Taiwan: Friends + Grounding

Our two-week journey in Taiwan was such a salve for our family. Our friends Karen, Phil and their three kids moved to Taiwan over a year ago. We have lived our lives in parallel. While our trips are very different, we are both living experiences that challenge and awe (and sometimes bring us to our knees), and I have been grateful for this shared witnessing. It was never a question in our minds if we would visit them in Taiwan. As I have aged/matured (?), I have realized more and more how important it is to witness each other - whether that be in times of pain or joy, transition or adventure. This was one of those times, and this trip was exactly what our family needed. 

The epitome of hosts, Karen and Phil planned out our whole trip, dividing it into shared family adventures, solo (our) family adventures, and woman-bonding and man-bonding overnights. We did not have to make one decision, and could lounge away in their fabulous apartment when we tired of the adaptations required for travel. They ordered for us, planned for us, created an environment where our kids could be kids with other kids, and manifested a home for us when we desperately needed one. 

Here are some photos of our two weeks of friendship, love, and re-grounding. 

En route! 

Our annoying parents always make us 'reflect' in our journals.

Loving the bullet trains.

So much kid time.

Man time sans kids to climb 3000m mountains on the Qilai Nanhua trail.

Solo Glick-Coldewey family time in Tainan.

Woman time sans kids to Wulei.

Dual family adventure in Yangmingshan.

As our kids said as we left, "it's harder to leave friends than it is to leave places." True that. 

Goodbye Vietnam, Goodbye Southeast Asia...and Happy Birthday, Emmet!

The disorienting/bittersweet/exciting feeling of being in-between places, Hanoi behind us, our plane starting its descent into Taipei. We were ready to leave Vietnam. At the same time, my feelings of connection and familiarity with this country had soared over the last few weeks. Amazing how psychology plays with your knowledge of the future, how emotional barriers relax, become more porous, when departure is in sight.  

I’ve been thinking about history lately. Thailand remained an independent nation for centuries. It resisted the formidable grips of colonizers and played cards of strategy and diplomacy to evade the territorial, political, economic, and social grabs of the 18-20th centuries. Alternatively, Vietnam’s history is a very different one, rife with foreign countries – Japan, China, France, the US – wielding power over place, trade, and people.

When I think back to our time in Thailand, it was very much about us getting our travel legs, me diving into a body-mind-spirit exploration of my next life moves, and pushing the limits of how we each could evolve as a family and as individuals. When I reflect on Vietnam, it was significantly less self-indulgent and more outwardly focused.

Rather, it was a much more profound engagement with place, history, and people. It was a deep seeking to understand a country that exuded resilience, open arms, strength, and stories. It was people loving on our children, hugging them maybe a bit too tightly (for their liking!), overflowing with warmth, care, and stories of aspiration and perseverance. It was going to museums and watching documentaries about its strikingly complex history, learning a different perspective from the US’ caricature.  

Was my draw to Vietnam because I could somehow connect to Vietnam’s colonized history as a white woman with European heritage? Was it because as a Jew I naturally draw towards people with stories of subjugation and oppression? Was it simply where we were in our trip, 6 months in, and the bandwidth I had available? Was it because we never found our three-month home and instead, wandered a bit more with traveler eyes rather than living eyes?

I leave Vietnam with conflicting feelings. In Chiang Mai, fresh off the plane from Vancouver, I could never have imagined missing the luxuries and routines of home. Now after six full months away, I am starting to feel some sort of gravitational pull. I see it in my kids’ eyes too. There is a bit more grumpiness, more impatience, less wow-ness. Who knows if that will wane as we embark on our next round of adventures. And yet, the warmth, informality, vibrancy, generosity, and authenticity of this place – I will miss that. I will miss the me surrounded by that. I will miss my kids’ absorption and reflection of that energy.

