that perked me right up -- some pictures kinda like these:

They had the lights dimmed for the party, and until I got right up close, and could see all the little crackle lines, I assumed they were water color paintings or pastels.  They were absolutely nothing like any batiks I had ever seen before -- the mass-produced sort in garish colors that appeal to tourists -- so I immediately went to find my hostess, to pump her for information.  I found out that they were done by an artist in Medan, by the name of Aziz.  We paid him a visit, first chance we got.

For some reason my favorite art has always been of ordinary people, doing ordinary things, whether it be selling veggies at the market...

harvesting cacao beans...

or shopping for fabric.

What I loved most about this artist's work was that, though he may have created hundreds of these fabric stall scenes over his lifetime, each one was unique, differing in hue, texture, pattern and expression.

I don't remember how much we paid for them, maybe two or three hundred each?  Then we had to pay that much again to have them properly framed and matted in Singapore.  Anyhoo, it was an exorbitant amount to me at the time, and the most extravagant purchase I had ever made -- which is why we only bought three for ourselves, over the next three years, plus one smaller one as a gift for my artist mother-in-law.  Whatever they cost, they are worth twenty times that to me now.

During our last year in Indonesia, my friend Teri somehow managed to convince Aziz to come to our compound and teach a two day workshop at our school, for all the kids.  I volunteered to help out, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Miss Melody, our Austin, and little Emily learn how to block out certain areas on their batiks with wax, before dipping them into various dye baths.
I wish I could tell you more about this gentleman, but since most Indonesians only have one name -- a name that thousands of other Indonesians share -- I had no luck at all when I tried to "google" him.  All I can tell you is that he was ageless, he worked from his small home surrounded by children and grandchildren, the formula for his special dyes were his great secret, and that they were so caustic that they had eaten away all his fingernails, as he refused to wear gloves when he worked.  Oh, and one more thing -- that I am very blessed to have met him, to have seen a true artist at work, and to have these examples of his genius in my possession, even if the rest of the world is now oblivious to his existence.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


December 24, 1991

Dear Mom and Dad,

We will probably have talked to you before this gets mailed, but I thought I'd start a letter anyway.  We got Dad's long letter and sure enjoyed reading it.  Your package with the magazines showed up this week.  I don't think we will do that again, at least not for a while.  Customs went through all the catalogs wanting to know what the value of each was.  I had a hard time convincing them that they were free.  After about 30 minutes or so, they finally charged me about $1 and let me go.  Not really worth the effort, considering what was in it.

We went to a real nice Christmas party last Saturday at the restaurant.  We had dinner and then the kids got a visit from Santa.  All the parents had brought gifts up earlier, so Santa would have something to give to each of the children.  It was a lot of fun, particularly for the kids.  They can hardly wait for tomorrow.  We will let them open one present tonight, but save the rest for in the morning.  There have been quite a few new faces around here the last couple of weeks, as many people have relatives in for the holidays.  If you are seriously thinking of coming over, this would probably be a good time to do it.  Nothing like floating around the pool on Christmas Day!

Speaking of trips, it looks like I will attend an ASME conference in Cologne, Germany June 1 - 4, so that will put us back home sometime around the 6th.  There's an outside chance I may have to spend the first 3 days in Dallas working on a committee, but this will just extend my home leave by that many days.  We will work out the details later on.  I'll be coming back to Indonesia around the first of July, but Becky and the kids will probably be staying through until mid-August, so there'll be plenty of opportunities to put the kids on the plane and send them down to you for several days.  I may come on down to Odessa right at first, then have the family follow a few days later.  Just don't know what the plans will be right now, but we'll get the kids to you as soon as possible.  You might even think about coming up to Dallas when we get there, if you want.

Word coming out of Midland is not too good.  I know it was hard on you for us to move away, but apparently it was announced that Mobil would reduce its workforce by 1/3.  That's quite a few layoffs.  They don't have anywhere near enough people nearing retirement that they can minimize the impact by using early retirement packages.  Mobil is selling a lot of properties as well.  It looks like next year will be a really bad year to be in the domestic groups, so it may have been a good move on my part, taking this job and getting out of the country for a while until things settle down.  I just can't understand Bush ignoring the domestic economy.  I read every day in the papers about other companies laying off people.  I wish our politicians would quit fooling around and do something constructive for once.  I would like to be able to come home some day!

