Coffee Picking Time

We started our coffee harvest in August.

Before we started picking, we talked to our picking crew man and found out that he didn’t have any seasonal pickers from mainland this year, he wouldn’t be able to help us very much. We decided picking the first round by ourselves, hoped to find some pickers later.

Kathy, our friend, is the first committed helper. Nick and Kathy are our very good friends, they had been married over 40 years and had a happy marriage. Nick past away this April, we worried about Kathy at beginning, didn’t know how she would handle her life to be alone. But she showed us all of our worries were not necessary, with all of their happy life memories, she faces the future life with such positive attitude. A very good example for anyone who lose their life companion, I’ll remember this.

One day, after we quit picking, we loaded up our truck with coffee bags, drove home.  Kathy’s truck was parked outside of our drive way, it’s a new truck which Nick had chosen and bought for Kathy a few years ago, so she wouldn’t have a vehicle problem for years. When we were slowly approaching our drive way, Kathy, sat next to me, said:” I always shocked to see my truck parked there, the first instinct thinking is, Oh, Nick is here? ” When we were passing her truck, she said with a little cheery voice,” Love you, darling.” There is no sadness, see the truck like seeing Nick in person. I realize how wonderful and deep their love is !

She and Nick used to take care a coffee farm over 15 years, they enjoyed their farming life very much. Later years, with Nick’s health issues, they had to give up farming. Now she is alone, she was looking forward to help us picking coffee before we even started our harvesting season.

We usually start to pick around 7:30am, 50 minutes lunch break, work until 5pm. I was worrying about she works too long and might fall on our rocky land. On second day picking, it was very hot in the afternoon. After 3pm, I asked her a few times, was she tired, did she want to quit? Her answers were always no. At 4pm, I told her the time, she said,” we still can pick another hour, right ?” Of course, we worked to 5 o’clock. She is a hard working lady, I can see how much she enjoys working in the farm. I’m so grateful that Kathy stayed with us and picked coffee beside me, helped us getting through the first round.

Terry’s wrists pain bothered him too much after a couple of hours picking, a result of long years hard working with hands. I told him to stop picking, since I had Kathy picking with me. He could be the cook, so he cooked lunch and delivered the meal to us in the field. At weekend, Sonny and Cal helped too.



Kathy enjoys her coffee picking time.


There usually are not many ripe coffee at first round picking, but with more and more coffee cherry getting ripe in the farm, I knew only me and Kathy couldn’t handle the whole farm. We kept asking around, checked on Craig’s list, called every coffee picker we used before, but there seems had no hope to find any pickers.

One day, I was waiting for Sonny in car at his school’s parking lot, engine was off, radio was on. I was leaning on steering wheel, looked out my right side window, listening to the music on NPR. A vehicle pulled up and parked right next to my left side, I didn’t turn around right away, was feeling a little down because we couldn’t find any picker. When the school bell rang, I turned off the car, saw a  young woman standing outside of my door, getting her child out from her car’s back seat. I didn’t know her, but I had seen her before on mango pickle-ling days. I guessed she is a local, words came out from me without filtering through my brain. “Hi, by any chance, you have a coffee farm and use coffee picker too?” I don’t remember what she said, but I said:” If you know any coffee pickers, please let me know, we could use some help.”

She told me that her husband is a Mexican, he knows some coffee pickers, she could ask him then call me back. I wrote down our phone number on a piece of paper, and told her, my husband’s name is Terry, and I’m Susan. She asked,” Are you the Dakine Coffee Bean?” I said,” Yes. How do you know it?” She said:” Oh, I’m Barry’s daughter, Christi.” Barry helped us two years ago and house-sat our place when we went to mainland last summer.

That evening, Christi phoned and told us that they couldn’t find any available pickers right then, but she and her best friend Mari could come to help.  That is how I met Christi and Mari, two strong young women, the best helpers I could ever dream of.

Christi and Mari both have three daughters, elder two girls go to Honaunau school, youngest one stays with them. At weekend, they had the girls came to pick coffee with them. Sonny is elder than them, but they all knew him since he was in student council  last year. Now they had the chance to play with him, became his friends, the big boy from higher grade. Christi told me how excited the girls were, after their first day’s picking with Sonny.

Sonny is the eldest one, he carried a hook to bring down coffee branch, so the younger ones can reach, they picked from same tree. They talked, laughed, made a lot of happy noise, sounds like a big flock of chirping birds, made the farm so alive.

We don’t really want the kids picking a long hours, so we set a goal for them, five school kids filled up three buckets together, then they can quit and go to our house play and watch TV. They finished their goal before noon on the first day, each one made $9.00.

I remember how horrible thing coffee picking was to Sonny last year. Now he likes it as long as he picks with his friends, and he can make some money. He looked forward the weekend coffee picking time with his friends, I like this change of him very much too.


