Tag Archives: Hossacks

Friends-n-Family Plan

My favorite part of summer vacation every year is re-connecting with friends and family. I always head back overseas in August wishing I had time to make one more interstate phone call or entertain one more visitor at the lake or take one more trip to see someone special.

This summer was more chaotic than usual, but we still managed to squeeze in a few meet-ups.

Our first visitor came roaring up the twisty lake road to our house in her new-to-her RV. Jacquelyn popped by Michigan at the start of her summer-long U.S. tour. Read about it on her blog, Teaching and Travelling Around the World. Jacquelyn’s sweet ride included a kitchen, bathroom, beds and lots of little closets. So fun!


We “always” roadtrip across the border to Stratford, Ontario, for the Shakespeare Festival and fun with the Hossacks. Scott, Amy and Blake entertained us despite some dreary weather (no cycling this year, even though we hauled our bikes all the way there). We stayed at Legacy House B&B and enjoyed a spectacular rendition of “Fiddler on the Roof,” as well as a Shakespeare play neither Tony nor I had seen before, “Measure for Measure.”


It has become a tradition for Amy and me to pose with this scary Shakespeare statue that we think shoots laser beams out of his eyes.

Blake brilliantly hypothesized that he could launch this bubble rocket higher if he jumped on it from the tree branch. And one of the things I love most about the Hossacks is that they would never discourage such an experiment.

The Hossacks live down the road from Stratford in St. Marys, also home to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. We saw George Bell and Tim Raines get inducted and then whack some balls in a “home run derby.”
baseball hall of fame

We scored these awesome shades at a local restaurant.
Canada Day w:Amy

While poking around Stratford’s Art in the Park, I saw a kid who looked familiar. Then my brain took in the whole scene, and I realized it was a family we knew in Laos! Moe Moe was our school nurse at Vientiane International School. Small world!

During our stay in Stratford, friends from Istanbul – Aylin and Cagatay – drove in from Toronto for a couple hours. We were so grateful they made the trip although we were disappointed we didn’t get to meet their gorgeous little girls.



On our way back to Michigan, we stopped by London, Ontario, for lunch with another fab family we knew in Shanghai: the Smith-Kellys. Now that we realize how near they are to our lake house, we anticipate plenty of future summer fun!

Just before crossing the bridge back to the States, we paused for drinks with Stephanie in Sarnia. She and I were first-year teachers in Istanbul, so we shared a lot of tears. Dang it, we forgot to take a photo of our little reunion … we’ll have to do it again next year.

Back in Michigan, we welcomed Cami for the Fourth of July weekend – second year in a row! Again, we feel deeply grateful for friends who go out of their way (and swallow their fear of flying) to hang with us.

With just a week left to go, I think we’re done meeting up with old friends. For this summer, anyway. See you in 2014?

As for family, well, they deserve a post of their own. Stay tuned.

Who needs Google Maps?

If you want to visit someone and you don’t have mobile phone service or internet, I strongly recommend that you first find out the address of your destination. Otherwise, your GPS is really just a pretty plaything. Trust me. I speak from experience.

Tony and I left Stratford and drove the 20 minutes to St. Marys to spend the day with the Hossacks, but I didn’t exactly know where they lived. I had been there once, but my inner GPS clearly didn’t save the route. We stopped at a gas station, where I waited for the hipster teen to buy his Skoal before I asked for the phonebook. (Yes, hipster teen, phonebooks still exists.) Address in hand, we consulted with the GPS and soon arrived at our destination.

When I commented on getting lost, Blake scrunched his brow and asked, “Why didn’t you use my map?”

The day before, he had given me this helpful map and pointed out that the big house was mine and the little house was his. He even wrote M-A-P. Seriously, why didn’t I use the map?

Blake's Map

Much Ado about Splendid Stratford

Driving toward Stratford, Ontario, Tony and I had the sinking feeling that this “Shakespeare Festival” everyone in Canada seems to rave about couldn’t possibly live up to its reputation. Just a few miles out of town, corn fields stretched to the horizon; a thriving theatre community around the corner seemed absurd.