Our last day in Vietnam – our last day in Southeast Asia – was Emmet’s 9th birthday. To watch this kid’s evolution on this trip has been an honor. He has blossomed in ways I could never have foreseen. He has turned into a beautiful writer, photographer, astute navigator of Southeast Asian roads, engaging communicator across cultures, and has embodied physical and emotional bravery, resilience, and flexibility many times over.

While we have rules to temper expectations of birthdays on the road, we still try to make them memorable. Not to toot our horns, but I think we rocked this one. The night before his birthday, Emmet requested a 'date' with mom and dad, so we went to a fancy French dinner (without his brothers!). In the morning, we booked a private tour with a photographer to offer our budding photographer some tips and tricks of the trade and to practice on Hanoi streets. Then we met up with the family, ate our final bun cha, came back to our hotel where our hotel surprised him with a cake, went bowling (Emmet identifies as a successor to the legendary Glick bowling hereditary line) and to the arcade (where Emmet found the jackpot bowling game that doled out a gazillion tickets), and ate sushi. It was a pretty awesome day and sweet send-off from this country and region.  

And here are some shots Emmet took during his photography lesson (pre-editing). 

Some final Hanoi shots (from me/Chris).

I write this staring out of the 14th floor apartment window of our dear friends in Hsinchu, Taiwan. I am so grateful to be among friends-turned-family, to have some home time/peer time, and to ready ourselves for the next leg of the journey.


It seems like every post from here on out may be about transitions. We are now at the six-month point, and recently left our home in Hoi An – the last time we will have a ‘stable’ place to live. Our last few days in the town were filled with Hoi-An's best-ofs and life maintenance, including haircuts. We even got some sunny days! The boys finally swam in our very cold pool (we were not able to get out of paying for the near-daily cleaning of this pool, despite the fact that it was cold and pouring rain - see pic) and devoured the long-desired bunny cotton candy of the kids' dreams.  

It’s wild to think that we have been traveling for six months. We are starting to think about our return – what that looks like both logistically and intentionally, while trying to stay fully present to the everyday.

Chris and I recently had a conversation where we both had arrived at the same conclusion – it feels like the kids have reached a point of saturation. Not that they are no longer enjoying our trip or our time together. But what we hoped would be sparked by this journey has – to some degree – been fulfilled...their appreciation and curiosity of difference, resilience in the face of challenge or ‘unforeseen circumstances,’ grappling with socio-economic inequities and historical contexts that give rise to them, and willingness to try new things. And on the other side of that, they are no longer ‘wowed’ by sights like they once were. There is a quiet appreciation, but it has become more ‘normal life,’ rather than oh-my-god-how-am-I-so-lucky.

We are currently in Hanoi (more on that in a bit), and just returned from an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay. We ended up on a gorgeous boat with floor-to-ceiling views of limestone cliffs jutting out in 360-degree panoramas. It was stunning and iconic. 

I watched my kids take in the magnificent scenery and noticed that the wows had turned into more subtle appreciation, with a tad of been-there-done-that thrown in the mix. This is not a case of spoiled children (I hope!). I believe that it is more of a psychological response to the relentless wows of this trip, as well as legitimately having had a number of similar experiences for context and comparison.

The kids’ time horizons also differ. Whereas Chris and I both feel the fleetingness of this time together, our kids live much more in the present. They know this day-to-day reality as their life - past, present, and future (Obie may be an exception here). We recently asked Asa what he remembers of our house in Vancouver...shockingly little! For him, this is life. The wows, the challenges, the food, overtaking motorbikes, people pinching his cheeks.

And now back to the travelogue. I know I have waxed endlessly about the places I have loved thus far in our trip. But Hanoi. I absolutely love-love-love this city. It’s vibrancy, street culture, mixture of old and new, pride of history, enchanting cafes, winding alleyways and vertical houses, endless balconies and courtyards with plants spilling out. I could go on and on.