Kathy and I amazed by Christi and Mari, they always picked more coffee than us, even they each have one toddler to take care while they picking.

They both are very caring moms. They put a water proof blanket on the ground; big umbrella to protect the girls from sun or rain; toys, food and iPad keep the girls content. They set up the place where the girls can see them, move the site along as they picking. Every time when the girls are crying for mom, they go to them, pick them up, hug them and tell them mom love you. Their kids must have the security with mom’s love, they are very easy become happy and content again. Many times, they just need a couple of minutes attention from their mom, and they always get it.



Christi can pick more than two bags a day.


Sophie get riding in Mari’s coffee basket.


With Kathy, Christi and Mari’s help, we got through our second and third round of picking. At the end of the day, I drove our truck to pick up coffee bags. Christi and Mari are younger than me, they tried to stop me when I tried to pick up a small bag by myself, not even one third of a bag. They are not bigger than me, but saw how they could pick up the bags, I know they are definitely stronger than me. Together, we loaded and unloaded the truck, nobody was just standing around, not helping. We are similar type of women, not shame to work hard like this, actually enjoy it. So we worked very well together, our picking were clean, very comfortable energy. With these three wonderful women working with me, I had good energy to work and happy every day. they inspired me, made me realize I can do more things if I have to, or If I want to.

We just finished our fourth round of picking last Saturday. Our regular picking crew family came to help since they had some time. I called Christi, she was happy we had some helpers, she had her farm to take care. She told me to call her whenever we need help. How lucky I am to meet a such nice person.

Christi and Mari came to pick coffee, were not because they had lots of time, they both are very busy with their own life. They came is because we needed help, they just wanted to lend a hand, even we just met. I’m so fortunate to know them and Kathy, they are so generous and kind, and they showed me how strong a woman could be.



This Summer Time

We had a very easy summer time this year, didn’t go anywhere for vacation, Terry and I enjoyed our time a lot, but Sonny wished we took a plane and went some where.

Since no school, we can get up late, and take our time to cook and eat our breakfast, life with luxurious time is wonderful. Terry and I still worked around the house or in the farm for a couple of hours in the morning, after lunch, we can enjoy our time with reading, web surfing, napping, or watching a movie. Later afternoon, I took Sonny to his swimming practice, the only activity we signed up for him in this summer break.

This summer, I also took swimming lessons from coach Jessi, who is Sonny’s coach.

Kids practiced swimming from 3pm to 4pm, next one hour was free time, I got into the pool and refreshed the lesson which Jessi just taught me. The first two day, I just held a board and practiced kicking next to the wall of pool. I couldn’t put my face under the water when I reached the deep side of pool, I was afraid I would panic if I did. Slowly I got used to look at the the deep water as long as I held the board.

At my second lesson, Jessi set a goal for me, she wanted me to swim cross the pool without board at the end of that week. That Tuesday, I asked Sonny to swim with a board beside me, in case, if I need help, he could hand the board to me. With my dog paddle (forgot the proper strokes which Jessi taught me), we swam cross the pool twice, I was so pleased with myself. Sonny only swam beside me the first two days, later I swam cross the pool myself as long as I swam next to the wall.

Practice is the only way to learn a new thing, I played in the pool an full hour, four days a week. Slowly I could swam cross the pool in any lane, first I felt very awkward with my free style stroke, the more comfortable I felt in the water, better I got with my stroke. I’m not fast, but I can swim, the joy of my small achievements filled my heart every time.

I watched the kids jumping into the pool from diving board, it looks so fun, I wanted to do it too. First I need to learn diving into the pool from the side of pool, I asked Sonny to demonstrate it. When I stood at the edge of the pool, couldn’t help to think about the deep water and scared. I walked to the edge, the fear grew bigger inside of me, I kept patting my chest, tried to push down the fear. It’s no use, I couldn’t do it and backed away from the edge. Back and forth, a few attempting diving failed. I’ve never recognized the fear inside of me as strong as that moment before. My heart beat so fast, feared if I diving into the pool, my heart would jumping out from my chest. Five minutes later, I decided just step into the pool, not diving in. My right hand held my nose, a low scream escaped from my throat before I entered the pool. The feeling of falling was a kind of scary, because I had no experience, it’s my first time. But the buoyancy brought my body up a few seconds later, it was not too bad. I practiced it over 20 times that day, the fear in my chest became thinner and thinner as I stepped into the pool again and again. Now I know the feeling of conquering my fear, it’s a joy of fearless, I embraced and tasted the joy with full hearted greed.

Next day, I stepped into the pool from diving board. First time the same fear found its way back and sat in my chest, waited to see my action. I knew it better then, and I wanted to taste the joy of conquering my fear so bad, I threw myself toward the fear, popped the fear like a bubble. I repeated it many times until my heart contented.