Well, I guess you two are pretty happy now that Dallas has made it to the playoffs.  This was a funny year.  Houston and new Orleans finally won a Divisional Title, and Texas has a new coach.  At least Makovich isn't an old UT player.  I think it was high time to get someone in who has a different point of view.  I'll close for now and will add some later, after Christmas.


Well, it was good talking to you yesterday.  I hope your Christmas wasn't too quiet.  Ours turned out pretty nice.  I think the kids really enjoyed it.  They seemed pretty happy with everything they got.  We did miss all the family though.  I hope you two really do think about coming over next year.  I think you'd have a good time.  There are a lot of activities going on during December.  Anyway, we had a nice Christmas dinner.  Danny and Peggy Reeh came over, along with Allen Mobbs, whose family is in the US now.  We had a whole lot more food than we needed.  We were both pretty tired by 10 that night, and had no problems going to sleep.  Especially since Alexis had woken us up at 1:30 that morning.  Sound familiar?  Don't know what got into her and Austin, who came in at 5:30.  Usually it's Becky waking them up on Christmas!  Well, here we go, on into the next year.

My promotion and raise came as quite a surprise.  I had not anticipated that for at least a couple of more years.  I was led to believe they were going to be pretty tight about promoting people into the Tier II level.  I guess it helps to have Jim Wingate in charge of all the engineers in Mobil.  He was the one that approved my move over here.  I'm really sorry I didn't get to see him before he left Indonesia and went back to Fairfax, Va.  Anyway, the promotion is really nice, plus a sizable raise.  With all the extra bonuses added in, it amounts to another $900 or so a month.  Gee, I'm making so much money, I just don't know what to do with it all!  Sometime after the first of the year, when things settle down a little, I'll have to evaluate what my finances are and make a few decisions on what to do with some of this money.

Well, guess I'll close for now.  Take care, and we will be seeing you both before too much longer.

Love,  John

(a postscript from Miss Becky -- you have already seen the photos she refers to in previous posts)

P.S. Here are some photos that John took around the house during the holidays.  The furniture out on the porch belongs to P.T. Arun, but I had it recovered in fabric I brought with me.  The furniture in the living room is our new stuff that we ordered in Medan.  It got here just in the nick of time for the home tour!  I'll write more later.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Dearest Friends,

I was never the dedicated shopper that most of my compadres were, but every so often, if there was something I really needed, if the kitchen cupboards were extremely bare, or if I just had a severe case of compound fever, and we weren't due to go out to Singapore or on vacation any time soon, I would let one of my friends talk me into a day-trip to Medan.

Image from
Medan was the 3rd or 4th largest city in Indonesia, and the largest by far on the island of Sumatra.  If you wished to go there, you made sure your hubby got your name in the hat for a seat on the co-plane well in advance.  If they decided they probably had room for you, you needed to be up and out of the house before dawn, to get to the tiny, open-air, company-run airport in time.  Then you prayed that they hadn't had to remove too many rows of seats to make room for cargo (which had priority over just about anyone other than major muckety-mucks).  Worst of all, you had to step onto a big freight scale to be weighed, while a bunch of little 80-pound Indonesian men gathered round to watch!  If their pencil and paper tallies said they could afford to take on that much extra weight, you were finally allowed to board the little plane.

Image from
Once you arrived at Polonia airport in Medan, which wasn't just a whole lot better, and if you had remembered to make arrangements in advance with Mrs. Ben, there would be an air-conditioned car and driver waiting to pick you up and spend the day driving you hither and yon.  The most important stop of the day, of course, was at Mrs. Ben's grocery store (actually, it was called Mr. Ben's, but it was obvious who ran the place) where you would purchase a few of the necessities you couldn't find back on the compound -- like hot dogs, bacon, cheese and sour cream -- and a few special treats.  My weakness was Baldedas bubblebath (the Asian equivalent of Green VitaBath), which caused me to break into a major happy dance, first time I spotted it there.  They would then pack your food into coolers with dry ice, and have them waiting at the airport for you when you got there.  You couldn't risk buying too much though, or they might not let it all on the plane!

