Thursday, March 31, 2011


Today, after MUCH comparison shopping, I purchased our luggage. The luggage choices are a little much, I have to say. Hard case, soft case, duffle, suitcase, wheeled or non-?? Although, as I say it, I realize that this is also what I have said about the technology choices, the clothing choices.... Maybe I should just face it. I am not the shopper I used to be.

I ended up with matching non-wheeled duffles for all of us. Our main air carrier will be Korean. They allow 107" total, split between two pieces, with any one piece being no larger than 62".  All this per person, with children being treated the same as adults (for once!). These are overall dimensions - width, height, depth. So, with these dimensions, I got LL Bean duffles, one large and one medium for each of us, bringing our total dimensions per person to 103". Yahoo.

Here's what we got:

I opted for the non-wheeled because these are going to be checked. Getting them to the checkpoint and away, I am assuming we will have a cart or a helper - we couldn't wheel all those bags by ourselves anyway. And, the wheels add a significant amount of weight. I am guessing, we are going to want every last ounce we can squeeze out of (and into) those bags. I did get Andrew and I each a wheeled, carry-on sized piece in this same print - Andrew's in the blue above and mine in pink - channeling my inner pink girl and trying to make style points with my daughter.

Next : carry-ons for the kids and a closed top "purse" for me. But that's enough for today. Stay tuned to find out just how large one "purse" can be!

And, of course, the grand irony is that all these items were most likely MADE IN VIETNAM.

And, we're off!

Hello one and all! I know that most of you have already sent out your annual holiday letter and we have enjoyed all of them. We always love to see what is happening and to enjoy your fun family pictures. We were waiting for our letter this year in case we had some big news to report……

And we do!
This past December, in pursuit of a long-time dream to live and work abroad, we decided to throw our (well, really, Andrew’s) hat in the ring for International teaching positions. He started creating his on-line portfolio through International School Services (ISS) in December. In February, Andrew took a week away from work to attend a job fair of International Schools in San Francisco where he talked and interviewed and sweated it out with about 700 other applicants (and had some fun with Brian Burt and his fiancĂ©, Julia). The upshot of all his hard work is that he got two job offers and we are ….

Going to Vietnam!
We are cautiously excited about this adventure.  Cautious because it seems prudent to be so in the face of the unknown. And, now that there are only 3 months between now and our departure, we are in the midst of drastically downsizing our lives, belongings, and beloved pets. That just brings a certain amount of reality and balance to the whole undertaking. So – if you want to rent a sweet country cottage (4 bedroom, 1 bath, completely remodeled) or have room in your heart and home for 1 or 2 dogs or a cat…. Be in touch quick! Or spread the word to kind and loving folk everywhere.

The exciting: Andrew’s job is at South Saigon International School where he will be teaching Geography to the high school set. Asher and Elia will attend that school in their respective grades, 2nd for Elia next year and 5th (!!) for Asher. We are all super-excited about the school – it is fairly new and well-resourced – especially if you compare to what is happening with education in Oregon these days. The kids will have PE, music and art as an integral part of their curriculum and there is a very robust after school program with many fun choices for the kids. We cannot get over chuckling about the fact that swimming is a REQUIRED part of the curriculum at SSIS and are all looking forward to the kids’ advancing skills in the pool. We may have to get a tutor – the 2nd grade butterfly stroke standards look pretty tough.

But what will Debra do?
Who knows??  The school director has offered that I may be able to substitute at the school, there appear to be plenty of opportunities to teach English, I have some writing that I have had in mind for awhile now, and I may look for some public health-related work once I get there. Initially, I will focus on getting us there, and getting our house set up. If we seem to be liking the international life, I may pursue an on-line degree program to become certified as a teacher as that would dramatically open up the possibilities for us as a teaching couple. We did get a lot of feedback this time around that a trailing spouse (yep, that’s the lingo. I’m thinking silver, sleek Airstream) and dependents are less desirable. Understandable, given the benefits – housing, travel allowances, medical, etc.

Other news from the year
We have been delighted to welcome into our home, Carlos Alonso Diaz, who is an Exchange Student from Madrid, Spain. He arrived mid-August and has been a flurry of activity ever since – winning first place in the Muttzanita Dog Festival costume contest within (2) days of his arrival in the US; the rabbi in the high school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof; one-act plays; a role (with the rest of us) in Pride & Prejudice put on by our community theater group; his first-ever soccer team; cheerleading squad; baseball; yearbook staff…..I could go on and on. The kids love having a big brother and we all enjoy the bustle and humor that Carlos brings to our family. Check out his blog: for video proof of his (and our) adventures.

Andrew continues to teach at Clackamas High School, this year teaching AP Human Geography, Biology, and acting as a teaching coach for part of his teaching load. He was Mr. Bennett in Pride & Prejudice.

Debra quit her paid job in September (What?? In this economy??) and has been active with the School Garden group that she helped start two years ago, as well as volunteering at the kids’ school, tending goats, and trying to stay on top of schedules. She played Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride & Prejudice. So far, so good on the health front.

Asher is in the 4th grade this year. He loves his teacher, but we don’t really know what they do because she doesn’t have parent volunteers and the window is papered over. We hear about dancing to pop tunes in front of the class, and Ms. Hulsey’s candy machine. “Can I take a quarter to school, huh, can I?” Asher played a soldier “in a red, regimental jacket” in Pride & Prejudice where he got to flirt (ack, says the momma!) with the Bennett daughters. He played soccer in the fall and is gearing up now for baseball season. He has begun piano lessons.

Elia is in 1st grade and is in her element. She is in a combined ½ class this year and is constantly striving to do the 2nd grade work, but in a good way, we think. Since her mom isn’t working, she has been able to return to ballet classes, which she is very happy about. She also played soccer in the fall and is enjoying beginning piano lessons. Elia has taken off as a reader this year and seems to share the rest of the family’s love of reading. Some days you can find us all with a book, in our respective corners and a hush in the house.

Stay in touch!
Our upcoming move brings LOTS of new contact information for us.


Skype:  Vietnam is 15 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time
Debra Bufton or Andrew Gilford


School website:

Travel websites (to help you plan your visit!):