I learned to swim, getting better every time when I spend some time in the pool. Learning swam is not a big deal, but it made me so happy and proud of myself. Learning a new thing could be so much fun, I’ll remember this and keep my mind and heart open for other new things, give it a try when opportunity come to me.


Our mountain apple tree was load up with fruit again this summer, some branches broke with heavy load, wild pigs were happy with the fruits on the ground.




Our friend John has a mango tree, it loaded with beautiful yellow mango, he tried to give away, since it’s mango season, he had hard time to give it away.  when he found out that I  like mango a lot, he told me to pick his mango anytime, even when he’s not home. John has well grown thick lawn, mango fell on soft cushioned ground, hardly had any bruise, except some had hole which damaged by birds or rats. I was so greedy, few times, I got 20 to 30 pounds of mango, I felt embarrassing. But John said to me:” if you don’t take, I have to pick it up and throw into compose pile anyway. Please take as much as you can.”

These mango had very good flavor, one of the best mango I’ve ever had. With so many mango, often I just ate 4, 5 mango as my supper, yum, yum.




There was another wonderful thing happened in this Summer. Jeanne Kapela, Terry’s god daughter was crowned as Miss Hawaii. I took this picture when she visited us on 4th July, later that day she needed to be presented in Kailua Kona parade. Terry is always happy to see her, we don’t see her often since she attends Kapiolani Community College in Oahu. Right now she is in Atlantic City, to compete for the title of Miss America. We are so proud of her, wish her walking on the big stage with families and friends’ blessing and doing very well. We’ll watch the 2016 Miss America Competition on Sept. 13 at 8:00pm on KITV, witness this very special moment of her journey.



Our Time During Off Season

It has been a while since I got back from the trip to China, our farm life continued and easier during the off season.

When I just got back from my trip, Terry was pulling suckers, Cal and I worked with him a couple of days to finish the job. Last month we threw a round of fertilizer, Cal spread a round of Botanic Guard, this week Terry and I just finished another round of pulling suckers.

If we don’t have any farm works to do, I had to find something else to do around the house, which is not very hard if I’m in the mood.

One afternoon, I had Cal to help me pick Surinam cherry to make jam. We made some before, it tasted very good. This time there weren’t a lot, I washed the cherry and cut them open to take the seed out one by one. It took some time, but I enjoyed the processing moment. Terry told me, I need use 50% fruit and 50% sugar to make jam. So I weight the cherry, it was about 6 pounds. When I weight the sugar, the amount of sugar scared me, I changed the recipe, just used about 5 pounds. It didn’t take very long time to cook, Terry helped to stir the cooking pot 40 minutes, I had a break. The jam came out very good, with less sugar, it kept the peppery flavor and a little sour taste. We kept two jars and gave the rest away.

Another morning, I didn’t have any plan for the day, but when I saw the ripe bananas in our garage, I decided to dry some banana. Terry bought a fruit dehydrator for my birthday last year, we only used once to dry some macadamia nut. Two days later we had a gallon jar of dried banana, very sweet.



Dried banana


With more time in my hand, I had my morning walk on Sonny’s school day. When Terry drove Sonny to school, I ride with them and got off at the bottom of our road, then walked up the hill. It usually takes half hour, sometimes it takes longer if I had camera with me.

One the road side, there is a house with a Jack-fruit tree in the yard, it loaded with fruits, ripe fruit smells so good. We have Jack-fruit in my home town too, I remember the taste, it has been many years since I had some last time. But it seems nobody care about the fruit, ripe ones fell on the ground and just rot there. So one morning I talked to Dylan who is living there, asked him, could I have one Jack-fruit. He told me he only eat one a year, he was very happy to give me some. He gave Terry two the first time, but they turn out not ripe enough. Second time it was a huge one, at least weighed 30 pounds, just fell from tree and had sweet ripe smell.

I was happy to taste this fruit again, and Cal had a chance to try new fruit. Later on, Dylan told me to get some more when there was a ripe one. I thanked him and told him that one Jack-fruit a year was enough to me too. We are so lucky and so rich with abundant food here, often we see fruit ripe on the tree, rot on the ground. Right now it’s mango season, so many mango on the ground, nobody cares. On my morning walk, I picked up some mango from road side, I love mango.


Jack fruit tree



Jack fruit


Banana trees on our road


Labor Day was on Monday, no school, no work. Sonny finished his homework, freed to spend his time watch video or play game on his computer; Terry enjoyed his time reading, napping, smoking, watch TV; I spent my time to make dumplings.