There were a couple of furniture-makers there that we all frequented, primarily because they were willing to combine orders and ship things directly to the compound for you.  One, called Edy's, is where I had ordered the new wicker furniture for our living area, and where John had his fancy dart-board cabinet and Medan Craps sets made.

Yes, my hubby's pride and joy now resides on the floor behind a toilet, out in our garage utility room!

Lunch was usually at one of the hotels, and the last stop of the day, before finally making our way back to the airport, would be to pick up the Pizza Hut order we had called in -- a much appreciated treat for our hubbies and children, who would be very hungry by the time we came dragging in!  In between there was a frenetic blur of antique shops, shoe factories, congested streets filled with the ting-a-ling of the pedi-cabs called becaks, a thousand honking horns, choking smog, and mysterious aromas.  Oh, and we must not forget the one bright and shining star that stood out from all the rest, Azziz!  But, you will have to wait a bit to find out more about him, for he deserves a special post, all of his own.

Writing this post reminded me that we still had our beautiful Medan Craps set hidden under a piece of furniture here, and hadn't played it in years.  Since our kids and their friends are all very much into games, will be here for the holidays, and were too little to play this game back in Indonesia, I decided to pull it out, dust it off, and get it ready for their arrival.  There's just one problem.  Neither John nor I can remember how to play!  Can any of our Indo-buds help us out here?

Friday, December 16, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Following are a few scenes from that first Christmas abroad with the kids.  It turned out to be a whole lot more fun than we were expecting!

There were parties and school programs for the kids...

lots of parties for the adults, a more intimate get-together with our good friends the Reehs on Christmas day, and a humdinger of a company party for everyone.  The kids didn't have time to be homesick!

Mrs. Claus and her helpers greeted everyone as they arrived.  Lex was so jealous of the older kids and their cute elf costumes!
The ever-dapper Mr. Woodard (John's boss) took his duties as emcee and Santa liaison very seriously, checking in with Santa on his walkie-talkie periodically during the program to find out his location and weather conditions. 
At last, he arrives...
and he always had a pretty cool gift for every single kid in his bag!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Not long after we moved to Sumatra I was shanghaied into learning a new card game called, you guessed it, Shanghai!  I was hesitant to learn at first, fearing it would be too much like playing bridge -- the game my parents had been addicted to for years, but which always ended up making them snipe at one another.  Thanks, but no thanks.

When I realized I was missing out on all the fun by not playing, I finally conceded, and am so glad I did.  It was more fun than you could shake a stick at, and I had, indeed, been missing out on a lot!  Not only was there a regular game every Wednesday afternoon, which my friend Hanna referred to as "the moveable feast" (it rotated from house to house, and always involved some good eats), there were also Shanghai luncheons, Shanghai dinner parties, Shanghai Christmas parties, and even one very memorable Shanghai pajama party (with special guest dancer) to celebrate Miss Patti's 40th birthday.  (I never should have let my kids stumble across the photos from that one!)  Why, we even took our cards and special Shanghai coin purses along with us when we traveled, and once or twice, were caught rearranging hotel furniture in our nighties, to have enough table space in one room for us all to play a hand or two.

What made it really fun was that it was just a glorified version of gin rummy, rummy cube, or Mah Jong (saving a certain combo of books and runs before you can lay them on the table, then trying to get rid of as many of your remaining cards as you can before someone goes out) so it was fairly easy to learn; it was each woman for herself, so you didn't have to worry about ticking off your partner if you failed to read their signals; and best of all, we played for moolah!  Of course, two thousand rupiah was actually only worth about a dollar, but it seemed like a whole lot more, and it kept things interesting.

