Jackalopes & Green Chiles

Life hasn’t stopped moving since our adventures in SE Asia. While perched atop the Malacca Strait in Sepang, Malaysia Ian was combing the web for strength & conditioning positions in the USA. Our deal was if he found a job back in the Land of Milk & Honey we’d go for it. If not, we’d continue our time abroad and make a few changes (like live together under the same roof). Before long Ian interviewed via Skype and hooked a coaching gig at the University of Denver in Colorado. It was time to pack up our hiking boots and canteens–Rocky Mountain High, here we come!

It’s been 2+ years since our SE Asia travels. Wow, time sure does fly. We’ve been through some big life changes since then and are now in a new and mysterious chapter in the American Southwest. To recap on our life thus far, we have:

  • Worked and played on Jenny’s family farm in Capon Bridge, WV
  • Packed up a Uhaul and drove from WV–> CO (whew, Kansas is never-ending!)
  • Moved in and out of two charming apartments in Denver
  • Coached hundreds of DU athletes, including NCAA champions! (Ian)
  • Fostered snuggly (not to mention naughty) kittens through the local animal shelter
  • Got engaged AND married! (yippee!)
  • Cared for chubby-cheeked babies and feisty adolescents (Jenny)
  • Cooked some glorious homemade meals together using our local CSA
  • Showed our lovely visitors the magnificence and charm of the Rockies (mountain towns are the cutest! Rocky Mountain National Park…there are no words. You must see it for yourself!)
  • Traveled from Denver–> Boston and in between for graduate school interviews (Jenny)
  • Packed up the Uhaul (again!) and moved south to Santa Fe, New Mexico

hike up to Picacho Peak, 8,500 ft elevation (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

Here we are in the “Land of Enchantment”. Our main reason for venturing to Santa Fe is so I may attend graduate school for Art Therapy/ Counseling at a phenomenal consciousness-centered school focused on experiential learning. For 2+ years (and beyond) I’ll be reflecting on my own intentions and spiritual practices while training for licensure as an art therapist/ counselor. You can follow my creative-expressive journey on my BLOG, as well as sample photographs, life lessons, and adventure stories as we get to know this quirky town and surrounding terrain. Ian is also exploring his passions and beliefs while shifting his career path from coaching to real estate.


farmer’s market habanero chiles


Chief Lockwood Pose


farmer’s market shishoto peppers

We’re both paddling the learning boat together, both with cherry pie dreams and true intentions.

Thank you for being loyal followers of Hoops & Homonyms! We loved every moment of this blog. Your comments and support gave us daily inspiration, so much that I want to do it again! Cheers to a new chapter, to learning more about ourselves & one-another, and to future travels near & far.


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a Jackalope

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Postcard from Songkhla, Thailand

Two weeks into our trip and we were ready to keep going, up the Malay Peninsula to Thailand. This stop was extra special because we went to visit two dear friends and former colleagues from China. They both had a change of heart about the work conditions of our college in Nanjing (and China in general) and decided to move to happy and sunny Songkhla, Thailand. I don’t blame them. Songkhla is laid-back and beautiful!

Muslim fisherman village in Songkhla. Group shot!

Ian & I took a group minivan with some other vagabonds for a bumpy journey over the Malaysian border. Although the trip was much shorter (3 hour drive compared to a 6 hour train ride) the driver made some random pit stops and drove like a nicotine-crazed maniac. Thankfully, we made it to our destination in one piece, eager to stretch on solid ground. We reunited with our freshly bronzed friends at last!

Ian trying to fit in a tiny tuk tuk!

Songkhla, also known as “great city on two seas”, is a quaint fishing town and an important harbor located on the Gulf of Thailand. The water is crystal blue, the breeze cool, and the sun scorching hot. Erika & Stephen’s university overlooks the sea, a stones throw away from the sandy beach. I’m not going to lie and say I’m not a little jealous of the view. They took us around their town by foot and tuk tuk(auto rickshaw), pointing out the local market, tasty food vendors (fresh coconut ice cream!), and tourist attractions. The weather creeped up to a blazing 97 degrees F, which is normal at this time of year, so you better believe we were chugging bottles of water. One of my favorite spots was “Monkey Hill”.

Jenny (the animal lover) hand-feeding a monkey bananas

view atop "Monkey Hill" & the steep stairs we climbed to get there

Stephen giving a baby monkey his share. Ian reaching out to another monkey.

Luckily, we were in Songkhla for St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate with a true Irishman (Stephen). Although the town is small, there is an Irish bar that overflowed with expats that evening. It was like a breath of fresh air to sip a cold one and clink glasses with like-minded people, to hear their travel/ life stories, and to experience the feeling of being around those who live in a location that they love. We didn’t get enough of that in China, sadly. “What if when we return to the US we find ourselves bored or uninspired?” we sometimes wonder. Life’s full of questions, right? It’s good to know that not all ESL jobs end up being disappointing in the end. I’ll put that thought in my pocket.