After our breakfast, I decided to make some dumplings, Sonny asked for home make dumpling several times since I got back from my trip, and I was in the mood at that moment. I mixed the dough, then went to my garden to cut garlic chives. After I picked through the chives, got about 4 pounds, washed and cut, mixed with 2 pounds of ground pork and other seasonings as dumpling filling. I like to make my own dumpling skin, it seems stronger than the one from supermarket, but takes much longer time.

I downloaded a lot of Chinese songs when I was in China. I had the music player by my side when I was making dumpling, I let my mind following the music into the world which was described by the lyric, sometimes the song brought back some old memories and old friends into my mind. Making dumpling with relaxation.

At 1:00pm, I hadn’t finished the job. I stopped and made a quick lunch, some fresh made dumplings. Sonny had ten dumplings, they were pretty big size, he loves it and told me I was a good cook. I hope my dumpling will become a special dish in his life, a dish with mom’s special flavor, only can get from me. After lunch, I spent another hour to finish the job, made about 120 dumplings, then frozen and bagged them up. I used them for breakfast most times, it’s easy and quick.






I’m a person, very easy to get content and be happy. But that day, I was very very very happy, not excited happiness, but peaceful happiness, so content and comfortable. I have everything I want in my life, a happy family with a loving husband and a child. At that moment, my happiness just like wine, kept over flowing from its glass, it was one of the happiest moment in my life. I expressed my feeling to Terry, thanked him to choose this wonderful life style and build this place for me and Sonny to join him. A simple life is a good life to someone like us.




Water Splashing Festival

Water Splash Festival is the most ceremonious traditional festival of the Dai minority, it takes place in mid-April after Qingming Festival. Usually three days celebration in Jinghong first, then other counties and villages have their celebration events. Today, with improved high way transportation and flight access, this festival attract many tourists every year, the whole city fill up with people, double up hotel room price, bring more business to restaurants or food booths.

My sister has some health issues, she checked in hospital to get fully check up, right after we buried mom’s ashes. It happened to be the festival time, so her two daughters and I stayed with her in hospital. There were three beds in her room and she was the only patient stay in there at night, so that room became our room.

First night of the festival, people gathered by Mekong river, let off Kongming lamp and river lamp. The hospital is near the river, we took my two nieces to see it, we also bought some Kongming lamps and let them off. It made of very thin rice paper and a wire ring on the base, a square of fuel. Light up the fuel, wait the hot air fill up the lamp then let it fly away.





View from hospital building


The next day morning, I took my nieces to see parade, it’s very colorful. If you ask me, is it the only time people dress up like these? The answer is no, you always can see people with their colorful clothes, except they are not usually in a big group like these.

The third day was the Water Splash day, from 10am to 5pm. On the street, people had bucket, basin, water scoop, water gun, splash water to each other. To Dai people, water is a symbol of sanctity, beauty and brightness. Splashing or dousing each other with water, is an expression of the desire for good luck and prosperity to that person, but now for most people, it became a good-nature fun festival.

When we were young, we waited by the road and splashed water to people passing by, used the water from the stream right by the road. I only had one time experience of spending Water Splashing Festival in the city.

At that time, I was working in a hotel, which was newly opened hotel, hired and trained most of young people. That day we gathered about 20 people, about 6 girls, rest were boys. We walked from the hotel to the center of the city where the main activity was held. Fire truck hauled water, drove around the city, provided water to people.  Wherever we went, people splashed water to us friendly, smaller group didn’t want to start a water fight with us. We girls were well protected by our group boys, we really had fun that day.

This time, only my sister and I with my two nieces, we didn’t even want to be in town. Sometimes people get carry away by their excitement, single or small group girls or women easily become a target, things can go really wrong. So we left the city and back to home in that morning.




















Qingming Festival


Beginning of April is Qingming Festival in China, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day. This tradition has a long history, has become a festival for the Chinese people to commemorate their ancestors. It’s an opportunity to remember and honor their ancestors at grave sites; sweep tomb, offer food, tea and wine to the deceased members, to pay their respect. I went back to China and spent a month for this festival, as my families were waiting for me, so we can bury my mom’s ashes together.

I arrived there 10 days earlier before the festival, so we had time to prepare for this big event.

First time, the whole family got together discussing about the coming event, we got into an argument since we had different opinions, ended up my brother left. In Chinese family, usually the eldest son plays a big part of taking care of their aging parents, and in charge of their parents’ funeral and Qingming event. In my family, my mom lived with my younger sister, my sister arranged my mom’s funeral. We didn’t expect my brother will change after mom past away, we believe we can do it and do it good. Our love toward to our mom won’t die, it will live in our heart until we reach the end of our own life.