Shortly after a sign welcomed us to “Stratford – home of the Stratford Festival and the Ontario Pork Congress,” we pulled in to the parking lot for the Blue Spruce Bed & Breakfast, where we found a welcome bag from the Hossack Family (Diet Coke, Canadian chocolate, a kid’s book about the festival, a stuffed eagle wearing a Shanghai American School scarf and a heart-warming drawing from 4-year-old Blake). After settling in and chatting a bit with the B&B innkeeper, we walked about 10 minutes to the downtown area, got take-away sandwiches from York Street Deli on Erie (yum!) and found a shady spot to enjoy our lunch. We poked around a few shops and toured the Festival Exhibition, a small museum with costumes, props, set models, photos and video footage celebrating the festival’s 60th anniversary.

I had booked tickets for “Pirates of Penzance” Wednesday afternoon and “Much Ado About Nothing” Thursday night. By the time the pirates took their curtain call, I knew I needed to cram in at least one more show. Tony and I never should have doubted this cultural oasis. Scanning the program, we realized many cast members had boasting rights to Broadway and other world-class theatre experiences (as well as TV and movie roles) and the overall effect of the sets, costumes, sound and lighting proved there was talent behind the scenes, as well. The Major General even sang a hilarious extra verse in honor of the festival’s artistic directors. The Toronto Star’s theatre critic wrote a fairly scathing review of the show, but we were thoroughly entertained. Maybe we’re just out of practice since we rarely have access to plays or musicals…

If you don’t know the Hossacks by now, then you’re clearly not a regular reader of this blog! In a nutshell, we bonded with Scott and Amy while teaching in Shanghai, I was at the hospital when Blake made his appearance, and now we all spend our summers within a three-hour drive. Their summer home is just 20 minutes from Stratford. Perfect! Following our matinee, we were nearly bowled over by Amy’s running-start-leaping-hug sidewalk greeting. Blake, napping in his carseat, was less exuberant, and Scott acted like we had just seen him yesterday, which is just the way it should be.

In my zeal to take advantage of the stage offerings, I bought rush tickets for $25 each to “42nd Street” for that night. Never mind that we had been up since 5 a.m., driven to Canada, already seen a play, socialized for a few hours, and never really ate lunch or dinner. Despite our seats in the nosebleed section, we were entranced.

We enjoyed some more Hossack time the next day, culminating in a grown-ups evening of dinner and “Much Ado About Nothing,” another excellent production. Tony and I went to a Q&A with the show’s Claudio (Tyrone Savage) and Hero (Bethany Jillard) the next morning, checked out and drove to St. Marys to spend the day with our friends.

Here are some shots, taken by Amy’s camera, of our fun visit.
Dinner at Foster’s Inn.

Hanging with the Bard in the Festival Theatre garden.

After a nice riverside picnic, we pushed our bikes up a steep hill to the trail.

Blake chose to climb the cliff face rather than take the steps. When he didn’t appear for a few minutes, Scott and Amy helped him to the top.

Blake got dirty climbing that hill, so we paused to wash hands and get a drink.

Playing on a train car at the old Stratford Junction, where 16-year-old Thomas Edison once worked (and apparently caused a train wreck that led to his prompt departure from Canada).

The Hossacks are Heeeeeere!

Our special friends Scott, Amy and Blake Hossack made their second annual pilgrimage from Canada to Lake Orion today. We taught with them in Shanghai and love them to bits. When my mom and sister visited us in Shanghai, they also got to know the fabulous Hossack family, so they joined us for a little lakeside reunion.

The Hossacks came to Michigan last summer and spent Christmas with us in Laos, so we had planned to return the favor before leaving for New Delhi. Unfortunately, I still don’t have my passport back from the Indian consulate, which means I can’t cross the border into Canada. Drat!

