Monday, June 14, 2010

Bangkok on June 14, 2010

We let the kids sleep in today. And by sleep in, I mean 12 noon. It is just so nice to have some quiet time to myself in the morning. I, the woman who physically can NOT sleep in, do enjoy a quiet spell. Aaron left to take the boys' passports to the American embassy to get new pages inserted. We were lucky they let us into Thailand actually, as Eli's passport was completely filled up! Some countries go a little cross-eyed if you don't have room for their stamp.
At noon, I decided that enough was enough and got the kiddos out of bed, and scurried them to the door to leave, only to find that my phone and wallet had been taken by Aaron in his backpack. I couldn't even call him with the girls' phone because their phone was completely out of minutes. I had absolutely no money and my debit cards were locked up in the safe that we had tried in vain to open. After waiting about 30 minutes for the hotel staff to open the safe with a key, we were out the door, lugging two carry on's full of dirty clothes. Ahhhh, what a pain. No laundry machine here with us. In Egypt, our clothes may have gotten dusty or dirty, but they didn't generally smell bad, as it was so dry, that we never had the chance to perspire and stink up the clothing. NOT SO in Thailand. All of our dirty clothes were not only dirty, but horrifically smelly. Especially Ike's socks. There is a special kind of funk that hangs on his clothing. In short, we had to get it out of our small hotel room and to a cleaner's.
I had assumed that laundry, like so many other things in Thailand would be cheap. Not so much, really. The laundress did give us a good deal, doing all of the socks and kiddie underwear for free, and discounting the per-piece rate to 10 baht each, but when you are dealing with our kind of quantity, it adds up. Ok, enough with the detour about laundry...
So, after leaving the laundry with high hopes (that she would find all of the food stains on my shirts...I need to get shirts that hide food splatter,) we set off to eat. We had not prepared ourselves for the no-breakfast-buffet part of our hotel reservation, and were completely without food in the hotel. Not a problem, as food is omnipresent in this part of town. The problem is logistics. Emma likes gyoza from one side street. Maddie prefers fresh fruit. Ike likes spring rolls, and Eli Pad Thai. All from different vendors. Not a problem, we just meander from place to place, picking up our preferred treats. Sadly, the food vendor placement seems to be transitory. Some of my favorite guys selling yummies have not been in the places that I remember them. It is really hit and miss. I was soooo looking forward to some of the coconut pancakes.
After extracting some cash, and having the very helpful 7-11 employee refill my SIM card in the mobile,we flagged down a flourescent pink taxi to take us to the Funarium. First taxi driver decides he doesn't like the looks of my hand-drawn map, second taxi driver keeps pointing to my belly and saying what I *think* was "full." I'm not even going to attempt to decipher what that meant...Third time was a charm and away we went! 20 minutes later (and less than $3 in fare!) we arrived at our destination only to have Aaron call to see if we were done with our adventure and would we like to join him...not really was our answer. The kids played at the Funarium for a few hours. I shall not bore you with details. It was an indoor play place with a bike track, adventure course, art class, sand pit, etc. The interesting part was how Emma latched onto some adorable British child and became fast friends, pleading with me to allow them to play together. Wasn't in the stars, apparently, as the girl was heading out to England tomorrow. But, deducing that the girl's nanny who had accompanied her would be without a charge for the next month or so got me thinking...Hey! I certainly don't want that poor lady to be bored for the next month...I'll ask her if she wants to do some side work and help me out with my little darlings. What chutzpah! I did it. I asked her, she was willing, but had to talk to the "Madame." Well, I called the madame, and tried not to sound like a nanny-stealer (They exist!) I gave her my email, but suprisingly, haven't heard from her.
Post Funarium we headed to the Carrefour and ate all manner of delicacies in the food court before heading up to the main store. I love how we were able to shop at a store that had overstock clothing from the US. I'm sure that the residents of Bangkok will be falling all over themselves and each other to buy the winter fleece pyjamas and SIZE XXL sweatpants. The first taxi I hailed wouldn't take us because we were headed in the wrong direction, and after crossing the very busy road, we found a super nice big taxi with strong air conditioning. Bliss. Until I realized that the meter wasn't running. I politely (and even using a little of my Thai language skills) asked him to use the meter instead of charging a flat rate, he disagreed, pulled over and dropped us off. I was actually kicked out of a taxi. Weird. Moments later we were on our way again with a new, improved taxi driver.