Hue, Family Rooms, and Regulation in New Places

On Family Rooms
A good friend recently commented on the human capacity for adaptability. So for all of you wondering how this life works, here’s another slice! We are now on the road, and to some degree, will be for the rest of the journey. While we will have some longer rest stops, we will no longer be rooted in a place for three months. So that demands a certain adaptability. We are currently in Hue, a city of history, legacy, violence, and pride. We truly love it here. Alive, charming, steeped in history and sadness and glory, it’s perhaps my favorite place we have visited thus far in Vietnam.

And there’s one problem. I booked a ‘family room’ in a charming guesthouse. This means we are all in the same, small room. This honestly doesn’t work for anyone. We all need our space, time to recharge, find our groove in new surroundings, etc. and this layout doesn’t really account for that. So besides late-night scrolling through every single booking we have remaining in the trip to make sure I never, ever do this again (findings report: we have five challenging bookings, must revise ASAP), here’s a snapshot of what I have done since we arrived to take some personal time.

I get up early, find the local café, put in earphones, drink a coffee, write, and read. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good solution for now.

So here I am, at a café called ‘Binancians’ [what the what?], reading a fascinating re-imagination of the final months of Ho Chi Minh, and writing, while the endless streams of motorcycles whiz by, a very large and very small dog hump across the street, and a man speaks so loudly on his phone that it breaks through my noise-cancelling earphones.

Collective Regulation
Yesterday, another small moment in a big day of exploration. First days post-travel are often not great. There is this unsettled feeling in the family, destabilized routines, and the overwhelm of unrelenting newness.

So here we were in Hue. We had breakfast at our homestay, on the edge of short tempers and impatience, and then took a taxi to the old Imperial City. We first met a Vietnamese mother and son; the mother was teaching the son English and she asked our kids to ‘interview’ him to practice his English. A very sweet moment between kids across cultures. 

We spent some time with them, took photos, and moved on to explore the humid environs of the Imperial City. Impressive and heartbreaking, lessons of colonialism and intruders and heritage. We were hot and impressed, everyone coping well enough.

We then headed out to find lunch. It was a holiday here, so most local places were not open. Quite hungry after aimless wanderings, we took a taxi to a restaurant near our house, a place recommended by both locals and tourists. We wandered in, famished and hot, to crowds of people – families and friends – no seating in sight, no clarity of how we get a table, loud, hot, voices, coughing, laughter, unfamiliar smells. Finally got a table. Ordered. Half of the food came. Some wonderful, some a bit ‘fishy’ for our palates. Never saw the server again. Waited. Ordered food again. Waited. Nothing happening. Confusion, waiting, fatigue, noise.

And amidst the noise and temperature and smells, our kids’ energy, well, intensified. On edge, louder, slightly unpredictable. It culminated in a drink spilled and small punishments. But what happened next was what was remarkable to me. First, Emmet took full accountability, saying that it was his fault and that the others shouldn’t be punished. Then Obie calmly took accountability and was able to articulate that while they shouldn’t have been behaving in that way, the environment felt overwhelming to them all. The noises, the heat, the fatigue, and that they all found it hard to ‘turn it down.’ It was quite an insight. We were able to talk about it, talk about these moments of unfamiliarity and overstimulation, and how we each handle them.

My kids have become so good at ‘rolling with it’ that we forget that we all have moments of strain, of stretch, of missing, of unsettledness. And our nervous systems cope with those moments in different ways. But what was remarkable was all of us coming together to talk through it, to understand each other, and acknowledge the moments where we all have to call on different parts of ourselves to weather challenge.

Afternoon Pilgrimage at Sunset
It was important to me to visit Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘root temple.’ Thich Nhat Hanh grew up as a Buddhist monk at the Từ Hiếu Pagoda (Chùa Từ Hiếu), located just on the city’s edges. Exiled for 39 years from Vietnam for his nonviolent activism, he finally returned to his root temple for the last three years of his life. Unable to speak after a stroke, those in his presence during his final years remarked that he exuded a deep presence that permeated throughout the temple. Before visiting, we watched a video about his life and then paid homage to his impact on the world, quietly wandering through the forest retreat. 