What we learned from the argument was that, we realized my brother-in-laws, my brother and us girls couldn’t reach to an agreement. Chinese from different areas have different customs for same festival or events, my two brother-in-laws are from different part of the country. My family is not a Han Chinese family, but we are living in a Han Chinese community. We grew up with Han people, lost our own traditions and customs, tried to imitate their customs at their festivals, but we don’t have the same culture background and root. When my father past away, he was buried here by the people from this community with their custom. My brother participated the ceremony and knows how it went, we girls don’t know about it at all.

Next day, my sister and I went to a place where sells curving tomb stone. Mr. Miao who owns the business is a very nice man, he has been doing this business for over 20 years, has lots of experience and knowledge. He spent 3 hours to talk to us, found out my family’s situation, and offered his time and his workers to do the whole thing for us. He picked the best day for the event according my parents and all of us siblings’ Zodiac. Getting into an argument or fight at the ceremony are not a good thing, hiring a professional crew seems like the best choice to prevent disagreement, so we hired his crew.

There is another reason why we chose Mr.Miao. Three nights before we met him, my sister had a dream. In the dream, we were moving new furniture into our parents house, not a new house, but was remodeled house. The steps were going under the ground, someone fell and his face began to change every second. My sister was scared, suddenly a man’s voice said: ” Don’t worry, I can do this for you. I’ll tell you what you need to prepare, 7 yard of red cloth ……” My sister woke up before the man told her everything.

When we met Mr. Miao the first time, we told him our family’s situation, he said the exactly same words in same order, 7 yards of red cloth was on the top list of preparing items. We would like to believe that her dream foretold the future, and guided us to the right decision.

The stone was 5cm thick, 50 × 100 cm rectangular. edited the text and printed it out on a sheet, pasted the sheet on stone, then curved. Writing in vertical order, my parents’ names are in the center, their date of birth and death on the left side, their children’ name are on the top row of right side, daughter-in-law and son-in-law’s name are on the next row, then their grandchildren’ name are at the bottom row. Curved heavy stone frame supported this tomb stone, like a main entrance of a fancy old style of Chinese house. On the top stone of the frame, curved dragon on the left and phoenix on the right. An antithetical couplet curved on the frame of stone.

8,000yuan was his price, it paid for the tomb stone, and he provided materials for this project, like sand, cement, bricks and his workers. His crew moved all of the materials to the grave site, knocked down the old cement tomb stone; opened the right side of the tomb, put my mom’s ashes container into the tomb which was a space built with bricks; topped with another small piece of rectangular stone and covered it with dirt. As family members, we were not suppose to do these things on that day, only none family members could do it. We lighted fireworks, incense, burned joss paper, kowkow when Mr.Miao told us to do. It took the whole day, from 7:00am to 5:30pm. In between these time, we went back to home, cooked lunch and took the meal to the working crew; cooked offering food and held an offering ceremony after the crew finished the work; then prepared supper at the end.

It was a good day, everything went very well, rained after we finished the ceremony. We all pleased by Mr. Miao and his crew’s work,  paid him and gave red envelops to every worker. Thanked them sincerely.



We sisters are very close, I really enjoyed the time with them, so comfortable and relax when we were together. They told me more about mom before she fell. A few months before she past away, she divided her silver which were the only valuable things she possessed. She told my sisters, let my brother to keep her three pieces of old furniture if he wants, she had them since she married. All the things she did and said seems like, that she was preparing to leave, she took care of all of her personal things. Hearing all of these things about her, my tears burst out like water from broken dam, couldn’t stop. I felt sad because I couldn’t be there for her at the end of her life.

My sisters also told me that my uncle’s  death (my dad’s younger brother) might be the trigger of my mom’s fall. In that morning a relative came to visit, told mom that my uncle died 10 days ago, in the afternoon my mom ended up in hospital. After mom past away, nobody told her elder sister about it, tried to hide the news from her. But she over heard it from other people’s conversation, someone saw her sitting in a corner alone and crying. Next day my aunt fell, the same way like my mom. She past away 25 days later after my mom’s death.

My parents generation of my family became past, now we are the eldest generation in the family, another younger generation are growing and they bring hope and happiness into our life. Looking into our life, it’s a combination of sadness and happiness.

We hold gratitude toward to our parents for raising and loving us in their own way, remember their love and try our best to give our love to younger generation. It’s like a circle, no matter how many rounds it goes, love always there, continue to exist and never die.


Works After Coffee Season

We finished our coffee harvesting season in early January, got a couple to strip the trees and they helped to prune a part of our farm. I showed Callum how to prune, and two of us pruned the rest of the farm. Terry chopped some of the branches, but his wrist pain bothers him if he does too much. He saw a wood chipper at a friend’s place and found out the machine works very good with coffee branches. So he ordered one and the machine arrived after we finished pruning.