My only mistake was in teaching my family how to play when we went home on leave that first summer.  My dad became obsessed with the game, and if my sisters and I didn't play at least a couple of rounds with them each time we were together, his lower lip started to droop and he got all sad and pitiful.  As it turns out, it wasn't being partners at the bridge table that made my parents snipe at each other.  They did it even when they weren't partners!  I almost got burnt out on the game after playing with the two of them for a while, but then Dad got Leukemia and started going downhill.  No matter how weak his body got, his brain never faltered.  That was the other good thing about Shanghai.  It was challenging enough for someone like him, who could remember what cards everyone had picked up or discarded, so always knew exactly what everyone was saving. But, it was also easy enough for someone like me, who was doing good just to remember what was in my own hand, and involved just enough sheer luck to give me a good chance at winning on a regular basis.  You should have seen the way Dad's eyes would twinkle, whenever he said "Did someone mention cards?"

I'm really missing that game now.  My sisters and I still play once in a while, when we go on a little get-away together, but I really miss having a regular group to play with, and the fun excuses for a party that we always came up with.  Guess I'm just gonna have to break down and teach some of my Wimbo-buds how to play!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Dearest Friends,

In John's letter home, he mentioned our visit to a tiny Christian church in the town of Lhok Seumawe.  Visiting that little church was an annual event for a handful of expat families, and though I wouldn't call it our favorite Christmas activity, it was certainly one of the most meaningful.

The first time we were invited, my kids were pretty excited about it.  They'd practiced some songs they were to perform, and had been told it would include dinner, plus a gift for every kid there.  Of course, it wasn't quite what they had pictured.  We climbed aboard a little bus and made the hour's trip into town, arriving right at dusk.  The church was very small and rustic, with folding chairs rather than pews.  I'm sure the building served some other purpose during the week.  Under each seat we found a cold boxed dinner containing some local treats.  I'm guessing my picky daughter probably just rolled her eyes and stuffed it back under her chair, possibly grabbing a piece of bread, if there was one.

Once we had finished our meal it was time for the musical entertainment -- a few carols from our kids, a few from theirs, and a few we all sang together.  There was a lengthy sermon, difficult to follow even with the translator provided, and then there were the promised gifts -- a few small trinkets, rather than the shiny new toys my kids probably envisioned.  At last we climbed back onto our bus for the ride home.  The kids were probably asleep before we made it out of the parking lot, and were still rather bleary-eyed when they left for school the next morning.

So why did we drag our less-than-enthusiastic kids back for more of the same the following two years? Well, because sometimes it's good to be reminded that not all people have it as easy as we always have  -- especially where religion is concerned.  Some, like these families, like Jewish people throughout history, and like Moslems in America after 9/11, risk life and limb just to practice their particular faith amongst those who are rabidly opposed.  Though this small band of Christians was being tolerated at the time, they all knew that things could change in the blink of an eye, as it had in the past, with disastrous results.  Perhaps I was hoping that a little of their faith and certainty would rub off on me.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Dearest Friends,

Often times John and I would both compose letters home at around the same time, and they would end up being mailed in the same envelope.  Not only did it save on postage, it also allowed the readers to see things from two different perspectives.  I found the following two letters in the same envelope with that Christmas letter that I posted last week:

DECEMBER 10, 1991


Dear Mom & Dad,

As usual, Becky is really getting excited about Christmas.  She had the tree up even before we had all our shipping cartons unpacked.  The house is beginning to look a little bit more like home now.  The kids are settling in, although Alexis is still having a little problem adjusting.  We had a meeting with her teacher and principal last week to discuss a few things we can do to get her caught up and all.  They are willing to work with Alexis a little after school to help her out.  Then we've set up a schedule for her and Austin to follow each day for home work and studying.  I think in the long run this will be good for Alexis.  If we get her into some good study habits now, it will make it a lot easier on her down the road.  What is great is the teachers' willingness to work with her after school.  That would never happen back in the Midland system.