Peaceful and beautiful, embellished by the non-melodic and joyfully boisterous karaoke of its next door neighbors. Classic.

Asa also thought it would be particularly holy for him to lose his second tooth at this monastery, but alas, it was not to be. 

Ok, time to return to family life. More to come from our last day in Hue and onwards to Phong Nha! 

My Experiences in Penang, Malaysia: January 21st - 30th [Emmet]

We arrived at Kuala Lumpur airport at two o’clock. Our ride, a large green and white van, was waiting for us outside the airport. The ride was so tiring. If we had to stand up for the whole ride, I would end up curled up on the floor. It felt like being in jail for 8 hrs. Nothing to do but wait. Our eyelids felt droopy, we started to nod off when we got there, but we had to get out. We slowly arrived at a stopping place for dinner (that had stuff like McDonalds and Dunkin’ donuts). We had dinner at a hot dog stand, and ate in the car. We bought a fizzy drink, with sweet corn in a cup as well. My brothers and I started playing video games after dinner. Our eyes were getting zombified. We were zonked when we arrived. We began to see Penang at 11:00. 

The ride from Kuala Lumpur to Penang totalled eight hours! We started unpacking our things, and making the apartment livable. Midnight, 12:00. We started going to bed, but apparently, it was Chinese New Year, so there were a bunch of fireworks. We saw people shooting them out. It was kind of disturbing, but also cool. Pretty loud. I watched them as I started to drift off. Finally, I went to bed at 1:00. Too late.

Day 1: Georgetown

We woke up at 10:10, but we didn’t want to get out of bed. When we realised that it was a chill day, we started going back to sleep. You would think that we would want to get up and have breakfast slowly. But no. Still tired.

But, you think our parents would let us sleep anymore? Nope. They pulled our covers out of our beds and said get up. We groaned, but started getting up. We had breakfast, a yoghurt and eggs. They said that we were doing no worldschooling meet-ups today, but were starting tomorrow. We went to Georgetown because it was Chinese New Year. We ate some food for lunch and walked around Georgetown. My parents bought a dessert for me. They bought me a rainbow ball made out of shaved ice and it was really big. My little brother, Asa, bought a rainbow heart which was made out of the same stuff. It tasted very sweet grape-like and my mom said it was too sweet for her.

Personally, I loved it. It tasted sweet, with all kinds of flavours buzzing in my mouth. Apple and grape, strawberry and orange. It is one of my favourite desserts I have ever had.

We walked around Georgetown for about half an hour. It was great. So many things to see! Red and yellow everywhere. It was like a party planned just for us. We saw a couple people doing henna. Some with boa constrictors on their necks. So fun! We took a car back to our apartment, and settled in more. On the ninth floor, there were games and a reading room and a gymnasium. A pool was there too. We figured that we would come back to this floor sometime. 

Our floor was the 27th. The place was pretty good. Enough beds for all of us. The only problem was that there was one bathroom! One person could go to the bathroom at a time! That was the hard part. Our view was five stars… just perfect. We could see the hills and other buildings. The streets and villas. Nothing better. We did homework and played video games. It started to rain so we chilled inside. It cleared up and our parents went to get us some food. We had dinner and had a conversation about what we did that day. We went to bed and closed our eyes in peace. But! The fireworks went on the same as last night. We all looked out my window and saw the nightscapes and the fireworks. It was truly amazing. We went to sleep at a reasonable time and had a pretty good sleep that night.

Day 2: Hindu Temple
Going to the Hindu temple was an easy hike, worth the work. We took our shoes off and walked inside, We heard the Priests' chanting to the Gods. The marble floor was squeaking under our feet as we calmly walked through the temple. 

