The Word from the Yard: 2nd Call from Annapolis is really becoming the Carl show, isn’t it? Well, why not? What have any of us done lately to compare with what he’s up to?

In the picture to the left, you’ll see one tired-looking plebe (of the 80 or so in the uncropped picture) in running shoes. Guess who? From his letter a few days later, we learned he had a minor sprain or fracture and had been forbidden to wear boots for a while.

But yesterday we had our second plebe summer phone call with him, and were happy to learn that he’s all healed and cleared for more boot-enhanced fun. As I wrote below, it seems almost everyone gets hit with something or other during the summer. We noticed on yesterday’s call that Carl has also developed a nice “plebe hack” (a dry cough endemic to the 4th-class regiment almost every year.) Anything to fit in! Continue reading

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Update from Annapolis

gaba pushupWe spoke with Carl yesterday, for the first time since I-day two weeks ago, on the first of only two phone calls he is allowed during plebe summer. In summary, he said:

  • Everyone is giving 100% all the time, but the overwhelming attitude is one of teamwork and peer support. The detailers are tough but clearly invested in the plebes’ success. He’s making friends really fast.
  • The hardest things for him are rooms (room/bed/uniform neatness and speed) and rates (tons of memorization, e.g. every day knowing the detailed menu of each meal, to recite on demand.)
  • The physical stuff is unbelievably difficult, but he’s doing okay. The Marine who leads their PEP (morning exercise) sounds straight out of Full Metal Jacket. There have been a few dislocated shoulders, bayonet accidents (!) and concussions while drilling etc, but he’s escaped injury so far. He’s feeling strong and happy.
  • He qualified as Marksman on both the M16 rifle and the M11 pistol. Sharpshooter eluded him by just a few points. Not bad for a guy who’s barely held a gun before.
  • Regarding boxing: “Hitting is fun, and getting hit isn’t really that tough!”
  • Although they eat in silence, staring at the face of the plebe opposite them, the food is great and he’s not hungry. He’s received lots of care packages.

Patty and I had steeled ourselves for a call that began with “Get me outta here!” but I had hoped to hear again the voice of a Carl I have known all his life: The Carl that loves dealing with a big challenge and kicking its ass. The tone of voice in his very first words made it immediately clear that this is the Carl who is running the show. One of the last things he said was “Sometimes the day seems endless, and you’re barely getting through, but when you finally get into your bed it almost feels like you had fun all day.”

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I-Day for the Class of 2018


Yesterday Carl joined 1196 other candidates and took the oath of office as an incoming 4th-class midshipman or plebe at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland. As I wrote here, the USNA is one of the most highly-rated universities in the US for many good reasons, and it’s a unique institution in many other ways too. So yesterday was really a special day for him and for us, albeit for different reasons.

For Carl, it was an extremely busy day of being “processed” and beginning to learn the ropes of a system he’ll be working in for the next four years. You can see many plebe’s-eye view pictures on the USNA Flickr feed or on their Facebook page. We were allowed to visit with Carl for an hour after the conclusion of the Oath of Office ceremony, and he was tired, excited, amazed, happy, and of course a little freaked by what he had just undertaken. He’s also got to contend with Plebe Summer until classes really start in late August. Continue reading

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Speech Day

English Schools like Harrow have a peculiar institution called Speech Day, which consists of well, mostly speeches. It’s the final part of “leaving,” which itself is a poor cousin to graduating, something that doesn’t happen at the end of an English Secondary education. All students are meant to attend Speech Day, and most do. This year’s promised to be more interesting than most, since Carl and Jackie were HISB Head Boy and Head Girl this year. These leadership positions allow them to make speeches, and they both delivered their own compelling, rousing, farewells.


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Another New “Friends” Opening

Patty was the star of another great opening the other day, at the No.66 Workshop and Gallery in San Yuan Qiao here in Beijing. Called “Nature: Patty Hudak and Her Art Friends,” the show pulled together Patty and eight other artists from around the world to explore themes inspired by nature, including “traumas, tragedies, as well as deep love and happiness for the natural world around us.” It was curated by the always-inspirational Catherine Cheung and Annabel He.

In addition to showcasing some great art, the show is also donating 20% of all sales to the United Foundation for China’s Health, which develops programs to provide access to innovative multidisciplinary healthcare to vulnerable populations in China.

If you’re in Beijing, make sure you stop by – the show will be up until June 15. Directions to No. 66 Workshop can be had here.

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Hello People! Late last year, the former kitty around this place sadly disappeared. We don’t know what happened – perhaps she snuck out the door when nobody was looking. Nellie and everyone searched for months, they even checked with the cat lady across the road a few times, but no luck. It was pretty sad, they say. Hopefully she just found a better place with a nicer family.

To be honest though, I’m not too bothered. I’m the new girl around here, and you’d all better get used to it. I have a very big head that makes me a little top-heavy, many very sharp little teeth, and not a single flea. I don’t know my name yet, but as soon as they tell me, I’ll make another post. Seeya!

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Personal Time Off. All four of us have a week of it now, which we are spending together in Underhill. This is today’s view from the kitchen of our nearly-complete new house. It’s a gorgeous spring day, with Mt Mansfield in the background and some artifacts from our ongoing work in the foreground on the countertop.

Tomorrow Patty and Nellie will head back to Beijing, leaving Carl and me to host a poker game with friends, then proceed to Annapolis for a couple days before he returns to Beijing. I will stop in Denver to see my sis and her family, then visit the Brocade office in San Jose for a day of work before heading back to China myself.

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A Link in the Chain

Today Carl Chadwick Kolon was notified by the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland that he’s being offered a place in their class of 2018. Carl’s namesake grandfather and my father, Carl Stanley Kolon, graduated with the class of 1963.

This may seem a bit strange to some friends of our family. Patty and I lean to the left, and Carl has followed our lead in this sense, having become a committed Democrat and a proud, patriotic, intelligent liberal. How can this son of the People’s Republic of Vermont and citizen of the world even consider studying for a leadership role in what some people consider the USA’s “instrument of oppression”?

The foreign policy of the USA and the use of our military are important matters for the whole world. Living in China and being the travelers we are, I would say our family appreciates this fact more than many Americans do. So it’s a good question, and Carl gave it a lot of thought before deciding to apply. He answered it for the Navy while applying, and he may answer it publicly on his own site if he accepts the offer, or even if he does not. But for now, let me give a few of the reasons he and I have discussed, in the hope of informing (and perhaps convincing) our friends and family who might not understand why the USNA belongs with Harvard, MIT, and the other schools on his list. Continue reading

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Progress on Irish Settlement Rd

It’s cold as hell in Underhill, but here’s one outside and one inside shot. The latter shows the beautiful blue stain Patty picked for the ash floors. Stairs going in later this week and kitchen going in next week. We’ll need another series of shots for those!

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Even the strangest things begin to seem normal with daily repetition. But every now and then I become aware that the life we’ve built in China is pretty unlike our life in the US.

This is a quick scan of a paragraph of homework I found on the table this morning, concerning a Chinese food festival or 中华美食节. The dysgraphia I have fought all my life is not much a concern for Nellie!

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