IMG_6874 One day morning we got the new machine, Terry couldn’t wait any longer to use the machine, he tested it that afternoon near our house. I was roasting coffee and could see him from window, I took these two pictures when he was working. He is very happy with the machine, it’s perfect size for coffee branches.

Later we worked three more days, each time was about 4 hours, Callum and I did the most of feeding the machine, Terry dragged the branches to us. It’s really loud when the machine is running, we have to wear ear plugs to protect our ears. And wearing hat or head cloth, chips and dusts covered our body at the end of the work.






Coffee branches were piled by the road.




After chipped the coffee branch piles.

After we chipped up these branches, we spent sometime to spread out the chip piles on the land.

Then we had cloudy and raining days for a week, coffee trees are happy again and started another big round of blossom.


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2012-04-04 058


The ground was still wet, so we threw fertilizer and got the job done. Finally, we can relax, take a break and do something else.




I planted these orchids on jacaranda tree trunk a few years ago, that was the only time I touched the plant, the plant just grow itself and having a big blossom.




Pineapple flower







Busy Bee “T”


We’ve had most days of sunny weather since Thanksgiving, it’s getting too dry for coffee trees, they are not looking very good. Last night, we had good rain with lighting and thunder, that’s what the coffee trees need most now.

In the morning and night, it’s getting chilly, Christmas is right at the corner; but it seems we just had our Thanksgiving meal not that long ago.

Jason and Kollette hosted Thanksgiving party at their place, there was so much food, at the end there were lots of left over . After dessert, Terry was ready to go home, but the whole group just started Frisbee Golf course on the farm. We left Sonny and Callum behind, our friend Morgan brought them back later.







Next day our picking crew came to pick coffee, and we picked too, since most pickers went back to mainland.

I took a video when Terry was pulping coffee, Morgan was there too, in this video they look like busy working bees. Sonny is practicing  Maple Leaf Rag, it inspired me to use this piece of music for the video.



Mele Kalikimaka



She Is A Woman With Wisdom


My mom past away last month when we were very busy of picking coffee. When I was picking, my mind was always occupied by the memories of her, in a peaceful way.

I knew she would leave us someday, no surprise, what surprised me is the way how I took  her death.

My father’s death was my first experience of losing a family member, I was 22 and we didn’t know each other very well. I knew who he was, but we never had a heart to heart talk, it’s a pity that he didn’t have a chance to know the adult of me and my younger sister. The hard feeling of losing him was in my heart many years, until on 7th year after his death, I decided to let the sad feeling go, release the pity which I’ve held so tight in my heart for so long. I wrote a letter to him, told him my decision, it’s time to move on with our lives without him.

But with my mom, it’s different. All of my sisters had a chance to love her, respect her, know her and take care of her, we knew her so well, no regrets for the time we had with her.

In 2012 I visited her alone, my aunt ( her elder sister ) came to spent a week with us. I took some videos of them, together they told us their childhood in the village, and stories happened to their lives. In 2013 I visited her again, took care of her in hospital, did my best to help her at that time.

My mom was the youngest child in her family, she had one elder sister and one elder brother. She never had a chance to meet her father, who died early; their mother as a widow was a very strong woman and she never married again; but she managed to raise them alone and had a better living condition than most families in the village. My mom was a good child, her brother and she respected and listened to their mother all the time, my aunt as the eldest child, who argued with their mother often.

After my mom married my dad, she lived in the village with all her kids alone for years, my dad just visited a few times a year for harvesting season or holiday. Later we left the village, moved to live in Han Chinese community. Mom couldn’t speak Chinese, no job, no income, she lived under my father’s male power shadow. But she worked hard around the house, raised chicken and pigs, helped my father with his job. She was so quite, I don’t remember anything she said that stick into my mind at that period of time. In spite of their non-cheerful marriage, mom took care of dad many years until he died.

For few months she lived alone, then my elder brother’s family moved in, they wanted to take care her and my younger sister and me. We were still single girls, so elder brother should be in charge of our family, but we both had small jobs in town. It didn’t go well and didn’t last for two years; they didn’t treat mom with respect even she was the one do all the cooking, washing, gardening. When the rubber farm wanted every household buy the rooms they were living in, my brother bought it and moved mom out from her room to a shack. At that time, four of us girls were working outside of the camp, didn’t know anything about it. Until I went back on weekend and found it out,  mom had cried for three days. I was so angry but I couldn’t bring myself to start an argument with my elder brother. As sisters, we couldn’t forgive him for treating mom so bad. My younger sister was the one who had a big argument with them after she got back, with her powerful verbal expression fought back.