We gave some money as an offering, and were given some sweet beans, which we ate with our hands. They were out of some orange sweets that are called “Prasada.” We hear the chanting as the people stand in line to get blessed by the Priests. The Priests put ash on the people’s forehead while we eat the sweets and watch. We look at all the shrines that have Hindu gods in them. We slowly walked out of the temple heading to the smaller temple, just to the left of the main temple. There were a few people praying with one Priest behind them. We put our shoes back on, and started walking back down the hill. 

While we were waiting for a car to come, some Indian people gave us some noodles, and chai (an Indian tea you can get anywhere in India). While we snack on that, our parents bring some more food out. Obie accidentally dropped his red bean bun, and someone said to him, “no,” while he was picking it up. He threw it in the trash and I gave him some of mine.

Day 3: Penang Hill
We hiked up Penang Hill. It took us 2 hrs and 50 min to get to the top of the hill. It was very rainforest-like, but we didn't see any snakes and only one monkey. It was a tough hike, but we had a seven year old (who was walking ahead of us leaving us in the dust, while holding her dad’s hand), a ten year old, a twelve year old (which was my brother), my smaller brother Asa (also my brother), and me, an eight year old. It was very tiring, but the sights were amazing. We had a choice to go on a minecart that looked like a subway, but we chose to hike up. There were a bunch of stations where we could stop and ride the minecart, but we just kept on hiking. 

When we reached the top, we were exhausted. Everyone was so relieved that they were done. We decided that we deserve ice cream after some other fun things. We went on a trail (paved), and we saw monkeys and insects. 

We also saw a stand that had no one in it, but clearly was part of Penang Hill. It said “Insects of Penang Hill.” There were two scorpions, spiders (each one was in a jar and dead), a snake and a couple of beetles.

We kept on walking to find the canopy walk. We found it and started walking up the painted metal.

Then a guide whispered to us, and crouched down and pointed to a green vine snake. It looked like a green rope, with a pointy nose. He said it wasn’t venomous, but had a painful bite. 

We kept on walking across the canopy, until we reached the end of the walk. The next thing was the treetop walk. The treetop walk was a big arena shaped thing with poles sticking out and as tall as the canopy. It wasn’t that scary, but the sides were made out of rope, and it didn’t feel stable. It was like a design “x” pattern rope below the railing, and you could push on it. It felt like you were leaning on the canopy, and were about to fall. 

We bought some ice cream and said our goodbyes. Then we started making our way to the subway/minecart. It was a five minute wait; when we crowded into the subway, it was packed. Good thing it only took us ten minutes (or less) to get down. When we came down, we started to go to the taxi area. We hailed a taxi, which was way overpriced. 

We came home and started doing homework and video games.

Day 5: Countryside Stables
The countryside stables is a place in the countryside of Penang. You can ride, pet, and feed the horses. We had friends there with us. We bought tickets, and started feeding the horses. You can put hay on your hand and hold your hand flat for the horses. You can also get a long piece of hay and hold it by the side, and let the horse take it from you by the other side. We did a lot of feeding. We bought tickets to ride the horses. My horse was a big white one. It had a way of walking where you wobble to each side. You get used to it though. We mounted them and took some pictures, walked around with them; then, we dismounted. It was a really fun experience that I’ve had in my life. I love riding horses as much as I like riding water buffaloes. We went back in our van for the next thing.

This is me in Hoi An, just randomly riding a water buffalo...

Day 5: Bike Ride
We did a bike ride which started on a gravel road, which I did not like. Then we started biking on some paved roads that were better. We finally reached the end of the bike ride. We went to a pier where we took some pictures and could explore. I took a lot of pictures with my camera. It was a truly great experience. Just an amazing sunset. We biked back on the same way and started the van home. We went back home and went to bed.

Day 7: Leaving Penang - Orangutan Island and the Batu Caves
Pictures below!

Orangutan Island

Batu Caves