There are a lot of different Christmas activities going on now.  Last week we went into Lhok Seumawe to attend a Christmas service at the only Christian church anywhere around, other than ours on the compound.  Quite an experience.  With all the functions and children's activities scheduled over the next two weeks, there will be no idle time between now and Christmas.  Our house is on the womens' Christmas parade of homes this year.  Becky is a little upset because it doesn't look like the new furniture she ordered will make it in time.  She really wanted it to fix up the house.

Dad, Mom mentioned that you were going over to the Y and doing a little exercise.  That's great.  Are you just doing something on your own or with a group?  I know you'll feel better just getting out a bit.  I plan on playing a little golf after the Christmas holidays now that my clubs are here.  Becky has been talking to Peggy Reeh about taking some lessons with her.

I'm not sure what our plans for Christmas are this year.  I think we'll try to wait until Christmas morning before opening any presents.  Maybe let the kids open one or two Christmas Eve.  Despite all the activities, it still won't be the same.  I sure hate to think of you two spending it by yourselves.  Wish you could be here.  Several families have had their folks come in this past week.  Speaking of which, Mother asked about travel arrangements.  What do you have in mind?  Typically, people fly into Singapore.  We would meet you there, spend a night or two, then fly to Indonesia on the company plane.  We would make any hotel arrangements from this end.  The easiest flight is American out of Dallas, non-stop to Tokyo.  You change planes in Tokyo and fly Japan Air to Singapore, arriving around midnight.  I would also suggest paying a little extra to fly business class.  Not as expensive as first class, but a lot more comfortable than economy.

Well, I guess that's about it for now.  I'll close and try to get this to someone who is heading to Singapore this week.  Hopefully you will have it before Christmas.  We'll be thinking of you.  You might try calling us Christmas Eve, your time.  Take care and we all wish you two a very Merry Christmas.

John, Becky and the Kids


Dear George and Theda,

Boy, we just had the most fun weekend ever!  Unfortunately, I can hardly move my bod today as a result of it.  It was Trappers' Days!  I just couldn't believe how much trouble the Canadians went to, organizing the whole thing.  It was fantastic!  Everyone was divided up into five different teams, and we competed against each other for two days in events such as tug-of-war, hockey, snow shoe races, flap-jack flipping, dog sled races (six human "dogs" pulling a real sled with a passenger -- a real killer!), log rolling (an actual log which they floated in our swimming pool -- first it was too rough, so they polished it up, then it was too slick, so they put carpeting on it, then it kept sinking, so they had to put inner tubes on each end!), and last but not least, the trap line race, where we had to run all over tarnation, trying to find painted coconuts, then try to lug as many as possible back to the starting point, using only our hands and the clothes on our backs -- not easy!  Everything ended with a dinner-dance on Saturday night, with a program where they did some hilarious skits and handed out awards.  John's team came in second.  He got some of the games on video, so everyone will probably get to see me being knocked on my butt while playing hockey!

The Christmas season is already in full swing over here.  We went to our first Christmas party on November 30th, and there's a pretty steady stream of them from here on out.  The kids will get out of school at noon this Friday, and a lot of people have family coming to spend about a month.  Sure wish we did!  I miss you all terribly, but I must admit, I am really enjoying this Christmas so far.  For the first time in ages, I will have all the time I need, to do all of the things I've always wanted to do -- with the kids, around the house, baking, wrapping, etc. -- and with lots of help, and plenty of money too!  Quite a switch from my days working the Floral/Catering holiday madhouse!  Besides, I just don't think I could bear the sadness of being back at Chez Vous this Christmas, with Chef D. gone.  I've written to B. several times, but so far, no reply.  From what I hear, she's not doing too well.  I can't even imagine how she will survive the Christmas mayhem with K, D, and me all gone at once!  I hope she has found some new help.

Well, back here in Indonesia, they are having their Second Annual Christmas Tour of Homes on the 23rd.  All the ladies will load up onto a bus and go through about ten different homes, to see how they are decorated, then have lunch at the restaurant.  I was really looking forward to it, until I discovered that one of the houses on the tour is ours!  I was supposed to get my new furniture this week, but I have a sneaking suspicion it won't show up until after Christmas.  Oh well.  Right now we are having some yard decorations painted.  They are turning out gorgeous, and he's only charging me about $10 each for them (they'd cost hundreds in the States!).