Next onto the evening market Suan Lum. So many beautiful things. As a non-shopper, I kept thinking to myself: "If only they could consolidate all of this stuff into just a few stores with unique items, instead of every tenth store carrying the same thing. There are really only 10 unique varieties of stall, and they are all just variations on those themes. Still, it is fun to look around and see the wonders of the Orient, from the mundane to the truly sublime pieces of art and furniture we found in a back section.

Aaron arranged for all six of us to get a 15 minute session in the Doctor fish aquarium. We each lowered in our legs and hands and had tiny little toothless carp dine on our dead skin. The sensation was terribly ticklish, and not unpleasant, once I got used to the feeling of being sucked on by dozens and dozens of the little critters. We finished up with a leg and foot massage. The family that pampers together, stays together seems to be Aaron's motto for tonight.

We finished up with the obligatory smoothie run and off to the hotel for us, and Aaron and Maddie to a movie for a daddy-daughter date. Lest anyone mistakenly think that our children act like little saints all the time, you should know that Emma, Eli and Ike had their night-time swimming trip to the roof cancelled due to annoying behavior in the taxi. They are still kids.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bangkok Beautiful

Getting here took two months longer than we thought it would. En route from Uruguay to Rome, the problems between the Red Shirt deomonstrators and the Thai government began. Though we are quite adventorous in our traveling, we weren't ready to bring the family into that type of environment. We had a layover in Cairo, and decided to extend it from two hours to two weeks. The first week we explored Cairo and went to Luxor. Things weren't getting any better so we extended another two weeks and took a week to explore Israel, with a side trip to Jordan. A week in the SE of Egypt in Hurghada, on the Red Sea, and things still weren't improving, and in fact were going downhill fast. We decided to postpone the trip to Bangkok another month and took up residence in a condo in Hurghada. We loved our time there, it was so relaxing and a nice break from our whirlwind world tour. We enrolled the kids in swim lessons, dance class, bought bikes for the boys and enjoyed a month of beautiful snorkeling trips. As things cleared up in Thailand, our dream of living in SE Asia beckoned. We left Egypt saddened that we were leaving such a great place, but excited to begin our original adventure. With much ado about actually leaving Egypt, we finally made it here. The differences were stark. We had been in hard-core desert surroundings for two months, and even the relative lush-ness of Israel left us totally unprepared for the tropical environs in Thailand. It was a riot for the eyes. Green everywhere! So intense was the humidity, that I thought I might be able to move faster if I could just paddle with my arms! The smells were so different here. When we arrived in Egypt, I was taken aback by the smell, but quickly became accustomed to the particular fragrance of the country...except the body odor. That never was bearable...24 hours later and I'm already more accustomed to the Asian smells. The food... the food makes it all worthwhile. I came to this country expecting to love it. Egypt assaulted my senses, and it was a rough ride sometimes feeling the love, but I feel no such hesitation with Thailand. Everything is a pleasure, a treat, a surprise. Already we feel that two months in SE Asia won't be enough. Our self imposed deadline is the second week of August, as we need to return to Utah to get the kids in school. It will be a challenge to squeeze in everything we want to do! More later, of course, but this is a short list of what we've done in Thailand so far: 1. Been assisted by the extrordinarily helpful staff at the airport to locate our missing luggage. 2. Been pleasantly surprised by the hotel. We were expecting something on the low end, but this within-budget gem of a hotel is luxuriously comfortable and well appointed. 3. Sampled local street cuisine that has exceeded our already high expectations. 4. Had our minds blown by the first world technological grandeur of this city. 5. Been hit, prodded, pulled, punded, stretched, and contorted in a Thai massage and loved every minute of it. 6. Watched Shrek 4 in 3D and teared up at the end. I must be going really soft...(but I love Shrek!) 7. Purchased a lovely silk Mandarin collar shirt and pants for what I thought was a great bargain, only to see the pants next door for almost half the price! I guess I'll just have to really shop around. 8. Purchased contact lenses for the first time in 14 years. Now I'm stumbling around trying to get used to the depth perception difference. 9. Slept off some jet lag. 10. Resolved to do a better job recording our adventure. When the kids get older and feel a need to whine about anything, I want to be able to open up my journal and point out what a flippin' awesome life they've had!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Coming Soon! New blog about being an world traveling family!

Sadly, Facebook was the death of my blog. It was just so much easier to jot down a sentence or two, but we need to get serious here about documenting our out-of-the ordinary life and what we are doing (to?, with?) the kids.

More coming soon!

Send me any questions you have about living overseas with five kids!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Where we are now

We have moved all of our family blogging to a new site:
It has a lot more good stuff about living in Uruguay.

Come on over!