St. Patty's Day with friends

The people really made our trip. E&S introduced us to some of their friendly and humorous colleagues, Thai English teachers, who then invited us out to dinner. We dined on yellow & green curries, steamed fish, papaya salad, and other local delicacies. One kind teacher even offered to drive us to the train station the next day, an hour away.

the Mermaid (symbol of Songkhla) & the Koh Maeo and Koh Nu (Cat & Rat) islands in the distance

Serpent, coconut ice cream, banana tree

Ian giving the boulder a good push. According to local legend there is a large sum of gold waiting underneath for a lucky man who can shove it over the edge

During our visit we ate delicious food, had good laughs, walked around the town, relaxed on the beach, and escaped the heat in air-conditioned spaces (including the kind of sad Songkhla Aquarium). We hope to reconnect again in the future, maybe more westward next time!

Our RATINGS: (out of 10)

  • Transportation              8    (tuk tuks and motorbikes. tend to rip-off expats)
  • Weather                         7    (clear blue skies. super hot sun, near the equator)
  • English Proficiency       6    (some Thai people spoke it, but most don’t know much)
  • Cleanliness                     6    (unfortunately, littering is common in this part of the globe)
  • City Pulse                       7    (beach town. sometimes sleepy, sometimes alive with music)

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Postcard from Penang, Malaysia

Northbound! Back on the train, we settled in for a 7-hour ride up the Peninsular Malaysia to the island of Penang. This time, the view from the window was of rolling hills speckled with cattle and winding paths cut through the mountains of jungle. For what seemed like an eternity, a large family of restless and unsupervised Malay children ran up and down the aisles of our car, bouncing off chairs and swinging from curtain rods like wild monkeys. Thankfully, for our (and the rest of the passengers) sanity’s sake, they departed halfway through our journey leaving behind a trail of crumbs and candy wrappers.

Ian enjoying the scenery from his seat on the train

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Postcard from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Ten days into our trip we headed to Kuala Lumpur, the cultural, financial, and economic center of Malaysia. From first glance, KL is pulsing with diversity. The most colorful people walk the streets hailing from countries near and far, each traveller rugged in their own unique way. The streets are covered in grit, the alleyways adorned in urban graffiti, and the echoing chants of the Islamic call to prayer bounce off buildings in the distance.

street art in KL

at Jamek Mosque listening to the call to prayer

which train do we take?

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Postcard from Sepang, Malaysia

From Singapore, we hopped on the KTMB train for a 7-hour ride north.  After an exhausting three days of walking around the city, we eagerly anticipated a long commute (in first class!) to sit back and stare out the window at the tropical Malaysian countryside. To our surprise, first-class on this railway was nothing more than some extra leg room and wide seats with moldy-upholstery and rickety hinges. The train schedule was also on “Asian time”… and hour late here, an hour late there. Nevertheless, we watched the palm trees fly by the window, our bags loaded with snacks, and let our headphones drown out the old-school Looney Tunes cartoons chiming in the background.

taking the "old-fashioned" train from Singapore to Malaysia

monkeys can be found on the train and off

reflection & a child's view from the window

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Postcard from Singapore

Before heading to Singapore, we had an idea in our heads of what the country might be like based on opinions of friends and family members. I, for one, expected the place to be like the “Disneyland” of Asia, uptight, and very expensive. But, negative stories did not deter us from hopping on a plane and landing in the island country on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. We wanted to rate it for ourselves!

the famous "Merlion" statue, spewing water towards the Marina Bay Sands hotel (a beauty with a roof-top pool that appears to flow over the edge). Singapore skyline.

we rode the world's biggest observation wheel, the "Singapore Flyer" for a loop high above the city lights

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Postcard from Hong Kong

After a long night in the Nanjing airport, we flew off to beautiful and bustling Hong Kong. The city-state is located on China’s southeast coast, surrounded by the Pearl River Delta and the South China Sea. From the majestic skyline to the deep harbor waters, Hong Kong is nothing like mainland China. Not only does it have a different political system than the China we lived in, it has a 5% non-Chinese population; out of 7 million people, there is a nice mixture of ethnicities walking the streets. It might sound silly, but Ian & I were pleasantly surprised to see other expats and their families coexisting in this part of the world. Not to mention, HK is drastically warmer than Nanjing. We happily shed our winter layers to head out and explore the city!

tram ride through Central Hong Kong. the view from the second story was perfect

tram ride through Central Hong Kong. the view from the second story was perfect

impressive bamboo scaffolding

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Nostalgic Yet?

What we WILL NOT miss about China:

SO MANY PEOPLE (walking through the Xinjeikou metro station)

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English Corner: Come One, Come All

On Wednesday afternoons at the maritime university, you could find me in Dining Hall 2 most likely standing on a fuzzy red stage, dodgy microphone in hand. Being a “foreign expert”, my presence and native tongue is requested weekly at the school’s English-speaking club. Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to English Corner.

Carl Marx & an English Corner guessing game

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Planes, Trains, & Tuk Tuk Rides

WE’RE BACK on the same soil! After little over three months of long-distance communication and separate living spaces I’m more than happy to report that Ian & I are together in Nanjing, finally under one roof. The 32 game CBA season has come to a close (for the Dragons), my long winter break from work has elapsed…the waiting is over.     (Ceeelebrate good times, c’mon!) What now, right? It’s a question that has been lingering in the air like smoke after fire. Ian’s employment has ceased, he’s a free man with a small agenda, while I am still signed-on to teach English to 700 easily bored and sleepyhead Chinese freshman.

speaking of sleepy...apartment lounging on cold winter days

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