Now that a new year has begun, I’ve decided to recap some my favorite memories of 2012.  Here goes:

April 14

I was asked to be a guest speaker for an English class at Tunghai University here in Taichung.  They had been reading my book, Prince of Alasia, so I came as a visiting author.  It was really fun to interact with the students and watch the readers’ theaters they had prepared based on some of the chapters.  I felt like a celebrity autographing their books at the end!

Anya, In the Enemy's Service

May 20

My second book, In the Enemy’s Service (sequel to Prince of Alasia), was finally published in Kindle format, and later in paperback.  I love the cover art by Jack Lin.

June 12-15

Floyd and I took a brief vacation to Penghu, an archipelago just off the coast of Taiwan.  Our boarders Natasha and Isabel (who had lived with us for the last year) and their parents own a bed and breakfast there, and we were able to stay with them and reconnect with “our” girls.  They showed us around and we had a great time together!

Rainbow Bridge, Penghu

June 28-29

My grandparents, Frank and Carolyn Jordan, brought the extended family to Solvang for a night to celebrate their 60th anniversary.  Since Floyd and I were spending the summer in California, we were able to be there too.  We watched the musical Little Women, enjoyed some tasty meals together, and had fun walking around and seeing the sights.

September 14

Floyd and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.  In honor of our first decade together, we decided to have some professional “couple pictures” taken.  (Missy Sparrow did a great job – check out her photography at

November 21-25

I had the opportunity to attend a teachers’ conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I presented a workshop about self-publishing.  I really enjoyed the experience and hope to do it again sometime.  After the conference, I had time for a brief tour involving such unforgettable memories as riding an elephant and petting tigers!

riding an elephantrelaxing with a tiger

Watch a short video of my tiger encounter

December 14-30

With just a couple of days’ notice, my sister Julie was able to fly to Taiwan for a visit!  Adding to our full house, my brother Jimmy, sister-in-law Erin, and adorable 14-month-old niece Sienna (who previously we’d only met over Skype) arrived a few days later.  (Their visit had been in the works for months, so Julie was the only surprise.)  Floyd and I had a blast celebrating Christmas with them and showing them a little of our life in Taiwan.

Thank you, Lord, for so many blessings in 2012!  I can’t wait to see what 2013 will hold!

I had some free time on my last afternoon in Thailand, so I signed up for a half-day tour package that gave me some lifelong memories. 

First our tour group went to Mae Sa Elephant Camp, a little ways outside of Chiang Mai.  

There we got to watch elephants doing interesting activities.  Click on the links below to watch some short videos I took of the elephants:
elephant throwing darts
elephant playing basketball

Above you can see the pictures that were painted that day – yes, I can vouch for the fact that this artwork really was created entirely by elephants!

Also at Mae Sa, I enjoyed my first-ever elephant ride (no, I never did that in Kenya!). 

As much as I enjoyed my experience with the elephants, the next stop on the tour was even better.  Click on the link to read my blog post about Tiger Kingdom!  Or, skip ahead to the third stop on the tour and read about the beautiful Orchid Nursery.  Did you miss my first blog post with glimpses of Chiang Mai?  Take a look at A Trip to Thailand.

An Orchid Nursery was the third stop in the tour package on my trip to Thailand.

Dozens of varieties of orchids are grown there.

These blooms are sold in Thailand and exported around the world.

There was no officially organized tour, but we were free to wander around the facility and admire the flowers.

I was impressed by the wide range of colors and varieties.

I have to admit, however, that although the flowers were gorgeous, it was hard to get too excited about them right after lying down on a tiger!
Have you seen my other blog posts about my visit to Thailand?  Check them out at the links below:

A Trip to Thailand
Mae Sa Elephant Camp
Tiger Kingdom

After the elephant camp, the tour package I bought in Chiang Mai took us to what’s called the Tiger Kingdom. It’s basically like a zoo with just tigers, and for a small additional fee, tourists can actually go inside the cages and pet them! I found it completely mind-blowing that I was almost the only person in our large tour group who wanted to do that! 

 So, for the equivalent of about $15, I got to get up close and personal with three full-grown female tigers! At the keeper’s instructions, I got to pet them, handle their back paws, wrap their tails around me, lie down with my head on their backs, and rub their tummies! The keeper was nice enough to take pictures and video for me with my camera; click here to watch a short video of my tiger experience. 
(Fun fact I learned: a group of tigers is called a “streak”.)

After the tiger experience, our tour guide took the group to our third destination.  Click here to read about my visit to the Orchid Nursery.  A beautiful as it was, nothing could hold a candle to lying down on a tiger!

Did you see my post about our first stop?  Click here to read about my visit to Mae Sa Elephant Camp.  Or, click here for pictures and descriptions of Chiang Mai city scenes, including night markets and a tuk tuk.

Recently I got to spend a few days in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at an EARCOS (East Asia Regional Council of Schools) conference.

What an interesting country!
I was there to present a workshop about  publishing, based on my experiences publishing my own books in Kindle and paperback formats. 
In the evenings and on the last day after the conference was over, I used every spare moment to explore Chiang Mai and do all the touristy activities I could. 
My coworkers and I visited nearby “walking streets” several times. 

Click here to watch a short video I took of live music being played on a walking street.

Much more touristy than the night markets where I live in Taiwan, these walking streets sold not only food and clothes but souvenirs of all sorts.

Speaking of food, click here to watch a short video I took of a woman at a roadside stand preparing a delicious snack for me: chocolate banana rotee!

The gorgeous artwork below was cut from and painted on pieces of cow and buffalo hide!

These delicate flowers were carved from soap!

Aluminum cans find new life in these little model vehicles.

This is one of the real vehicles the models are based on.  A “tuk tuk” is a tiny taxi with open sides and seating for two passengers (three in a pinch – but don’t expect a comfy ride!).

The view from the back seat of the tuk tuk.

Words of wisdom from and about the driver.  How nice to know he’s a good man!

My favorite part of the trip was a tour package I enjoyed on my last afternoon there.  Click on the links below to read my posts about three exciting experiences (okay, two exciting ones and one beautiful one)!
Mae Sa Elephant Camp
Tiger Kingdom
Orchid Nursery