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Emma Kate's Birthday by the numbers

Emma just turned 7. She wanted a big fun party done the Uruguayan way. Aaron and I were happy to oblige, as this would be a once-in-a-lifetime event for her. The Uruguayans really know how to do a party. There are lots of party houses throughout the city. The one we chose, Manzana Verde is a converted house that we actually considered renting before we found our home. Emma was able to have a great time with her friends, and Aaron and I didn’t have to worry about any of the planning, set up, decorations, cake, entertainment, etc. Following is a list to give an idea of how it went:

4 Party helpers

1 Director of the business

1 Owner of the business

1 Mozo (waiter)

1 Asador (guy who cooks all of the meat/vegetables on the parilla)

1 Dishwasher

30 Kids

15 Adults

1 Kid who came to the wrong party

3 Number of times they sang “Happy Birthday”

1 Number of times “Happy Birthday” was sung in “dog language (bow wow wow)”

3 Times the candles were lit and blown out

40 Pounds of meat brought for the asado (barbque)

4 Pounds of masa finas for the adults (fine small pastries)

3 Layers of dulce de leche on Emma’s birthday cake

1 Chica mala (bad girl) who attended the party

4 Dramatic scenes between the 7 year olds

0 Number of times anyone got bitten

2 Caplets of Extra Strength Tylenol taken by me before the party

50 Percentage of goodies in goody bag that made an obnoxious noise

3 Mothers who were annoyed by noise-making toys

2 Meltdowns by our 21 month old

1 Happy Birthday girl

2 Very satisfied parents

Monday, September 3, 2007

Things you can tell just by looking at them

How the Uruguayans can tell we're not natives

*My funky rubber Airwalk shoes. They just don’t understand…

*The cool stroller that seats two children—totally an unknown quantity here.

*The way we AREN’T as bundled up as every other Uruguayan

*The backpack-leash contraption that we sometime use for Elijah—honestly, the Uruguayans are very perplexed about this one.

*We are sometimes in a hurry (some habits die hard, or don’t die at all)

*Two of my girls have comparably short hair (All, and I really mean ALL Uruguayan girls have long hair)

We’ve worked so hard to learn Uruguayan culture and speak Spanish and “fit in” here, but we are Americans, and despite our best efforts, people can tell that we aren’t from these parts. It’s not a problem, I’m happy to be what I am, but I think it is so funny to see and hear people’s reactions when they realize we’re extranjeros (foreigners). We constantly get comments and can see people discussing our presence. For them, it isn’t rude to talk about someone when they are right there, the way it would be in the US. So I chuckle along as I hear them making comments about our strange stroller or how weird it is that our rambunctious 3 year old is sometimes in a leash…even though it is a very cool one

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Penguins and Pinguinos

On Friday I took Elijah to see "Reyes de las Olas” which is the Spanish version of the movie “Surf’s Up!” It was a fun mommy-dude date. The movie was dubbed into Spanish, and as I was watching and laughing, it struck me what a difference it was from the last penguin movie we watched in South America. Our first week into our trip, we were in Chile and we went to see “Happy Feet.” It too, was dubbed into Spanish. It was such a different experience. I had understood the basic idea of “Happy Feet,” but most of the movie was lost on me and the kids, who were forever pestering Aaron to explain what was going on. I later saw the movie in the original English, and was shocked at how little I had really understood the movie.

Fast forward nine months, and all of us regularly go to see movies in Spanish, and understand them. Granted, we’re talking about movies like “Ratatouille” and “Shrek 3,” but we’ve come so very far in our comprehension of the language. It is like we can document our progress in learning Spanish by how much we understood each movie we’ve seen.

When we were preparing for our trip to Uruguay, we started going to a church that spoke Spanish so we could start getting the kids used to the sound of rhythms of the language. I asked the mothers (who were all immigrants) how their kids learned English and over and over I got the answer that the kids learned by watching American TV and also by going to school and just getting thrown into learning. I guess that is the definition of “total immersion” learning. I asked the kids myself, to see what they thought, and they all had the same answer, it was watching TV, movies and going to school.

We signed up for cable when we got here, and I let the kids watch the Discovery Kids channel for much more time per day than I would have ever allowed at home. The programming was aimed at kids, was inoffensive and somewhat educational. Let me tell you what! It has worked. The kids can communicate, and they had a little lead time of hearing and learning Spanish before they started school. Watching movies in Spanish was another way to get them to absorb the language.

I really really love both of these penguin movies. I love them even more because my kids, who only spoke English nine months ago, can laugh right along side me as we watch them in Spanish.