Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 9.56.40 PMOn the cusp of beginning this move-every-two-years expat life, my friends and I lamented that we would never truly achieve the “american dream” of living in a nice house with a white picket fence.

Now we’re five years in, and my stuff is in boxes once again, and you know what I’ve learned? The stuff that’s important isn’t stuff. It’s the people you’re with, and the experiences you have, that make a life. It’s not about the proverbial fence.

By zmelissaz

happy 14

You’ll be happy to hear that Sam did a (mostly) good job in terms of his agreement to “not become a butthead teenager” this past year. Make no mistake, he is definitely a teen now, and there are moments when I wish he was still 8. But it’s pretty amazing to watch him morph in front of our eyes as he becomes aware of and begins to navigate the bigger world  ❤

By zmelissaz

it’s that time again

(alternate title: shit’s about to get real)

(or: packout starts monday and i’m not ready)

(3rd option: someone pour me a glass of red)


We fly out of Jakarta 4 weeks from today.


#ThisExpatLife #FirstWorldHereWeCome

By zmelissaz

happy earth day 2016

Do you remember Percy? We met in a forest in Kalimantan a year or two ago. He built his nest in a tree next to our boat and tried repeatedly to figure out a way to come aboard so he could eat my girl’s granola bar. Otherwise he was pretty chill. IMG_9382.jpg

Forests in Indonesia are disappearing at an alarming rate due to the palm oil industry. It’s a hugely complex issue rife with politics and corruption and international companies and local farmers and their families. There is no easy solution, but you can have an impact by not buying any products that contain palm oil.

Percy thanks you.

By zmelissaz

Ubud Wake-up Call


That first morning in Ubud I was jolted out of sleep at 5:30am by a siren blaring into my subconscious. I jumped out of bed and with a parting “WHAT IS THAT?” to Brian, stumbled down the narrow spiral staircase- no small feat considering I had not grabbed my glasses and was essentially blind- to check on the children.

They were asleep.

To be fair, the alarm was somehow louder up in our room than it was on the ground floor. I rattled the front door of the villa open and the noise increased tenfold. The staff in the kitchen acted as if nothing was wrong, and the noise slowly faded and disappeared. (The neighbor’s roosters, however, picked up the slack)

Sleep was no longer possible. Brian made coffee and we sat on the chairs and watched a cloud roll over the trees before the sun came up. It was so lovely we forgave the cicadas for waking us.

Yes, cicadas. Or some kind of tropical cicada-like insect. Before you shake your head in disbelief, here’s a video clip I recorded of the sound:


By zmelissaz

Bali is not just beaches


Mt. Batur, in North Bali, is a fairly unique place. It’s an active volcano located at the center of two concentric calderas and contains a caldera lake. It’s also a gorgeous setting for a picnic. More pictures to come-


By zmelissaz

change is afoot

Transformation is a beautiful thing. We’ve just started the paperwork that enables our next big change.

Our cocoon is made of layers of pollution and traffic and language barriers and frustration that is rooted in third world problems. These layers I will be happy to shed. But there are other layers that I’m not ready to let go of just yet. There are things I haven’t seen, places I haven’t gone, and it’s almost too late. We’ve lived this Southeast Asian life for nearly five years, and these last 10 weeks I will be collecting all I can.

I have loved it here, and I have hated it- often in the same minute. I am grateful for experiences that have filled my head and heart with stories that will continue to come out long after we leave this place. Sometimes distance is needed to see things clearly. I wonder if I even know the things I will miss the most. It will be interesting to see.

stretch your wings, little butterfly

By zmelissaz


Sunday afternoon I sat on the couch and watched it rain.

There was effort in my laziness- I moved the couch away from the wall and drew open curtains that had been closed for 2 1/2 years. Next I worked on the interior screens, wiggling the top latches until they finally gave way and the screens sprang towards me. Wiping my dusty hands on my jeans, I lowered myself back onto the couch. My view through the glass windows-unobstructed by white gauze and metal mesh for the first time- was perfect.

Next to our house is an open corner lot. A common space used by all the neighborhood kids, it’s green and grassy sloping to an old brick patio in the middle. On Sunday afternoon patio became pond. There were no children in sight but the frogs came out. Large and bumpy, flecked with orange-red, it was easy to imagine that they were playing as they jumped around in the swampy grass.


When the rain stopped, I peeled myself off the couch and went outside, camera in hand. I wanted to try to capture the color burst that seems to happen after a rainstorm, the green green green of the leaves and grass and trees. I ended up getting soaked trying to photograph bananas that were hiding under an enormous leaf. After that it hardly seemed a big deal to trudge across the grass, feet sinking with every step, to try to get closer to the biggest frog.


It’s probably a little strange that in my quest for GREEN I ended up editing most of the pictures into black and white. But the way the light played on the wet leaves, the water beading and sliding in silvery patterns, was kind of magical.




By zmelissaz