Despite the heat advisory, we did the usual stuff: fed the fish, waded in the lake, floated around on the raft, and took the paddle boat out for a spin. Such a nice day with such wonderful people!

The boys head out on the paddle boat.

Kate and the kids throw bread to the fish and try to attract some ducks.

Cooling off with freezy pops.

Blake and Paul play basketball with the fishnet.

Group hug!

Tony falls asleep while watching a show with Blake.

All I Want for Christmas

We’re wrapping up a hot and sunny fun-filled Christmas here in Laos. It started with a gift exchange, which was especially exciting with Blake’s pop-eyed, big-mouth gasp of surprise every time someone opened a present. When I gave him a little backpack (made by tribal ladies in northern Laos), he squealed, “My backpack!” You couldn’t pay for a better reaction.


Tony gave me a lovely Lao-style creche that looks just like the countryside homes up on stilts, complete with a hanging basket for the baby.

You know your friends “get” you when they show up with a suitcase full of weapons for the traditional Christmas war. It sounds morbid, but growing up in a military family, we usually received some kind of Nerf gun that shot sticky darts, velcro balls, foam arrows or other harmless ammo. After the last presents were opened, our family would leap behind furniture or take cover under large sheets of wrapping paper for a major skirmish. How special to share that tradition with our wonderful visitors!

Everyone played with their toys and lounged around for most of the morning, and then we jumped in a tuk-tuk and headed to Ban Moon. Barry, an Australian, and his Lao wife, Moon, run a little restaurant attached to their home. (“Ban Moon” means The House of Moon.) They served up a Christmas feast of turkey, ham and pork with roasted potatoes, carrots and pumpkin.

Blake stayed busy chasing balloons…

… and taking photos.

He took this one!

Christmas with the Hossacks!

As an Army brat, I lived in many places in the United States and Germany before landing in Kansas for college. Every time my dad delivered the news that we were moving AGAIN, I felt a mixture of emotions – grief (it’s always hard to leave friends and routines), relief (a chance to start over!), fear (what if nobody likes me?), excitement (new people, new adventures), and curiosity (so many unknowns: food, people, weather, school, lifestyle). But I always remember my mother saying, “You’ll see those friends again!” In the military, paths cross again and again.

And so it is with international teaching!

This week, we’re celebrating the holidays with our special friends Amy and Scott Hossack and their awesome little guy, Blake. We worked and played with the Hossacks for four years in Shanghai, so we were thrilled when they decided to spend part of their Christmas break here in Vientiane.

In the taxi from the airport. So excited!

Playing in my classroom.

Blake chillin’ on the daybed.

At the riverfront playground.

Too shy to ask for a swing, Blake hovers as the school-skippin’ Lao girls SMS their friends.

Cycling along the Mekong.

Snack-n-play at Paradise Ice Cream.

A Day With the Hossacks

I can’t believe I didn’t post about our visit from the Hossacks! It was a highlight of the summer. Duh.

Scott, Amy and Blake drove from Canada to spend the day with us here at the lake. For some reason, I didn’t think to grab my camera till they were almost ready to leave, so I don’t have any shots of the grown-ups. Fortunately, Amy was not such a forgetful dork, so you can see more about their visit at her blog: Hossacks Three.

We worked with the Hossacks in China and became great friends. Seeing them felt totally comfy and normal with only a few differences:
(1) Scott used to chug gallons of Coca Cola every day, so I stocked up for him. Who knew he was on the wagon? Now he’s all Mr. Fitness Healthy Man. I guess Amy was his inspiration. And that brings me to …
(2) Amy has slimmed down and powered up. She participated in two triathlons this summer. I’m so proud of her!
(3) Blake is bigger, but just as cute and smiley as ever. I adore him!

Blake and my nephews had fun rolling around the tent and playing on the shore.

I miss these guys so much, but I am thrilled that we now have houses just across the border from each other. Another reason to look forward to summer!