Thursday, 22 December 2011

And so it arrives - the end of an era...

Team Taylor Deportation/Repatriation Countdown

Days left in Singapore: 1

Days left until arrival in the Queen City: 8

And a good evening to you all from across the globe after our FINAL NIGHT in the Lion City.  I cannot believe I'm typing this, but tonight will be the FINAL POST from Team Taylor in 2011, and our final post outside the United States.  Honestly, I can't even begin to get my head around that.

And so it begins - Team Taylor in London in September of 2009 (in
short sleeves, no less!).
In his novel, "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," author Dave Eggers opens by saying, "I've never been more exhausted in my life, I've never been more excited in my life.  Never have I known such fatigue or anticipation."  He was writing about getting a publisher to accept his first book, but I think it's equally applicable to summarizing Team Taylor's time abroad.

2.5 years abroad.  5 years of marriage celebrated.  31 countries visited on 21 different airlines.  6 total weeks in the states.  25 pounds gained.  25 pounds lost.  58 new pint glasses.  3 international beer festivals.  To quote my good buddy Tait "T-Bone" Robinson upon his return from 3 months of teaching in India and 6 weeks traveling Southeast Asia:  "I think it's gonna take awhile to understand what I've seen."
J-Wade - do you recognize that bottle?  We've
been saving that champagne for one special
occasion - the last night in Sing Sing, baby!!!
Thanks so much - 2-1-3 forever! :-)
I don't really know where to begin or how to sum up the last 2 and a half years of my life, and I'm sure you'd all fall asleep if I spent more than a few paragraphs attempting it.  What I can say is that a) Jenny and I are closer than we've EVER been and more in love than I ever thought possible, b) this entire experience has been so much more than I ever expected, and whilst I still have a billion places on my bucket list, even if I never set foot in a new place I could die a happy man, and c) I now know not only the value of the expat experience but also the cost.  The value is the work experience, the travel, and the adventure, but the cost is everything you leave behind whilst you're away.  Our amazing parents, our wonderful friends and their children, and all the traditions and activities that make up the fabric of American culture (and don't let anyone tell you otherwise - we HAVE a culture) have been somewhere between 4,000 to 11,000 miles away for the last quarter of a decade, and that takes its toll on any nomad.  And THAT, more than anything, is why we are SO EXCITED to be going home.

For the past few months, all I've been able to think about is hugging my folks, sitting on Purple couch and watching re-runs of Dodgeball, watching the Heels in action, and re-inserting myself into the lives of so many friends who've patiently waited for us to return and tried as best they could to keep us integrated into their lives.  Skype is AMAZING - but it's no substitute for Sunday dinner with the family.  I am grateful for all the technology now available, but at the end of the day nothing can close the abyss that geography creates.
The home away from home - it was great, but I've no lie to
tell - it felt much more like basecamp than a home.
Some folks here, as well as in London, have suggested that Jenny and I might be bored in Charlotte.  To that I always say 2 things:  1.  I am SO EXCITED about the prospect of being bored.  That will imply that, for at least a fleeting moment, I am sedentary, which sounds AWESOME.  2.  People can be bored anywhere if they refuse to take advantage of everything around them.  Personally, I think Charlotte will feel like a new city to us, and we've already got a lot of plans for activities in the first quarter.  We may be a lot of things in 2012, but somehow I don't think bored will be one of them.

And as to the question of the blog, Jenny and I do plan to keep it through Q1 of next year.  Now that we've shared our time abroad with so many of our American friends, we want to share our return and reacclimatization with those of you outside the US who have shared your lives with us across 3 continents.  The blog will move from daily to once or twice weekly, but we are certainly planning on continuing the writing and hope that you'll stay with us.

To the readership - THANK YOU.  For the page views, the great comments, the hilarious emails from T-Rowe and others, for harrassing me when I didn't post (TERRIER), forcing me to keep going and keep this record of our lives - THANK YOU.  I have LOVED writing this - it has been cathartic in a way that I never expected.  And some day I hope that our kids will read it and say, "Wow, our parents used to be cool.  And dad didn't used to weigh 600 pounds."  I  hope that you've enjoyed it as much as I have, had a few laughs, and maybe even learned a fact or two along the way.

And lastly, whilst this is by no means the final post, I am conscious that readership may drop off after this last entry, and there is something I simply must do.  I must thank the group of people that made all this possible:

To GC Robinson, for taking a chance on me 3 weeks after my honeymoon by sending me to London in a definite "stretch" role, and then supporting me through some REALLY rough days

To Sean Newcomb, for taking a chance on me and Team Taylor (with the Puma in tow) up in Chester and then supporting me in 2008, not only with the chance to tackle another international project but also when I need a break from Transition

To Kevin Woest, for finding me a job that let my body get back where it needed to be and then helping me to realize a dream when it presented itself

To Sean again for truly making a dream come true in 2009...and again in 2010

To Dan Deets for believing in me enough to suggest Singapore

To Andy McGuire for picking up the torch in Dan's absence and going well above and beyond the call of duty to help make this past year possible

To Martin Appel, for taking a chance on a guy from Tennessee he'd only met once at a restaurant and heard on two conference calls - it's been amazing, boet - thanks for everything