There was a family wanted to sell their place in the camp, they were living in town. Luckily I had a pretty well paid job at that time, my two months salary paid for it, and my sisters and I had fun to clean up and furnish our new home. It has four rooms inside the front two stories building, one big room as kitchen and dining room on the back, a one story building, and attached a shower room outside. I was 24 and I was very happy to be able to help my family, to provide a trouble-less life to mom. Ever since then, mom had a pretty good life with all her daughters’ love and respect, she became the center of our family.

In these 16 years, we found out that our mother was a very wise woman, her wisdom just didn’t have a chance to shine before; and her ability of accepting new things were far ahead than other same age people.

Only women lived in our house, except one of my brothers in law visited us sometimes. We were laughing, singing a lot, no argument among us but very good communications. We all had our own freedom, physically and mentally, it was a happy and joyful life, a very good life.

Our next door neighbor bought the first stereo system in the camp, they played popular music loudly in the camp, it sounds so good and the whole community enjoyed it. So I bought the same brand of stereo system, we girls sang Karaoke sometimes, often other  people joined us too. I bought some English song video, it was the first time that my mom was exposed to English music. She liked Michael Borden’s song, Ciline Dion’s “The Power of Love”, and Michael Jackson’s songs, especially the “Earth Song”. She thought that Michael Jackson was a talented genius,  it would take a hundred years to have someone like him to be born into this world.

For TV series shows, she liked western countries show, people kissing and hugging a lot between families and friends in the show. So my sisters, niece and nephews started to hug her and say “I love you” to her all the time. I believe we were the only family doing that to express our love in the community.

In 2000, I asked mom if there were any place she liked to go and see, she told me that Beijing would be the only place. So I took her on that trip through a travel agency, tried different transpositions, plane, train, boat. She liked taking an plane, and asked me to buy airplane tickets all the way to home when we returned. On that trip, I found out how playful and enthusiasm traveler she was; in another hand, I was the boring one.

We spent two days on sea side, one morning we got up early to see sunrise and saw some locals were collecting sea weeds. Even those peoples couldn’t understand her pigeon Chinese, she watched and tried to collect sea weed for them. At day time, we walked on the sand, she collected sea shell, or played running and chasing game with ocean wave, like a very young kid playing at beach.

We climbed The Great Wall, she wanted to go further than I would, she had more energy than I had. If we stopped at a temple, she insisted to put some money into the donation box; if we visited any emperor’s tomb, she insisted to leave some coin there, like other tourists; if we stopped at a shop, she wanted to buy souvenir, at least one thing.




I liked to tell mom things happened around me, or stories I read, she was a good listener and thinker. We often exchanged our opinions, her opinions led me and guided me to see different point of views, I learned a lot from her. Some of our conversations were so important to me, I will never forget them.

I met Terry in 2000, in the hand of our fate, I became his trekking guide for three weeks, we visited some tribal villages. By this accident, I kept trekking guide as my career for next three years, a guide with freedom just worked for myself.

Only a crazy man like Terry would proposing to me at three weeks after we met, of course my answer to him was “no”. I’d never thought of choosing a foreigner as my husband, and he was so much older than me. Terry respected my decision and wished that I would find a good young Chinese man some day, we remained as friends, he sent letters and e-mails to me. From him, I learned that I could be a special person to someone, and I was the special one to him. Thinking about the short times we traveled together, I couldn’t find anything about him which I disliked. The way he walked into villagers’ low house, the way he sat at dining table, tried everything on the table, drank local brewed alcohol with hosts, his body language showed his humble attitude and respect to villagers. I knew he is a very gentle and kind person.

My mom and two sisters met Terry one time that year. It was Water Splash Festival, I invited him to our apartment in town for lunch with my family. Because he couldn’t speak or understand Chinese, a few times of funny misunderstanding things happened on the dining table, we all laughed and couldn’t stop, including Terry himself.

Many months later after that, I told mom about Terry and what he wrote in his letter. She asked me: ” What are you expecting from your marriage?”

I told her, ” I don’t know.”

Then mom said: “You better don’t think if you married, then your life is locked into a safety deposit box, don’t expect your husband will take care of you until you die. There are so many unexpected things could happen in life, your husband could die early or you; or divorce, your two sisters both divorced. Even your dad and my ages are close, I took care of him until he died. Even the man (Terry) is not young, but he looks very healthy. If he loves you, and you like him and love him, even you only could have 5 years happy life together, it’s worth to try.”

After that conversation, I knew what I wanted from my marriage, someone to love and to be loved dearly, cherish every single days of our life together.  I made up my mind, I would try to get know Terry more and look forward to see him again next year. Now we’ve lived more than 3 x 5 years happy life together, thanks mom for her wise advise.

I think that most parents love their child, but not every parents naturally know how to raise their child with gentle love, they need someone to guide to become a good parent. I had no experience of raising a child before, Terry and my mom were the best teachers of mine to be more patient with Sonny.