Judging from this photo, the furniture arrived in time!
Guess that's about all the news.  Hope you had a good visit in Ohio.  Keep checking on those travel details.  We can't wait to have our first visitors!  Have a great Christmas, and write soon.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Sunday, December 1st, 1991

Dear Friends and Family,

Greetings from beautiful Lhok Seumawe!  Christmas came early for the Lane family this year -- on November 25th to be precise.  That's when our shipment from the States finally arrived.  If you can picture your whole family living out of a few suitcases for over three months, you can imagine our ecstasy at finally having all our "stuff"! (Becky was lost without her microwave, while John pined for his computer.)  It was difficult to decide whether it was more important for her to get the kitchen unpacked and organized, or to get the Christmas decorations out and the tree set up.  The Christmas tree won!

There is so much to tell, it's hard to know where to start.  There are thousands of things we miss about the States (El Chicos, Whataburger, the malls, movies...), and many things that are strange to us here (the public toilets, the language, the way people want to grab the children), but there are also many things that are wonderful.  On the whole, we think the move to Indonesia has been a good one for us all.

The school is fantastic, and with only 5 or 6 kids in each class, you certainly get your share of individual attention. (Alexis thinks she's getting more than her share, and is having to work twice as hard just to keep up!)  Another big plus is that John rarely has to travel on business now, and because everyone has household help here, we are able to be much more involved with the kids and at school. (John might even say "too much!")  In the three short months that we've been here, we have already had to do costumes and make-up for the school play, do the spook house for the carnival, teach cooking to pre-schoolers, teach Sunday school, coach t-ball, and plan the kid's Christmas program.  It's not that we are particularly dedicated either, it's just that with such a small community, everyone has to help out!

Living here is not without its hazards though.  While trying out the new pool floats that came in our shipment, John did get a bit of a sunburn last weekend.  He later talked to his Dad and found out that it was in the mid 20's back in Odessa.  Ah well, we all have our burdens to bear, I suppose.

We really would like to hear from everyone.  Becky promises to personally respond to anyone who writes to her, and not send one of these form letters.  John promises that Becky will answer all his letters also.

Well, we want to wish everyone a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Dearest Friends,

That trip to Penang, which I mentioned in my letter, ended up being one of the most memorable family vacations of our lives.  First and foremost was the resort itself.  I think it was called Golden Sands, and it was one of those lushly exotic oceanfront resorts that you see in travel brochures -- the kind with an open air lobby and lagoon-like swimming pools surrounded by palm trees and lounge chairs.  All you had to do was raise a little flag and a waiter would appear at your elbow with the icy beverage or snack of your choosing.  The only downside was in getting there, as the road from the airport to the resort followed the shoreline, with all its twists and turns.  Never a good thing for me, but man-oh-man, was it ever worth it!

We had traveled there alone, only to find several other families we knew already there, one of which had seven or eight children, so our kids had plenty of playmates to keep them company at the pool, as they wore themselves to a frazzle climbing up the awesome rockslide into the pool, over and over and over again.  That left us free to lounge, read, and visit with the other parents, just keeping a watchful eye out.  The resort also had a kid's club, based in its own little house next to the hotel, and our kids actually asked us to take them there, after hearing glowing reports from the other kids about the fun activities they had scheduled for each day.

When they eventually grew weary of that and the pool, we hired a car and driver to take us to do some shopping, tour a batik factory and a butterfly farm, and to go to Lexi's favorite (NOT!), the arboretum-like place where you could walk through the jungle and buy little bags of peanuts to feed the monkeys.  If only someone had warned the poor kid that you have to make sure the alpha male gets fed first.  Otherwise he's liable to launch himself at you when you least expect it, scaring you half to death, and he'll grab the whole dang bag right out of your hands!  Twenty years later, she's still not too crazy about monkeys, but I bet she'd go back to that resort in a heartbeat!