And lastly, to Ray Tavares and Matt Miller - the other 2 members of the three musketeers, without whom odds are good I would be a) unemployed, b) in prison, or c) dead in a ditch.  Thanks for everything, fellas - the laughs being paramount
And so it ends - Team Taylor trying to survive their first
12 THOUSAND DEGREE Christmas - 11,000 miles from home.
And so there you have it, perhaps not the nostalgic "farewell Singapore" blog you were looking for, but a farewell nonetheless.  This has been THE SINGLE GREATEST ADVENTURE of our lives, and coming to terms with the fact that it's ending will require more processing time.  But to quote Stephen King, "Time is a wheel, and it turns," and ready or not in less than 24 hours we'll be en route to Hong Kong, homeward bound and with our backs to another year.  Personally, I think that 2012 is going to be the best year of our lives, and for those of you stateside, I can't tell you enough how excited I am that you'll be part of the memories we make vs. reading about them on a month's delay.  Whether it's Hawthorne's pizza at the Price house, finally going trail running with Miller and Tavares, seeing Jenny's face light up when she sees lanes lines and a half Olympic pool for the first time in 2.5 years, watching our first Checkers game, eating thick bacon and drinking bottomless cups of coffee at Original Pancake House, or hugging my parents for the first time in a year - I CAN'T WAIT to get the 2012 American Repatriation Celebration going.

And I guess there are just two more things left to do with this blog...

1.  The superlatives...

Best country visited in 2011:
Jenny - Thailand
Sam - Cambodia

Biggest pleasant surprise of 2011:
Unanimous - Taiwan

Worst country visited in 2011 (THIS WAS FREAKIN' EASY):
Unanimous - Malaysia (insert the "Truly Asia" commercial theme song here)

Best weekend trip in 2011: 
Unanimous - Bali (Indonesia)

Worst weekend trip in 2011:
Unanimous - Penang (Malaysia)

Worst destination in the history of travel:
Unanimous - Penang (Malaysia)

At this point, Jenny would like to add a few more superlatives...

Most polluted city on earth - Delhi

Dirtiest city on earth - Delhi

Smelliest city on earth - Delhi

Worst sanitation on earth - Delhi

We now resume our broadcast...

2.  The 15 most memorable moments of 2011:

1.  My headlamp hitting the summit sign of Mount Kinabalu at 3:52 AM (8th through the checkpoint, first on the summit, baby!!!!), followed by me running face first into a broken chicken-wire fence at 3:53 that was the only thing separating me from a 4,000 foot drop
2.  Martin Appel lighting up a cigarette after our first Quarterly Ops Review and saying, "This was a crisis, and now it's stable.  Thank you."

3.  A perfect day at the Taj Mahal with Lady Catherine (this is a Jenny only memory, but as I was there in 2008 and saw it the same way, I can relate)

4.  Taroko Gorge - one thumb out, one clueless Japanese couple in a SWEET beamer, some opera music, and a vaccum sealed "iron egg" for a snack the next day

5.  Rounding the corner past the Heads and seeing the Opera House en route to my first day in the Sydney office

6.  That final sunset at After Beach Bar, trying to find a way to not cry because I'd never been happier in my life

7.  The look on Jenny's face when she walked out of the office the last time - seeing her that happy and knowing that I was a part of it will forever remain one of the best days of my life

8.  Pulling that first breath of air into my lungs after getting tossed in Chiang Mai - talk about a second lease on life...

9.  "Let's doooooooooooooo the Time Warp agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain!!!!!!!"

10.  Crossing the finish line of a half marathon for the first time in more than 2 years

11.  "Shin gow pai pai...dong xie pai pai" (TRANSLATION - a weekend in Macau)

12.  Sunrise at Angkor Wat - and everything that followed

13.  "Babe, they've got Wailua Wheat at this 7-Eleven!!!!"

14.  Telling our parents it was official - we're coming home

15.  The perfection that was Honda Bay 

It's funny, I'm finding that, for the first time in months, I don't want to stop writing.  However, I am going to close it here.  There is SO MUCH MORE that I want to say (and feel I need to say), but there are points where your cup runneth over yet words run dry - I've arrived at exactly that point.  
My buddy the Merlion, with the MBS in the distance - the old
meets the new.  I'll miss you, pads - thanks for everything.

To everyone in Singapore - thank you for sharing your lives with us this past year.  You have been so gracious and wonderful to both Jenny and I, and the experience we've had has been infinitely deeper and richer because you've all embraced the redneck and the redhead (T-bone - that was for you).  From rather exotic (for me at least!) foods to Korean BBQ shopowners to a CRAZY night of clubbing, I'll have stories to tell for YEARS to come.  You live in a truly amazing place - never forget how blessed you are to be a citizen of the Lion City.

To everyone else - see you soon. :-)

No other thing to say but to quote Stephen King a final time:  "The man in black sped across the desert and the gunslinger followed."

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print.  Chat in 2012 when we're stateside!!!!


Sam and Jenny


  1. So glad you guys are coming home!!! I figure your farewell post is as good a time as any to make my first comment on here :) you guys, Flowers

  2. Sam and JT - it has been a pleasure to read the sordid tales and commentary of far off places and experiences from your viewpoints. We look forward to you being back in NC so we can catch up on Fat Tire soon.


  3. What a fantastic recap! I've loved reading your adventures and I'm happy to hear that you plan to continue writing. Hope you had a great Christmas and New Years back home. Keep in touch! :)