When Sonny was a little over 1 year old, often he got himself wet or dirty around the house. I was very easy losing my patient with him when I saw the mess he made, then I would shouted at him, or spank his butt; he didn’t understand me, but he screamed back at me. I saw the problem, I was not a good model to my son, my action were bad examples to him. Parents are their children’ first teachers, often the child learn good or bad habits from their parents. I told Terry my problem, and I didn’t like what would come out from that. He asked me to let him know whenever I lose my patient, let him to handle the situation.

One day I talked to my mom on the phone about it, she said to me, ” I know you love your son. It doesn’t matter how much you love him, if you hit him, he might still remember it when he grow up, even he can’t remember why you hit him. It’s sure bad for your relationship with your child, even you love each other. I didn’t hit any of you girls when you were young, because it could hurt me too.”

After that conversation with my mom, I improved my behave with Terry’s help. Even today I can remember so clearly, Sonny gradually stopped scream at me, and it makes me a happier mother too.




My mom and niece


In spite of I live so far away from my mom, we often talked on phone, video chat every two weeks in last two years, there were no distance between us. The day before my mom fell, I talked to her and she sounded very well. She had only spent a week in hospital before she past away, I talked to my sisters every day to check her condition. My sister told me that mom had such strong will to live, she fought so hard with death at beginning; later she realized her body couldn’t make it, so she seemed calmer and died peacefully.

It’s so hard to believe that she is not there anymore, I won’t be able to see her and talk to her anymore. I wasn’t there in front of her death bed, I didn’t see how slowly she became weaker and weaker. Her only image in my mind is the strong but gentle mother, the wisest woman I’ve ever knew. Now she doesn’t suffer anymore with her physical condition, I wish her spirit is in a happy, peaceful place, watching over her children and giving them her blessing. I’m in peace too, because we well spent these 16 years to love each other as mother and daughter, we didn’t waste the time of our life.

Mom, thank you to be this amazing woman, to be our wonderful mother. If there is another life time, please let me to be your child again. I love you, and I will always love you; you’ll live in my heart and mind for ever.



Early Coffee Season For This Year


Our lives have been very busy since we got back from our summer trip.

We sprayed BotanicGuard once in July as soon as we got our life routine back. Then we noticed that some coffee was ripe and need to be picked, that was end of July, we started our first round picking.


It was so early, we couldn’t get help from our picking crew, most of them still on the mainland. Terry, Sonny and I picked the first 7 days without any help, we were slow but we cleaned up some areas. Through a friend, we met a couple who used to take care 15 acres of coffee farm, we paid them 1 dollar per pound for this first round. They are wonderful people and excellent pickers, they picked over 300 pounds a day between them, and Terry and I only picked 80 pounds together. I couldn’t imagine how they can picking so fast, hope they didn’t make a mess of the farm. One day, I went to lower garden, walked through the area they picked. It was nice clean, no broken branches, bamboo poles prop up some branches after they picked. I  was really pleased by their work.

We picked second and third round of coffee in August and September, Beatrice and her husband helped us on second round, our picking crew came to help us at the end of third round. We just finished our fourth round, it was a big round, our picking crew were too busy to finish the job, we had to do it ourselves, it took us long time to finish this round. It started on 13th of October, ended on 7th of November. Our pickers picked two days and they told us they couldn’t come back in a week, so we started picking ourselves. If Beatrice and her husband helped us, it wouldn’t take this long, but their lives caught into some other issues, they couldn’t come. Luckily we had some friends who came to help on their off days, even we were not fast pickers but we got some coffee harvested. Now we can have a break for a couple of weeks before next round picking.



Wet coffee on drying deck.




IMG_6661We usually let coffee dry on deck for a few days, then load them into drying machine, it is not only to dry coffee but also kill the CBB living in coffee beans. Terry picked these ripe Hawaii chilli pepper, they will get dried with coffee at the same time.


School started in August, we signed up swimming practice for Sonny, he had to practice one hour every afternoon, and we took a few trips to different swimming pools for swim meets on the island.

Meanwhile, Terry’s grandnephew Callum came to live with us, check out the island life style and help out with farm works. So far he likes here, and found a steady job in our neighborhood, works five days a week, he doesn’t see himself move away for a while.

Sonny likes to have a big brother living in our house, another person to hang round except parents.

Terry and I both are very happy to have Callum around, he take over some labor intense jobs, like empty trailer with coffee skin, spray BotanicGuard. Callum and I threw last round of fertilizer in September, we did the whole farm in one day, the last hour it was pouring, we were soaking wet and tired. I was so exhausted, all I could do was watching movies on coach at the end of the day. We’ll take 2 days to do this job next time, make it a litel easier.

I told Callum many times, how great we can have him in the house, we all benefit from him been here.